European Western Balkans

Economist Democracy Index 2021: North Macedonia and Montenegro upgraded to “flawed democracies”

Parliament of North Macedonia; Photo: Flickr / Sobranie

LONDON – Montenegro and North Macedonia crossed the threshold of “flawed democracies” in this year’s Democracy Index 2021 published by the Economist Intelligence Unit. Serbia and Albania remained in this category as well, while Bosnia and Herzegovina stayed in the category of hybrid regimes. All countries received slightly better scores than last year.

This Index measures the state of democracy based on the electoral process and pluralism, the functioning of government, political participation, political culture, and civil liberties. The observed countries are then classified into four categories: full democracy, flawed democracy, hybrid regime, or authoritarian regime.

In 2019, only Serbia was categorised as a flawed democracy. It is now joined by Albania, which achieved this status last year, Montenegro and North Macedonia. Bosnia and Herzegovina still remains far from this status, while Kosovo is not included in the rankings.

According to the Index, Montenegro registered improvements in the categories of functioning of government and political participation.

“A parliamentary election held in August 2020 led to the defeat of the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS), which had monopolized political power in the country during the previous three decades. The new government, headed by For the Future of Montenegro, is committed to rooting out widespread corruption, which had flourished under the DPS, and to reforming state institutions, and has taken steps to improve government accountability. However, it faces considerable obstacles, given the entrenched influence of the DPS in state institutions and political polarisation”, the Index, completed before the latest political developments in Montenegro, reads.

North Macedonia recorded “modest improvements in the functioning of government”.

“In October 2021 the country held competitive municipal elections. In response to his party’s defeat in the elections, the prime minister and leader of the ruling party, Zoran Zaev, said that he would take responsibility and step down from both of his positions. Confidence in political parties, which remains abysmally low, improved marginally in 2021 compared with 2020, according to the Balkan Barometer”, reads the Index.

On a scale from 1 to 10, Serbia scored 6.36 (+0.14 points compared to 2020), followed by Albania with 6.11 (+0.03), North Macedonia with 6.03 (+0.14), and Montenegro with 6.02 (+0.25). Bosnia and Herzegovina scored 5.04 points, which is also an improvement from 2020 when it recorded 4.84.

Globally, Serbia is ranked 63rd in terms of democracy. Albania is ranked 68th, North Macedonia 73rd followed immediately by Montenegro as 74th, while Bosnia and Herzegovina shared the 95th place.

“The impact of the coronavirus pandemic continued to be felt in 2021, but levels of trust in government rose modestly in several countries in the Western Balkans, according to data from the Balkan Barometer, an annual survey of business sentiment and public opinion in six Balkan states. This was despite many governments extending the exercise of emergency powers and restrictions on freedom of movement for part of the year”, the Index reads.

The average global score in the 2021 Democracy Index fell from 5.37 in 2020 to 5.28, representing a bigger year-on- year decline than the previous year and setting another dismal record for the worst global score since the index was first produced in 2006, the publication noted.

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