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India ranks 38 in Democracy Index, Norway tops list

India ranks 38 in Democracy Index, Norway tops list
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The Economist magazine's Index of Democracy 2012 ranks India 38th among 165 nations with an overall score of 7.52. India also gets high scores for...

The Economist magazine's Index of Democracy 2012 ranks India 38th among 165 nations with an overall score of 7.52. India also gets high scores for electoral process and pluralism (9.58) and civil liberties (9.41).

The top three positions go to Norway (9.93) Sweden (9.73) and Iceland 9.65, while the United States is ranked 21st with an overall score of 8.11 in the fifth edition of the Index prepared by the London weekly focusing on international politics and business.

Noting the wide disparities in democratic development across Asia, the report says "although parts of the region � from North Korea and Laos, to Vietnam and China � are still entrenched authoritarian regimes, the past couple of decades have seen the spread of democracy in the region overall." Over the past decade, some 20 Asian countries have held elections, and many have undergone peaceful transitions in government.

"Despite its problems, India remains the world's most populous democracy," the report said, noting, "yet even in the democratic countries, there are often significant problems in the functioning of political systems." "The US and the UK remain at the bottom end of the full democracy category," the report said. "The US democracy has been adversely affected by a deepening of the polarisation of the political scene and political brinkmanship and paralysis. The UK is beset by a deep institutional crisis."

"The unprecedented rise of movements for democratic change across the Arab world led many to expect a new wave of democratisation," it said. "But it has become apparent that democracy in the region remains a highly uncertain prospect."

Popular confidence in political institutions continues to decline in many European countries, it said, noting that, in Eastern Europe, democracy declined in 10 countries in 2012.

The index was first published in 2006, with later reports in 2008, 2010 and 2011. In the first index, India ranked at 35 and has since slipped. The index judged 167 countries according to five parameters: electoral process and pluralism; functioning of government; political participation; political culture; and civil liberties. Accordingly, countries are classified as full democracies (25 countries), flawed democracies (54), hybrid regimes (37) and authoritarian regimes (51).

While India maintained the status quo on all criteria, the only field which showed improvement was political participation � up from 5 to 6.11 out of a possible score of 10. With an overall score between 6 and 9, India lies in the 'flawed democracy' category.

Countries with scores between 8 and 10, such as Norway, are classified as 'full democracies'. Those falling between 4-5.9 are in the 'hybrid regime' bracket, for instance Pakistan. Finally, authoritarian regimes were at the bottom (below 4).

But the report's classification itself might be flawed, says Peter DeSouza, professor, Centre for Study of Developing Societies. "The report does not take account of history and social transformation. Many of the 'full' democracies listed in the study had colonial pasts and built their present on the back of slavery."

India, he says, is not flawed but a transforming society moving towards the deepening of democracy. "Their snapshot method is bad sociology." Most experts seem to agree, questioning the basis and methodology of the study. The report itself claims that democracy as a concept is hard to define � an encouraging thought then for those who believe that India is not so flawed after all.

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