Image credit: @heroiclife.
Great job Hong Kong! The special administrative region has risen 17 places in the Economist’s Democracy Index, placing it equal with those paragons of free elections Senegal and Malawi.
The 2012 Democracy Index, released by the Economist Intelligence Unit, ranks 165 independent states and two territories worldwide. Hong Kong comes in at number 63 on this year’s list, 17 places higher than 2011. The city was also upgraded from ‘hybrid regime’ to the (considerably worse sounding) ‘flawed democracy’.
“Directly elected legislators now account for more than half of all positions, and the 2012 race for chief executive was more open than in the past and was clearly influenced by public opinion,” said Simon Baptist, EIU regional director for Asia.
“Hong Kong’s vibrant non-governmental organisations, judicial independence, social tolerance and free media continue also to contribute towards its democracy score.”
According to the SCMP:
The annual index analyses the state of democracy on a 0-to-10 point scale. The scores are based on 60 indicators in five categories, including electoral process and pluralism; civil liberties; functionality of government; political participation; and political culture.
“Full democracies” score 8 to 10 points; “flawed democracies” 6 to 7.9; and “hybrid regimes” 4 to 5.9. Countries with a score lower than 4 are considered “authoritarian regimes”. Hong Kong scored 6.42 last year compared with 5.92 in 2011.
China languishes in 142nd place, with a score of 3.00, 0.74 lower than Russia, which is classified by the EIU as a ‘hybrid regime’ rather than an ‘authoritarian’ one. Ivan Krastev might disagree with this conclusion, in a recent piece for OpenDemocracy he argued that China, despite outward appearances, is more democratic than Russia:
There are now many in Kremlin who, on the contrary, think that excessive democratisation has been responsible for many of the problems that new country faces. Many envy ‘true’ Chinese authoritarianism. But the truth is that in many of its practices China is more democratic than Russia, and its decision-making is undoubtedly superior. Over the last two decades, when China was busy with capacity building, Russia seems to have been pre-occupied with incapacity hiding. When Western commentators try to make sense of the different performance of the new authoritarians, they would well advised to look beyond formal institutional design.