Watchdog warns of 'serious problems' with 'fundamentals of democracy’ in US

Watchdog warns of 'serious problems' with 'fundamentals of democracy’ in US
Donald Trump Jr. and Donald Trump (Shutterstock)

A report from an international democracy watchdog is warning of "serious problems with the fundamentals of democracy" in the United States of America, which it says began in 2019 and reached a "historic turning point" when Donald Trump, as president, questioned the results of the 2020 election.

The International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA) says for the first time it is now classifying the United States as a "backsliding democracy," according to Agence France-Presse.

"The visible deterioration of democracy in the United States, as seen in the increasing tendency to contest credible election results, the efforts to suppress participation (in elections), and the runaway polarisation … is one of the most concerning developments," says International IDEA secretary general Kevin Casas-Zamora.

He adds that what's happening in the U.S. by far-right actors is having effects across the globe.

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"The violent contestation of the 2020 election without any evidence of fraud has been replicated, in different ways, in places as diverse as Myanmar, Peru and Israel."

One of the report's co-authors says that while the United States is still "a high-performing democracy, and even improved its performance in indicators of impartial administration (corruption and predictable enforcement) in 2020," the "declines in civil liberties and checks on government indicate that there are serious problems with the fundamentals of democracy."

The report points to a "decline in the quality of freedom of association and assembly during the summer of protests in 2020," in response to police killings of unarmed Black men, and specifically George Floyd. The Trump administration worked tirelessly to tamp down the protests while using them for political gain, even as far right agitators posing as BLM activists caused destruction of property and violence.

Overall, the group reports, the "world is becoming more authoritarian as non-democratic regimes become even more brazen in their repression and many democratic governments suffer from backsliding by adopting their tactics of restricting free speech and weakening the rule of law, exacerbated by what threatens to become a 'new normal' of Covid-19 restrictions. For the fifth consecutive year, the number of countries moving in an authoritarian direction exceeds the number of countries moving in a democratic direction. In fact, the number moving in the direction of authoritarianism is three times the number moving towards democracy."

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The full report can be read here.

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