The Intelligence Unit of the British magazine “The Economist” launched this January the “Democracy Index 2019”, the latest edition of its research on the state of democracy in the world. The project is one of the pillars of the Citizen Engagement Index, launched two years ago by Humanitas360 in partnership with The Economist Intelligence Unit with focus on seven Latin American countries. The news brought by the Democracy Index 2019 include the entry of Chile – as well as France and Portugal – among the countries classified as “full democracies” and, in general, a global regression in democracy: on a scale of 0 to 10, the average 2019 score was 5.44, the worst ever recorded in the survey’s 14 years of existence.
Compared to 2018, Brazil had dropped its score from 6.97 to 6.86, and is still considered a “flawed democracy”. Five points of the democratic process are considered in the making of the index: 1) electoral process and pluralism; 2) the functioning of government; 3) political participation; 4) political culture and 5) civil liberties. Even though Brazil has a good score on the latter as well as regarding electoral process, the country gets only 5 points on political culture; functioning of government scores at 5,36 and political participation at 6,11.
The research concluded that Latin America has had a substantial setback in that year, something that was aggravated by the crisis in Bolivia and also by regressions in Guatemala and Haiti. Pulled by the increase on political participation due to protests throughout the year, the Chilean index has risen, to the point that the country is now considered a “full democracy”. Regarding the study carried out in partnership with Humanitas360 with 2017’s data, one can notice that Chilean democracy has had a considerable deepening, while Guatemala showed a worsening last year, following its low position in the 2018 study.
The research also indicates some of the possible reasons for this recession of democracies. The Economist Intelligence Unit highlights the “widening gap between political and party elites and national constituencies,” as well as the “growing influence of unelected and unaccountable organizations on politics” and the “decline of civil liberties, including freedom of the press and speech.” Keeping up with the news is enough to notice this decrease in liberties – in China, for example, with mass surveillance through facial recognition cameras and persecution of minorities, such as the Uighurs and Kazakhs; in the United States, with in the increasingly revealing news of Russian interference in elections, or in Brazil with the straightforward persecution of journalists by the President of the Republic and through the judiciary. As the Chilean case shows, the population engagement in protests – which have taken Latin American countries by storm – “prevented” that the index registered an even greater decrease in democracy in 2019, according to the researchers.
Tradução: Andrei Reina