Today in the UK is Democracy Day, marking the 750th anniversary of the first parliament of elected representatives at Westminster, the de Montfort Parliament. (In homage to my readers in the Isle of Man, I should point out that we are mere babes in the parliamentary woods, compared to their Tynwald which was established over a millennium ago.) The “Today” programme on Radio 4 this morning debated the subject at length, and one of the many sources they quoted was the Democracy Index published annually by the Economist Intelligence Unit. According to the index itself, it “provides a snapshot of the state of democracy worldwide for 165 independent states and two territories – this covers almost the entire population of the world and the vast majority of the world’s states (micro states are excluded). The index is based on five categories: electoral process and pluralism; civil liberties; the functioning of government; political participation; and political culture. Countries are placed within one of four types of regimes: full democracies; flawed democracies; hybrid regimes; and authoritarian regimes.”
The most recent (sixth) edition of the index covers the situation in 2013, and it finds that the “most democratic” countries in the world are Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Denmark and New Zealand. The “least democratic” are North Korea, Guinea-Bissau, the Central African Republic, Chad and Turkmenistan. (The UK is the 14th most democratic.) Now, as they used to say in O-level exam papers, let us compare and contrast. Turn, if you will, to the Corruption Perceptions Index 2014. (In case you’ve left your well-thumbed and marked-up copy by your bedside, here’s the link.) And what do we find? The least corrupt countries in the world are Denmark, New Zealand, Finland, Sweden and Norway (so that’s four out of five matches between the two indices, with Finland actually the 9th most democratic country). And the most corrupt are Somalia, North Korea, Sudan, Afghanistan and South Sudan. Fewer exact matches, but undemocratic Guinea-Bissau, CAR, Chad and Turkmenistan are all in the bottom 26 of the corruption index.
Unsurprising perhaps, but this suggests that there is a strong correlation between democracy and lack of corruption. What the EIU calls full democracies foster civil liberties and political transparency – both of which make corruption more difficult, more reviled, more apparent and more punished. So for the MLRO looking for sources of information to help him risk-rank the countries of the world, and nervous that the Corruption Perceptions Index focuses too much on only one crime, I would say that the Democracy Index is a welcome annual addition to his library. The 2013 index suggests that, globally, democracy is in a state of stagnation, with one of the key recent developments being “rampant crime in some countries in Latin America – in particular, violence and drug trafficking”, where “the corrupting influence of organised crime and its ability to undermine the effectiveness of the security forces and the judicial authorities are a serious problem”. Happy Democracy Day, everyone!