Czech democracy 'flawed’ according to Economist Democracy Index

The annual report examining the status of democracy in countries around the world shows the Czech Republic can do better.

 William Nattrass

Written by William Nattrass Published on 11.02.2022 14:25:00 (updated on 11.02.2022) Reading time: 2 minutes

Last year was crucial for Czech democracy. The Czech public exercised their political will in a general election in October, which saw the previous government, led by Andrej Babiš, beaten by a five-party coalition.

Yet according to the newly released Economist Democracy Index 2021, the Czech Republic remains a “flawed democracy,” with significant problems remaining in the functioning of the nation’s democratic system compared to other EU countries.

The Democracy Index was set up in 2006 to provide insights into the state of democracy in countries around the world. It assesses democratic processes in 165 nations, accounting for the vast majority of the world’s population.

The five categories for evaluation are: electoral process and pluralism; functioning of government; political participation; political culture; and civil liberties. A range of indicators for each category leads to a score classifying each country as a “full democracy,” “flawed democracy,” “hybrid regime” or “authoritarian regime.”

This year, Czech Republic achieved high scores for electoral process and pluralism (9.58) and civil liberties (8.53). Its score for political culture was worse (7.50) while concerningly low results were reported for political participation (6.67) and functioning of government (6.43).

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The results suggest a link between poorly functioning government and a lack of public participation in politics. As bad government practices breed cynicism, less people take part in elections.

This may be behind a decreasing overall score for the Czech Republic since the index was founded. In 2006, the country scored 8.17 overall; for 2021, it scored 7.74, ranking 29th worldwide.

The Czech Republic is still a democratic example for other countries categorized in “Eastern Europe,” though. Only Estonia performed better than the Czech Republic in this year’s survey, and no Eastern European county achieved “full democracy” status.

Slovakia achieved an overall score of 7.03, Poland scored 6.80, and Hungary had a poor result of 6.50. The average score throughout the region was 5.36, including very low scores for “authoritarian” regimes such as Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

The survey creators cited the Covid pandemic as a factor driving down democratic values the world over.

"The results reflect the continuing negative impact of the covid-19 pandemic on democracy and freedom around the world for a second successive year," they said. "The pandemic has resulted in an unprecedented withdrawal of civil liberties among developed democracies and authoritarian regimes alike, through the imposition of lockdowns and restrictions on travelling and, increasingly, the introduction of 'green passes' requiring proof of vaccination against covid-19 for participation in public life."

Number one position went to Norway, with a score of 9.75. Other “full democracies,” scoring 8 or higher, include Germany, Austria, the United Kingdom and Japan.

A number of major European states are classified as “flawed democracies” along with the Czech Republic. These include France, Spain and Portugal, as well as others including the U.S.A. and Israel.

The lowest scoring “authoritarian” states include China, Syria, Iran, North Korea and, lowest of all, Afghanistan, with a score of 0.32.

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