Bangladesh moved 4 notches up on the Economist Intelligence Unit's Democracy Index 2020, improving on the indicator of political culture from the previous year.
It has made progress when global democracy was in decline, with advanced democracies struggling to cope with disruptions to political and economic life brought about by the pandemic.
Bangladesh secured 76th position, among 167 countries, based on scores in five indicators – electoral process and pluralism, functioning of government, political participation, political culture and civil liberties.
With an overall score of 5.99 on a scale of 10, Bangladesh is classified as a hybrid regime where substantial irregularities prevent elections from being free and fair, corruption tends to be widespread and the rule of law is weak, according to the EIU. A score of 10 would mean the best performance.
On the first democracy index released in 2006, Bangladesh was categorised as a flawed democracy with a score of 6.11. The following year, its status deteriorated to the category of hybrid regime and it has remained so ever since.
Bangladesh improved its score on political culture to 5.63 in 2020 from 4.38 a year ago. Its score on electoral process and pluralism fell to 7.42 in 2020 from 7.83 in 2019. The scores on functioning of government and political participation remain unchanged at 6.07 and 6.11 respectively.
Former election commissioner Brig Gen (Retd) M Sakhawat Hossain said Bangladesh's score on election process and pluralism fell because no recent polls had been conducted properly.
Referring to the latest municipal elections, he said there had been no level-playing field ahead of the polls. "We saw differences between the results of voting by ballots and through electronic voting machines, which indicated manipulation of the election."
Only good intension of the government can improve the prevailing electoral culture.
How others are doing in South Asia
Bangladesh lags behind India having an overall score of 6.61.
Of the other South Asian nations, Sri Lanka ranked 68th as a flawed democracy. Bhutan did worse than Bangladesh at 84th position. Pakistan is further down on the index at 105th position as a hybrid regime, while Afghanistan that ranked 139th on the index is classified as an authoritarian regime.
Majority people live in flawed democracies
According to the democracy index report, only about half (49.4%) of the world's population live in a democracy of some sort in 75 countries.
Only 8.4% of the world's population live in 23 countries defined as full democracy.
More than one-third (35.6%) of the global population live under authoritarian rule, with a large share being in China.
And 15% of the world's population live in hybrid regimes -- 35 countries including Bangladesh.
Asia did worse but Nordic countries on the top of the index
Asia's overall score fell in 2020, but it now has five "full democracies", of which Japan, South Korea and Taiwan did better than 2019.
Japan and South Korea were classified as full democracy for the first time since 2014.
Despite these advancements, Asia's average regional score dropped to its lowest since 2013, because some of the measures taken to contain the pandemic led to infringement of individual freedom and civil liberties, according to the EIU.
Asian continues lag behind the West in democratic terms having only five 'full democracies', compared with western Europe's 13, but the region has, so far, handled the pandemic much better than virtually any other, with lower infection and mortality rates and a fast economic rebound, said Joan Hoey, editor of The Economist Intelligence Unit.
Like many other global rankings, the Nordic countries dominate the democracy index; Norway tops the index, followed by Iceland and Sweden, as in the previous year.
USA retained its "flawed democracy" status
On the other hand, the land of democracy the United States ranked 25th scoring 7.92. It fell under the category of flawed democracy, enduring rising polarisation and declining social cohesion.
The US's performance across several indicators changed in 2020, both for better and worse.
The 13th edition of the Democracy Index highlights how global democracies fared in 2020. The report focused on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on democracy and freedom around the world.