PH ranks 54th in 2021 Democracy Index; Asia sees ‘reversal of fortunes’

Bea Cupin

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PH ranks 54th in 2021 Democracy Index; Asia sees ‘reversal of fortunes’

TRANSPORT. A jeepney in Cavite disallows the unvaccinated from hopping in.

File photo by Dennis Abrina/Rappler

The index zooms in on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and of China's growing influence on liberal democracy

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines, classified a “flawed democracy,” ranked 54 out of 167 countries in the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU)’s 2021 Democracy Index

The index is a “snapshot of the state of democracy worldwide,” according to the EIU.  

In previous editions, the Philippines ranked 55th (2020) and 54th (2019). 

The country, set to hold elections in May 2022, garnered a 9.17 score under “electoral process and pluralism,” 5.0 under “functioning of government,” 7.78 under “political participation,” 4.38 under “political culture,” and 6.76 under “civil liberties.”

Under the index, 10 is the highest score while 0 is the lowest. Sandwiching the Philippines at 53 and 55, respectively, are Bulgaria and Namibia. 

“Full democracies” score greater than 8, based on the index’s criteria – free and fair national elections, security of voters, foreign influence on governments, and the capability of the civil service to implement policies. “Flawed democracies” such as the Philippines score less than 8 but greater than 6.  

According to EIU, characteristics of “flawed democracies” include having a free and fair elections and respecting basic civil liberties, despite “problems” including “infringements on media freedom. Weaknesses include “problems in governance” and “underdeveloped political culture and low levels of political participation.” 

COVID, the China question 

The 2021 report touches on two things – how countries respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and the “challenge” China poses to democracy. 

“Two years after the world first heard about COVID-19, the coronavirus pandemic has led to a huge extension of state power over people’s lives and the erosion of individual freedoms,” said the EIU. The report also noted that the “creeping authoritarianism” during the pandemic “raises questions about whether, in what circumstances and for how long, governments and citizens are prepared to undermine democratic rights in the cause of public health.” 

EIU singled out how governments have “introduced a panoply of intrusive and coercive measures” and how “some governments in developed democracies are singling out vaccine refusers for punitive treatment.” 

In the Philippines, the government introduced a policy disallowing unvaccinated individuals from using public transportation, barring a few exemptions. Officials have since clarified its policy, following backlash from its unclear rules and erratic implementation.

The EIU also warned that keeping restrictions in place despite advances such as vaccine rollouts, the development of better treatments, and a “decline in the severity of infection associated with the most recent Omicron variant” would result in lesser acceptance of restrictions from government. 

Asia, as a whole, saw a “reversal of fortunes” as a group, with two countries downgraded in classification – Afghanistan and Myanmar. The index had seen Asian countries steadily rise up in rankings the past years prior to 2021. 

EIU said they were tracking China because of its “growing economic might and geopolitical clout” and the challenge it poses to the “Western democratic capitalist model.” 

“China has confounded the expectations of many Western analysts and governments who believed that it would become more democratic as it became richer,” the report noted of the country, which is classified as one ruled by an “authoritarian regime” in the index. 

China fared poorly across all categories, save for “functioning of government,” with a score of 4.29. –

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.