How misleading a name can be - Democracy in Germany

Essay, 2012

8 Pages, Grade: 2,00


Main Body

Bogaards identifies two broad possibilities how to capture a regime change. Either “[…] through a change of scores on a scale or index of democracy.” or “Trough a change of categories. These categories can come directly from categorical coding schemes or can be derived indirectly from scores.” (Bogaards, 2010) This paper compares two of those measures, namely National Elections across Democracy and Autocracy (NELDA) and Freedom House. These two will be subject to a cross-comparison with the case study of Germany.

Nelda is an almost exclusively dichotomous measure which is set up out of 58 questions concerned with the election procedure of a country. 55 measures are yes-no questions, hence dichotomous while three allow free-text answers. Nelda’s country selection follows the List of Independent States by Gleditsch and Ward. NELDA draws it’s out of a secondary data analysis of a variety of sources, including data handbooks for the specific regions and several official reports. (A full list of sources can be found at & Marinov, 2012) For our purpose we only consider three variables out of the 58, namely Nelda 3 to 5 which measure whether opposition is allowed, whether more than one party was legal, and whether there was a choice of candidates on the ballot.

Freedom house is a NGO that conducts research on democracy, political freedom and human rights. Their most important annual publication is the Freedom in the World Report. (Freedom House, 2012) It measures Political right and civil liberty with a total of 25 questions using a continuous scale from four to zero. The results are transformed in a fixed mathematical procedure and countries are ranked in an again continuous final scale between one (most free) and seven (not free) in each category. After Combining the results countries are finally ranked as not free (5.5-7), partly free (3-5), or free (1-2.5). (Freedom House, 2012) It is important to notice that Freedom house as the name implies primarily is a measure of freedom - not democracy. However democracy is one part of the Freedom house analysis. To be considered as an electoral democracy a country only has to fulfill four criteria: A political system that allows for a plurality of parties and competition in between them, fair voting rights, secret, fair and regular elections, and free access to the political field and campaigning. (Bogaards, 2012)

In order to follow the ongoing comparison of the two measures we need a compromised overview of the German history: After World War II in 1945 Germany was split among the allied powers (France, Great Britain, USA, & Soviet Union). Due to ongoing differences in the conception of how to lead their parts the Western (France, Great Britain, USA) and the Easter (Soviet Union) parts drifted more and more apart. This ultimately led to the foundation of two independent German states: The Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) in the West and the Democratic Republic of Germany (DRG) in the East. For that reason this paper mainly compares the two German states. The official reunion took place on the 3rd, October 2012 but can be traced back to a process of a non-violent revolution that started in 1989. How this process is covered by the two measured will be discussed later.

The results of the measures for both states are easily explained since they are so contrasting. (Please also see graphs 1 to 6 in the appendix for a graphical display) West Germany receives exclusively positive score on all three NELDA-variables. The same is true for the reunited country from 1990 onwards. East Germany presents highly different results. In 1981 and 1986 the elections received only negative scores. In all other elections there was more than one party legal. And for the elections in 1967, 1971, 1976 and 1990 there was also a choice of candidates on the ballot.

The results of Freedom house show the same tendency. West Germany exclusively receives the score 1 and 2 for Civil Liberty while East Germany shows results of 6 or 7. Similar results are found for Political rights. West Germany receives the best score of 1 and East Germany receives the worst score 7 throughout the covered time frame – with the exception of an increase in Political rights in East Germany in 1990 from 7 to 6. The reunited Germany follows the pattern of West Germany. The Political right score stays at 1 and the Civil Liberty is rated with 2 until 2002, before it received the highest value 1 as well.

One could argue that for a highly democratic country like western Germany it would make more sense to use a continuous scale in order to determine the fine nuances of democracy. However the results from the Freedom house only support that assumption to a certain extent. Compared to the results from the three NELDA variables which are all rated positively from 1953-2005 the Freedom house allows for a certain deviance from the maximum score. This is expressed in several two ratings from 1978 to 1989 for the Civil liberties scale. One reason for this non-maximum rating could be the somewhat inconclusive behavior of the three states governing western Germany. They sometimes were struggling to release more freedom to the public which could be traced back to the experiences with the Third Reich. For that reason Freedom house allows for a more detailed look at the situation and is capable of highlighting some fine differences. Be reminded again that Civil Liberty is no direct measure for democracy though.


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How misleading a name can be - Democracy in Germany
Jacobs University Bremen gGmbH
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ISBN (eBook)
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democracy, germany
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Benjamin Niklas Scher (Author), 2012, How misleading a name can be - Democracy in Germany, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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