Explained: Why India Is Now An 'Electoral Autocracy' According To V-Dem

Sweden's V-Dem Institute categorises India's fall on its liberal democracy index as pronounced in the world in 10 years.

India has now turned into an 'electoral autocracy', according to the V-Dem Institute at Sweden's University of Gothenburg in its report titled 'Autocratization Turns Viral'.

On its flagship 'Liberal Democracy Index', which aims to capture electoral and liberal aspects of democracy, India's decline over the last 10 years has been described as "one of the most dramatic shifts among all countries in the world" alongside autocratising countries like Brazil, Hungary, and Turkey.

This dramatic fall in India's ranking on this index has been attributed to its decline in its score since since 2013, when India ranked 0.57 out a total attainable score of 1. However, in the 2021 report, India only ranks 0.34, a fall of 23 percentage points. This ten-year fall has also been called 'statistically significant' by the report - language used by analysts to show that a result or relationship is not explained by chance alone.

"Narendra Modi led the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to victory in India's 2014 elections and most of the decline occurred following BJP's victory and their promotion of a Hindu-nationalist agenda", said the report.

India ranks 97 out of a total of 179 measured countries. Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Costa Rica and Switzerland occupy the top 5 positions. Eretria is at the bottom, followed by North Korea, Yemen, Syria and Turkmenistan.

India's autocratisation has followed a typical pattern of institutional deterioration over the last ten years - where freedoms of media, academia and civil society were curtailed first and to the greatest extent.

As part of recent developments, V-Dem has mentioned how press freedom has declined and censorship increased in India. This indicator goes from 0 - 4 (with 4 being the best), and the report notes that before the Narendra Modi-led government, India ranked 3.5 on this scale. However, this has declined to close to 1.5 by 2020.

By 2020, this score is close to 1.5 meaning that censorship efforts are becoming routine and no longer even restricted to sensitive (to the government) issues. India is, in this aspect, now as autocratic as is Pakistan, and worse than both its neighbors Bangladesh and Nepal.

V-Dem Institute

Further, it cites the use of the sedition law where over 7,000 have been charged, and the defamation law to silence journalists. It mentions how the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act is being used to silence political opposition, and the passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, which grants hastened citizenship on religious lines; and the use of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act to bottleneck the operation of civil society operation in India as "among the instances contributing to the descent into electoral authoritarianism in what used to be the world's largest democracy."

The report also noted the harassments of journalists in India covering the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Earlier this year, the Economist too noted a decline in India's democratic value.

Also Read: Democracy Index 2020: India Down 2 Spots, Cites Civil Liberty Decline

How India ranks on the indices

The liberal democracy index is the flagship index of the report, and has a number of component indices.

Here's how India ranks on the remaining indices:


The world moves towards autocratisation

India's fall in democratic values accompanies a similar fall globally.

The report states that the level of democracy enjoyed by the average global citizen in 2020 is around the levels of those seen in 1990. Steep declines in democracy continue in Asia-Pacific, Central Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America.

Electoral autocracies, that includes India, and closed autocracies, a level more authoritarian, together constitute 87 jurisdictions rule over 68% of the world's population (which has been inflated by the addition of India). Liberal democracies, the highest classification, only have 14% of the world's population and number 32.

During 2020, read in context of the pandemic, two-thirds of countries imposed restrictions on the media and a third of countries have emergency measures without an expiry date.

Read the report here.

Updated On: 2021-03-12T11:56:45+05:30
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