Freedom worldwide threatened in 2023 – research

Henry

Freedom worldwide decreased in 2023 for the 18th consecutive year and showed a much more unbalanced trend than a year before.

Freedom House, the democracy watchdog, announced on Thursday that democracy experienced several setbacks worldwide last year with violence and manipulation that threw a number of elections into disarray.

“The deterioration is quite widespread,” says Yana Gorokhovskaia, co-author of Freedom House’s annual report.

“Even if you compare it regionally, we can usually say that one country is an outlier, but every single region has registered a decline.”

The report also shows that political rights and civil liberties have generally declined in 52 countries. Only 21 countries showed some improvements.

Fiji recorded the biggest improvement on Freedom House’s 100-point scale. The country was awarded seven additional points in the latest annual report.

Fiji, which is described as partially free, held a tense election in December 2022 during which voters ousted Frank Bainimarama, the Fijian military leader who led a coup in 2006.

Gorokhovskaia says Fiji has made important progress since the election by reducing censorship and amending voter registration laws to ensure women’s participation.

In its latest annual report, Freedom House downgraded Ecuador from free to partly free and updated Thailand from not free to partly free.

Ecuador was downgraded after criminal gangs disrupted the country’s elections. The anti-corruption presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio was even shot dead in August last year after a campaign speech.

Thailand was again upgraded due to competitive elections, even though establishment forces prevented the young and progressive Pita Limjaroenrat, whose Move Forward Party won the most seats, from becoming prime minister.

“This is not, I would say, a full-scale victory for democracy or freedom and Thailand,” says Gorokhovskaia.

She does see it as progress that former prime minister and tycoon Thaksin Shinawatra’s Pheu Thai party was allowed to take over after numerous attempts to suppress it.

South Africa is also classified as free, with an overall score of 79 on Freedom House’s scale. Some of the highest scores are achieved by countries such as New Zealand (99), Australia (95), Belgium (96), Iceland (94) and Japan (96).