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Expand chart
Reproduced from Freedom House; Map: Axios Visuals

The erosion of democracy around the world continued for the 14th consecutive year, according to an annual report from Freedom House.

Why it matters: Year after year, many of the world’s democracies become less democratic. This year’s report draws particular attention to India, where policies targeting Muslims are “threatening the democratic future of a country long seen as a potential bulwark of freedom in Asia and the world.”

Breaking it down:

  • According to the rankings (out of 100), the most free countries in the world are Finland (100), Norway (100), Sweden (100), the Netherlands (99), Luxembourg (98), Uruguay (98) and Canada (98).
  • The least free are Syria (0), Turkmenistan (2), Eritrea (2), South Sudan (2) and North Korea (3).
  • The U.S. (86) ranks 52nd, between Slovakia and Belize.

The big picture: "Where once democracies might have acted in unison to support positive outcomes to global crises, disparate authoritarian states now frequently step into the breach and attempt to impose their will," the authors write.

  • In addition to the U.S. and India, they raise concerns about “antidemocratic tendencies” in Israel under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the rise of “extreme factions” in Spanish politics, and the populist turns of central European countries like Austria, Hungary and Poland.

Bad news:

  • Myanmar moved from “partly free” to “not free” because of deepening conflicts between the military and ethnic minorities.
  • Benin also fell to “partly free” after opposition parties were excluded from parliamentary elections.
  • El Salvador is now “partly free” because of violence and intimidation from criminal groups and politicization of the judiciary.
  • Senegal declined to “partly free” after opposition figures were barred from the presidential election
  • Indian-administered Kashmir moved to “not free” amid a lockdown there and the revocation of constitutional protections.

Good news:

  • Mauritania moved to “partly free” after a “credible” presidential election and peaceful transfer of power.
  • Thailand moved to “partly free” after direct military rule ended, at least nominally, following elections.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Biden's pick to lead major banking regulator drops out

Saule Omarova, nominee for Comptroller of the Currency, at a confirmation hearing on Nov. 18. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

President Biden's pick to head one of the country's most powerful banking regulators is dropping out of consideration for the post, according to a statement from Biden that accepted the withdrawal.

Why it matters: Saule Omarova, nominated to lead the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, faced a tough path to confirmation — with opposition from Republicans and moderate Democrats.

Judge temporarily blocks Biden vaccine mandate for federal contractors

Photo: Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images

A federal judge on Tuesday temporarily blocked President Biden's vaccine mandate for federal contractors nationwide.

Why it matters: It's the latest setback in the Biden administration's rollout of COVID-19 vaccine requirements. Federal judges in two states temporarily barred the administration from enforcing mandates for millions of workers last week.

Biden threatens Putin

Photo: Kremlin Press Office/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

In a video call that lasted for just over two hours on Tuesday, President Biden warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that if Russia invades Ukraine the U.S. will impose unprecedented sanctions and provide additional weaponry to the Ukrainians, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said.

Why it matters: Russia's military activity on the border with Ukraine has triggered alarms from the U.S. and its European allies of a potential large-scale Russian invasion in early 2022. Sullivan said Biden made clear to Putin that, "things we did not do in 2014, we are prepared to do now."