This section serves as a list of brief and important updates related to democracy. Content is collected via open sources, cross-checked and subsequently re-shared here. All content is handpicked by the Democracy Observatory Team.
On 9 January Jair Bolsonaro's supporters stormed government facilities in the nation's capital, Brasilia, drawing harsh criticism from several leaders around the world. Bolsonaro's supporters destroyed the Congress, the Supreme Court, and the presidential palace after their candidate lost the October presidential election in Brazil. The riots were described by many as an assault on democracy.
Josep Borrell, the High Representative for foreign policy of the European Union, pledged his support to Lula and the institutions that were being attacked. Borrell tweeted, "Appalled by the acts of violence and illegal seizure of the government area in Brasilia by violent radicals today." "I fully support Congress, the Federal Supreme Court, and Lula and his administration. Brazilian democracy will triumph over fanaticism and violence " The actions were "inexcusable and fascist in nature," according to Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) Luis Almagro. "We denounce the attack on Brasilia's institutions, which is a repugnant act and a blatant assault on democracy." US Vice President Joe Biden said he was looking forward to working with Lula and described the rioting as an assault on Brazil's peaceful transition of power.
In a tweet, Chancellor Olaf Scholz publicly denounced the "terrible images" out of Brazil. "The violent attacks on the democratic institutions are an assault on democracy that cannot be tolerated," Scholz said. The chancellor further stated that Germany supported Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, the recently elected president of Brazil.
Brazilian President may rely on Paris' "unfailing support," according to French President Emmanuel Macron. "The democratic institutions and the will of the Brazilian people must be honored," he stated. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak stated that he deplored any effort to subvert the democratic will of the Brazilian people. Sunak claimed that the United Kingdom was fully behind Lula and his administration.
Moscow declared its support for Brazil's newly elected president. Dmitry Peskov, a spokesperson for the Kremlin, told reporters, "We condemn in the harshest terms the conduct of the instigators of the riots and we fully support Brazil's President Lula da Silva." China's foreign ministry responded as well, stating that it agreed with the efforts the Brazilian government had taken to defuse the situation. According to Wang Wenbin, a spokeswoman for the foreign ministry, "China carefully observes and resolutely opposes the violent attack on the federal authorities in Brazil."
On 1 January, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva took the oath of office as president of Brazil. In his inauguration speech, he delivered a stinging indictment of far-right former leader Jair Bolsonaro and pledged a radical change of direction to help a country beset by hunger, poverty, and racism. The leftist, who defeated Bolsonaro in the most contentious election in a century, declared democracy the real winner of the October presidential vote in a speech to Congress shortly after taking office in the largest nation in Latin America. Bolsonaro, who refused to accept loss and departed Brazil for the United States, shook Brazil's fledgling democracy with fanciful allegations of electoral flaws that gave rise to a violent movement of election deniers.
According to Lula, democracy triumphed in this election by defeating "the most violent threats to the right to vote, and the most abhorrent campaign of falsehoods and hate planned to deceive and disgrace the voters." A veiled threat was sent to Bolsonaro's predecessor by Lula, who was imprisoned during the 2019 inauguration due to convictions for graft that were eventually reversed. Without addressing Bolsonaro by name, Lula stated, "We do not carry any spirit of vengeance against those who tried to subjugate the nation to their personal and ideological objectives, but we will ensure the rule of law. Those who made mistakes must take responsibility for them. Additionally, he charged that the Bolsonaro administration engaged in "genocide" by neglecting to adequately address the COVID-19 virus, which claimed the lives of more than 680,000 Brazilians. He remarked, "The perpetrators of this crime must be identified and held accountable.
Although Bolsonaro’s Florida trip insulates him from any immediate legal jeopardy in Brazil, he now faces mounting judicial risks – related to his anti-democratic rhetoric and his pandemic handling – after losing his presidential immunity, legal experts said. Lula’s plans for government provided a stark contrast to Bolsonaro’s four years in office, which were characterized by backsliding on environmental protections in the Amazon rainforest, looser gun laws and weaker protections for indigenous peoples and minorities. Lula said he wants to turn Brazil, one of the world’s top food producers, into a green superpower.
The President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, spoke out in response to what is possibly the worst corruption scandal to affect the hemicycle in recent years, saying that anybody found guilty of corruption will face "no impunity." "Make no mistake, the European Parliament, dear colleague, is under attack. European democracy is under attack," Metsolsa said during the opening of the plenary meeting in December. She also disclosed a roadmap for reforming the laws governing lobbying and transparency.
In her address, Metsola mentioned the "longest days" of her professional life as well as her "fury, anger, and sorrow" over the startling events. "I know also that we are not at the end of the road and we will continue to assist in investigations, together with other EU institutions, for as long as it takes. Corruption cannot pay and we have played our part in ensuring these plans could not materialise. "To those malign actors in third countries who think they can buy their way forward, who think Europe is for sale, who think they can take over our NGOs, let me say: 'You will find this parliament firmly in your way'. "We are Europeans, we would rather be cold than bought."
The claims against Kaili, according to Metsola, are about "right and wrong" rather than "left or right," and she pleaded with parliamentarians to "avoid the temptation to exploit this moment for political gain." "Do not cheapen the threat we are facing," she requested of them. Metsola then declared that she would review the regulations governing meetings between legislators and foreign actors in regards to transparency "There will be no impunity. None." There will be no sweeping under the carpet," she affirmed. "We will launch an internal investigation to look at all the facts related to the Parliament and to look at how our systems can become yet more watertight."
Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, termed the claims "extremely serious" and demanded the formation of a new ethics authority to regulate the union. According to Jessica Parker, the BBC's Brussels correspondent, the information made public by Belgian authorities in recent days left many people's jaws open. MEPs also expressed their disbelief by both the scale and blatancy of the accusations. The bribery inquiry, according to watchdogs and opposition MEPs, may be one of the largest corruption scandals in the history of the parliament.
As part of a major investigation, Belgian police detained one of the Parliament's vice presidents ,on December 9, Eva Kaili, who has been charged with involvement in a criminal organization, money laundering, and corruption. Kaili, who sat with the socialist group, is suspected of engaging in illegal lobbying on behalf of a country in the Persian Gulf, Qatar, the contentious host of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, according to Belgian media.
The Russian war of aggression in Ukraine has shaken Europe, forcing the region to rethink security considerations and deal with impending food and energy crises. It has also raised important questions about the very nature of European and western democracy, which has exhibited troubling double standards with regard to migration and the plight of refugees. These questions are important in the context of the rise of parties that espouse nativist and xenophobic beliefs.
A major democratic collapse has occurred in Africa as a result of decades of state control by illiberal "strong men" leaders. To assist them to stay in power, some politicians are turning to desperate measures to alter constitutions and legal systems. A growing percentage of young people seek leaders who will address their specific concerns and are eager for change. The prospect of democratic reform, which had been a hope as recently as 2019, has been scarred by the ongoing war in Ethiopia, where there have been claims of ethnocide. Although social unrest in countries like Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon may be indicative of public yearning for new, more open societies as well as more accountable leadership, authoritarian control nevertheless predominates throughout West Asia.
The Americas are currently facing a variety of new issues, such as poisonous polarization and assaults on election management institutions; Haiti has now joined Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela as authoritarian regimes. This region is home to three of the seven democracies that are regressing, indicating that even established democracies are experiencing weakened institutions. In addition to providing an overview of global and regional trends relating to democracy and human rights, this paper also gives examples of worldwide initiatives aimed at reviving social contracts. It concludes with a set of recommendations for policymakers who want to spur democratic reform.
In the November midterm elections, a predicted "red wave" of support for Republican candidates did not materialize. Voters aged 50 and older, who made up 61% of the electorate in 63 of the most difficult congressional districts, helped give Democrats a 2% advantage, according to a post-election AARP survey.
Seniors, especially those 65 and older who moved their vote from Republicans to Democrats between July and November, were significantly responsible for the party's success, according to the survey.
Bipartisan polling firm Fabrizio Ward and Impact Research conducted the survey in November shortly following the election. There were 450 nonvoters and 1,903 general election voters present. Tony Fabrizio, a Republican pollster and partner at Fabrizio Ward, stated during a recent AARP webinar that "voters over fifty were the deciders." Voters' top concerns overall were inflation and rising costs (33%), abortion (28%), and dangers to democracy (25%).
When it comes to those who are most worried about abortion and dangers to democracy, Democratic candidates scored highly. Those who were concerned about immigration, inflation, and the economy voted for the Republicans.
"The fact that those three issues there – inflation, abortion and threats to democracy – were so close in terms of being the top driver of votes leads to one of the reasons why this ended up being Democrats closely having the edge closely on these districts," Fabrizio stated.
According to an interesting article from the "Financial Times" it is suggesting that it is appropriate — and essential — to list the numerous ways the west has come together this year. Autocrats are skilled at incorporating specific defeats for the US and its allies, like the withdrawal from Afghanistan, into a narrative of unstoppable decline. Liberals should therefore make their own noise when things swing in the other direction. The year has rendered them unfit as examples.
The author mentions Emmanuel Macron's victory to became the first president of France in re-election since 2002. He retired Marine Le Pen in the process. The most successful electoral politician in the west is a Molière-quoting centrist and former banker. A rare occasion amid the populist pomp of 2016.
The UK began the year with Boris Johnson as prime minister and ends it with Rishi Sunak, which is a moral upgrade if nothing else. Even Liz Truss, in a short stint that was still too long, did some perverse good for the nation’s governing institutions. The Treasury, the central bank, the fiscal watchdog: each was undermined, each was vindicated, each now stands enhanced. No politician will challenge them for a while, which is a problem of its own. This was also the year that Brexit died, if not as a fact of life then as a project that inspires. Former enthusiasts disown it or blame its meagre returns on poor implementation.
- Financial Times (2022) click here for the full article
To rebuild and revitalize democratic institutions and to re-establish trust between the people and their governments, there is a need for new and innovative social contracts that better reflect the changing global environment and that meaningfully prioritize equity of access to the mechanisms of participation. In this context, International IDEA presents two new knowledge products under the Global State of Democracy Initiative:
The Global State of Democracy 2022: Forging social contracts in a time of discontent
Democracy Tracker, a new, monthly updated, qualitative database of democracy and human rights developments
The Global State of Democracy 2022 report, in its fourth edition, is based on a rigorous methodology that combines research expertise with on-the-ground experience to evaluate the state of democracy in 173 countries. The report offers an evidence-based analysis of both global and regional trends on democracy, complemented by case studies and a set of actionable recommendations for policymakers.
The Democracy Tracker is a unique online tool that will monitor democratic progress and challenges around the world. The Democracy Tracker has been designed to support decision-makers and democracy actors in their important work to strengthen democracy.
Between the 7-9 November the World Forum for Democracy took place at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg.
Thirty years ago, many people believed that the spread of democracy was as inevitable as it was desirable. Those days are now far behind us. Instead, the public and policy-makers have watched as the spread of democracy has slowed and, by some measures, gone into reverse. Those who believe that democracy is the best way to govern – and those who do not – know that democracy is in distress. Many wonder if it will survive. Others are determined that democratic decline is neither inevitable nor irreversible. The 10th World Forum for Democracy aimed to get to the heart of what has gone wrong. It looked for the key contributing factors to democratic decline, considered how these might be addressed, and explored what kind of democratic future is desirable, and possible, in the interests of people across the world.
During the Forum some key issuses discussed were, democracy in distress, can we swing back the pendulum and democracy from decline to renaissance.
The World Forum for Democracy is a unique platform for political decision-makers and activists to debate solutions to key challenges for democracies worldwide. By identifying and analysing experimental initiatives and practices, the Forum highlights and encourages democracy innovations at the grassroots and their transfer on a systemic level to strengthen the foundations of democratic societies. The 10th World Forum for Democracy revisited the results of the previous editions and assessed the impact of the most promising and innovative of the initiatives presented over the last decade. It brought together diverse voices from around the world to discuss and debate visions for the future which might successfully counteract the erosion of democratic culture and galvanise the defenders of democracy to resist dangerous polarisation and reverse the global democratic decline.
- World Forum for Democracy Concept Note (2022) click here for more
Following the tragic passing of Mahsa Amini in September and while in state detention in Iran, Iran's universities have become a battleground for protests by students and the police.
Students have recently given the weeks-long protests a new impetus and according to a steady stream of films being uploaded, students initiated in late October significant protests at Sharif University and Tehran University. Campus protests were also reported in other cities, including Tabriz in the northwest, Kerman in the south, Mashhad in the northeast, and Isfahan in the center.
An important parameter is highlighted since at the beginning protests were women-led but now they begin to touch other groups as well. The change is substantial and undoes a decade-long political dormancy of Iran's student movement where universities have historically served as a haven for political dissidents.
Political discussions or the expression of political views is suppressed in Iran. However, this repression has been considerably less successful inside the walls of universities. While students gave the protests fresh life, it is among female students that the hijab controversy, which was what first sparked the upheaval, is particularly sensitive—even for those who wear one.