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Pakistan slides 11 points in Democracy Index 2023, classified as 'authoritarian regime'

Pakistan has suffered the biggest regression in the Asian region triggering a downgrade from 'hybrid regime' to 'authoritarian regime'. The Economist Intelligence Report said one of the reasons for this was the “outsized political influence of the military".

Aveek Banerjee Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Islamabad Published on: February 16, 2024 17:10 IST
Pakistan, Democracy Index, authoritarian regime
Image Source : PTI (FILE) Pakistan Army

Islamabad: Pakistan has been downgraded to an "authoritarian regime" after sliding down 11 points in the Economist Intelligence Unit's (EIU) Democracy Index 2023 report, which highlighted that only 8 per cent of the world's population are living in a "full democracy". Titled 'Age of the Conflict", the study describes the state of democracy in 165 independent states and two territories.

According to the report, Pakistan has suffered the biggest regression in the Asian region, as its score fell to 3.25, triggering a downgrade from 'hybrid regime' to 'authoritarian regime', Dawn reported. It was the only Asian country to be downgraded so significantly. "Unsurprisingly, elections in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Russia — where opposition forces are subject to state repression — will not bring regime change or more democracy," the EIU said.

One of the reasons for this decline can be found in the indicators ‘electoral process and pluralism’ and ‘functioning of government’, where the EIU notes that the “outsized political influence of the military… means that elections are far from being free, fair or competitive”.

The top three places in the index are occupied by Norway, New Zealand and Iceland, while the bottom three countries are North Korea, Myanmar and Afghanistan. While the number of countries categorised as democracies increased, the global average index score fell to 5.23 in 2023 from 5.29 the year before, its lowest level since the first study was published in 2006.

However, the number of democracies increased by two in 2023, with Paraguay and Papua New Guinea being upgraded from “hybrid regimes” to “flawed democracies”. Greece became a “full democracy”, but Chile was reclassified as a “flawed democracy” in the Democracy Index 2023.

Pakistan's troubled 'democracy'

On a scale of 0 to 10.0, Pakistan's score remained a little over 4 since 2008. It reached 3.92 under the presidency of Pervez Musharraf in 2006. On the other hand, China and India, the world’s most populous countries, are said to have recorded the biggest score improvements in the region in 2023.

"This is a very disappointing development as Pakistan has scored the lowest since 2017 and our category has also been downgraded from a hybrid regime’ to an authoritarian regime," Pakistan Institue of Legislative Development and Transparency's (Pildat) Ahmed Bilal Mehboob told Geo News. He also urged all stakeholders to "undertake serious soul searching at this state of affairs".

Notably, Pakistan's Army is considered to have an enormous influence on the country's political affairs. Current Army chief Asim Munir used all forms of state power to suppress former Prime Minister Imran Khan and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party after initially backing him in the 2018 national elections after a fallout between the two.

Imran was jailed and convicted in multiple cases, three of the convictions happening in the same week. His party was stripped of its electoral symbol and was barred from contesting the elections. Despite all odds, PTI-backed independent candidates won the highest number of seats in the February 8 elections, marred with political violence, allegations of rigging and a countrywide internet shutdown.

Western countries in 'minority'

The report underscored that developed Western economies are now outnumbered by emerging Asian economies like India, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, and Thailand. Western Europe was the only region to improve its score, moving ahead of North America. 

The study said it was the first time that North America has not placed as the world’s highest-scoring region, and the United States, once considered a democratic beacon, faced large internal divisions and disillusionment. The report said that developed Western countries are now in a minority, which is likely to shrink even further in the coming decades.

"A country crying out for change is the US. If the election comes down to a contest between … Joe Biden and … Donald Trump … a country that was once a beacon of democracy is likely to slide deeper into division and disenchantment," said the EIU on upcoming US presidential elections.

ALSO READ | 'Deeply disturbed': White House says ‘closely watching’ Pakistan election results amid delay in PM declaration


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