70% of the World Population Lives Under Dictatorship: Democracy Report

The Electronic Digital Display Board at the office of the Election Commission of India displaying the results of General Election-2019 for the public, at Nirvachan Sadan, in New Delhi on May 23, 2019. Photo: PIB (Representational Image)
The Electronic Digital Display Board at the office of the Election Commission of India displaying the results of General Election-2019 for the public, at Nirvachan Sadan, in New Delhi on May 23, 2019. Photo: PIB (Representational Image)

Electoral autocracies are the most common regime type and harbor the largest share of the world population – 44% or 3.4 billion people.

By RMN News Service

The level of democracy enjoyed by the average global citizen in 2021 is down to 1989 levels while the last 30 years of democratic advances are now eradicated. These are among the findings of the Democracy Report 2022 released on March 2 by the V-Dem Institute at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

The report finds that dictatorships are on the rise and harbor 70% of the world population – 5.4 billion people. According to the report, liberal democracies peaked in 2012 with 42 countries while there are only 34 in 2021. There have not been so few liberal democracies in the world since 1995 – over 25 years ago. Only 13% of the world’s population live in this least populous regime type.

Dictatorships are on the rise – up from 25 to 30 closed autocracies between 2020 and 2021. This development adds to the picture of a change in the nature of autocratization. Electoral autocracies – according to the V-Dem report – are home to the largest share of the world population following India’s downgrade to electoral autocracy in 2020. In 2021, 44% of the world’s population – 3.4 billion people – live in electoral autocracies. 

In electoral autocracies such as India and Russia, the dictators hold elections superficially and then deprive people of their fundamental rights. In other words, after holding elections, the electoral autocracies run as dictatorship states. The citizens of these countries do not enjoy full freedom. This fact is highlighted in the annual Freedom in the World 2022 report released by Freedom House which asserts that India is a partly free country while Kashmir under the Indian occupation is not free.

The Democracy Report 2022 of the V-Dem Institute reveals that the largest number of nations in 50 years are now autocratizing – 33 countries harboring 2.8 billion people. And democracy broke down in 7 of the top 10 autocratizing states over the past decade.

The report adds that anti-pluralist parties drive the autocratization in at least 6 of the top 10 autocratizers – Brazil, Hungary, India, Poland, Serbia, and Turkey. The EU may be facing its own wave of autocratization, as 6 out of 27 EU member states – more than 20% of the union – are now autocratizing.

The lack of a pro-democratic mobilization – still at low levels – risks allowing autocratization to deepen unchallenged. According to the V-Dem report, 18 anti-pluralist parties and their leaders lack commitment to the democratic process, disrespect fundamental minority rights, encourage demonization of political opponents, and accept political violence. These ruling parties tend to be nationalist-reactionary and have used government power to push forward autocratic agendas. 

The Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) project says it produces the largest global dataset on democracy with over 30 million data points for 202 countries from 1789 to 2021. Involving over 3,700 scholars and other country experts, V-Dem measures hundreds of different attributes of democracy. It enables new ways to study the nature, causes, and consequences of democracy embracing its multiple meanings.

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Rakesh Raman