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Democracy Index 2012: Western Balkans cannot Escape Global Trends

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The countries of Western Balkans didn't escape the global trends noted in the latest “Democracy Index 2012: Democracy is at a standstill” report prepared by the Economist Intelligence Unit and released last week.

Of the countries of the region, only Croatia has increased its average grade, from 6.73 in 2011 to 6.93 in 2012, and is the highest ranked among the countries of the Western Balkans in 50th place.

Serbia, which is ranked 66th (6.33) and Macedonia in 73rd place (6.16) are the two countries that at least managed to keep the same average grade as one year ago, and together with Montenegro in 76th place, are ranked among the “Flawed democracies” of countries with average grade between 6.00 and 7.99.

It should be noted that Montenegro registered a drop in its average grade from 6.15 to 6.05, as did Albania, a drop from 5.81 to 5.67, and Bosnia and Herzegovina which registered a drop of its average grade from 5.24 to 5.11. Albania and BiH are ranked among the “Hybrid regimes” (average grade from 4.00 to 5.99), in 90th and 98th places, respectively. Kosovo was not included in the Democracy Index 2012.

The Democracy Index states that flawed democracies are the countries that have free and fair elections and even if there are problems (such as infringements on media freedom), basic civil liberties will be respected. However, there  are significant weaknesses in other aspects of democracy, including problems in governance, an underdeveloped political culture and low levels of political participation.

Hybrid regimes, according to the Democracy Index, are those in which elections have substantial irregularities that often prevent them from being both free and fair. Government pressure on opposition parties and candidates may be common. Serious weaknesses are more prevalent than in flawed democracies--in political culture, functioning of government and political participation. Corruption tends to be widespread and the rule of law is weak. Civil society is weak. Typically there is harassment of and pressure on journalists, and the judiciary is not independent.

Scandinavian countries again lead the way – Norway (average grade 9.93), Sweden (9.73), Iceland (9.65) and Denmark (9.52) hold the first four places, followed by New Zealand, Australia, Switzerland, Canada, Finland and the Netherlands, which rounds up the top 10 on the list of 25 countries ranked as Full Democracies.

On the bottom of the list are the authoritarian regimes in Syria (1.63), Chad (1.62), Guinea Bissau (1.44). North Korea is dead last with an average grade of 1.08.

The Democracy Index 2012 notes that the year was characterized by the sovereign debt crises and the weak political leadership in the developed world, which is accompanied with declining popular confidence in political institutions in many European Countries.

It also notes that, while unprecedented rise of movements for democratic change across the Arab world led many to expect a new wave of democratisation, democracy in the region remains a highly uncertain prospect.

The full report is available at the website of the Economist Intelligence Unit (requires free registration).

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