are nations where civil liberties and basic political freedoms are not only respected, but also reinforced by a political culture conducive to the thriving of democratic principles. These nations have a valid system of governmental checks and balances, independent judiciary whose decisions are enforced, governments which function adequately, and media which is diverse and independent. These nations have only limited problems in democratic functioning.
are nations where elections are fair and free and basic civil liberties are honored but may have issues (e.g. media freedom infringement). Nonetheless, these nations have significant faults in other democratic aspects, including underdeveloped political culture, low levels of participation in politics, and issues in the functioning of governance.
are nations where consequential irregularities exist in elections regularly preventing them from being fair and free. These nations commonly have governments which apply pressure on political opponents, non independent judiciaries, widespread corruption, harassment and pressure placed on the media, anemic rule of law, and more pronounced faults than flawed democracies in the realms of underdeveloped political culture, low levels of participation in politics, and issues in the functioning of governance.
are nations where political pluralism has vanished or is extremely limited. These nations are often absolute dictatorships, may have some conventional institutions of democracy- but with meager significance, infringements and abuses of civil liberties are commonplace, elections- if they take place- are not fair and free, the media is often state-owned or controlled by groups associated with the ruling regime, the judiciary is not independent, and the presence of omnipresent censorship and suppression of governmental criticism.