India, Hungary, Turkey, Trump’s America

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL October 29, 2020

In the way of television quizzes, here’s your starter for ten: What unites India, Hungary, Turkey and the United States?

They’re governed by nationalist parties, all of which are increasingly promoting a faux democracy.

The BJP, Fidesz, AKP and the Republican Party are a common thread that runs through the body politic of all four countries. A new study by the V-Dem Institute at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden said as much on October 26. The study is described as the largest ever of its kind. It boasts an “illiberalism index”, which gauges the extent of commitment to democratic norms a party exhibits before an election. The institute calls it “the first comparative measure of the ‘litmus test’ for the loyalty to democracy”.

All four governing parties named fail the litmus test in various ways. But Donald Trump’s Republican Party stands head and shoulders above the others. According to V-Dem’s deputy director, Anna Lührmann, the US Republican Party’s transformation has been “certainly the most dramatic shift in an established democracy”. For two decades, according to the institute, America’s Republicans have prioritised the demonisation of opponents, encouraged violence against them and adopted attitudes and tactics that are less compatible with a vibrant democracy than a lurch towards authoritarianism. Its trajectory is said to be much like Fidesz, which used to be a liberal movement until Viktor Orban remade it as his own creature.

The study says that Mr Trump’s Republican party now appears more like ruling parties in societies with strongmen than the traditional centre-right political party in the western world.

It’s a grim, if unsurprising analysis of what we’ve been seeing in the news in the past 12 years. Remember when the Republican members of the House and Senate decided to block everything President Barack Obama did for no discernible reason (other than the obvious, the one that begins with an ‘r’)?

The new study simply confirms what we knew.

It is no less dispiriting for that.