Estonia’s democracy score slightly declines; falls behind the US

According to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index 2019, Estonia’s democracy scores slightly declined in 2019, making the country fall behind the United States.

In the 2019 Democracy Index, compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit, a British business within the Economist Group providing forecasting and advisory services through research and analysis, Estonia is a “flawed democracy” with the score of 7.90 in 2019. In 2018, Estonia scored 7.97, which shows a small decline.

And, in 2018, Estonia ranked higher than the United States, which in both 2019 and the year before scored 7.96. In the overall index, Estonia is ranked 27th, just behind Malta and ahead of Israel.

The good news is, however, that in Eastern Europe, Estonia scores the highest and is ranked the first. “The scores for the Baltic states moved closer together, as Estonia – the leader – saw confidence in political parties decline, while Latvia – the laggard – saw the share of women in parliament increase. Estonia remained the highest-ranking country in eastern Europe, with a score of 7.90 and a global ranking of 27th,” the Economist Intelligence Unit noted in its report.

Sixty-eight countries declined in 2019

The most democratic country in the world, according to the index, is Norway, followed by Iceland, Sweden and New Zealand. Finland is ranked fifth, Ireland sixth, and Denmark and Canada share the seventh spot. Australia and Switzerland finish up the top 10.

Lithuania is ranked 36th with the score of 7.50 (tied with Slovenia); and Latvia 38th with the score of 7.49. Poland is ranked 57th and Russia (classified as an authoritarian regime) ranks 134th, alongside with Congo.

The most democratic country in the world is Norway. Photo: People celebrating Norwegian Constitution Day in Oslo (Wikipedia).

Altogether, there are 22 full democracies in the world, 54 flawed democracies, 37 hybrid regimes and 54 authoritarian regimes.

“In 2019, some 68 countries experienced a decline in their total score compared with 2018, but almost as many (65) recorded an improvement,” the report pointed out. “The other 34 stagnated, with their scores remaining unchanged compared with 2018.”

“Three countries (Chile, France and Portugal) moved from the ‘flawed democracy’ category to be classified as ‘full democracies’. Malta moved in the opposite direction, falling out of the ‘full democracy’ category to become a ‘flawed democracy’.”

“Problems in governance … and low levels of political participation”

According to the methodology of the index, the countries that are full democracies must have the democracy score higher than eight; flawed democracies greater than six and less than or equal to eight; hybrid regimes greater than four and less than or equal to six; and authoritarian regimes are scored less than or equal to four.

A full democracy is a country in which not only basic political freedoms and civil liberties are respected, but which also tend to be underpinned by a political culture conducive to the flourishing of democracy. “The functioning of government is satisfactory. Media are independent and diverse. There is an effective system of checks and balances. The judiciary is independent and judicial decisions are enforced. There are only limited problems in the functioning of democracies.”

A flawed democracy, under which Estonia falls, is a country that also has free and fair elections and, “even if there are problems (such as infringements on media freedom), basic civil liberties are 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.”

Martin Helme, the deputy leader of the populist EKRE party and Estonia’s finance minister, showing a white supremacy sign at the swearing-in ceremony of the new government in the Estonian parliament on 24 April 2019 (the image is illustrative).

The worst average global score

According to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s measure of democracy, almost one-half (48.4%) of the world’s population live in a democracy of some sort, although only 5.7% 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. More than one-third of the world’s population live under authoritarian rule, with a large share being in China.

The report also noted that in 2019, the average global score for democracy fell from 5.48 in 2018 to 5.44. “This is the worst average global score since the index was first produced in 2006,” the report said. “The 2019 result is even worse than that recorded in 2010, in the wake of the global economic and financial crisis, when the average global score fell to 5.46.”

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.

Cover: Democracy Index 2019 map.

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