New research reveals a Worldwide Decline of Freedom, Outweighing Improvements

Written by Katharina Buchholz, Data Journalist, Statista

Democratic watchdog organization Freedom House has released its annual ranking of the world’s most free and most suppressed nations. The report is considered a key barometer for global democracy and this year’s edition found that global freedom has declined for the 18th year straight. While 2022 had been heralded as a “possible turning point” as about as many countries showed improvements as marked declines, 2023 saw a new low of nations bettering their freedom prospects – only 21. This number stands opposite 52 countries where political freedoms and civil liberties declined.

The report mentions Ecuador as an example of a country where elections were impacted negatively and downgraded the nation from designated as “free” to receiving the “partially free” label. In the South American country, criminal organizations had killed officials and candidates ahead of the general election that took place in August. In other countries it was incumbents who hindered the access of the population to a free election last year, including in Cambodia, Guatemala, Poland, Turkey and Zimbabwe.

Infographic: Worldwide Decline of Freedom Outweighs Improvements | Statista

Despite Thailand’s military Senate continuing to yield much power over the country’s legislative bodies, a more competitive election that saw a progressive party finish first earned Thailand a “partially free” designation, up from “not free”. Other nations improving their score were Fiji, Nepal, Liberia and Mauritania.

A total of 195 countries and 15 territories were analyzed on their levels of access to political rights and civil liberties, before being categorized as either “free”, “partly free” or “not free”. While democracy has been in decline for nearly two decades, the global landscape has improved since the report was first published 51 years ago. Back then, 44 out of 148 countries were counted as “free”, versus 83 out of 195 today.

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