Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Friday, June 13, 2014

Is France a democracy?

Don't panic! France is NOT being added back into the comparative curriculum. But Jennifer Biddy, who teaches at North Cobb HS in Kennesaw, GA, offers this little case study from the BBC Magazine, written by the chief economist of The Economist Intelligence Unit.

So, ask away and then answer: Is France a democracy? Is the UK? Is the USA? What qualities are necessary for a country to be labeled a democracy?

The 'flaws' of French democracy
Is France a democracy? Most people would assume there is a straightforward answer - "Yes". After all, France has free and fair elections. However, there is more to a truly democratic society than elections alone, writes Simon Baptist of The Economist Intelligence Unit.

France is a democracy, but not a full democracy, according to the newly published sixth edition of The Economist Intelligence Unit's Democracy Index. More accurately, it is a "flawed democracy".

They give it a score of 7.92 out of 10, below the 25 countries that scored 8.00 or above - all full democracies…

So, what is it that lets France down?

France is up there with the top democracies in regard to its electoral process, civil liberties, and political participation - which refers to such things as voter turnout, the number of women MPs and preparedness to participate in lawful demonstrations. It is let down by its relatively poor showing in terms of functioning of government and political culture…

Consider the power of the French parliament… France's legislature… is one of the weakest in Europe. Because the president wields huge power, it is difficult for the legislature to shape legislation and hold the government to account…

French citizens, by their own admission, have very low trust in government or political parties - surveys show them to be some of the most disaffected in Europe. The autumn 2013 Eurobarometer survey, for example, revealed that only 7% of French people trust their political parties, while only 14% trust the national government…

So, which countries do they rate as the most democratic in the world? This group includes the five Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden) along with New Zealand, Australia, Switzerland, Canada and tiny Luxembourg. (The US comes in at 19th.)…

Top 10 Full Democracies
  1. Norway: 9.93
  2. Sweden: 9.73
  3. Iceland: 9.65
  4. Denmark: 9.38
  5. New Zealand: 9.26
  6. Australia: 9.13
  7. Switzerland: 9.09
  8. Canada: 9.08
  9. Finland: 9.03
  10. Luxembourg: 8.88

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

Just The Facts! is a concise guide to concepts, terminology, and examples that will appear on May's exam.

What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools, the original version and v2.0 are available to help curriculum planning.

What You Need to Know SIXTH edition is COMING SOON.

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