The share of the world living in either a democracy has taken a steep dive recently. The current fragility of democracy is plain to see.

W ith comparisons to January 6 immediately being drawn, thousands of supporters of Brazil’s far-right former president Jair Bolsonaro forced their way into the country’s congress, presidential palace and supreme court on Sunday.

It took roughly three hours for security forces to regain control of the situation, with at least 300 arrests being made. The main motivation behind the riot has been linked to Bolsonaro’s followers’ refusal to accept the results of October’s election, which led to the return to power of leftist Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

While democracy has held out in the United States after the Capitol riot and so far in Brazil now too, an analysis collated by Our World in Data highlights how fragile it can be. The share of the world living in either an electoral or liberal democracy was at its highest in the year 2000 when the figure was at 54%. As our infographic illustrates, this took a steep dive in 2019, dropping from 50% down to just 32%. While the fragility of democracy is also plain to see elsewhere in the chart, this is the most dramatic example over the assessed period.

The main cause of this decrease was India and its downgrade by Freedom House to a ‘partially free democracy’ and to an ‘electoral autocracy’ by the V-Dem Institute at the University of Gothenburg since Modi’s win in the country’s 2019 election.

The latter downgrade was justified by the alleged “increased pressure on human rights organizations, rising intimidation of academics and journalists, and a spate of bigoted attacks, including lynchings, aimed at Muslims” leading to a “deterioration of political rights and civil liberties”.

The rise of democracy has been one of the greatest collective human achievements of the last century, allowing large shares of the world’s population to live in relative freedom and have the ability to alter the politics and society of their country. Has this expansion already peaked though?

The Economist Democracy Index rates countries on the state of their governing system each year. In the 2021 instalment published, 21 countries in the world were rated as “full democracies”, including all Scandinavian countries, several Western European nations as well as Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Uruguay, Mauritius, Costa Rica, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan. France and Portugal went back to flawed status in 2020 after having spent just one year in the highest section, and there they remained in 2021.

Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon and Haiti were also demoted in the index, exiting the “hybrid regime” category and becoming authoritarian. The EIU stated that overall, democracy around the world hit an all-time low with the average score of countries sinking to 5.28 from 5.37 the previous year – an even larger drop than that recorded between 2019 and 2020. The countries rated most poorly were Afghanistan, Myanmar and North Korea.

PMP Magazine


Martin Armstrong, Data Journalist at Statista.


Text: This piece was first published in Statista & written by Martin Armstrong, Data Journalist at Statista on 10 January 2023.
Cover: Adobe Stock/Mark Poprocki.

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