NZ is again sitting at the top of the list of world's most democratic countries

Author
Jason Walls, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sun, 7 Feb 2021, 3:22PM
The Economist's annual Democracy Index has ranked New Zealand fourth out of 165 countries and independent territories. Photo / Mark Mitchell
The Economist's annual Democracy Index has ranked New Zealand fourth out of 165 countries and independent territories. Photo / Mark Mitchell

NZ is again sitting at the top of the list of world's most democratic countries

Author
Jason Walls, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sun, 7 Feb 2021, 3:22PM

New Zealand has once again made the top five list in an international ranking of the world's most democratic countries but has failed to improve on last year's spot.

The Economist's annual Democracy Index has ranked New Zealand fourth out of 165 countries and independent territories, giving it a near-perfect score of 9.25/10.

But, for the first time in a decade, New Zealand score has slipped – albeit only slightly.

Between 2010-2019, New Zealand scored a consistent 9.26 every year. But 2020's 0.01 per cent drop did not impact New Zealand's overall ranking on the list.

The Scandinavian countries dominate the top ten, with Norway coming out on top, followed by Iceland and Sweden.

Australia is ninth, with a score of 8.96 and Iran is the least democratic country on the list, with a score of just 2.2.

New Zealand's ranking puts it in the "full democracy" category of the list – by contrast, the US's score of 7.92 puts it in the "flawed democracy" category.

The report notes that New Zealand and Australia have always enjoyed the "full democracy" status – "although their scores fell marginally during the year".

It also noted the fact that New Zealand had a "peaceful democracy" last year – a year which the report described as "tumultuous".

But aside from these brief references, the 75-page report goes into very little detail about New Zealand.

It gave the country a perfect score of 10 when it comes to its electoral process and pluralism, but an 8.93 when it comes to the functioning Government score.

This is, however, still higher than the vast majority of other countries on the list.
A major focus of the report was on the US' tumultuous year.

Although its overall score did not change dramatically, the report said the seemingly stable overall score and position of the US was "deceptive".

The US's political engagement score was up but its overall performance was held back by a number of weaknesses.

These include extremely low levels of trust in institutions and political parties; deep dysfunction in the functioning of government and increasing threats to freedom of expression.

"More worrying, public trust in the democratic process was dealt a further blow in 2020 by the refusal of the outgoing president to accept the election result," the report said.

"Trump and his allies continued to allege voter fraud long after the election was over, without producing reasonable evidence to substantiate their claims and in the face of court rulings finding against them."