Worldwide Democracy Still on a Downward Trend

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The world continues to be in decline, democracy-wise. More than fifty percent of countries around the globe show an alarming downward trend when it comes to democratic health.

Earlier this year, The Economist published its tenth annual Democracy Index, which shows that Larry Diamond’s prediction of a global “democratic recession” is indeed a reality. A political scientist at Stanford University, Mr. Diamond made this prediction ten years ago.

The Democracy Index rates countries based on five categories, namely:

  • electoral process and pluralism
  • functioning of government
  • political participation
  • democratic political culture
  • civil liberties

The Index also shows that less than five percent of the world’s total population can be considered to be living in “full democracies”, whereas one third of the world’s population lives under dictatorial or oppressive regimes. A large number of those are the people living in China.

As mentioned earlier, more than half of the countries on the Index have gotten lower scores in 2017. Out of the 167 countries, 89 ranked lower last year than they did the year before.

The number one country on the list is Norway, which scored a 9.87 on average, out of a perfect score of 10. Fourteen out of the 19 countries that are “full democracies” are located in western Europe.

However western Europe’s overall score went down from the previous year. Spain, in particular, got a lower score in 2017 due to efforts on Madrid’s part to forcibly bring to a halt the independence referendum in Catalonia last October. Because of this, Spain’s overall score of 8.08 put it at just above the “flawed democracy” category.

France is already in the flawed democracy category, and has been for a few years. It’s score went down in 2017 because of new laws that broadened the emergency powers of the government. Malta also suffered a serious slide in its score, due to the murder of anti-corruption blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia, and the government’s seeming reluctance to pursue an investigation into her death.

The United States is still a “flawed democracy,” getting a score of 7.98, the same score as in 2016. It’s tied with Italy in 21st place.

The African country Gambia was 2017’s big winner. From a score of 2.91, which put the country into the “authoritarian regime” category, Gambia went up several points and ended the year at 4.06, into the “hybrid regime” category, going up thirty places in rank. The reason for Gambia’s improved scores is that 2017 saw its first democratic change of power, after Yahya Jammeh’s rule of more than two decades. Mr. Jammeh had utilized military power to control his countrymen, curtailed political freedoms and limited power only to the ethnic group to which he belonged.

Countries that suffered a notable drop were Indonesia, who went from 48th in 2016 to 68th in 2017, and Venezuela, whose score of 3.87 placed it firmly into the “authoritarian regime” category.