Malaysia slips down Democracy Index
Malaysia has taken a slight tumble down the Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2010 Democracy Index, slipping three places to number 71 out of 167 countries, with its overall score dropping from 6.36 points in 2008 to 6.19 last year.
This places Malaysia squarely in the “flawed democracy” category, along with 52 other countries that received overall scores of between 6 and 7.9 out of a maximum of 10 points.
Flawed democracies are countries that have “free and fair elections” and respect “basic civil liberties”, but face “problems such as infringements on media freedom”.
Such countries also have “significant weaknesses in other aspects of democracy, including problems in governance, an underdeveloped political culture and low levels of political participation”, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) index shows.
The score is an average of points garnered in five different categories: electoral processes and pluralism, civil liberties, functioning government, political participation and political culture.
Scoring is based on expert assessment and public opinion surveys through the World Values Survey, Eurobarometer surveys, Gallup polls, Asian Barometer, Latin Barometer, Afrobarometer and national surveys, as well as voter turnout and predominance of the legislative branch over the executive.
The EIU recorded concern over political participation and civil liberties in Malaysia, giving these categories fairly poor scores of 5.56 and 5.88 points respectively.
However, Malaysia pulled a respectable 6.79 points for a functioning government, while its electoral processes received 6.5 points and political culture scored slightly lower at 6.25.
The EIU describes the the political situation in Malaysia as a “fierce political tussle” between BN and Pakatan Rakyat, which it expects to continue in the near future.
Media freedom wanting
Political cultures in Asia, it notes, are “often underdeveloped and shallow”, even in countries considered to be democracies.
Special mention was made of the deterioration of media freedom in Malaysia, placing it beside Fiji, Sri Lanka and Thailand, where there is “often pressure on the independent media”.
“The reasons for this decline are complex and varied. Underlying negative trends appear to have been exacerbated by the post-2008 economic crisis.
“Many governments have felt increasingly vulnerable and threatened, and have reacted by intensifying their efforts to control the media and impede free expression,” the report states.
Topping the index is Norway, with an overall score of 9.8, while South Korea leads Asia in the index at 20th spot, with 8.11 points.
Southeast Asia’s youngest nation Timor Leste leads the region at number 42 (7.22 points) while Thailand comes up tops among Asean countries at 57th spot (6.55) followed by Indonesia, which is ranked 60th (6.53).
Nevertheless, Malaysia trumped Singapore by 19 places. With a dismal 5.89 points, the island-state was ranked 82nd,, making it to the “hybrid regime” where “elections have substantial irregularities that often prevent them from being both free and fair”.
Other countries ahead of Malaysia on the index include Botswana (35th at 7.63 points), Papua New Guinea (59th at 6.54 points), Mongolia (64th at 6.36 points) and Namibia (69th at 6.23 points).