By TZ Business News Staff.
The three founder member nations of the East African Community (EAC) Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, are just one step away from being authoritarian regimes according to the recently published Global Democracy index.
The Index, a research output by the Economist Intelligence Unit of The British Economist Magazine bases its judgement on five criteria: Whether elections are free and fair (“electoral process and pluralism”), governments have checks and balances (“functioning of government”), and whether citizens are included in politics (“political participation”), support their government (“political culture”), and enjoy freedom of expression (“civil liberties”).
The best democracy score is 10 on a scale of 0-10. Uganda is ranked worst in East Africa with a democracy score of 5.09, followed by Kenya which received a score of 5.11. Tanzania received the score of a mere 5.47. The smaller the score, the closer to an authoritarian regime a country is.
The EAC ‘sister’ nations are categorized as ‘hybrid regimes’, one step above ‘authoritarian regimes’.
The most democratic nation on earth is Norway, holding a democracy score of 9.87, while the most authoritarian regime is identified as North Korea with a score of 1.08, Economist Intelligence Unit says in the index.
The United States of America is not a full democraticy, according to he Economist Intelligence Unit. The index categorizes best performers as Full Democracies, followed by Flowed Democracies, followed by Hybrid Democracies with worst performers categorized as Authoritarian States.
The Unit established in 2017 that the United States of America was a “flawed democracy” for the second year running. The US was downgraded from a “full democracy” to a “flawed democracy” in the same study in 2016, citing the “low esteem in which US voters hold their government, elected representatives, and political parties.”
Less than 5% of the world’s population lives in a “full democracy,” according to the report ranking countries by how functional their political systems are. The 2017 Democracy Index, ranked 167 countries on the 0 to 10 scale. Only countries with scores above 8 are categorised as “full” democracies.
Nordic countries occupy the top three spots in the 2017 democracy index, with Iceland and Sweden taking second and third place below Norway which has once again topped the global Democracy Index ranking. New Zealand comes in fourth place and Denmark in fifth. At ninth place with a total score above 9 Finland is not far behind in the index.
At the other end of the rankings North Korea, with a total score of 1.08, remains firmly ensconced in the last place. Syria, Chad, the Central African Republic (CAR) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) also bring up the rear, occupying the four slots above North Korea. The scores for Syria and Chad did not change in 2017 compared with 2016, but the scores for CAR and the DRC both declined in 2017.
The year’s winners and losers
The star performer in this year’s Democracy Index, in terms of movement up the rankings, is The Gambia, which was upgraded from an “authoritarian regime” to a “hybrid regime”. It rose rapidly up the rankings from a lowly 143rd to 113th place, after its score improved from 2.91 to 4.06, the biggest improvement of the year.
The Gambia witnessed its first ever democratic transfer of power, putting an end to 22 years of rule by Yahya Jammeh, a dictator who suppressed political freedoms, centralised powers within his ethnic group and relied heavily on the military to instil fear in the population.
Indonesia was the worst-performing country in 2017, falling by 20 places in the global rankings from 48th to 68th position, after its score declined from 6.97 to 6.39. Guyana rose ten places in the rankings, from 73rd to 63rd position. India fell ten places in the rankings, from 32nd to 42nd to place, after its score deteriorated by 0.58 points.
Democratic backsliding continues in eastern Europe
Eastern Europe has traditionally recorded low scores in the Democracy Index. A weak political
culture, a chaotic transition, difculties in creating institutions aimed at safeguarding the rule of law
and persistent issues with corruption create a difcult habitat for democracy. In some countries the
population favours conservative policies and strong leaders.
In 2017 the majority of the countries in the region (17 out of 28) experienced a regression in their scores. Five countries stagnated and six countries improved, albeit often from a low base. The regional average score fell to its lowest ever level, at 5.40 (compared with 5.43 in 2016 and 5.76 in 2006, when the index was first constructed).
Gilded cage for free speech
The wonders of the internet and social media mean that in many ways we are living “in a golden age for free speech”. However, despite the enormous expansion of the possibilities of free speech, in practice freedom of expression is increasingly restricted. According to our media freedom ranking, in 2017 less than one-half of the global population had access to a free or partially free media and enjoyed the right to speak freely.
Moreover, in many of those countries media freedom and freedom of expression were being eroded. Censorship is no longer the prerogative of authoritarian regimes; it is being deployed increasingly in the world’s democracies as well.
“Fully free” or “partly free” speech is enjoyed only by the lucky 45%
According to our Media Freedom Index, only 30 countries out of the 167 covered by the Democracy Index—representing 11% of the world’s population—are classifed as “fully free”. Another 40 countries, representing 34.2% of the world’s population, are classifed as “partly free”. Some 97 countries in our Media Freedom Index are rated as “unfree” or “largely unfree”. This means that more than one-half
Freedom of expression faces a threefold threat
The state in many countries plays a prominent role in curtailing freedom of the media and of
expression. Governments, in democratic as well as authoritarian countries, are deploying defamation laws, prevention of terrorism laws, blasphemy and “hate speech” laws to curb freedom of expression and stymie media freedom. Non-state actors, including militant Islamists, criminal gangs and vested interests also pose a growing threat to free speech, using intimidation, threats, violence and murder.
Freedom of expression is also under threat from those who claim the right not to be oﬀended. This is leading to growing calls for “safe spaces”, “trigger warnings”, “hate speech” laws, no-plat forming, tabloid newspaper bans and the policing of the internet to cleanse it of “oﬀensive” content.