- Mariana Sanchez -mariana_sanches
- BBC News Brazil in Washington
Brazil is the fourth country to move away from democracy in 2020 in the ranking of 202 countries analyzed. The conclusion is taken from the V-Democracy report, from the institute of the same name associated with the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.
Published in March 2021, the document is an important tool that investors and researchers from around the world and Brazil use to prioritize business globally.
According to the index, where 0 represents a complete dictatorship and 1 represents a complete democracy, today Brazil scores a score of 0.51, down 0.28 compared to the 2010 measure, which was 0.79.
The fall of the country was no greater than the fall of Poland, Hungary and Turkey. The last two, one under the right-wing Viktor Orban regime and the other under the leadership of conservative Recep Erdogan, have officially become authoritarian, in the V-Dem classification.
“Almost all of the indicators we use show a steep decline in Brazil from 2015 onwards,” BBC director of political science Staffan Lindberg told BBC News Brazil. “The only point the country has not lost since then is freedom of association.” . From the Institute for Democracy Differences.
The index is based on the contribution of 3,500 researchers and analysts, 85% of whom are associated with universities around the world.
The result for each country comes from the statistical compilation of data for 450 different indicators, which measure aspects such as the degree of freedom of the judiciary and the legislature with regard to executive power, freedom of expression of the population, and the dissemination of false information. Information from official sources, suppression of civil society demonstrations, freedom of the press and its independence, and freedom of political opposition.
According to the report, the world is witnessing what researchers consider a wave of authoritarian expansions that began in 1994.
This will be the third wave since 1900 (the first two waves occurred between 1920-1940 and between the beginning of the 1960s and the end of the 1970s).
If, in 2010, 48% of the world’s population lived under regimes considered undemocratic, then in 2020 this percentage increased to 68% and returned to the level observed in the early 1990s.
In the G-20 – which includes the world’s largest economies – in addition to Brazil and Turkey, India also presented a significant decline in democratic standards that it was no longer considered the largest democracy in the world and began to emerge. Classified as authoritarian with elections by V-Dem.
According to the researchers, operations in India, Turkey and Brazil, although in different stages, follow the same path. The report says: “First, the attack on the media and civil society, then the incentive to polarize society, lack of respect for opponents and the dissemination of false information, then undermine official institutions.”
“We are very concerned because we realize that Bolsonaro has given clear signals that align with the behavior patterns of other authoritarian leaders that we have seen behaving before, like Viktor Orban. These are disturbing movements for the survival of Brazilian democracy,” Lindberg says.
He is still far from despotic
The 2021 V-Dem Index was completed before the Brazilian president’s recent crisis with the armed forces.
In March, it was announced the departure of the then Minister of Defense, Fernando Azevedo e Silva, which also led to the change of commanders of the army, navy and air force.
Azevedo e Silva stated in his resignation letter that “during this period (at the head of the portfolio), they had preserved the armed forces as state institutions,” raising questions about a possible attempt to politicize the Brazilian military by Bolsonaro, who did so. The term “my army” is commonly used to refer to the country’s armed forces.
Before that, however, the incumbent Brazilian president repeatedly attacked the press, praised the military dictatorship established in the 1960s, and supported a demonstration by his supporters who demanded the closure of the Supreme Federal Court.
Shortly before his inauguration, Bolsonaro said he would send his opponents to “the edge of the beach”, an apparent reference to the naval base in Restinga da Marambaya, in Rio, where prisoners were tortured and killed during the Brazilian dictatorship.
“Petralada, you will all go to the end of the beach. You will not have time in our home because I will cut off all your privileges. You will no longer have NGOs to satisfy your hunger for mortadella.” Then the president-elect in 2018.
These aspects contribute to the country’s current results. Other indicators also point to a decline in Brazilian democracy in recent years, although the decline has been more moderate.
The non-governmental organization Freedom House assessed Brazilian democracy at 79, on a scale from 0 to 100, in 2017. Currently, the index has decreased to 74.
For Lindberg, although the data on Brazil are worrying, the country is still far from being an authoritarian state, as it has with Turkey and India, due to the quality of the Brazilian electoral system.
“Despite some voting irregularities, and a little bit of electoral intimidation or vote buying, the elections in Brazil are still free and fair, and it is possible to change the country’s leadership through it,” says Lindberg.
According to him, an electronic voting system, like the one used in Brazil, has proven safe and reliable. However, Bolsonaro campaigned for the print vote in Brazil and said the country could repeat the story of the last US election, when Trump claimed fraud without evidence, if he did not change the electoral system.
If the authoritarian transition affected a large number of people around the world, on the other hand, the processes of democratization, despite their occurrence, are concentrated in smaller countries, such as Sri Lanka, Tunisia and Armenia.
For researchers, this is due to the fact that these countries are relatively far from the influence of authoritarian powers, such as Russia and China, and appear to have been able to direct their internal political dynamics towards a freer order.
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