Thursday, May 3, 2012

Iraq Remains A Hybrid Democracy In Report On World Governments

For the last four years, the Economist Intelligence Unit has released an annual report on the state of democracy around the world. The latest one, “Democracy Index 2011” covered 165 countries and two territories up to December 2011. Countries were ranked based upon five categories, and then divided up into four groups: full democracies, flawed democracies, hybrid regimes, and authoritarian ones. Iraq was placed towards the bottom of the hybrid regimes group.

The Economic Intelligence Unit examined the majority of the countries in the world at the end of 2011 to determine what the state of democracy was. The group looked at each country and territory based upon five criteria: electoral process and pluralism, civil liberties, governance, political participation, and political culture. Each was given a score of 0 to 10 with 0 being bad, and 10 being good, and those points were then averaged out for the country’s ranking. Those scores determined whether the nation was labeled a full democracy, a flawed democracy, a hybrid regime, or an authoritarian one. In total, it found 25 full democracies, 53 flawed democracies, 37 hybrid regimes, and 52 authoritarian regimes. Overall, there were reversals in democracy in many countries last year. Many nations were cracking down on their citizens, and limiting freedoms such as that of the media.

Iraq was ranked a hybrid regime in the study. It was 112 out of 167. Only Burundi, 113, Haiti, 114, and Egypt, 115, were below it, making Iraq towards the bottom of the hybrid group. Its score was 4.03. It received a 4.33 in electoral process and pluralism, 0.43 in governance, 7.22 in political participation, 3.75 in political culture, and 4.41 in civil liberties. Specific breakdowns of each country were not given, but educated guesses can be made for each score. Iraq probably got its highest mark, 7.22 in participation, because voter turnout has been relative high. Its worst score was in governance. That’s because Baghdad is notorious for being corrupt and inefficient. The World Bank for example, marked Iraq 166 out of 183 countries in ease of doing business last year, because of all the steps and regulations that a company must go through to operate in the country. Likewise, Transparency International placed Iraq as tied for 8th most corrupt country in the world in 2011, which was actually a slight improvement from the year before, but nothing to brag about. The country likely got its mediocre scores in elections and civil liberties, because of all the problems involved with both. Iraq’s 2010 parliamentary election was marked by the banning of candidates for alleged Baathist ties, charges of fraud, a re-count in Baghdad, complaints about the re-count itself, and deep political bickering by all the winning lists that dragged out forming a new government until December. Iraq is also known for abuses and torture by its security forces, and being a dangerous place for the media. It also repressed its own Arab Spring demonstrations in 2011 using force.

Compared to other countries in the Middle East and North Africa however, Iraq was towards the top, because the region has so many authoritarian governments. Of the fourteen nations in the region, Israel was first with a rank of 36, and a score of 7.53, good enough to make it a flawed democracy. Next were five hybrid regimes, starting with Tunisia at 92 with a score of 5.53, Lebanon at 94 with a score of 5.31, Palestine at 99 with a 4.97, then Iraq at 112, and then finishing off that group was Egypt at 115 and a score of 3.95. Finally, were the majority of countries, which were regarded as authoritarian. That started with Jordan at 118, and a score of 3.89, Morocco, which was tied for 119 and a score of 3.83, Kuwait at 122, and a score of 3.74, Libya at 125, and a score of 3.55, Algeria placed 130, and a score of 3.44, Oman at 138, and a score of 3.16, Bahrain at 144, and a score of 2.92, the United Arab Emirates at 149 with a 2.58, Yemen at 150 with 2.57, Iran at 159, and 1.98, and finally Saudi Arabia at the very bottom, ranked 161 and 1.77. There was little change in the Middle East and North Africa from 2010 to 2011. There were no full democracies either year, with Israel remaining the only flawed democracy. The only differences was that Tunisia moved from an authoritarian to a hybrid regime. Iraq stayed at 112 both years, with its score only slightly improving from 4.00 in 2010 to 4.03 in 2011. Overall, the Middle East and North Africa was the least democratic part of the world according to the Economist Intelligence Unit with 11 out of 14 countries being authoritarian. This was despite the Arab Spring, which has brought mixed results so far. While Tunisia saw the most dramatic transformation, the future of Egypt and Libya are still up in the air. Syria, Bahrain, Yemen, and Iraq on the other hand, cracked down on protesters. The large oil wealth in the region, has contributed to this state of affairs, because it creates wealthy governments, and large security forces, which are not dependent upon the populace for taxes, and thus making them unaccountable.

Nations In The Middle East And North Africa
Israel #36, 7.53
Tunisia #92, 5.53
Lebanon #94, 5.31
Palestine #99, 4.97
Iraq #112, 4.03
Egypt#115, 3.95
Jordan #118, 3.89
Morocco tied #119, 3.83
Kuwait #122, 3.74
Libya #125, 3.55
Algeria #130, 3.44
Oman #138, 3.16
Bahrain #144, 2.92
United Arab Emirates #149, 2.58
Yemen #150, 2.57
Iran #159, 1.98
Saudi Arabia #161, 1.77

Iraq finds itself in a difficult position vis-à-vis its form of government. While there have been several elections within the country since 2005, Iraqi politicians are hardly responsive to their constituents. The country’s large oil reserves places it more in league with its more repressive Arab and Iranian brethren, because the government does not need the people for anything but their votes. The huge revenue petroleum brings in allows the ministries and other government offices, which are run like personal fiefs to create huge patronage systems to maintain followers. The lack of accountability is further proven by the fact that despite Iraq ranking as one of the ten most corrupt governments for the past several years, not a single top official has ever been successfully prosecuted in any case. Altogether that means that Iraq will likely remain a hybrid regimes with little impetus to reform or improve as long as it make so much money from its natural resources.


AK News, “No fraud in more than 2000 Baghdad polling stations,” 5/6/10

Economist Intelligence Unit, “Democracy index 2011,” January 2012

Knights, Michael, “Springtime for Iran,” Foreign Policy, 5/6/10

Myers, Steven Lee, “Iraq Recount Mired in a New Dispute,” New York Times, 5/3/10

Rao, Prashant, “Iraq’s media freedom deteriorating: NGO,” Agence France Presse, 5/2/12

Roads To Iraq, “The beginning of the election results deadlock,” 3/11/10

Transparency International, “Corruption Perceptions Index 2011,” December 2011

World Bank and International Finance Corporation, “Doing Business 2011 Making a Difference for Entrepreneurs,” World Bank, 11/4/10

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