Portugal relapses to “Democracy with flaws”: Economist report

Portugal has fallen in the Index of Democracy drawn up annually by the Economist.

Thanks to restrictive measures imposed during the pandemic, the country can no longer be considered ‘fully democratic’, returning to the category it held in the past of ‘democracy with flaws’.

Says the EU Herald News, “the 2020 report released by The Economist Intelligence Unit, entitled ‘In health and disease?’ puts Portugal and France on the same footing and with the same advance and retreat: both countries had in the previous edition advanced to ‘fully democratic country’ and both have now lost this category”.

The two are “the only countries in Western Europe to register this decline.

“In both cases, the restrictions imposed as a means of containing the spread of Covid-19, namely general lockdowns, social distancing and various other measures, explain much of the fall from the category of ‘fully democratic country’ to ‘democracy with flaws.

“Alongside the reversal of democratic freedoms because of the pandemic, another issue that contributed to the drop in Portugal’s average Index score was the reduction in parliamentary debates and the lack of transparency in the process of appointing the president of the Court of Auditors (click here)”.

“These developments, in parallel with the impact of the restriction of movements, have led to a drop in the overall score from previous 8.03 to 7.90,” the report said.

To be fair, the controversy cited by the report is only one of a number that have marked recent times.

The pandemic seems to have been used as a pretext to brush a number of ‘incidents’ under the carpet, for example the lack of the State’s ‘duty of care’ in the death of a Ukrainian at SEF’s holding facility in Lisbon airport (click here); the lack of transparency in the process of nominating a prosecutor to Europe (click here); the controversy within the Public Ministry over the Attorney General’s directive to exercise control over cases involving ‘public figures’ (click here).

As the Economist’s report was published, Portugal is being assailed daily by reports of ‘hundreds of people’ who have been allowed to pass ahead of the list of priorities to receive vaccines, while tabloid Correio da Manhã reports that the president of the PS Socialist Party (and his son) are being investigated over suspicions of corruption, abuse of power and money-laundering in business dealings involving State subsidies and the regional government of the Azores.

With an overall score of 7.90 (out of 10) Portugal now ranks 26th in the overall ranking and 15th in the Economist’s regional ranking.

In the category of electoral process and pluralism, the magazine gives Portugal 9.58 (unchanged from the previous edition), 7.50 in the functioning of the government (against 7.86 in 2019), 6.11 in political participation and 7.50 in political culture, both unchanged.

As far as the civil liberties category is concerned, the magazine attributes 8.82, whereas in 2019 Portugal achieved 9.12.

Stresses the EU Herald News: “Although the restrictions imposed by the pandemic are a common variable for several countries, namely European ones, the index notes that as far as Western Europe is concerned, only two countries (Portugal and France) fell from one category to another, with 13 countries now considered as ‘fully democratic countries’.

Among the seven classified as ‘democracies with flaws’ are Italy, Malta, Cyprus, Greece and Belgium.

At the overall level, the report notes that in 2020 a ‘large majority of countries’, 116 out of 167 (around 70%) had fallen in the overall rank compared to 2019, with only 38 experiencing increases, while 13 remained in the same rank.


Lusa looks at the report from a Portuguese-speaking basis, concluding that there is not one ‘Lusophone’ country that ranks as a full democracy in 2020.

Brazil rose three slots to 49th position (passing from 6.86 to 6.92 points); Cape Verde fell two positions (to 32nd in the ranking, with a global score of 7.65); East Timor fell to 44th place, from 41st, scoring 7.06; Guinea-Bissau is well down the list, in 147th place; Angola, Mozambique and Equatorial Guinea are still considered ‘authoritarian regimes’.

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