Democracy is in your heart

By Patipat Kittichokwattana

We have been cultivated throughout our life to be better living in democracy. Exactly, we need it. You may say you have 100% feel free to express anything in your social media, especially Facebook. However, you cannot deny that some Facebook page was managed to block by an authority from your country. Can anybody decide how democracy in your country currently is?

This could be a subtle answer. The “Democracy Index” conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), the UK-based company, to assess 167 countries worldwide since 2006. It comprises of 5 indicators namely electoral process and pluralism, civil liberties, the functioning of government, political participation, and political culture.The score ranges from 0-to-10 scale.

Each country was classified into 4 types of regime based on their scores, full democracy was scored greater than 8, flawed Democracywas greater than 6 and less than or equal to 8, hybrid regime was greater than 4 and less than or equal to 6, and authoritarian regime was less than or equal to 4.

Country Score Types of regime
Cambodia 3.63 Authoritarian regime
Indonesia 6.39 Flawed democracies
Laos 2.37 Authoritarian regime
Malaysia 6.54 Flawed democracies
Myanmar 3.83 Authoritarian regime
Philippines 6.71 Flawed democracies
Singapore 6.32 Flawed democracies
Thailand 4.63 Hybrid regime
Timor-Leste 7.19 Flawed democracies
Vietnam 3.08 Authoritarian regime

(Source: https://www.eiu.com/topic/democracy-index)

The 2017 results have shown diverged types of democracy among ASEAN countries. Clearly, no country gained full democracies despite the developed country, “Singapore.” Because democratic political culture, media independence, check and balance system, rule of law, and judiciary independence were expected to be established firmly in the full democracies.

Most of ASEAN countries including Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Timor-Leste were flawed democracies. They had some problems with media freedom, rule of law, and especially political participation. Surprisingly, Timor-Leste gained the highest democracy scores although they just became independences ince 2002.

Thailand was the only hybrid regime country in ASEAN. Due to a loss decade of political turmoil and military junta, Thai democracy has gone. Election has been suspended. There are members of parliament but no opposition party. Rule of law is replaced by Article 44. Essentially, free media seem limited. Hopefully, election that will be held next year might raise higher democracy index to this country.

Lastly, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam were indicated as authoritarian regimes. In these countries, some democracy institutions may exist, but it obviously dominated by the strong dictatorship. There were elections but not free and fair. Media are state-owned or controlled by ruling regime. And criticisms of the government were prohibited.

Maybe the ASEAN way of thinking is inherent how democracy we are. We modernized and democratized our country in some respects but carry on conventional belief tightly. Though the dilemma between freedom of expression and public interest become worrisome in many Western countries, but not the ASEAN people.

Here comes the word “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.”

[Photo Credit: www.publicseminar.org]

Patipat Kittichokwattana is PaddyNews writer.