The 13th World Audit
annual report of this millennium, this global survey is
concerned with the condition of democracy as it relates to the
150 nation states with populations exceeding one million.
We define democracy via the criteria of
Human Rights; Political Rights; Free Speech; and the Absence
of Public Corruption.
World Audit has been publishing this annual survey since 1997.
Numbers are adjusted during each year when new data become
available. Methodology: The World Democracy tables' sidebar
notes, explain our sources and how we build the statistics
into tables of rank.
A remarkable, even historic democratic event
took place in the USA in late 2012. This was a supremely important
adjunct to the re-election of President Barack Obama which saw,
not just the defeat of the Republicans and so some continuity in
progressive policies, but an object lesson in electioneering which
could not have been predicted.
Since the 2008 election the heavily Republican-leaning US Supreme
Court had ruled that any citizen or individual business in the
States, could spend or donate money without limit to the
political party or candidate of their choice, the proviso being
that such funds must not come under the direct control of a
candidate or party. To many people worldwide, this seemed
quite shocking. It is hard to imagine that the ‘Founding Fathers’
would have agreed to that reading of the US Constitution. Given
that practical men that they were, it is self-evident they also
were not lacking in idealism. The Supreme Court ruling was read by
many, both friends and opponents of the new funding provision as
meaning that if sufficient funds could be directed to this end, it
was now possible ‘to buy’ the election. A storm of protest went up
mingled with disgust and (outside of the USA), disbelief!
We now know that massive funds were raised from both super-rich
individuals and corporations - well in excess of a billion
dollars. One heavily publicised individual, alone spent over $100
million on the Republican cause.
Apart from the Presidential campaign, simultaneously elections
were taking place for both houses of the US Congress, but as our
own Special Report “OBAMA’S
SECOND TERM” summarised:
“Between them the two contenders spent
more than $1,600 million on the election campaign, the most
expensive in world history.
The result is that nothing has changed!
Obama is still in the White House, Republicans continue to
dominate the House of Representatives and the Democrats control
That chalks up a significant advance for
Let’s call it ‘Obama’s Law’ that in a democratic state, subject to
the rule of law, it is not possible to buy the election results
that a donor might want.
Other nations held elections. Particularly of interest for
this report are Russia and China. In the case of Russia, Putin is
back and confirmed for a third term as President. Although there
was a substantial backlash in the cities about the conduct of the
elections and the suppression of democratic protest (which
continues), it seemed to us that even with the closest independent
electoral supervision - which is not their way of doing things –
Russia stands at 128 out of 150 nations in this World Democracy
table - that in any event, Putin with a population of three
hundred million from all the federated States of Russia - a
continent rather than a nation, would still have won comfortably
–although that might not hold for the next election. Russians
after all compare their lot with what it was in the past. Events
moved very fast. They saw a virtual collapse of respect for their
immediate post-USSR governments. Gorbachev was blamed for ‘giving
away’ the Soviet Union; and Boris Yeltsin? Despite his heroic
position in facing down an attempted CP coup and his strong
presence at the centre, even by historic Russian standards, he was
a world class drunk.
Putin never considered that he was in a popularity contest. He
came to power basically as the KGB’s man and did everything that
was required of him, specifically making Russia a respected player
again in world terms. He has restored their national pride. He has
very cleverly got a tremendous grip on both the oil and gas world
markets giving a quite different underpinning to the Russian
economy than the communist governments that came before. As to
democracy, no hypocrite he, to the frustration of world liberals,
it is just not on his agenda. (Russia’s W. Audit democracy
The other, and in world terms more significant changeover of
government, was in China. Our report on the November Party
New Star Shining in the East” has a concise story to tell
about China’s future direction, but it also raises a very
important issue: “The new leadership will oversee the world’s
second largest economy although, by the
time of the next scheduled leadership change in 2022, China will
most probably have overtaken the United States and for the first
time since the Industrial Revolution, the world’s economic leader
will not be founded on democratic values”.
The importance of this is that for the first time, DEMOCRACY as a
world system will be under serious challenge (as it never was
under communism). The challenge comes from the currently
successful Chinese model of public/private enterprise under an
authoritarian form of rule - the whole political / economic
ensemble that can be described as “with Chinese characteristics.”
(China’s World Audit democracy rank is 124th).
Given China’s current position, it is plausible that their form of
governance might continue for a long time ‘to deliver the goods’,
just as it is possible that the US/ Western economies might never
recover their former world supremacy.
Our current 2013 Democracy tables find that by the criteria
described, only 37 (out of 150 nations) can be said to be fully
democratic (listed in our 1st & 2nd divisions), with another 33
nations within reach (our 3rd division), partly democratic moving slowly in the
direction of full democracy, but capable of back-sliding.
That leaves as many nations which are neither democratic, nor on
the evidence, close to becoming so, finding themselves on the
Nations such as Brazil (50), India (50), South Africa (44), might
be typical as being not yet wholly democratic,
** nor in practice
being overly authoritarian. Indeed if they have a forward momentum
they have the possibility of repudiating corruption, and dealing
comprehensively with human and civil rights, and the powers of the
** no matter what their constitutions
say, in this context we remind readers that our definition of
Democracy includes the absence of public corruption - a key to
justice in the courts, a big problem for these three.
By the time this ten year Chinese government is itself to be
replaced in 2022, if the Chinese system is self-evidently over its
problems, and is a manifest success; and/or ‘western democracy’ is
not progressing, then the inference is obvious for such sideline
nations, as to their way forward. Then another and equally vital
matter arises. Can these two competing governing/economic systems
satisfactorily co-exist worldwide?
Over half of all the nations (80/150) in
this Democracy Report are in the 4th Division. They are failing to
make any tangible democratic progress, unlike Div 3 nations (33),
who are making discernible progress towards viable democracy.
First to Fourth Division
The first ten places have been shared by the same nations in
varying order, throughout most of the fifteen years that these
Democracy statistics have been published. To their great credit
the Scandinavian nations, as ever, lead the world. This year it’s
Finland (First): Denmark and Sweden (sharing second place), and
Norway (fourth). [If Iceland had the necessary minimum population
of 1million, they almost certainly would also be up there and in
These four Scandinavian nations have been democracies from
historic times and apart from the republic of Finland, they all,
like several other European nations are leading democracies and
yet like UK (13), Spain (20), Belgium (9), Netherlands (7), all have
monarchies. Apart from any other consideration, they must in times
past have been politically mature enough to handle the substantial
move from ‘absolute’, to ‘constitutional’ monarchy.
Hard on the heels of the Scandinavians, comes New Zealand, always
‘up there’, this year in sixth place, followed by
Netherlands (seventh) and two more British Commonwealth states:
Canada (eighth); and Australia (ninth). That ninth place is shared
with Belgium; Germany is eleventh; USA twelfth; and UK thirteenth,
sharing that rank with Ireland.
Italy has got back into the top group at twenty eighth, after a
year in Division Two. Hungary at thirty four, has gone in the
other direction dropping down from the First to Second Division.
At the opposite end of the democracy rankings comes North Korea
(150) the contributing data being that they also came last, 150th
in freedom of the media, and 149th in corruption. The other final
rankings go to the usual suspects, as follows: Turkmenistan (149),
Uzbekistan (148), Somalia (147) , Myanmar (146), Eritrea (145),
Sudan (144), Afghanistan (142), Iran (142), Syria (140), Laos (140).
The ‘Arab Awakening’ countries have a mixed batch of results
bearing in mind the democracy data collection overlapped from
‘pre-awakening’ to ‘post- awakening’, or as in the majority, no
awakening at all! See the Arab League in the right margin, (some
members being below our one million threshold) the highest being
UAE , at (75th) in Division 4 –and that, repeat, is the highest of
the seventeen member states we list, that we are expected to
believe are so anxious to bring ‘democracy’ to Syria!
The earlier uprisings were in Tunisia (78), Egypt (94)
up from 106; Libya (115 - up 30 places from 145), Syria, now in
a western-sponsored civil war (down to 140 from 135) - Iraq now
largely vacated by US forces is at (127). Iran currently the
object of western and Sunni hatred (which they heartily
reciprocate) stands at (142); Turkey (55) also involved in the
Syria story, apart from Israel (31) the most democratic state in
Russia and the FSU
As in previous annual surveys we have looked at the Former Soviet
Union, now more than twenty years back in history. Of the European
members the three Balts: Latvia (39), Lithuania (25) Estonia (17)
have established themselves as democracies, including membership
of the European Union. Moldova (63) has not escaped Russia’s
embrace, but there are those there who seek to do so. Belarus
(138) is accurately known as Europe’s last dictatorship, except
that it is under challenge for that dubious title from Ukraine,
which has sharply fallen from the 3rd to the 4th division,
dropping 39 places to (109). After earlier causing quite some
excitement with its Orange revolution, Ukraine has now reverted to
its former soviet-style self.
So much for former Soviet Europe. In Eurasia were several more.
In all, there were 15 ’All Union’ republics in the USSR, which
became independent from Yeltsin’s time, six of whom, the Europeans
are described above. Mongolia (50) was never a member of the
Soviet Union, but located as it was between China and Russia, gave
real meaning to the phrase: ‘squeezed between a rock and a hard
Russia (128), easily the world’s largest nation with its federation
of 89 republics/territories, is still keeping some kind of hold
over most of its Asian/Caucasian ‘near abroad,’ particularly
Armenia (103), Tajikistan (134 ), Kyrgyzstan (122).
Most of these FSU states are small in population, some are huge in
territory and all in various ways dependent on Russia. Uzbekistan
(148), Kazakhstan (129) both of which are big enough - and in the
case of Kazakhstan rich enough, to avoid getting too close to
Moscow, but in both cases the ageing former apparatchik rulers
have succession problems, which will probably be Moscow’s
opportunity for closer ‘ties’.
Rather less dependent is Azerbaijan (129) oil rich, friendly with
Turkey, a ruling family depending on Turkish and US support;
Georgia (73) which has just had a nasty little war with Russia and
currently has no diplomatic relations, but that might change with
their newly elected government.
Finally, Turkmenistan (149) with massive oil and particularly gas
reserves borders with Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Afghanistan and
Iran. Quite remote from Russia, with whom it shares no frontiers -
and nearly everywhere else.
The nations where the US recently chose to fight
Iraq (127) is a mess, but a coherent mess. It has its government
doing just that, governing an unruly population divided between Shi’ites
who are numerically the largest, with a substantial minority of
Sunni, plus Kurds (whose ethnicity is more relevant than their
sect of Islam to the Iraq Republic). It is a Shi’ite
majority nation and, now democratically has a Shiite majority
government, as the result of the US invasion. Therefore it is on
close and friendly terms with neighbouring Iran (142) and
neighbouring Syria (140). Not an outcome, we can assume, that
Bush/ Cheney would have chosen as an illustration of US diplomacy.
US forces are now largely out of country. In Iraq itself, there
are apparently large numbers of ‘contract security’ men from
mainly western nations, the kind who used to be called
Afghanistan (142) is also a mess and even more complex, but
western forces are still engaged. Its political future is
undecided and depends on many factors - which each month we
faithfully review in our reports at
ISRAEL & THE MIDDLE EAST
The knotty problem of Israel (31), Palestine and the neighbours,
has certainly not improved in this past year. Egypt (94) finally
throwing off its military dictatorship has not resolved many
problems, in fact since the electoral beneficiaries are the
Islamist parties - the Moslem Brotherhood and the Salafist party
control all but about 12% of secular representatives in the
The new government currently is trying to get an Islamic
constitution adopted in riotous circumstances. Egypt is now ‘in
play’ in a way it has not been for decades. A small segment of
Palestine: Gaza, is controlled by Hamas another Sunni Islamic
party, theoretically close to the Muslim Brotherhood. But in
practice, Hamas is a single purpose outfit dedicated to the
(unlikely) fall of Israel. That is incompatible with Egypt keeping
its annual remittance from the US, for maintaining the peace.
Since Gaza is on the border with Egypt, the complexion of the
Cairo government matters greatly to the Israelis. The Egyptian
military since time out of mind, the rulers of Egypt, following
Sadat’s brave rapprochement with Israel, has received an enormous
annual subvention from the US, basically to keep the peace. Now
with the Arab Awakening, the army find themselves subordinate to
the Islamic politicians in Cairo. Whether this will remain the
case will depend in large measure on whether Egypt will be a force
for stability, and that has more to do now with Islamic politics.
In a terrifying precedent there is in recent years the devastating
story of Algeria (98), first its long and ugly fight against
colonialism, and then the years of vicious conflict between
Islamists and the military for power, which has left the nation
In Egypt, the second party to the Brotherhood are the Salafists
whose extremism, as with their involvement in Syria, is bound up
with religious concepts to restore the Caliphate and punish
unbelievers (everybody else). So Egypt’s political progress is
pivotal to the whole of the Arab Awakening countries, and their
positions vis a vis Israel. In this context the US and EU powers
seem to be backing the wrong horse in Syria. If the rebels succeed
there, it will be political Sunni Islam that will gain. Sadly the
idea of democracy in these parts is just that - an idea. Neither
Saudi nor Qatar, the local sponsors and paymasters of the revolt,
are themselves democracies. Indeed they spend a lot of effort in
keeping democracy out of their own countries. The fact that the
newly recognised leader of the Iraqi rebels is a prominent Sunni
imam, is a meaningful indication of what will be on offer, if this
mixed force of Saudi and Quatari sponsored Iraqi Muslim Brothers;
foreign islamists from al Qaeda through other similar groups of
organised foreign jihadists , Sunni deserters from the Syrian army.
(whose crack troops are Alawites on the government side), and
unhappy Syrian citizens hoping for change IF, they can manage to
defeat the Asads.
What all this will mean for Israel is yet to be established, but
one might think they ought to prefer the secular al Asad
government, as a known quantity, not given to Islamic rantings of
the Hamas kind.
The Dark Continent
No study of democratic change can ignore Africa. This giant
continent, allegedly the cradle of the human species, once not
long ago, the plaything of European empire builders, is with few
exceptions doing very badly in terms of democratic criteria. The
African Union sidebar panel illustrates this and the sheer number
of nations accentuates the successes of the few. As a continent it
produces 45 nations of a million minimum population, but some are
territorial giants – Sudan (144)
with comparatively small populations; giants with giant
populations, like Nigeria (89), and everything in between. Of these
45 African nations, only three hit our parameter (37) for being
fully democratic. So, congratulations to Mauritius (32),
Ghana (35), Botswana (38). But worthy of honourable mention are
Namibia (41), troubled Mali (43) and South Africa (44) all of which did
At the other end of the group are (nobody would be surprised), Somalia (147); then Eritrea (145), Sudan (144), Republic of
Congo (138), Zimbabwe (136), Chad (133) and many more………….