Post-Soviet States’ Democratic Decline: Results from Freedom House Report

Freedom House has just released its Nations in Transit report for the year 2010. The report attempts to quantify democratic development in Central European and Eurasian states by observing 8 separate factors – for instance, Electoral Process and National Democratic Governance – which affect the level of democracy in a given country. Each category is graded on a score of 1 to 7, with 1 representing the highest level of democratic progress, and 7 representing the lowest. Much of the media attention has typically focused on Russia. The report concluded with a new low for Russia with regard to its democracy score (6.14) and an overall rapid decline in the last decade attributed mostly to the Putin’s extreme centralization policies. However, it is important to look too at the lack of progress being made in the South Caucasus countries and what this may mean for future democratic efforts in a region prevalent to Russia’s foreign policy goals. Of the South Caucasus countries, democratic development in Georgia and Armenia remained stagnant, while in Azerbaijan it deteriorated.

Armenia’s scores remained exactly the same as those in the previous year, having fluctuated up and down by half a point over the last decade. Of particular concern is the level of corruption in Armenia, which many Armenians claim as having a negative impact on their everyday lives. The corruption rating remained at 5.5 and down from a decade-long trend of 5.75. Similarly, ratings for the country’s electoral processes, national democratic governance, and judiciary remained the same as the year before. To view CRRC’s reports on corruption in Armenia, please click here.

Georgia’s scores also remained the same as those in 2009. Of great concern is Georgia’s level of national democratic governance. Whilst the national democratic governance rating remains at an uncomfortable 6.0, the report notes that despite political unrest and demonstrations, both protestors and the government mostly refrained from violence, which had been a severe problem in previous years. As a result, it may be construed that Georgia is making certain attempts at progress in this realm.

In Azerbaijan democratic progress regressed somewhat from the previous year, particularly in the area of judicial independence. In the NIT report, the judiciary is characterized as dependent upon the executive branch, whose power it helped to expand by supporting the 2009 referendum on the constitution. It is also judged to be highly corrupt, inefficient, and that it provides no mechanism for human, property, or civil rights violations. Like Russia, overall democratic progress in Azerbaijan has steadily deteriorated over the last decade.

Each category measured by the report for Russia has experienced either a decrease in democratic scores or has remained the same. In other words, the report has found no signs of improvement in any of the 8 categories. The overall democracy score has slipped from 4.58 in 1999-2000 to an “abysmal” 6.14. Whilst Russia views the South Caucasus as within its sphere of influence it is clear that Russia can offer little in the way of guidance when democracy promotion is concerned.

To see other posts on this blog on previous Freedom House reports, please click here.