The policies of Italy's populist government, which came to power last June, have torpedoed the country's global democracy ranking in this year's global report on democracy.
The country dropped from 21st to 33rd position in the Economist Intelligence Unit's 2018 Democracy Index, mainly because of the presence of the far-right League in Italy's coalition.
“Deep disillusionment with political institutions, including parliament and political parties, fed through into increasing support for 'strongmen' who bypass political institutions,” the EIU, which is the respected research and analysis arm of the Economist Group, said in its report.
While the coalition also includes the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S), the report singled out the League's deputy prime minister and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini for blame.
Salvini “has often used anti-foreigner rhetoric” and supported the evictions of immigrants and refugees and members of the minority Roma community from “illegal” camps despite a stop order issued by the European Court of Human Rights, the report said.
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UN human rights commissioner Michelle Bachelet in September criticised Italy's treatment of migrants and minorities.
She slammed those who would build walls against migrants, as well as Salvini's decision to close Italy's ports to boats carrying migrants rescued at sea despite deaths on the Mediterranean.
Bachelet said she would send a team to Italy to assess what she said was a rise in reported violent and racist attacks on immigrants, people of African origin and Roma.
“All this contributes to the risk of a deterioration in civil liberties,” said the EIU report, which also “considers the extent to which the government invokes new threats as an excuse to curb civil liberties.”
Italy's parliament in November approved a controversial “security” decree which reduced humanitarian protection for tens of thousands of migrants.