DEMOCRACY INDEX (Syllabus: GS Paper 2 – Polity)

News-CRUX-10     5th April 2024        
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Context: The V-Dem Institute's recently released democracy index labeled India as "one of the worst autocratisers" — a designation it had already acquired in 2018 when it ceased to be classified as a democracy on the index.

Democracy Index

  • About: The V-Dem Institute, based at Sweden’s University of Gothenburg, has been annually assessing 202 countries' democratic status since 1789.
  • Freedom House's Focus: Since 1973, the U.S.-based Freedom House has been providing assessments specifically on civil liberties and political rights.
  • Economic Intelligence: The Economic Intelligence Unit has been evaluating democracies since 2006, focusing on aspects such as electoral processes, liberalism, participation, and effectiveness.
  • Additional Assessment Tools: Other notable assessment methodologies include the Lexical Index, Boix-Miller-Rosato coding, Bertelsmann Transformation Index, Worldwide Governance Indicators, and International IDEA’s Global State of Democracies report.
  • Four broad types of data that these indices use:

oObservational data (OD)  data on observable facts, such as voter turnout rates

o‘In-house’ coding, where researchers assess country-specific information using academic material, newspapers, etc.

oExpert surveys, where selected experts from a country provide a subjective evaluation

oRepresentative surveys, where a selected group of citizens offer judgments

  • V-Dem Institute sorts countries into four regime types: Liberal Democracy, Electoral Democracy, Electoral Autocracy, and Closed Autocracy.

oIndia since 2018 is classified as an “electoral autocracy” due to a visible “democratic backsliding”,“crackdowns” on civil liberties.

Defining Democracy

  • Electoral Democracy: Democracy is fundamentally characterized by free and fair elections where citizens participate.
  • Liberal Society: Democracies ensure civic rights and offer protections to citizens, fostering liberal values.
  • Egalitarianism: Examining the equitable distribution of economic and social resources within the society.
  • Rating Spectrum: Different indices utilize varied scales, from numerical rankings to classifications ranging from autocracy to democracy, reflecting diverse perspectives on democracy's health.
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