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The Democracy Barometer is a new index of democracy. It aims to overcome the conceptual and methodological shortcomings of existing measures, in order to measure the subtle differences in the quality of established democracies. Most of the previous indices of democracy have a minimalist conceptual basis which is useful to distinguish democratic from non-democratic regimes. However, 'democracy' is a complex phenomenon and a minimalist measurement cannot do justice to it. The Democracy Barometer is therefore based on a middle range concept of democracy, embracing liberal as well as participatory ideas of democracy, which illuminate the phenomenon from different perspectives (also see conceptualization). It consists of a stepwise theoretical deduction of fundamental elements of democracy. The starting point is the premise that a democratic system tries to establish a good balance between the normative, interdependent values of freedom and equality and that this requires control. In order to guarantee these three fundamental principles and thus the quality of democracy, nine democratic functions need to be fulfilled. Every function is further disaggregated into two components each, which finally, are measured by several sub-components and indicators (also see conceptualization and codebook). The choice of indicators and scales as well as the rules of aggregation rely on theoretical considerations and empirical tests (also see methodology).




Individual Liberties

Rule of law

Public sphere


Mutual constraints

Governmental Capability




Figure: Concept Tree (first three layers only)

Democratic principles
Freedom refers to the absence of heteronomy, and freedom rights are above all rights which protect an individual from infringements by the state. Historically, the most important of these rights are the right to life and property rights. The list of negative freedom rights has grown over time, and the protection and guarantee of these rights under a secure rule of law have become one of the minimal conditions for democratic regimes. top of page

Equality - particularly understood as political equality - means that all citizens are treated as equals in the political process, have equal rights to influence political decision-making and have equal access to political power. top of page

Freedom and equality can be seen as the most fundamental and driving principles in the development of modern territorial states. The two principles interact and can constrain each other but they are not generally irreconcilable. Guaranteeing as well as optimizing and balancing freedom and equality are the core challenge of a democratic system. The third principle, control, serves to equilibrate this unstable balance. However, control has two different meanings in democracies. On the one hand, citizens ought to control their representatives in the government in order to secure freedom and equality. This control can be exercised vertically by means of elections or horizontally by constitutional checks and balances. On the other hand, responsive governments must be able to act, which requires a certain amount of autonomy. The executive should only be limited by the democratic process and jurisdiction. top of page

Democratic functions
Individual liberties
The existence and guarantee of individual liberties is the most important prerequisite for democratic self- and co-determination. Individual liberties primarily secure the inviolability of the private sphere. This requires the right to physical integrity (component 1). This component embraces constitutional human rights provisions and the ratification of important human rights conventions that are seen as an indication that a culture maintains the effective right to physical integrity. The effective and real protection of this right is mirrored by the fact that there are no transgressions by the state, such as torture or other cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatments or punishments. Furthermore, "[S]tates are only effective in rights protection to the extent that citizens themselves are prepared to acknowledge the rights of others". Thus, a high homicide rate and violent political actions restrict the effectiveness of the right to physical integrity. The second component comprises another aspect of individual liberties, the right to free conduct of life. On the one hand, this encompasses freedom of religion and freedom of movement. On the other hand, it requires that those rights are effective and in use. The third subcomponent embraces property rights that are to be protected adequately. Again, these measures distinguish between constitutional provisions guaranteeing the free conduct of life and the effective implementation and impact of these rights.

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.Concept / Idea http://www. Here. individual rights have an essential collective it must not be subject to manipulation. In modern. Additionally. according to the social capital research. i. Thus. The justice system cannot receive legitimacy by means of elections.. as well as in the confidence in the police. Rather. The quality of the legal system (component 2) depends on the constitutionally provided professionalism of judges and on the legitimacy of the justice system.democracybarometer. judicial legitimacy is based on the citizens' confidence in the justice system and in the institutions exercising the monopoly of legitimate force. Figure: function tree individual liberties top of page Rule of law Rule of law designates the independence. Freedom of association must be constitutionally guaranteed. and a vital civil society and a vivid public sphere are ensured by means of freedom of association (component 1) and freedom of opinion (component 2).e. representative democracies. 2 sur 6 7/02/11 15:45 . the primacy. and the absolute warrant of and by the law. Additionally. the opinion-making and diffusion within the public sphere is primarily carried out by the media and the media system. Freedom of opinion presupposes constitutional guarantees as well. a vital civil society relies on the density of associations with political and public interests. The communication about politics and moral norms takes place in the public sphere. Formal social capital is seen as a sign of a well-functioning free articulation and collection of preferences. the legal framework must be independent and effectively impartial. This requires the same prevalence of rights as well as formal and procedural justice for all individuals. Figure: function tree rule of law top of page Public sphere The principle freedom is completed by the public sphere function. Taking part with others in expressing opinions and seeking to persuade and mobilise support are seen as important aspects of freedom. media should provide a wide forum for public discourse. Public communication primarily takes place via mass media. Equality before the law (component 1) is based on constitutional provisions for the impartiality of courts..

Figure: function tree competition top of page Mutual constraints of constitutional powers The horizontal and institutional dimension of control of the government is encompassed by mutual constraints of constitutional powers. the degrees of decentralisation as well as the effective sub-national fiscal autonomy are incorporated into the measure. mutual constraints are completed by the third branch in the form of constitutional jurisdiction. and competitive elections. federalism is seen as an important means of control... The effective competition in elections is measured by the existence and the success of small parties. i. 3 sur 6 7/02/11 15:45 . Contestability refers to the stipulations that electoral competitors have to meet in order to be allowed to enter the race. Vulnerability corresponds with the uncertainty of the electoral outcome. two of which – vulnerability (component 1) and contestability (component 2) – best concur with our middle-range concept of democracy and our idea of vertical control. Furthermore. formal rules have an impact on vulnerability: district size and the legal possibility of redistricting can influence An effective opposition as well as constitutional provisions for mutual checks in terms of possibilities for deposition or dissolution guarantee the mutual control of the first two branches. On the one hand. regular. Effective entry is measured by the total number of parties running for elections as well as by the quote of parliament parties and other parties that run. In line with the research on federalism. Figure: function tree public sphere top of page Competition Vertical control of the government is established via free.e. On the other hand. The balance of powers first depends on the relationship between the executive and the legislature (component 1). Four components of democratic competition can be distinguished. Of course.. there must be additional checks of powers (component 2).Concept / Idea http://www. the guaranteed possibility to review the constitutionality of laws. which is indicated by the closeness of election results as well as the degree of concentration of parliamentary or legislative seats.democracybarometer.

articulated. In addition to the practices of political office-holders.. the availability of resources (component 1) and conditions for efficient implementation (component 2). i. Thus. and media must not face political control or censorship. On the one hand. however. Hence. Corruption hinders empowered inclusion and is considered a sign of low transparency. it also offers various possibilities for communication and services to authorities.. Political decisions should be openly communicated and justified. secrecy can lead to corruption and bribery. this requires no secrecy on the part of political representatives. a high diffusion of internet access among the public fosters transparency. demonstrations. Moreover. Citizens' preferences are collected. Figure: functiron tree mutual constraints of constitutional powers top of page Effective democratic governmental capability One important feature of representative democracy is the chain of responsiveness.democracybarometer. requires governmental capability. Furthermore.. Efficient implementation is more difficult when it encounters opposition from groups of citizens that try to hinder it by means of strikes. or even illegitimate anti-governmental action. Not only is the internet hard to control and censor. an efficient bureaucracy can help to facilitate the implementation.e. transparency depends on the structural conditions for the free flow of information via different channels of communication. The chain has a further link. The further criterion encompasses the absence of the influence of nonpolitical actors. A responsive implementation. Resources must be available to ensure an effective and impartial implementation of political decisions. long terms of legislature and governmental stability facilitate a more continuous and thus more responsive implementation. Conversely. On the one government must count on high public support. a country's media regulation should not restrict the media and their content too strongly. namely responsive implementation. Furthermore. i. the provisions for a transparent political process must be considered.Concept / Idea http://www. 4 sur 6 7/02/11 15:45 . Figure: function tree effective democratic governmental capability top of page Transparency Transparency is an important prerequisite for equality. an effective freedom of information legislation guarantees that official records concerning the political process are easily accessible.e. the policy decisions must align with the initial preferences.. On the other hand. and aggregated by means of elections and translated into parliamentary or legislative seats. mobilized.

Additionally. equal consideration of citizens' preferences is ensured by descriptive representation (component 2). Therefore. the effective use of participation can be facilitated by different rules (e. especially for minorities. this claim should be fulfilled in any established democracy. In representative democracies. Figure: function tree transparency top of page Participation In a high-quality democracy. Even after more than 100 years of women's suffrage rights. equality of participation (component 1) must be considered. DB considers the level of electoral as well as non-institutionalised participation. citizens must have equal participation rights: all persons who are affected by a political decision should have the right to participate in shaping that decision. Equal respect and consideration of all interests by the political representatives is possible only if participation is as widespread and as equal as possible. High distortion in terms of high disproportionality between votes and seats or in terms of low issue congruence among the representatives and the represented are signs of an unequal inclusion of preferences. This implies that all citizens in a state must have suffrage rights.. Structural 5 sur 6 7/02/11 15:45 . the effective use of participation (component 2) is also important.Concept / Idea http://www. On the other hand. such as a high number of parliamentary seats or direct democratic institutions. these rights should be used in an equal manner. Furthermore. this is ensured by substantive representation (component 1). Of course.democracybarometer. Adequate representation of all groups is necessary before a country can claim descriptive representation. can help to better include preferences into the political system. all citizens must have the possibility of co-determination. this is ensured by means of representation agencies. allowing people to vote in advance).g. The DB also focuses on women as structural minorities. Based on the idea that high turnout goes hand in hand with equal turnout. The access to political office for ethnic minorities must not be hindered by legal constraints. Responsive democracies must ensure that all citizens' preferences are adequately represented in elected offices.. Figure: function tree participation top of page Representation In a democracy. On the one hand.

Concept / Idea http://www..democracybarometer.. Figure: function tree representation top of page 6 sur 6 7/02/11 15:45 .org/baroapp/public/static/co.

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