Craig Eisele on …..

January 1, 2012

Are Democracies Stable Around the World

Filed under: Uncategorized — Mr. Craig @ 11:00 pm
World politics: Democracy under stress
December 16th 2011

FROM THE ECONOMIST INTELLIGENCE UNIT

Thanks to the revolutions in the Arab world, 2011 will be remembered as a year of extraordinary political change, in which popular resistance to authoritarian rule scored some notable successes. However, for democracy worldwide developments in the past year have been decidedly mixed. Indeed, the results of the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index 2011 show that democracy has been under stress in many parts of the world. Economic crisis has contributed to a backsliding in democracy in many countries—particularly in Europe.

The Democracy Index provides a snapshot of the state of democracy worldwide for 165 independent states and two territories. It ranks each country on criteria such as whether elections are free and fair, whether civil liberties are respected, and whether the political culture allows democracy in the fullest sense to flourish. Depending on its ranking, each country is placed into one of four categories: full democracy, flawed democracy, hybrid regime or authoritarian regime.

In 2011 there has been little change at the top of the rankings, which unsurprisingly are dominated by Scandinavian countries and other affluent liberal democracies such as New Zealand and Canada. Equally, the countries bringing up the very bottom of the list—that is, those we consider to be the world’s most repressive and authoritarian regimes—still include the usual suspects. North Korea is bottom, in 167th position, with Chad, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan just above it.

But the 2011 index also sees significant changes, both for better and for worse. The biggest gainer is Tunisia, which not only initiated the Arab Spring but which has had the most success so far in translating revolution into democratic progress. Its score (out of 10) has risen by a massive 2.74 points, and it has jumped 53 places up the rankings to 92nd. It has also moved from an authoritarian to a hybrid regime. Underscoring the historic nature of the Arab revolutions, Libya and Egypt are the two countries with the next-greatest gains in this year’s index. But consolidating newfound freedoms remains fraught with difficulty. Libya’s National Transitional Council faces a monumental task in building new state structures virtually from scratch, while in Egypt continuing turbulence attests to dissatisfaction with the course of post-revolution events and profound disagreement over the country’s future political direction.

Despite such problems, the Democracy Index 2011 is positive overall for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). It is one of only two regions in the world to record an improvement in its average score since last year; the other is Sub-Saharan Africa, where Mauritania and Niger have moved from authoritarian to hybrid regimes and where Zambia has moved up to the flawed-democracy category. Along with MENA, Sub-Saharan Africa contains the biggest gainers in this year’s index. The region seems to be benefiting gradually from a secular improvement in politics that has seen the number of coups fall sharply since the late 1990s, and the number of elections increase. But it should not be forgotten that progress has come from a low base. Only one state in the region, the island of Mauritius, is a full democracy. Authoritarian regimes still predominate, and armed conflict, human-rights abuses and failed governments remain widespread.

European reversals

Elsewhere, the general picture is of a decline in democracy in 2011, most notably in Europe. Seven countries in western Europe now have lower democracy scores compared with last year; none has a higher score. The main reason has been the erosion of sovereignty associated with the effects of, and responses to, the euro zone crisis. Most dramatically, in two countries (Italy and Greece) democratically elected leaders have been replaced by technocrats. Policy in some countries is no longer being set by national legislatures and elected politicians, but in effect by official creditors, the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the IMF. Moreover, there is growing distrust of politicians and public institutions, accompanied in some cases by a worrying degree of political apathy.

Eastern Europe also provides abundant cause for concern. More than a third of the 28 countries in the region recorded lower democracy scores in 2011, and this on the back of large declines between 2008 and 2010. The most high-profile offender this year is Russia. We have lowered our democracy score for Russia, to reflect the chilling impact on the country’s political health of the decision by Vladimir Putin, the prime minister, to return to the presidency in 2012. The December 4th parliamentary election was also deeply flawed. As a result, Russia descends from the hybrid-regime category into the ranks of authoritarian regimes. Ukraine has also fallen sharply down our rankings. The regime’s harassment of opposition figures is exemplified by the jailing of former prime minister Yuliya Tymoshenko on what most believe are politically motivated charges.

Democracy in 2012

Will the Arab Spring bear further fruit, or even inspire movements for political renewal in other regions? Or will the backsliding witnessed in Europe, the US and elsewhere continue? Inevitably a high degree of uncertainty surrounds any attempt to predict specific regimes’ survival or demise. But certain broad points are worth stressing.

One of the more worrying developments of the past five years has been an erosion of previously attained democratisation. The financial crisis in 2008 exacerbated this trend, causing governments to become more inward-looking and prompting rises in populism and anti-immigrant sentiment. In this context, the near-term political prospects for Europe look disturbing. Austerity, recession and increased strains on the structural integrity of the EU as a result of the euro crisis could present challenges for democracy in the year ahead. That said, economic crisis is not inevitably associated with political stasis or regression towards authoritarianism; it can also be a catalyst for change. The Arab uprisings were provoked in part by economic hardships, compounding resentment of corruption and nepotism.

The vulnerability of authoritarian states varies greatly, and is affected by factors such as electoral fraud, ill-planned leadership successions, and “neighbourhood effects” (without Tunisia, in other words, there would have been no revolution in Egypt). Hopes that the Arab Spring might unleash a wave of democratisation have yet to be fully realised, and in some cases calls for political reform have prompted brutal responses—Syria being a conspicuous example. But even the most apparently “stable” regime is secure only in comparison with other autocracies. China, for instance, which rates as one of the least vulnerable authoritarian states, faces a slowing economy and a leadership transition in late 2012 and early 2013—a potentially dangerous combination.

With global economic pressures certain to intensify next year, lower oil prices likely to reduce resource-rich authoritarian states’ ability to buy off dissent, and ongoing protest movements in MENA, Russia and elsewhere likely to remain highly visible, who would bet against further dramatic changes?

Democracy Index 2011
Country 2011 rank 2011 score 2010 rank 2010 score 2011 regime type
Norway 1 9.80 1 9.80 Full democracy
Iceland 2 9.65 2 9.65 Full democracy
Denmark 3 9.52 3 9.52 Full democracy
Sweden 4 9.50 4 9.50 Full democracy
New Zealand 5 9.26 5 9.26 Full democracy
Australia 6 9.22 6 9.22 Full democracy
Switzerland 7 9.09 8 9.09 Full democracy
Canada 8 9.08 9 9.08 Full democracy
Finland 9 9.06 7 9.19 Full democracy
Netherlands 10 8.99 10 8.99 Full democracy
Luxembourg 11 8.88 11 8.88 Full democracy
Ireland 12 8.56 12 8.79 Full democracy
Austria 13 8.49 13 8.49 Full democracy
Germany 14 8.34 14 8.38 Full democracy
Malta 15 8.28 15 8.28 Full democracy
Czech Republic 16 8.19 16 8.19 Full democracy
Uruguay 17 8.17 21 8.10 Full democracy
United Kingdom 18 8.16 19 8.16 Full democracy
United States 19 8.11 17 8.18 Full democracy
Costa Rica 20 8.10 25 8.04 Full democracy
Japan 21 8.08 22 8.08 Full democracy
South Korea 22 8.06 20 8.11 Full democracy
Belgium 23 8.05 23 8.05 Full democracy
Mauritius 24 8.04 24 8.04 Full democracy
Spain 25 8.02 18 8.16 Full democracy
Cape Verde 26 7.92 27 7.94 Flawed democracy
Portugal 27 7.81 26 8.02 Flawed democracy
South Africa 28 7.79 30 7.79 Flawed democracy
France 29 7.77 31 7.77 Flawed democracy
Slovenia 30 7.76 32 7.69 Flawed democracy
Italy 31 7.74 29 7.83 Flawed democracy
Greece 32 7.65 28 7.92 Flawed democracy
Botswana 33 7.63 35 7.63 Flawed democracy
Estonia 34 7.61 33 7.68 Flawed democracy
Chile 35 7.54 34 7.67 Flawed democracy
Israel 36 7.53 37 7.48 Flawed democracy
Taiwan 37 7.46 36 7.52 Flawed democracy
Slovakia 38 7.35 38 7.35 Flawed democracy
India 39 7.30 40 7.28 Flawed democracy
Cyprus 40 7.29 39 7.29 Flawed democracy
Lithuania 41 7.24 41 7.24 Flawed democracy
Timor-Leste 42 7.22 42 7.22 Flawed democracy
Trinidad and Tobago 43 7.16 45 7.16 Flawed democracy
Jamaica 44 7.13 44 7.21 Flawed democracy
Poland 45 7.12 48 7.05 Flawed democracy
Brazil =45 7.12 47 7.12 Flawed democracy
Panama 47 7.08 46 7.15 Flawed democracy
Latvia 48 7.05 49 7.05 Flawed democracy
Hungary 49 7.04 43 7.21 Flawed democracy
Mexico 50 6.93 50 6.93 Flawed democracy
Argentina 51 6.84 51 6.84 Flawed democracy
Bulgaria 52 6.78 52 6.84 Flawed democracy
Croatia 53 6.73 53 6.81 Flawed democracy
Suriname 54 6.65 54 6.65 Flawed democracy
Colombia 55 6.63 57 6.55 Flawed democracy
Peru 56 6.59 63 6.40 Flawed democracy
Sri Lanka 57 6.58 55 6.64 Flawed democracy
Thailand 58 6.55 58 6.55 Flawed democracy
Romania 59 6.54 56 6.60 Flawed democracy
Indonesia 60 6.53 60 6.53 Flawed democracy
El Salvador 61 6.47 61 6.47 Flawed democracy
Paraguay 62 6.40 62 6.40 Flawed democracy
Mali 63 6.36 79 6.01 Flawed democracy
Serbia 64 6.33 65 6.33 Flawed democracy
Lesotho =64 6.33 77 6.02 Flawed democracy
Moldova =64 6.33 66 6.33 Flawed democracy
Papua New Guinea 67 6.32 59 6.54 Flawed democracy
Namibia 68 6.24 69 6.23 Flawed democracy
Mongolia 69 6.23 64 6.36 Flawed democracy
Dominican Republic 70 6.20 70 6.20 Flawed democracy
Malaysia 71 6.19 71 6.19 Flawed democracy
Zambia =71 6.19 91 5.68 Flawed democracy
Macedonia 73 6.16 73 6.16 Flawed democracy
Montenegro 74 6.15 68 6.27 Flawed democracy
Philippines 75 6.12 74 6.12 Flawed democracy
Benin 76 6.06 72 6.17 Flawed democracy
Guyana 77 6.05 75 6.05 Flawed democracy
Ghana 78 6.02 78 6.02 Flawed democracy
Ukraine 79 5.94 67 6.30 Hybrid regime
Hong Kong 80 5.92 80 5.92 Hybrid regime
Singapore 81 5.89 82 5.89 Hybrid regime
Guatemala 82 5.88 76 6.05 Hybrid regime
Bangladesh 83 5.86 83 5.87 Hybrid regime
Bolivia 84 5.84 81 5.92 Hybrid regime
Honduras =84 5.84 88 5.76 Hybrid regime
Malawi =84 5.84 85 5.84 Hybrid regime
Albania 87 5.81 84 5.86 Hybrid regime
Turkey 88 5.73 89 5.73 Hybrid regime
Ecuador 89 5.72 87 5.77 Hybrid regime
Tanzania 90 5.64 92 5.64 Hybrid regime
Nicaragua 91 5.56 90 5.73 Hybrid regime
Tunisia 92 5.53 145 2.79 Hybrid regime
Senegal 93 5.51 95 5.27 Hybrid regime
Lebanon 94 5.32 86 5.82 Hybrid regime
Bosnia and Hercegovina 95 5.24 94 5.32 Hybrid regime
Uganda 96 5.13 98 5.05 Hybrid regime
Venezuela 97 5.08 96 5.18 Hybrid regime
Liberia 98 5.07 97 5.07 Hybrid regime
Palestine 99 4.97 93 5.44 Hybrid regime
Mozambique 100 4.90 99 4.90 Hybrid regime
Cambodia 101 4.87 100 4.87 Hybrid regime
Georgia 102 4.74 103 4.59 Hybrid regime
Kenya 103 4.71 101 4.71 Hybrid regime
Bhutan 104 4.57 102 4.68 Hybrid regime
Pakistan 105 4.55 104 4.55 Hybrid regime
Sierra Leone 106 4.51 105 4.51 Hybrid regime
Kyrgyz Republic 107 4.34 106 4.31 Hybrid regime
Nepal 108 4.24 108 4.24 Hybrid regime
Mauritania 109 4.17 115 3.86 Hybrid regime
Niger 110 4.16 128 3.38 Hybrid regime
Armenia 111 4.09 109 4.09 Hybrid regime
Iraq 112 4.03 112 4.00 Hybrid regime
Burundi 113 4.01 110 4.01 Hybrid regime
Haiti 114 4.00 111 4.00 Hybrid regime
Egypt 115 3.95 138 3.07 Authoritarian
Madagascar 116 3.93 113 3.94 Authoritarian
Russia 117 3.92 107 4.26 Authoritarian
Jordan 118 3.89 117 3.74 Authoritarian
Nigeria 119 3.83 123 3.47 Authoritarian
Morocco =119 3.83 116 3.79 Authoritarian
Ethiopia 121 3.79 118 3.68 Authoritarian
Kuwait 122 3.74 114 3.88 Authoritarian
Fiji 123 3.67 119 3.62 Authoritarian
Burkina Faso 124 3.59 120 3.59 Authoritarian
Libya 125 3.55 158 1.94 Authoritarian
Cuba 126 3.52 121 3.52 Authoritarian
Comoros =126 3.52 127 3.41 Authoritarian
Gabon 128 3.48 133 3.29 Authoritarian
Togo 129 3.45 124 3.45 Authoritarian
Algeria 130 3.44 125 3.44 Authoritarian
Cameroon 131 3.41 126 3.41 Authoritarian
Gambia 132 3.38 129 3.38 Authoritarian
Angola 133 3.32 131 3.32 Authoritarian
Oman 134 3.26 143 2.86 Authoritarian
Swaziland =134 3.26 141 2.90 Authoritarian
Rwanda 136 3.25 134 3.25 Authoritarian
Kazakhstan 137 3.24 132 3.30 Authoritarian
Qatar 138 3.18 137 3.09 Authoritarian
Belarus 139 3.16 130 3.34 Authoritarian
Azerbaijan 140 3.15 135 3.15 Authoritarian
China 141 3.14 136 3.14 Authoritarian
Cote d’Ivoire 142 3.08 139 3.02 Authoritarian
Vietnam 143 2.96 140 2.94 Authoritarian
Bahrain 144 2.92 122 3.49 Authoritarian
Congo (Brazzaville) 145 2.89 142 2.89 Authoritarian
Guinea 146 2.79 144 2.79 Authoritarian
Zimbabwe 147 2.68 146 2.64 Authoritarian
Djibouti =147 2.68 154 2.20 Authoritarian
United Arab Emirates 149 2.58 148 2.52 Authoritarian
Yemen 150 2.57 147 2.64 Authoritarian
Tajikistan 151 2.51 149 2.51 Authoritarian
Afghanistan 152 2.48 150 2.48 Authoritarian
Sudan 153 2.38 151 2.42 Authoritarian
Eritrea 154 2.34 152 2.31 Authoritarian
Democratic Republic of Congo 155 2.15 155 2.15 Authoritarian
Laos 156 2.10 156 2.10 Authoritarian
Guinea-Bissau 157 1.99 157 1.99 Authoritarian
Syria =157 1.99 153 2.31 Authoritarian
Iran 159 1.98 159 1.94 Authoritarian
Central African Republic 160 1.82 162 1.82 Authoritarian
Saudi Arabia 161 1.77 161 1.84 Authoritarian
Equatorial Guinea =161 1.77 160 1.84 Authoritarian
Myanmar =161 1.77 163 1.77 Authoritarian
Uzbekistan 164 1.74 164 1.74 Authoritarian
Turkmenistan 165 1.72 165 1.72 Authoritarian
Chad 166 1.62 166 1.52 Authoritarian
North Korea 167 1.08 167 1.08 Authoritarian
Source: Economist Intelligence Unit.

Methodology: Democracy Index

The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index is based on five categories: electoral process and pluralism; civil liberties; the functioning of government; political participation; and political culture. The overall index of democracy, on a 0 to 10 scale, is based on the ratings for 60 indicators grouped in the five categories. The overall index is the simple average of the five category indexes. A three-point scoring system for the 60 indicators is used. The category indexes are based on the sum of the indicator scores in the category, converted to a 0 to 10 scale. Countries are placed within one of four types of regimes: “full democracies” (scores of 8 to 10); “flawed democracies”—scores of 6 to 7.9; “hybrid regimes”—scores of 4 to 5.9; “authoritarian regimes”—scores below 4.

The Economist Intelligence Unit
Source: ViewsWire
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