Malaysia was considered a “flawed democracy” in 2014, ranking 65 out of 167 countries in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) Democracy Index which measures the state of democracy around the world.
Published on: Saturday, January 24, 2015
Kuala Lumpur: Malaysia was considered a “flawed democracy” in 2014, ranking 65 out of 167 countries in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) Democracy Index which measures the state of democracy around the world.
In comparison, Indonesia and Philippines are at 49th and 53rd spot, respectively, while Singapore trails behind at 75.
The EIU defines flawed democracies as countries that have free and fair elections and where basic freedoms are largely respected.
But they also have significant weaknesses in other aspects, such as infringements on media freedom, problems in governance, an under-developed political culture and low levels of political participation.
Malaysia’s overall score of 6.49 out of 10 in 2014 is consistent with its score the year before, and an improvement from the 6.41 recorded in 2012.
It is also an improvement from the 6.19 it recorded in 2011 and 2010.
In 2008, Malaysia’s score of 6.38 was a big jump from the 5.98 recorded in the first instalment of the index in 2006.
While Malaysia has held regular elections, critics here feel the polls are not fair and allege that there manipulation of voters’ electoral rolls and election boundaries.
Of late, Malaysia’s human rights image has also taken a beating in the areas of minority religious rights, such as the controversy involving non-Muslims’ use of the word “Allah”, and treatment of other vulnerable groups such as the transgender community. The use of repressive laws like the Sedition Act to quell dissent has also been criticised.
The EIU’s index value places countries within one of four types of regimes – full democracy (8 to 10), flawed democracy (6 to 7.9), hybrid regimes (4 to 5.9) and authoritarian regimes (below 4).
The index on a 0 to 10 scale is based on the ratings for 60 indicators grouped in five categories – electoral process and pluralism, civil liberties, the functioning of government, political participation and political culture.
For 2014, Malaysia scored 6.92 for electoral process and pluralism, 7.86 for functioning of government, 5.56 for political participation, 6.25 for political culture and 5.88 for civil liberties.
Over the years, since the EIU started producing the Democracy Index in 2006, the Asian region has made the most headway in advancing democracy, with Southeast Asia experiencing incremental improvements that have collectively added up to an impressive advancement in democratic development, the report noted.
It added that this pattern has continued in 2014, where in Philippines for instance, the popularity of President Benigno Aquino had restored some faith in the democratic process.
In Indonesia, the victory of Joko Widodo in the presidential election in July 2014 broke the grip on power by a small elite in the country.
The report noted that protests have also become more prominent in countries like Singapore, India and Taiwan.
And in Singapore, the shift was enough to lift the country from the status of hybrid regime to flawed democracy.
Although almost one-half of the world’s countries can be considered to be democracies, the number of full democracies is low, with only 24 countries.
Fifty-two countries are considered flawed democracies, 52 are authoritarian regimes and 39 hybrid regimes.
Topping the Democracy Index is Norway, followed by Sweden, Iceland, New Zealand and Denmark in the top five.