Economist Democracy Index: Ukraine dips dramatically


In the Economist Intelligence Unit’s third Index of Democracy 2010, entitled “Democracy in retreat”, Ukraine shows the worst result of any European country, slipping 14 points (it held 53rd place in 2008 and is at 67 in 2010.  The authors suggest that the democratic achievements as a result of the Orange Revolution are now in jeopardy.  

The following is from the report which can be found at

Democracy in retreat

This is the third edition of the Economist Intelligence Unit’s democracy index. It reflects the situation as of November 2010. The first edition, published in The Economist’s The World in 2007, measured the state of democracy in September 2006 and the second edition covered the situation towards the end of 2008. The index 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 independent states (micro states are excluded). The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Index of Democracy 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.

Free and fair elections and civil liberties are necessary conditions for democracy, but they are unlikely to be sufficient for a full and consolidated democracy if unaccompanied by transparent and at least minimally efficient government, sufficient political participation and a supportive democratic political culture. It is not easy to build a sturdy democracy. Even in long-established ones, if not nurtured and protected, democracy can corrode.

Democracy in decline

The global record in democratisation since the start of its so-called third wave in 1974, and acceleration after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, has been impressive. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s measure of democracy, one-half of the world’s population now lives in a democracy of some sort. However, there has been a decline in democracy across the world since 2008. The decades-long global trend in democratisation had previously come to a halt in what Larry Diamond (2008) called a "democratic recession". Now democracy is in retreat. The dominant pattern in all regions over the past two years has been backsliding on previously attained progress in democratisation. The global financial crisis that started in 2008 accentuated some existing negative trends in political development.

Table 1  Democracy index, 2010, by regime type


No. of countries

% of countries

% of world population

Full democracies




Flawed democracies




Hybrid regimes




Authoritarian regimes




Note. "World" population refers to the total population of the 167 countries covered by the index. Since this excludes only micro states, this is nearly equal to the entire actual estimated world population in 2010. Source: Economist Intelligence Unit.

Disappointments abound across many of the world’s regions. Authoritarian trends have become even more entrenched in the Middle East and much of the former Soviet Union. Democratisation in Sub-Saharan Africa is grinding to a halt, and in some cases is being reversed. A political malaise in east-central Europe has led to disappointment and questioning of the strength of the region’s democratic transition. Media freedoms are being eroded across Latin America and populist forces w’th dubious democratic credentials have come to the fore in a few countries in the region. In the developed West, a precipitous decline in political participation, weaknesses in the functioning of government and security-related curbs on civil liberties are having a corrosive effect on some long- established democracies.

Reversals in or erosion of democracy and rising disenchantment with the results of some political liberalisations appear to have a variety of causes. The pace of democratisation was bound to slow after the "easy cases"—eager-to-liberalise east-central Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall and African regimes susceptible to outside pressure for political change. "Hard cases" such as China and Middle East autocracies were always going to be a more difficult proposition. Autocrats have also learned how better to protect themselves; many of them preside over energy-rich states and have been strengthened by sustained high oil prices. A key factor is the delegitimation of much of the democracy-promotion agenda, which has been associated with military intervention and unpopular wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. A combination of double standards in foreign policy (autocrats can be good friends as well as foes) and growing infringements of civil liberties has led to charges of hypocrisy against Western states.

Problems in the functioning of democracy in leading Western states diminish the scope for credible external democracy promotion. The US and UK are near the bottom of the "full democracy" category in our index. In the US, there has been an erosion of civil liberties related to the fight against terrorism. Problems in the functioning of government have also become more prominent. In the UK, there has also been some erosion of civil liberties, but the main feature is an exceptionally low level of political participation across all dimensions—voting turnout, membership of political parties and willingness to engage in and attitudes to political activity.

Although almost one-half of the world’s countries can be considered to be democracies, in our index the number of "full democracies" is low, at only 26 countries; 53 countries are rated as "flawed democracies". Of the remaining 88 countries in our index, 55 are authoritarian and 33 are considered to be "hybrid regimes". As could be expected, the developed OECD countries dominate among full democracies, although there are two Latin American countries, one east European country and one African country, which suggests that the level of development is not a binding constraint. Only two Asian countries are represented: Japan and South Korea.

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