Switzerland saw its prized system of direct democracy slip two places in the annual democratic ranking by the Economist Intelligence Unit. In one of the big changes of 2016, America was downgraded to a “flawed democracy”.
Despite maintaining its 9.09 out of ten score for the past several years, Switzerland was overtaken by other countries who had made more democratic progress. It settled in eighth place in a ranking of 167 countriesexternal link.
Switzerland is among 19 countries ranked as “full” democracies”, a status held until recently by the United States. Unsurprisingly, the top five include Norway, Iceland, Sweden, Denmark and New Zealand.
The US had a lower ranking not because 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”, according to the Economist.
“A similar pattern of declining popular confidence in political elites and institutions has also been evident in Europe. Such disaffection helped cause the scores of more than 70 countries to decline compared with 2015.”
Why did Switzerland as one of the bastions of direct democracy only make eighth place? The index is based on 60 indicators across five broad categories: electoral process and pluralism, functioning of government, political participation, democratic political culture and civil liberties.
Although Switzerland scored more than nine out of ten in four of the categories, it fell down in political participation with just 7.78 out of ten. This category includes party membership, interest in public affairs and voter turnout. While the Swiss vote regularly on national and local issues, turnout is lower than the European average. Since 1971, average Swiss turnout for federal elections and votes combined fluctuates between 40 and 50%.
In contrast, Switzerland earned its highest score of 9.58 in electoral processes, which includes indicators like transparency in electoral campaign financing.
Translated from French, swissinfo.ch