Democracy: A World in Transition

15th of September is the International Day of Democracy, a day to review the state of democracy everywhere. The past ten years there has been a shift in democracy. The freedom and democratic rights of the average person around the world in 2020 are at the same low levels last found in 1990 (V-dem). 


In 1975, only 26 per cent of the world’s countries were democracies. Today, 62 per cent of the countries around the world are democracies. Even though more countries are becoming democracies around the world, and all regions of the world today contain democracies, the quality of democracies is declining. A common factor for this is the idea of what democracy is and what it should provide, and what is being delivered by states (International IDEA). 


The Link Between Economy and Democracy  


The perception of societal, economic, and political problems has citizens lacking trust in the legitimacy of democracy. The biggest reason for this is the link between a state’s economy and their democratic status. In countries where the economy is in bad shape, many more are dissatisfied with the quality of democracy and its performance. 


“Opinions about how well democracy is working in a country are related to whether people believe their most fundamental rights are being respected” (Pew Research Centre) 


The question therefore is not how many countries are becoming autocracies, but rather how to improve the quality of those obtaining democracy already. Democracy is a process, just as much as a goal. There needs to be full support and participation from the international community for democracy to be enjoyed by everyone. Despite challenges to democracies today, the demand for democratization continues among those states that are not. 


According to the Global State of Democracy in 2019 “the idea of democracy continues to mobilize people around the world, the practice of existing democracies has disappointed and disillusioned many citizens and democracy advocates”. In 2020, India home to 1.37 billion people went from being the world’s largest democracy to an electoral autocracy. 


The Most Common Regime Type: Electoral Autocracy 


According to V-dem, to this day, the most common regime type is electoral autocracy. Along with autocracies it makes the home to 68% of the population, 87 countries. However, the world is more democratic than it has ever been. Since 1975, democracies continue to grow (V-dem). 


In their 2019 report, the International IDEA defines democratic backsliding as “a particularly severe form of democratic erosion involving the gradual and intentional weakening of checks and balances and curtailment of civil liberties” becoming more frequent in the last decade (International IDEA). 


Many countries are stuck in a transition-trap. Although more countries are becoming democracies, the past four decades have shown a slow gain in specific areas concerning democracy: gender equality, social group equality in accessing political power, juridical independence, and the absence of corruption. 


Democracies are spreading to countries that have never experienced it before and it is those countries that are the most resilient in demanding democracy. 


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