The 2020 report released on 3 February by The Economist Intelligence Unit, puts Portugal and France on the same footing with exactly the same advance and retreat: both countries had in the previous edition advanced to ‘fully democratic country’ and both have now lost this category, being the only ones in Western Europe to register these movements.

In both cases, the restrictions imposed as a means of containing the spread of Covid-19, namely general lockdowns, social distancing and various other measures, explain much of the fall from the category of “fully democratic country” to “faulty democracy”.

Alongside the reversal of democratic freedoms because of the pandemic, another issue that contributed to the drop in Portugal’s average Index score was the reduction in parliamentary debates and “the lack of transparency in the process of appointing the President of the Court of Auditors”.

“These developments, in parallel with the impact of the restriction of movements, have led to a drop in the overall score from previous 8.03 to 7.90,” the report says.

With an overall score of 7.90 (out of 10) Portugal now ranks 26 in the overall ranking and 15 in the regional ranking.

In the category of electoral process and pluralism, the magazine gives Portugal 9.58 (unchanged from the previous edition), 7.50 in the functioning of the government (against 7.86 in 2019), 6.11 in political participation and 7.50 in political culture, both unchanged.

As far as the civil liberties category is concerned, the magazine attributes 8.82, whereas in 2019 Portugal had achieved 9.12.

Although the restrictions imposed by the pandemic are a common variable for several countries, namely European ones, the index notes that as far as Western Europe is concerned, only countries (Portugal and France) fell from one category to another, making 13 countries now considered as ‘fully democratic countries’.

Among the seven classified as ‘failing democracy’ are still Italy, Malta, Cyprus, Greece or Belgium.

At the global level, the study notes that in 2020 a ‘large majority of countries’, 116 out of 167 (around 70 percent) had fallen in the overall rank compared to 2019, with only 38 experiencing increases, while 13 remained in the same rank.