PETALING JAYA: A global annual index on democracy has maintained Malaysia’s placing under its “flawed democracy” category despite the historic general election last year.
The Democracy Index 2018, commissioned by UK-based financial magazine The Economist, however, pushed Malaysia’s ranking by seven places to 52nd this year with a score of 6.88 considered as above the world average.
“The improvement was most significant for Malaysia and Afghanistan. Both countries successfully held major elections in 2018,” said a report accompanying the index, which is focused on political participation.
Malaysia’s score of 6.88 continues a trend of improving democracy in the last 12 years, from a low of 5.98 in 2006, which placed it under the “hybrid regime” category.
A “hybrid regime”, according to the index, means there are “substantial irregularities” in a country’s electoral process, with government pressure on opposition parties, the media and judiciary.
A “flawed democracy”, meanwhile, refers to countries which have free and fair elections despite issues such as infringements on media freedom. Basic civil liberties in such countries are also respected. However, other aspects of democracy show weaknesses such as problems in governance, an underdeveloped political culture and low levels of political participation.
The index examines a country’s performance in five key areas: electoral process and pluralism, functioning of government, political participation, political culture and civil liberties.
Malaysia showed slight improvements in all five areas compared to 2017, although there was no change in functioning of government.
Globally, the report labelled 20 countries as “full democracy”, 55 as “flawed democracy”, 39 as “hybrid regimes” and 53 as “authoritarian”.
Nicaragua and Venezuela showed the sharpest fall in rankings, while Italy, Turkey and Russia also registered significant drops.
The US, already in the “flawed democracy” league, also continued a trend of worsening democracy following the rise of President Donald Trump in 2016. It fell four more places from 2017 to number 25 in 2018.