The Shape of Democracy in India and South Asia
India is often seen as a beacon of democracy in a turbulent region. In spite of the daunting scale of the country’s geography and the great diversity of its people, it has consistently maintained democratic institutions and a free and fair electoral process, which have eluded many of its neighbours.
Most countries in the southern part of Asia (South and Southeast Asia) are now democracies, and the region is home to nearly one half of the democratic world in population terms. However, many of these are struggling. According to the Democracy Index compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit in 2014, no country in the region – not even India – can be classed as a ‘full democracy’. Six of them are described as ‘flawed democracies’ and as many are classified as ‘hybrid democracies’ – meaning that they display authoritarian or repressive elements.
Dr SY Quraishi, the 17th Chief Election Commissioner of India and FICCI Visiting Fellow at the India Institute, King's College London, is currently conducting a study on democratic systems and electoral reforms in South and Southeast Asian countries. In this talk, he will share thoughts on the strengths and weaknesses of democratic processes in India and throughout the region. Drawing on the findings of this study and years of experience at the helm of India’s democratic institutions, he will also discuss preliminary recommendations for strengthening democracy in this pivotal part of the world.