Democracy and models of social market economy are being challenged worldwide. At the same time, the influence of religion on political institutions and legal systems is on the rise. These are the findings of the Bertelsmann Stiftung's Transformation Index (BTI), published in February 2016. The index has analysed 129 developing and transformation countries biennially since 2006.
The 250 experts assessing the surveyed countries according to 17 criteria attest to only six states featuring "very good" governance– a record low. In contrast, there are 46 countries whose governments demonstrate either failed or weak transformation efforts.
Religion's influence in politics is growing
The intensity of social, ethnic and religious conflicts has increased in the past ten years, while nearly half of all surveyed governments today manage conflicts more poorly than was the case a decade ago. Conflicts within societies are increasingly manifest along religious cleavages. Extremist organisations primarily associated with a militant-jihadist ideology – from Boko Haram to al- Qaeda and the Taliban to the Islamic State group – are driving these conflicts.
The BTI records a total of 42 states worldwide in which religious dogmas visibly influence political systems. In 21 states such as Iraq, Libya, Turkey and Ethiopia, legal orders and political institutions are now subject to more religious influence than they were in 2014. In the last ten years, the influence of religious dogmas has increased in 53 countries and declined in only 12 countries.
Defective democracies and suppressing autocracies
While the number of democratically governed countries has slightly increased from 72 to 74 and the number of autocracies has declined from 57 to 55, the trend within each regime type is negative. In the last two years, the percentage of autocracies classified by the BTI as "hard-line" has increased from 58 per cent to 73 per cent. Only 15 autocracies protect civil rights even to a rudimentary degree and grant a modicum of political rights. In the remaining 40 autocracies, the arbitrary detention of human rights advocates and journalists is a daily occurrence, as is the repression of civil society organisations.
According to the BTI, one-half of all democracies surveyed are classified as "defective" and one-fifth as "highly defective." Particularly pronounced are the restrictions placed by governments on association and assembly rights. In nearly every country of East-Central and Southeast Europe, freedoms of expression and the press are now subject to tighter restrictions than they were ten years ago.
Author: (Bertelsmann Foundation/ile)