Which is the best democracy in the world

The global democracy ranking

The authoritarian systems in Russia and China are solidifying. And established democracies are also increasingly being scrutinized. Things are looking up in parts of Africa.

Growing uncertainty in many established democracies in view of economic problems and bloody conflicts on Europe's doorstep; a Russian leadership that is increasingly self-confidently propagating its authoritarian counter-model to western liberal democracy; and a Middle East that is again tilting towards conflict and dictatorship. That is the political environment of the most recent “Democracy Ranking”, which is compiled annually by scientists working with Christa Pölzlbauer, David Campbell and Sándor Hasenöhrl.

The most important findings of the study, which were already available to the “press” before the official publication: After a brief blossoming, the buds of the Arab Spring have largely withered - with the notable exception of Tunisia. In countries like Turkey and Russia, an authoritarian system has firmly established itself. And in EU countries or the USA, a positive development of democracy is by no means a matter of course. On the other hand, there is a trend towards more democracy in parts of Africa - albeit from a low level.

Several factors are included in the evaluation of the “Democracy Ranking”: The data from the organization Freedom House on civil rights, freedom of the press, political rights and perception of corruption are combined with economic development, knowledge, health, gender equality and environmental protection. In order to determine whether the situation in the respective countries has improved or worsened, the data for the double years 2011/2012 were compared with 2014/2015. States that Freedom House classified as “free” and “partially free” as well as selected “unfree states” were evaluated.

European states. As every year, the Scandinavian countries and Switzerland are at the top of the global ranking of the best functioning democracies. Norway defends first place again. Switzerland has moved up one place to second. The Baltic states of Estonia and Latvia can also look forward to growth.

The negative trend continues in Hungary. The country continued to deteriorate from 37th to 42nd place - due to lower values ​​for political rights, civil liberties and freedom of the press. Parts of south-eastern Europe would "cloud over again", says Campbell, who works at the University of Klagenfurt and the University of Applied Arts Vienna and is in charge of the project's scientific management. Problem cases are Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, which have worsened in terms of the political criteria.

• Austria.
A few years ago, Austria made it to ninth place in the “Democracy Ranking”. It is now only enough for 13th place. “The development in other countries is more dynamic. Austria has been overtaken, ”explains Campbell. In the area of ​​political rights Austria posted a slight minus. According to Campbell, this is also due to the fact that Austria and all other established democracies are now being examined more and more critically by Freedom House.

• UNITED STATES. The latest domestic political turbulence is not yet reflected in the study, which works with data from earlier times. Nevertheless, a stagnation in democratic development can be seen. There have been setbacks in terms of political rights and civil liberties.

Russia and China. The quality of democracy has continued to decline in both countries. At the same time, however, the economic upturn in China has continued. Hong Kong, which is part of China, was again specially rated this time and, with 29th place, takes a significantly better place than China as a whole (107th place). Nevertheless, Hong Kong has deteriorated in the political arena - a sign that the political pressure of the Chinese central government on the special administrative region is increasing.

Arabic states. "Above all, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, but also Lebanon, have gone backwards," says Campbell. Various armed groups are fighting for power in Libya. In Egypt, the regime continues to tighten the screws. However, Tunisia remains a positive exception. It has continued to improve significantly and is one of the top climbers.

Positive trend in West Africa. The greatest advances have been made by West African states. "There is growth there in the political, economic and social areas," reports Campbell. Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) was able to improve the most - even if the country is still only in 108th place overall. Senegal, Togo and Burkina Faso also made progress.


("Die Presse", print edition, February 17, 2017)