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People around the world have gained democratic rights, but some have many more rights than others

While the world has become much more democratic over the last 200 years, there are still large differences between countries.As the previous chart sho

While the world has become much more democratic over the last 200 years, there are still large differences between countries.

As the previous chart shows, some countries — mostly located in Europe and the Americas — are highly democratic: they have elected political leaders, elections are free and fair, and most citizens have the right to vote and can associate and express their opinions freely. The most democratic countries were Denmark and Sweden, with scores of 0.91.

Other countries, concentrated in Asia, are highly undemocratic according to V-Dem. This includes countries such as China, North Korea, the United Arab Emirates, and the least democratic country in the world, Saudi Arabia, with a score of just 0.02. In these countries, citizens do not have the right to choose their political leaders in popular elections.

Many countries, often situated in Africa and East and Southeast Asia, fall somewhere in the middle. In these countries, political leaders usually are elected and most citizens have the right to vote, but their rights to associate and express their opinions are limited, and elections are not entirely free and fair.

As mentioned, V-Dem is only one of the leading approaches to measure democracy. And its electoral democracy index is only one main measure it provides alongside other, more comprehensive indices of democracy.

Yet, using another approach or V-Dem index to measure democracy shows a similar development from a highly undemocratic world in the 18th and 19th century, to high democratic inequality in the earlier 20th century, and a much more democratic, and more equally democratic, world in recent decades.

You can see so for yourself by exploring the four charts below, which use the Polity project’s democracy index and V-Dem’s liberal democracy index.

Taken together, the democratic political systems of many countries show that a world where people have much more say in how they are governed is possible. 

But the fact that so many countries are still highly undemocratic means that the fight for democratic political rights goes on.