By P.K.Balachandran

Colombo, March 14: A recent survey done by the Washington-based Pew Research Centre (PRC) shows that democracy had suffered a decline globally between 2017 and 2023 and that there had been a rising preference for authoritarianism, especially in some Middle-Income countries including India. 

The survey covering 30,861 people in 24 countries of various income levels was done between February 20 and May 22, 2023. 

It found that globally, on an average, 31% supported authoritarianism. Support for authoritarianism was the highest in India at 85%. In Indonesia it was 77%; in Mexico, 71%, in Kenya, 67%, in South Africa, 66%, in Brazil, 57%; in the US, 32% and in the UK it was 31%.  

Strong Leader Syndrome

Support for a government where a “strong leader” could make decisions without interference from courts or parliaments, increased in eight of 22 nations since 2017. It was up significantly in all three Latin American nations polled, as well as in Kenya, India, South Korea, Germany and Poland.

Support for a strong leader model was especially common among people with less education and those with lower incomes, the survey said. And people on the ideological Right were often more likely than those on the Left to support rule by a strong leader. 

Military Rule

Even military rule had significant support. A third or more of the public in all eight middle-income countries favoured military rule. There was less support for military rule in high-income nations, although 17% said that military rule could be a good system in Greece, Japan and the United Kingdom. 15% held this view in the United States.

Flawed Democracies 

There had been marked disillusionment with the working of Representative Democracies in terms of the performance of elected representatives and the responsiveness of political parties to peoples’ expectations, the survey said. 

Although more than 50% of people across the 24 countries identified  Representative Democracy as an ideal form of government in 2023, there had been a decline in support for it since 2017.  

The share of the public describing Representative Democracy as a “very good” way came down significantly in 11 of the 22 countries where data from 2017 to 2023 was available. For instance, 54% of Swedes had said Representative Democracy was a very good approach in 2017, while just 41% held this view in 2023.

Dysfunctional Party System

There was a noticeable alienation from the party system, which is a basic feature of Representative Democracy. Substantial numbers said that political parties in their country did not represent the people adequately. 

Overall, 59% were dissatisfied with how their democracy was functioning. 74% thought elected officials didn’t care what people thought of them; and 42% said no political party in their country represented their views. 

Women and Youth Participation 

Many across the 24 countries said policies in their country would improve if more women, people from poor backgrounds and young adults were in office. Electing more women was especially popular among women, and voting for more young people was popular among those under age 40.


There were mixed views on electing more businesspeople and labour union leaders. Religiosity was favoured in the middle-income countries (middle income as per the World Bank’s definition) such as Argentina, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria and South Africa. 

Rule by Experts

Support for a system where experts (in place of elected officials), make key decisions was up significantly in most countries since 2017. Across 24 nations, a median of 74% said elected officials in their country didn’t care what people like them think and opted for experts’ rule. 

A factor driving people’s dissatisfaction with the way democracy is functioning is the belief that politicians are “out of touch” with the lives of ordinary citizens. 

In every country surveyed, people who felt politicians didn’t care about people like them were less satisfied with democracy. Across 24 nations, a median of 74% said elected officials in their country didn’t care what people thought of them.

Growing Authoritarianism in UK 

Authoritarianism has been growing in the UK ever since Israel unleashed genocide in Gaza and there were street protests highlighting the slaughter. 

The pro-Israel Rishi Sunak government brought a new rule on Thursday that bans Ministers and civil servants from “talking to or funding” organisations that undermine “the UK’s system of liberal parliamentary democracy”, under a new definition of “extremism”. 

The new definition f extremism is: “the promotion or advancement of an ideology based on violence, hatred or intolerance, that aims to: (1). Negate or destroy the fundamental rights and freedoms of others; or (2) Undermine, overturn or replace the UK’s system of liberal parliamentary democracy and democratic rights; or (3) Intentionally create a permissive environment for others to achieve the results in (1) or (2).”

The overhaul of the definition of extremism followed Rishi Sunak’s impromptu speech in Downing Street on 1 March in which he warned of “forces here at home trying to tear us apart”.

The definition has been criticised by the government’s terror watchdog and Muslim community groups, Guardian said. 

Under the new rules there will be no appeals process if a group is labelled as extremist. The matter could however be taken to the courts.

The previous guidelines, published in 2011, said individuals or groups are defined as extremist only if they show “vocal or active opposition to British fundamental values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and the mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs”.

Deep concern was expressed by Jonathan Hall, the government’s Independent Reviewer of State Threat. He told the Guardian that the new definition “focuses on ideas, on ideology, not action. So it’s a move from the previous definition. Moving the focus from action to ideology or ideas is an important one because I think people will be entitled to say: ‘What business is it of the government about what people think, unless they do something with that?”.

“There’s no appeal body and where you have this lack of safeguards, it’s going to be really important to make sure that this labelling does not bleed into other areas.”

“If the government says that someone is an extremist, and is essentially saying ‘You are unacceptable’, then what would stop a local authority, another public body or even a private body from deciding they will adopt it as well?” he asked.

A draft version of Gove’s ministerial statement, which has been seen by the Guardian, names several prominent Muslim groups, including MEND (Muslim Engagement and Development), CAGE, Friends of Al Aqsa, 5Pillars and the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB) as “divisive forces within Muslim communities”.

Sayeeda Warsi, the Tory peer called the new definition of extremism will “breed division and encourage mistrust”.

Zara Mohammed, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain   that the new rule will be challenge in court. The lack of consultation and the vague language used by the government would be at the heart of any legal challenge, it is understood.

Areeba Hamid, warned that shrinking the space for peaceful protesters in the UK would encourage others to go down the path of more destructive and unlawful forms of protest.



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