Bangladesh backslides into hybrid democracy : Report


Prothom Alo English Desk |  Dec 13, 2019

Changes in regime type in third-wave democracies in Asia and the Pacific, 1975–2018. Photo: Screen-grab taken from The Global State of Democracy 2019 report.

Bangladesh has backslid into a state of hybrid democracy following two democratic breakdowns since 2014, says The Global State of Democracy 2019 report published by Sweden-based International IDEA.

“Bangladesh, a previously fragile democracy, regressed to a hybrid regime in 2014,” reads the report published recently.

Explaining state of the hybridity, the reports says, “Hybrid regimes are countries that combine democratic with nondemocratic characteristics.”

It also said several countries in Asia and the Pacific region have experienced democratic fragility, with democratic breakdowns since their first transition to democracy. Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Thailand had full democratic breakdowns.

Fundamental Rights in Asia and the Pacific 2018. Photo: Screen-grab taken from The Global State of Democracy 2019 report.

It further said six third-wave countries have either suffered from democratic fragility or experienced democratic interruptions since their transitions. Of these six countries, Bangladesh regressed into hybridity in 2014 and Pakistan in 2018.

The report added that the region’s hybrid regimes exist in the grey zone of representative government. Of the world’s hybrid regimes, 18 per cent are located in Asia and the Pacific and this share has increased in the past decades. They tend to hold regular elections, although these are not considered to be fully competitive.

It also said recent attacks on judicial institutions have occurred in a number of countries and they pose a serious impediment to democratic strengthening.

“Cases include Bangladesh, which regressed into hybridity in 2014 and Afghanistan. As one commentator notes, in order to survive, democracy and constitutionalism rely on a commitment to ‘horizontal accountability’—to ‘core institutions interacting to uphold the values that undergird the system’,” the report stated.

Representative Government in Asia. Photo: Screen-grab taken from The Global State of Democracy 2019 report.

It further added that when institutions fail to speak, listen and respond to each other—or, worse, when they attack one another—the principles of democracy and separation of powers break down, putting nations at risk of authoritarian reversal or democratic backsliding.

Moreover, intimidation and violence are also persistent features of political contests in many countries in the region. In particular, countries such as Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Pakistan, and Papua New Guinea all have high levels of electoral violence.

Checks on Government in Asia and the Pasific 2018. Photo: Screen-grab taken from The Global State of Democracy 2019 report.

However, in recent years, there have been notable attempts to undermine civic space, freedom of speech and the media throughout Asia and the Pacific.

In Bangladesh and Pakistan, these restrictions on civic space have been aimed at limiting the space for opposition and manipulating electoral processes.

Of the currently five hybrids, only Bangladesh and Pakistan have ever been categorised as democracies in the 43 years covered by the GSoD Indices. Singapore has been a hybrid regime uninterruptedly for the past 43 years and flourished under export-led growth strategies facilitated by the strong hand of the state. Unlike the other three so-called Asian tigers—South Korea, Taiwan, and more recently Malaysia— Singapore has never fully transitioned to democracy, said the report.