In this group, electoral procedures ensure consistently free, fair and transparent elections, often serving as a model for other nations.
The countries possess open, transparent candidacy rules and strongly protected voting rights. Australia increased the flexibility of its voter registration system, helping lift it to this criterion’s top rank.
Most party systems allow a mix of public and private funding, with adequate disclosure requirements in place. A recent German scandal involving alleged quid-pro-quo donations triggered considerable debate, but no tangible reform.
Media access is good in all countries, with several enforcing equal-access or other impartiality provisions during election periods.
These states possess healthy electoral systems, with strong rules assuring free and robust competition. However, exceptions do occur.
Candidacy procedures and voting rights are fair, although a Belgian court ruled that electoral restrictions had been improperly applied to some candidates. French registration procedures are open to all citizens, yet many immigrants and lower-class voters do not participate.
Finnish politicians’ refusal to disclose the source of campaign funds triggered election-finance scandals, while banks associated with Iceland’s financial collapse proved to have been significant campaign donors. Sweden does not require contributors to be identified, and a reform of Poland’s public-financing mechanisms was sent to the Constitutional Court.
France’s media access score rose thanks to a court’s reform of equal-access media rules, while Sweden’s top newspapers have resisted accepting advertisements from a controversial right-wing party.
The USA is one of the criterion’s top gainers relative to the SGI 2009, on the strength of elections largely free of the legal issues and ballot controversies of previous years.
In this group, particular weaknesses undermine otherwise solid patterns of democratic procedures.
In almost every case, electoral financing is the weak point, with Portugal, Austria, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Slovakia and Switzerland lacking strong oversight mechanisms for campaign spending and donations. Japan’s strict regulations are routinely flouted by politicians, though violations are punished by the media and electorate.
Italy, where the prime minister controls one of the country’s biggest media groups, is a both unique and troublesome case. An alleged vote-buying scandal led to serious questions about Slovakia’s recent regional elections.
The varied size of Japan’s electoral districts has long undermined the principle of equally weighted votes, but a successful constitutional challenge has made future remedy likely.
Mexico’s higher media access score, thanks to a new law strengthening an independent election board’s ability to regulate political party advertising and debates, significantly improves the country’s ranking as compared to the SGI 2009.
In this bottom group, specific weaknesses are evident, often associated with flawed campaign financing systems.
Corruption, campaign-contribution or bribery scandals were noted in Spain, South Korea and Hungary. Spain’s troubles were linked to its property boom, but South Korea’s campaign finance issues have been persistent, with infringing politicians facing few penalties.
Inadequate campaign funding oversight or ineffective sanction mechanisms cloud the electoral process in Greece, Chile and Turkey.
Low participation rates among young people led Chile to introduce automatic voter registration, eliminating a mandatory voting rule.
The print media in the UK is partisan and celebrity-focused, though attentive to politics, while the state-owned media in Turkey serves too often as a propaganda arm of the government.