Spain downgraded to a ‘flawed democracy’ by The Economist index

Country loses 0.18 points for worsening "judicial independence" score, relegating it from a "full democracy"

CGPJ president Carlos Lesmes and Spain King Felipe VI on September 6, 2021 (by Pool EFE)
CGPJ president Carlos Lesmes and Spain King Felipe VI on September 6, 2021 (by Pool EFE) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

February 10, 2022 04:54 PM

Spain has been downgraded from a “full democracy” to a "flawed democracy" by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) index, a sister company of British The Economist newspaper, published on Wednesday reviewing 2021.

The relegation is the result of "a downgrade in its score for judicial independence," the report reads. The reason is the "political divisions over the appointment of new magistrates to the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ)," the EIU adds.

The CGPJ is in charge of appointments, promotions, and transfers of judges, as well as inspecting how courts work, and "staunchly safeguarding the independence of the judiciary," protecting it from the other powers. 

Yet, it is the Congress and the Senate, the legislative powers, that appoint the members of the CGPJ leadership. Both chambers require a three-fifths majority to appoint a new team whenever the five-year mandates of the CGPJ expire. 

"The council is operating on a caretaker basis, as its term of office expired in 2018," the EIU index explains. Since then, the political forces have not reached an agreement despite trying several times

"More broadly," the report adds, "Spain’s political scene has become increasingly unsettled in recent years, with parliamentary fragmentation, a litany of political graft scandals and rising regional nationalism in Catalonia posing challenges to governance."   

The EIU warns that "the longer the situation drags on, the greater the risk of the Council being undermined and vulnerable to politicization."   

Full democracy in 2020

In 2020, Spain was considered a "full democracy" after scoring 8.12 in the overall score in the EIU index. 

The deterioration of 0.18 points in the most recent results, bringing the country’s marks down to 7.94, "was sufficient to result in a category downgrade," the index reads. 

The country, however, has not been the only one that has "registered minor slippage in their scores," as the majority of countries have too, due to the "prolonged political fallout from the coronavirus pandemic."  

Other European Union countries such as France, 7.99 in overall score, Portugal (7.82), Czech Republic (7.74), or Italy (7.68) are also considered "flawed democracies." 

Finland is considered the most democratic country in the European Union scoring 9.27 overall, while Hungary is the least democratic one with a score of 6.50. 

Worldwide democracy "in decline" 

The report has detailed a "significant decline" in people living in democracies of some sort. In 2020, 49.4% of the world’s population lived in a democracy of some grade, while in 2021 it dropped to 45.7%, the EIU index highlights. 

The "full democracy" figure has also fallen, as in 2021 only 6.4% of the population lived in one, compared to the 8.4% in 2020. The reason is the downgrade by Spain and Chile to "flawed democracies." 

Over a third of the world’s population, 37.1%, live under "authoritarian rule."