tirsdag 17. mai 2022

Is Authoritarianism the New Normal for Asia?

Democracy is under heavy assault throughout Asia. In the latest 2022 Freedom in the World report released by Freedom House, the continent is home to the three biggest drops in this year's global freedom index.

Compared to the previous year, junta-ruled Myanmar experienced a depressing 19-point plunge on the report's 100-point scale. This is the largest annual decline since 2014, when neighboring Thailand tanked 21-point after—you guessed it—a military coup. Right behind this depressing accolade is a decline of 17 points for Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, followed by a 9-point drop for Hong Kong, whose few remaining traces of democracy was fully "dismantled" by China's renewed crackdown on dissent.

It is tempting to attribute this decline as part of a global pattern of democratic backsliding—one that has hitherto persisted for the past 16 years, according to Freedom House. However, this has not always been the case for the Asia-Pacific region.

In fact, between 2008 and 2019, the continent, on average, collectively moved up by nearly three points in Freedom House's index while the rest of the world declined by the same amount. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, this modest yet steady traction in Asian democratization has taken the reverse turn. Today, less than 5 percent of Asian citizens live in a country rated "free"—this figure was 39 percent in 2019.