This is the fifteenth 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). 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 recommend readers who seek more in-depth, regular information, to our sister website, www.newnations.com This offers updated monthly analytical reports currently for 44 'nations in transition' (emerging or submerging); many polemical, geopolitical 'special reports', plus five years worth of easily accessible archive material. 

We find the term democracy being consistently misused by people who should know better, particularly in the current middle-eastern context, as merely the opportunity to register a vote. 

Without the depth of the other key democratic criteria, that just makes no sense. What kind of choice is possible for a democratic citizen, when the only available decision is between a repressive military government and a religious party seeking to turn the clock back to the seventh century. (Egypt and Algeria were recent examples of such a stark choice, Iran's version is that all candidates have to be approved by the religious authority, (just as in the USSR all candidates had to be communists). Iraqi elections, with the addition of an ethnicity (Kurds), became effectively a census between Shia and Sunni Moslems, with secular parties nowhere.

The essentials to create a platform for democratic choice are: Justice for all: uncontaminated by 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 would still value 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 to avoid semantic hair-splitting, similar "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, as 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. 

The Political Right to Vote is only meaningful in transparently honest elections, with genuine voter choice of parties and people. The stakes are obviously very high in national elections and at any level 'power undoubtedly corrupts', but the more developed democracies have an even 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 the most mature democracies ensure that the administration of the electoral process is out of the control of party political officers. 

The 1999 US presidential elections in Florida in particular failed to meet these specifications, being under the ultimate control of a politically partisan governor, the brother no less, of one of the two main presidential candidates. Since the outcome of the whole 2000-2004 US national election pivoted on this one state's result, it is not surprising that there was widespread concern at the scandalous way in which the electoral administrative procedures seemed to be grotesquely distorted in favour of the State Governor's brother, who indeed won by this process. When challenged at the level of the US Supreme Court, the politically appointed highest Justices in the land, 'voted the party-line,' and supported the candidate of the party that had nominated them. This whole sequence of events inevitably shocked America's friends and admirers, and sadly brought the US electoral, and inevitably its independent justice process, into disrepute. 

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. 

It can 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." 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.

By way of illustration, all of the above key democratic criteria are brilliantly exemplified in the nations that habitually lead this democracy table. 

Since our last audit, November 2005, we report the following changes, mostly upwards but unfortunately for Taiwan - not in their case. Taiwan, which had achieved the first division at (22), has now precipitously dropped to the top of the third division at (39). Uruguay moves up to (22); Hungary to (23); Lithuania (24); Latvia (25); Czech Republic is also (25); Slovakia (27); Costa Rica (28); Poland (29); Italy (30).

In Division 2: Japan (31) Israel (32) and South Korea (33) lead. All of these by inclusion in the Second Division are by definition regarded as in the essentials, fully democratic. But the bad news is that South Africa, formerly that continent's leading nation in terms of democracy is no longer leading, as it slips from (35) out of Division 2 to become fourth amongst the African states, down to (42) in Division 3. Readers of our newnations monthly reports on South Africa will have already picked up on all too much big-time corruption, and some highly questionable legal decisions favouring the Vice-President's brushes with the criminal law. 

Mauritius in Division 2 improved from (37) now at (34), which is good news because in our last survey they had fallen out of Division 1.They now look well placed to eventually recover their earlier status. Greece (34); Bulgaria (36); Ghana (37); Panama (38); are all in Division 2 and have each gained two places in rankings. Ghana (37) had only last November moved up to Division 2, a very important result as few African nations have yet risen so high. 

Israel (32), 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. An example of this is that contemporaneously, the Israeli president is to be tried on charges of rape and the Prime Minister is openly the subject of a criminal investigation, events that everyone knows just would not happen in a non-democratic nation. In the context of Israel's immediate neighbours excluding the beleaguered Palestinians, the Jordanians are at (87), Egypt (98), Syria is (135).

The top nations in this survey, with little to choose between them, remain: Finland (1), Denmark (2), New Zealand (3), Sweden (4), Switzerland (5), Norway (6), Netherlands (7). Looking back fifteen audits ago, to the turn of the millennium, it was even then these same countries in a slightly different arrangement. Congratulations to the peoples and governments of all those fortunate countries. The very specific "Essentials of Democracy" criteria set out at the top of the page, are amply demonstrated in all of them. For most people who have visited them, these 'stats' will reflect the anecdotal experience of being there. These are mature democracies, visitors may indeed look on them as somewhere perhaps enviable, for what they have achieved.

The British Commonwealth scores well in Division 1,with New Zealand (3); Australia (8), United Kingdom and Canada both equal (9). 

The top Africans are Mauritius (34); Ghana (37) which have passed Botswana (40); and South Africa (42). 

Leading East Asia are Japan (31); South Korea (33); Taiwan (39). 

South and South East Asia has India up front at (47); Philippines (61); Singapore (81); Malaysia (90). 

Latin America has Chile (19) in the lead, with Uruguay hot on their heels at (22), Costa Rica (28) and Panama (38) all of these classed as full democracies.

North America reads: Canada (9); USA (15); Mexico (61). 

Europe accounts for twenty six of the thirty in Division 1; and in Division 2, two out of eight 

Good news is that two of the FSU 'colour revolutionaries' both continue to rise: Georgia now at (72) and Ukraine (70), they had last time moved up to Division 3 from the ultimate democratic wastelands of Division 4. They are now better than halfway in the world rankings. The three 'Baltics': Estonia (18); Lithuania (24) and Latvia (25) seem firmly lodged in the first Division. It follows that these three are easily the highest-ranking former Soviet republics - far ahead of their enforced former 'mother' Russia, itself way down at (120). The other FSU republics include (ahead of Russia), Mongolia, "the unofficial 16th FSU republic" at (51); Ukraine (70); Georgia (72); Moldova (105); Armenia (106); Kyrgyzstan (113). Beyond Russia, even further down the FSU component of the democracy table, come: Kazakstan also Azerbaijan co-equal at (123); Tajikistan (134); Belarus(146); Uzbekistan (147); Turkmenistan (149). 

At the far end of the 'league tables', few will be surprised to see that out of the 150 total, in reverse order, bringing up the rear, are Myanmar (150) and Turkmenistan (149); Libya (147), supposedly reformed - but, tell that to the five Bulgarian nurses still in jail on death row, on absurd charges. Sudan (144), Zimbabwe (145) and Uzbekistan (147); Somalia (142); Belarus which has dropped now to (146), is Europe's only 'last ten' listing. 

Belarus, this former soviet republic excoriated as Europe's last dictatorship, plus 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 and North Korea) - she offered the illustration of Nathan Sharansky's town-square test which we also like 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 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? (It has been mischievously suggested that there are some towns in Texas where it might not be altogether safe).

Division Four of our democracy league table lists half of the world's nations, seventy-four 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'. 

With US foreign policy dominated by energy-security and anti-terrorism; it leaves democracy, human rights etc, a distant diplomatic prospect where tyrannical nations within two categories are concerned. Those that happen to be 'special cases' to the US, are either substantial contributors to the world's energy pool (excluding only Iran where the rift has lasted some 28 years) - or at some degree, military allies or hosts involved in US military 'global reach'. 

This latest democracy audit tells that there are thirty-eight, down from forty countries in our last survey, now listed in our First and Second Divisions, regarded therefore as unquestionably free. Not a lot in anybody's terms, only a quarter of the 150 states listed here, but happily we can report continuing progress. In the longer term there is upwards mobility. As recently as the beginning of the century, back in 2001, there were then only fourteen nations in the First Division, now it is thirty. 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 (9), was then in the second division at (15), as was Germany (12) - then 16th. In the case of the UK the big difference is the stabilisation of Northern Ireland, but at that time USA (15) was ahead of all the larger countries, standing in 2001 at 11th. That of course was before the post 9/11 changes in civil society and big unresolved questions about human rights and press freedom, together with a growing gap between government and governed. The United Kingdom (9) is capable of doing better, but is adversely affected on the press-freedom criterion by the lack of diversification of British media ownership, (the Murdoch group alone own some 40% of UK media). 

MID-TABLE…and below
The Third Division lists thirty-nine countries comparing with the thirty eight 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 (51), 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 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 division 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. Nations at the top end of this group 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 74 (up 2) nations, nearly half of all those nations of the world with 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 disappointments in expectations, except the usual one, Singapore (81). This rich and almost totally corruption-free small state is literally an island of tranquillity, 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, 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, does a good 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 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 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 improved 6 places to (84); Kuwait is better by 4 places at (87), Malaysia up 4 places to (90); Saudi Arabia standing static at (119); Given 'the war on terror', it is obvious that some of these will be unlikely to extend fully democratic rights to their citizens in today's circumstances, nor indeed within any kind of near future, often for reasons to do with the survival of the ruling elites. Nevertheless if they would seperate 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 a 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 include in our individual World Audit Country Report pages) These include :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 that matters. For monthly analytical reports on 44 nations 'in transition,' we offer our own www.newnations.com

All of these, together with Transparency International, who have justly achieved fame for their penetrating surveys of corruption, 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 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 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 to each exactly that degree of 'respect', which they deserve. . 

Our Democracy league tables also include 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, as well as the regional connection between economic success and thriving democracy. 

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.

In our economic groupings alongside the democracy 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 and democracy. But what is 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 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, was without question in earlier centuries corrupt across the board in public life, quite on a scale with many of today's worst offenders. But things started to radically improve with the advent and exercise of the electoral franchise, and the emergence of a genuinely free press, both in the 19th century. 

The statistics are not without their curiosities. A steady 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? In fact, on reflection, one may observe that it has taken many centuries of gradual maturity for those nations that could do so, to fashion the numerous compromises to be made. Compromises that include allowing the hereditary principle to determine the (nominal) Head of State, a critical factor of which is that "everybody knows " that substantive power remains vested in the people and their elected representatives. 

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 outcome. 

With most of our division 4 countries, what would really surprise (and delight), would be the holding of ANY genuinely free and fair election, certified as such by respected independent international monitors, let alone a resulting change of regime. 

The 'accountability disparity' is wide indeed!   






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