Friday, January 14, 2011

Report Finds Iraq A Hybrid Democracy

In December 2010 the Economist Intelligence Unit released a report on the state of democracy in the world. This was the third edition by the group. The first was in 2006 and the second was issued in 2008. The new one includes 165 countries and two territories. Each was compared using five categories: electoral process and pluralism, civil liberties, governance, political participation, and political culture. Those were given a score of 0-10, and then averaged out. The states were then placed within four categories: full democracies, flawed democracies, hybrid regimes, and authoritarian ones. Iraq was one of three hybrid governments in the Middle East and North Africa, which was the least democratic region of the world according to the Intelligence Unit.

The Economist Intelligence Unit found a decline in democratic governments since 2008. In 2010 the report ranked 26 countries, 15.6% of the total as full democracies, 53 countries as flawed democracies, 31.7%, 33 countries as hybrid democracies, 19.8%, and 55 countries, 32.9%, as authoritarian. What the Unit found alarming was that the average scores between 2008 and 2010 declined for 91 countries out of the 167 in its Democracy Index. 48 countries saw an increase, and 28 stayed the same.

In the Middle East and North Africa the Intelligence Unit ranked twenty nations. None of them were full democracies, one was flawed, three were hybrids, and 16 were authoritarian. Israel was the one flawed government with an average score of 7.48, and was ranked 37 overall. Lebanon, score 5.82, Palestine, score 5.44, and Iraq, score 4.00, were the three hybrid democracies. Kuwait, Morocco, Jordan, Bahrain, Algeria, Egypt, Oman, Iran, Libya, Qatar, Tunisia, Yemen, the United Arab Emirates, Sudan, Syria, and Saudi Arabia were all ranked authoritarian in that order. The average score for the region was 3.43 compared to 4.23 in Sub-Saharan Africa, 5.53 in Asia and Australia, 5.55 in Eastern Europe, 6.37 in Latin America and the Caribbean, 8.45 in Western Europe, and 8.63 in North America, firmly placing the Middle East and North Africa as the least democratic region in the world.

Ballot box after 2010 Iraqi election
Of the hybrid regimes in the area, Iraq had the lowest score, and was barley above some of the authoritarian ones. A hybrid democracy has irregularities in elections, opposition parties and the media are often intimidated by the government, there is a weakness in political culture, government, participation, rule of law, corruption is common, and the judiciary is not independent. Iraq’s overall score was 4.00. It did best in political participation at 6.11. That was followed by 5.00 in civil liberties, 4.33 in electoral process and pluralism, 3.75 in political culture, and 0.79 in governance. The country did best in participation probably because of its relatively high voter turnout in the recent elections. It did worse in functioning government since Baghdad is largely dysfunctional. It has not dealt with any of the major issues facing it such as oil, the disputed territories, Arab-Kurdish relations, etc., and misses just about any deadline that it sets for itself, which can be seen in the fact that ten months since the parliamentary vote Iraq still does not have a full cabinet. Even so, Iraq is doing relatively better than it did before because of the greatly improved security situation allows the government to function better. In 2008 for example, it was ranked 116 overall, and in 2010 it was 111. As the Economist Unit points out, voting is not all that democracies are about. Iraq has had three elections since 2009, but the other elements of Iraq’s politics have some deep flaws. That’s why its score was only slightly above the 3.88 of Kuwait, the 3.79 of Morocco, and the 3.74 of Jordan even though they are ranked as authoritarian ones.

Governments In The Middle East/North Africa (Avg. Score/Rank Overall)
Israel: 7.48 #37
Lebanon: 5.82 #86
Palestine: 5.44 #93
Iraq: 4.00 #111
Kuwait: 3.88 #114
Morocco: 3.79 #116
Jordan: 3.74 #117
Bahrain: 3.49 #122
Algeria: 3.44 #125
Egypt: 3.07 #138
Oman: 2.86 #143
Iran: 1.94, #158
Libya: 1.94 #158
Qatar: 3.09 #137
Tunisia: 2.79 #144
Yemen: 2.64 #146
UAE: 2.52 #148
Sudan: 2.42 #151
Syria: 2.31 #152
Saudi Arabia: 2.31 #152

Iraq is one of the few anomalies within the Middle East and North Africa. Despite its problems, it is one of only three hybrid democracies in a region that is thoroughly authoritarian. Iraq really needs to improve upon its governance however, if it wants to move up the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Index. That will be hard to accomplish with this group of political elites. Too many are leaders from the Saddam era who were suppressed and sometimes cajoled by the former regime, which fostered a culture of secrecy and distrust. Many went into exile, came under the influence of the neighboring dictatorships, and are divided by sometimes decades long rivalries. That makes finding compromises difficult. That was on full display when Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and former premier Iyad Allawi could not agree upon a government after the 2010 elections even though they had the most in common ideologically. Instead their personal differences were what dominated their negotiations, as neither was willing to let the other have power. These disagreements have wide ranging affects upon all kinds of issues throughout Iraq, and are a major barrier to further democratization.


BBC, “Iraq election voter turnout ‘62%,’” 3/8/10

Economist Intelligence Unit, “The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Index of Democracy 2010,” December 2010

Knights, Michael, “Iraqi Election Success? Not So Fast,” Foreign Policy Online, February 2009


Iraqi Mojo said...

Great summary, Joel. I bet in four years Iraq will have a score closer to Israel's thank Kuwait's.

Joel Wing said...

Hey I heard about the report from your site!

We can only hope that Iraq's government improves. I'm afraid that this generation of leaders may be a detriment. Most importantly, we have to see how Maliki rules in his 2nd term.

Don Cox said...

I think the crucial test will be whether the next election is free and fair.

bb said...

It is rather strange, don't you think, that Palestine scores 7.83 on electoral process and pluralism when it hasn't had an election since January 06 and has long passed the deadline when the next election was supposed to be held? And that Iraq only scores 4.33 in this category?

Joel Wing said...


I don't know enough about the Palestinian Authority to make a good comparison with Iraq over their electoral process.

bb said...

Well a quick google will refresh you that in 2007 Hamas chucked the PA out of Gaza and since then it has been impossible for the PA to hold either presidential or general elections. Which makes 7.83/4.33 very odd indeed.

And also raises questions over Palestine rating 8.33 for political participation and 4.38 political culture while Iraq only manages 6.11 and 3.75 by comparison.

On the face of it ridiculous, and makes one wonder about the other countries in the "hybrid democracy" category where Iraq has been consigned to the bottom.

Joel Wing said...

I know about the conflict between Fatah and Hamas and how that has delayed elections, but I don't know the rest of the story.

The authors of the democracy report said that elections were only the most visible sign of democracy, and that they were going to count the other factors more.

So for example, Iraq has a wide range of news outlets, but most of them are controlled by political parties, are full of rumors, do little to no investigative reporting, and both Baghdad and the KRG have tried to limit them recently. Is the Palestinian press better or worse? In Palestine you have two competing entities in Fatah and Hamas who control their own territories. In Iraq there is no real opposition. The Change list was the first time a winning party decided not to be part of the winning coalition. How many social groups operate in Palestine? What was the voter turnout? In Iraq the premier has little to no checks and balances on his authority, how does that compare to Palestine's executive? I can't answer those questions so I don't know whether the comparison in the study had problems or not.

Just looking at the scores the reason why Iraq was at the bottom of hybrid democracies overall was because it received a 0.79 on governance, and I don't really have an issue with that given how dysfunctional Baghdad is.