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Global backsliding in democracy after 2008

France, Italy, Greece and Slovenia dropped from the category of "full democracies" to "flawed democracies"

The results of the Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) Democracy Index 2010 show that there has been a worldwide decline in democracy since 2008. The Democracy Index highlights the impact of the global financial crisis on politics throughout most of the world, with the most significant changes happening within Europe.

When comparing the results of Democracy Index 2010 with the previous issue, published in 2008, it is clear that there has been a significant regression in previously attained democratisation. The democracy score was lower in 2010 than in 2008 in 91 countries out of the 167 that are covered, although in the majority of these the deterioration was modest. The score increased in 48 countries and it stayed the same in 28 over this period. In all regions the average democracy score for 2010 is lower than in 2008.

Backsliding in democracy is part of an underlying trend that has been evident for some time, but has strengthened since the 2008-09 global economic crisis. Between 2006 (the year of the first issue of the Index) and 2008 there was stagnation; over the past two years, between 2008 and 2010, there has been outright decline.

According to Laza Kekic, the Economist Intelligence Unit's Director for Country Forecasting Services, "The impact of the world's worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s on political developments has been less severe than many feared. Nevertheless, it has had a discernible negative impact."

The Democracy Index measures the vast majority of the globe's entire population (165 independent states and two territories). Countries are ranked on five categories: electoral process and pluralism; civil liberties; government functioning; political participation; and political culture. Following this, each country is divided into: β€˜full democracies’, β€˜flawed democracies’, β€˜hybrid regimes’, and β€˜authoritarian regimes’.

In 13 countries there was a change in regime type between 2008 and 2010; in 11 of these there was regression. In addition to the four European countries that regressed from full to flawed democracies, three countries moved from flawed to hybrid regimes and four from hybrid to authoritarian regimes. Only in two cases, both in Sub-Saharan Africa, was there an advance.

Results for 2010

β€’ Sweden drops from being ranked number one in 2008 to 4th position 2010; Norway is now the top-ranked country.

β€’ A noticeable decline in media freedoms in recent years has accelerated since 2008. In 36 countries there was a decline in scores for media freedom between 2008 and 2010.

β€’ Negative political trends in France in recent years have resulted in the country being downgraded from a full democracy to the flawed democracy category. Public confidence in political institutions is extremely low, among the lowest in the developed world.

β€’ The most pronounced decline between 2008 and 2010 in democracy was in eastern Europe. In 19 countries of eastern Europe the democracy score declined between 2008 and 2010.

β€’ The US and the UK are near the bottom of the full democracy category. In the US there has been an erosion of civil liberties related to the fight against terrorism. Problems in the functioning of government have also become more prominent. In the UK the main problem is a very low level of political participation.

β€’ Although almost half of the world's countries can be considered democracies, the number of "full democracies" is low (only 26); 53 are rated as "flawed democracies". Of the remaining 88 states, 55 are authoritarian and 33 are considered to be "hybrid regimes".

β€’ Half of the world’s population lives in a democracy of some sort, although only 12% reside in full democracies. More than one third of the world’s population lives under authoritarian rule.

The impact of the economic crisis

β€’ Although extremist political forces in Europe have not profited as much as might have been feared, populism and anti-immigrant sentiment has been on the rise.

β€’ The crisis has undermined further the credibility of efforts by developed nations to promote their values abroad.

β€’ Confidence in political institutions has declined perceptibly in recent years in many countries.

β€’ The crisis may have increased the attractiveness of the Chinese model of authoritarian capitalism for some emerging markets.

β€’ Mounting social unrest could pose a threat to democracy in some countries.

The Economist Intelligence Unit's Democracy Index 2010
is available free of charge at: www.eiu.com

Notes for editors:

The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index is based on five categories: electoral process and pluralism; civil liberties; the functioning of government; political participation; and political culture. The index provides a snapshot of the current state of democracy worldwide for 165 independent states and two territories (almost the entire population of the world). The overall index of democracy, on a 0 to 10 scale, is based on the ratings for 60 indicators grouped in the five categories. The overall index is the simple average of the five category indexes. A three-point scoring system for the 60 indicators is used. The category indexes are based on the sum of the indicator scores in the category, converted to a 0 to 10 scale. Countries are placed within one of four types of regimes: full democracies (scores of 8-10); flawed democracies--score of 6 to 7.9; hybrid regimes--scores of 4 to 5.9; authoritarian regimes--scores below 4.

About the Economist Intelligence Unit

The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) is the world's leading resource for economic and business research, forecasting and analysis. It provides accurate and impartial intelligence for companies, government agencies, financial institutions and academic organisations around the globe, inspiring business leaders to act with confidence since 1946. EIU products include its flagship Country Reports service, providing political and economic analysis for 195 countries, and a portfolio of subscription-based data and forecasting services. The company also undertakes bespoke research and analysis projects on individual markets and business sectors. More information is available at www.eiu.com

The EIU is headquartered in London, UK, with offices in more than 40 cities and a network of some 650 country experts and analysts worldwide. It operates independently as the business-to-business arm of The Economist Group, the leading source of analysis on international business and world affairs.

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