WASHINGTON, D.C.: Democracy is declining in many nations that emerged from the collapse of the Soviet Union as governments take their cue from an increasingly repressive Russia, a new poll said on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila).
Nearly four out of five people in Eurasia, which includes among others Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Russia, “live under authoritarian regimes,” the report unveiled by the independent watchdog Freedom House found.
“The current crisis in Ukraine has focused the world’s attention on the sharp ideological and political divide between Europe, which operates according to democratic principles, and Eurasia,” it said.
“In reality, the fault line between these two regions has been deepening for many years, and Russia’s malign influence on the governance practices of its neighbors was rising long before the invasion of Crimea,” the report added.
Governments across the former Soviet Union “worked to shut off the remaining oxygen supply to their democratic institutions” by seeking to undermine civil society groups and muzzle the media.
“Country after country in 2013 took up anti-democratic innovations that were pioneered by Moscow,” the report said.
It cited examples from Kyrgyzstan, which in March introduced a bill outlawing “gay propaganda” modeled on existing legislation in Russia. Armenia, Belarus, Georgia and Kazakhstan had all discussed or proposed similar laws.
“The events of 2013 show that the regime in Russia is a role model for other authoritarian leaders, even in states where the authorities already surpass their Russian counterparts in institutionalized brutality and intolerance,” said Sylvana Habdank-Kolaczkowska, project director.
“Ten years ago, one in five people in Eurasia lived under consolidated authoritarian rule, as defined in the report. Today, it’s nearly four in five, and the trend is accelerating,” he added.
Of the 29 countries assessed in the report for 2013, 13 were rated as democracies, six as transitional regimes, and 10 as authoritarian regimes.
Sixteen countries were also downgraded for their overall democratic performance, including European Union (EU) members Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Hungary all cited for corruption and worsening governance.
“The only EU country to register an overall score improvement was Romania, where conditions calmed after a presidential impeachment attempt and related political turmoil in 2012,” Freedom House said.
Belarus, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan remained bottom of the democracy table last year, however, as conditions there were described as “dire.”
“The Balkans registered some positive developments during the year, including Croatia’s EU accession and a historic agreement between Kosovo and Serbia, but dysfunctional governments continued to drive down democracy scores in the region overall,” the report noted.