Checklist Questions and Guidelines

Each numbered checklist question is assigned a score of 0-4 (except for discretionary question A, for which a score of 1-4 may be added, and discretionary question B, for which a score of 1-4 may be subtracted), according to the survey methodology. The bulleted sub-questions are intended to provide guidance to the writers regarding what issues are meant to be considered in scoring each checklist question; the authors do not necessarily have to consider every sub-question when scoring their countries.

 

POLITICAL RIGHTS CHECKLIST

A.        ELECTORAL PROCESS

  1. Is the head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections?
  • Did established and reputable national and/or international election monitoring organizations judge the most recent elections for head of government to be free and fair? (Note: Heads of government chosen through various electoral frameworks, including direct elections for president, indirect elections for prime minister by parliament, and the electoral college system for electing presidents, are covered under this and the following sub-questions. In cases of indirect elections for the head of government, the elections for the legislature that chose the head of government, as well as the selection process of the head of government himself, should be taken into consideration.)
  • Have there been undue, politically motivated delays in holding the most recent election for head of government?
  • Is the registration of voters and candidates conducted in an accurate, timely, transparent, and nondiscriminatory manner?
  • Can candidates make speeches, hold public meetings, and enjoy media access throughout the campaign free of intimidation?
  • Does voting take place by secret ballot or by equivalent free voting procedure?
  • Are voters able to vote for the candidate or party of their choice without undue pressure or intimidation?
  • Is the vote count transparent, and is it reported honestly with the official results made public? Can election monitors from independent groups and representing parties/candidates watch the counting of votes to ensure their honesty?
  • Is each person's vote given equivalent weight to those of other voters in order to ensure equal representation?
  • Has a democratically elected head of government who was chosen in the most recent election subsequently been overthrown in a violent coup? (Note: Although a peaceful, "velvet coup" may ultimately lead to a positive outcome-particularly if it replaces a head of government who was not freely and fairly elected-the new leader has not been freely and fairly elected and cannot be treated as such.)
  • In cases where elections for regional, provincial, or state governors and/or other subnational officials differ significantly in conduct from national elections, does the conduct of the subnational elections reflect an opening toward improved political rights in the country, or, alternatively, a worsening of political rights?
  1. Are the national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections?
  • Did established and reputable domestic and/or international election monitoring organizations judge the most recent national legislative elections to be free and fair?
  • Have there been undue, politically motivated delays in holding the most recent national legislative election?
  • Is the registration of voters and candidates conducted in an accurate, timely, transparent, and nondiscriminatory manner?
  • Can candidates make speeches, hold public meetings, and enjoy media access throughout the campaign free of intimidation?
  • Does voting take place by secret ballot or by equivalent free voting procedure?
  • Are voters able to vote for the candidate or party of their choice without undue pressure or intimidation?
  • Is the vote count transparent, and is it reported honestly with the official results made public? Can election monitors from independent groups and representing parties/candidates watch the counting of votes to ensure their honesty?
  • Is each person's vote given equivalent weight to those of other voters in order to ensure equal representation?
  • Have the representatives of a democratically elected national legislature who were chosen in the most recent election subsequently been overthrown in a violent coup? (Note: Although a peaceful, "velvet coup" may ultimately lead to a positive outcome-particularly if it replaces a national legislature whose representatives were not freely and fairly elected-members of the new legislature have not been freely and fairly elected and cannot be treated as such.)
  • In cases where elections for subnational councils/parliaments differ significantly in conduct from national elections, does the conduct of the subnational elections reflect an opening toward improved political rights in the country, or, alternatively, a worsening of political rights?
  1. Are the electoral laws and framework fair?
  • Is there a clear, detailed, and fair legislative framework for conducting elections? (Note: Changes to electoral laws should not be made immediately preceding an election if the ability of voters, candidates, or parties to fulfill their roles in the election is infringed.)
  • Are election commissions or other election authorities independent and free from government or other pressure and interference?
  • Is the composition of election commissions fair and balanced?
  • Do election commissions or other election authorities conduct their work in an effective and competent manner?
  • Do adult citizens enjoy universal and equal suffrage? (Note: Suffrage can be suspended or withdrawn for reasons of legal incapacity, such as mental incapacity or conviction of a serious criminal offense.)
  • Is the drawing of election districts conducted in a fair and nonpartisan manner, as opposed to gerrymandering for personal or partisan advantage?
  • Has the selection of a system for choosing legislative representatives (such as proportional versus majoritarian) been manipulated to advance certain political interests or to influence the electoral results?

 

B.        POLITICAL PLURALISM AND PARTICIPATION

  1. Do the people have the right to organize in different political parties or other competitive political groupings of their choice, and is the system open to the rise and fall of these competing parties or groupings?
  • Do political parties encounter undue legal or practical obstacles in their efforts to be formed and to operate, including onerous registration requirements, excessively large membership requirements, etc.?
  • Do parties face discriminatory or onerous restrictions in holding meetings, rallies, or other peaceful activities?
  • Are party members or leaders intimidated, harassed, arrested, imprisoned, or subjected to violent attacks as a result of their peaceful political activities?
  1. Is there a significant opposition vote and a realistic possibility for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections?
  • Are various legal/administrative restrictions selectively applied to opposition parties to prevent them from increasing their support base or successfully competing in elections?
  • Are there legitimate opposition forces in positions of authority, such as in the national legislature or in subnational governments?
  • Are opposition party members or leaders intimidated, harassed, arrested, imprisoned, or subjected to violent attacks as a result of their peaceful political activities?
  1. Are the people's political choices free from domination by the military, foreign powers, totalitarian parties, religious hierarchies, economic oligarchies, or any other powerful group?
  • Do such groups offer bribes to voters and/or political figures in order to influence their political choices?
  • Do such groups intimidate, harass, or attack voters and/or political figures in order to influence their political choices?
  • Does the military control or enjoy a preponderant influence over government policy and activities, including in countries that nominally are under civilian control?
  • Do foreign governments control or enjoy a preponderant influence over government policy and activities by means including the presence of foreign military troops, the use of significant economic threats or sanctions, etc.?
  1. Do cultural, ethnic, religious, or other minority groups have full political rights and electoral opportunities?
  • Do political parties of various ideological persuasions address issues of specific concern to minority groups?
  • Does the government inhibit the participation of minority groups in national or subnational political life through laws and/or practical obstacles?
  • Are political parties based on ethnicity, culture, or religion that espouse peaceful, democratic values legally permitted and de facto allowed to operate?

 

C.        FUNCTIONING OF GOVERNMENT

  1. Do the freely elected head of government and national legislative representatives determine the policies of the government?
  • Are the candidates who were elected freely and fairly duly installed in office?
  • Do other appointed or non-freely elected state actors interfere with or prevent freely elected representatives from adopting and implementing legislation and making meaningful policy decisions?
  • Do nonstate actors, including criminal gangs, the military, and foreign governments, interfere with or prevent elected representatives from adopting and implementing legislation and making meaningful policy decisions?
  1. Is the government free from pervasive corruption?
  • Has the government implemented effective anticorruption laws or programs to prevent, detect, and punish corruption among public officials, including conflict of interest?
  • Is the government free from excessive bureaucratic regulations, registration requirements, or other controls that increase opportunities for corruption?
  • Are there independent and effective auditing and investigative bodies that function without impediment or political pressure or influence?
  • Are allegations of corruption by government officials thoroughly investigated and prosecuted without prejudice, particularly against political opponents?
  • Are allegations of corruption given wide and extensive airing in the media?
  • Do whistleblowers, anticorruption activists, investigators, and journalists enjoy legal protections that make them feel secure about reporting cases of bribery and corruption?
  • What was the latest Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index score for this country?
  1. Is the government accountable to the electorate between elections, and does it operate with openness and transparency?
  • Are civil society groups, interest groups, journalists, and other citizens able to comment on and influence pending policies of legislation?
  • Do citizens have the legal right and practical ability to obtain information about government operations and the means to petition government agencies for it?
  • Is the budget-making process subject to meaningful legislative review and public scrutiny?
  • Does the government publish detailed accounting expenditures in a timely fashion?
  • Does the state ensure transparency and effective competition in the awarding of government contracts?
  • Are the asset declarations of government officials open to public and media scrutiny and verification?

 

ADDITIONAL DISCRETIONARY POLITICAL RIGHTS QUESTIONS:

  1. For traditional monarchies that have no parties or electoral process, does the system provide for genuine, meaningful consultation with the people, encourage public discussion of policy choices, and allow the right to petition the ruler?
  • Is there a non-elected legislature that advises the monarch on policy issues?
  • Are there formal mechanisms for individuals or civic groups to speak with or petition the monarch?
  • Does the monarch take petitions from the public under serious consideration?
  1. Is the government or occupying power deliberately changing the ethnic composition of a country or territory so as to destroy a culture or tip the political balance in favor of another group?
  • Is the government providing economic or other incentives to certain people in order to change the ethnic composition of a region or regions?
  • Is the government forcibly moving people in or out of certain areas in order to change the ethnic composition of those regions?
  • Is the government arresting, imprisoning, or killing members of certain ethnic groups in order change the ethnic composition of a region or regions?


CIVIL LIBERTIES CHECKLIST

D.        FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION AND BELIEF

  1. Are there free and independent media and other forms of cultural expression?  (Note: In cases where the media are state controlled but offer pluralistic points of view, the survey gives the system credit.)
  • Does the government directly or indirectly censor print, broadcast, and/or internet-based media?
  • Is self-censorship among journalists common, especially when reporting on politically sensitive issues, including corruption or the activities of senior officials?
  • Does the government use libel and security laws to punish those who scrutinize government officials and policies through either onerous fines or imprisonment?
  • Is it a crime to insult the honor and dignity of the president and/or other government officials? How broad is the range of such prohibitions, and how vigorously are they enforced?
  • If media outlets are dependent on the government for their financial survival, does the government withhold funding in order to propagandize, primarily provide official points of view, and/or limit access by opposition parties and civic critics?
  • Does the government attempt to influence media content and access through means including politically motivated awarding of broadcast frequencies and newspaper registrations, unfair control and influence over printing facilities and distribution networks, selective distribution of advertising, onerous registration requirements, prohibitive tariffs, and bribery?
  • Are journalists threatened, arrested, imprisoned, beaten, or killed by government or nongovernmental actors for their legitimate journalistic activities, and if such cases occur, are they investigated and prosecuted fairly and expeditiously?
  • Are works of literature, art, music, or other forms of cultural expression censored or banned for political purposes?
  1. Are religious institutions and communities free to practice their faith and express themselves in public and private?
  • Are registration requirements employed to impede the free functioning of religious institutions?
  • Are members of religious groups, including minority faiths and movements, harassed, fined, arrested, or beaten by the authorities for engaging in their religious practices?
  • Does the government appoint or otherwise influence the appointment of religious leaders?
  • Does the government control the production and distribution of religious books and other materials and the content of sermons?
  • Is the construction of religious buildings banned or restricted?
  • Does the government place undue restrictions on religious education? Does the government require religious education?
  1. Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free of extensive political indoctrination?
  • Are teachers and professors free to pursue academic activities of a political and quasi-political nature without fear of physical violence or intimidation by state or nonstate actors?
  • Does the government pressure, strongly influence, or control the content of school curriculums for political purposes?
  • Are student associations that address issues of a political nature allowed to function freely?
  • Does the government, including through school administration or other officials, pressure students and/or teachers to support certain political figures or agendas, including pressuring them to attend political rallies or vote for certain candidates? Conversely, does the government, including through school administration or other officials, discourage or forbid students and/or teachers from supporting certain candidates and parties?
  1. Is there open and free private discussion?
  • Are people able to engage in private discussions, particularly of a political nature (in places including restaurants, public transportation, and their homes) without fear of harassment or arrest by the authorities?
  • Does the government employ people or groups to engage in public surveillance and to report alleged antigovernment conversations to the authorities?

 

E.        ASSOCIATIONAL AND ORGANIZATIONAL RIGHTS

  1. Is there freedom of assembly, demonstration, and open public discussion?
  • Are peaceful protests, particularly those of a political nature, banned or severely restricted?
  • Are the legal requirements to obtain permission to hold peaceful demonstrations particularly cumbersome and time consuming?
  • Are participants of peaceful demonstrations intimidated, arrested, or assaulted?
  • Are peaceful protestors detained by police in order to prevent them from engaging in such actions?
  1. Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations?  (Note: This includes civic organizations, interest groups, foundations, etc.)
  • Are registration and other legal requirements for nongovernmental organizations particularly onerous and intended to prevent them from functioning freely?
  • Are laws related to the financing of nongovernmental organizations unduly complicated and cumbersome?
  • Are donors and funders of nongovernmental organizations free of government pressure?
  • Are members of nongovernmental organizations intimidated, arrested, imprisoned, or assaulted because of their work?
  1. Are there free trade unions and peasant organizations or equivalents, and is there effective collective bargaining?  Are there free professional and other private organizations?
  • Are trade unions allowed to be established and to operate free from government interference?
  • Are workers pressured by the government or employers to join or not to join certain trade unions, and do they face harassment, violence, or dismissal from their jobs if they do?
  • Are workers permitted to engage in strikes, and do members of unions face reprisals for engaging in peaceful strikes? (Note: This question may not apply to workers in essential government services or public safety jobs.)
  • Are unions able to bargain collectively with employers and able to negotiate collective bargaining agreements that are honored in practice?
  • For states with very small populations or primarily agriculturally-based economies that do not necessarily support the formation of trade unions, does the government allow for the establishment of peasant organizations or their equivalents? Is there legislation expressively forbidding the formation of trade unions?
  • Are professional organizations, including business associations, allowed to operate freely and without government interference?

 

F.         RULE OF LAW

  1. Is there an independent judiciary?
  • Is the judiciary subject to interference from the executive branch of government or from other political, economic, or religious influences?
  • Are judges appointed and dismissed in a fair and unbiased manner?
  • Do judges rule fairly and impartially, or do they commonly render verdicts that favor the government or particular interests, whether in return for bribes or other reasons?
  • Do executive, legislative, and other governmental authorities comply with judicial decisions, and are these decisions effectively enforced?
  • Do powerful private concerns comply with judicial decisions, and are decisions that run counter to the interests of powerful actors effectively enforced?
  1. Does the rule of law prevail in civil and criminal matters?  Are police under direct civilian control?
  • Are defendants' rights, including the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, protected?
  • Are detainees provided access to independent, competent legal counsel?
  • Are defendants given a fair, public, and timely hearing by a competent, independent, and impartial tribunal?
  • Are prosecutors independent of political control and influence?
  • Are prosecutors independent of powerful private interests, whether legal or illegal?
  • Is there effective and democratic civilian state control of law enforcement officials through the judicial, legislative, and executive branches?
  • Are law enforcement officials free from the influence of nonstate actors, including organized crime, powerful commercial interests, or other groups?
  1. Is there protection from political terror, unjustified imprisonment, exile, or torture, whether by groups that support or oppose the system? Is there freedom from war and insurgencies?
  • Do law enforcement officials make arbitrary arrests and detentions without warrants or fabricate or plant evidence on suspects?
  • Do law enforcement officials beat detainees during arrest and interrogation or use excessive force or torture to extract confessions?
  • Are conditions in pretrial facilities and prisons humane and respectful of the human dignity of inmates?
  • Do citizens have the means of effective petition and redress when their rights are violated by state authorities?
  • Is violent crime either against specific groups or within the general population widespread?
  • Is the population subjected to physical harm, forced removal, or other acts of violence or terror due to civil conflict or war?
  1. Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population?
  • Are members of various distinct groups-including ethnic and religious minorities, homosexuals, and the disabled-able to exercise effectively their human rights with full equality before the law?
  • Is violence against such groups widespread, and if so, are perpetrators brought to justice?
  • Do members of such groups face legal and/or de facto discrimination in areas including employment, education, and housing because of their identification with a particular group?
  • Do women enjoy full equality in law and in practice as compared to men?
  • Do noncitizens-including migrant workers and noncitizen immigrants-enjoy basic internationally recognized human rights, including the right not to be subjected to torture or other forms of ill-treatment, the right to due process of law, and the rights of freedom of association, expression, and religion?
  • Do the country's laws provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status in accordance with the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, its 1967 Protocol, and other regional treaties regarding refugees? Has the government established a system for providing protection to refugees, including against refoulement (the return of persons to a country where there is reason to believe they fear persecution)?

 

G.        PERSONAL AUTONOMY AND INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS

  1. Do citizens enjoy freedom of travel or choice of residence, employment, or institution of higher education?
  • Are there restrictions on foreign travel, including the use of an exit visa system, which may be issued selectively?
  • Is permission required from the authorities or nonstate actors to move within the country?
  • Do state or nonstate actors determine or otherwise influence a person's type and place of employment?
  • Are bribes or other inducements needed to obtain the necessary documents to travel, change one's place of residence or employment, enter institutions of higher education, or advance in school?
  1. Do citizens have the right to own property and establish private businesses?  Is private business activity unduly influenced by government officials, the security forces, political parties/organizations, or organized crime?
  • Are people legally allowed to purchase and sell land and other property, and can they do so in practice without undue interference from the government or nonstate actors?
  • Does the government provide adequate and timely compensation to people whose property is expropriated under eminent domain laws?
  • Are people legally allowed to establish and operate private businesses with a reasonable minimum of registration, licensing, and other requirements?
  • Are bribes or other inducements needed to obtain the necessary legal documents to operate private businesses?
  • Do private/nonstate actors, including criminal groups, seriously impede private business activities through such measures as extortion?
  1. Are there personal social freedoms, including gender equality, choice of marriage partners, and size of family?
  • Is violence against women, including wife-beating and rape, widespread, and are perpetrators brought to justice?
  • Is the trafficking of women and/or children abroad for prostitution widespread, and is the government taking adequate efforts to address the problem?
  • Do women face de jure and de facto discrimination in economic and social matters, including property and inheritance rights, divorce proceedings, and child custody matters?
  • Does the government directly or indirectly control choice of marriage partners through means such as requiring large payments to marry certain individuals (e.g., foreign citizens) or by not enforcing laws against child marriage or dowry payments?
  • Does the government determine the number of children that a couple may have?
  • Does the government engage in state-sponsored religious/cultural/ethnic indoctrination and related restrictions on personal freedoms?
  • Do private institutions, including religious groups, unduly infringe on the rights of individuals, including choice of marriage partner, dress, etc.?
  1. Is there equality of opportunity and the absence of economic exploitation?
  • Does the government exert tight control over the economy, including through state ownership and the setting of prices and production quotas?
  • Do the economic benefits from large state industries, including the energy sector, benefit the general population or only a privileged few?
  • Do private interests exert undue influence on the economy through monopolistic practices, cartels, or illegal blacklists, boycotts, or discrimination?
  • Is entrance to institutions of higher education or the ability to obtain employment limited by widespread nepotism and the payment of bribes?
  • Are certain groups, including ethnic or religious minorities, less able to enjoy certain economic benefits than others? For example, are certain groups restricted from holding particular jobs, whether in the public or the private sector, because of de jure or de facto discrimination?
  • Do state or private employers exploit their workers through activities including unfairly withholding wages and permitting or forcing employees to work under unacceptably dangerous conditions, as well as through adult slave labor and child labor?

 

 

KEY TO SCORES, PR AND CL RATINGS, STATUS

 

 

TABLE 1
TABLE 2

 

Political Rights (PR)

 

 

 

Civil Liberties (CL)

 

Total scores

 

 

PR Rating

 

 

Total scores

 

CL Rating

36-40

1

53-60

1

30-35

2

44-52

2

24-29

3

35-43

3

18-23

4

26-34

4

12-17

5

17-25

5

6-11

6

8-16

6

0-5 *

7

0-7

7

 

 

 

TABLE 3

 

Combined Average of the
PR and CL Ratings

 

 

Country Status

 

1.0 to 2.5

Free

3.0 to 5.0

Partly Free

5.5 to 7.0

Not Free

 

 

* It is possible for a country's total political rights score to be less than zero (between -1 and -4) if it receives mostly or all zeros for each of the 10 political rights questions and it receives a sufficiently negative score for political rights discretionary question B. In such a case, a country would still receive a final political rights rating of 7.