Category: Press Release
January - 2 - 2013
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Our blog site for readers direct response, including at the beginning of each month, updated geopolitical analysis covering many relevant 20 nations, as well as our invited midmonth contributed essays on current affairs topics.

The 13th World Audit annual report of this millennium, this global survey is concerned with the condition of democracy as it relates to the 150 nation states with populations exceeding one million.

We define democracy via the criteria of Human Rights; Political Rights; Free Speech; and the Absence of Public Corruption.

World Audit has been publishing this annual survey since 1997. Numbers are adjusted during each year when new data become available. Methodology: The World Democracy tables’ sidebar notes, explain our sources and how we build the statistics into tables of rank.


A remarkable, even historic democratic event took place in the USA in late 2012. This was a supremely important adjunct to the re-election of President Barack Obama which saw, not just the defeat of the Republicans and so some continuity in progressive policies, but an object lesson in electioneering which could not have been predicted.

Since the 2008 election the heavily Republican-leaning US Supreme Court had ruled that any citizen or individual business in the States, could spend or donate money without limit to the political party or candidate of their choice, the proviso being that such funds must not come under the direct control of a candidate or party. To many people worldwide, this seemed quite shocking. It is hard to imagine that the ‘Founding Fathers’ would have agreed to that reading of the US Constitution. Given that practical men that they were, it is self-evident they also were not lacking in idealism. The Supreme Court ruling was read by many, both friends and opponents of the new funding provision as meaning that if sufficient funds could be directed to this end, it was now possible ‘to buy’ the election. A storm of protest went up mingled with disgust and (outside of the USA), disbelief!

We now know that massive funds were raised from both super-rich individuals and corporations – well in excess of a billion dollars. One heavily publicised individual, alone spent over $100 million on the Republican cause.

Apart from the Presidential campaign, simultaneously elections were taking place for both houses of the US Congress, but as our own Special Report “OBAMA’S SECOND TERM” summarised:

“Between them the two contenders spent more than $1,600 million on the election campaign, the most expensive in world history.

The result is that nothing has changed!

Obama is still in the White House, Republicans continue to dominate the House of Representatives and the Democrats control the Senate”.

That chalks up a significant advance for democracy worldwide:
Let’s call it ‘Obama’s Law’ that in a democratic state, subject to the rule of law, it is not possible to buy the election results that a donor might want.

Other nations held elections. Particularly of interest for this report are Russia and China. In the case of Russia, Putin is back and confirmed for a third term as President. Although there was a substantial backlash in the cities about the conduct of the elections and the suppression of democratic protest (which continues), it seemed to us that even with the closest independent electoral supervision – which is not their way of doing things – Russia stands at 128 out of 150 nations in this World Democracy table – that in any event, Putin with a population of three hundred million from all the federated States of Russia – a continent rather than a nation, would still have won comfortably –although that might not hold for the next election. Russians after all compare their lot with what it was in the past. Events moved very fast. They saw a virtual collapse of respect for their immediate post-USSR governments. Gorbachev was blamed for ‘giving away’ the Soviet Union; and Boris Yeltsin? Despite his heroic position in facing down an attempted CP coup and his strong presence at the centre, even by historic Russian standards, he was a world class drunk.

Putin never considered that he was in a popularity contest. He came to power basically as the KGB’s man and did everything that was required of him, specifically making Russia a respected player again in world terms. He has restored their national pride. He has very cleverly got a tremendous grip on both the oil and gas world markets giving a quite different underpinning to the Russian economy than the communist governments that came before. As to democracy, no hypocrite he, to the frustration of world liberals, it is just not on his agenda. (Russia’s W. Audit democracy ranking: 128th).

The other, and in world terms more significant changeover of government, was in China. Our report on the November Party Congress: “A New Star Shining in the East” has a concise story to tell about China’s future direction, but it also raises a very important issue: “The new leadership will oversee the world’s second largest economy although, by the time of the next scheduled leadership change in 2022, China will most probably have overtaken the United States and for the first time since the Industrial Revolution, the world’s economic leader will not be founded on democratic values”.

The importance of this is that for the first time, DEMOCRACY as a world system will be under serious challenge (as it never was under communism). The challenge comes from the currently successful Chinese model of public/private enterprise under an authoritarian form of rule – the whole political / economic ensemble that can be described as “with Chinese characteristics.” (China’s World Audit democracy rank is 124th).

Given China’s current position, it is plausible that their form of governance might continue for a long time ‘to deliver the goods’, just as it is possible that the US/ Western economies might never recover their former world supremacy.

Our current 2013 Democracy tables find that by the criteria described, only 37 (out of 150 nations) can be said to be fully democratic (listed in our 1st & 2nd divisions), with another 33 nations within reach (our 3rd division), partly democratic moving slowly in the direction of full democracy, but capable of back-sliding.

That leaves as many nations which are neither democratic, nor on the evidence, close to becoming so, finding themselves on the sidelines.

Nations such as Brazil (50), India (50), South Africa (44), might be typical as being not yet wholly democratic, ** nor in practice being overly authoritarian. Indeed if they have a forward momentum they have the possibility of repudiating corruption, and dealing comprehensively with human and civil rights, and the powers of the police.

** no matter what their constitutions say, in this context we remind readers that our definition of Democracy includes the absence of public corruption – a key to justice in the courts, a big problem for these three.

By the time this ten year Chinese government is itself to be replaced in 2022, if the Chinese system is self-evidently over its problems, and is a manifest success; and/or ‘western democracy’ is not progressing, then the inference is obvious for such sideline nations, as to their way forward. Then another and equally vital matter arises. Can these two competing governing/economic systems satisfactorily co-exist worldwide?

Over half of all the nations (80/150) in this Democracy Report are in the 4th Division. They are failing to make any tangible democratic progress, unlike Div 3 nations (33), who are making discernible progress towards viable democracy.

Democracy Tables
First to Fourth Division

The first ten places have been shared by the same nations in varying order, throughout most of the fifteen years that these Democracy statistics have been published. To their great credit the Scandinavian nations, as ever, lead the world. This year it’s Finland (First): Denmark and Sweden (sharing second place), and Norway (fourth). [If Iceland had the necessary minimum population of 1million, they almost certainly would also be up there and in contention].

These four Scandinavian nations have been democracies from historic times and apart from the republic of Finland, they all, like several other European nations are leading democracies and yet like UK (13), Spain (20), Belgium (9), Netherlands (7), all have monarchies. Apart from any other consideration, they must in times past have been politically mature enough to handle the substantial move from ‘absolute’, to ‘constitutional’ monarchy.

Hard on the heels of the Scandinavians, comes New Zealand, always ‘up there’, this year in sixth place, followed by Netherlands (seventh) and two more British Commonwealth states: Canada (eighth); and Australia (ninth). That ninth place is shared with Belgium; Germany is eleventh; USA twelfth; and UK thirteenth, sharing that rank with Ireland.

Italy has got back into the top group at twenty eighth, after a year in Division Two. Hungary at thirty four, has gone in the other direction dropping down from the First to Second Division.

At the opposite end of the democracy rankings comes North Korea (150) the contributing data being that they also came last, 150th in freedom of the media, and 149th in corruption. The other final rankings go to the usual suspects, as follows: Turkmenistan (149), Uzbekistan (148), Somalia (147) , Myanmar (146), Eritrea (145), Sudan (144), Afghanistan (142), Iran (142), Syria (140), Laos (140).

The ‘Arab Awakening’ countries have a mixed batch of results bearing in mind the democracy data collection overlapped from ‘pre-awakening’ to ‘post- awakening’, or as in the majority, no awakening at all! See the Arab League in the right margin, (some members being below our one million threshold) the highest being UAE , at (75th) in Division 4 –and that, repeat, is the highest of the seventeen member states we list, that we are expected to believe are so anxious to bring ‘democracy’ to Syria!

The earlier uprisings were in Tunisia (78), Egypt (94) up from 106; Libya (115 – up 30 places from 145), Syria, now in a western-sponsored civil war (down to 140 from 135) – Iraq now largely vacated by US forces is at (127). Iran currently the object of western and Sunni hatred (which they heartily reciprocate) stands at (142); Turkey (55) also involved in the Syria story, apart from Israel (31) the most democratic state in the mid-east.

Russia and the FSU

As in previous annual surveys we have looked at the Former Soviet Union, now more than twenty years back in history. Of the European members the three Balts: Latvia (39), Lithuania (25) Estonia (17) have established themselves as democracies, including membership of the European Union. Moldova (63) has not escaped Russia’s embrace, but there are those there who seek to do so. Belarus (138) is accurately known as Europe’s last dictatorship, except that it is under challenge for that dubious title from Ukraine, which has sharply fallen from the 3rd to the 4th division, dropping 39 places to (109). After earlier causing quite some excitement with its Orange revolution, Ukraine has now reverted to its former soviet-style self.

So much for former Soviet Europe. In Eurasia were several more.

In all, there were 15 ’All Union’ republics in the USSR, which became independent from Yeltsin’s time, six of whom, the Europeans are described above. Mongolia (50) was never a member of the Soviet Union, but located as it was between China and Russia, gave real meaning to the phrase: ‘squeezed between a rock and a hard place’!

Russia (128), easily the world’s largest nation with its federation of 89 republics/territories, is still keeping some kind of hold over most of its Asian/Caucasian ‘near abroad,’ particularly Armenia (103), Tajikistan (134 ), Kyrgyzstan (122).

Most of these FSU states are small in population, some are huge in territory and all in various ways dependent on Russia. Uzbekistan (148), Kazakhstan (129) both of which are big enough – and in the case of Kazakhstan rich enough, to avoid getting too close to Moscow, but in both cases the ageing former apparatchik rulers have succession problems, which will probably be Moscow’s opportunity for closer ‘ties’.

Rather less dependent is Azerbaijan (129) oil rich, friendly with Turkey, a ruling family depending on Turkish and US support; Georgia (73) which has just had a nasty little war with Russia and currently has no diplomatic relations, but that might change with their newly elected government.

Finally, Turkmenistan (149) with massive oil and particularly gas reserves borders with Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Afghanistan and Iran. Quite remote from Russia, with whom it shares no frontiers – and nearly everywhere else.

The nations where the US recently chose to fight

Iraq (127) is a mess, but a coherent mess. It has its government doing just that, governing an unruly population divided between Shi’ites who are numerically the largest, with a substantial minority of Sunni, plus Kurds (whose ethnicity is more relevant than their sect if Islam to the Iraq Republic). It is a Shi’ite majority nation and, now democratically has a Shiite majority government, as the result of the US invasion. Therefore it is on close and friendly terms with neighbouring Iran (142) and neighbouring Syria (140). Not an outcome, we can assume, that Bush/ Cheney would have chosen as an illustration of US diplomacy. US forces are now largely out of country. In Iraq itself, there are apparently large numbers of ‘contract security’ men from mainly western nations, the kind who used to be called mercenaries.

Afghanistan (142) is also a mess and even more complex, but western forces are still engaged. Its political future is undecided and depends on many factors – which each month we faithfully review in our reports at



The knotty problem of Israel (31), Palestine and the neighbours, has certainly not improved in this past year. Egypt (94) finally throwing off its military dictatorship has not resolved many problems, in fact since the electoral beneficiaries are the Islamist parties – the Moslem Brotherhood and the Salafist party control all but about 12% of secular representatives in the parliament.

The new government currently is trying to get an Islamic constitution adopted in riotous circumstances. Egypt is now ‘in play’ in a way it has not been for decades. A small segment of Palestine: Gaza, is controlled by Hamas another Sunni Islamic party, theoretically close to the Muslim Brotherhood. But in practice, Hamas is a single purpose outfit dedicated to the (unlikely) fall of Israel. That is incompatible with Egypt keeping its annual remittance from the US, for maintaining the peace. Since Gaza is on the border with Egypt, the complexion of the Cairo government matters greatly to the Israelis. The Egyptian military since time out of mind, the rulers of Egypt, following Sadat’s brave rapprochement with Israel, has received an enormous annual subvention from the US, basically to keep the peace. Now with the Arab Awakening, the army find themselves subordinate to the Islamic politicians in Cairo. Whether this will remain the case will depend in large measure on whether Egypt will be a force for stability, and that has more to do now with Islamic politics. In a terrifying precedent there is in recent years the devastating story of Algeria (98), first its long and ugly fight against colonialism, and then the years of vicious conflict between Islamists and the military for power, which has left the nation exhausted.

In Egypt, the second party to the Brotherhood are the Salafists whose extremism, as with their involvement in Syria, is bound up with religious concepts to restore the Caliphate and punish unbelievers (everybody else). So Egypt’s political progress is pivotal to the whole of the Arab Awakening countries, and their positions vis a vis Israel. In this context the US and EU powers seem to be backing the wrong horse in Syria. If the rebels succeed there, it will be political Sunni Islam that will gain. Sadly the idea of democracy in these parts is just that – an idea. Neither Saudi nor Qatar, the local sponsors and paymasters of the revolt, are themselves democracies. Indeed they spend a lot of effort in keeping democracy out of their own countries. The fact that the newly recognised leader of the Iraqi rebels is a prominent Sunni imam, is a meaningful indication of what will be on offer, if this mixed force of Saudi and Quatari sponsored Iraqi Muslim Brothers; foreign islamists from al Qaeda through other similar groups of organised foreign jihadists , Sunni deserters from the Syrian army. (whose crack troops are Alawites on the government side), and unhappy Syrian citizens hoping for change IF, they can manage to defeat the Asads.

What all this will mean for Israel is yet to be established, but one might think they ought to prefer the secular al Asad government, as a known quantity, not given to Islamic rantings of the Hamas kind.

The Dark Continent
No study of democratic change can ignore Africa. This giant continent, allegedly the cradle of the human species, once not long ago, the plaything of European empire builders, is with few exceptions doing very badly in terms of democratic criteria. The African Union sidebar panel illustrates this and the sheer number of nations accentuates the successes of the few. As a continent it produces 45 nations of a million minimum population, but some are territorial giants – Sudan (144) with comparatively small populations; giants with giant populations, like Nigeria (89), and everything in between. Of these 45 African nations, only three hit our parameter (37) for being fully democratic. So, congratulations to Mauritius (32), Ghana (35), Botswana (38). But worthy of honourable mention are Namibia (41), troubled Mali (43) and South Africa (44) all of which did comparatively well.

At the other end of the group are (nobody would be surprised), Somalia (147); then Eritrea (145), Sudan (144), Republic of Congo (138), Zimbabwe (136), Chad (133) and many more………….