For the first time ever, the United States was listed as a “backsliding democracy” by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, a think tank based in Stockholm, Sweden that monitors and analyzes the health of democracies around the world.

“Democracy is at risk. Its survival is endangered by a perfect storm of threats, both from within and from a rising tide of authoritarianism. The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated these threats through the imposition of states of emergency, the spread of disinformation, and crackdowns on independent media and freedom of expression,” the organization wrote in its annual report.

“Significantly, the United States, the bastion of global democracy, fell victim to authoritarian tendencies itself, and was knocked down a significant number of steps on the democratic scale,” the report said.

But the U.S. is far from alone, IDEA explained.

“The Global State of Democracy 2021 shows that more countries than ever are suffering from ‘democratic erosion’ (decline in democratic quality), including in established democracies. The number of countries undergoing ‘democratic backsliding’ (a more severe and deliberate kind of democratic erosion) has never been as high as in the last decade, and includes regional geopolitical and economic powers such as Brazil, India and the United States,” IDEA wrote, noting that “more than a quarter of the world’s population now live in democratically backsliding countries. Together with those living in outright non-democratic regimes, they make up more than two-thirds of the world’s population.”

Alarmingly, the 2020-2021 study, which was based on 50 democratic criteria across 160 countries, found that “the world is becoming more authoritarian as nondemocratic 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.”

It also revealed that the number of countries descending into authoritarianism is triple the number of nations trending toward democracy.

The United States, it stressed, is no exception.

“Some of the most worrying examples of backsliding are found in some of the world’s largest countries (Brazil, India). The United States and three members of the European Union (EU) (Hungary, Poland and Slovenia, which holds the chair of the EU in 2021) have also seen concerning democratic declines,” the report added, noting that “a historic turning point came in 2020–2021 when former President Donald Trump questioned the legitimacy of the 2020 election results in the United States. Baseless allegations of electoral fraud and related disinformation undermined fundamental trust in the electoral process, which culminated in the storming of the US Capitol building in January 2021.”

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