Monday, January 21, 2013

Iraq Declines In Freedom House Ranking Of Democracy Around The World


In January 2013, the Freedom House organization released its latest annual report on democracy around the world. It found a slight decline in political rights and civil liberties around the world. The Middle East was a special focus because of the Arab Spring. When it came to Iraq, the country saw a decline in its ranking due to the policies of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Each year Freedom House ranks countries and territories around the world on their political systems. Each country is graded according to two main categories, political rights and civil liberties, which include electoral processes, political pluralism and participation, governance, freedom of expression and belief, freedom of assembly, rule of law, and civil liberties. Each country is then given two scores on rights and freedoms with 1 being the most free, and 7 being the least. Those are averaged out for their overall rank. According to those points, countries are then placed within three broad groups. First, are Free nations where there is political competition, civil liberties are protected, there is an absence of civil strife, and an independent media. Second, are Partly Free countries that have limited respect for political rights and freedoms, corruption is commonplace, there is weak rule of law, ethnosectarian strife, and usually a single partly dominates the government. Finally, there are Not Free nations where there are no political rights and liberties are denied.

In its 2013 report, the world took a step back from democratic practices. 16 countries made progress on democracy, while 28 had declines. The number of countries ranked Free increased by three for a total of 90. That included 46% of the nations and territories included in the study. There were 58 Partly Free countries, which was 30% of the total. Finally, there were 47 nations that were Not Free that constituted the final 24%. Despite the problems noted in the report, a plurality of the world lived in democratic societies. That was a large increase from previous decades when Free countries were a minority.

The mixed trends in governance around the world were seen in the Middle East and North Africa. There were two trends in the region. First, because of the Arab Spring there was public pressure to change the autocratic ways of many of the governments there. On the other hand, many countries responded with increased authoritarian practices, and sometimes the use of force to repress their populations. Overall, Freedom House gave the Middle East and North Africa the worst ranking of the six regions it broke the world into. There were one Free country, six Partly Free, and eleven Not Free nations. Only Israel, Libya, and Tunisia were considered electoral democracies. Those last two plus Egypt were seen as having the greatest progress on political freedoms after the revolutions that occurred there. Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Syria on the other hand saw declines. This was especially true for Syria where the government is embroiled in a civil war, and the Gulf States. Kuwait, Oman, the UAE, and Bahrain for example, all attempted to undermine the political opposition and those calling for change. Saudi Arabia sent its army to neighboring Bahrain to help suppress demonstrations there. Finally, Iraq’s ranking went down, because of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s concentration of power in his hands, and his attacks upon the opposition such as the arrest warrant for Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi. As a result, its political rights rank dropped from 5 to 6. Despite, the changes that were seen throughout the region in 2012, it is still considered the least free part of the world with autocracies and monarchies firmly in power in the majority of countries. Iraq, despite its several elections since sovereignty was returned in 2005, has actually seen its ranking decline from a 5.5 in 2012 to a 6 in 2013, because of its continued political conflicts, and low-level violence. Still, it is obviously doing better than under Saddam Hussein’s time, when Iraq was considered one of the seven worst countries in the world according to Freedom House. At the same time, political change there seems to have stalled.

2013 Freedom House Rankings Of The Middle East-North Africa
Israel: Free, Freedom Rating: 1.5, Political Rights: 1, Civil Liberties: 2, electoral democracy
Tunisia: Partly Free, Freedom Rating: 3.5, Political Rights: 3, Civil Liberties: 4, electoral democracy
Kuwait: Partly Free, Freedom Rating: 4.5, Political Rights: 5, Civil Liberties: 4
Lebanon: Partly Free, Freedom Rating: 4.5, Political Rights: 5, Civil Liberties: 4
Libya: Partly Free, Freedom Rating: 4.5, Political Rights: 4, Civil Liberties: 5, electoral democracy
Morocco: Partly Free, Freedom Rating: 4.5, Political Rights: 5, Civil Liberties: 4
Egypt: Partly Free, Freedom Rating: 5, Political Rights: 5, Civil Liberties: 5
Oman: Not Free, Freedom Rating: 5.5, Political Rights: 6, Civil Liberties: 5
Qatar: Not Free, Freedom Rating: 5.5, Political Rights: 6, Civil Liberties: 5
West Bank: Not Free, Freedom Rating: 5.5, Political Rights: 6, Civil Liberties: 5
Bahrain: Not Free, Freedom Rating: 6, Political Rights: 6, Civil Liberties: 6
Gaza Strip: Not Free, Freedom Rating: 6, Political Rights: 6, Civil Liberties: 6
Iran: Not Free, Freedom Rating: 6, Political Rights: 6, Civil Liberties: 6
Iraq: Not Free, Freedom Rating: 6, Political Rights: 6, Civil Liberties: 6
United Arab Emirates: Not Free, Freedom Rating: 6, Political Rights: 6, Civil Liberties: 6
Yemen: Not Free, Freedom Rating: 6, Political Rights: 6, Civil Liberties: 6
Saudi Arabia: Not Free, Freedom Rating: 7, Political Rights: 7, Civil Liberties: 7
Syria: Not Free, Freedom Rating: 7, Political Rights: 7, Civil Liberties: 7

Iraq’s Freedom House Ranking, 2003-2013
2003: Freedom Rating: 7, Political Rights: 7, Civil Liberties: 7 
2004: Freedom Rating: 6, Political Rights: 7, Civil Liberties: 5
2005: Freedom Rating: 6, Political Rights: 7, Civil Liberties: 5
2006: Freedom Rating: 5.5, Political Rights: 6, Civil Liberties: 5
2007: Freedom Rating: 6, Political Rights: 6, Civil Liberties: 6
2008: Freedom Rating: 6, Political Rights: 6, Civil Liberties: 6
2009: Freedom Rating: 6, Political Rights: 6, Civil Liberties: 6 
2010: Freedom Rating: 5.5, Political Rights: 5, Civil Liberties: 6
2011: Freedom Rating: 5.5, Political Rights: 5, Civil Liberties: 6
2012: Freedom Rating: 5.5, Political Rights: 5, Civil Liberties: 6
2013: Freedom Rating: 6, Political Rights: 6, Civil Liberties: 6

SOURCES

Freedom House, “Freedom in the World 2003,” 2003
- “Freedom in the World 2004,” 2004
- “Freedom in the World 2005,” 2005
- “Freedom in the World 2006,” 2006
- “Freedom in the World 2007,” 2007
- “Freedom in the World 2008,” 2008
- “Freedom in the World 2009,” 2009
- “Freedom in the World 2010,” 2010
- “Freedom in the World 2011,” 2011
- “Freedom in the World 2012,” 2012
- “Freedom in the World 2013, Democratic Breakthroughs In The Balance,” January 2013

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