Sweden tops world democracy ranking
By Honor Mahony
Sweden has a near perfect democracy, followed by Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway and Denmark, according to a survey of 167 countries by the Economist Intelligence Unit.
With countries ranked according to their electoral process, government functioning, political participation, political culture and civil liberties, 17 EU member states made it on to the 28-strong 'full democracies' list.
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Slovenia comes in last on that list but the UK and France - ranked 23 and 24 - fare only just better.
The explanatory note for the UK suggests this is due to it having the lowest political participation in the developed world. It calls this a "major problem" along with, but to a lesser extent, the erosion of civil liberties.
France's comparatively low score is because of "modest scores for the functioning of government, political participation and political culture."
Italy, notes the study, performs even worse falling into the 'flawed democracy' category "as a result of problems in functioning and the electoral process, as well as weaknesses in the political culture."
Italy joins seven other EU countries in the flawed section with Poland rounding off the EU rankings coming in last at number 46 on the list.
With six central and eastern European countries in the flawed category, the democracy index notes that "much of eastern Europe illustrates the difference between formal and substantive democracy."
"The new EU members from the region have pretty much equal levels of political freedom and civil liberties as the old developed EU, but lag significantly in political participation and political culture - a reflection of widespread anomie and weaknesses of democratic development."
Bulgaria and Romania, joining the EU in January, are ranked 49 and 50 respectively in the world and sit in the flawed democracies section.
Australia is the first non-European country in the democracy index coming in at number eight, followed by Canada and Switzerland.
The US comes in at number 17, a relatively low ranking which the study attributes to "some aspects of governance and civil liberties."
At the other end of the scale, Uzbekistan, a country which the EU is currently considering softening its relations towards, ranks 160 out of 167, slightly higher than Libya, Turkmenistan, Myanmar, Togo, Chad, Central Africa and North Korea, which trails the list.
In all, over half of the world's population lives in some sort of democracy, but just 13 percent in full democracies, according to this study. Meanwhile, with 55 countries falling in the worst category, almost 40 percent of people live under authoritarian rule.