Democracy In The World

With democratic revolutions spreading from Tunisia to Egypt, I was wondering…how many democracies exist in the world?

26

According to the 2010 Democracy Index, a report published by the Economic Intelligence Unit, a division of The Economist magazine.

Seventeen of them in Europe, two in Latin America, two in Asia, one in Africa, and the last four are: US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

Democracy Index 2010 from the Economic Intelligence Unit (pdf)

This is quite disheartening. As a child of a democracy I expected the number to be 200 or something. How could any country/person not want to be caught in the fire of liberty!

Then it gets me thinking that perhaps it is a cultural thing. Christianity is fiercely independent (“thou shall not kill”) and capitalism is selfishness at its very core. Hey, it could even be from the vast wealth we gained through colonization and subsequent exploitation.

East vs West

I often hear of this divide between the West and East. As if democracy is a Western value not shared by those in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa.

Is this true?

To answer I dug into what makes a democracy. The report classifies one according to five categories:

  • Functioning of government
  • Civil liberties
  • Electoral process and pluralism
  • Political participation
  • Political culture

Then every country is rated and ranked as a full democracy, flawed democracy, hybrid, or authoritarian regime.

The previously mentioned 26 countries are the full democracies. Beyond that another 53 are ranked as flawed democracies. Add up both and it accounts for about half the world’s population.

Which goes a long to prove that democracy is not limited to the Western world. Among the flawed ones are several in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

I would also say that a highly functioning government, civil liberties, and voting are universal expectations of all people. Believe me when an authoritarian regime employs the “secret police” every human being wishes for justice.

These ideals just seem extraordinarily hard to achieve. Several countries, even strong European nations like Italy, France, and Greece, have seen their ability to maintain them drop. Even the United States has recently seen its civil liberties erode and many of us definitely lack political participation.

I guess I can chalk up these reports of democracy being a Western value as propaganda. Probably the same line a dictator uses to keep people under his thumb.

What do you think, is democracy appropriate for the Middle East? Will it do well in Egypt?

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