Corruption is ruining South Africa’s democracy

A new report by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) tracking the state of democracy across the world, ranks countries by the strength of their democracies.

According to the report, South Africa is a “flawed democracy”, but still ranking high at 37th out of 167 countries covered in the index.

However, SA scored its lowest score in a decade, reaching only 7.56 points, down from 7.82 in 2014, hampered by corruption.

“South Africa suffered a sharp deterioration in its score and ranking, as a series of corruption scandals in recent years has worked to undermine the population’s trust in the democratic system,” the EIU said.

South Africa scored highest (out of 10) for its political participation by citizens and level of pluralism in the electoral process (8.33), but failed to reach past 5.00 for its political culture.

The function of government scored relatively high, despite corruption (8.21) – while civil liberties managed to score 7.94.

A decline in democracy was not only felt in South Africa. The EIU noted a drop in score in 18 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa 2015, underlining a lack of progress on the continent as a whole.

The group noticed many undemocratic trends in the SSA region, including the fact that many elections held are neither free nor fair; peaceful and democratic changes of power are still relatively rare; and nearly 20 heads of states in SSA have been in office for more than a decade – ten of which have been in power for more than two decades.

In addition to the above, the sources of democratic weakness also include:

  • Flawed electoral processes;
  • Poor functioning of government;
  • Problems with paying civil servants;
  • High levels of corruption;
  • Limited administrative control over national territory;
  • Widespread poverty;
  • Low education levels hinder political participation;
  • In many places, the presence of a repressive regime serves to depress the score on civil liberties.

Only one African nation is considered a “full democracy” – Mauritius.

According to the EIU, there is no agreed-upon definition for a democracy, but to serve its findings, it uses the following characteristics:

  1. A competitive, multi-party political system.
  2. Universal adult suffrage.
  3. Regularly contested elections conducted on the basis of secret ballots, reasonable ballot security and the absence of massive voter fraud.
  4. Significant public access of major political parties to the electorate through the media and through generally open political campaigning.

These are the most democratic and undemocratic countries in the world:

15 most democratic countries

# Country Score (10)
1 Norway 9.93
2 Iceland 9.58
3 Sweden 9.45
4 New Zealand 9.26
5 Denmark 9.11
6 Switzerland 9.09
7 Canada 9.08
8 Finland 9.03
9 Australia 9.01
10 Netherlands 8.92
11 Luxembourg 8.88
12 Ireland 8.85
13 Germany 8.64
14 Austria 8.54
15 Malta 8.39

15 least democratic countries

# Country Score (10)
167 North Korea 1.08
166 Syria 1.43
165 Chad 1.50
164 Central African Republic 1.57
163 Equitorial Guinea 1.77
162 Turkmenistan 1.83
160 Saudi Arabia 1.93
160 Guinea-Bissau 1.93
158 Tajikstan 1.95
158 Uzbekistan 1.95
157 DRC 2.11
156 Iran 2.16
155 Loas 2.21
154 Yemen 2.24
153 Libya 2.25

More on corruption

The biggest corruption problems in the world – and where they happen most

Chronic corruption is baked into SA’s fundamentals

Corruption has no place in government: Zuma

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