Hong Kong was no longer a "hybrid regime", but now ranked higher as a "flawed democracy", according to a new worldwide index published on Wednesday.
The city is No 63 on a 2012 Democracy Index, which is 17 places higher than the year before. The index, released by the Economist Intelligence Unit  on Wednesday, ranks 165 independent states and two territories worldwide.
The improvement was credited to an increase in the level of influence that the general electorate had over the outcome of last year’s Legislative Council elections. Voter turnout was also higher than in 2008, the report said.
“Directly elected legislators now account for more than half of all positions, and the 2012 race for chief executive was more open than in the past and was clearly influenced by public opinion,” said Simon Baptist, EIU regional director for Asia.
“Hong Kong's vibrant non-governmental organisations, judicial independence, social tolerance and free media continue also to contribute towards its democracy score.”
The annual index analyses the state of democracy on a 0-to-10 point scale. The scores are based on 60 indicators in five categories, including electoral process and pluralism; civil liberties; functionality of government; political participation; and political culture.
“Full democracies” score 8 to 10 points; “flawed democracies” 6 to 7.9; and “hybrid regimes” 4 to 5.9. Countries with a score lower than 4 are considered “authoritarian regimes”. Hong Kong scored 6.42 last year compared with 5.92 in 2011.
The index warned that although democracy is stronger now, Hong Kong was still far from reaching “full democracy” status - held back by functional constituencies that special interest groups control, and by Beijing's heavy influence on the chief executive election.
About one-third, or some 2.6 billion people, in the world still live under authoritarian rule. Only 11 per cent of the world’s population in 25 countries live in fully democratic societies, the index said.
Developed countries have been backsliding on democracy, however, as Washington politics continues to be paralysed by polarisation and London faces a “deep institutional crisis”. Both the US and Britain were on the bottom end of the “full-democracy” category.
China, in the “authoritarian regimes” category, improved by one position to No 142 on the index, behind Yemen and Belarus but still ahead of Vietnam and the Republic of Congo.
2012 democracy scoreboard