The world is becoming more authoritarian, but there is hope

STATUS TYPES BY NUMBER OF COUNTRIES AND SHARE OF POPULATION, 1972–2022. The number of countries (left panel) and share of world population (right panel) by regime type. Of course, there remains some uncertainty about the exact classification of certain countries’ regimes in certain years. Credit: DEMOCRACY REPORT 2023 Defiance in Face of Autocratization (2023).

For the first time in two decades, there are more closed autocracies than liberal democracies in the world, but the future is not entirely bleak. This is shown in this year’s report on democracy by the Varieties of Democracy Institute (V-Dem Institute) at the University of Gothenburg.

A democratic decline has occurred worldwide and an increasing number of people live in closed empires. The report published now shows that this trend continues and that the world has not been more anti-democratic in 35 years.

“The level of democracy enjoyed by the world’s average citizen in 2022 is back to 1986 levels. This means that 72 percent of the world’s population, 5.7 billion people, live under authoritarian rule,” according to Staffan I. Lindberg , Director of the V. -Dim Institute.

Democratic decline has been most dramatic in the Pacific region, Eastern Europe, Central Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. But the number of countries in the world currently experiencing democratic backsliding, or autocratisation, has risen significantly over the past ten years – from 13 to 42 countries between 2002-2022, the highest figure measured by V-Dem to date.

More closed autocracies than liberal democracies

In general, countries experience authoritarianism when authoritarian political movements gain direct influence over government policy, where they can dismantle democratic institutions: free media, civil society, independent organizations, and the judiciary. Once this has begun, in the vast majority of cases, it eventually leads to the dissolution of democracy.

The global progress of closed autocracies is also highlighted in this year’s report. For the first time in two decades, the world has more closed empires than liberal democracies.

“28 percent of the world’s population, 2.2 billion people, now live in closed autocracies compared to 13 percent, 1 billion people, who live in liberal democracies.”

There is hope

However, some countries have managed to return after long periods of democratic dissolution. Bolivia, Moldova, Ecuador, the Maldives, North Macedonia, Slovenia, South Korea and Zambia managed to reverse their authoritarian evolution.

“The fact that eight democracies that were in a period of autocracy have stopped this process and ‘climbed back’ is encouraging news for democracy. It is rare to see countries that can make a turnaround. The countries that have succeeded have sparked a mobilization for of democracy, re-established an objective judicial system, deposed authoritarian leaders, introduced free and fair elections, worked to reduce corruption and revitalized civil society,” says Staffan I. Lindberg.

Provided by the University of Gothenburg

Reference: Reference: The world is getting more authoritarian, but there is hope (2023, March 3) retrieved March 3, 2023 from

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