More voting does not necessarily equal more freedom. On average, the quality of democracy has started to decline from its recent peak, according to V-Dem’s liberal democracy index.
From Norway, which currently has the highest democracy score, to North Korea, at the bottom of the list, The index monitors dozens of factors to determine how democratic a country is, such as whether elections are fair and competitive, what limits are placed on government and how well countries protect civil liberties and minority rights.
Would-be autocrats are taking note of the tools other leaders have implemented to tighten their grip on power.
Most countries that are now experiencing a democratic decline have elected leaders. The integrity of those elections has been called into question at times, but citizens in many countries have gravitated toward these strongmen in the first place. And once elected, leaders keep up regular elections.
“What happened over time was that authoritarian regimes learned elections were actually a very useful tool to control their populations, to divide the opposition and to maintain power,” said Brian Klaas, fellow in global politics at the London School of Economics and author of books on democracy, authoritarianism and election-rigging. Klaas added that he found “authoritarian leaders who hold elections are more stable and more likely to stay in power than those who don’t.”
The concept of autocratic regimes pretending to be democracies has also taken a toll on democracy’s brand around the world.
“You ask people, ‘Do you think you live in a democracy?’ and a lot of people in some very authoritarian states say yes, because they hold elections,” Klaas said.
“Then you ask them, ‘Do you support democracy?’ and they say no. That’s not surprising, right? If you live in the Democratic Republic of Congo and you’re mired in extreme poverty and constant violence, and you think that’s what democracy is? You wouldn’t want it either.”
And while social media on one hand has facilitated pro-democracy protests, Mounk said, “it also allows people who have very hateful views, people who want to spread false information to bypass gatekeepers, especially at a moment when a lot of citizens are otherwise frustrated with the ability of their government to deliver for them. That becomes a very dangerous cocktail.”
Some leaders have built so much momentum from a confluence of these forces that they’ve been able to clear the term limits—a fundamental democratic tool to ensure frequent turnover in leadership—set in their countries’ laws. Often—as in the case of President Nguesso of the Republic of Congo or Rwandan President Kagame—they’re able to do so through popular referendum and claim to enact the peoples’ will while simultaneously making it more difficult for opposition voices to gain ground.
Read full article here: Elected Leaders Are Making the World Less Democratic