According to The Democracy Index 2019 report released by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), Malaysia scored 7.16 points from a maximum of 10, its best score ever.
Malaysia scored good marks for electoral process and pluralism, functioning of government and political participation, and political culture.
"Since its inception in 2006, the Democracy Index has highlighted the progressive deterioration in the practice of democracy in the West," the report said, adding that the US was demoted from a “full democracy” to a “flawed democracy” in 2016.
The report also quoted Larry Diamond, a renowned democracy scholar, as saying the world has been going through a "democracy recession” with a trend towards authoritarianism in the developing world.
Malaysia has come a long way since the index began in 2006 when it scored 5.98 points, followed by 6.36 (2008), 6.19 (2010, 2011), 6.41 (2012), 6.49 (2013, 2014), 6.43 (2015), 6.54 (2016, 2017) and 6.88 (2018).
"By contrast, Malaysia, which scrapped its ‘fake news’ law in August 2018 (having introduced it in March of that year), made further democratic gains in 2019.
"Its score improved and the country rose nine places in the global ranking as campaigning opportunities for all parties, including the opposition, improved, especially in the realm of social media," the report said.
The Democracy Index is based on the ratings for 60 indicators and five categories including electoral process and pluralism, civil liberties, the functioning of government, political participation and political culture.
Countries with a score higher than eight are considered full democracies; countries that scored between six and eight, flawed democracies; four to six, hybrid regimes; and below four, authoritarian regimes.
Norway, Iceland, Sweden, New Zealand and Ireland are ranked among the top and in the full democracy category while Syria, the Central African Republic, Congo and North Korea are marked as authoritarian regimes and trail at the bottom of the rankings.
Thailand registered the biggest improvement as it jumped 38 places to 68th spot and moved out of the “hybrid regime” category into the “flawed democracy” category.
Interestingly, the study also pointed out that almost half (48.4%) of the world’s population lives in a democracy of some sort, with only 5.7% residing in a “full democracy” and more than one-third under authoritarian rule.
Out of the 167 countries covered by the index, 22 were considered full democracies, flawed democracies 54, hybrid regimes 37 and authoritarian regimes 54.