What is the future of DemocrASIA?
To illustrate the future of democracy in Asia, I will be comparing three Asian countries namely: Philippines, China, and Japan. I will be comparing these three countries by examining five V-Dem indices namely: (1) the deliberate component index, (2) the egalitarian component index, (3) the electoral democracy index, (4) the liberal component index, and (5) the participatory component index.
The deliberate component index captures to what extent the deliberative principle of democracy is achieved (Lührmann et al., 2020). This index looks at five key factors namely: (1) reasoned justification, (2) common good, (3) respect counterarguments, (4) range of consultation, (5) engaged society. This means that democracy must have a peaceful way of agreement. There should be no closed minds and people must be open to proper discourse. From the figure above, it can be seen that Japan leads in this category, closely followed by the Philippines, and lastly by China. This means that in Japan and the Philippines, decisions are made more peacefully and with proper deliberation. For China however, decisions are made with less deliberation which means that those in power have very strong influence and overpower the rest in influencing decisions in the country.
The egalitarian component index focuses on the social and political equality of people in a country. It measures to what extent all social groups enjoy equal capabilities to participate in the political arena (Lührmann et al., 2020). This index focuses on three other indices namely: (1) equal protection index, (2) equal access index, and (3) equal distribution of resources index. This means that for a country to be a democracy, every person should have an equal chance at opportunities and no one gets left behind. Surprisingly, the Philippines is very low in this category and it is at the same level of China, while Japan is still at the top of this category. Japan is a first world country with a very good government and public education system. This may be a reason why it is very high in the egalitarian component index. China and the Philippines on the other hand suffer from income inequality where the few rich outnumber the many poor which may be the reason why it is quite low on the index.
The electoral democracy index focuses on suffrage as a main indicator of democracy. It is composed of five other indices namely: (1) expanded freedom of expression, (2) freedom of association index, (3) share of population with suffrage, (4) clean elections index, and (5) elected officials index (Lührmann et al., 2020). This means that for a democracy to truly be a democracy, people must be allowed to vote no matter what their circumstance may be. There must also be clean elections without any dirty politics involved. It can be seen that China has a very position in this index as China does not have regular elections and leaders stay in power for a long time. Philippines on the other hand, started out very low in this index in 1986 as this was very early on after Martial Law where dirty politics was rampant. The Philippines remains in the middle of the range as politics and elections in the country are very far from clean. Japan remains the outlier with very consistent high placing in the index showing outstanding electoral process.
The liberal component index focuses on people’s human and legal rights as well as the implementation of laws. The index is composed of three other indices namely: (1) equality before the law and individual liberty index, (2) judicial constraints on the executive index, (3) legislative constraints on the executive index (Lührmann et al., 2020). Japan and China keep the trend of the previous indices. The one that stands out is the Philippines where there is a big decrease starting 2015. This may be an indication that laws and policies being implemented in the country aren’t benefiting people’s liberty and thus lowering democracy.
The participatory component index measures democracy by active participation by citizens in all political processes, electoral and non-electoral (Lührmann et al., 2020). This index is based on 4 other indices namely: (1) civil society participation index, (2) direct popular vote index, (3) local government index, and (4) regional government index. The Philippines is the highest in this index, followed by Japan, and lastly by China. China is the lowest here since they are controlled by the Communist Party of China and people’s voices are a lot less powerful. The Philippines and Japan on the other hand show characteristics of democracy.
What is the future of democracy in Asia?
It can be observed that the future of democracy tends to just follow the past as seen by the very consistent trends in the five democracy-related indices. China will continue to not be democratic given its type of government. Already democratic countries such as the Philippines will continue to be democratic. I believe that democracy in Asia will really have to depend on China since it is the powerhouse nation in Asia. If China in the future would shift towards being more democratic, other neighboring Asian countries would follow suit given its big influence in the region. But if China continues to stay away from democracy, we may see lower democracy index levels for the rest of the Asian countries.
Lührmann A., Maerz, S. F., Grahn, S., Alizada, N., Gastaldi, L., Hellmeier, S., Hindle, G., & Lindberg, S. I. (2020). Democracy report 2020. Autocratization surges — resistance grows. Varieties of Democracy Institute (V-Dem).
V-Dem. (2020). Variable graph. https://www.v-dem.net/en/analysis/VariableGraph/