During the 20th century, the number of countries possessing the basic political institutions of representative democracy increased significantly. At the beginning of the 21st century, independent observers agreed that more than one-third of the world’s nominally independent countries possessed democratic institutions comparable to those of the English-speaking countries and the older democracies of Continental Europe. In an additional one-sixth of the world’s countries, these institutions, though somewhat defective, nevertheless provided historically high levels of democratic government. Altogether, these democratic and near-democratic countries contained nearly half the world’s population.