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Democracy is under threat globally, a new report from the Economist Intelligence Unit warns.

The annual Democracy Index looks at governments around the world and tracks elections, politics, culture and civil rights.

This year’s report, published on Thursday, found that there are only 19 full democracies on the planet.

The report concluded that nearly a third live under authoritarian rule, a large amount of those in China.

The index assessed 89 countries and all received lower scores than they had last year.

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For the seventh year in a row, Norway remains the most democratic nation, while Western Europe accounts for 14 of the 19 full democracies.

However, the region’s score slipped slightly to an average of 8.38 out of 10. The Spanish government's attempt to overturn Catalonia’s Independence referendum in October 2017 caused the nation’s score to drop by 0.22 points, just 0.08 points from the ‘flawed democracy’ category.

The most impressive performer of 2017 is the Gambia.

The country welcomed its first ever democratic government last year after 22 years of rule by dictator, Yahya Jammeh.

The Gambia’s score improved by 2.91 and is upgraded to a “hybrid regime” from an “authoritarian regime” and moved up 30 places in the rankings.

The biggest drop came from Indonesia, which fell from 48th to 68th, while Venezuela declined into the ‘authoritarian regime’ category this year.

The United States remained in the 'flawed democracy' threshold, to which it dropped in 2016 after a serious decline in public trust, the Economist said.

Overall, across the world, the sad reality is that democratic norms are slipping, according to the figures. Things that are being affected include declining trust in institutions, erosion of civil liberties and curbs on freedom of speech.

The report read:

The state in many countries plays a prominent role in curtailing freedom of the media and of expression. 

Governments, in democratic as well as authoritarian countries, are deploying defamation laws, prevention of terrorism laws, blasphemy and “hate speech” laws to curb freedom of expression and stymie media freedom.

 

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