A noticeable improvement in the functioning of government has helped Bangladesh move up on the Economist Intelligence Unit's latest democracy index.
This is noteworthy because even advanced democracies have struggled in recent years and registered regressions in their scores in the functioning of government.
Bangladesh climbed up eight notches on the Democracy Index 2019 released on Wednesday. It now ranks 80th among 167 countries.
Despite the advancement, however, the country is still categorised as a hybrid regime.
In fact, Bangladesh has been a hybrid regime since 2008 when the second democracy index was published.
The Economist Intelligence unit defines hybrid regimes as countries where elections have substantial irregularities that often prevent them from being both free and fair. Corruption tends to be widespread, and the rule of law as well as the civil society is weak in these countries.
Moreover, harassment of and pressure on journalists is typical, and the judiciary is not independent in hybrid democracies.
Bangladesh was categorised as a flawed democracy only on the first democracy index released in 2006.
In the latest index, Bangladesh has also made a slight progress in the political participation category.
However, no progress was made in two categories – electoral process and pluralism, and civil liberties.
NRC upheaval drags India down
Neighbouring India – the biggest democracy in the world – dropped ten places on the index.
The primary cause of its regression was an erosion of civil liberties in the wake of incidents, such as the Jammu and Kashmir state losing its special status and exclusion of 1.9 million people from the final list of the National Register of Citizens.
Nonetheless, Bangladesh is still far behind India, which ranks 51st. The island nation of Sri Lanka is also ahead of Bangladesh.
Afghanistan is at the bottom of the South Asian league table, and is preceded by Pakistan.
Bhutan is behind Bangladesh on the index but is one level above Nepal.
It was a tumultuous year for Asian democracies in 2019 but Asia and Australasia have made more progress in improving their standing on the index than any other region since the release of the first index in 2006, the Economist Intelligence Unit noted.
However, Asia is the region with the biggest divergence in scores. It includes top-scoring New Zealand – fourth among 167 nations – while North Korea is at the very bottom of the global ranking.
Majority people live in flawed democracies
The Economist Intelligence Unit categorises 54 countries as flawed democracies, and 42.7 percent of the world population live in these countries.
The number of authoritarian regimes is also the same but they hold 35.6 percent of the global population, with a large share being in China.
A mere 5.7 percent (430 million) live in countries defined as full democracies.
A total of 16 percent of the world's population, including Bangladeshis, live in hybrid regimes.
Flawed democracy in the US
Even though Canadians enjoy full democracy, their southern neighbours live in a flawed democracy.
The US fell below the threshold for a full democracy in 2016 due to a further decline in public trust in its institutions.
This development precedes the election of Donald Trump that year and indeed helps to explain his success in winning the presidency, writes the Economist Intelligence Unit.
Nordic nations dominate index
Like many other global rankings, the Nordic countries dominate the democracy index.
Norway, an oil-rich country, tops the index, followed by Iceland and Sweden. It boasts perfect scores in political culture, political participation, and electoral process and pluralism.
Finland ranks fifth while Denmark and Canada jointly share the seventh position.
The democracy index is based on the ratings for 60 indicators that are grouped into five categories – electoral process and pluralism, civil liberties, the functioning of government, political participation, and political culture.
Each category has a rating on a 0 to 10 scale, and the overall index is the simple average of the five category indices.
Upswing in political participation
Of the five categories used to create the index, only political participation showed a steady and significant upward trajectory.
With the exception of North America, every region in the world has recorded an improvement in this category between 2011 and 2019.
However, the Economist Intelligence Unit notes that the improvement in the average score for political participation over the past decade is correlated with the parallel deterioration in the scores for electoral process and pluralism, functioning of government, and civil liberties.