10 Killer Facts on Democracy and Elections

Ok this is a bit weird, but I want to turn an infographic into a blogpost. The ODI, which just seems to get better and better, has just put out a 10 killer facts on elections and democracy infographic by Alina Rocha Menocal, and it’s great. Here’s a summary:

  1. Most countries today are formal democracies. An astonishing political transformation has taken place around the world over the past three10 facts about democracydecades. By the end of 2011, the only countries considered autocracies were: Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Belarus, China, Cuba, Eritrea, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Laos, North Korea, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Swaziland, Syria, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Vietnam, and Uzbekistan.
  2. Over one in three live in authoritarian systems (but over half of them are in China).
  3. Elections have become almost universal: elections have been held in all but five countries with populations  >500k from 2000-2012: China, Eritrea, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates.
  4. Most leaders in Africa are replaced by ballots, not bullets: While in the 1960s and 1970s approximately 75% of African leaders were ousted through violent means (coup d’etats, rebellion),  in the period 2000-2005 this number had dropped to 19%.
  5. But elections are not always peaceful: between 1990 and 2007 one in five elections in SubSaharan Africa suffered significant violence and only about 40% were entirely violence-free.
  6. The quality of many of these democracies remains deeply flawed: Only 15% can be described as ‘full democracies’, with  31% counting as ‘authoritarian regimes’. The rest are in-betweeners, either ‘flawed democracies’ or ‘hybrid regimes’.
  7. KENYA-ELECTION/Alternations of power remain remarkably limited in Sub-Saharan Africa: Since 2000, only fourteen of 51 states have seen power transferred between political parties.
  8. The wealthiest countries tend to be democracies: outside the petro-states, the top 25 richest countries in the world (as ranked by the World Bank) are also fully established democracies. In fact, a democratic regime has never fallen after a certain income level is reached (US$6,055 per capita)  – which was Argentina when it fell to bureaucratic authoritarianism in 1963. But correlation does not (in case you were wondering) mean causation……
  9. The total number of women elected to parliament has almost doubled since 1997 (OK, only to 21%, but still…) As of April 2013, the top 10 countries in descending order in terms of the percentage of women in the lower or single House are: Rwanda, Andorra, Cuba, Sweden, Seychelles, Senegal, Finland, South Africa, Nicaragua, and Iceland.
  10. Expensive elections are not necessarily better: at $6bn, the 2012 US elections cost 120 times more than the UK 2010 ones. The costs of the 2007 elections in Kenya (messy, violent – see pic) were US$13.74 per registered voter (or US$ 29 per cast ballot).  The elections in Ghana in 2008, (v civilised by comparison), came to US$0.70.

And for an added bonus, read ‘Hurling elections at Complexity’. Brilliant & sensible piece by the World Bank’s Sina Odugbemi

Stop hurling elections at #complexity. Brilliant & sensible piece by Sina Odugbemi at World Bank http://blogs.worldbank.org/publicsphere/hurling-elections-complexity
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7 Responses to “10 Killer Facts on Democracy and Elections”
  1. Sophie Romana

    Great post — but what is a “full democracy and can you name one? What if voter turn out is below 50%? What about countries which have and apply the death penalty, are they democratic? Where women are not equally represented?

  2. Pete

    There was just one digit missing in one of your facts:

    The US spending in the 2012 election was 120 times as much as in the UK (not just 20 times).

    Thanks for the post – the linked infographic is well worth looking at.

    [Thanks Pete, corrected it now]

  3. Justice Richard

    Cuba is the best example of a direct democracy in the world and is the freest and most successful country. The only country that actually genuinely cares about their people, unlike America, where our votes don’t even count.

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