US ‘flawed democracy’

The Economist Intelligence Unit has finally acknowledged that the US has a flawed democracy.

Declining trust in government is denting democracy

AMERICA, which has long defined itself as a standard-bearer of democracy for the world, has become a “flawed democracy” according to the taxonomy used in the annual Democracy Index from the Economist Intelligence Unit, our sister company. Although its score did not fall by much—from 8.05 in 2015 to 7.98 in 2016—it was enough for it to slip just below the 8.00 threshold for a “full democracy”.

The downgrade was not a consequence of Donald Trump, states the report. Rather, it was caused by the same factors that led Mr Trump to the White House: a continued erosion of trust in government and elected officials, which the index measures using data from global surveys.

Trump’s presidency is a consequence of their flawed democracy, not a cause.

It joins France, Greece and Japan in the second-highest tier of the index.


USA was already near the flawed threshold before slipping under it:

  • 2006 – 8.22
  • 2008 – 8.22
  • 2010- 8.18
  • 2011 – 8.11
  • 2012 – 8.11
  • 2013 – 8.11
  • 2014 – 8.11
  • 2015 – 8.05
  • 2016 – 7.98

Top of the ‘full democracy scale’:

  • Norway – 9.93
  • Iceland – 9.50
  • Sweden – 9.39
  • New Zealand – 9.26
  • Canada and Ireland – 9.15
  • Australia has slipped a bit to 9.01

All democracies are flawed, but they are less flawed than the alternatives.

Pirates slip, Iceland government in doubt

The anti-establishment Pirates Party, founded four years ago by a group of activists, anarchists and former hackers, has slipped back from poll predictions to end up getting 14.5% of the vote and three party left of centre coalition they are a part of are two seats short of the incumbent Independence/Progressive coalition.

It is uncertain who will be able to form a new Government, with the Independence Party needing two other partners while the Pirate Party would need a five party coalition.

Guardian: Iceland elections leave ruling centre-right party in driving seat

With all votes counted, the Pirates, founded four years ago by a group of activists, anarchists and former hackers, and their alliance of three left-of-centre parties held a total of 27 seats – five short of a majority in the country’s 63-seat parliament.

The centre-right Independence party, however, won almost 30% of the vote, significantly more than the opinion polls had predicted. It captured a total of 29 seats with its coalition partner of the past three years, the Progressive party, whose share of the vote more than halved.

In a campaign dominated in its early stages by public fury at Iceland’s traditional elites and a strong desire for political change, voters appear to have been persuaded by the Independence party’s promises to lower taxes and keep Iceland’s economic recovery on track.

The final shape of the government is far from clear, with multiple permutations possible and disagreement on which party should be the first to attempt to form a new government.

Opponents argued the Pirates could scare investors and derail an economy still recovering from the 2008 meltdown, when Iceland’s three biggest banks collapsed owing 11 times the country’s GDP, the Reykjavík stock market fell 97% and the value of the krona halved.

Helped by a huge tourism boom – 2.4 million visitors, nearly seven times the country’s population, are expected in 2017 – economic growth is forecast to reach 4.3% this year, and unemployment has fallen to just over 3%.

The Pirates campaigned for government transparency, individual freedoms and the fight against corruption, and advocated an “unlimited right” for citizens to be involved in political decision-making by both proposing new legislation and deciding on it in national referendums.

Part of a global anti-establishment trend, the party also favours decriminalising drugs, offering asylum to whistleblowers such as Edward Snowden and relaxing restrictions on the use of the virtual currency bitcoin.

There’s a few parallels with New Zealand politics here, like centre-right incumbency, keeping economic reforms on track, multi party coalition options and disagreement over which party should have the first shot at forming a coalition.

But also some significant differences, such as Iceland’s financial collapse and the much stronger anti-establishment effect.

New Zealand doesn’t have an anti-establishment party nor any sign of a substantial protest movement.

Greens here have been seen as alternative/anti-establishment in the past, but have been in Parliament since 1999 and have now closely aligned with Labour, who have been established for 100 years so are not new mavericks.

Kim Dotcom tried the alternative trick in our last election but failed quite badly, dragging Mana down with them. There’s signs that Mana may cooperate more with the established Maori Party.

The only mavericks currently active are the Cannabis Party (Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party). They have been around since 1996 when Metiria Turei and Tandor Tanzcos stood for them.To make a Pirates type impact they would have to be seen as more than a single issue party but it would take a dramatic change to challenge the 5% threshold (their highest vote was 1.66% in 1996).


Prime Minister resigns over Panama papers

A major casualty already after the release of the Panama papers, with the prime Minister of Iceland resigning.

Iceland Prime Minister resigns over scandal

Iceland’s Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson is to step down after leaked documents from a Panamanian law firm showed his wife owned an offshore company with big claims on collapsed Icelandic banks, his party says.

On Tuesday night, Gunnlaugsson had asked Iceland’s president to dissolve parliament in the face of a looming no-confidence vote and mass street protests over the revelations. Such a move would almost certainly lead to a new election.

The spotlight will continue on other leaders.

With the fallout from the leaks reverberating across the globe, British Prime Minister David Cameron also came under fire from opponents who accused him of allowing a rich elite to dodge their taxes.

And in China, the Beijing government dismissed as “groundless” reports that the families of President Xi Jinping and other current and former Chinese leaders were linked to offshore accounts.

The more than 11.5 million documents were leaked from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca. Among those named in them are friends of Russian President Vladimir Putin, relatives of the leaders of China, Britain and Pakistan, and the president of Ukraine.

Newe Zealand has been implicated as a tax haven – see “New Zealand is not a tax haven”

Meanwhile the source of the leak, the motivation and the timing of the leak also raise interesting questions.