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The state of democracy deteriorated in 48 countries during 2011

According to the EIU's latest Democracy Index

The results of the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index 2011 show that democracy has been under stress in many parts of the world. The state of democracy deteriorated in 48 countries during 2011, out of the 167 that are covered by the index. In only 41 countries did the state of democracy improve, with it remaining unchanged in a further 78. In most regions the level of democracy, as measured by the average democracy score in the index, is lower in 2011 than in 2010. This deterioration was seen not just in emerging markets, but in the developed countries of North America and Western Europe. There was also a decline in the level of democracy in Eastern Europe and small deteriorations in both Asia and Latin America. These were offset by increases in the level of democracy in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and Sub-Saharan Africa.

According to Laza Kekic, the Economist Intelligence Unit's Director for Country Forecasting Services and main editor of the report, "2011 was an exceptionally turbulent year, characterised by sovereign debt crises and weak political leadership in the developed world, dramatic political change and conflict in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), and rising social unrest. It featured important changes in democracy, both in the direction of unexpected democratisation and a continuation of decline in democracy in some parts of the world."

The unprecedented rise of movements for democratic change across the Arab world a year ago led many to expect a new wave of democratisation. But it soon became apparent that the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt would not be repeated so easily elsewhere and that democracy remained a highly uncertain prospect. Many MENA autocracies resorted to a mix of repression and cosmetic changes, although the improvements in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya were sufficient to lift the region overall.

More generally, global backsliding in democracy has been evident for some years and strengthened in the wake of the 2008-09 global economic crisis. Between 2006 and 2008 democratisation stalled; between 2008 and 2010 there was a deterioration across the world. In 2011, however, the decline was concentrated in Europe.

Results for 2011

Just over one-half of the world’s population lives in a democracy of some sort, although only 11% reside in “full democracies”. More than one-third of the world’s population still lives under authoritarian rule.

Although almost one-half of the world's countries can be considered democracies, the number of "full democracies" is low (only 25); 53 are rated as "flawed democracies". Of the remaining 89 states, 52 are authoritarian and 37 are considered to be "hybrid regimes".

Popular confidence in political institutions continues to decline in many countries.
Mounting social unrest could pose a threat to democracy in some countries.
Eastern Europe experienced another decline in democracy in 2011, with 12 countries experiencing a deterioration.

US democracy has been adversely affected by a deepening of the polarisation of the political scene, and political brinkmanship and paralysis.

The US and the UK remain at the bottom end of the full democracy category. There has been a rise in protest movements. Problems in the functioning of government have become more prominent.

Although extremist political forces in Europe have not yet profited from economic dislocation as might have been feared, populism and anti-immigrant sentiment are on the rise.

Rampant crime in some countries—in particular, violence and drug-trafficking—continues to have a negative impact on democracy in Latin America.

Erosion of democracy in Europe

In Western Europe, there has been a significant erosion in democracy in recent years. Seven countries experienced a deterioration in 2011; none had an improvement. The main reason has been the erosion of sovereignty and democratic accountability associated with the effects of and responses to the euro zone crisis (five of the countries that experienced a decline in their scores are members of the euro zone—Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Ireland). Most dramatically, in two countries (Greece and Italy) democratically elected leaders have been replaced by technocrats.

The near-term political outlook for Europe is disturbing. The European project is under serious threat and disputes within the EU are sharp. Harsh austerity, a new recession in 2012, high unemployment and little sign of renewed growth will test the resilience of Europe's political institutions.

The overall Democracy Index is based on scores for five different categories: electoral process and pluralism; civil liberties; the functioning of government; political participation; and political culture. The Index measures the state of democracy in 165 independent states and two territories, which account for almost the entire population of the world. Countries are placed within one of four types of regimes: “full democracies”, “flawed democracies”, “hybrid regimes” and “authoritarian regimes”.

Eight countries had a change in regime type in 2011. In four there was a deterioration and four had an upgrade. Portugal deteriorated from a "full democracy" to a "flawed democracy", a development that had already affected Greece, Italy and France in 2010. Ukraine and Guatemala regressed from flawed democracies to hybrid regimes, and in Russia a long process of regression culminated in a move from a hybrid to an authoritarian regime in the light of the cynical decision by Vladimir Putin to return to the presidency and because of deeply flawed parliamentary elections.

Tunisia experienced the biggest increase of any country in its democracy score in 2011. It moved from an authoritarian to a hybrid regime. Two Sub-Saharan African countries also moved from authoritarian to hybrid regimes (Mauritania and Niger), and Zambia improved from a hybrid to a flawed democracy.

The Economist Intelligence Unit's Democracy Index 2011 is available free of charge at: http://www.eiu.com//public/topical_report.aspx?campaignid=De...

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 to 10); “flawed democracies”—scores 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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