Ambassador Edward M. Gabriel (ret.)
January 17, 2018
The recently published Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index for 2018 rated Morocco 100 out of 165 countries, and third in the MENA region, after Israel and Tunisia. The Index covers “almost” the entire world population and is based on five categories: electoral process and pluralism, civil liberties, the functioning of government political participation, and political culture.
Based upon the scoring of these indicators, each country is then classified as one of four types: “Full Democracy,” “Flawed Democracy,” “Hybrid Regime,” and “Authoritarian Regime.”
In the report, political participation was the only one of the five criteria to show a gain from the previous year, an index that began in 2006. Only one country, Costa Rica, rose from a “Flawed Democracy” to “Full Democracy”. And one country, Nicaragua, moved in the opposite direction, from “Flawed Regime” to “Authoritarian Regime.” The US remained a “Flawed Democracy,” with its overall score slightly declining from the year before, from 7.98 to 7.96. Canada performed better from the year before and is considered a Full Democracy. It was rated 6th best democracy in the world and the US was ranked 25th. Norway, Iceland and Sweden topped the overall list of this year’s Index.
Forty-two countries fell in their overall scores from 2017, while 48 increased, although fewer people overall, less than 50%, lived in some form of democracy. The report states that the “results indicate that voters around the world are in fact not disengaged from democracy. They are clearly disillusioned with formal political institutions but have been spurred into action.” There was also a jump in the proportion of the population willing to engage in lawful demonstrations” and “women’s’ political participation”. The report goes on to say, “In a context of disillusionment with democracy in practice and in principle, and of declining civil liberties, the rise in political participation is remarkable…For the first time in three years, the Democracy Index did not deteriorate in 2018. But nor did it register any progress on a global scale.”
There were substantial declines in the rankings of several countries, including Italy, Turkey and Russia. The North American region retained the highest overall scores, followed by Europe.
For Morocco, it is most telling when one follows its progress over the past 11 reports, since 2006. Morocco is unique in seeing its scores rising consistently during this period and shows the remarkable effect that King Mohammed VI is having on his country, taking Morocco from an “Authoritarian Regime” under King Hassan II, to the next higher category, “Hybrid Regime”, within a dozen years. In 2006, Morocco scored a rating of 3.9, rising to 4.87 in 2018 on a scale of 0-10. Of the five criteria defining the Index, Morocco scored above average in: “political culture,” “political participation,” and, “electoral process and pluralism.” It scored below average in: “functioning of government,” and “civil liberties,”
The report states, “In Morocco, turnout at the last parliamentary election in 2016 was also below 50%… political and business elites continue to be challenged by a nationwide surge in discontent over the rising cost of living, exacerbated by a successful social media campaign calling on ordinary Moroccans to boycott several consumer products… (The King) has also criticized the government’s current development strategy.”
The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Index of Democracy is based on a scale of 0 to 10 for each of the five categories and the overall Index is the simple average of the five category indexes. In the category of Hybrid Regime – where Morocco falls – the report states that “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, 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.”
With this rather rigid criteria and strict methodology, Morocco continues steadily and surely on the road to democracy.