US falls to new low in rankings of world's democracies

US falls below Mongolia and Argentina in global ranking of political rights and civil liberties while Finland, Sweden and Norway top the list and Tibetans have least freedom

  • US falls to 10-year low in new study ranking the freest countries in the world
  • Finland, Norway and Sweden are the freest countries while Tibet is ‘not free’
  • UK sits in 27th place behind Taiwan, Cyprus and Austria but ahead of the US

The United States has slumped below Mongolia and Argentina in a new ranking of freedom around the world in which Finland, Sweden and Norway top the table. 

America has crashed down the rankings after a long series of political woes that culminated in a mob of Donald Trump fanatics rampaging through Congress in a doomed attempt to overturn an election result. 

The study by Freedom House also gives the US low marks for racial inequality and growing restrictions on voting – with its overall ‘freedom score’ falling to 83 out of 100 compared to 94 a decade ago.  

By contrast, the three Nordic countries at the top of the table all scored the maximum of 100 points with high praise for their civil liberties and political rights. 

New Zealand, the Netherlands, Uruguay, Canada and Australia were also near the top of the rankings, while Britain’s score of 93 out of 100 placed it well above the US. 

At the other end of the table, Syria and Tibet registered a score of just one out of 100, with North Korea just above them among the nations considered ‘not free’. 

Scroll down for full rankings 

Finland tops Freedom House’s ‘Freedom in the World’, which it gives full marks on both political rights and civil liberties 

Ranking last is Tibet, which the Freedom in the World report says is ‘not free’, giving it a score of one out of 100

Freedom House’s special report on America’s ‘battered democracy’ said the political crises in the US ‘have a uniquely damaging effect on democracy in the rest of the world’. 

January’s riot caused widespread alarm among America’s allies and delight among its enemies who revelled in the chance to question the health of US democracy.  

‘The strength of American democracy is important for people everywhere, not just here at home’, says Michael J. Abramowitz, president of Freedom House.

‘Congress and the Biden administration must make it a priority to strengthen our institutions, restore civic norms, and uphold the promise of universal liberty on which our nation was founded’, he adds.

The report says efforts must be made to combat racial injustice and curb the outsized influence of money in politics and policy-making. 

America’s score of 83 out of 100 keeps it on the list of ‘free countries’ but means the US is faring worse than Mongolia, Croatia, Argentina and Romania among others.  

In January, a separate study found that US corruption levels were at their worst since 2012. 

There are ‘alleged conflicts of interest and abuse of office at the highest level’, said Transparency International, a campaign group.

Weak oversight of the $1 trillion Covid-19 relief package and improper PPE contracts have made the US more corrupt, the study found.  

Map showing ‘freedom status’ of each country. Green means the country is ‘free’, orange means it is ‘partly free’ and purple means it is ‘not free’

A map showing the global trend in freedom, with those in yellow, orange or red losing freedoms over the last year, while those in green gained freedoms

Britain has suffered a milder dip in the rankings, dropping from 95 out of 100 four years ago to a score of 93 in the latest report.  

‘Recent years have seen concerns about increased government surveillance of residents, as well as rising Islamophobia and anti-immigrant sentiment’, it says. 

The UK scores maximum points for holding fair elections and allowing opposition parties to operate freely with a realistic chance of defeating the government.  

But concerns were noted about Covid-related procurement deals with politically connected firms, as well as ministers making ‘forays into the academic curriculum’. 

The UK ranks behind Taiwan and Cyprus in the table as well as Germany, Austria and the Nordic countries, but ahead of France, Italy and Spain.

Countries with scores of 72 or higher were all regarded as ‘free’, with Brazil, Israel and Bulgaria among the countries only narrowly scraping into the top tier. 

The next category – ‘partly free’ – included major global players such as India and Hong Kong, where China has imposed a major security crackdown in the last year. 

The score for Hong Kong has slumped by nine points to 52 out of 100 in the last four years after Beijing responded with force to a wave of protests in the city.  

Increased government surveillance in the UK has curbed freedom in the country, alongside rising Islamophobia and anti-immigrant sentiment

The report says efforts must be made to combat racial injustice and curb the outsized influence of money in politics and policy making

Meanwhile Russia came in the lowest category, ‘not free’, with a score of only 20 out of 100 in what was described as an ‘authoritarian political system’. 

Freedom House authors criticised Vladimir Putin’s ‘highly orchestrated referendum’ last summer which could allow him to remain in power until 2036. 

They also highlighted the poisoning of opposition figure Alexei Navalny, who says he was targeted with a nerve agent by Kremlin operatives. 

Also near the bottom of the table is Saudi Arabia, which scored just seven out of 100 despite its efforts to brand itself as a modernising nation. 

The Saudi monarchy ‘restricts almost all political rights and civil liberties’ and ‘relies on pervasive surveillance’ and the ‘criminalisation of dissent’, the report says.  

North Korea scored three out of 100, while war-torn Syria was equal-bottom of the table with just a single point – and a score of minus three out of 40 for political rights.  

Source: Freedom House

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