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Election Manipulation and Armed Conflict in 2023 Lead to Decline in ‘Global Freedom’— Freedom House

The US-based nonprofit Freedom House has released its annual assessment of global freedom and democracy, titled Freedom in the World 2024: The Mounting Damage of Flawed Elections and Armed Conflict.

Its key finding is that in 2023, global freedom declined for the 18th consecutive year. Election manipulation, warfare, and attacks on pluralism were the key drivers of this result. Nearly 38% of the world’s people now live in countries rated “not free,” the reporting summarizes. Political rights and civil liberties declined in 52 countries — or one-fifth of the world’s nations.

“Global freedom took a big step backward in 2023,” said Michael J. Abramowitz, president of Freedom House.

Among the leading causes of the decline were the widespread and multifaceted forms of election manipulation, as well as election-related violence. Attempts to overturn the result of an election after the fact occurred in Guatemala, Thailand, and Zimbabwe.

The report found that pluralism — “the peaceful coexistence of people with different political ideas, religions, or ethnic identities” — had come under attack in many parts of the world. “The rejection of pluralism… by authoritarian leaders and armed groups produced repression, violence, and a steep decline in overall freedom in 2023,” the authors noted. Active armed conflicts and threats of authoritarian aggression also made the world less safe and less democratic.

These trends are creating an environment “unfavorable to democracy” just as the world enters a year when many countries face key elections, the report argues.

“The world faces another crucial test in 2024, as billions of people head to the polls and multiple armed conflicts — including in the Sahel, Eastern Europe, the South Caucasus, and the Middle East — continue to violate people’s basic rights,” said Abramowitz. “If democracies do not respond to these challenges, more of the global population will be denied fundamental liberties in the years ahead, ultimately affecting peace, prosperity, security, and freedom for everyone.”

Still, the report suggests that democratic forces can still reverse the long decline in global freedom by “drawing strength from diversity, protecting dissent, and building international coalitions to support their own norms and values.”

Democratic governments should provide support and funding to those on the front lines of the struggle against tyranny, uphold the rights of people living in disputed territories, and protect human rights activists in exile.

Read the summary here, or the full report here.

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