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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Australian democracy in good shape says Economist IU

Ahh, perspective, perspective.

You won't hear much about this from those lamenting that a hung parliament doesn't work, or in media that caters to the 'democracy is dead' crowd.

The Democracy Index 2012 (Download here) published by The Economist Intelligence Unit has Australia 6 (New Zealand 5) in ranking democratic practices in 167 countries. Both at the top end of the 25 that make it into the Full Democracy category.

We can all point to plenty of "could do much better" examples but Australia's overall score (9.22/10) based on 60 indicators, hasn't changed for three years. The methodology and the sixty indicators are at page 29. Strangely none drill down too far on transparency and accountability.

Our scores in the five categories were:
  • electoral process and pluralism (10/10);
  • functioning of government (8.93);
  • political participation (7.78); 
  • political culture (9.38); and 
  • civil liberties (10-and that's without much in the way of constitutional protections... hmm).
Global democracy in 2012
 "..was at a standstill in the sense that there was neither significant progress nor regression in democracy in that year. Average regional scores in 2012 were very similar to scores in 2011."
At the top of the tree, Norway, Sweden (Mr Assange presumably not reassured), Iceland and Denmark.

Canada is 8, UK 16, US 21. In the Flawed Democracy category, Indonesia 53, PNG 67, and most countries in the Asian region.The report notes 
"..the past couple of decades have seen the spread of democracy in the region overall. Over the past decade, some 20 Asian countries have held elections, and many have undergone peaceful transitions in government... Yet even in the democratic countries, there are often significant problems in the functioning of political systems.Democratic political cultures in Asia are often underdeveloped and shallow, even in the countries that have democratised. In only nine countries in the region do we rate elections as being both free and fair. Even in parts of the region that are not authoritarian there is often pressure on the independent media. In many countries, Asian Barometer polls show that more citizens believe that the nations’ recent democratic transitions had brought no improvement to their lives than believe that the changes have been positive."
Thirty six countries are in the Hybrid regimes category; 50 are listed as Authoritarian including the single Pacific island nation rated, Fiji.

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