Albania has lost points in this year’s Democracy Index and remains a “hybrid regime”, as per the Economist Intelligence Unit.
A hybrid regime is defined as one step above an authoritarian regime, below a flawed democracy and a full democracy.
“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, the 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.”
Scoring 5.89 out of a possible 10, it ranks at number 79 worldwide, dropping three places from its 2018 score. This is the lowest score the country has ranked since 2014, noting a steady fall since the Socialist Party came to power.
Albania is considered less democratic than Ukraine, North Macedonia, Hong Kong, and Serbia although it fares better than Moldova, Montenegro, and Liberia.
According to the report, Albania scored badly in the functioning of government (5.36 points), political culture (5.00 points), and political participation (4.44 points). It did, however, score relatively well in electoral process and pluralism (7.00 points) and civil liberties (7.65 points).
In terms of Albania’s placement in the ‘Eastern Europe’ category, it is outranked by most of its immediate neighbours as well as Slovakia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland and Romania. It does, however, rank a few decimal points above the regional average of 5.42 although the overall score for the area has fallen since the index started in 2006
This, says the report is due to “democratic malaise” that is persisting amongst a “weak political culture, difficulties in safeguarding the rule of law, endemic corruption, a rejection by some countries of “liberal” democratic values, and a preference for “strongmen” leaders who bypass political institutions”. This creates a “weak foundation for democracy” according to the EIU.
Topping the list as the most democratic countries in the world were Nordic countries including Norway, Iceland, and Sweden. New Zealand ranked at number four, followed by Finland, Ireland, Denmark and Canada. The UK was ranked at number 14 and the US fell to number 25.
The report noted that societies across the globe are becoming disappointed with the functioning of democracy and systems of political representation. The EIU observed a progressive deterioration in the practice of democracy, even in the most developed democracies in the west. Larry Diamond, a democracy scholar refers to the phenomenon as a “democracy recession” and noted a trend towards authoritarianism in the developing world.
The key issues identified over the last 12months in terms of the stagnation of democracy include:
- an increasing emphasis on elite/expert governance rather than popular participatory democracy;
- growing influence of unelected, unaccountable institutions and expert bodies;
- the removal of substantive issues of national importance from the political arena to be decided by politicians, experts or supranational bodies behind closed doors;
- a widening gap between political elites and parties on the one hand and national electorates on the other;
- a decline in civil liberties, including media freedom and freedom of speech
The most undemocratic countries in 2019 were North Korea, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Syria, and Chad.