Democracy in Greece, 1974 – 2009
Democracy in Greece, 1974 – 2009: Comparing the Database of Political Institutions and Freedom House
Essay 2009 9 Pages
This paper seeks to determine whether Greece has been a democratic country in the period of 1974 – 2009 using two measures of democracy—the Freedom House and the Database of Political Institutions. A brief introduction of the two measures will first be given, followed by the categorization of Greece according to each measure. Finally, the paper will discuss merits and demerits of each measurement to come to the conclusion regarding which type of regime Greece possesses and which measure is more accurate.
Two Measures of Democracy: Freedom House and the Database of Political Institutions (DPI)
Freedom House attempts to assess the democratic freedom of 193 countries and 15 related and disputed territories in the world on an annual basis (Freedom House 2009c). It aims at reflecting both non-governmental and governmental actions that result in the real world of rights and freedoms, by examining the two broad evaluation categories—political rights and civil liberties on a seven-point scale ranging from 1 to 7 (with 1 representing the highest level of freedom and 7 the lowest level of freedom). Each country is categorized based on the average of the individual scores on political rights and civil liberties, as “Free” (average score of 1.0 – 2.5), “Partly Free” (average score of 3.5 – 5.0) or “Not Free” (average score of 5.5 – 7.0). Upward and downward trend arrows are also assigned to indicate positive and negative trends which are not significant enough to alter ratings (Puddington 2008).
The Database of Political Institutions (DPI) is a cross-country empirical database focusing on 177 countries’ political and institutional characteristics, as well as their variation over time (Beck et al., 2001). It seeks to determine democracy by election outcomes in multi-party elections based on the 7-level-scale Executive Indices of Political Competitiveness (one for presidential and one for parliamentary elections; comprising of Legislature and Executive Index of Electoral Competitiveness—see table 2, 3—appendix); at least a level of 6 is required for the designation as democracy (Keefer et al. 2006). According to the DPI, a unanimous victory (100 percent of seats) of one party in multi-party elections is equivalent with unfree and unfair elections, and consequently, undemocratic regimes. By the same token, a single party winning 75 percent of seats implies a suspicious election, but not necessarily an undemocratic regime (Bogaards 2007).
Measuring Democracy in Greece
Freedom House Measures
During the period between 1974 and 2009, Greece has been categorized as “Free” with an average score of approximately 1.79 by Freedom House (see figure 1 and table 1 (appendix)). From 1974 to 1979, Greece maintained the score of 2 in both political rights and civil liberties. Political rights experienced improvement in 1980 (from the score of 2 to 1), leading to the improved of the average score to 1.5. The positive trend ceased in November 1984, when Greek political rights fell back to 2, and this score preserved until the end of 1989. Since 1990, Greece has achieved advance in political rights, scoring 1 in 19 successive years (1990 – 2008). As for civil liberties, Greece was stable in 1974 – 1992 with the score of 2. However, 9 years from 1993 to 2001 witnessed a slight contraction in civil liberties when the score dropped to 3. Despite the diminishing civil liberties, Greece still earned the designation of “Free” with 2 as the average score. In 2002, civil conditions improved and have stabilized ever since with the score of 2, resulting in the rising average score from 2 to 1.5. However, there was a downward tendency in Greek overall freedom in December 2008 (denoted by a downward arrow in Freedom House Survey data (Puddington 2008)), though the incident was not significant enough to set back the ratings. Regarding electoral system, since November 1988, Greece’s parliamentary system has been appreciated as free and fair by Freedom House, rewarding in Greece classified as an electoral democracy (Freedom House, 2009b).
Figure 1: Freedom House’s scores of Greece, Period 1974 – 2008
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(Freedom House, 2009b)
The DPI Measures
In 1974, Greece carried out its first free multi-party election after decades of military regime ruling the country since 1967 with the participation of 81.5 percent of population. Election outcomes marked the victory of New Democratic Party with 54.37 percent of votes (Inter-Parliamentary Union 2009). Compared with the DPI’s Indices of Electoral Competitiveness, for the 1974 election, Greece achieved level 7, and thus, qualified as a democracy. During 1975 – 2006, Greece was categorized by the DPI as democratic with a level value of 7 (World Bank 2009). The 2007 and 2009 election witnessed the victory of New Democratic and Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) with 41.84 percent and 36.64 percent of votes respectively (Inter-Parliamentary Union 2009). Again, Greece maintains in level 7 of electoral competitiveness and is a democracy based on the DPI’s scale. Therefore, in 1974 – 2009, Greece is a democracy according to the DPI.