Thursday 9 February 2023

Democracy in Costa Rica scores among the 21 strongest in the world

'The Economist' ranked the country as the third strongest democracy in America, only surpassed by Canada and Uruguay

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QCOSTARICA – Costa Rica’s democracy is the third strongest in the entire American continent, after Canada and Uruguay, according to the prestigious 2021 Democracy Index published by the Intelligence Unit of The Economist.

A woman holds a baby in her arms as she looks at the lists of the polling stations during the elections on February 6. (LUIS ACOSTA/AFP)

On a scale of 1 to 10, Costa Rican democracy scores 8.07, which places it 20th out of 167 nations. On the continent, it is surpassed by Canada with 8.87 and Uruguay with 8.85. In fact, these three nations are the only ones in this region that have the qualification of “full democracy.”

Worldwide, Costa Rica is ranked number 20, a position it shares with Austria. The United States is at 27, Panama at 48, Argentina at 50, El Salvador at 79, Honduras at 92, Guatemala at 99, and Nicaragua at 140.

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In that report, Latin America’s average regional score fell for the sixth consecutive year, from 6.09 in 2020 to 5.83 in 2021. Not only is this decline the steepest of any region in the world, it was the largest on record. since the index began to be published in 2006.

In the case of Costa Rica, the global rating dropped 0.09 points (the previous one was 8.16) and the global position dropped two places, from 18 to 20. Despite this, the country moved up one step in Latin America, due to to the descent of Chile (7.92) to fourth place, which meant the qualification of “defective democracy”.

To establish the rating, The Economist weights the score from 0 to 10 in five areas: electoral process and pluralism, functioning of government, political participation, political culture and civil liberties. Nations that obtain a weighted score greater than 8 are qualified as “full democracy; those that are located between 6 and 8, “defective democracy”; Notes between 4 and 6 are described as “hybrid regime” and those below 4 are called “authoritarian”, as is the case in Nicaragua.

In Central America, only Costa Rica is a full democracy. Panama is a defective democracy; El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala are hybrid regimes and Nicaragua falls into authoritarianism, together with Venezuela and Cuba they are the only nations in Latin America with zero marks in the electoral process and pluralism.

The Economist specified: “The region’s score in all categories of the index worsened in 2021, due to a sharp decline in political culture. This reflects public discontent with governments’ handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which amplified some pre-pandemic trends, including growing skepticism about the ability of democratic governments to address the region’s problems and growing tolerance of authoritarian governance.”

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In addition, the publication highlighted Latin America’s increasingly weak commitment to a democratic political culture, which “has allowed illiberal populists to prosper, such as Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, Andrés Manuel López Obrador in Mexico, and Nayib Bukele in El Salvador. This trend has also fostered authoritarian regimes in Nicaragua and Venezuela.”

Only 1.3% of the population of Latin America lives in full democracies, and an increasing number of the region’s inhabitants live in regimes whose democracy is faltering. 59% of the Latin American population lives in flawed democracies, 30% in hybrid regimes and 9% in authoritarian countries. 1% remains unclassified.

Populisms also stalk Costa Rica

The regional director of the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) for Latin America and the Caribbean, Daniel Zovatto, highlighted Costa Rica and Uruguay as democratic examples in Latin America.

However, he expressed his concern ahead of the second round of elections in Costa Rica on April 3.

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“What worries me about Costa Rica in the face of this election is that there is a very complex economic situation, there is an increase in poverty, there is an increase in inequality, there is an increase in unemployment, there is an extremely complex fiscal situation, that whoever is elected will have to renegotiate. Consequently, there is greater apathy and less identification with political parties on the part of the citizenry,” he explained in an interview with La Nación.

He added that the anger and discomfort of the Costa Rican population with the corruption and dysfunctionality of the political system form a “breeding ground.” When this is combined with “a candidate who knows how to take advantage of it with a traditional anti-system and anti-political discourse, and who presents himself as a redeemer or a messiah who comes to solve all problems, it represents a risk for democracies.”

“With a speech very similar to that of Trump in the United States, that of López Obrador in Mexico, that of Bolsonaro in Brazil and that of Bukele in El Salvador, if one adds a communication strategy to manipulate anger, it is a very toxic combination, but at the same time, very lethal for democracy, but with a high electoral yield”, he explained.


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