The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) has recently released its annual index on the state of democracy around the world. The findings are not uplifting, as the general trend shows declining values in nearly all regions of the world. In 2011, only 11% of the world population live in what is defined as “full democracies”. The trend has been negative since 2008. North America, Western and Eastern Europe are all seeing a decline – only North Africa/Middle East and Asia/Australasia have seen regional improvements.

Follow below:
The study measures five criteria to arrive at a compound index:

  • Electoral process and pluralism
  • The functioning of government
  • Political participation
  • Political culture
  • Civil liberties

The methodology of the study is explained in the end section of the report (from page 33).

Link to full study (you must register to be able to download; it’s free).

Only 25 nations qualify as full democracies (26 in 2010) with an index value between 10.0 and 8.0, with another 53 defined as flawed democracies (7.9 – 6.0).

Wikipedia has a good table with the rankings and adding the nominal form of government for all of them. A curious (?) observation is that seven of the top ten are constitutional monarchies and (not so curious) nine of the top ten are parliamentary democracies.

There is not much change in the top ten, where we find the 5 Nordic nations as well as New Zealand, Australia, Switzerland, Canada and the Netherlands.

Norway remains on top with an index of 9.80 (unchanged). The US fell from 17 to 19 with an index of 8.11 (down from 8.18).

From the report:

A turbulent year
2011 was an exceptionally turbulent year politically, characterised by sovereign debt crises and weak political leadership in the developed world, dramatic change and conflict in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and rising social unrest throughout much of the world. 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 momentous events in the Arab world have been extraordinary in several respects. The popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt a year ago were sudden and unexpected, occurring in seemingly infertile territory. These revolts were home-grown affairs that overturned a host of stereotypes about the MENA region and caught the outside world unaware.

Other key developments in 2011 include:

  • Popular confidence in political institutions continues to decline in many countries.
  • Mounting social unrest could pose a threat to democracy in some countries.
  • 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 movement. Problems in the functioning of government are 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.
  • Eastern Europe experienced another decline in democracy in 2011. In 12 countries of the region the democracy score declined in 2011.
  • Rampant crime in some countries–in particular, violence and drug-trafficking–continues to have a negative impact on democracy in Latin America.

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.

To be noted is the fact that European nations such as France, Italy and Greece fall in the category of flawed democracies. Israel is also in this category.

Tribbers may want to check out the whole report.