The Economist Intelligence Unit has released its semi-annual Democracy Index, which it describes as “a snapshot of the state of democracy worldwide in 165 independent states and two territories.”
The Index ranks all of the world’s countries by several criteria, including “Electoral process and pluralism,” "Functioning of government,” “Political Culture,” “Political Participation,” and “Civil Liberties.” And overall, the index ranked North Korea last, out of the 167 countries and territories listed.
North Korea received scores of zero for electoral process and pluralism, although it did get a 2.50 for “functioning of government.”
After North Korea, the other countries at the bottom of the list were the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, Syria, Chad, Turkmenistan, Laos, Equatorial Guinea, Tajikistan, and Yemen, with Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Uzbekistan finishing just outside the bottom ten. China ranked 151st, while Cuba was 140th.
The most democratic country in the world, per the survey, is Norway, with an overall score of 9.81 out of 10. It was followed by Iceland, Sweden, New Zealand, Canada, Finland, Denmark, Ireland, Australia, and the Netherlands.
North Korea’s neighbor to the south, South Korea, was ranked 23rd, while the United States was 25th, in a category dubbed “flawed democracies.”
The survey indicates that we’re not living in a very good time for democracy, as just under half the world’s population lives in “a democracy of some sort.” Just 8.4 percent of the world’s population lives in full democracies, while 41 percent lives in flawed democracies. Fifteen percent of the population lives in “hybrid regimes,” while more than a third, 35.6 percent, lives in “authoritarian regimes.”
In addition, more than 70 percent of the world’s nations have seen a decrease in their democracy score, since the last time the survey was taken in 2019. Just 22.6 percent of countries have seen an increase in their score compared with two years ago.
“As recorded in the Democracy Index in recent years, democracy has not been in robust health for some time. In 2020 its strength was further tested by the outbreak of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic,” the index said. “The average global score in the 2020 Democracy Index fell from 5.44 in 2019 to 5.37. This is by far the worst global score since the index was first produced in 2006. The 2020 result represents a significant deterioration and came about largely—but not solely—because of government-imposed restrictions on individual freedoms and civil liberties that occurred across the globe in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Across the world in 2020, citizens experienced the biggest rollback of individual freedoms ever undertaken by governments during peacetime (and perhaps even in wartime).”
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.