Democracy has been declining around the world for 13 consecutive years, according to Freedom House’s latest annual report. The number of “free” countries has shrunk to its lowest number since the post-Soviet collapse ushered in a wave of democratization across Europe in the 1990s.
Although the losses are still minimal compared to the significant global gains made throughout the 20th century, the signs are ominous as we enter a new decade. The rise of populism and the loss of confidence in political systems has shaken established democracies, while several fragile democracies in the post-Cold War era have struggled to maintain their progress.
A total of 31 countries have revised top leadership term limits over the 13-year decline, while government attempts to punish public criticism and accountability — either through media crackdowns such as in Turkey, rhetorical condemnation as in the United States or digital censorship as in China — have escalated over the same period.