Covid 19 pandemic has placed a strain on democracy in Europe where democratic principles in some countries are already under threat, according to the latest a study of International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA).
“The Global State of Democracy Report 2021 – Building Resilience in a Pandemic Era” report mentioned that ongoing democratic backsliding intensified in European Union Member States of Hungary and Poland. Slovenia joined them as the region’s third backsliding democracy in 2020.
Europe’s non-democratic governments-Azerbaijan, Belarus, Russia and Turkey have intensified their already very repressive practices, the report stated.
MORE STEPS NEEDED
In the forward to the report, Dean of the Law Faculty of the SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Warsaw, Adam Bodnar said that Europe was now home to increasingly repressive nondemocratic regimes in Azerbaijan, Belarus, Russia and Turkey. Their non-compliance with human rights brings a great deal of suffering, Bodnar said.
Though Democracy is under threat in many parts of the continent, Bodnar said that steps can be taken to rebuild what has been broken and to improve the resilience of democracies across the continent.
- Two-thirds of European countries imposed restrictions on Freedom of Assembly and Association, and Freedom of Movement
- Freedom of Expression and Media Integrity came under serious strain. Dangerous practices ranged from uncooperative attitudes by state officials towards journalists, to harassment and threats made to media outlets. Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Hungary, Russia, Serbia and Turkey made disinformation regarding Covid-19 an imprisonable offence or increased criminal sanctions
- Increased online campaigning heightened the salience of disinformation, foreign interference, and abuse of data. Clean Elections measures declined in Czechia, Hungary, Poland, Serbia and Turkey
- In the Caucasus, Eastern Europe and Western Balkans, the pandemic has chipped away at the building blocks of democracy – Clean Elections, Free Political Parties, Freedom of Expression, Freedom of Association and Assembly, and Checks on Government.
- For the first time in 20 years, Serbia is no longer categorized as a democracy but as a hybrid regime, which will stifle its EU-accession discussions