Monday, April 23, 2007

And the most democratic country is...Sweden!

I have decided to get this blog going again after a bit of a hiatus. Part of the problem was wanting to write longer pieces with the result that writing often seemed like too much work so I never started.

No more. I'll try my hand at short snappers. Here's the first.

A high turnout was expected in the French presidential election on Sunday and voters did not disappoint. Turnout was almost 85%, the highest since 1958. Which got me thinking about voter turnout around the world.

The International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance has interesting statistics online.

In all elections 1945-1998 the IDEA has Canada in 63rd place with an average 68.4% turnout, whereas the USA is in 114th spot with an average 48.3% turnout. Much of Europe and Australia and new Zealand do much better, typically 80% and above.

So what makes a democracy? Writing about the world in 2007, according to The Economist Intelligence Unit's index of democracy, "There is no consensus on how to measure democracy, definitions of democracy are contested and there is an ongoing lively debate on the subject."

Using defined criteria (60 indicators grouped in five categories: electoral process and pluralism; civil liberties; the functioning of government; political participation; and political culture), the Economist has these counties in the top 10:

Rank--Country--Total score
1. Sweden 9.88
2. Iceland 9.71
3. Netherlands 9.66
4. Norway 9.55
5. Denmark 9.52
6. Finland 9.25
7. Luxembourg 9.10
8. Australia 9.09
9. Canada 9.07
10. Switzerland 9.02

The USA is in 17th place with a score of 8.22.

So why is it that almost daily on some U.S. television program an American politician or political pundit claims that the USA has the greatest democracy in the world? Because they are stuck on the historical role played by the States when they created their constitution and subsequent Bill of Rights? Because the Economist's research is wrong?

Or is it simply a case of Uncle Sam thinking that grandma's apple pie is the best in the whole world because it's the only one he's ever tasted? There's a lot of this going around in any inward-looking provincial

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