Thailand’s democracy index ranking drops due to unelected govt

Picture courtesy of jcomp, Freepik

The yearly Democracy Index compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) has seen Thailand’s ranking fall by eight places, a change largely ascribed to the latest government formation by unelected senators rather than voters.

The EIU placed Thailand in the 63rd position among 167 countries and territories in 2023, a drop from its 55th position in 2022. The country’s score also saw a decrease from 6.67 to 6.35 points.

The EIU’s annual evaluation rates countries on a zero to 10 scale. Any country scoring above eight is classified as a full democracy, whereas those with scores under four are considered authoritarian regimes. With scores ranging between six and eight, Thailand joins the broad category of flawed democracies.

The top five positions on the index were dominated by Norway, New Zealand, Iceland, Sweden, and Finland, respectively, all scoring above nine.

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The scores are determined based on performance in five sub-categories. Thailand achieved a 7 for the electoral process and pluralism, 6.07 for the functioning of government, 7.78 for political participation, 5 for political culture, and 5.88 for civil liberties, reported Bangkok Post.

The country’s overall score hasn’t seen significant changes since 2019. That year, following five years of military rule, Thailand’s score rose sharply to 6.32 from 4.63, as per EIU data.

In the 2022 index, Thailand’s score experienced an upturn as opposition parties were provided more freedom to compete in local and national elections, due to increased political participation, stated the EIU.

However, the 2023 general election saw the Move Forward Party earn the majority of votes but fail to establish a government due to a lack of support from the unelected Senate.

The suspension of party leader Pita Limjaroenrat, ordered by the court for several months while a ruling on a precarious media share ownership case was pending – ultimately judged in his favour – further emphasised the hurdles, commented EIU analysts.

“Thailand evidently lacks established or accepted rules regarding the democratic transfer of power, and its judiciary does not operate independently.”

According to the survey, out of the 28 countries in the Asia and Australasia region, only five are full democracies (Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Australia, and New Zealand), in stark contrast to the 13 non-democratic regimes.

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Mitch Connor

Mitch is a Bangkok resident, having relocated from Southern California, via Florida in 2022. He studied journalism before dropping out of college to teach English in South America. After returning to the US, he spent 4 years working for various online publishers before moving to Thailand.

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