Democracy Facts

The following post first appeared on the UNDP Blog and is authored by Duncan Green.

OK, this is a bit weird, but I want to turn an infographic into a blogpost. The Overseas Development Institute (ODI) has just put out a 10 killer facts on elections and democracy infographic (PDF) by Alina Rocha Menocal, and it’s great. Here’s a summary:

1. Most countries today are formal democracies. 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. More than 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 percent of African leaders were ousted through violent means (coup d’etats, rebellion), in the period of 2000-2005 this number had dropped to 19 percent.

5. But elections are not always peaceful: between 1990 and 2007 one in five elections in Sub-Saharan Africa suffered significant violence.

6. The quality of many of these democracies remains deeply flawed: Only 15 percent can be described as "full democracies," with 31 percent counting as "authoritarian regimes."

7. Alternations of power remain remarkably limited in Sub-Saharan Africa: Since 2000, only 14 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.

9. The total number of women elected to parliament has almost doubled since 1997 (OK, only to 21 percent, 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: 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, (very civilised by comparison), came to US $0.70.

Source: UNDP

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