Democracy Index

Just how does your country 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. 2 years or below                    
    2. 2-4 years                                 
    3. Above 4 years     

 

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 that 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 land, 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 despite 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.   

 

 

* In 2016, The Economist newspaper’s Economist Intelligence Unit declared in its annual Democracy Index report that Norway was the most democratic country in the world.        

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