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Last Updated: Friday, 18 November 2005, 19:25 GMT
Index ranks Middle East freedom
An Egyptian women holds up her thumb showing she has voted in parliamentary elections
Middle Eastern voters have embraced increased freedom
There is a wide range of democratisation across the Middle East, a survey by a leading research and advisory firm has found.

The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) ranked 20 countries on 15 indicators of political and civil liberty.

The Index of Political Freedom lists Israel, Lebanon, Morocco, Iraq and the Palestinian Territories as the most democratic parts of the region.

Libya received the lowest rating, below Syria and Saudi Arabia.

Reform resisted

The EIU scored each country on a 10-point scale, awarding one point for the least political freedom and 10 for the most.

Israel: 8.20
Lebanon: 6.55
Morocco: 5.20
Iraq: 5.05
Palestine: 5.05
Kuwait: 4.90
Tunisia: 4.60
Jordan: 4.45
Qatar: 4.45
Egypt: 4.30
Sudan: 4.30
Yemen: 4.30
Algeria: 4.15
Oman: 4.00
Bahrain: 3.85
Iran: 3.85
UAE: 3.70
Saudi Arabia: 2.80
Syria: 2.80
Libya: 2.05
Source: EIU

The analysts found little evidence of democratisation in some countries.

Sitting at the bottom of the table, Libya has long had a reputation as one of the world's worst violators of human rights.

Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's government has also long restricted freedom of expression and independent political activity.

Saudi Arabia held its first ever exercise in democracy in February 2005 when it held municipal elections, but remains an absolute monarchy that has resisted pressure for reform.

Syria, meanwhile, is renowned for its authoritarian rule even though there has been a degree of liberalisation under President Bashar al-Assad.


Though there are few surprises at the bottom of the table, the top five may raise eyebrows.

It contains three of the most volatile parts of the region: Lebanon, the Palestinian Territories and Iraq.

Election of head of government
Election of parliament
Fairness of electoral laws
Right to organise political parties
Power of elected representatives
Presence of an opposition
Minority participation
Level of corruption
Freedom of assembly
Independence of the judiciary
Press freedom
Religious freedom
Rule of law
Property rights
Source: EIU

BBC Middle East analyst Roger Hardy says there is unquestionably a new mood in the region, but progress has been uneven.

Lebanon is free in a very particular sense: it is no longer under military occupation.

Most Palestinians do not enjoy that freedom, and yet they have just had local elections and are preparing for parliamentary ones in January, our correspondent says.

As for Iraq, its high score is a bit surprising, given the level of violence there, our correspondent says.

Iraqis no long live under a dictatorship and now have plenty of publications and political parties to choose from. But their freedom of movement is constrained by the bombings and kidnappings, and that is a big limitation.

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