THE Philippines slipped one place to No. 54 out of 167 countries in London-based think tank Economist Intelligence Unit’s democracy index for 2019, citing the Southeast Asian nation’s “flawed democracy.”

The think tank said the country has free and fair elections and basic civil liberties are respected. “However, there are significant weaknesses in other aspects of democracy, including problems in governance, an underdeveloped political culture and low levels of political participation.,” it said in an e-mailed report.

Presidential Spokesman Salvador S. Panelo did not immediately reply to a mobile phone message seeking comments.

How does the Philippines’ state of compare with its regional peers

The nation scored 6.64 points out of 10 last year, when global democracy hit its lowest score since the report began in 2006.

No Southeast Asian country was classified as a full democracy, a category dominated by European countries.

Norway topped the global index with a score of 9.87, followed by Iceland (9.58), Sweden (9.39), New Zealand (9.26) and Finland (9.25).

Full democracies assure citizens of civil liberties and political freedoms as well as an effective government and political culture, it said.

The Philippines ranked No. 9 among countries in Asia and Australasia, falling behind Southeast Asian neighbors Taiwan (31), Timor-Leste (41), and Malaysia (43).

The country placed ahead of Indonesia (65), Thailand (68), Singapore (75), Myanmar (122), Vietnam (136), and Laos (155).

The 2019 average global score of 5.44 was the lowest since the index began in 2006.

“The decline in the average global score in 2019 was driven by a sharp regression in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa, a lesser one in the Middle East and North Africa region, and by stagnation in the remaining four regions covered by the Democracy Index,” according to the report.

The Asian average stagnated in what the report described as a tumultuous 2019 for the region. Several countries’ scores dropped as a result of the erosion of civil liberties in India and Singapore, increased digital surveillance and ethnic discrimination in China and deteriorating political stability in Hong Kong.

Thailand’s score rose 38 points after its first general election since the 2014 coup d’etat.

The Philippines scored 9.17 points in the electoral process and pluralism category, 7.22 points in political participation, 7.06 in civil liberties, 5.36 in government functioning and 4.38 in political culture. — Jenina P. Ibañez