Democracy in the World. Defiance in the Face of Autocratization

The Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) Institute’s seventh annual Democracy Report 2023 has just been published: Defiance in the Face of Autocratization.

This is the (mostly gloomy) Executive Summary:

Democracy in the World 2022

  1. Advances in global levels of democracy made over the last 35 years have been wiped out.
  2. 72% of the world’s population – 5.7 billion people – live in autocracies by 2022.

Global Level is Back to 1986

  • The level of democracy enjoyed by the average global citizen in 2022 is down to 1986 levels.
  • The decline is most dramatic in the Asia-Pacific region, which is back to levels last recorded in 1978.
  • Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean, are back to levels last seen around the end of the Cold War.

More Dictatorships than Liberal Democracies

  • The world has more closed autocracies than liberal democracies– for the first time in more than two decades.
  • 28% of the population – 2.2 billion people – live in closed autocracies.
  • 13% of the population – 1 billion people – live in liberal democracies.

Drastic Changes in Last Ten Years

  • Freedom of Expression is deteriorating in 35 countries in 2022 – ten years ago it was only 7.
  • Government censorship of the media is worsening in 47 countries.
  • Government repression of civil society organizations is worsening in 37 countries.
  • Quality of elections is worsening in 30 countries.

Democratizers and Autocratizers

  1. The number of democratizing countries is down to 14 with only 2% of the world’s population. They have not been so few since 1973 – 50 years ago.
  2. All regions are affected – but Africa harbors the largest number of democratizing (N=5) as well as autocratizing (N=12) countries.

A New Record of 42 Countries Autocratizing

  • A record 42 autocratizers with 43% of the world’s population – up from 33 countries and 36% of the population last year.

The Major Autocratizers

  1. Democracy broke down in 7 out of the top 10 autocratizers in the last 10 years.
  2. Democracy also failed in 5 out of the top 10 autocratizers in the shorter 3-year perspective.
  3. In 2 democracies – Brazil and Poland –autocratization stalled before democracy broke down.
  4. Armenia, Greece, and Mauritius are democracies in steep decline.

What Autocrats Attack

  • Censorship of the media and repression of CSOs increases and academic freedom declines in more than 25 of the autocratizing countries.
  • Academic and cultural freedom, and freedom of discussion also rank among the top institutions attacked by autocratizing rulers.

Disinformation, Polarization, and Autocratization

  • Disinformation, polarization, and autocratization reinforce each other.
  • Top democratizers conversely reduce the spread of disinformation substantially, and to some extent also polarization.

The Major Democratizers

  1. 8 of the top 10 democratizing countries over the last 10 years are now democracies.
  2. 4 of the top 10 democratizers in the short-term 3-year perspective have transitioned from
  3. autocracy to democracy.
  4. 8 democracies are ‘bouncing back’ – making rare U-turns restoring democracy after a period of autocratization.

IN FOCUS: 8 Democracies Bouncing Back. Five elements unite most of the 8 cases:

  1. Large-scale popular mobilization against incumbent.
  2. Judiciary reversing executive take-over.
  3. Unified opposition coalescing with civil society.
  4. Critical elections and key events bringing alternation in power.
  5. International democracy support and protection.

Autocratization Shifting the Balance of Power

  1. The global balance of economic power is shifting. An increasing number of autocracies now account for 46% of global GDP.
  2. The global balance of trade power is also tilting in favor of autocracies. The share of world trade between democracies has declined from 74% in 1998 to 47% in 2022.
  3. Autocracies are becoming less and less dependent on democracies for both their exports and imports. Democracies’ dependence on autocracies has doubled in the last 30 years.

Varieties of Democracy is an international collaboration involving almost 4,000 scholars from over 180 countries. The new version 13 of the V-Dem dataset contains 31 million data points and covers 202 countries from 1789 to 2022.

You can get and play with the data. Hopefully use them to fight for freedom.

Just to finnisth with a positive perspective, here is a high level view of 120 years of evolution of 5 indexes in Spain. One graph is worth more than 1000 words…


Featured Image: Ukraine, June 12, 2022. A ukrainian soldier walks inside a destroyed barn (V-Dem Report)

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