Democracy has no central meaning; rather it is defined as a set of practices and principles to ensure freedom in society. This is according to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), which in its 2018 assessment, rated Guyana as a “flawed democracy.”
The EIU is a British business within the Economist Group providing forecasting and advisory services through research and analysis.
According to the 2018 assessment, the EIU said it scores countries on a 0 to 10 scale which is based on ratings for 60 indicators grouped into five categories. The categories are: a) electoral process and pluralism; b) civil liberties; c) the functioning of government; d) political participation; and e) political culture. Each category has a rating on a 0 to 10 scale, and the overall Index is the simple average of the five category indexes. The ratings are mostly centred on the question of how free and fair elections are since that determines the level of democratic practices in a country.
After the analysis of the various criteria, the countries are ranked, and the type of regime is determined. There are four types of regimes namely (a) full democracies: scores greater than 8; (b) flawed democracies: scores greater than 6, and less than or equal to 8; (c) Hybrid regimes: scores greater than 4, and less than or equal to 6; and (d) authoritarian regimes: scores less than or equal to 4.
The EIU classifies full democracies as countries in which not only basic political freedoms and civil liberties are respected, but which also tend to be underpinned by a political culture conducive to the flourishing of democracy. The functioning of government is satisfactory. Media are independent and diverse. There is an effective system of checks and balances. The Judiciary is independent and judicial decisions are enforced. There are only limited problems in the functioning of democracies.
It goes on to define flawed democracies, the category in which Guyana falls, as countries which also have free and fair elections and, even if there are problems such as infringements on media freedom, basic civil liberties are respected. However, there are significant weaknesses in other aspects of democracy, including problems in governance, an underdeveloped political culture and low levels of political participation. It is within that spectrum Guyana falls.
An analysis of the results shows improvements from 2017 when 165 countries and two territories were evaluated as opposed to 167 countries and the two territories in 2018. In 2017, Guyana was placed at 63 on the overall index with an overall score of 6.46. Its electoral process and pluralism received an 8.75 while government functioning, political participation and political culture received 5.71, 6.11 and 4.38 respectively.
The 2017 report was themed ‘Free speech under attack’ and focused heavily on the freedom of the media and classified the Guyanese media as partially free. Drawing inspiration from the “Me too” movement, the 2018 report focuses heavily on political participation, protest and democracy.
A breakdown of the 2018 overall index shows Guyana receiving a 9.17 point average for electoral process and pluralism while Government functioning, political participation, political culture, and civil liberties received 5.71, 6.11, 5.00 and 7.35 respectively.
In the report, Guyana is classed with the Latin America and the Caribbean region.
Speaking to the culture of democracy in the region, it was noted that it remains the most democratic in the developing world but suffered another year of democratic deterioration.
“The region’s overall score fell from 6.26 in 2017 to 6.24 in 2018. This deterioration bucks the trend among other regions of the developing world (Asia, Eastern Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East), which saw their scores stabilise or improve. Globally, only western Europe and Latin America registered declines this year,” the EIU noted.
On its website, the EIU uses the following to provide its users with a brief synopsis what is happening in Guyana: “On December 21st, the coalition Government of the A Partnership for National Unity and the Alliance For Change, led by the President, David Granger, lost a vote of confidence against the Opposition party, People’s Progressive Party/Civic, by one vote. The national election, originally due in 2020, will now be held by March 2019. Despite political uncertainty, economic growth will be strong as key energy policies will remain unchanged ahead of an oil boom in 2020.”