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Press release: Democracy barometer shows how democratic established democracies are

(January 2011) The Democracy barometer, a new instrument for measuring the quality of democracy, presented its findings at a media conference on 27 January at the University of Zurich. The results show that Denmark has the highest quality of democracy, followed by Finland and Belgium. Switzerland's democracy turns out to be only mediocre and ranks fourteenth compared with the twenty-nine established democracies analyzed.

The Democracy barometer developed by the NCCR Democracy shows the development of the thirty best democracies in the world. Until now there was no instrument that allowed a systematic measurement of the quality and stability of democracy in highly developed industrialized countries across national borders and over long periods of time.

The Democracy barometer uses 100 empirical indicators to measure how well a country complies with the three democratic principles of freedom, equality and control as well as the nine basic functions of democracy: the protection of personal freedom from infringements by third parties, especially the state; the rule of law; an active citizenship; transparency; participation; representation; political competition; a system of checks and balances; and the ability to implement democratic decisions. The comparison revealed that Denmark, Finland and Belgium have the highest quality of democracy, whereas Great Britain, France, Poland, South Africa and Costa Rica the lowest. Switzerland only averaged out at a disappointing fourteenth place. Moreover, the barometer shows no evidence of a crisis of democracy. Quite the contrary, if the quality of democracy in all thirty countries is seen as a whole, an increase in the quality of democracy from 1995 to 2000 can be observed and, despite a slight dip again between 2000 and 2005, it is still at a higher level in 2005 than in 1995.

”Democracy is still a work in progress,“ say the two project leaders Dr. Marc Bühlmann and Prof. Wolfgang Merkel. "Sustainable democratization is needed, even in established democracies. Our democracy barometer shows the strengths and weaknesses of the democracies in the individual countries. But it also reveals where progress and success have been achieved and where it is worth studying the best practices of successful democracies more closely."

Download the international press release

Download press release on Switzerland's results

Visit the Democracy barometer website

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