Liberal democracy has declined significantly in India

News Excerpt:

India, which was downgraded to the status of an “electoral autocracy” in 2018, has declined even further on multiple metrics to emerge as “one of the worst autocratizers”, according to the ‘Democracy Report 2024’. 

Important Points:

  • The report is released by the Gothenburg-based V-Dem Institute that tracks democratic freedoms worldwide.
    • V-Dem’s Democracy Report is a collaborative project involving 4,200 scholars from 180 countries, and is based on 31 million datasets that cover 202 countries from 1789 to 2023.
  • The V-Dem report categorises countries into four regime types based on their score in the Liberal Democratic Index (LDI)
    • Liberal Democracy
    • Electoral Democracy
    • Electoral Autocracy
    • Closed Autocracy
  • Their annual report, which maps each country on a matrix of whether they are turning more democratic (‘democratising’) or more autocratic (‘autocratising’), stated that in 2023, 42 countries (home to 35% of the world’s population) were undergoing autocratisation.

V-Dem Institute:

  • The V-Dem Institute is an independent research institute and the Headquarters of the V-Dem project.
  • The institute is based at the Department of Political Science at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.

Key Findings of the report:

  • India, with 18% of the world’s population, accounts for about half of the population living in autocratising countries.
  • Democratisation was taking place only in 18 countries, accounting for just 400 million people, or 5% of the world’s population.
  • According to the report, 71% of the world’s population — 5.7 billion people — live in autocracies, an increase from 48% ten years ago. 
  • According to the report, the level of democracy enjoyed by the “average person in the world is down to 1985-levels”, with the sharpest decline occurring in Eastern Europe, and South and Central Asia.  
  • According to the report, almost all components of democracy were getting worse in more countries than they were getting better. 
    • The report singled out freedom of expression, clean elections, and freedom of association/civil society as the three worst affected components of democracy in autocratising countries. 
    • The autonomy of the electoral management bodies “is weakening substantially in 22 of the 42 autocratising countries”.
  • According to the report, India’s “autocratisation process has been well documented, including gradual but substantial deterioration of freedom of expression, compromising independence of the media, crackdowns on social media, harassments of journalists critical of the government, as well as attacks on civil society.”
  • The only liberal democracy in the whole of South and Central Asia was Bhutan.
  • In a separate section on the 60 countries that go to the polls in 2024, the report observed that more than half of these (31) were in periods of democratic decline. 
    • The elections in autocratising countries are “critical events” that can “either trigger democratisation, enable autocratisation, or aid stabilisation of autocratic regimes.” 
    • The report stated that “a majority” of elections in 2024 would be in highly contested spaces, making 2024 a critical year for the “future of democracy in the world”.
  • As per the V-Dem classification, a liberal democracy is one where, in addition to the requirements of electoral democracy such as regular free and fair elections, mechanisms for judicial independence and constraints on executive overreach are robust, alongside rigorous protection of civil liberties and equality before law.
  • In an electoral autocracy — the category India falls into — multiparty elections coexist with insufficient levels of basic requisites such as freedom of expression and free and fair elections.


Hence, it is shown that as per the report there are lots of countries where democracy is declining but it can be restored by providing freedom and ensuring democratic practices.

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