Thailand now only a 'flawed democracy', says report
Thailand was the biggest mover in The Economist Intelligence Unit's 2019 Democracy Index, rising 38 places in the global rankings to become a "flawed democracy" rather than a "hybrid regime".
"The biggest score change in Asia occurred in Thailand, which finally held an election in March 2019, the first since the military coup in May 2014. Voters had a wide array of parties and candidates from which to choose, and this helped to restore some public confidence in the electoral process and the political system," the EIU said.
"The election led to improvements in the scores across all five categories of the Democracy Index, but the sharpest increase was recorded for electoral process and pluralism."
In rankings revealed yesterday, Thailand was ranked 68th out of 167 countries with an overall score of 6.32 out of 10. The country was awarded 7.42 points for electoral process and pluralism, 5.36 for functioning of government, 6.11 for political participation, 6.25 for political culture and 6.47 for civil liberties.
According to the report, 2019 was a testing year for democracy in Asia. Hong Kong slipped a further three places in 2019, from 73rd to joint 75th, amid a deterioration in political stability.
Meanwhile, India dropped 10 places, to 51st. The primary cause given for the democratic slide was an erosion of civil liberties in the country.
Asia's average regional score stalled at 5.67, in another illustration of the difficulties in establishing and consolidating democracy in many developing countries.
Among the 167 countries ranked, 22 were categorised as full democracies, encompassing 5.7% of the world population. Meanwhile, 54 countries were categorised as flawed democracies, making up 42.7% of the global population. Thirty-seven countries were named hybrid regimes (16% of the global population) and 54 came under the authoritarian regime category (35.6%), the agency said.
The top-scoring country in the Asia and Australasia region was New Zealand (9.26), which retained its 4th position in the global ranking, while persistent laggard North Korea (1.08) was bottom in 167th place. Australia and New Zealand are the region's only two "full democracies". South Korea and Japan are very close to attaining "full democracy" status, but remained "flawed democracies" in 2019.
While China fell to 153rd position, Singapore's ranking dropped from 66th to joint 75th. The introduction of a "fake news" law in Singapore led to a deterioration in the score for civil liberties in the city-state, the EIU said.
Since 2006 when the EIU began producing the Democracy Index, the Asia and Australasia region has made the biggest advances in the global rankings. However, it continues to lag behind North America (8.59), Western Europe (8.35) and Latin America (6.13).