India has ranked in 46 out of 167 countries surveyed in the latest iteration of the Economist Intelligence Unit's (EIU) 'Democracy Index 2021',which pertains to the year 2021, scoring 6.91 out of a possible 10. This is an improvement of seven places and 0.3 points when compared to its score last year. In fact, is among the top 10 countries with respect to their score improvement.
With this score, India maintains its classification as a 'flawed democracy'.
However, the report suggests that caution be exercised on this improvement, and puts it into context;
Caution is also merited for a higher-ranked country, India, whose score improved by 0.30: this follows a cumulative 1.20 decline between 2016 and 2020, reflecting a serious deterioration in the quality of democracy under leader Narendra Modi, whose Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has presided over increased intolerance and sectarianism towards Muslims and other religious minorities.
This improvement in score is attributed by the EIU to the repealing of farm laws after a year of protests, and the BJP's defeat in various state election, which the EIU believes is evidence that there are mechanisms and institutions that warrants governmental accountability to the people. The report says:
In India, year-long protests by farmers eventually forced the government to repeal the farm laws that it had introduced in 2020. The victory of the protesters, as well as some election defeats for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, showed that there are mechanisms and institutions in place to allow government accountability to the electorate between national elections. However, the government's failure to crack down on the persecution of religious and other minorities by Hindu nationalists continues to weigh on India's democracy score, which has declined significantly in recent years
India continues to score and rank the highest among its neighbours
How the world has performed
India's increase in score comes as the global average score has fallen from 5.38 in 2020 to 5.27 in 2021; the second year that pandemic-era contingencies have manifested as authoritarian infringes on democracy. Norway maintains its top spot in this year's index with a near perfect score of 9.75. This is followed by New Zealand (9.37), Finland (9.27), Sweden (9.26) and Iceland (9.18).
Afghanistan with a score of 0.32, and Myanmar at 1.02, occupy the last and second to last position respectively. They have displaced North Korea, which was last in the previous report. This year, it has scored 1.08. Democratic Republic of Congo is placed above that with a score of 1.4 with Syria and the Central African Republic right above it, have scores of 1.43.
As a region, Latin America has recorded the largest downgrade since the report started being published in 2006. Illiberal populists such as Jair Bolsarano in Brazil, Nayib Bukele in El Salvador and Manuel Lopez Obrador have exacerbated this decline, along with current authoritarian regimes in Venezuela and Nicaragua. Seven countries in the region have been downgraded from between 10 to 20 points in terms of their score and five countries have seen worse regime types (one from "full" to "flawed", three from "flawed" to "hybrid" and one from "hybrid" to "authoritarian"). Guyana has defied this trend, however, improving its score by 0.24 and raising 10 places to 65 overall.
Canada has also been mentioned as a region where a notable decline has taken place, and the report suggests that it may have began suffering from some of the ills ailing its neighbour, the United States, such as low levels of trust in institutions, government and political parties. It has also been showing a drop in the perception of democracy and support for non-democratic alternatives such as technocratic or military rule. Last year, Canada ranked five globally, scoring 9.24. This has fallen to 8.87 this year, and it now ranks 12th.
How is the Democracy Index calculated?
The Democracy Index ranks countries on 60 indicators grouped into five categories, giving it a score from 0 - 10 (with 10 being the best obtainable score). The EIU uses its own poll and expert assessment to arrive at these scores. The five categories can be seen below.
- Electoral process and pluralism: India maintains a robust score of 8.67 from last year
- Functioning of the government: India's score improves this time from 7.14 to 7.5
- Political participation: India's score has improved from 6.67 to 7.22
- Political culture: This score remains at 5.0
- Civil liberties: This score has improved from 5.59 to 6.18.
Read the democracy index here.