I was born in 1953. When I turned 50, the world had changed significantly. Colonial empires had ended, and more and more countries had turned to democratic rule.
For my generation growing up in Europe, it was almost like a rule of nature, like Darwinism applied to social science: The share of the population of the world living in democracies would and did increase continuously. Particularly important was the breakdown of the Soviet Union which allowed more countries to democratise. At the turn of the century, more than every second person in the world lived in a democracy.
However, the process of democratisation is not linear. We still live in the era of democratisation, but because a number of countries that transformed to democracy did not succeed in establishing consolidated and functioning democratic regimes, there are today more autocracies than democracies in the world. This backsliding is known as the “third wave of autocratization”.
Democratic backsliding takes many forms. The coup d’états of the past are now mostly replaced with more subtle ways of authoritarian regressions, creating hybrid regimes as they enter into political “gray zones”.
Right now, I think we should be worried about the current restrictions and monitoring of people put in place to combat the pandemic. We should keep questioning whether the authoritarian rules imposed on us by our elected leaders during the national emergency are proportionate to the severity of the crisis – and we should make it a political issue that they will not remain in place after the situation has improved.