Young Pioneer Tours

Nine Countries that are not Democracies that might Surprise you

I tend to be careful about banding around words such as dictatorship. This is not just for fear of offending people, but also because there are varying degrees of not just what a dictatorship are, but also what constitutes democracy.

You can read our charter on this here.

This is particularly true when it comes to socialist states, with countries such as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea even having the word democratic in the title. In this case at least, as in with China, Vietnam and Laos they have what they consider “People’s Democracy”, but not elections.

Still too there are others that would consider themselves democratic and indeed have elections, but in fact no other party has any chance of winning. These are technically known as “single party dominant” systems, but parties and elections aside, only one set of guys holds power.

What do we mean by “not democracies then?

In the interests of this article we mean states that we might think are pluralistic or bourgeois, but in fact do not have regularly changing governments, OR have a military, or royal family that for all practical purposes make real change impossible, or improbable.

Now this is not to say that we think any of these countries are bad, but more that they are of interest, as well as usually not being thought of by most westerners as not being democratic.

For this we are also not including constitutional monarchies, that while technically under the control of an unelected leader, in a real sense are not.

9) Cambodia

Theres no place like home! Cambodia has elections, but alas every one since the end of the State of Cambodia has been won by the Cambodian People’s Party, and the last two saw no other party even enter parliament.

Yet despite this the government certainly feel there is some democracy and would argue that this is the most stable the country has been since the time of the Khmer Rouge.

8) Egypt

I freaking love Egypt, its people and indeed its food, but from a government point of view they have been through a tough time. The Arab Spring, of which I know people who participated got, rid of one army leader to be replaced by the Muslim Brotherhood.

This didn’t work, so another army leader came along. Yes things are better, but another party is unlikely to come in any time soon and some have now questioned what the Arab Spring achieved here.

You can check our Egypt tours here.

7) Ukraine

OK, so let’s start controversially here shall we? Ukraine were definitely formerly a democracy, but since the war (and arguably understandably) they have banned a whole heap of opposition parties, as well as cancelling elections that were set to be held in the country.

Obviously one hopes this is just a temporary state of affairs, but certain things like the banning of churches have raised concerns.

You can check out our Ukraine tours here.

6) Israel and Palestine

OK, so this is definitely a conflict that we want to stay well and truly on the fence with, but we can state a few things. Israel does control to some extent the West Bank and Gaza, but these people under its control cannot vote in Israeli elections.

Therefore, by very definition, the whole of an area is disenfranchised. We are not stating if this is right or wrong, but merely making a point, as you will often hear Israel is the only democracy in the region. 

5) The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)

OK, so we can blanket say the Middle East here, although perhaps it would is better we say the GCC, which consists of the oil rich monarchies of the region.

These countries, particularly Bahrain and the UAE, get very little said about them, particularly when compared to Syria. In fact, some might argue they are just as bad, if not worse. And yes homosexuality is banned in the whole region.

4) United Nations

Yes we know the United Nations is not a country, but it is supposed to be the home and bastion of the family of nations. Here UN members can vote by majority on things, but this can be undone by the Security Council.

The council consists of the USA, Russia, China and then tiny UK and France able to veto the choices of the rest of the world. This is one we can categorically say is not at all democratic.

3) Tonga

You know Tonga right? Home of Rugby Union, Rugby League, beaches, whales and friendly people? Well it is also the last traditional monarchy left within the region.

And while this does indeed fill some with pride, it also upsets others with protests now meaning that the country is what is termed a “semi-constitutional monarchy” where not just the king, but the nobility still hold immense power.

2) Thailand

Colourful happy Thailand is a real paradox of a place! Known as the land of smiles, there is also an undercurrent to the country too. This has led too multiple coups, the latest of which is still to an extent ongoing.

Yes there have been elections, but the army still have de-facto control. Ironically this has their government system having much more in common with Myanmar than anywhere else. Oh, and talking shit about the king will get you arrested and sent to prison for a long time.

1) Singapore

A controversial one for our “not democracies” list, but the facts speak for themselves. The first two leaders were father and son, while the People’s Action Party (PAP) rarely lose anything more than a couple of seats in any election. Said party have also been in power since 1965.

And on top of this you could add that this is also one of the strictest countries on earth! They have capital punishment and will execute you over drugs. Some might say this just means that the PAP are good at their job and the people are happy, while others have opined that Pyongyang with high-speed broadband is a better description.

I personally knew North Koreans who went to Singapore and certainly saw not just parallels, but also how their country could develop. Press freedom wise they rank just above Ethiopia.

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