Are island-states our best democracies?

In just a few days, São Tomé and Príncipe are to hold a runoff in their presidential elections.

Research recently published suggests that when you look at the whole African continent, small islands like these tend to be more democratic and that people have more freedoms.

Edalina Rodrigues Sanches, who is a research fellow at the University of Lisbon and whose family comes from Cape Verde, has been conducting this research for the Freedom House Organisation.

She told me that her work started from the idea that small island states tend to outperform continental states in democracy.

So how do you go about measuring democracy?

Ms Sanches says it’s not an easy task but that “Freedom House has a set of questions on political rights and civil liberties and asks country experts to score each dimension”.

She says their findings show that “size helps with the involvement and participation” of citizens in politics and “favours a more effective service delivery”.

Being an island also helps create a greater sense of identity and isolates them from the spill overs of civil wars or conflicts with neighbouring countries – that have affected “state building” on the continental mainland.

Former São Tomé and Príncipe Prime Minister Joaquim Rafael Branco says politicians in the island states have greater accountability because they know the people, who must live with the consequences of their decisions.

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