Sunday, August 28, 2011

DEMOCRACY IN RETREAT

President Jammeh
Gambia Drops From Hybrid To Authoritarian
The 2010 Democracy Index, a report from the Economist Intelligence Unit said the Gambia has had a shift in regime type – dropping from hybrid to authoritarian.
The report “Democracy In Retreat” said the regime’s intolerance of dissent has worsened since 2008, citing the arrests of a leading opposition politician and the editors of two local newspapers, on dubious grounds, in early 2009.




“The judiciary’s independence has been curtailed further, as illustrated most vividly by the sacking of the chief justice, by the president, without explanation, in mid-2009, despite objections that this violated the constitution,” the reports said. “Power has become increasingly concentrated in the office of the president.”
The report, centered on four areas: Full democracies; Flawed democracies; Hybrid regimes; and Authoritarian regimes, said only one state in Africa (of the 44 assessed) remains a full democracy, which is, the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius, which has maintained a strong democratic tradition since the country gained independence in 1968.
Ghana and Mali fall short of becoming full democracies and are ranked flawed democracies. Ghana has one of the most successful democracies in Sub-Saharan Africa. This was emphasised by the presidential election in December 2008, which was one of the closest in African history but was quickly accepted by the losing candidate, whose party had been in power.
“This was the second time that the party in power had been unseated by the opposition at a national election since the establishment of multi-party politics in 1992. There is a vibrant private press, which has continued to expand over the past two years,” the EIU said.
In Mali, it said the popular independent president, Amadou Toumani Toure, is committed to stepping down at the end of his term in 2012. Ahead of the elections, he is embarking on a constitutional reform programme that will further strengthen Mali’s democratic framework.
“The reforms include the creation of an upper house, independent media and election watchdogs, and a new code of conduct for politicians. The security situation has improved markedly, as have media freedoms,” the EIU noted.
The region has several flawed democracies, headed by South Africa, which just falls short of being a full democracy because of weaknesses in political participation and political culture.
The other flawed democracies are Cape Verde, Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho and
Benin.
However, hybrid regimes (ten countries) and authoritarian regimes (25; over one-half of the total assessed) continue to predominate.
There are a large number of hybrid regimes in the region that are close to being flawed democracies. These include Malawi, Zambia, Tanzania, Senegal, Liberia, Uganda, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Kenya and Burundi. However, although some are getting closer to the threshold, others are slipping back. Three countries—Madagascar, Ethiopia and The Gambia—dropped from being a hybrid regime to authoritarian.
The global democracy watchdog, which had it offices in London, New York, Hong Kong and
Geneva, said its democracy index is based on the view that measures of democracy that reflect the state of political freedoms and civil liberties are not “thick” enough.
“They do not encompass sufficiently or at all some features that determine how substantive democracy is or its quality. Freedom is an essential component of democracy, but not sufficient. In existing measures, the elements of political participation and functioning of government are taken into account only in a marginal and formal way,” the EIU said.
The EIU’s democracy index is based on five categories: electoral process and pluralism; civil liberties; the functioning of government; political participation; and political culture.
“The five categories are inter-related and form a coherent conceptual whole. The condition of having free and fair competitive elections, and satisfying related aspects of political freedom, is clearly the sine quo none of all definitions,” the EIU argued.

Regime types
Full democracies: Countries in which not only basic political freedoms and civil liberties are respected, but these will also tend to be underpinned by a political culture conducive to the flourishing of democracy. The functioning of government is satisfactory. Media are independent and diverse. There is an effective system of checks and balances. The judiciary is independent and judicial decisions are enforced. There are only limited problems in the functioning of democracy.
Flawed democracies: 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.
Hybrid regimes: 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.
Authoritarian regimes: In these states political pluralism is absent or heavily circumscribed.
Many countries in this category are outright dictatorships. Some formal institutions of democracy may exist, but these have little substance. Elections, if they do occur, are not free and fair. There is disregard for abuses and infringements of civil liberties. Media are typically state-owned or controlled by groups connected to the ruling regime. There is repression of criticism of the government and pervasive censorship. There is no independent judiciary.


  • Author: Modou S. Joof for The Voice Newspaper

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