Democracy on the retreat

A woman poses for a picture after voting in elections in Malaysia

Democracy was on the retreat last year, according to data published in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index, which found that more than half of the 167 countries included in the index saw their scores decline.

The index compiles metrics from 60 indicators measuring plurality and democratic institutions. It gives each jurisdiction a score on a scale from 0 to 10, with four major categories; authoritarian regime (score of 0 to 4), hybrid regime (4 to 6), flawed democracy (6 to 8) and full democracy (8 to 10).

Countries in the authoritarian regime category were found in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. The only countries to qualify for the category outside of these three regions were Cuba and Venezuela.

In the face of a general decline in democratic scores, the Economist magazine has concluded, “democracy continues its disturbing retreat” in 2017.

Just nineteen jurisdictions qualified as full democracies, representing 11.4 percent of countries worldwide and accounting for about 4.5 percent of world population. Fifty-seven countries, accounting for 44.8 percent of the world’s population, qualified as flawed democracies – a category with figures inflated by the inclusion of populous India.

Meanwhile, hybrid regimes and authoritarian regimes accounted for 23.4 percent and 31.1 percent of jurisdictions, representing 16.7 percent and 34 percent of world population respectively.

China, which falls squarely in the authoritarian regime category, saw its score hold stable as it has for the last decade, in the range of 3.00 to 3.14.

Macau is not included on the list, but Hong Kong is.

Hong Kong’s 2017 score dipped slightly to 6.31, continuing a trend of marginal decline that began in 2012. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, this makes the territory a flawed democracy, building on the lower scores recorded in the years 2008 through 2011, which averaged 5.89.

Analyzed by the component categories, Hong Kong posted mixed results.

The city performed well in terms of functioning of the government (6.07) political culture (7.50) and civil liberties (8.53), but less so in terms of political participation (5.56) and electoral process and pluralism (3.92).

Its average of 6.31 puts it in 71st place tied with Namibia and Paraguay.

The list is topped by Norway (9.87), Iceland (9.58) and Sweden (9.39), while North Korea (1.08), Syria (1.43) and Chad (1.50) occupy the bottom of the table. Portugal is ranked in joint 26th, together with Chile, with a score of 7.84. DB

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