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The Arab Democracy Index: A Marked Decline in Freedoms and Reform

A report published today by the Arab Reform Initiative and the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, in partnership with ten research centres in the Arab world, shows a decline in the Arab Democracy Index and the shortcomings of the process of democratic change and its inability to transform the Arab region.

The report, entitled Arab Democracy Index 5, measures the democratic transition process in Jordan, Bahrain, Tunisia, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Kuwait, Lebanon, Egypt and Morocco. It examines the results of a survey conducted in these countries in 2015.

“Much has changed in the Arab region during the preparation of this report,” said Bassma Kodmani, Executive Director of the Arab Reform Initiative; “however, the overall decline in the Index was largely expected because of the shrinking or closure of the space for freedoms that opened to the Arab communities in 2011. And now it is becoming clearer that the optimism of a breakthrough in the process of democratization that accompanied the Arab Spring revolutions was not realistic.”

The current Arab Democracy Index scored 571 points out of 1000, which is a decline of 10 points from the previous report of 2012. Tunisia has seen the greatest progress and Egypt the greatest decline. Morocco continued to lead for the fourth time, followed by Tunisia and Jordan. Kuwait came fourth, then Algeria, Palestine and Lebanon. Egypt ranked eighth, ahead of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

“Arab rulers continue to believe that they can placate their people by simply enacting new laws and not applying them in practice,” Kodmani added. “They hope to remain in power through deceit and deviation from the spirit of democracy. Their stubbornness to reform and the inability of state institutions to ensure a democratic transition are the gravest challenges threatening the coy and fragile progress that was recorded in previous index reports.”

The indicator of the means, such as legislation and constitutions, surpasses the indicator of practices by 284 points, which signals a huge difference between claims of reforms by governments and the realities that people in the region face in their daily lives and in their relations with the state.

To meet the aspirations of people in the region, the report highlights the urgent need to strengthen the monitoring functions of the Arab the political systems, enhance the ability of parliaments to ensure accountability, promote judicial independence, and strengthen oversight of the security services. It also recommends supporting the role of women in the labour force, reforming education, and giving more freedom to the media to contribute effectively to public debate and raising awareness.

Background

The Arab Democracy Index 5 is based on information and opinion polls conducted in 2015. It is the second Index since the Arab spring revolutions broke out in 2011. The Arab Reform Initiative produces the Index in partnership with one of its members, the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, and national teams in each of the surveyed countries. Four previous reports have been published.

 

The ranking of countries on a scale of 1000 points

1. Morocco 735
2. Tunisia 690
3. Jordan 640
4. Kuwait 631
5. Algeria 589
6. Palestine 538
7. Lebanon 532
8. Egypt 503
9. Bahrain 436
10. Saudi Arabia 419

To read the full report in Arabic, click here.

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