Early January, thousands of Israelis took to the street to protest plans by its new far-right government. Observers fear the plan will lower the country’s democratic system of checks and balances and deteriorate the democratic institutions.
Global opinion surveys show that the public faith in the value of democracy has been declining. Yet authoritarian countries have not proven they performed better than democratic ones in the global context.
A worrying evolution of democracy in the world
Democracy bears five main attributes such as representative government, fundamental rights, checks on government, impartial administration and participatory engagement. According to the performance of a country on each of these attributes, it can be considered either as a democracy, a hybrid regime or an authoritarian regime.
In a context of wars, global change and pandemics, democracy appears to be globally retreating. The number of democracies around the world has stagnated, half of the world’s democracies are backsliding, non-democratic regimes are becoming more repressive and the number of countries moving toward authoritarian regime is more than doubled over the past six years. Thus, globally half of the countries are experiencing declines in their democratic attributes.
Democratic erosion in Europe
Democracy remains the main form of government in Europe. Yet in the last five years, with the pandemic and the increase of cost of living, it have suffered erosion, even in high-performing democracies. Democracy is dramatically declining in Poland and Hungary where institutions responsible to keep checks on government are increasingly put under control. Fundamental rights are eroding.
Germany stands among the most high-performing democracy in Europe and the world. However, there too, in the past five years, some indicators experienced a significant decline. Notably in the aspect of media integrity.
In opposition, Turkey/Türkiye is one of the least democratic countries in Europe. Considering the main attribute of a democracy, Turkey can not even be accepted as a democratic regime but as an hybrid regime.
Electoral participation put aside, Turkish democracy has been declining in all of its attributes since 2005. Far from being the democratic force he was elected for twenty years ago or so, datas show a constant decline of democracy in Turkey/Türkiye under Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling.
According to Reporters without border, 90% of the national media are now under government control. Anti-terrorism laws are used to prosecute any journalist for critical reporting. Article 299 in the Turkish Penal Code criminalizes insults against the state and the President. In October 2022, Turkish Parliament passed new amendments introducing new abusive criminal speech offenses that tighten control over social media and independent online news sites. As a consequence, freedom of speech is scarcely limited. Journalists are forced to silence or thrown in jail, and common people face the same risks when using social networks.
Freedom of speech in Turkey/Türkiye has deteriorated since 2010 and is backsliding since the attempted coup in July 2016. Hundreds of journalists were arrested, and media outlet were forced to close. More than 200 journalists and media workers have been imprisoned in Turkey in the past five years. Reporters without border ranks Turkey/Türkiye 149 out of 180 in regards of freedom of press.
Information is regularly restricted in the country. Access to social media is blocked to control public opinion. Thus, Internet bandwidth was deeply limited for several hours following the earthquake early February because the government was under intense criticism for its ill-management of the disaster. Yet social media were being used to call for help and transmitting location of people stuck under the rubble. Censorship caused then direct damage to the population.
Democracy is endangered worlwide, even in Europe its native soil. The situation in Turkey/Türkiye is alarming. In a context of war, climate change, economic crisis, democracy seems to be put at risk, and yet it is the political system offering the better protection for the people.