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DATA: The Audit is a table of 154 Countries* (having one million plus population) in four divisions of DEMOCRACY, each of our four divisions determined by human rights and political rights
Within each division, rankings are determined by Press Freedom and Corruption

World groupings incl. OECD; NATO; G8; ASEAN; APEC;
Regional Rankings: European Union; Latin America + Caribbean; African Union; Arab League; Asean.

WorldAudit acknowledges with gratitude, our debt to ‘Freedom House’ and to ‘Transparency International,’ for access to their data, for this and for all our annual reports since the turn of the century.

Clive Lindley Publisher/Editor - Trina Middlecote/Data Management

CHANGES from 2016

*Compared with previous years, Bhutan, the delightful small Himalayan kingdom whose population has reduced below 1million, leaves our tables. (It may be remembered that it was Bhutan that invented the concept of ‘GNH’ –Gross National Happiness).

We welcome Cyprus to Division One; also Qatar; South Sudan; Bahrain and Kosovo; all of which join Div 4 (their populations have now passed the million mark).


Overview of World Democracy January 2017

The Perils of Mass Migration

US Elections: Game, Set & Match

Democracy and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

What Next for Democracy?



Middle East

Europe’s Post WWII solution

The State of World Democracy January 2017

World Audit’s Winners and Losers

Crowned Heads of State

Review of the Democracy Tables


At the beginning of 2017, the world, certainly the western hemisphere looks alarmingly different to that of just one year ago. Instability now characterises both Europe and the USA, the two formerly solid pillars of a world seeking and broadly achieving peace and prosperity. This 2017 report has happened at a time ‘in the west,’ of a powerful resurgence of right-wing people and non-traditional parties, on a scale causing general alarm and some distress in these traditional bastions of freedom.


In Europe, the EU is the great unifying economic association that has since the end of the greatest war that the world has suffered, effectively bound together 28 european nations, with a long shared history of warfare between them, into a continent-wide democratic Economic and Social Union. This is now coming under threat from populism, promoting nationalists in individual member states.

The UK, not a founding member, but nevertheless with 43 years of membership, has by a small margin in a shock 2016 referendum, opted to leave the EU. This puts the ‘European project’ itself at some risk, since the United Kingdom has been amongst the leaders of the EU and a major participant in the EU’s activities. The ultimate fear now in Europe is of an erosion of the Union; that the same populist currents that unexpectedly in the UK, tipped the closely fought referendum campaign, are now to a varying degree also to be found within the other 27 member states, all subject to similar challenges that emerged in the UK’s recent referendum. These include a surge of populist right-wing nationalism, external terrorist actions, immigrant pressures, plus inevitable localised discontents and issues, which perhaps might cause others to follow suit.

At such a time, it is inevitably destabilising, particularly with France and the Netherlands, both founding members facing 2017 elections involving fast growing populist right wing parties. No one can be sure in either case of the outcome.

Germany is suffering a reaction from the unpopular results of so generously accepting around a million mostly middle-eastern refugees stranded and milling about in Central Europe, after horrendous experiences in getting there from overseas. It is also due to have an election later this year where the courageous Chancellor, Mrs Merkel herself, is now under electoral threat

After 43 years in the EU which has succeeded in steady growth in their economy, the UK has, by a small minority in a referendum, found itself for internally democratic reasons, required to leave the EU, although powerful resistance to this continues, currently in the law courts. Little or no preparation had been made for this outcome - in which with a qualified electorate of 46,503,537; there were 12,948(28%) that didn’t register an opinion, 17,410,742 voted to leave the EU, with 16,141,241voting to remain. Hardly an overwhelming margin in the vote. Certainly, with just 17.4million voting to leave that is not, as trumpeted by the usual suspects, ‘the voice of the British people' (actually between a quarter and a third), whose registered voters are 46.5million.

The United Kingdom made up of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, is itself disunited, with Scotland which clearly voted ‘remain’ and its government, adamant that it will indeed remain in the EU, even if it has to leave the UK. Northern Ireland, that like Scotland clearly voted to remain in the EU, is as yet, not settled on its future. It would continue after secession, to have a land border with the Republic of Ireland a full EU member. Ireland for it’s part, would like to take this opportunity to reunify the island of Ireland, if the north were agreeable and was looking for a way to remain in the EU.

These internal divisions have created an ongoing crisis for the UK and inevitably to some extent for Europe, being a deeply unwelcome development where no member state has previously left and some still remain in a queue to join.

Amongst the British, particularly the ‘remainers,’ the sense is that this historically significant world nation, now faced with a massive economic challenge in front of it and an inevitable loss of international influence, might just go into decline. UK’s economy having sustained a substantial drop in the exchange value of the pound sterling, has already slipped from 5th, to become the 6th or 7th largest world economy vis a vis India and France). This drop is not irrational. The UK economy after 43 years membership is still firmly based on the EU and to replace the known economic facts as has happened, with nothing more, at this point, than optimistic ‘Union Jackery’ from the flag-waving tabloid press (that played a critically significant role in the referendum campaign), is surely an act of potential self-harm.

No other member amongst the remaining 27 is currently proposing to quit, but there is a upsurge of irrational populist nationalism in Europe, as well as the UK - where this was fanned by the populist tabloid press, insular by long practice, largely resentful since WWII of the relative loss of historical British importance in terms of world power and at home, and at the lower social levels, shamefully suspicious of ‘foreigners.’ This has to some extent affected some other European nations and currently moved the political centre of gravity in Europe, towards populist nationalism. This is most immediately worrying in France, which this year will choose its new President with a strong populist challenger who represents a Leave agenda.

Both Germany and France have shared the searing experience of being savaged and occupied by foreign troops in recent wars and are the two largest European governments, amongst the nations that gave birth to the Union. From the beginning of the EU project they, with other economically successful states and visionary leaders, decided with mature judgement that a closer partnership on economic grounds was infinitely preferable to military hostility, inevitably with periodic bouts of war, including invasion and occupation by other powers, to which a thousand years of European history attested.

The UK to the contrary, being an island protected from the European landmass at its closest by a twenty mile plus stretch of sea, has had no experience of being invaded or occupied for the past thousand years, although being engaged in countless wars within Europe and elsewhere, including the World Wars 1 and II. These terrible wars originating in Europe, expanded to a world level, with WWII being on the greatest global scale yet seen by any criteria. They were conducted with even less restraint than anything that had gone before, and in 1945 culminated with incredibly destructive nuclear weapons being exploded in action.

This exposition of the EU nations and their crises, is relevant to the fact that the European countries in this, our Democracy Audit’s seventeenth annual report, far and away lead the world democratic tables in the World Audit reports, as they have throughout, together with the North Americans of the USA and Canada - both originally founded and settled by Europeans which two centuries and more ago, became largely independent.

Now the ‘In/Out’ EU referendum unqualified by a summary of the accompanying effects of the ‘Out’decision, has created a crisis both for the UK, whose population are split on this, almost down the middle, and inevitably for Europe, being an unwelcome development, where no member state has previously left and several are in a queue to join. But with the threat of organised populist tendencies of a racist kind now evident in several member states, nothing is yet settled.

The Perils of Mass Migration

These internal political events in Europe are coinciding with a massive hemisphere-destabilising exodus of refugees, over recent years, from sub- Saharan, east and west Africa and the Middle East and as far away as Iran and Afghanistan, where Europe’s attractions result in being seen as ‘the ultimate destination,’ the solution to the refugee’s sufferings, hopes for a better life and particularly escape from wars and civil wars. Refugee traffic has been travelling into Europe at a low level for many years, certainly since the breakup of the Soviet empire in 1991. Subsequently, there were the outbreak of some still ongoing wars and civil wars in western Asia, and several Arab states in the mid-east, motivated largely by Shia-Sunni islamic differences, currently Iraq, Syria and Yemen – and in the background a trial of strength between their sponsors, the powerful Saudi and Gulf States (a wealthy Sunni majority); against Iran with its religious outliers. Iran is the champion and protector of Shi’ism, a large, widespread Islamic schism which like its Sunni rival, dates all the way back to the death of the Prophet Mohammed. This is longer by far than the centuries-long, equivalent Catholic-Protestant militant divisions in Europe, that effectively finished more than 3 centuries ago. Apart from such religiously motivated confrontations currently ongoing in Syria, Iraq and Yemen; similar confrontations exist in north, west and sub-equatorial Africa, Nigeria for example, with Boko Haram.

The process of refugees fleeing the seeming hopelessness of their situation in the western hemisphere has frequently homed in on the US for the Americas; and Europe for the mid-east and Africa. Even technologically backward nations are usually still able to show TV and that in itself gives an continuing image of peace and prosperity, plus a ‘normal’ standard of living, unattainable in much of the rest of the world. The US for generations, has had a constant flow of hopeful economic refugees from the nations to its south, swollen from time to time with those seeking to escape outbreaks of violence. Accelerating for some years now, it has been Europe’s turn to be the destination of choice within its hemisphere.

Together with the ongoing wars described above and the effects of grinding poverty and corruption in most African countries, there has been created a torrent of refugees heading north, The process of fleeing the seeming hopelessness of their situation, attracted existing networks of traffickers, who everywhere in stable periods, smuggle drugs and cigarettes or any cargo that gives a profit, across ancient and modern frontiers. Such people are often deficient on human values and in this case, with Europe having only one Asian boundary, with Turkey to the south and east, that line was constantly breached. The other departure point is Libya, a lawless North African nation wrecked by civil war, where no authority beyond the local exists, and with a long Mediterranean coastline opposite to that of Italy. Over the last years many and frequent attempts by small boats, often even flimsy rubber dinghies, have braved the sea between Libya and Italy, with a loss of life probably running into tens of thousands of children women and men. And still it continues. Those that ‘make it’ have become a major problem that has long overloaded the capacity of European nations willing to absorb, leading to continuing crises. It has become a primary cause of racism, quickly seized upon by right wing nationalist parties in the process, thus ratcheting national politics to the right, an effect now noticeable throughout much of Europe.

Australia is also a target nation for putative emigrants in South Asia but there they have in place a tight system of control where their navy intercepts refugee boats and forces the refugees to holding camps on various obscure Pacific atolls, but denying them entry to Australia. The US obviously, with such a long land frontier with Central America, has long been a leading target destination for migrants from other, mostly poor or dictator-run states, in the Americas. The recently elected US president Donald Trump, campaigned on a programme of exclusion and forced repatriation of these, including the expulsion of ‘illegal immigrants’ already in the US, which on the threshold of Office, is likely to soon take effect.

US Elections: Game, Set and Match!

Against these massively destabilising world events, the stunning and possibly more immediately threatening factor is the surge of populism in the USA, the world’s most powerful nation, which has brought about the election to the presidency of a political novice, a 70 year-old successful businessman, who is also a highly opinionated TV personality. Donald Trump will be sworn in as President on January 20th of this year 2017, for an initial four year term, the oath taken being to uphold the Constitution of the United States

Trump is as much a showman as a business tycoon. He has no experience in government at any level, nor yet in the armed services, but as he responds, he “is smart.” He seems to have selected his principal cabinet officers –the great offices of State, largely from individuals prominent for their achievements in business or military rank, rather than political expertise. Collectively, they are to the right of an already right-wing USA, a painful contrast to the outgoing Barack Obama who won a great deal of international respect in the office of US President. It is greatly to the concern of liberal-leaning internationalists everywhere, both individuals and media opinion makers, who are aghast at such a sea-change in US politics.

None of this ‘per se,’ is an evil thing - there is actually no recent experience to compare, but we mention it because it is a part of the sense of foreboding that many are experiencing, which in truth has more of a basis in the new president’s overly forthright attitudes, seen on campaign, his many supercilious comments, including varied insults and thinly disguised hatreds, strangely amongst others, of ‘strong’ (successful) women.

The statements made during his campaign caused deep disturbances within the US political and business establishment, affecting as they do, the direction of US foreign policy with all previous assumptions now ‘on hold’ as is treatment of immigrants, taxation, and most relevantly to others, existing relationships with the world’s nations and institutions. His choice of principal officers in his cabinet has removed no clouds. He has notably not talked the talk of idealism or fraternity (which at least absolves him of having a false prospectus). The fact is that there is simply no known prospectus.

Even during his campaigning he slighted the Republican party and remained largely independent of them, 'though he was their candidate (despite their best efforts to the contrary), but the fact remains that in his election the Republicans retained the Senate and won the House of Representatives, giving them the control of appointments to the Supreme Court which has served them well historically. Unquestionably, this was indeed ’Game, Set and Match’, in US politics!

All of this of course, is so unlike the previous modern history of the USA that observers are still stunned and some are deeply worried about the effect on the rest of the world. People are conscious that the US has by far the most powerful armed forces in the world and an arsenal of ‘ultimate’ weapons, to such an extent that whilst confidence in the USA’s motives and actions historically, are mixed, yet many would judge the nation ‘on balance,’ to be responsible and ultimately democratic, given the constitutional checks and balances within the United States.

It is not that at this stage that, “all bets are off” – an assumption of a serious deterioration in democracy, with potentially disastrous effects on the world. Rather it is simply the unknown factor of how such a political maverick will use his remarkable power, particularly between nations, and to what extent does this bring the world nearer to it's nemesis, particularly in terms of war?

The US is not under any external threat and is established not only as the world’s leading economy, but after so many years of relentless re-armament it is far and away militarily, the most powerful nation. Nevertheless there are now at least ten other nations that deploy nuclear weapons and some also have large armed forces, including China and Russia; and well delineated spheres of interest. Yet although both of those great nations are quite stable and certainly jealous of their independence, they are sensitive to any US presence or actions in their neighbourhoods.

Fears of a mix of events, leading to dangerous confrontations, have always been present in modern times, but the nervousness that is now current in the world is about what this new President of the USA – a role which many would describe as that of the most powerful individual on earth - might do, not so much if confronted (which remains unlikely), but rather if he might himself confront others. For 'the free world', the US President has been our certain bulwark in defence. Now we are no longer sure whose interests other than his own, the new man represents.

‘Democracy’ & ‘the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse’

By 2016 having reached on a world level, what for so long has been an unachievable goal down the centuries of largely dispensing with large scale war, it is true that excepting local ‘breakouts’, we have largely overcome this in our world for more than seventy years, along with both disease - and certainly at least the capability of dealing with famine. The scourge of localised war continues, but on a much reduced scale currently involving identity, most obviously via sectarian differences within the religion of Islam, as in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, or else civil war: localised rivalries for power within a nation, as in parts of Africa and elsewhere, but even then limited, not worldwide.

War, disease, famine and death, were the ‘horsemen of the apocalypse’ for millennia. They were ever- present threats and deliverers of death to our forbears, who considered them inevitable, right up until our own times. Now science, a more equitable sharing of resources and better governance, has eventually caught up in many areas of risk to life, and is more than simply in contention, with the ancient scourge of disease.

What Next for Democracy?

It could be said a year or two ago that the task now, for mankind, should be to spread democracy with its obvious blessings, to where it does not yet exist and to improve and perfect it, where it has become established. But during 2016 it became manifest that like the swing of a pendulum, competing elements of our human species in several of the near 200 nation states of the world, were shifting away from concepts of greater freedom and liberation, the very definition of democracy and progress, in favour of nationalism and populism and the cult of false prophets.

First in Europe, (specifically in the UK and within several members of the EU, particularly France and Netherlands - the last two amongst the most welcoming to refugees, it has been recognised that there is a danger even within the system of democratic elections, of a surrender of leadership to ‘false prophets,’ in the form of ambitious populist politicians, their programs amplified by the broadcast and print media, to disrupt the hitherto fairly even balance in modern society, a key requisite if democracy is to advance.

Under the banner of nationalism and the encouragement of a so-called ‘popular’ media, they promote their agendas of hostility to foreigners (and immigrants in particular), often quite small but also often visible minorities, in their communities in cities.

Ironically, this political challenge is happening now in those very regions of the world where modern democracy first became rooted: First in Europe and now the USA –where the irony is that everybody, excepting only the indigenous ‘red-indians,’ are either immigrants, or their descendants.

In the case of Europe, the European Union has been a great success in binding together those nations whose whole long histories have been centred on conquest, or defence against the imposition of powerful neighbours. Throughout known history up until 1945 and the end of WWII, quarrels between the many states, large and small of Europe, have meant that the continent has to some extent, constantly been at war with itself, The last great such spasm in the most recent times, had to do with the breakdown of the communist party and it’s 20th century story of impacting onto the European, and then the wider scene; but long before this, repression and internal wars had resolved what in many respects were racial, religious and ethnic factors, grounded in history. Democracy only slowly emerged and this was recent. The USA being a new nation and having no previous regime to replace, once its independence from colonialism had been secured, largely showed the way, along with France that had overthrown it’s oppressive monarchy at about the same time.

Democracy’s Progress

Europe’s history in a pattern, like that of much of the world, can be traced from the earliest days of intertribal conflicts, usually territorial, followed by efforts to achieve imperium through individual, particularly powerful, nation states. In the west, over two thousand years ago this was principally by Rome which had first defeated and then assumed the culture and some elements of the democracy of ancient Greece, with the military skills of Sparta and Alexandrine Asia Minor. Centuries later, after a lengthy ‘dark age’ where Rome finally succumbed, after just too many large scale invasions , the eastern half of the continent struggled with Ottoman Turkey, a new power and a people coming from central Asia, whose governance, military techniques and leadership, overcame everything European states could put up, by way of opposition.

Change came relentlessly. Russia emerged as a major European power along with the German confederation and the Austrian Empire, eventually Italy, earlier a collection of regional mini states; England, later to become Great Britain, and France, although these last two also looked and ventured outwards to the wider world. All of these nations co-existed, punctuated by an alternating succession of wars and peace. Then came the global explorations which opened up the formerly unknown or closed areas of the world. China, East Asia and the Americas being perhaps the most significant.

Eventually and after much shape-shifting, evolving regional powers, the then pre-eminent Austria-Hungary, would be challenged by revolutionary and Napoleonic France where the control of Europe became the issue. The British throughout, were sufficiently insulated from invasion by the 20 or so, sea miles of the English Channel, but nevertheless were often involved in continental wars, whilst developing a worldwide empire, and becoming for a time, the world’s leading naval power in the process.

Yet the concept and reality of world war was realised only in the 20th century. Before the century was out, it had become obviously redundant, once it had been recognised that the power of ‘ultimate’ weaponry made it inevitable that no one could afford the price, even of victory. Indeed, the concept of victory suddenly looked absurd, if one’s own nation was itself left as a smoking ruin.

With the end of WWII, the era of positive alternatives emerged:-
The United Nations was established to represent the world in seeking to damp down and contain hostilities between nation states, and react positively to regional disasters including local wars. The creation of international non-commercial banks –the World Bank; the IMF; dealing with sovereign nations and encouraging trading zones to enable the advance of prosperity and security. But the member nations have never allowed the UN the autonomy to become fully effective, whilst the most powerful nations control all big decisions via the Security Council.

It is a system that has succeeded in the avoidance of the escalation of confrontations between major powers, and to some extent the protection of smaller states from bigger entities. But sometimes the bigger nations through the UN have had to intervene.

The most dramatic post-WWII example was that in Europe, of the breakup of Yugoslavia, an unsuccessful federal construct dominated by one relatively powerful state, Serbia, that was seeking to subordinate the other federated members, which led to a brutal civil war. First between Serbia with distant Slovenia, bordering on Italy and Austria, which petered out; being overtaken by a bigger and bloodier struggle with Croatia with which relations had long been adversarial, reflecting age-old post-Roman religious differences, between Serbia’s Orthodoxy and Croatian Roman Catholicism, which finally became ‘a draw’ with neither winner nor loser. The Serbians then went for Bosnia-Herzogovina, where the ancient divide was again religious.

This time Serbia was up against one of Europe’s few Moslem nations. This war was characterised by massive crimes committed largely by Serbia, notwithstanding the presence of UN- led forces seeking to divide the antagonists, which abjectly failed. Post WWII Yugoslavia, from being a federation of five Balkan nations, finally became and is currently six, (plus “ the Bosnian Serb Republic” an entity within Bosnia,” and Kosovo). Although the UN mission failed at Sebrenica in Bosnia to stop a major incident of mass murder of Bosnians by Serbs, without it, Serbia would have continued to dominate most of its neighbours and at an earlier time that might well have resulted in a new and major European war.

The UN it can be seen, is not faultless in terms of peacekeeping success. For example, Israel became a new democratic and modern state after WWII, but located in territory in the backwards mid-east, its very creation inevitably caused the displacement of its poorly organised indigenous population, itself being at one of the world’s crossroads being ethnically diverse, but mostly sharing in the major religion of Islam, as with its surrounding states. The UN intention when creating the State of Israel, was that the territory of Palestine inhabited by those displaced by the newcomers, would become a new nation also, once it had achieved a sufficient degree of unity but meanwhile would be ‘a territory’, self-ruling up to a point, yet subordinate to Israel.

But for the early decades, the hostility of neighbouring Arab states meant that the new western-oriented and Jewish nation of Israel had to fight for it’s existence, it’s very life, which it very successfully did, but with a residual two way resentment with all of it’s neighbours. The subsidiary territory of Palestine has hardly advanced, after 68 years of the regional upheaval from the foundation of the new state. The more recent governments in Israel have defied the world as to their obligations to Palestine, contracted via the UN, confident of their ultimate protection by the United States, within which their community has much influence. That story is once again ongoing, at the turn of the year into 2017.

So the UN has achieved much in the alleviation of suffering and being the forum where the world’s nations can, when so disposed collaborate, but power has always been retained by the member states. The UN has never been allowed to become a true world authority with the means to enforce the decisions agreed by its members, except by their agency in each situation.

Europe’s post WWII solution to war

The modern European story has been historically an amazing but alternating sequence of triumphs and disasters, but after the horrors of WWII, Europe, the cockpit of so much strife, eventually had an answer, which was to make a economic alliance of great potency to attract membership from all other European nation states:- to jointly approach problems where that was possible; to trade together on favourable terms; and to merge such of their national institutions as it made sense to do. The pioneers were France and Germany and amongst others the long established smaller state of the Netherlands. They were eventually joined by the UK 43 years ago, and by 2016 had 28 member states. Meanwhile these same nations had agreed to merge their armed forces in the NATO treaty for mutual defence, led by the USA, on the principle that an attack on any member would be regarded as an attack on all. Every member state is obliged to respond on behalf of their NATO ally. This alarmingly was questioned in campaigning, by the new President Trump.

As many as 28 nations in the EU have agreed and contracted to put the quarrels of past centuries behind them to create this democratic union format, based initially on common societal and economic rules, freely entered into. The result has ensured acceptable efficiency in what is the greatest economic alliance in history with over 400 million citizen members. In late 2016 one of the larger members, the UK –not a founder member but nevertheless with 43 years membership, decided after a referendum to leave the EU. The result of this referendum was decided by less than 4% of the votes cast, with 28% of the registered electorate not even giving an opinion. The effects in the UK and within Europe have been worrisome and negative. The 48% that voted to remain, have now rather tended to concentrate on the detail of negotiations, with the objective of remaining inside the European Economic area, particularly the single market.

The negotiations have not yet commenced. This is due in March ’17, but must be concluded about half way through 2018. The final terms will almost certainly have to be acceptable to the UK parliament. Following a High Court case in December ’16, subject to the appeal now before the UK’s Supreme Court, the legal situation was challenged as to the next steps, revolving around the desired terms of departure. That result due in January is awaited. Whilst this is all critical for the UK until it is resolved, the rest of the European Union inevitably is unsettled and other elements including a rise in nationalist populist parties has become evident.

Which leads us to consider the fundamental changes within the United States:
The newly elected president is sworn in on January 20th when the eight years of President Barak Obama comes to an end. But this is unlike any previous transfer of presidential power in US history.

The successful president-in-waiting Donald Trump, although running on the Republican ticket, scorned the Republican party itself, that for the most part in its upper echelons did not back him (because he was not under their control perhaps, and he certainly scorned them). As it turned out, the Republican party gained substantially, not just in winning the White House but also cleaned up in the Congress, winning a majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, giving them the ability to weight the Supreme Court appointments in their favour.

All of this amounts to a triumph for the new president and the Republican party. The problem is that more than anyone in living memory, this president (a businessman and a TV personality with a not entirely wholesome record), who during the long process of selection and the election proper, delivered himself of many statements and comments, which collectively have alarmed the political professionals and the news media, quite apart from the wider national and international public.

Put simply, the man may be rational but is surely not predictable. He might be a great success but he has shown that he also has the potential to be a disaster. As is obvious in the 21st century, if governance in the US is seriously flawed, the fact that it is the most powerful nation economically and militarily, means that the effects will be felt internationally. This is true for both the US’s traditional friends, Europe and many others, as well as its historic ‘enemies’, perceived most obviously to be Russia, as the heir of the USSR. But also there is only a tentative relationship with such a powerful and successful giant as China, a super power already in its own right.

The evidence of trouble ahead is based on his lack of experience of diplomacy, statecraft or military knowledge, and what the new president said while electioneering, during which highly publicised period he ignored the well- trodden international paths of the Republican Party, whose candidate he was, to strike out in new and alarming ways, amongst others of even calling the future of NATO into question.

After WWII the advanced nations of Europe concluded that the future must lie in close collaboration and to that end created the European Union, now an economic giant and mature polity, whose individual nation members, signed up with the US-led NATO as a mutual defence organisation.

This has been one of the few constants in post-WWII world affairs.


Then in 2016 came the shocks The UK although not an original founder state of the EU had joined 43 years ago and continued to prosper. But with little or no preparation, the government confident of the outcome, acceded to a populist groundswell and held a national referendum on withdrawal from the EU. To London and the world’s astonishment this referendum came out with a narrow majority to leave, whilst 28% never voted. That has plunged the UK into two hostile camps, since the populations of London and all the big cities (excepting only Birmingham), voted to ‘Remain’ in the EU; as did two of the four component territories of the United Kingdom: Scotland and Northern Ireland, leaving just Wales alongside England.

Europe has found itself the unwilling destination for an unparalleled migration from poor nations in Africa and North Africa and the middle- east, even from Afghanistan, and others that had become warzones. The collapse after a civil war of the by now lawless North African state of Libya, allowed international traffickers to organise numerous attempts by sea to access Europe across the Mediterranean largely exploited by traffickers specialising in smuggling Black Africans and all others to Italy and its neighbours. The continuing five year old war in Syria sent literally millions of Arab war refugees into Eastern Europe via Turkey. Amongst them refugees from war and poverty in Afghanistan and South Asia

The notice of departure from the EU ranks of the UK, has come on top of these refugee problems, although the UK was the least pro-active in the solutions.

In November the USA in November held its key four yearly political event, the election of its president, both the symbolic Head of State as well as Chief Executive. The upset here was that the establishment candidate was defeated by an entrepreneurial showman, Donald Trump, who succeeds to power on January 20th. He was the counter-establishment candidate and in every way represents dangerous choices, the very opposite of the stability expected from such a powerful global position in leading the top economic and military world power.

So as we publish at the turn of this year, instability now characterises Europe and America, the formerly solid pillars of a world simply seeking peace and prosperity, above all else.

Meanwhile the other big players watch and wait for any advantage that might come their way.



China (125) continues to prosper and to become more involved in a world, that for so many previous centuries it had ignored. Already its economy is second only to that of the USA and both prosper from their economic relations with the other. One of the leading ‘problem nations’ of the world, nuclear armed North Korea(154), is within China’s orbit and the rest of the world rather looks to China, to contain it.

China has coped surprisingly well with what seemed so recently to be the insuperable problem of corruption, long prophesied as inevitably leading to the eventual downfall of the Communist Party government. But that authority has embarked on a major and spectacular campaign against its corrupt officials, which appears to be gaining traction. There are always grounds for suspicions that the malefactors might merely belong to the wrong faction, but there have certainly been some spectacular malfeasance practitioners brought down to date.

The US’s and China’s economies are substantially dependent on each other, which points away from any military struggle, but prestige, ‘face’ is an inevitable concomitant of power. The US is far ahead of all nations militarily, but China is nevertheless maintaining various programs within its very wide spheres of influence, apparently with every intention of pursuing a military capability consistent with its great power status. Unquestionably it dominates Asia, but does not control it. Also it is very conscious of its rival Japan(16), which although today is the very model of a modern civilisation, was within the living memory of many, whilst driven by militaristic goals, considered to be the most cruel and savage of all nations. Japan now is advanced in economic and industrial terms, and widely admired. But its very presence is considered threatening by China who will brook no territorial rivalry with this neighbour. Yet Japan will never be a pushover, economically massively successful it makes a better friend than an enemy.

China dominates smaller Asian nations as it has done since time immemorial, but there are changes. South Korea (38) is now armed and supported by the USA, inevitably, given North Korea’s belligerency and its nuclear weapon build-up. Yet China enjoys good relations with South Korea and seems likely to continue to do so.

China has allies of course, including for certain categories of problem like US encirclement, Russia(132). Militarily between them they easily represent the world’s most likely challenger to the USA, should relations ever significantly deteriorate from the present level. But China, no longer stranded in history, is enjoying a place to which its long and amazing national story probably entitles it. Peace has been very good for China Nothing indicates any specific enmity towards the US or anyone, other than its insistence on safeguarding its own integrity, in every sense of the word.


Since the collapse of the USSR in 1991 there has been a release from Soviet bondage of wide territories that have since acquired or reverted to national status, such as former satellites and “all-union republics” of the USSR:- Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan; Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia. Russia is still significant to these countries and sometimes there are ‘spats’ between them. Georgia foolishly invaded neighbouring Russian- ‘protected’ South Ossetia, to its cost, not least to its hopes to join NATO who do not welcome out-of-control belligerents.

With East European former satellites, Poland, Hungary, the Czech and Slovak Republics; Romania, Bulgaria, unsurprisingly, relations are uneven. Russia was subdued for several years once the USSR collapsed, but Russia (132) eventually reasserted itself under the leadership of a former senior ‘spook,’ still the current president, who has done much to restore his giant nation’s standing in the world, but there is little advance in any significant way towards democracy, either domestic or on an international level. President Putin is nevertheless a major player in world events, untrammelled by the need to secure assent for his actions inside Russia’s government, or with any constituency within the nation. He has a large nuclear arsenal which should guarantee him against invasion or blackmail by any individual or collection of other nations. He can take the credit within his nation of restoring national pride during its transition away from communism. His nation is a ‘player’ in the Islamic confrontations in Syrian and the Levant, at a time when the US has largely detached itself - as was President Obama’s election pledge. President Putin’s relationship with President Trump has yet to become established but Trump is certainly holding an open door towards better relations between his country and the US.;

The Middle East

This widespread region has for years been in a semi-permanent state of war, dating from before the 2003 invasion of Iraq by the US and UK because of a false prospectus by the President of the USA and the Prime Minister of the UK, that Iraq had a nuclear weapon These powers invaded Iraq, which specifically set Mesopotamia alight. The conquest of Iraq was quickly achieved but the efforts to put a working democratic government in place were continually frustrated. Underlying everything was the unofficial armed struggle between Shiites supported by Iran, with the Sunni sustained by Saudi Arabia First a Shiite –Sunni cross-frontier struggle where the Shi’ites were numerically larger, with international troops trying to keep order.

Sunni Islamist ‘terror group’ al-Qaeda fighters were introduced into Iraq by Saudi Arabian backers, becoming the sharp-end of the Sunni thrust against the Shi’ite majority population and government, itself brought to power by US organised elections and backed by neighbouring Shi’ite Iran. Power see-sawed between the two forms of Islamism.

In a late ‘wave’ came the ‘Arab Awakening’ movement which initially set out to test democracy’s possibilities in the numerous middle eastern top-down Arab states, big and small in the region. Tunisia saw the departure of its strong man in the process and a leavening of the former iron control of his regime. Next door Libya succumbed to a violent regime collapse, not unconnected to a French- UK- USA intervention against, and overthrowing of, the colourful dictator Quaddafi. Anarchy followed and still dominates, because no new government has been able to become sustained, except on a regional level. Libya is currently in a permanent state of anarchy and civil war.

Syria, the only state in the Arab League to allow religious freedom, collapsed during the Arab Awakening five years ago into civil war, which in reality meant that an uprising by Rural Syrians against the Asad government over neglect of water supplies, was transformed into a full blown religious civil war, stirred up and financed by Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, where Sunni fighters from Saudi Arabia, the North African states, even Europe and beyond, armed and sponsored by Saudi and Qatar, cheered on by Turkey, embarked on fighting what had now become ‘jihad’ against the Syrian government including Alawites/Shiites/Christians/Druses and many other minorities tolerated in Syria but persecuted by Sunni states.

Hezbollah, from Lebanon, joined a miscellany of fighters supporting the Assad government in Damascus with Iranian and more recently Russian assistance..

The Syrian forces comprise a collection of minority Islamic sects, all condemned as heretics by the Sunni islamists of Saudi and the Gulf States. So a religious civil war, not about democracy, in which the US stood back, except in arming its non-Islamic rebel clients in Syria and fully supporting the Government in Iraq, until the emergence of a new and regionally potent new alliance ISIS. This ruthless islamist group declaring itself to be ‘the Islamic Caliphate,’ attracted international volunteers, and conquered large tracts of Iraqi and Syrian desert and such towns that existed there. They brought a terror with a new level of discipline, ruthlessness, religious bigotry and purpose to their war.

The USA and Russia became more involved with the US giving support to the Iraqi government fighting ISIS in Iraq and the Russians similarly helping the Asad government in Syria.

Currently the ISIS capital, Raqqah in Syria and their main acquisition in Iraq, the city of Mosul, are under siege, mainly by Iraqi and Kurdish troops . The Syrian civil war in its sixth year, is at a stage where fighting, apart from that with ISIS, is tapering off, since the Syrian government with Russian assistance, finally took back full control of the great city of Aleppo at the end of 2016. Subsequently there is an uneasy truce whilst the supporting nations co-operate or fail to do so, to bring the wars to an end and the two sieges continue.



A Review of the Democracy Rankings

This year as ever, now our seventeenth annual World Democracy Audit, we note the huge differences between the annual performance measured by democratic criteria, of the world’s largest 154 nations (population exceeding one million).

Key democratic elements, Human Rights and Political Rights, make up the Division in which nations are placed. Within these 4 divisions we display ‘Press Freedom’ a reliable measurement of Freedom of Speech; together with Public Corruption, determining the ranking within that division.

World Audit’s 2017 Winners and Losers

It is dismal and something of a shock, comparing the situation over the seventeen years of this century loaded down with inherited realities, to see just how ‘gradual’ it has been over the years for democratic change in the world to manifest itself. Life expectations are longer, certainly in the developed world, but democratic breakthroughs are thin on the ground .

World Audit’s tail-enders

Wars continue, yet less so between, as within nations, thus Afghanistan still seethes, now with less foreign involvement, certainly from ‘the west’ and Russia, but what there is currently tends to be competition between ultra-Islamic groups, international and domestic. Al Qaeda of course is here, but now has competition from ISIS/Daesh – ‘the Caliphate’ no less, that has become established. Nevertheless the major political/religious groupings are the traditional theocratic Taliban, absolutely Afghan/Pakistani, largely tribal in character and itself subject to splits, more likely to be associated with prominent individuals rather than doctrinal divisions.

There is of course an elected Afghan government but the problems start there, with the adjective ‘elected,’ tangling with the ‘who counts the votes’ syndrome.

In this context, Afghanistan’s democratic ranking at 127th is perhaps less significant than its corruption ranking of 152nd (out of 154).

At the very bottom of the democracy rankings, unsurprisingly comes North Korea (154), a spectacular delinquent, beloved of the popular western press that relishes its cult of personality - and feared for its sheer outrageousness to the apprehension of its neighbours, South Korea and Japan. Less so to China, who know that it is they that might one day have to deal with the problem, as Pyongyang presses on with it’s weapons nuclearisation and IBM tests, tailor-made to annoy the US.

Turkmenistan at (153) manages to maintain a very low profile, largely keeping clear of foreign entanglements and giving little away in the form of any kind of news that might attract the attention of the outside world, but its position is no surprise to its tiny group of international watchers. It’s fellow former-soviet colony, Uzbekistan(151) still controlled by its former soviet boss, has never really lived down its boiling alive of religious dissidents, exposed (at the cost of his career) by the then UK ambassador.

Eritrea also (151), followed by Sudan(150) is probably as much as most international readers of this will hear of them during the coming year, although Sudan does get (fairly negative) publicity through the courageous charities working there and is always capable, it seems, of having a revolution, or a war with its rather chaotic offshoot neighbour, South Sudan.

Syria at (149), after six years of a ruinous religious civil war, could hardly be otherwise than in its current position, but it has maintained its religious tolerance, that was the very end target of its mostly foreign Sunni neighbours, who don’t themselves ‘do tolerance’ and find it repulsive that any other moslem nation should do so. It has also been the battleground where Iran and Saudi Arabia, the Shiite and Sunni great powers, have had their latest proxy war, now hopefully paused after nearly six years and a horrifying estimate of 460,000 deaths, in a nation perhaps well overdue for a time of peace. Prior to the outbreak of this civil war, Syria had been one of the most attractive of all the Arab states for foreign visitors, containing as it does did so many magnificent historical locations and buildings. How wonderful for our descendants, were that happy situation to be restored. It is no different to most of ‘the Arab League’ in the fact that all of them have authoritarian governments. (The top Arab League democracy ranking is Tunisia at 61).

Iraq, Syria’s neighbour came in at 134th in Democracy; (117th in free speech and a sad 147th for corruption). This then is the state of the ‘democracy’ that President George.W. Bush promised to implant via his US/UK invasion in 2003. Iraq, religiously split, saw terrorism re-emerge with the well organised ‘Caliphate.’ Although this phenomenon, aka ISIS and Daesh, is headquartered in Syria’s city of Raqqah, it is now coming under siege by combined forces backed by US airpower.

ISIS has caused even more havoc in Iraq, where it captured and is now besieged by Iraqi and Kurdish forces, with US air support and ground ‘advisors’, in the large northern city of Mosul, apparently also the residence of the self-proclaimed Caliph. This is a drama that has not yet approached its conclusion, since the defenders are putting up a well prepared powerful resistance, but promises little other than a long hard slog before it can succeed.

So much for the World Audit ‘tail-enders’.

…but the winners are: co-equal 1st: Denmark and Finland

Moving upwards to the very top of the tables, it is now no surprise that, yet again, four Scandinavian nations lead the way: Denmark(1=), Finland(1=), Sweden and Norway(4=). Iceland has too small a population for inclusion in these tables, but if or when they get to a million population, expect them to be right up there.

The Scand’s ‘Free Speech’ rankings are enviable and they obviously don’t do corruption up north. As has now also become established, they are closely pursued in their excellence by Netherlands(5); Switzerland(6); New Zealand(7) -“eat your heart out” antagonistic Netanyahu, with Israel at (32)!

– Then comes Belgium(8); Canada(9) with Germany coming in at (10th), a reflection perhaps on its generosity in accepting a million boat people -refugees from war and desperation? It is the highest democratic score of any of the significant ‘mover and shaker’ powers.

The other greater and lesser ‘powers’, show UK at 12th co-equal with Australia; the USA at 16th co-equal with Japan; France(20th); Italy (30th but 53rd in corruption); India(51); Brazil(56); Nigeria (90= but with free speech at 70th and corruption racing away at 122); Turkey(101 with free speech at 117th); Saudi-Arabia (107= but hush - with free speech at 142); Pakistan(107 = a democratic mess, with free speech at 101 and corruption at 105).

China which does not claim to be a democracy, comes in at 125th with Free Speech way down at 143rd; and Corruption ranking 73rd, yet improving.

Russia 132nd not helped by a free speech score of 134 and with corruption at 107th.

Crowned Heads of State –perhaps an oddity in the 21stC

The days of ‘crowned heads’ might characterise all of human history before these immediate past few centuries, yet note that in our all-democratic First Division of 30 nations, currently there remain a high proportion - 11 crowned ‘heads of state’, which excepting Japan, most of them European.

To be sure, monarchs now have a very light footfall on the political affairs of their nation – which is of course how they have survived, but still, heredity obviously matters, if only because of the stability it offers!

The world’s principal villains don’t change much either. But like humanity generally there only a few that have no redeeming features, though sometimes hard to find!

The condition for many national disasters can be seen to be as much due to the effective absence of any valid law and order, a lack of control , as to the polar opposite, the dominating presence of a dictator ‘making it up as he goes along’. You can spot numerous examples of both in the League tables.

A view of our 83 strong Fourth Division, includes both of these dismal categories. At the furthest end in descending order, we include, as well as longstanding chaotic and violent practitioners of misrule, some fairly impregnable absolutist rulers: North Korea (154), Turkmenistan(153), Uzbekistan(151), Eritrea(151), Somalia(148), Sudan(150). ‘Anarchy’ in its various modes, best represents an alternative explanation in the lowest grades. That is well represented amongst the 118 non-democratic nations and are often post- colonials who didn’t make it to democracy.

Faced with the sheer weight of 118 not fully (in many cases not nearly) democratic states in our combined Divisions Three and Four, compared worldwide with only 36 democracies in Divisions One and Two, it is noticeable that amongst the latter in Europe for example, Bulgaria and Romania have joined up by generally improving, since it was a political precondition of sharing in the prosperity of the largest cluster of democracies in the world, the European Union. Although Hungary is this year in the Third division (43), as are EU’s Latvia(37); Romania(44); Bulgaria(47)… and there, ‘how are the mighty fallen,’ is Greece(50), the birthplace of classical democracy.

In Div. One are: Poland(27), Czech Republic(26), Slovakia(29), all former Soviet satellites that opted for democracy.

Similarly Mongolia(36) now acknowledged to be democratic, being in the 2nd Division, far away in central Asia, squeezed as they say, like “an egg between two rocks,” more accurately between the Russian Federation and China - remarkably has done the same. Mongolia was never a part of the USSR but was the second nation in the world to opt for communism after Russia. Now it has a far higher democratic status than any of the former Soviet nations –and many of the former Soviet satellites.

Estonia(14), Lithuania(22) both First Division, were ‘all-union republics’ within the Soviet Union until the collapse of the USSR in 1991, emerged with western tutelage as democracies, more or less straight into the EU and NATO. Latvia(37) the third member of the Baltic Trinity fell from grace, but now heads Div 3, hopefully striving to get back on terms, with the two other neighbouring ’Baltics’.

The collapse of Yugoslavia and its consequent civil war, saw such relicts of the Austrian Empire as Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, Slovenia, the still troubled Bosnia, FYR Macedonia, all appeared to opt for democracy, even the former Serbian territory of Kosovo moving out of Serbia towards independent statehood. All things globally considered, the nations of Europe have been the most successful in making the transition for themselves and particularly those whose overseas empires were released from bondage. Only one dictatorship remains in Europe, which is Belarus(139) a former appendage of the USSR still controlled by its ageing Cold War leader and his unattractive apparat.

The European Union whose very point and purpose to a large degree, was to put an end to centuries of endless inter-state warfare, has unquestionably been a great success in this re-uniting respect!

Asia and the middle-east saw the mighty India(51) released from empire to become a robust and leading ‘democracy’ although qualified by being in Div 3, with Free speech at 49th and Corruption 66th. When so minded, India could be a future leading world power. A nuclear state, it has been faced with unremitting hostility from Pakistan to its north, which it reciprocates. It is always a potential ‘world-alert’ flashpoint, since both sides have nuclear weapons and have never managed to maintain a lasting peace. Pakistan(107) has thus far failed at the democracy game. It is a deeply Islamic state closely allied to Saudi Arabia and the spread of Islamism. There is a long-lasting territorial dispute with India over the Himalayan state of Kashmir, dating back to partition at the end of the British Raj. In fact they have had four wars in the 70 years since Partition, which haven’t changed the map.

Other formerly European ruled territories: Indonesia(60); Malaysia(82); Vietnam(132); Algeria(93) and several in Africa, have made the cut to independence, but as will be seen in our tables, they are not crowding the democratic sector, quite the reverse. Yet it is only fair to observe that imperial rule was even by its own rules, not without large democratic lapses, when self-rule finally arrived.

Current and future historians may note that in those times, few if any imperial powers, extended their own hard won national democratic achievements, to their distant colonies, except only sometimes when vacating them. Freedom of the Press is a telling example, but omnipresent corruption, even now taken as ‘a given’ in a majority of our 154 nations, certainly seduced some colonial administrators (whilst others manfully resisted it). So, it cannot be a surprise to anyone that amongst newly emergent post-imperial nations, each moves at its own speed, to the point of balance where corruption is very clearly a continuing obstacle to achieving a working democracy.

It’s worth pointing out that India, probably with the world’s largest population, with massive public poverty as well as extraordinary individual wealth, is still ranking its national democracy at 51st and is certainly within sight of the most favourable statistical end result, whereas China, with the other giant population, is 125th, partly because it doesn’t have that democratic ‘sine qua non,’ press freedom – thus freedom of speech (143rd), in India is (49th).

Corruption is bad in both giant nations. India’s (66th) position in that is similar with China’s(73rd) - but China does not call itself a democracy and even if it did, it started out in the mid- 20th C having finally expelled its invaders, from an extremely low base. Chinese 20th century history had been of almost unremitting civil war, and then invasion and World War II, mostly involving Japan; then civil war again, with the Communist Party gradually acquiring complete mainland control. It had by the 1980’s begun to blossom as an undoubted world grade power. Its stability and productivity since then have put it high up on most tables of performance, other than those of democracy, but even there corruption is now being punished.

It is always a matter of surprise to us that Singapore(72nd) at 8th is one of the least corrupt states in all of the world - and a nice place to visit, yet ranks so low as (110th) for Press Freedom. Broadly the very efficient government keeps strict watch on the local Press and ensures no unfavourable coverage by threatening (unspoken) withdrawal of (very large) government and allied advertising. Of course that means no level playing field at elections, so consistently landing this small, in many other ways admirable nation, at the top of our 83 nation ‘worst results’ Division 4.

Press Freedom is essential in a democracy and what a struggle that is in so many parts of the world. The main point is that it’s not getting better. In fairness, in Iran and China it is down (but not out). The Committee to Protect Journalists reports that China is currently holding 38 journalists behind bars, down from previous years. The number of journalists jailed in Turkey and Egypt rose dramatically in 2016. Turkey (which calls itself a democracy) now has an extraordinary 81 journos in prison; and Egypt 25! This tells you what you might not have wanted to know, about ‘freedom of speech’ in Moslem countries.

The USA’s virtual colonies amongst the nations of South and Central America; the Philippines and numerous Pacific islands have had differing outcomes. The Philippines (57th) might earlier have been seen as a continuing colony of the Vatican, whilst its democratically elected politicians have had an uphill job in seeking to democratise the place. Extra-judicial murder for being ‘left wing,’ as Union organisers there are held to be, has indeed been commonplace. But the fact is that now the Philippines during the course of the past year, have turned their backs on democracy by bizarrely electing a president who, to put it mildly, is out of control. His plan, he said during his successful election campaign, was to solve the nation’s drug problem by killing – authorising the police to kill drug dealers and indeed addicts, who are often the same thing. This is a nation without Capital Punishment, so it is not about introducing the death penalty in due process, but to actually execute without benefit of trial, these said undesirables.

This new president by way perhaps of encouragement, has told the world that he personally has killed several such people, in his former life as a big city mayor. No surprise that many murders are now carried out by vigilantes without police ‘help’, and no doubt many personal scores, perhaps even unrelated to drugs, gang wars etc; are being settled in this way. It is a fair prediction we think, that the current democracy ranking of 57th will drop for next year.

Japan has concentrated very successfully on economic and democratic growth, firmly away from any involvement in wars. It was able to do this primarily because the USA was ready to protect it from foreign interference –notably the threat of an expansionist USSR. Now Japan (16th in the world), is a beacon of democracy in the Far East and is generally resistant to the US’s urging to get more involved alongside US’ and Nato expeditions, in what the Japanese public consider to be national intrusions. But that could change under the new US president.

Taking a view of future US foreign policy, there is of course the influential political ‘neocon’ group implanted in the US State Dept, which many of America’s friends have to disapprove of, since it seeks the ticking time-bomb of US hegemony, via the ‘American Empire’ concept, ultimately based on the US’s unrivalled military power. Our perception is that ‘insisting’ on hegemony over a world of nation states, carries with it the potential for disaster, as witness the US military intervention in Iraq following that of Afghanistan, neither of which came close to achieving the publicised war-aims, yet certainly ‘cost,’ in terms of lives of both the US, their allies and their Iraqi and Afghan opponents.

With a new President, certainly an unorthodox one, there is no way of knowing to what extent he will change US foreign policy.

The one certain thing is that he is unlikely to keep his hands off it.

He has talked of a rapprochement with the Putin government in Russia, which would be interesting –since decades of being in the freezer has unquestionably led to international hostility short of violence, but not into a healthy relationship.

2017 will tell us, in the west, something of what we want to know.

The Latin American nations’ democratic performance is best illustrated by the side-bar (that includes the Caribbean), which show that only Uruguay(16) ,Chile(21) and Costa Rica(22) all 1st Division, are regarded as fully democratic, leaving 22 nations including the biggest: Brazil(56), Argentina(65), Mexico(69) with a way to go. Obviously Central and South America have been dominated by the presence of their giant northern neighbour. The biggest regional change is that Cuba(121) is now ‘forgiven’ by the US for its adhering to Russian patronage, (notwithstanding that they had been unsuccessfully invaded by a CIA organised collection of mercenaries and displaced former citizens). They still are notionally communist but that is withering ‘on the vine,’ as the remainder of the ‘old guard’, now full of years, move out of power.

Several central and South American states were treated as economic colonies and ruled by politicians favoured by the USA and some of the US’s giant corporations. During the cold war, the position of those states that inclined towards a European type socialist solution to their problems, were called communists (the enemy), vilified and persecuted by the USA and its international agencies. Chile, now 21st in the world, was perhaps the worst example, with its then left-wing but elected president, being murdered in office by US sponsored rebels. But that was ‘then,’ and this is now. Democratically, Chile is second only in Latin America to Uruguay(16) and just ahead of the phenomenon that is Costa Rica(22) that famously alone in the world, years ago abolished its army.

Africa generally continues to disappoint. Following the accelerating pace of de-colonialism, many of the largest or more significant, formerly colonised nations, did start off with the apparatus of state already established by the former colonial powers and often with an economic push and continuing investment . Other African states, never attractive enough to the imperial powers to be developed when colonised, often with little natural wealth engendering any activities other than basic farming or pastoral pursuits, sometimes had just one real valuable asset, like diamonds, or rare minerals like uranium.

Here the corruption endemic to many very poor countries saw a wave of exploitative involvement by outside opportunists, which has evolved throughout Africa when circumstances allowed it. Another category, of genuine longer term investors, amongst which particularly late-arrival China, currently is significant, have invested heavily and permanently in African states that can supply them with those raw materials on which their own domestic economy depends.

Probably the most significant developed state there is South Africa, which had previously been ruled by a determined white settler population, that eventually gave way to a representative government led by indigenous Black Africans. They inherited an established nation and in return aimed, with mixed results, for ‘a rainbow state.’ At 44th in the world it is not out of reach of achieving full democracy, it ranks 5th amongst African nation states, but its democratic status is unquestionably under threat since the inheritors of power in the state, after independence, still dominate the nation’s politics. These are inevitably without heavyweight political competition, riddled with corruption - always a mortal danger to democracy with any such distortion of an effective balance of power.

The African Union sidebar panel of 46 nations shows that only Mauritius(33rd) & Ghana(34th), are listed amongst the world’s democratic nations.

23 African states are included amongst the last 50 in the Democracy table. Inevitably with this situation of economic deprivation and absence of state institutions familiar in developed states, then more basic forces hold sway, not least the corruption familiar in almost all underdeveloped states.

But nature itself in essential ways such as the absence of drinking water, the proliferation of disease, large scale drought destructive of agriculture, is particularly significant in Africa and concomitant with that is the competition for resources, often leading to war. War today, is even at the basic level of the poorest states, modern in the sense of weaponry and fighters who find that they are trading their lives and limbs in return for a higher place in the queue for all that is essential, and for as long as it lasts, desirable.

This fearful problem of war for perceived essentials is also complicated by religions that severally claim and are prepared to kill for a monopoly of ‘truths’, often different interpretations of historic events within the same religions, cults or sects, once exemplified at world level by Christians: Catholic and Protestant, now particularly by Moslems: Sunni and Shia.

The middle-east and western Asia is currently the cockpit of religious violence where Islam, Judaism and Christianity were all born. The world’s only Jewish state, Israel is there, its capital Jerusalem also being a holy city to the Christians and the Moslems.

Israel(32) this time around, after a gap of about 2000 years, is also a democracy or as is being suggested, a ‘semi-democracy’, since only its citizens living within one prescribed part of the state, enjoy full democratic rights including religious freedoms. But it also includes inhabitants who are not acknowledged as citizens, but aren’t going away. They would be called ‘incomers,’ except that they were there before there was a state of Israel.

As the years go by, this paradox is no closer to a solution, which itself leads to continuing waves of violence. Right now the most evil religious war is taking place in the neighbourhood, between different species of Moslem, the fighting washing up to Israel’s borders. Their ever vigilant border troops have a real job on nowadays, and at this time there is also a semi-intifada within Israeli borders. The Israeli air force flies frequent missions, much of this over Syrian territory, but they usually say that the raids are against Hezbollah munitions that might ‘one day’ be used against Israel. There are no neighbouring allies but Israel’s own military are formidable and they have endless backing from the USA.

Israel had to fight for its very existence against the neighbouring Arab, mostly Moslem states. It did and it won, but that fact has not led to it becoming accepted in the neighbourhood, just as in turn, it does not accept most of the indigenous population as citizens. It also has the nuclear weapon, the sine qua non of the military High Table, together with a well-trained and equipped citizen army. Yet it is under permanent strain.

Much of the neighbourhood including the mostly Moslem North and some of East Africa, was subject to colonialism by the regional power, Ottoman Turkey; or latterly to European nations who on the defeat of Turkey in WW1divided them up between them and their Arab clients. Syria, a truly ancient entity, is predominantly but not exclusively Arabic, in fact before the civil war, it was the most religiously tolerant nation in the region. Its long history includes provincial status in the Roman, Persian and Byzantine empires. It is bordered by Iraq, similarly ancient but both of these states have been in the toils of horrible wars and civil wars, with a renewed cult of Wahhabi -Sunni extremism, that has emerged with major implications for all the surrounding states.

Iraq was invaded by the USA, its dictator pursued and killed during the occupation. The US withdrew in favour of a shaky alliance of the majority Shiites with some leavening of the less numerous Sunni. It is referred to by some, mainly in the US, as a democracy (we mark it at 134), which puts that into some sort of perspective. Its neighbour, not seriously democratic Syria (149), long had a stable government with a ruling family like most of its Arab neighbours, but has been in a state of civil war, now in its sixth year, superficially a religious divide between the Shia and Sunni, although Syria is the only Arab state with genuine freedom of religion.

But although the quarrel is certainly distorted by these different sects of Islam there is another agenda which is the ancient religious and therefore prickly political divide between Sunni Islam, exemplified by the wealthy Arabic kingdom of Saudi Arabia; and the regional giant the Shia Islamic Republic of Iran, who are not Arabic. The neighbourhood is now also the epicentre of Islamic extremism, first by Al Qaeda and its franchisees, latterly by a breakaway, "A-Q in Iraq", now Daesh, the Islamic State (ISIS), with a self-hailed Caliph causing much more concern than its recent predecessors. Daesh now occupies vast tracts of Syria and Iraq, mostly desert, but including some scattered towns. There seems no likelihood of peace in the region in the foreseeable future. International efforts, apart from their airforces engaged against Daesh, have recently centred on seeking to bring the Syrian civil war to an end. Although both the US and Russia are involved, along with Saudi and Iran, finding an acceptable solution will not be easy.

Some in the west believe that the removal of President Assad would bring the rebel fighters to stop fighting, but the vast majority of these rebel fighters are now Islamic warriors whose objective is not just the removal of the Assad family, but the creation of a fundamentalist Wahhabi Sunni Islamic state. (Their sponsors are paying them for that and many of the fighters are not Syrian at all, but religiously motivated, mainly jihadis from North African and other Moslem countries and including western volunteers).

Since Syria is currently made up not just of Sunni Moslems but includes a significant number of Shi’ites, plus several other Moslem sects, and a variety of Christians, all of whom are condemned by the Sunni, it is unlikely that any solution that does not include the established freedom of religion will be acceptable to Assad’s negotiators. But it is that very freedom which is unacceptable to the Sunni. The Shia Alawites are well aware that their own existence is on the line and ‘turkeys don’t vote for Christmas’.

The neighbouring large states, Turkey and particularly Egypt (119 was 111), have dropped in democratic rankings. In the case of Egypt the army’s behaviour during the Arab Awakening was beyond any acceptability. They had a soft coup displacing the Marshal who was their leader and president, after many civilian deaths and other casualties amongst the protestors. They announced a free election which was duly held and surrendered power to the Moslem Brotherhood party that won. A year into the new government the army moved again, disbanded the government, arresting everyone prominent including the prime minister and killing all that opposed them. They then coolly announced that they were going to call a new election and the most senior general Al Sisi was nominated and then won, so is now the new president. Hundreds, perhaps thousands more civilians protested and were killed; many more were imprisoned, some executed.

Turkey’s drop in the rankings (was 88 now 101), has also been no surprise. President Erdogan suddenly and unilaterally went back to war again with the Turkish Kurds – an age-old civil conflict in Turkey that had gone quiet, having been halted for years for negotiations. It had also emerged that Erdogan has been playing a double game with the Allies and ISIS, enabling Daesh to export the Iraqi and Syrian oil from the oilfields they had captured. Keeping its borders open for jihadists arriving from across the world and leaving again. Moreover, it became clear that Erdogan was a prime mover in escalating the former Syrian uprising into the existing civil war. This is now an ugly series of facts for its NATO allies to reconcile with.

Clive Lindley Publisher/Editor
Trina Middlecote/Data Management




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