This is the thirteenth world audit report of the millennium, in which we re-examine global perceptions of public corruption, the state of human rights, political rights, free speech and the rule of law in 150 nations (all those exceeding one million population). By reference to these, we compile the World Democracy table with its subsidiary statistical tables.
We 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.
We also point readers who seek more in-depth, regular information, to our www.newnations.com website. This offers monthly updated analytical reports, plus five years worth of easily accessible archive material, currently on 44 nations in transition, a number which given the resources, we will continue to expand.
ESSENTIALS OF DEMOCRACY
We find the use of the word democracy being grotesquely misused, particularly in the current middle-eastern context, as merely the opportunity to register a vote. Without the other key democratic criteria, that makes no sense and has little value. Indeed as examples in Algeria and more recently Egypt have shown, an election in the middle east run under a military government which has long suppressed opposition political parties, leaves the electorate with only barren alternatives. To ratify the existing power holders, or to vote for the only opponents to emerge. As we know, that inevitably will be the religious candidates, whose program is to turn the clock back 12 centuries or so – a fairly desperate choice in democratic
terms. In other nations where religious opposition is not relevant, the use of the polling booth is often just a fraud, seldom fooling independent international observers such as OSCE, on those occasions that they are invited as monitors. Without truly independent courts there is nowhere for the cheated candidates to go for justice. Without a truly independent media there was never a level playing field in the first place.
We would assert that the essentials are:
Justice for all: uncontaminated by special interests, clan loyalties or bribes;
Freedom of Speech: as exemplified by media activities - and we would still add the Sharansky test (see below);
Human Rights: expressed by the absence of arbitrary arrest and confinement, the superiority of due process, the illegality of torture and similar abusive maltreatment.
Public Corruption: most nations have laws against corruption but only in genuine democracies are these enforced against the bigger players.
The political Right to Vote is only meaningful in transparently honest elections, with genuine voter choice of parties and people. Without that, it is likely to be a deception.
We say that the term democracy is abused and improperly used unless these are the objectives, and that nations who wish to be described as democratic, must be seen to be making a clear effort to achieve these basic institutions of democracy. It can all be summed up by the ultimate test of genuine ‘accountability’ - the unrestrained ability if needs be, for the citizens of any country "to throw the rascals out." By way of illustration, all of these key democratic criteria are brilliantly exemplified in the nations that lead this democracy table.
Since our last audit, March 2006, we report the following changes in our first division: Austria and Germany join Canada as co-equal 10th . Apart from that, the large established democratic nations have little movement between them:- UK is at (9th), the USA remains at (14th), France (16th), Spain (18th), Italy (30th) – sadly corruption and Press freedom there are not
good. The established larger non-democratic nations China (128), Nigeria (105), Sudan (144), continue to appal, viewed in terms of democratic criteria.
No surprise (every year since 1997), are that the top six are drawn from and ranking this time as Finland (1), Denmark (2), New Zealand (3), Sweden (4), Switzerland (5), Norway (6). Netherlands are up there too at (7th). Then the rest of the British Commonwealth kick-in with Australia (8th), just ahead of UK(9th). With Canada (10th), and in the Second Division, South Africa (35), Mauritius (36) and Ghana (38), that pattern is confirmed. Press freedom in the mother country pulls back United Kingdom (9), to be sure capable of doing better, but adversely affected by the unhealthy lack of diversification of British media ownership (40% of which is NewsCorp).
The top Latin Americans are Chile (20) and Uruguay (23). The leading former communists are Estonia (19), Slovenia (21). The first East Asian is Japan (32), followed by South Korea (34). Africa has South Africa (35), Ghana at (38), and Mauritius (36).
THE FULLY DEMOCRATIC
Our First and Second divisions now total 40 nations (a year ago it was 36), out of the 150 with populations in excess of one million (which brings them into our reckoning). As our methodology explains, these two divisions are considered to be fully democratic. All the European Union nations qualify, including new entrant Bulgaria (39) but NOT new entrant Romania (62). Both of these about-to-be members, have been accepted on ‘ conditions,’ which suggests that this performance by Romania will have to substantially
THE COLOUR REVOLUTIONS AND OTHERS
The undemocratic world does change a little, one pattern of change being the so-called Colour revolutions, giving us currently Georgia (75), Kyrgyzstan (113), Ukraine (73). It will take until next year to properly measure the changes, if any. Belarus this year most strongly resisted a colour revolution and no surprise, is at (142). Russia the ‘mother’ of these FSU republics, is now (121) slipped from (114) so wherever Russia is going to next, it is on present form moving away from
democracy. Amongst the contentious candidates for democratic status, Israel (33), whatever it may or may not do to its neighbours, or to its helot Palestinians, has within its own state in terms of its own democratic criteria, steadily improved, and has now risen to the second division. This prompts the thought that it is better by far to be an Israeli citizen, obviously than a beleaguered Palestinian, or indeed a neighbour, seeing Jordan (88), Syria (126), or Egypt (96). The USA democracy ranking is itself contentious with some readers, but as with Israel, our criteria do not deal with foreign policy or its effects on other nations.
Thailand whose national variation of democracy is now ‘on hold’ by the military, was measured before its recent military coup at (57), so must inevitably plunge.
The three Baltics, Estonia (19), Latvia (27), Lithuania (24) are easily the highest-ranking of he fifteen former Soviet republics, and are that far ahead of their former imperial master Russia, at (121). Surprisingly, or perhaps not, from Russia’s former Soviet empire, Kazakstan (123), Azerbaijan (128), Tajikistan (137), Belarus(142),Uzbekistan (147), Turkmenistan (149) do even worse. Mongolia, in its time, the unofficial sixteenth FSU republic, certainly previously a total satellite, is now outside of Moscow’s sway and creditably stands at (49), so excepting the three Baltics, is well ahead of any FSU
republic. Taiwan remains at (22) in the top division rising from (37) in the second. This is an unrecognised state. There are a few of those around, mostly disgraceful petty dictatorships - bywords for crime and corruption, only allowed to exist because it suits a great power that it should be so. Russia currently sponsors three (see our
States). Taiwan exists and is fully democratic, DESPITE a great power, who would have it otherwise. But what makes Taiwan such a beacon in our terms, is that in the years following the Kuomintang, then a military dictatorship as corrupt as they get first occupying it in 1949 - after being evicted from the mainland - democracy has slowly but inexorably EVOLVED. It has been the people's choice, not imposed from outside, not the result of a revolution, but simply developed through trial and error as the best means of government for their small country, which already had become a byword for financial success.
TYRANNIES, DICTATORSHIPS - THE 'FEAR SOCIETIES'
Few will be surprised to see that out of the 150 total, bringing up the rear are Myanmar and Turkmenistan (jointly 149); Libya (148), supposedly reformed - but, tell that to the five Bulgarian nurses sentenced to death and still in jail on outrageous charges; North Korea (86) undoubtedly belongs down here also, but since here is no corruption reading, we cannot rank them for ‘perceptions of corruption’. In all of the world’s states they alone do not allow foreigners to visit, so they alone are able to slip through a rating system based on ‘perceptions.’ There is little doubt that they are world class in corruption, as readers of our
newnations.com monthly reports on them can testify. Making up the democratic ‘dregs’, we point to Sudan (144) and Eritrea (146), Zimbabwe (144), and Uzbekistan (147), Somalia (142); Republic of the Congo (141), and Belarus. Of this selection, Europe's only 'last ten' listing is Belarus (142). This is the former soviet republic excoriated as Europe's last dictatorship, who with Myanmar and Zimbabwe, make it onto Secretary of State Condaleezza Rice's list of 'outposts of
tyranny'. At her Senate confirmation hearings in January '05, when naming six 'outposts of tyranny' - (the others are Cuba, Iran, North Korea), she gave the illustration of Nathan Sharansky's town square test. "If a person cannot walk into the middle of the town square and express his or her views without fear of arrest, imprisonment and physical harm, then that person is living in a fear society". "We cannot rest," she added, "until every person living in a fear society has won their freedom."
An excellent test and a splendid sentiment, so does she not know how an individual protestor would get on who shouted slogans and carried anti-government placards in the town squares of oil producers (and fear societies), such as Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Turkmenistan, Russia, Azerbaijan (it’s a longer list than this illustration which excludes some town squares in say Texas).
With US foreign policy dominated first by energy security and then a distant second, anti-terrorism; it leaves democracy, human rights etc, a poor prospect where tyrannical nations, that also happen to be oil and gas suppliers to the US are concerned. But we do note the beneficial difference since Condaleezza Rice has brought back foreign affairs from US Vice-President Cheney's office, to where they belong in Foggy
Bottom. Division Four of our democracy league table lists nearly half of the world's nations, currently seventy-two of them, including by any criteria a large and easily identifiable selection of 'fear societies', so there is certainly a way to go before she (or we), can 'rest'.
The Third Division lists thirty-eight countries contrasting with the forty in 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 (48), where in places serfdom still exists and the rule of law is not universal. India (54) is in many ways admirable for having, not without flaws, maintained its elective democracy and independent justice system, but it is also where the most 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 category appear to be emerging from the direst poverty, but emerging…. Most have never had any tradition of democracy and others are at least achieving this incrementally. But it is this third division, which is the springboard for the next upwards stage, unqualified democracy. Nations at the top end of this division are obviously getting a lot of necessary things right, so that the achievement of unqualified freedom and justice for ALL of their citizens, is now at least within reach.
Division Four includes 72 nations, nearly half of all the nations of the world that have more than a million population. Many former communist and all five of the continuing communist nations are here, also most of the African and Arab states. There are few if any surprises in expectations except the usual one, Singapore (84). 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 Tsunami crisis. Yet, the political process is deeply flawed, 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 if they step out of line. These two factors are the antithesis of democracy, which accounts for the low marking. It is all the more puzzling because for historical and ethnic reasons, the government party is monolithic, with overwhelming popular support, does a good managerial job and is never likely to be seriously challenged. It is hard to see now that the cold war is over, why 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 males, are normally, if not exclusively to be found in this lower half of the table. Democracy cannot 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 very rich, rich and at least prosperous states here, the UAE - dropped 3 places to (87); Kuwait remains at (91), Malaysia down 2 places to (92); Saudi Arabia stationary at (117); but given the war on terror, it is obvious that some of these are unlikely to extend fully democratic rights to their citizens in today's circumstances, often for reasons to do with the survival of the ruling elites.
The statistics in our tables tell the barebones story, but necessarily this is amplified by the well informed individual national reports of the major NGO's that we include in our individual Country Report pages: The unique Amnesty on human rights; the truly excellent Freedom House covering political rights, press freedom and civil liberties; 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 in every place that matters. And on corruption there is the inimitable Transparency
International. For continuing monthly updated analytical reports on forty-four of these nations which are 'in transition', we recommend our own
All of these NGO’s make life just a little less comfortable for the many major actors worldwide who are the power holders and beneficiaries of malfeasance. And for those far more numerous observers in settled societies that would just prefer not to see, it becomes less easy to just look away. Many of the perpetrators are certainly beyond shaming, but they and their families and cronies sometimes go out well-funded into the world, and given the significant positions 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 exactly that degree of 'respect' which they deserve.
THE MOST SUCCESSFUL DEMOCRATIC MODEL?
The statistics are not without their curiosities. 8 of the top 10 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. Our Democracy league table also shows on the sidewalks 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 show the great wildernesses of democratic deficit, and illustrate the connection between economic success and thriving democracies.
Taking only nations with one million plus populations in our tables, the OECD numbering twenty six member nations, accounts for most of the top twenty rankings in the world democracy table, saving only Switzerland (5) and Ireland (15). All of its members are unqualified democracies, excepting only Bolivia (54), Mexico, and Turkey both at (60).
The really Big Boys economically of the G8, are easily within the World Audit top 40 and thus fully fledged democracies, with the spectacular exception of Russia (121) who anyway appointed themselves to the G8 by a piece of Yeltsin hutzpah.
The European Union with 24 members in our survey (Cyprus and Malta are below I million population), are ALL very comfortably classed as unqualified democracies. Indeed, taking out only New Zealand (3) and USA (14), the EU accounts for the first twenty places in the democratic table.
Other regional groupings bear little comparison:
ASEAN, the South East Asian grouping may be famous for its economic ‘tigers’, but this does not extend to their democratic achievements. None of their members are within the ranks of the democratic nations. Indeed, when one realises that their top-listed nation in our terms is Thailand (57), that has just had a military coup and lost its rather inadequate democracy, it sets a tone that is rounded out by their member, also our lowest world-ranking nation, Myanmar
APEC, the transpacific grouping, has nearly a half of its fifteen members as clear-cut democracies, led by New Zealand (3), Australia (8), and Canada (10). But it also includes Malaysia (92) and China (128).
The ARAB LEAGUE, which includes some very rich nations indeed, has 17 members listed by us. Their best three are Mauritania (80), UAE (87) and Jordan (88). Their last three are Somalia(142), Sudan (144) and Libya (148). That says that they have no members in any of our three top divisions - all are in Division four.
LATIN AMERICA & CARIBBEAN: the twenty two listings we include, have these four in the unqualified democracy first and second divisions: Chile (20),Uruguay(23),Costa Rica(26),Panama(40). Therefore eighteen fall short of full democracy. Cuba at (140) a long way short, Haiti (126) also.
The AFRICAN UNION: Our largest regional grouping, with forty five listings. Three only are in the fully democratic category, South Africa(35), Mauritius (36) and Ghana (38). Four more are getting close; Botswana(41), Namibia (43),Mali(45) and Benin (46). After that it gets bleak.. and bleaker, bottoming out with Sudan (144), Zimbabwe(144),Eritrea(146),and Libya(148). The dark continent is well named in democratic terms.
INDEX OF ECONOMIC FREEDOM
The league table of the Index of Economic Freedom is now included in this site but not factored in to 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. Taking our economic groupings (as distinct from the purely regional ones), listed in the sidewalks of the main democratic table detailed above, the
EU, OECD, G8, ASEAN, APEC, together with this Index of Economic Freedoms - and checking out our two top divisions – ‘the top 40’ - leads to the conclusion
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 and democracy. There is a 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 - officialdom 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 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.
Consulting the histories of many leading corruption-free countries might give an indication. My own country, the UK, a stable and long established democracy was earlier in the democratic story corrupt across the board in public life, quite on a scale with many of today's worst offenders, but with the advent and exercise of the franchise in the 19th century, things started to radically improve.
It seems clear that the essential part of any established democracy is the concept of 'accountability' - the chance for the citizen to dismiss a government if they fail to perform or to behave.
CLIVE LINDLEY OCTOBER 2006