Guyana – a flawed democracy

December 28, 2010 | By | Filed Under News 

… so says Economist Intelligence Unit

In a report released last Friday by the UK-based think tank, Economist Intelligence Unit, Guyana still lurks dangerously close to being considered as less than a democratic nation.
In what is the third edition of the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Index of Democracy, Guyana was given an overall ranking of 75 out of a group of 165 independent states and two territories. The first edition was published in The Economist’s The World in 2007 and measured the state of democracy at the end of 2007; the second publication was in 2008 and covered the situation as at that time. This last publication reflects the state of democratic health in these countries as of November 2010.
The Index ranks each country by ‘performance’ under five categories: electoral process and pluralism; civil liberties; the functioning of government; political participation; and political culture.
Our scores under those categories are as follows: Electoral Process and Pluralism – 7.92; Functioning of Government – 5.36; Political Participation – 5.56; Political Culture – 4.38 and Civil Liberties – 7.06. All of the scores are recorded on a scale of 0 to 10 with ten being the highest.
Based on their overall rankings the countries are also placed within one of four types of regimes: full democracies, flawed democracies; hybrid regimes; and authoritarian regimes. This year Guyana slipped in their overall score and barely escaped being placed in the ‘hybrid regime’ category by 0.05 points.
According to the compilation, “Free and fair elections and civil liberties are necessary conditions for democracy, but they are unlikely to be sufficient for a full and consolidated democracy if unaccompanied by transparent and at least minimally efficient government, sufficient political participation and a supportive democratic political culture.”
The report went on to point out that “It is not easy to build a sturdy democracy. Even in long-established ones, if not nurtured and protected, democracy can corrode.”
The distribution of flawed democracies was found to be concentrated in Latin America and Eastern Europe and to a lesser extent in Asia. It was highlighted that although there has been some progress in terms of democratisation in Latin America in recent decades, many of the countries in the region “remain fragile democracies.”
The report commented on these countries, including Guyana, saying that “levels of political participation are generally low and democratic cultures are weak.”
The report defines flawed democracies by saying that these countries also have free and fair elections and even if there are problems (such as infringements on media freedom), basic civil liberties will be respected.
However, there are significant weaknesses in other aspects of democracy, including problems in governance, an underdeveloped political culture and low levels of political participation.
However, the definition for the next category that Guyana may fall into if its decline continues to the next index in 2012 bears mentioning.
Of ‘hybrid regimes’ the report had this to say, “Elections have substantial irregularities that often prevent them from being both free and fair. Government pressure on opposition parties and candidates may be common. Serious weaknesses are more prevalent than in flawed democracies—in political culture, functioning of government and political participation. Corruption tends to be widespread and the rule of law is weak. Civil society is weak. Typically there is harassment of and pressure on journalists and the judiciary is not independent.”
The extent of media freedoms also serves as an indication of the democratic temperament of a nation. The report indicated that in recent years there has been ‘significant backsliding’ in this area.
It read, “A noticeable decline in media freedoms in recent years, affecting all regions to some extent, has accelerated since 2008. This has affected mainly electronic media, which is often under state control or heavy state influence—although repression and infringements of the freedom of expression have also extended to the print media and, most recently, the Internet.”
It was highlighted that in 36 countries there was a deterioration in scores for media freedom between 2008 and 2010; among these was Guyana.
The report went on to say on the matter, “The reasons for this decline are complex and varied. Underlying negative trends appear to have been exacerbated by the post-2008 economic crisis. Many governments have felt increasingly vulnerable and threatened and have reacted by intensifying their efforts to control the media and impede free expression.
“Increasing unemployment and job insecurity have fostered a climate of fear and self-censorship among journalists in many countries. Advanced nations have become more inward-looking and hence less interested and capable of monitoring and pressuring emerging market governments to ensure freedom of the press.”
One point that was raised around media freedoms in authoritarian regimes also appeared to have some relevance to events in Guyana as well. In the report it was pointed out that in authoritarian regimes, “which have often become stronger and more confident, state control and repression of any independent media is a given and has if anything tended to get worse, with increasing attacks on independent journalists.”

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