“Democracy today is beleaguered but not defeated.”
That’s the bottom line of Freedom House’s just-released annual report on the state of democracy around the world.
In a pandemic year of economic and physical insecurity, democracy’s defenders faced many setbacks and defeats. From Algeria to Belarus to Hong Kong, authoritarians used force to stifle protest and settle scores, sometimes in the name of public health, according to Freedom House, a private group founded in the depths of World War II to fight fascism.
Countries where democracy deteriorated, a group that includes the United States, outnumbered those where it improved by a substantial margin.
But that is not all the story. Democracy is “remarkably resilient,” says the study, and “has proven time and again its ability to rebound from repeated blows.”
Take Malawi. Despite threats and offered bribes, Malawi’s constitutional court issued a landmark ruling in February 2020, ordering a new national election due to credible evidence of vote tampering. In June, opposition presidential candidate Lazarus Chakwera won the rerun by a comfortable margin.
In Taiwan officials suppressed the coronavirus effectively without resorting to coercive measures, in the face of ramped-up threats from an increasingly aggressive China. Taiwanese voters ignored a multipronged Chinese disinformation campaign to reelect incumbent President Tsai Ing-wen, who opposes reuniting with the mainland.
Despite the coronavirus, countries in all the regions held successful elections, including Montenegro and Bolivia.
Democracy’s “enduring popularity in a more hostile world and its perseverance after a devastating year are signals of resilience that bode well for the future of freedom,” concludes Freedom House.