July | August 2017




by Andy Karellas
Democracy around the world is on the decline, including in the United States, according to The Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2016 Democracy Index. For the first time, the index downgraded the U.S. from a “full democracy” to a “flawed democracy,” citing concerns about trust in government, elected officials and the dynamics of political parties. The report also showed 72 other countries experienced a decline in democracy in 2016.
Measuring democracy in today’s political environment is not simple. The Economist Intelligence Unit’s, or EIU’s, Democracy Index measures democracy based on the electoral process, civil liberties, functioning of government, political participation and political culture of a government. The index measures 172 countries and classifies them in four different categories, including full democracies, flawed democracies, hybrid regimes and authoritarian regimes. The index is based on a scale of 1 to 10, ranging from authoritarian regimes (0-4) to full democracies (8-10).
Norway ranked No. 1 on the Index, scoring a 9.93 out of 10 and classified as a full democracy. Iceland (9.50), Sweden (9.39), New Zealand (9.26), and Denmark (9.20) rounded out the top five.
The United States ranked No. 21 with a score of 7.98 and classified as a flawed democracy due to concerns about the trust in government and political participation. Other flawed democracies include Japan (7.99), South Korea (7.92), Israel (7.85), and Panama (7.13).
The bottom five of the index includes Equatorial Guinea (1.70), Central African Republic (1.61), Chad (1.50), Syria (1.43), and North Korea (1.08). These nations are classified as authoritarian regimes and have limited or no electoral process in place.
The following chart takes a closer look at democracies and voting practices around the world, including Norway, India, South Africa, Australia and Chile.

Democracies Around the World

 

Norway

Parliamentary Constitutional Monarchy
Population 5.27 million
Capital Oslo
Origin of Democracy
Norway transitioned from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy on May 17, 1814. May 17 is also Constitution Day, a national holiday. In Norway, 1814 is known as “The Year of Miracles” due to massive political changes.
Type of Elections
Norway has national and local elections, both taking place every second year. The national level has 169 members of parliament, and elected for four-year terms. Local elections are for both the 19
counties and municipalities.
Special Notes of Interest
Only Norwegian citizens can vote in Parliamentary elections, but foreign citizens who have lived in Norway for three consecutive years can vote in local elections.

 

Australia

Parliamentary Democracy
Population 23 million
Capital Canberra
Origin of Democracy
Australia became a democratic nation on Jan. 1, 1901 with the adoption of their new constitution and federal government.
Type of Elections
Australia has elections at the national, state and local levels and follows an electoral
system. National elections are held at least every three years for elected officials, including Senate members who serve six-year terms, and House members who serve three-year terms. Elections in Australia’s states and territories are held every four years.
Special Notes of Interest
Australian citizens over 18 are mandated to register to vote. Individuals have an eight-week grace period after turning 18 to vote or could face a penalty of $20.

 

India

Federal Parliamentary Republic
Population 1.27 billion
Capital New Delhi
Origin of Democracy
India became a full independent and democratic nation on Aug. 15, 1947.
Type of Elections
India has elections at federal, state and local levels. India has an electoral process. The president is elected for a five-year term. The House of the People elects 543 members for five-year terms. The Council of States elects 238 of the 250 members for a six-year term. The remaining 12 members are chosen/nominated as part of a proportional representation.
Special Notes of Interest
The 2014 general election involved an electorate of over 860 million people—more than the U.S. and EU combined.

 

South Africa

Parliamentary Republic
Population 54.3 million
Capital Pretoria (administrative),
Cape Town (legislative), and Bloemfontein (judicial)
Origin of Democracy
South Africa became a democratic nation on April 27, 1994, when they held the first democratic elections. The adoption of the interim constitution marked the official end of the apartheid.
Type of Elections
South Africa has elections at the national level, provincial legislatures and municipal levels. South Africa follows an elect-oral system, with elections every five years. The president is indirectly elected by the national assembly for a five-year term.
Special Notes of Interest
Nelson Mandela was South Africa’s first black head of state and first elected the fully representative democratic election. He led the dismantling of racial suffrage and helped lead the constitutional revolution. Mandela spent 27 years in prison as part of his fight for equal justice.

 

Chile

Presidential Republic
Population 17.6 million
Capital Santiago
Origin of Democracy
Chile’s transition to democracy is symbolized by the end of Augusto Pinochet’s military regime in 1990. Chile adopted several laws to their constitution reducing the role of the military and strengthening the role of the people.
Type of Elections
Chile has elections nationwide for the presidential office and parliament seats. It also has regional and municipal elections. Chile has an electoral process that is independent from the government. The president is elected by popular vote for a four-year term. The 19 Senatorial positions are elected by majority vote for eight-year terms. The 60 districts are elected by majority vote for four-year terms.
Special Notes of Interest
The visit of St. John Paul II to Chile in April 1987 is recognized as a key moment in Chile’s transition to democracy. The pope criticized Pinochet’s military regime and urged Chile’s 31 Catholic bishops to campaign for free elections and to transfer power back to the citizens. Currently, 67 percent of Chileans are considered Roman Catholic.