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The World's Biggest Democracies


This article is published in collaboration with Statista 

by Katharina Buchholz


The projected winner of Indonesia's presidential elections held yesterday is Prabowo Subianto. He is the current defense minister of the third largest democracy in the world but has been criticized for his links to a non-democratic regime in Indonesia's past, the military dictatorship of Suharto, for which he served as a special forces commander. Subianto has been described as a strongman and a nationalist. He stands accused of human rights abuses, heightening concerns around the state of democratic institutions in the country which started under current president Joko Widodo.


As seen in data from the Economist Intelligence Unit and the UN Population Division, all of the three largest democracies on the planet are holding nationwide election this year - India in April and May and the United States in November. Per the last release of the Economist's Democracy Index in early 2023, all three countries are described as flawed democracies, with Indonesia rated lower than the two others.


Choosing popular current president Joko Widodo's son as a running mate might also have helped Subianto. Widodo himself has been accused of undermining democracy by allowing a law change that has enabled his 36-year-old son to run for the vice presidency despite his age. The ruling also involved a brother-in-law of Widodo, which cleared the decision as a judge on the country's Constitutional Court. Widodo also revived the death penalty for drug traffickers amid international criticism.


The largest full democracy in the world, according to EIU, is Japan at around 123 million inhabitants. The largest full democracy probably going to the polls in the super election year of 2024 is the United Kingdom with its around 68 million people. A general election is happening there in January 2025 at the latest, but likely in October. More countries rated as full democracies among the world's biggest 15 are Germany, France, South Korea and Spain. More elections are coming up in South Africa (60.7 million inhabitants) and again, South Korea (51.8 million inhabitants) in April. The country is the world's 14th biggest democracy but only the globe's 29th biggest nation overall, showing how non-democratic countries and hybrid regimes make up slightly more than half of nations.


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