25 Worst Governed Countries

A series of anti-government demonstrations, which have regularly resulted in state violence, causes Haiti to be one of the only countries in the Americas to make the list of the worst governments worldwide.
A series of anti-government demonstrations, which have regularly resulted in state violence, causes Haiti to be one of the only countries in the Americas to make the list of the worst governments worldwide.

How can we determine which among the world’s national governments can be classified as among “the worst”? While there will never be much of a clear-cut answer to such a complex question, data found in the 2015 Legatum Prosperity Index may help us out. The Index consists of numerous sub-indexes, one of which is called "Governance", to determine quality of life and economic performance in a country. The “Governance” sub-index therein measured the countries' performance in three crucial areas: effective and accountable government, fair elections and political participation, and rule of law. Using variables such as governmental stability and approval, separation of powers, and political rights, the Subindex then weighs each of these coefficients into an overall "Governance Score" for each country. The list of top 25 worst-governed countries will be analyzed to present the most important trends globally, and point out some of the most intriguing cases of countries and their governments’ foibles.

The Plague of Corruption

Comparing the top 25 worst governments in the world with the 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), we can see a clear correlation between the two. 21 of the countries with worst governments are in the CPI top 50. What is more, out of the top 10 worst governments from the list below, 9 are listed among the top 25 most corrupted countries. Clearly, a corrupted country will also tend to have problems with poor governmental performance, but there is a problem with defining which is a cause and which a result of the other. Whether it is a weak government leading to prevalence of corruption within the country, or corruption leading to a worse result in the Governance sub-index, is a topic deserving of extended discussion and a separate investigation in its own right. Still, one has to remember that corruption is one of the variables of the sub-index so, at least in the case of the Prosperity Governance Sub-index, corruption will indeed be a causal factor for poor rankings. The degree to which this explains a country’s ranking would have to be judged on a case by case basis.

Destabilized Through Terror

Looking for more correlations of factors consistent with poor authority, one cannot overlook the aspect of military aggression and defense policies. Wars, insurgencies and terrorist actions are a serious case in 13 out of the 25 worst governments on the list. Although the situation is quite clear when it comes to insurgencies, which are mostly a result of a weak government being undercut, the two other cases are much more complicated. Terrorists, especially considering the discussed countries, are a cause of bad governance. Islamic extremist organizations such as ISIL, Al Qaeda, and Boko Haram (although they are also connected to one another on some level) are a reason for political instability, with one of their aims being the enforced implementation of their interpretation of Islamic law (Sharia) in the nations they are operating in. Unfortunately, they often try to achieve these aims by way of military actions or terrorist attacks, either of which might destabilize the situation in the country, leading to a weaker government or terrorized populace ruled by fear, depending on the central government’s level of participation or complacency in the violence.

Poor Leadership in Haiti and Venezuela

Lastly, we find it worth investigating the fourth and fifth position on the list, as they are the only countries from the Americas to be found near the top of the list. What makes Haiti and Venezuela so special that they were the only ones from their part of the world to make the top 25? Haiti, with regular protests taking place for various reasons against the government, and each of them being able to turn violent, has serious problems with government approval and lack thereof. As of early 2014, balloting for one-third of Haiti's 30-member Senate has been delayed since May 2012, while municipal elections have been delayed since April 2011. With such a mess in even appointing new leadership to govern the nation, Haiti has to be considered as one of the worst-governed countries.

Venezuela, on the other hand, deals with more political clashes between those powers in place, whether the ones having their will done or the officials who serve as dissidents to the ones having their way. Two opposition leaders, Maria Corina Machando and Antonio Ledezma, have been arrested and accused of being involved in a plot to kill the President Nicolas Maduro, and accused of helping plan a US-backed coup against the socialist government there. Ledezma was arrested a year after opposition protests, in which he participated, spread throughout Venezuela, leading to clashes between demonstrators and police that killed dozens of people. This is not the whole story of the Venezuelan politics, but it shows some of its problems.

Different Regions, Common Themes

While all of the countries on the list are unique, they share many common problems. In many, certain groups are too strong, and partisanship, government corruption, police brutality, and elitism run amuck. In others, the government is too weak to act as needed to further their respective countries. Indeed, until these countries’ leaders are able to effectively work in the best interests of the constituent populaces they represent, these nations will continue to struggle.

Countries With The Lowest Governance Sub-index Score

RankCountryGovernance Subindex Score
3Democratic Republic of the Congo-3.21
11Central African Republic-2.73
13Republic of Congo-2.61
18Cote d'Ivoire-2.36

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