The world’s most democratic countries of 2019 have been ranked in the latest Democracy Index. We take a look at the results
13th January 2020
Democracy is in retreat according to the latest edition of the Democracy Index compiled by the UK-based Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). Now in its 12th year, the index aims to assess the state of democracy around the globe.
The index uses five categories to create the ranking: electoral process and pluralism; civil liberties; the functioning of government; political participation; and political culture.
The updated results suggest the world is becoming less democratic as regional scores in Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa and MENA (Middle East and North Africa) all decreased.
The only region to register improvement was North America due to a moderate improvement in Canada’s score. Results imply that democracy in Asia and Europe also stagnated in 2019.
Even though seven of the top 10 democracies are in Europe, the continent continues to experience a long-term decline in democracy. First highlighted in the 2017 Democracy Index, free speech in European democracies is ‘increasingly being restricted by both state and non-state actors’.
‘The global march of democracy stalled in the 2000s and retreated in the second decade of the 21st century. But the recent wave of protest in the developing world and the populist insurgency in the mature democracies show the potential for democratic renewal.’Joan Hoey, Editor, The Democracy Index
10 most democratic countries
There has been little change at the top of the index. For the second year in a row, Norway has been named the world’s most democratic country. Likewise, North Korea remains the world’s least democratic country.
- New Zealand
- The average global score fell from 5.48 in 2018 to 5.44 in 2019 – the worst result since the index began in 2006.
- Almost half (48.4%) of the world’s population live in some form of democracy.
- 76 countries (45.5%) can be considered democratic.
- More than a third (35.6%) of the global population live under authoritarian rule, a large portion of which is in China.
- There are 22 ‘full democracies’ in the world, up from 20 in 2018 (Chile, France and Portugal joined the list, Malta was relegated to ‘flawed’).
- 68 countries experienced a decline in democracy in 2019.
- Eight countries whose official name includes the word ‘democratic’ (Algeria, DRC, Ethiopia, Laos, Nepal, North Korea, Timor-Leste and Sri Lanka) are not classified as ‘full democracies’.
- Thailand registered the biggest improvement following the first election in the country since the military coup in 2014, moving up 38 places in the rankings from a ‘hybrid regime’ to a ‘flawed democracy’.
- New Zealand, in fourth place, is the highest-ranked non-European country.
- Three Latin American countries (Chile, Costa Rica and Uruguay) and one African country (Mauritius) are classified as ‘full democracies’.
- Hong Kong slipped three places from 73rd to joint-75th with Singapore following often violent protests in 2019.
- The USA remains below the threshold of a ‘full democracy’ since its demotion in 2016 following the election of Donald Trump.
DEMOCRACY INDEX By regime type
Countries are classified as one of four types of regime: full democracy, flawed democracy, hybrid regime and authoritarian regime.
|Countries||Population (%)||Countries (%)|
world’s most democratic countries: complete rankings
The Democracy Index 2019 ranks the state of democracy for 165 independent states and two territories. Some countries have been omitted due to insufficient data.
|43=||Trinidad & Tobago||7.16|
|74||Papua New Guinea||6.03|
|102=||Bosnia & Herz.||4.86|
|165||Central African Rep.||1.32|
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