Estonia’s democracy score declines slightly in 2017

According to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index 2017, Estonia’s democracy score was in a slight decline in the past year, having dropped from 7.85 to 7.79.

The Economist Intelligence Unit ranks 167 countries on a scale of 0 to 10 based on 60 indicators across five broad categories: electoral process and pluralism; functioning of government; political participation; democratic political culture; and civil liberties.

While in the 2016 index, Estonia scored 7.85, this time around the score had declined by six points, ranking the country 30th in the world. Estonia is classified as a “flawed democracy”, which means that even though the country has free and fair elections and basic civil liberties are respected, “there are significant weaknesses in other aspects of democracy, including problems in governance, an underdeveloped political culture and low levels of political participation”.

First in Eastern Europe

To be classified as a “full democracy”, a country needs to have a score above eight – and only 19 countries among the 167 ranked qualify. The most democratic country in the world is Norway (9.87), followed by Iceland (9.58) and Sweden (9.39). Estonia’s northern neighbor Finland ranks ninth with the score of 9.03.

The good news is, in Eastern Europe, Estonia is ranked first, followed by the Czech Republic and Slovenia.

In 2015, Estonia scored 7.85; in 2014 7.74; in 2011-2013 7.61.

In the 2017 Democracy Index, the average global score fell. “Some 89 countries experienced a decline in their total score compared with 2016, more than three times as many as the countries that recorded an improvement (27), the worst performance since 2010-11 in the aftermath of the global economic and financial crisis,” the Economist Intelligence Unit said. “The other 51 countries stagnated, as their scores remained unchanged compared with 2016.”

“Almost one-half (49.3%) of the world’s population lives in a democracy of some sort, although only 4.5% reside in a ‘full democracy’, down from 8.9% in 2015 as a result of the US being demoted from a ‘full democracy’ to a ‘flawed democracy’ in 2016,” the report added.

Free speech under attack

A particular concern of the 2017 index is free speech – the report is even titled, “Free Speech Under Attack”. The Economist Intelligence Unit points out that despite the “enormous expansion of the possibilities of free speech, in practice freedom of expression is increasingly restricted”.

“According to our media freedom ranking, in 2017 less than one-half of the global population had access to a free or partially free media and enjoyed the right to speak freely,” the report says. “Moreover, in many of those countries media freedom and freedom of expression were being eroded. Censorship is no longer the prerogative of authoritarian regimes; it is being deployed increasingly in the world’s democracies as well.”

The Economist Intelligence Unit is a British business within the Economist Group, providing forecasting and advisory services through research and analysis, such as monthly country reports, five-year country economic forecasts, country risk service reports and industry reports.

The Democracy Index provides a snapshot of the state of democracy worldwide for 167 countries and territories, covering almost the entire population of the world. The 2017 index is its tenth edition.

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Cover: People forming the map of Estonia (the image is illustrative/Shutterstock).

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About the author: Sten Hankewitz

Sten Hankewitz is a lifelong journalist and Deputy Editor of Estonian World. Having lived in Estonia, Spain and the UK, he now resides in the United States. He loves to write and besides contributing to Estonian World and some occasional blogging, he writes for other media outlets in Estonia, Israel and elsewhere. He has strong convictions and he shows them unashamedly. You can follow him on Twitter, friend him on Facebook or check out his personal blog. You can write to Sten at sten@estonianworld.com.