From Huffington Post ~
"While some of the most oppressive parts of the world have made significant gains in democracy in the past year, the overall pace of democratic change remained stagnant in 2012 That is the conclusion of The Economist Intelligence Unit's recently published annual report on the state of global democracy for 2012.
" ... The Democracy Index analyzes 165 independent countries and two territories to show the status of regional and worldwide democracy. The index uses five criteria ~
- electoral processes and pluralism
- civil liberties
- the functioning of government
- political participation
- political culture
"Each nation is categorized across gradient levels of regimes ~ full democracies, flawed democracies, hybrid regimes, and authoritarian regimes. [see image above, click to enlarge]
"Perhaps unsurprisingly, the most democratic countries are found in Scandinavia, with Norway, Sweden, Iceland, and Denmark occupying the first four spots on the list, and New Zealand rounding out the top five. Overall, half the world lives under a democracy of some form. However, only 15 percent of countries enjoy full democracy and nearly a third of the world's nations are ruled by authoritarian regimes.
"The reasons for such disappointing numbers vary between regions. The report writes that some countries in the West are struggling to maintain long-established democratic systems due to political infighting, declining participation, and the sacrifice of civil liberties in the name of national security [my emphasis]. The U.S., for example, ranks 21st on the list, behind such democratic bastions as Uruguay, Mauritius, and South Korea. The lowest scores Washington received were in the categories of political participation and functioning of government.
" ... Despite all that, the report is optimistic for the growth of democracy around the world. The developments in the Middle East and North Africa show the potential for change, even as the political wave that was expected to result from the Arab Spring has yet to be fully realized ... Elsewhere in the world, in countries like Zimbabwe and Cuba, long-standing autocratic leaders are unlikely to remain in charge. As the report states, 'The longer aging autocrats hang on to power, the more out-of-touch and corrupt their regimes tend to become, and the more of an anachronism and an affront they become to their peoples.' "
Check out the entire HuffPost piece here ~ in particular to view the Democracy Index 2012 slide show at bottom, with scenes and captions for each of the 25 most democratic countries of the year. It is hugely informative, and for Americans, a healthy dose of humility.