In this top group, values of legal certainty and the rule of law are deeply internalized in the political culture.
Constitutional principles are well-respected by the executive and administration, and independent bodies assure accountability. Justices are appointed in a collaborative manner, and act with political neutrality once in place.
Corruption is rare or virtually nonexistent, with the few cases identified existing mostly on the local level. All countries received similarly high rankings in the SGI 2009, though minor corruption concerns have emerged in Norway with respect to building permits.
Countries in this group generally have strong legal cultures with traditions of independent judicial review. Corruption is rare, but abuses of position are occasionally noted.
A pragmatic administrative culture in Switzerland and Luxembourg increases flexibility at the cost of certainty, while Ireland saw boom-era pressures increase discretionary decision-making. Jurisdictional ambiguity undermines certainty in Australia.
Consideration of judicial appointments leaves some room for concern in Finland, as Supreme Court judges, though independent, are appointed directly by the president. Appointment processes are the subject of particular concern in Iceland, but also lack transparency in Australia and are subject to political forces in Switzerland.
Minor corruption issues surfaced in Finland, the Netherlands and Austria, while the UK’s expense-reports scandal, though having little evident effect on policy, undermined public trust in government.
The USA is one of the SGI 2011’s most significant gainers with respect to the rule of law, with improvements related to the new administration’s less sweeping claims to unilateral executive authority, as well as in prevention of corruption.
Variation between linguistic regions undermines legal certainty and judicial review in Belgium, while France’s executive has considerable discretion in implementing laws. Discretionary administrative decisions in Japan are upheld by the courts.
The government has sought to influence courts in Portugal, while justices in Spain take independent but politically motivated positions. Judicial appointments in Japan lack transparency, and politically motivated prosecutions are a concern in South Korea.
Poland is this criterion’s top gainer compared to the SGI 2009, with the new government showing more respect for legal and institutional arrangements, and working harder to address corruption.
Serious problems with corruption and legal certainty characterize each of this group’s counties.
Greece, Mexico and Slovakia each show significant and varied flaws. Corruption is at troubling levels in all three countries, with drug-related organized crime damaging Mexico’s legal fabric, and a special prosecutor for corruption eliminated by Slovakia’s government. Widespread corruption is also a problem in Italy and Turkey.
Slovakia’s Fico government exerted strong pressure on the judiciary, and showed little respect for administrative or legal certainty. Greece’s legal culture is undermined by contradictory laws and regulations and ineffective bureaucracy, while Italy’s legal complexity actually undermines certainty.
Turkey’s top courts mirror the secular elite’s worldview, and have issued politically biased opinions. Italy’s courts have been undermined by conflicts with the Berlusconi government.