[op-ed snap] Slipping on Democracy


Mains Paper 2: Polity | Comparison of the Indian constitutional scheme with that of other countries

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: EIU, Democracy Index

Mains level: State of democracy in India & world.



The Economist Intelligence Unit recently published its 11th report on the “State of Democracy in the World in 2018” titled “Me Too?Democracy Index confirms the paradox of India being the world’s largest electoral wonder, but an increasingly flawed democracy.

About Survey

  • The survey ranks 165 independent countries based on five parameters — namely, electoral process and pluralism, civil liberties, functioning of the government, political participation and political culture.
  • Index classifies countries into four types — Full Democracies, Flawed Democracies, Hybrid Democracies and Authoritarian Regimes.
  • Most of the shift has taken place into flawed democracies, which constitute the largest group with 43 per cent of the world’s population.
  • A third of the world lives under authoritarian governments, the majority being in China.
  • Nordic democracies continue to top the rankings year after year, with high political participation, robust welfare state and progressive workers’ rights and environmental standards.

Findings of The Survey

  • Voter turnout was on the rise in 2018, in expression of disillusionment.
  • The culture of protest is on the rise, with a number of demonstrations around the world for a plethora of causes.
  • The rise of social media has made public outreach quicker and easier, making lawful assembly an increasing trend.
  • Quotas for women candidates have made parliaments more inclusive, pointing to the instrumental importance of positive political discrimination.
  • Japan introduced women’s quota legislation in 2018. In the subcontinent, Nepal already tops South Asia in women’s representation, with 33 per cent of the seats reserved for women in Parliament and a record 40 per cent of women in local bodies.
  • It is time the Indian Parliament also walks the talk on women’s representation.
  • Four out of five attributes of the Democracy Index either showed stagnation or improvement for the whole world, except for “civil liberties”, which continues its decline since 2008, coming down from 6.3 to 5.7.
  • “Functioning of the government” remains at the bottom of the score card, with hardly any improvement from a high of 5.0 since 2008.
  • The score for perception of democracy as a sub-attribute suffered its biggest fall in the index since 2010, indicating that people are losing faith in the capability of democracy to deliver basic goods and utilities.

Situation in The South Asia

  • Among the SAARC countries, India (41) and Sri Lanka (71) are classified as flawed democracies, followed by Bangladesh (88), Bhutan (94) and Nepal (97) which are hybrid regimes, with Pakistan (112) and Afghanistan (143) being authoritarian.
  • This is the worst ranking ever on the index for India. It is a mid-range country among flawed democracies, with a high score of 9.17 in electoral process and pluralism but moderate record not crossing 7.5 on the rest of the parameters.

Factors Affecting Indian ranking

  • What has adversely affected Indian rankings, according to the report last year, is the rise of “conservative religious ideologies”.
  • Vigilantism, violence, narrowing scope for dissent, threat to minorities and marginalised groups has affected our ranking.
  • Journalists are increasingly under attack, with murders taking place in several areas.
  • As a result of limited scope for fair reportage, the Indian media is classified as only “partially free”, a fact also corroborated by the “Freedom in the World Report, 2018”.


This year’s report maintains those concerns, and also warns of incumbents trying to further consolidate power: “In India, the ruling  coalition has struggled to maintain its dominance in state elections. To some extent, this is in fact a reflection of the strength of the country’s democratic institutions, which has yielded upsets for the government, despite various coercive tactics used by the ruling Party to consolidate power.”

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