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Sweden is top democracy; Italy is “flawed” at 34th, Hungary at 38th.

Sweden is the world's most democratic nation while Italy, a member of the Group of Seven industrialized nations, ranks as a “flawed” democracy and fails to make the top category of countries, the Economist said.

Countries are split into four regime types determined by their democratic credentials, according to a list e-mailed late yesterday by the magazine. The classifications are: full democracies, flawed democracies, hybrid regimes and authoritarian regimes. The US at 17th, and UK, 23th, ranked in the bottom half of the full democracies. “A decline in civil liberties and malfunctioning of government accounts for the US position,” the Economist said. “In the UK, a shocking decline in political participation, alongside some erosion of civil liberties, is the main reason for the comparatively modest ranking.”

The Economist Intelligence Unit awarded 167 countries and territories marks from 1 to 10 for 60 indicators across five broad categories: electoral process, functioning of government, political participation, political culture, and civil liberties. The top level, full democracies, comprises 28 countries and is dominated by members of the Paris-based Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Sweden beats Iceland and the Netherlands into first place, followed by Norway and Denmark ( while France is ranked lower than the UK, at 24th, and Italy 34th, doesn't make the top level, falling among the “flawed democracies”. “The rating for France is also comparatively low as a result of modest scores for the functioning of government, political participation and political culture,” the Economist said. “Italy performs even worse, and falls in the flawed democracies category - as a result of problems in functioning of government and the electoral process, as well as weaknesses in the political culture.”

Two Latin American nations, Costa Rica and Uruguay, made the top category, as did the Indian Ocean island nation Mauritius. Other countries ranked as “flawed” included Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, Israel and the world's largest democracy, India. Countries including Lebanon, 85th, Russia, 102nd, and Iraq, 112th, fall in the third class of democracies, hybrid regimes. Iraq scores “0” in the functioning government category, a distinction shared only with Afghanistan and Chad. Iraq's score for political participation is higher than Britain's and level with Japan's. The Palestinian Authority, also classed as a flawed democracy, scores level with Israel on political participation, and above every entry in that sub-category bar the top 14 in the overall ranking. North Korea props up the table in 167th, just behind the Central African Republic, Chad, Togo and Myanmar, which, along with most Middle Eastern nations, fall in the bottom group of countries, authoritarian regimes. (Bloomberg)