the nineteenth world audit report of the millennium, in which
we review the state of public corruption; current practice in
human rights; political rights; free speech; and the overall
state of the rule of law in 150 nations (all those exceeding
one million population).
reference to these, we compile the world democracy
tables in four divisions. The first has 28
nations, one less than 2009 and this was ITALY whose Press
freedom and corruption scores plummeted. The second division
has eight nations with ITALY demoted to the second division
(34th) and BULGARIA (45th) further
demoted from division two to division Three. The third
division with BULGARIA joining now numbers thirty four,
because PAPUA NEW GUINEA, NICARAGUA and COLUMBIA have all
dropped down to the Fourth Division. The very long tail-end,
the fourth Division at 80 counties has no promotions and now
constitutes more than half of all the world’s nations of 1
million or more.
subsidiary statistical tables include a table of world
rankings on Press Freedom and another on Corruption In
addition in the sidewalks we have mini-tables for nations that
belong to Latin America; African Union; EU; ASEAN;
APEC; Arab League; OECD;
recommend that readers check out our methodology (button on
left hand sidewalk of democracy table) to make the most sense
of these results and the commentary below.
recommend readers who seek more in-depth, regular information,
to our sister website,
www.newnations.com This offers updated monthly analytical
reports currently for 45 'nations in transition' (emerging or
submerging); plus monthly polemical, geopolitical 'special
reports', all archived (since 2002).
www.geopolemics.com is the u-tell-us blog for both
newnations and worldaudit. ALL our reports go here. It also
lists all current newnations country reports often at a
reduced length, as well as our ‘prescriptions’ relating to
some of the wide spread of geopolitical analysis we offer.
Feel free to comment
THREE SITES INTERLINK AND ARE FREE
This survey is concerned only with the criteria of democracy as it
relates to 150 nation states– all those with a population of more
than a million. We define democracy as Human Rights; Political
Rights; Free Speech; and the Absence of Corruption.
We have been
conducting this survey since 1997 and numbers are adjusted during
each year when new data become available.
Our World Democracy League tables explain our
methodology. What follows is a commentary.
second year running the key element in international affairs has
been the new presidency in the United States. Not only was this
president elected on the basis of being the best man for the job,
but also on a program that gives new heart to those who despaired
at a range of policies that the George W Bush administration
implemented, or failed to implement. It is however the case that
President Obama has yet to come to grips with the persistent
problems of Israel
outstanding of the problems he inherited is the Israel-Palestine
conflict, for such it remains.
We are amongst those who believe that there will never be an end
to the middle east tensions, the most incendiary of regions unless
justice is done between Israel and Palestine as envisaged by the
UN, when Israel was founded.
The USA for six years of the GW Bush administration looked
elsewhere whilst Sharon was the force in the land. US policy was
effectively whatever Sharon wanted it to be! His mortal illness
threw Israeli domestic politics, already as complex as any in the
world, into a spin. It appears impossible to have a government
which is not a coalition, usually including a religious party,
whose agendas are something else again.
year has not advanced the peacemaking process. Indeed it has taken
some steps backwards with the appointment of Benjamin Netanyahu as
Prime minister at the head inevitably, of a coalition government.
Now this is
a PM who overtly is opposed to giving any concessions to the
proponents of a separate Palestinian state. In a previous stint as
PM in the nineteen nineties, he managed to sink the Oslo peace
brokered peace talks that Netanyahu’s predecessor as prime
minister was having with SYRIA, which addressed the problems of
the Golan Heights, were quickly shut down by Netanyahu who has no
intention of returning the Golan Heights to Syria. It appears
that he will stall and stall, promise progress yet not deliver.
until the US president is looking down the barrel of a gun called
the US presidential re-election campaign. Then Netanyahu will have
the mighty US Israeli lobby use its muscle to halt any progress
that might have been made. But President Obama is still the
repository of the hopes and ambitions of the world, as was
reflected by the Norwegian Nobel Prize Committee awarding him the
coveted Peace Prize. Perhaps in 2010 we will at last see
substantial progress - but don’t hold your breath!
assessments only address a nations actions within its own
frontiers, towards its own citizens,
Israel is ranked 30th - easily the highest amongst its
remains a disaster area both for the US and even more for the
long-suffering Iraqis. The point that doesn’t seem to have been
widely understood in the USA is the one of its shattering
illegitimacy. They went into the country as an invading army
without UN sanction and have remained since as an occupying army.
The invasion was based on entirely spurious false information
about non-existent weapons systems. Additionally, the US
government and its media allowed their citizens (and troops), to
believe that it was Iraqi suicidal fanatics sent by Saddam, who
used four hi-jacked US passenger aircraft to attack the US on
9/11. It was a frame-up!
Fifteen of the nineteen fanatics that died that day were in fact
citizens of Saudi Arabia, but (happily) no–one suggested taking
revenge on them. The ‘after thought’ of a UN resolution on Iraq
expired December 31st ’08, and now IRAQ is a sovereign
state once more. In theory, US troops are now under Iraqi
government orders – if you care to believe that, but at the least,
IRAQ is now behaving like an independent nation! However, by
all democratic criteria, they are a disaster area. Voting is for
party blocs, not individual candidates and therefore there is
considerable corruption with unworthy people getting themselves
onto a party list.
It has been
fifty years since unfortunate Iraq was last in a stable and
peaceful situation. There may now be nearer to a million than a
half-million deaths attributable to the chaos unleashed by the
invasion by the time that the US forces leave, although the timing
and manner of that leaving are still hot issues which won’t be
finally settled until they go. The political parties here are
still religious-based (ethnic in the case of the Kurds). The Shia
majority are split in different factions and just like the Sunni
and the Kurds, share little sense of nationhood, but much concern
for the economic interests of family, clan and tribe. Terrible
acts of random violence are perpetrated, almost on a daily basis,
usually by one religious sect against the ordinary folk of
another. Al Qaeda which is ultra-orthodox Sunni, and appears to
hate the Shia worse even than the occupying Americans, is still
leaving a trail of explosive destruction, mostly now amongst
civilians. Inevitably bombs being non-selective, both Shia and
Sunni are being destroyed, which is causing some Sunni to turn
In the area of human rights, you
shouldn’t expect to find ‘rights’ in Iraqi police stations, or
prisons. The media is kept under state control. This it may be
remembered, was, according to the mantra of the neocons of
Washington, to be ‘a showcase for democracy’ in the middle east.
Iraq’s placing in this years democracy tables is an unsurprising
126th. Its corruption rank was 145th and
Press Freedom 109th.
past year has seen the ending of a threadbare
semi-democratic regime, a kind of ‘conditional’ range of freedoms
like the media (some people may be criticised and not others), but
the overlay of religious monopoly has negated any democratic
effect – citizens can vote for any candidate they like, but only
the men approved by the senior priests can ever be candidates. It
was analogous as a voting system to that of the former USSR where
only communist party members could be candidates. However, in 2009
even that ceased to exist with the ‘establishment’ candidate, the
existing President Ahmadinejad, becoming re-elected by blatant
cheating and electoral fraud, together with violence perpetrated
by the Republican Guard. So even that thin strand of
semi-democracy is now a thing of the past.
Iran has dropped five places to 143
in our current report, which says it all.
What is exceptional is that Iran is
not a raw, post-colonial political entity like most of the
tail-enders in our league table who surround it, but an ancient
nation, with many intelligent, hard working, and educated people,
that being priest-ridden has just failed to progress for
problem that IRAN presents to the world, pivots on the fact that
their government, who have signed the nuclear non- proliferation
treaty, are nevertheless suspected of seeking to develop the
capability of developing nuclear weapons, which they deny.
We update on the political
complexities of Iran each month in newnations.com and offer our
‘prescriptions’ in our blog, geopolemics.com
Economically, their petro-economy is suffering in terms of an oil
price more than two thirds down from its peak in mid-2008 and is
unable to refine its massive oil reserves into useable petroleum,
which it consequently has to import for domestic road vehicles.
Because of the unresolved nuclear
story which is close to being a casus belli, IRAN may be expected
to remain an international issue during the coming year.
new president, Dimitri Medvedev was elected to that office to
replace Vladimir Putin in an election where opposition was
efficiently neutered into non-existence. Former President Putin
stayed in government, stepping down to prime-minister, with his
former aide Medvedev taking his place as the new president. It is
worth observing that Putin certainly had it within his powers to
obtain a constitutional amendment, enabling his term of eight
consecutive years to be extended indefinitely, as many of the FSU
presidents have done, but he chose not to do that. Russia has
enjoyed great increases in wealth and some trickle-down has
happened. With the dramatic drop in world energy prices Russia’s
headlong rush to riches has been dramatically slowed down, indeed
it’s petro-economy is in the doldrums, as a result of
international and national circumstances. But it is positioned
long term, to continue to be a major supplier to much of Eurasia,
and is a major player in the politics of North, Central and to a
lesser extent, East Asia. It along with the USA, remains the
world’s biggest military nuclear power. There is still some
tension about ICBMs but it is well short of a crisis.
Russia inevitably does badly in our
democracy league tables, coming 134th out 150; 131st in Press
freedom; 117th in Corruption, because it is
demonstrably falling short by all those of our main criteria –
corruption, political rights, human rights, freedom of the media,
impartial justice. In short, Russia does not yet enjoy the rule of
law. The new president on his inauguration talked of this
significant deficiency and we hope he will be able to initiate a
system, which starts to enjoy international respect, which is not
currently the case.
In east Asia, North Korea continues to drag its feet –
indeed there is no progress on democracy at all. The main world
spotlight on the ‘hermit republic’ has been on their on-off
dismantling or not, of their nuclear capability, although there
has been some speculation on the leadership succession. This is
since the current tyrant, seen through a thick security
smokescreen, has for a while been seriously ill, now apparently
recovered. As we enter 2010, this nuclear dismantling is still not
“on” and diplomats of five other nations seek to resume the
currently suspended negotiations.
literally “off the charts” for us since alone in the world it is a
tightly closed nation, and it has not been possible to assess a
meanwhile,32nd out of 150,
has joined Japan ( 29th) in our second division
as an independent democratic country, as well as an economic
China at 121st
has not behaved well in regard to its Tibetan minority, since it
very successfully held the Olympic games in Beijing. It
subsequently became abusive of the Tibetans, who principally are
seeking educational and religious autonomy – not independence -
which their leaders know full well is not possible. From a
masterly handling of public relations around and before the
Olympic games, the Chinese, after having achieved so much
goodwill, relapsed into bullying mode, shrilly abusing the Tibetan
spokesmen, presumably for domestic consumption, accusing the
Tibetans of being ‘entirely’ responsible for the break-down in
talks, but themselves keeping completely silent about what,
if anything, they are prepared to concede?
The hypocrisy of this posture is that it was a revered modern
Chinese statesman, who invented the brilliant and subtle concept
of ‘one nation two-systems,’ which has been so successful in Hong
Kong and Macao, and is on offer to Taiwan. A version of this would
seem to be absolutely appropriate in the case of Tibet.
China’s handling of the Olympics earned them admiration and
respect, and no doubt reminded their ‘near abroad’ that they are
the regional ‘heavyweight,’ but all such nations are also to a
greater or lesser extent, concerned to see whether China can or
will democratise, as their larger neighbours Japan and South
Korea, have successfully done. There seems little evidence that
they will. There is no evidence that it is on the future national
agenda. What has impressed is on the other side of the coin, the
efficiency and energy with which they shut down any public
(including internet) expressions of dissatisfaction.
The spoiling tactics of their stance
on the 2009 Copenhagen negotiations has lost them, throughout the
world, a lot of ‘street-cred,’ and as the largest nation on earth
by population, it certainly hasn’t advanced any ambitions they may
have for world leadership.
Africa remains the continent with the biggest democratic deficit.
For great swathes of Africa, the
concept of nationhood has just not taken off, and power is used in
the interests of tribe and family. Our democracy league
tables show the abysmal performance of most African states (see
the African Union sidebar listing 45 African states). South Africa
which was initially the leader in the earlier democratic surge
within the African continent, relapsed, as readers of our
newnations monthly reports will have observed. It has been a sad
and deteriorating story revolving around big time corruption, and
the African ‘Big Man’ concept - of politicians being above the
law, and the scramble for power. The monolithic ANC once a shining
example of a liberation party with a ‘rainbow’ racial policy, was
challenged by a breakaway from within its own ranks. which seemed
like good news, because this offered choice to the overwhelming
number of African voters who have such a strong emotional
commitment to the historic ANC. But when it came to the electoral
test they fell far short of their hopes.
It remains to be seen what happens to
democracy in South Africa. It is a clear example of a state
dominated by a single political party, the ANC, where power really
resides, which internally is undemocratic but exerts leverage on
Currently in the third division at 40th they once led
democracy in Africa but now rank behind Mauritius (31), Ghana
(33), Botswana (39).
continues to confound all conventional precepts about the
behaviour of nation states and here again the problem is with the
personality of the country’s Big Man and his coterie of adherents
that resist change, even though their country is well ‘down the
tubes’, by most criteria.
easily the regional leader in democratic terms
with 24 of the first 37 nations in our two top tables. Of these 37
nations, all designated as fully democratic, the Europeans in
terms of human rights; political rights & media freedom achieve
high scores. It is in the area of corruption that major weaknesses
appear, Countries like Romania (51) and
Bulgaria (45) are completely unhorsed by institutional corruption.
Even Greece (35) has regrettable
corruption scores. But by far the most alarming change
this year was that of Italy which fell
out of the First division to the Second from 29th, five
places down to 34th. It also dropped the same five
places in its Press Freedom score now at 44th and in
Corruption, now 46th. As a senior European
Union state, this is alarming.
Italy’s rating dropped because of the further concentration of
media outlets under Prime Minister Berlusconi and the persistent
interference by organised crime networks in the functioning of
It was corruption which was the relative undoing of
the UK (13)
which sadly last year took a dive
of 5 places, previously
a distinguished (9th), largely due to the bribery surrounding
billions of pounds worth of weapons exports to Saudi Arabia which
the executive in the UK government had done its best to cover-up,
but failed to achieve. The UK is a signatory to the OECD
Anti-bribery Convention where nations explicitly agree to
criminalise the bribery of any foreign public official. The UK has
so far failed to reconcile its behaviour with its OECD membership,
but we know of no plans to resign.
At least the UK starts 2010 having
risen one place to joint 13th with Austria, which still
keeps it ahead of the USA at 15th. The US’s other key
scores are 14th in Press freedom, and 16th in perceived
Europe it is the Scandinavians that consistently do best by all
Denmark leads the world with Sweden 2nd and Finland 4th,
the Swiss 5th, and Norway joint 6th with
pre-eminence of northern European countries has been the case
since our world audit surveys commenced in 1997. Since that time,
the one consistently outstanding
non-European (indeed as far away geographically as it is possible
to be), is once again New Zealand, now 3d in the world.
Congratulations to all of these outstanding democracies and their
About Democracy and our
The opportunity to cast a vote is quite meaningless unless
there are transparently honest elections, with genuine voter
choice of parties and people. We are confident that all of the
thirty six countries listed in our First and Second Divisions
conduct themselves in that way. In the Third Division – thirty
four countries, we do not generalise thus and of the eighty
nations listed in our Fourth and last Division – that’s more than
half the nations in the world - we would suggest that a few but no
more than a handful of these conduct their electoral process on
any such criteria, or even attempt to do so.
In January 2010 just thirty six nations out of one hundred and
fifty in the world, are fully democratic. A further thirty four
nations are perceived as making varying degrees of progress
towards democracy. Yet eighty nations are not in the democratic
category at all and most of these are outside the rule of law.
It comes down to this question for nations outside the rule of
law, those who hold elections for political office. Do genuine
impartial observers witness the event in all its key stages, and
what is their judgement?
In the recent past, several of the FSU countries led by Russia,
all notably undemocratic, were diminishing the role of the
respected and experienced electoral observers from the OSCE by
substantially reducing the numbers that they would permit to
attend. In Russia’s presidential election in 2008
the 400 OSCE observers who monitored theirprevious major
elections, were to have been reduced down to the ludicrous number
of 70. In this, the largest nation on earth, that is less than one
each for the 89 federated republics and territories, some of them
the size of France or Germany. Unsurprisingly the OSCE
decided not to send any observers at all to give any assessment,
and opted out of the whole shady business. However, mighty
Russia now ranks as 134th for democracy
in the world, and that says it all.
The imprimatur of the OSCE cannot and should not be easily given
if their reasonable judgement of what it would take to adequately
monitor any national election is treated, as in this case, with
has become for 2010, Chairman of the OSCE itself, friends of that
institution are apprehensive that the former Soviet nation might
damage the respect with which the independent OSCE has been held.
too in its imperial mode, has used democracy as a cosmetic
convenience. Leaving aside how the votes were counted in Florida
in the 2000 presidential election It is clear that the Iraqi
elections under American tutelage were basically no more than
a nationwide adult population census, as between ‘parties’ of
Sunni, Shia and Kurds, whose policies at any time, were
whatever their leaders said they were! They could be seen in
practice to be about acquiring as big a slice of the national cake
as possible for their religious / ethnic constituencies, with any
Iraqi national interest far back down the line.
Credulity is anyway strained to believe in these fully formed
‘political parties,’ that came in from exile in foreign parts with
the invading army, already with their ‘leaders,’ in place,
from the unpromising base of more than 40 years of ruthless,
single party political monopoly by the Baath party that squelched
all glimmerings of opposition! The
one unquestioned Iraqi leader is the shi-ite Ayatollah al-Sistani,
who would not engage with the American invaders at all, but
neither would he become involved in politics. Another who had
remained in Saddam’s Iraq, in danger of his life throughout, is
the young shi-ite cleric and political leader Moqtada as Sadr, who
has a mass following, is close to Iran and is seriously ambitious.
The way the Iraqi election was framed, regrettably guaranteed that
secular parties – and there are some- would come nowhere. So, as
has happened, quarrelsome religious sects and political power
have become contiguous. That is clearly to be the way of
the future for this country as we fully expect to see in the
elections in March 2010.
WHAT KIND OF CHOICE?
What kind of decision is possible for a democratic citizen, when
the only available choice is between either a repressive military
government, or a religious party seeking to turn the clock back to
the seventh century? Egypt (95) and
Algeria (99) were both fairly recent examples of such a
stark choice. Iran's version of elections is that all candidates
in the ballot have to be pre-approved by the religious ‘Guardians’
and this religious authority answers only to some other religious
colleagues, and ultimately, (presumably at the end of time) to
God? The criterion these
‘Guardians’ use is something they describe as ‘Religious
Authority’’. If you don’t have it, forget it – and as to the count
they would claim, as they did in 2009, “God decides” – and doesn’t
political right to vote is only meaningful in transparently honest
elections, with a genuine voter choice of parties and people.
The stakes are obviously very high in national elections and at
any level, power undoubtedly tends to corrupt. But the more
developed democracies accept a higher duty to make certain that
elections are fair, and honestly reflect the will of the people
who have recorded their vote. We observe that most but not all
mature democracies, ensure that the administration of the
electoral process is out of the control of party political
SEPARATION OF POWERS
The right to vote in a fair contest, with all safeguards in
place is a pre-requisite of democracy
but in itself is only one component. Without the depth of the
other key democratic criteria, as these examples illustrate, it is
This is why
‘Democracy from the barrel of a
gun’ is not achievable, but it was nevertheless the
basic theory of the neocons - that military invasion
should be followed by implementing an elected government and the
rule of law.
The following tests should be applied to
the example, say of Iraq (or anywhere), to determine the validity
of the Neocon argument, which claimed to have turned Iraq into a
We argue that the essentials to create a
platform for democratic choice are by implementing all of the
Justice for all:
uncontaminated by political or other special interests, clan
loyalties or bribes; with judges at all levels independent of the
nation's executive arm.
Freedom of Speech: as
exemplified by media activities - and we value Nathan Sharansky's
town-square test proposed by Condi Rice as a meaningful test of
free speech. "If a person cannot walk into the middle of the town
square and express his or her views without fear of arrest,
imprisonment or physical harm, then that person is living in a
Human Rights: expressed by the
absence of arbitrary arrest and confinement; the superiority of
due process, the illegality of torture - and to avoid semantic
hair-splitting, similar abusive "maltreatment".
Public Corruption: most
nations have laws against corruption but only in genuine
democracies are these enforced against the bigger players - and
not always then! This was shown by the recent British example
of arms sales to Saudi Arabia, which had an investigation of
big-time corruption arbitrarily shut down by UK government fiat.
Arms sales around the world have probably accounted for more
bribery in more countries, than any other kind of international
transaction – and that probably will continue in the future
. Additionally, the lawmakers and relevant decision-makers of all
of the major western democracies that sustain armaments
industries, are subject to the attentions of 'lobbyists', whose
stock in trade is to offer a variety of inducements for public
money to be spent with their arms industry clients
We assert that the term democracy is
abused and improperly used, unless obligatory high standards are
at least the objectives genuinely striven for, and that nations so
described can be seen to make a clear effort to achieve these
interlocking institutions of democracy.
By way of illustration, all of the above key democratic
criteria are brilliantly exemplified in the nations that
habitually lead this democracy table.
The top nations in this survey, with little to choose between
them, remain: Denmark (1), Sweden (2), New
Zealand (3), Finland (4), Switzerland (5), Netherlands (6), Norway
(6). Looking back to the turn of the millennium, indeed to
our founding in 1997 twelve years ago, the leaders even then were
these same countries in a slightly different arrangement. The very
specific democratic criteria set out above are amply demonstrated
in all of them. Most people who have visited any of them would
probably agree that these 'stats' will reflect the anecdotal
experience of being there. They are
mature democracies – the real thing!
Visitors may indeed look on them as countries enviable for
what they have achieved. Given their consistency of excellence
they are, because they exist, perhaps the very models that the
The top 28 nations in this survey (our First division) is one less
than 2009 having lost Italy now 34th,
to Division 2. UK’s last year’s drop from 9th to 14th
place, has improved now to 13th.
Ireland has climbed from 11th to 9th
co-equal with Australia. Germany 11th,
Belgium 12th and Austria at 13th. Uruguay
have become the top Latin American at 20th
The USA remains at 15th at
the end of President Obama’s first year, the same as George W Bush
in his final year.
The British Commonwealth excluding UK, scores well in Division
1, with New Zealand (3), Canada (8),
The Second Division of eight, all regarded as fully democratic,
includes demoted Italy (34), but lost
Bulgaria (45), dropped to Division Three. It includes the top two
Africans, Mauritius (31) and Ghana (33), and the top two Asians,
Japan (29), and South Korea (32), with Taiwan top of Division
Three at (37).
The leading Africans are Mauritius
(31), and Ghana (33), which have passed Botswana (39), South
Africa (40). with Namibia close at (41).
Leading East Asia are Japan (29), South
Korea (32), Taiwan (37).
South and South East Asia has Third Division
India up front at (47), with Singapore
improved by three places at (71) now leading Division Four.
America has Uruguay in front at (20),
Chile just behind at (21) Costa Rica (23) all first
Division, and Panama (36) - all of
these classed as full democracies.
North America reads: Canada (8), USA
(15), and Mexico (63).
Europe accounts for twenty one of the twenty eight in Division
1; and in Division 2, two out of eight
SOME SIGNIFICANT POINTERS
Of the European Union’s twenty seven members, Luxemburg,
Malta and Cyprus are beneath the one million population threshold
for this survey. With the exception of Romania (51), in the Third
Division and Bulgaria also in the Third at (45), the EU members
are all in the first Division.
Israel (30), whatever it may or
may not do to its near neighbours, has in terms of its own
democratic criteria justified remaining in the second division,
which puts it at the top of middle-eastern nations. A previous
prime minister here was, whilst in office, openly the subject of a
criminal investigation, which is an event that everyone knows just
would not happen in a non-democratic nation. In the context of
Israel's neighbours and regional adversaries excluding the
beleaguered Palestinians, the Jordanians
are at (77), Egypt (95), Saudi Arabia (108), Iraq (126). Syria is
(132) Iran has dropped five places to (143).
THE FORMER SOVIET UNION
Two of the 'colour revolutionaries' both continue to do better
than nearly all their FSU category but
Georgia (81) is back to Division
Four due to a deterioration in political rights, whilst
Ukraine is (68) in the Third.
They had both previously moved up
to Division Three from the ultimate democratic wastelands of
Division Four. Ukraine is now slightly better than halfway in the
world rankings, which apart from the Balts and Mongolia, is unique
amongst FSU nations.
Of the three 'Baltics': Estonia (16)
and Lithuania (24), seem firmly lodged in the First
Division, whilst Latvia’s Third
division rating is (38) within clear sight of Division
Two. It follows that these three are still the highest-ranking
former Soviet republics - far ahead, as are
Ukraine (68) and Georgia (81) -
of their enforced former 'mother' Russia. The other FSU republics
(ahead of Russia) are Mongolia,
"the unofficial 16th FSU republic" at
(57), Moldova (99) Armenia (113), Kazakhstan (125), Kyrgyzstan
(128), Azerbaijan (130), which are all above Russia
Below Russia, which is now co-equal
with Tajikistan at (134), further down the FSU
component of the democracy table, are:
Belarus (143), Uzbekistan (148), Turkmenistan (149).
TYRANNIES, DICTATORSHIPS - THE 'FEAR SOCIETIES'
At the far end of the 'league tables', few will be surprised to
see that out of the 150 total, bringing up the rear amongst others
are Myanmar (150) and
Libya (146) supposedly
‘reformed’ – but with a way to go.
Sudan (140), Zimbabwe (141) and Uzbekistan (148), Somalia (147).
Turkmenistan way down at (149)
has been under new management since 2007, but these 2010 figures
reflect no democratic change). As we continue to follow their
newnations.com, it does not look promising.
But even worse than all of these, almost certainly, is North
Korea. It cannot be’ ranked’ because it is a society not so much
closed as sealed. So much so, that it has not been possible to
rate them for corruption. Apart from the UN whose primary function
there is the distribution of food aid, there are only a few
embassies and we know of no other permanent international
representations, nor are there foreign businesses ‘in country’ –
some of the necessary prerequisites of scoring corruption. We have
no doubts however that they are amongst the most corrupt nations
that we list. It could be said without exaggeration, that to have
a Macao bank account is almost a badge of rank in the nation’s
hierarchy. We have long reported this country each month in
newnations.com (all currently available or in the archives), so
our judgement below, albeit not a statistical one, is this:
We have to stick with our methodology
and so suggest that North Korea be regarded as the ‘unofficial’
least democratic nation in the world.
Belarus now at (143), is
Europe's only 'last ten' listing. This former soviet republic
excoriated as Europe's last dictatorship, plus
Myanmar (150) and Zimbabwe
made it onto former Secretary of State Condaleezza Rice's list of
'outposts of tyranny'. at her Senate confirmation hearings in
January '05, when naming her six 'outposts of tyranny' - (the
others were Cuba (123), Iran
(143) and North Korea (*) – she said: "we cannot rest until
every person living in a fear society has won their freedom."
Of course oil politics prevented her from naming the likes of
Saudi Arabia (108), and at that
time Uzbekistan (148) hosted
a US military base - but no more. It would be simple without Foggy
Bottom’s many diplomatic constraints, to run up a list of twice or
more her number of ‘fear societies.
Division Four of our Democracy league table now lists for the
first time, more than half of the world's nations, eighty of them,
including by any criteria a large and easily identifiable
selection of 'fear societies,' although there are certainly some
UNQUESTIONABLY FREE – looking
As recently as the beginning of the century, back in 2001,
there were then only fourteen nations in the First Division, now
it is twenty eight. The Second Division, just five years ago
numbered twenty-two, but now stands at eight, mostly looking
capable of promotion.
More comparisons with 2001 show that UK (13), was then top in
the second division at (15), as also was Germany (11) - then 16th,
but at that time USA (15) was ahead of all the larger countries,
standing in 2001 at (11). That of course was before the post 9/11
changes in civil society and big unresolved questions about human
rights and press freedom.
The Third Division lists thirty
four countries comparing with the thirty six of the first two
divisions, which are held to be unquestionably free. Third
Division countries in our reckoning are on the cusp - 'free'… but!
It is a qualified freedom that is fragile, limited perhaps by the
inefficiencies of sheer size and underdevelopment like Brazil
(50), where in places serfdom still exists, and the rule of law is
not universal. India (47)
is in many ways admirable for having, not without flaws,
maintained its elective democracy and independent justice system,
but it is also where horrendous religious riots have frequently
broken out, and where rule at provincial and local levels is in
some places in the hands of gangsters. Many of the nations listed
in this division appear to be emerging from the direst poverty,
but are nevertheless emerging….! Most have never had any tradition
or experience of democracy, others seem to be achieving this
incrementally. Nations at the top end of this group are obviously
getting a lot of necessary things right, so that the goal of
unqualified freedom and justice for ALL of their citizens, is now
at least within reach. These are grounds for optimism! But at the
other end, since last year Papua New
Guinea dropped out by twenty places to (74) into the
Fourth division. This dramatic drop stemmed from the government’s
continuing failure to address increasingly widespread instances of
corruption and top level official abuse of power.
Nicaragua (82) Columbia (86) also fell to
Division Four is now up to eighty
nations, well over a half of all those nations of the world with
more than a million population. Most former
communist-and all five continuing communist nations
(China (121), Vietnam
(131), Laos (141), Cuba (123),
North Korea (*) ) are here - also most of the African and
Arab states. There are few if any disappointments in expectations,
except the usual one for us, Singapore
improved to (71) is now leading Division Four,
therefore easily capable of promotion to the semi-democratic
category of Division Three. This rich and almost totally
corruption-free small state is literally an island of tranquility,
a safe and stable society with many admirable facets. It has a
good sense of civic duty and played an outstandingly generous role
helping its neighbours during the regional Tsunami crisis. Yet,
the political process is deeply flawed, when measured by the same
democratic criteria applied to all the nations in our survey.
Opposition politicians get short shrift in numerous underhand ways
and the media is a state ‘poodle’, largely self-censoring, but apt
to be punished by losing government advertising income if they
step out of line. These two factors are the antithesis of
democracy, which accounts for the low marking. It has been
described as a benign dictatorship, not that of an individual but
of a party. It is all the more puzzling because for historical and
ethnic reasons, the government party is monolithic, does an
excellent managerial job and is never likely to be seriously
challenged in elections. It is hard to see now that the cold war
is over, why they feel they need to maintain these negative
features, in an otherwise admirable society. In the jargon - why
don't they loosen up? This is not at all an evil society and
really does not belong in the company of many of the delinquents
in this division.
There are a massive amount of the world's states, many listed
here, where life is not only blighted by poverty but also by the
misery caused by political cliques arrogating all power to
themselves and exploiting the rest of the citizenry, 'to the last
squeeze'. Slavery still exists, as UN reports tell us. The
unacceptable treatment of women as fundamentally inferior, unequal
before the law - based on 'tradition', 'religion,' or other codes
invented by men, are normally, if not exclusively to be found in
this lower half of the table. Democracy really cannot just be a
male preserve in the 21st century.
Sadly, just as some economies are not emerging, but in truth
submerging, many states are politically not in transition at all,
but rigidly in stasis where power holding is concerned.
There are prosperous, rich, and very rich states here. The
UAE at (73), like
Singapore (71) is now very
close to the tipping point separating Division Four from the rest.
Kuwait at (77),
Malaysia (82) have been moving
up. Saudi Arabia is at (108).
If they would separate the powers of the courts from the
administration, allow for an early version of a free press, grant
basic civil and human rights, then they would quickly advance up
these Democracy tables, even without an unimpaired free vote.
The statistics in our tables tell
the barebones story, (necessarily this is amplified by the
well informed individual national
reports of the major NGO's that we feature in our individual World
Audit Country Report pages)
These include: the truly excellent
pioneer of American NGO’s, Freedom House, covering political
rights, press freedom and civil liberties - a main source of our
data; Transparency International – THE world authority on
corruption and another leading author of our data;
The unique Amnesty on human rights; the International Commission
of Jurists, with their 'Attacks on Justice'; and the invaluable
Human Rights Watch - right there and ready to speak out on just
about every case that matters.
For monthly analytical reports on some forty nations 'in
transition,' and a current updated geopolitical overview, we offer
our own www.newnations.com
All of these NGOs, make life just a little less comfortable for
the many major actors worldwide who are the power holders and
beneficiaries of malfeasance. For those numerous observers that
would prefer not to see, it becomes less easy just to look away.
Many of the perpetrators are certainly beyond shaming, but
they and their families and cronies sometimes go out well-funded
into the wider world, and given the power they control in their
own countries, they seek amongst other things, 'respect'. The
world should know at least who and what they are, and offer to
each exactly that degree of 'respect', which they deserve. .
Our Democracy league tables also include sidebar mini-tables
extrapolating the statistics of member states from the EU;
NATO; OECD; G8; ASEAN; APEC; AFRICAN UNION; ARAB LEAGUE; and
the nations of LATIN AMERICA. They illustrate the great
wildernesses of democratic deficit, as well as the regional
connection between economic success and thriving democracy.
The league table of the Index of
Economic Freedom is included on this site but not factored into
the divisional rankings, because, although we are clear that it is
not unrelated, it cannot 'per se' be a measurement of democracy.
That we perceive to be assessed in terms of human rights,
political rights, corruption and free speech.
In our economic groupings, alongside the democracy statistical
table, the EU, OECD, G8, ASEAN, APEC, as with the Index of
Economic Freedoms - and check out our two top divisions - it jumps
off the screen that strong economies are good for democracy and
vice-versa. Similarly, the absence
of public corruption, as demonstrated by Transparency
International, seems an essential precondition for economic
success within democracies.
not yet clear is the question as to whether the economy of a
country needs to first be successful enough to pay it's public
servants properly, and thus avoid the most obvious cause of
corruption - officials arbitrarily helping themselves? Or, does it
just come down to a matter of honest leadership and draconian
penalties for all ranks of corrupt transgressors, eventually
leading to the sunlit uplands of national prosperity?
However that might be, it would be a myopic individual
indeed who could not see relevance across the majority of nations,
between advanced or retarded economies, and the equivalent in
democracies. The extreme strain which many economies are now
experiencing, is hardly likely to advance the cause of democracy.
We have to hope it doesn’t set back the progress that has been
THE MOST SUCCESSFUL DEMOCRATIC MODEL?
The statistics are not without their curiosities.
Eight of the world’s top twelve
nations are constitutional monarchies even if some only
technically so, from which it might be deduced that this is the
most successful democratic model yet devised by man? In fact, on
reflection, one may observe from the history books that it has
taken many centuries of gradual maturity for those nations that
could do so, to fashion the numerous compromises to be made. Yet
that very process in an accelerated form could be seen to be
successfully at work in the late 20th century in
Spain (22) a nation that
earlier in the 20th century saw more than its fair share of
horrors, before settling for a constitutional monarchy. The
phenomenon may be worth studying because of its demonstrated
success in the ‘old countries’, partly for the ‘grand compromise’
that includes allowing the hereditary principle to determine the
nominal Head of State, a critical factor of which is that
"everybody knows” that there are checks and balances, to ensure
that substantive power remains vested in the people and their
It seems clear that the essential part of any established
democracy is the concept of 'accountability' - the chance for
citizens to dismiss their government if they fail adequately to
perform, or to 'behave'. Europe, which contains many nation states
of differing sizes and has by far the largest proportion of
democracies, witnesses annually the holding of many free
elections. It surprises nobody when a change of government is the
By contrast with most of the
eighty Division Four countries, what would really surprise (and
delight), would be ANY genuinely free and fair election, certified
as such by respected independent international monitors - let
alone a resulting change of regime.
The ultimate test of genuine accountability is the ability if
needs be, for the citizens of any country "to throw the rascals
out." Apart from regular statutory elections in
parliamentary systems, this at the extreme can be brought about by
votes of "no confidence". In a fixed term presidency, only
impeachment can seemingly achieve that objective.
But to keep matters in perspective,
only about half of the world’s national rulers are even within the
democratic process – the rest are more or less immovable, except
by the passage of time, or violent intervention.
Clive Lindley -