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SA drops 2 places on democracy index

Jan 26 2017 10:57
Lameez Omarjee

Johannesburg – South Africa dropped two places in its ranking on The Economist’s latest democracy index.

The country, classified as a “flawed democracy” now ranks 39.

A flawed democracy is a country with free and fair elections. Even if there are problems, basic civil liberties are respected. Weaknesses include problems in governance, underdeveloped political culture and low levels of political participation, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).

READ: New index of economic democracy: Can it predict sweeping change in countries?

This is the ninth edition of the Democracy Index. The latest report titled Revenge of the “deplorables” is a reflection of the popular revolt against political elites. This was witnessed in 2016 with the UKs vote to leave the European Union (EU) and the election of Donald Trump as US president. 

The index looks at 165 states. The overall score is based on scores for five categories, these being electoral process and pluralism; civil liberties; the functioning of government; political participation; and political culture.

South Africa’s overall score in 2015 was 7.56. This dropped to 7.41 in 2016.

It’s score for electoral process and pluralism dropped from 8.33 to 7.92. Its score for functioning of government dropped from 8.21 to 7.86. The score for political participation stayed at the same level at 8.33. South Africa scored 5 for political culture in both years, and the score for civil liberties also remained constant at 7.94.

South Africa ranked fourth among other sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries, Mauritius ranked first and is the only SSA country classified as a full democracy.

ALSO READ: Gordhan defends SA's democracy at #WEF2017 in Davos

A full democracy is one where political freedoms and civil liberties are respected and reinforced through political culture, according to the EIU. The functioning of government is satisfactory. Media are independent and diverse. The judiciary is independent and judicial decisions are enforced. Problems related to the functioning of these democracies are limited, stated the report.

The SSA’s average score since 2011 has remained relatively flat. Political participation and political culture has improved over the past five years. But there has been a decline in scores for civil liberties and the functioning of government. The regional score for electoral processes has remained persistently low for SSA.

Other findings

The country which scored the highest on the index was Norway, at 9.93 points, followed by Iceland and Sweden. The US was demoted from a full democracy to a flawed democracy, ranking 21, tied with Italy.

African countries which fell in the “authoritarian” category include Angola, Egypt, Zimbabwe, Swaziland and the Central African Republic.

Around 2.6 billion people, more than one-third of the world’s population, live under authoritarian rule, with a large share being in China, stated the report.

North Korea was ranked last with a score of 1.08. 

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