Illiberalism of democracies’ ruling parties drives democratic erosion


Ruling parties within established democracies such as Hungary, India, Poland and Turkey are becoming markedly more illiberal, according to a new international study.

The median governing party is becoming more illiberal, showing less commitment to political pluralism, demonizing political opponents, disrespecting fundamental minority rights and encouraging political violence, says a report from the V-Dem Institute.

“This is a global trend,” the Varieties of Party Identity and Organization (V-Party) report notes, drawing on a new dataset. “The median governing party in democracies has become more illiberal in recent decades. This means that more parties show lower commitment to political pluralism, demonization of political opponents, disrespect for fundamental minority rights and encouragement of political violence.”

National Endowment for Democracy (NED)

The new study, the largest ever of its kind, was carried out by the V-Dem Institute at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, using newly developed methods to measure and quantify the health of the world’s democracies at a time when authoritarianism is on the rise, The Guardian adds. 

“This rise of illiberalism is not like mere disagreement about policy issues,” says V-Dem’s Deputy Director Anna Lührmann. “Lacking commitment to democratic norms signals a willingness to also erode these norms once in power.”

“We’ve seen similar shifts in parties in other countries where the quality of democracy has declined in recent years, where democracy has been eroding,” she added. “It fits very well into the pattern of parties that erode democracy once they’re in power.”

Credit: V-Dem

V-Dem’s “illiberalism index” measures the commitment to democratic norms a party exhibits before an election in what the institute calls “the first comparative measure of the ‘litmus test’ for the loyalty to democracy.”

“There’s a real danger here that these parties are going to walk the talk when they are elected and that the path of democratic erosion accelerates,” Luehrmann said.

The Community of Democracies recently hosted a two-day digital event on Safeguarding Democracy and Countering Malign Foreign Influence. The two-day digital event and included two panel discussions: Countering Malign Foreign Influence Aimed at Undermining Democratic Institutions and Norms; and Media Freedom and Fact-based Reporting as Key to Safeguarding against Disinformation- both of which also discussed the subject of disinformation during COVID-19 pandemic. Watch here: Panel 1 and Panel 2.

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