Monitoring the pulse of world democracy

Weekender

During the period of 2006-2017 PNG’s Democracy Index has dropped from 6.54 to 6.03.

By PANDITHA BANDARA
The Economist Intelligence Unit (The EU) is the research and analysis division of The Economist Group which publishes the world renowned “The Economist” journal.
The EU also publishes Economic Intelligence Country Reports that includes Papua New Guinea as well. This report is extensively used by economists, policy advisors and policymakers worldwide.
Since 2006, The EU has been publishing Democracy Index. Its 10th edition was recently released reflecting how global democracy fared in 2017. It covers different aspects of democracy practices in different countries and regions and also indicates the recent trends.
This article is based on the Democracy Index report for 2017 and its purpose is to provide insights to the readers as the contents of this report are very important for many sectors of the country, in particular, practitioners of democracy, advocates of democracy, civil society, university students, researchers and the public as a whole.
Democracy Index provides a snapshot of the state of democracy would wide for 165 countries, independent states and two territories. Therefore, it covers almost the entire population of the world and the vast majority of the world’s states.
Democracy Index is based on the ratings for 60 indicators grouped into five categories; electoral process pluralism; civil liberties; the functioning of government; political participation; and political culture. Each of these categories has a rating on 0 to 10 and overall index is the simple average of the five indexes. The index values are used to place countries within one of the four types of regime:

  1. Full democracies: scores greater than 8
  2.  Flawed democracies: scores greater than 6, and less than or equal to 8
  3. Hybrid regimes: scores greater than 4, and less than or equal to 6
  4. Authoritarian regimes: scores less than or equal to 4

The following are the essential characteristics of these regimes.
Full democracies: Countries in which not only basic political freedoms and civil liberties are respected, but which also tend to be underpinned by a political culture conducive to the flourishing of democracy. The functioning of government is satisfactory. Media are independent and diverse. There is an effective system of checks and balances. The judiciary is independent and judicial decisions are enforced. There are only limited problems in the functioning of democracies.
Nineteen countries including Norway, Iceland, Sweden, Australia, UK and Switzerland are catogoried as full democracies based on the index value.
Flawed democracies: These countries also have free and fair elections and, even if there are problems (such as infringements on media freedom), basic civil liberties are respected. However, there are significant weaknesses in other aspects of democracy, including in governance, and underdeveloped political culture and low levels of political participation.
Fifty-seven countries fall into this category. They include South Korea, USA, Japan, France, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Singapore and India. Papua New Guinea is placed 56th in this category.
Hybrid regimes: In such regimes elections have substantial irregularities that often prevent them from being both free and fair. Government pressure on opposition parties and candidates may be common. Serious weaknesses are more prevalent than in flowed democracies – in political culture, functioning of government and political participation. Corruption tends to be widespread and rule of law is week. Civil society is weak. Typically, there is harassment of and pressure on journalists and the judiciary is not independent.
There are 39 hybrid regimes. Fiji, Bangladesh, Thailand and Pakistan are among them.
Authoritarian regimes: In these states, state political pluralism is absent or heavily circumscribed. Many countries in this category are outright dictatorships. Some formal institutions of democracy may exist, but these have little substance. Elections, if they do occur, are not free and fair.
There is disregard for abuse and infringements of civil liberties. Media are typically state-owned or controlled by groups connected to the ruling regimes. There is repression of criticism of government and pervasive censorship. There is no independent judiciary.
There are 52 countries which fall into this category. Egypt, Cuba, Russia, China and North Korea are among them.
Global trend
Analysis of the report shows that 76 of the 167 countries covered or 45.5 per cent of all countries can be considered to be democracies.
The number of “full democracies” has remained at 19 in 2017, same in 2016, when the total declined from 20 in 2015 as the US fell into the “flawed democracy” category.
The notable thing here is the US’s score gradually dropped from 8.22 to 7.98 during the period of 2006-17. Of the remaining 91 countries listed in the report, 52 are “authoritarian” and 29 are classified as “hybrid regimes”.
According to the report, in 2017 the average score of the index fell from 5.52 to 5.48. Some 89 countries experienced a decline in their total score compared with 2016, more than three times as many as countries that recorded an improvement (27), the worst performance since 2010-11 in the aftermath of the global economic and financial crisis.
The other 51 countries stagnated, as their scores remained unchanged compared with 2016. The report indicates the following reasons for this democracy recession:
Declining popular participation in election politics;
Weaknesses in the functioning of government;
Declining trust in institutions;
Dwindling appeal of mainstream representative parties;
Growing influence of unelected, unaccountable institutions and expert bodies;
Widening gap between political elites and electorates;
Decline in media freedoms; and
Erosion of civil liberties, including curbs on free speech.
Freedom of expression is an integral part of democracy. According to the report the state of many countries plays a prominent role in curtailing freedom of media and of expression.
Governments, in democracies as well as authoritarian countries are deploying defamation laws, prevention of terrorism laws, blasphemy and “hate speech” laws to curb freedom of expression and stymie media freedom.
Non-state actors, including militants, criminal gangs and vested interests also pose a growing threat to free speech, using intimidations, threats, violence and murder.

Status of PNG
PNG’s global rank is 75 with overall score of 6.03. Its regional rank (Asia and Australasia) is 15. Scores of sub-indexes are as follows.
Sub-category Score

  1. Electoral process and pluralism 6.92
  2. Functioning of government 6.07
  3. Political participation 3.89
  4. Political culture 5.63
  5. Civil liberties 7.65

In this region the top five countries in terms of overall score are; New Zealand (1), Australia (2), South Korea (3) Japan (4) and Taiwan (5).
During the period of 2006-2017 PNG’s Democracy Index has dropped from 6.54 to 6.03.

Year Index
2006 6.54
2008 6.54
2010 6.54
2011 6.32
2012 6.32
2013 6.36
2014 6.03
2015 6.03
2016 6.03
2017 6.03

These figures show that the index dropped significantly in 2011 and it further dropped by 0.33 points in 2014. Since then it is stagnated at 6.03.
The report states that the Asia’s largest emerging democracies, India and Indonesia also suffered a significant decline in their scores.

  • The author is a senior lecturer at the School of Business and Public Policy at the University of Papua New Guinea.

Leave a Reply