Democracy Index: Southeast Asia's 'flawed' systems make little headway

20 countries make it to the full democracy group, with Norway, Iceland and Sweden occupying the first three places

Singapore has been making steady improvement on a global democracy index over the last four years but the city state still remained a 'flawed democracy'.

According to the Economist Intelligence Unit's (EIU) 2015 democracy index, Singapore was ranked at 74th position, moving up one place from the previous year.

Responding to the study's findings, a ministry of foreign affairs spokesperson said Singapore is a "fully democratic state that pragmatically pursues policies to maximise the social and economic outcomes for our citizens."

"The index is based on a rigid, ideological position that ignores the fact that democratic governments around the world take different forms, depending on their particular history and national conditions," the spokseman told TODAY.

Most countries in Southeast Asia saw their position in the table moving down and no country from the region was classified as a full democracy.

Malaysia was ranked 68th out of the 167 countries assessed, but it was behind Indonesia and Philippines. Indonesia topped the table from the southeast Asia region, occupying the49th place. Philippines was ranked 54th while Thailand and Cambodia figured way down the list with 98th and 113th positions respectively.

"These countries also have free and fair elections and, even if there are problems (such as infringements on media freedom), basic civil liberties are respected, EIU said.

"However, there are significant weaknesses in other aspects of democracy, including problems in governance, an underdeveloped political culture and low levels of political participation," the EIU explained.

As many as 59 of the 167 countries in the table are classified as "flawed democracies".

The EIU index ranks countries on a scale of 1-10. The top draw of countries scoring 8-10 make the "full democracies" category while those measuring between 6 and 7.9 are classified "flawed democracies".

Singapore's score rose to 6.14 points in 2015 from 6.03 points in the previous year. That tops a steady improvement in the rankings over the years. In 2006, the country had been labelled a "hybrid regime" with an overall score of 5.89.

Only 20 countries made it to the full democracy group, with Norway, Iceland and Sweden occupying the first three places. Interestingly, France, South Korea and Japan fell out of the full democracy group in 2015.