Freedom House says that democracy in the United States has weakened significantly in recent years and blames U.S. President Donald Trump for “ongoing attacks on the rule of law, fact-based journalism, and other principles and norms of democracy.”
The U.S.-based nongovernmental group warned in its annual report on democracy that it has seen similar patterns in other nations where democracy was ultimately overtaken by authoritarianism.
“The greatest danger comes from the fact that American democracy is not infinitely durable, especially if a president shows little respect for its tenets,” said Michael Abramowitz, president of Freedom House.
While the group said the freedom rating for the United States shows that the country is still a robust democracy by global standards, it says its democracy has weakened significantly. It says the current U.S. score puts American democracy on a level with Greece, Croatia and Mongolia, well below other long-standing democracies such as Germany, France and Britain.
Around the world, Freedom House said that 68 countries suffered net declines in political rights and civil liberties during 2018, with only 50 registering gains. It said this marked the 13th consecutive year of decline in global freedom.
WATCH: Democracy in America
The report noted two countries with dramatic declines in 2018 – Hungary and Nicaragua. Hungary fell from "Free" status to "Partly Free" status as Prime Minister Viktor Orban “presided over the most dramatic decline ever charted by Freedom House within the European Union.” Nicaragua dropped to "Not Free" status amid “a ferocious crackdown on a nationwide anti-government protest movement.”
The report also spotlighted several other countries for declines, including China, where over a million ethnic Uighurs, Kazakhs and Hui were forced into reeducation centers, and Cameroon, where President Paul Biya extended his more than three decades in office through “deeply flawed elections.”
Of the 195 countries assessed, 86 (44 percent) were rated Free, 59 (30 percent) Partly Free, and 50 (26 percent) Not Free.
The countries that received the worst freedom rating in the report were Syria, South Sudan, Eritrea, Turkmenistan and North Korea. Those who received the best scores were Finland, Norway, Sweden, Canada and the Netherlands.
Freedom House said the countries that made notable positive changes in their freedom rating in 2018 included Armenia, Ethiopia and Iraq.
It said Armenia made a breakthrough with the victory of “reform-minded” leader Nikol Pashinyan in snap elections, and said in Ethiopia the ruling party installed a reformist prime minister who lifted a state of emergency and released political prisoners. In Iraq, Freedom House said that despite allegations of fraud, the country underwent a peaceful transfer of power following competitive parliamentary elections.