I just wrote a post examining which countries are democratic enough that we should seriously consider extending visa-free travel to them. I identified 27 different countries where there is no good reason why they shouldn’t be allowed to travel to the US and Canada without a visa, and I think we need to update our visa policy to reflect the reality of the modern world.
There are some countries that came close to joining my list but have some issues which left them off. Here are the honorable mentions which if things go well should be democratic enough for visa-free access to North America by the end of the decade. Senegal and Malaysia scored high enough on the three indicators they performed well on that they only missed one metric (and by a significant margin) of the indicators I tested. 7 other countries performed well on half of the indicators I tested while failing on two of them, those countries are Georgia, Tunisia, Montenegro, Peru, Armenia, Dominican Republic, and India.
So for these 9 countries which almost get to the qualifications of being very democratic, having low corruption, and a lot of freedom, what barriers are in the way?
Armenia scores poorly on Freedom in the World and the Democracy Index.
The functioning of Government, Political Culture, and Civil Liberties are components of the Democracy Index which need to be improved.
The Dominican Republic scores poorly on Corruption Perceptions and Freedom in the World.
The functioning of Government and Political Culture are the two main components of the Democracy Index which need to be improved.
Georgia scores poorly on Freedom in the World and the Democracy Index. One of the major issues in Georgia is the abuse of prisoners. There are also cases of police attacking the free press.
The functioning of Government and Political Culture are the two main components of the Democracy Index which need to be improved. Voter intimidation is a serious problem among other barriers to a free and fair election. The surveillance of journalists needs to end. Georgia would benefit from implementing jury trials to help counteract corruption in the judiciary.
India scores poorly on corruption and press freedom. Bribery runs rampant, and money that is supposed to help people is stolen by corrupt officials. Corruption is an endemic problem that is going to take years to fix.
Political Culture and Civil Liberties need to be improved. Issues of intimidation of professors, demonstrators, and the limitation of strikes are worrying trends.
Malaysia scores poorly on the Freedom in the World Index. Part of this is probably due to Sharia Law being enshrined in the constitution.
Political Culture and Civil Liberties need to be improved.
The most obvious fix for Malaysia’s issues is ending Sharia law. They need to improve the freedom of the press, particularly regarding legal constraints. The monarch needs to no longer be allowed to suspend parliament. Freedom of religion is non-existent.
Despite these barriers, Malaysia scores well on other indexes.
Montenegro scores poorly on Freedom in the World and the Democracy Index. Djukanovic abused his power as President. he has been removed from power and hopefully corruption will decrease over time, and Dukanovic will be democratically removed from office soon.
The Political Culture of Montenegro is abysmal. They need new pro-Western leadership to end a culture of corruption.
Peru scores poorly in the Democracy Index and the Corruption Perceptions Index. Nonetheless, it scores high on social freedom and has a high growth rate. There are serious issues with public officials taking bribes, which will be a barrier to visa-free travel.
The political culture of Peru is abysmal. They need increased transparency in government contracts, and other legal tools to hold politicians accountable.
Senegal has an average Democracy Score. Homosexuality is illegal in Senegal, and from this, we can see there are serious human rights violations. They have an anti-corruption office who are appointed by the President.
Political participation in Senegal is low. There are barriers to freedom of assembly, the judiciary is not independent, and major barriers exist in the justice system. These hold Senegal back, and hopefully, there can be reforms in these two major areas. Freedom House
Tunisia scores poorly on Freedom in the World and the Democracy Index.
Tunisia scores poorly on the functioning of government. Their president suspended parliament last year and consolidated power. Tunisia would benefit from a separation of powers in its federal government.
These barriers these 9 countries face are not unique to these countries. The establishment of a transparent open government, a fair judiciary, and a secular state can be a real challenge, but through reforms and hard work, I believe these 9 countries are the most promising in the world to emerge as functioning democracies in the next 10 years.
All of these changes have to come from the ground up in these countries by the people. Foreign experts can help advise, but ultimately, democracy can only come from within.
Freedom in the World 2022
Corruption Perceptions Index
Press Freedom Index