Malta relegated to ‘flawed democracy’ status by the Economist

Sarah Cassar Dymond

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Malta has been relegated to a ‘flawed democracy’ status  in the Economist Intelligence Unit Democracy Index. 

In its assessment, the report considers the political crisis which unfolded in 2019, after the  links revealed between serving government officials and the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, two years earlier. 

The assessment says that the case had revealed significant weaknesses in the rule of law and inadequate checks and balances on the government’s power. It also says that the European Parliament has criticised the country’s “golden passport” scheme as facilitating money-laundering and criminality within the bloc’s borders.

Malta was classified as a ‘full democracy’ last year.

Countries with a ‘flawed democracy’ have free and fair elections and, even if there are problems (such as infringements on media freedom), 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.

In 2019 two Western European countries—France and Portugal—moved from the “flawed democracy” to the “full democracy” category.

In the 2019 Democracy Index the average global score for democracy fell from 5.48 in 2018 to 5.44 (on a scale of 0-10). 

The Economist Intelligence Unit states that this is the worst average global score since the index was first produced in 2006. The 2019 result is even worse than that recorded in 2010, in the wake of the global economic and financial crisis, when the average global score fell to 5.46. From 2011 onwards the average global score recorded a gradual, modest annual improvement, but in 2015 and 2018 the score stagnated, and in 2016 and 2019 it declined.

In 2019 some 68 countries experienced a decline in their total score compared with 2018, but almost as many (65) recorded an improvement. The other 34 stagnated, with their scores remaining unchanged compared with 2018.

Countries in western Europe occupy seven of the top-ten places in the global democracy rankings, including the top three spots, and the region boasts the largest number of “full democracies” of anywhere in the world, with a total of 15.