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Liberal and Illiberal Democracies Comparison Report

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Updated: May 19th, 2020

According to the data obtained from the Freedom House website, Canada is one of the strongest liberal democracies across the globe. The press freedom score index stands at 20 while economic environment has been rated at 6. The political and legal environments have score indices of 9 and 6 respectively. On the other hand, Brazil is a typical example of illiberal democracy since its overall status has been rated by Freedom House as “partly free”. It has a rather weak press freedom that stands at a score of 46 while the economic environment is rated at 11. The political score is 22 and the legal environment is 13 (Freedom of the Press, 2014).

It is prudent to mention that a representative democracy operates in a liberal democracy. In other words, the minority rights are safeguarded in all forms of governances that embrace liberal democracy. Elections that are competitive, free and fair are also held in liberal democracies. Zakaria (1997) notes that liberal democracies permit the state of political competition through the registration of several political parties that are distinct in nature. The author also argues that liberal democracies allow the separation of powers among the core organs of the state. Hence, governance in liberal democracies is attained through coordination of various branches of government. Power or authority is heavily devolved in such democracies even in the presence of a powerful central or federal government.

In addition, Zakaria (1997) is of the opinion that for a government to be described as liberal, it must reinforce the rule of law from the top to the lower levels of governance. An open society can only exist when the rule of law is fully exercised. In addition, civil liberties, rights of the civilians and general human rights are equally safeguarded through the existing rules of law. Every citizen in a liberal democracy is guaranteed of protection from the government and the ability to exercise political freedom. The author has also stressed the importance of a well drawn constitutional document in a liberal democracy. Government powers are delineated through a constitution in a liberal democracy. It is through the given set of rules that the social contract between the incumbent and the public can be understood.

Nonetheless, an illiberal democracy like Brazil does not exercise the full attributes of a democratic government. Zakaraia (1997) clearly underscores that illiberal democracies are rapidly emerging and spreading across the world. As much as elections are held in such democracies, the elements of open society and civil liberties are non-existent. A hybrid regime or a low intensity democracy is practiced in any form of an illiberal democracy. This type of democracy is neither democratic nor nondemocratic. In other words, such a regime tends to embrace the ideals of both nondemocratic and democratic governments.

Zakaria observes that illiberal democracies may have well written constitutions in place even though the provisions in those constitutions are hardly practiced. Worse still, the absence of a sufficient legal constitutional framework also hinders full implementation of most constitutions that have been adopted by illiberal democracies.

The basic rights, freedoms and privileges of individuals represented by illiberal democracies are usually infringed. For instance, the freedoms of religion, speech or press are not guaranteed in illiberal democracies. Zakaria (1997) emphasizes that centralized regimes are common in illiberal democracies and have been largely caused by remarkable lapse between constitutional liberalism and democracy. As a result, a number of illiberal democracies have landed into conflicts coupled with ethnic competition and weak civil liberties.

References

. (2014). Web.

Zakaria, F. (1997). The rise of illiberal democracy. Foreign Affairs, 76 (6), 22. Web.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Liberal and Illiberal Democracies Comparison." May 19, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/liberal-and-illiberal-democracies-comparison/.

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