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Report Shows Democracy’s Decline for Seventh Straight Year

by Joshua Kurlantzick
January 16, 2013

Leftists displaying banners and portraits of the late Chinese leader Mao Zedong demonstrate outside the office of the liberal Southern Weekly newspaper in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou January 9, 2013, denouncing the newspaper as "a traitor newspaper" for defying the party. Leftists displaying banners and portraits of the late Chinese leader Mao Zedong demonstrate outside the office of the liberal Southern Weekly newspaper in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou January 9, 2013, denouncing the newspaper as "a traitor newspaper" for defying the party (Bobby Yip/Courtesy Reuters).

Today, at an event hosted by my colleague Mark Lagon at the Council on Foreign Relation’s office in Washington, DC, the NGO Freedom House released the findings of its annual international survey Freedom in the World 2013. While the report, the most comprehensive analysis of freedom around the globe, applauded the remarkable and salient gains made this year by a few countries, such as Tunisia and Myanmar, it also acknowledged the continued decline of democracy worldwide—a trend that has persisted since the mid-2000s. For the seventh consecutive year, more countries regressed than made democratic gains. Further, noted Arch Puddington, Vice President for Research at Freedom House, the major authoritarian countries—such as China, Russia, and Venezuela— have not only consolidated rule within their own borders, but are now exerting greater influence worldwide. Such countries, Puddington explained, “are geostrategically important, play a part in the international economy, and have not only developed sophisticated and nuanced ways of controlling their own societies, but have expanded their influence beyond their own borders to have an influence over the state of democracy in their neighborhoods.”

In my new book Democracy in Retreat I examine this startling trend: how, over the past decade, democracy worldwide has become weaker, less effective, and less supported by the public in many key countries. Democracy in Retreat is being published by the Council on Foreign Relations and Yale University Press, and will be released in March. An excerpt from the book was published today by the National Post;  you can read it here.

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