Democracy Index

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Just how does your country (or regional state) compare?

Democracy is not a finite term like, for example, pregnancy. Whereas a women is either pregnant or she isn't, most countries that label themselves democratic are, to some degree that, but still at varying distances from what may be wistfully hoped for, a system where everything that is practically possible will be done to accommodate the citizens’ choices of those laws and personages who rule over them.   

The answers to the below questions may well serve to create an index of countries in order of their popular governance. However answers to each question would have to be weighted and that process itself would still be difficult to keep separate from subjective evaluations.

Integrity of Elections

  1. Is there freedom of the press such that:
    1. The majority of news sources are not government owned?
    2. Establishing a media outlet is relatively simple and not subject to arbitrary approval?
    3. Subject to certain exceptions#, no one has ever been prosecuted for an editorial?
  2. Is observation of the voting process and the counting of votes open to all local and international media?
  3. By law, are any citizens denied the right to contest an election due to: political viewpoint, race, gender, wealth, country of origin, religion, sexual orientation, or profession?
  4. Is the franchise universal, or
    1. limited to those without criminal records / currently incarcerated?
    2. or extended to those with university qualifications? (Ireland)
  5. By law, are all significant donations to political candidates placed on the public record.
  6. Is there a limit on the donation amount a citizen can make, or candidate can receive?
  7. Have there been reports in the international mainstream media of political party members or candidates being harassed, arrested, imprisoned, or subjected to physical attacks as a result of peaceful political activities?
  8. Is the electoral system such that the winner of the popular vote always wins the election? (not so in the UK, the United States, Australia and most Westminster systems.)
  9. Does malapportionment, a violation of the concept of one-person-one-vote, exist?
    1. Nothing is regularly done to ensure all electoral districts remain within 10% the same population. (UK)
    2. Immaterial of their population, some regions have a set-aside specific number of representatives compared to other regions in the same country. (US Senate, Australia on both state and national levels)
  10. Where proportional representation is practised, is there a minimal, formal threshold instituted by law, rather than a natural threshold, to prevent an otherwise winning minority candidate from taking his/her seat?   (In the 1995 Russian election, of the forty-three parties and coalitions contesting, only four cleared the formal, 5% threshold to qualify for the proportional seats, leaving 45% of the voters unrepresented.)
  11. What is the smallest percentage of voters, supporting a common political viewpoint, to be guaranteed legislative representation at election time:
    1.          50.1% 
    2.          50 – 25%                 
    3.          25--10%  
    4.           <10%   
  12. Is voter fraud taken seriously enough such that there is a history of prosecutions and sentences of incarceration for premeditated offenders?
  13. What is the electoral period before which a representative must again answer to the voters?
    1. Above 4 years
    2. 2-4 years
    3. 2 years or below                        


Constitutional Framework 

  1. How many offices of government can voters actually elect?
    1. Legislative representatives (the only right citizens of Norway, “the most democratic country in the world”, possess*)
    2. The executive
    3. The judiciary
    4. Various offices of state such as District Attorney, Police Commissioner, Auditor General, Ombudsman, etc
  2. Can the people compel government to hold a plebiscite/referendum and if passed, to:
    1. Inform the government of the wishes of the people, but no more? (New Zealand)
    2. Compel the government to pass legislation?                                          
    3. Compel the government to change the constitution?  
  3. Can the people petition for a recall election for a representative or member of the executive? (Canada, USA, Switzerland, Ukraine)     
  4. Is the country divided into a federation of semi-autonomous, disparate provinces, so as to allow the citizens, if they so choose, to vote with their feet for their preferred polity?     
  5. Can any legislation or executive action be invalidated by a body which is not accountable to the people?  
    1. A monarch or house of parliament, not answerable to the people (Canadian Senate), who can, and has been known to, deny the government its will.    
    2. The highest appellate court of the jurisdiction, not answerable to the people, who can, and has been known to, deny the government its will.              
      • In most Anglo-American national jurisdictions, the highest court of the land has no fear of the voters in whatever action it takes.
      • In Japan and many American states such as California, members of the highest courts are answerable to the people via recall elections.   




The Economist’s democracy index.

The Economist magazine, through its Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), publishes a list of countries each year in order of what it believes is their democratic quotient. Eyebrows were raised in 2017 when, on publishing its list, it declared that the United States is now a “flawed democracy”, inferior in status to twenty other countries such as even the EIU’s base country, the United Kingdom. One wonders how the US came in that low considering, amongst the UK’s other incongruities^, it not only does not grant its citizens the right to choose their prime minister (three of the last four prime ministers attained office without the necessity of an election) but also has surrendered its final court of appellate judicial review to a foreign entity, the European Court of Human Rights, based in Strasbourg, France.

The methodology utilised by the EIU is not that easy to describe and one suspects that it is partly an end game evaluation: if the people elected by a country's electoral system are approved by the EIU’s appointed judges, then it is likely to be considered more democratic than otherwise.  It is hard to see how general political participation, as compared to voting, and political culture would be serious indicators of democracy (apart from the question of how one could measure those anyway) but those are two of the five categories used in their evaluation.
The links below are a video of an original news item of the 2017 EIU’s report release, followed by a criticism of that report.


Fortune Magazine: The U.S. Was Just Downgraded from a “Full” to a “Flawed Democracy”

American Thinker: America, a Flawed Democracy?American Thinker magazine




# Exceptions such as libel, inciting criminal violence, identifying victims of crime where proscribed, or revealing state secrets.
* In 2017, The Economist newspaper’s Economist Intelligence Unit declared in its annual Democracy Index report that Norway was the most democratic country in the world. 

 ^ Britain and democracy:

  1. Members of parliament’s upper house, the House of Lords, are neither appointed by, nor can be recalled by, the people.
  2. Unlike most SMV democracies, the UK government is not compelled to redistrict/redistribute seats at necessary intervals, leaving wildly disparate population numbers for various seats which still all maintain just one MP.
  3. Taking advantage of Britain not being bound by a constitution, the Government in the early months of World War II decided to do away with its scheduled general election of 1940, and thus took it upon itself to extend its parliamentary and governing tenure for another five years.
    Even militarist, imperial Japan held an election during WWII, in April 1942, and as it happened, just days after the famous American Doolittle bombing raid on Tokyo.  
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