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Democracy research institute demotes Israel’s democracy status for first time

Groups says Israel has regressed from a liberal to an electoral democracy

Anti-judicial overhaul demonstrators block a road during a protest against the judicial reforms near Yokneam, July 18, 2023. (Photo: Anat Hermony/Flash90)

An annual report published by the Varieties of Democracy Institute (V-Dem), a leading global democracy index, revealed that Israel has fallen out of the category of liberal democracy for the first time since the institute began its rankings in 2014. 

The annual V-Dem Index examines the democratic nature of governments around the world using datasets used to qualify governments into categories. According to the 2024 report, Israel has fallen into the category of an electoral democracy, which is below the category of liberal democracy. 

The group said that Israel has been considered a liberal democracy since 1966. The change of status puts Israel in the same category as Poland and Brazil. 

The V-Dem Index classifies nations according to four categories: closed autocracies; electoral autocracies; electoral democracies; and liberal democracies. 

The classification is made by answering a series of hundreds of questions that examine various indicators of a country's democratic character. The scores are calculated based on the responses of government experts to the questionnaire. 

The report noted that the demotion in Israel’s democratic status is due in part to "government attacks on the judicial system,” which is how it classified the proposed judicial reforms of the coalition government from 2023. 

“Notably, Israel lost its long-time status as a liberal democracy in 2023. It is now classified as an electoral democracy – for the first time in over 50 years. This is primarily due to substantial declines in the indicators measuring the transparency and predictability of the law, and government attacks on the judiciary,” the report stated. 

Specifically, the report called out the Knesset bill that limited the Israeli Supreme Court’s ability to use the standard of “reasonableness” to invalidate laws. 

“Among other things, Israel’s Knesset passed a bill in 2023 stripping the Supreme Court of the power to invalidate laws, thus undermining checks on executive power. Indicators that are in substantive decline also include freedom from torture,” the report stated. 

The Reasonableness Standard Law was later struck down by the Supreme Court, however, the fight over judicial reforms was largely halted by the outbreak of the war in Gaza and not due to the coalition abandoning its goals. 

The judicial reforms sparked large protests in Israel, where groups opposed to reform began to work with anti-government groups in an attempt to either stop the reforms or possibly topple the government. 

The government has largely suspended efforts to pass the judicial overhaul, which sparked widespread public protests, in the wake of the war with Hamas that erupted on Oct. 7.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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