Freedom House: the Kremlin does not have the resources to stabilize the...

Freedom House: the Kremlin does not have the resources to stabilize the system


Freedom House: Кремль не располагает ресурсами для стабилизации системы

Experts of the human rights organization appreciated the level of development of democratic institutions in Europe

The human rights organization Freedom House has released already the 23rd in a row, an annual survey “Countries in transition” (“Nations in Transit”), which assesses the level of development of democratic institutions in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, the Balkans and the Eurasian region.

“Illiberal politics is becoming the new norm in Europe, stated, in introducing the report, the President of Freedom House, Michael Abramowitz. – Organized by the governments smear campaign against civil society groups, journalists and the political opposition, was first recorded in Russia and Central Asia, but now they are becoming more familiar throughout the region. We can no longer say that this problem is restricted to the territories of one or two countries.”

Experts of the human rights organization, invited experts and public figures that put the former socialist countries the ratings on a scale from 1 to 7 (where 1 is the best indicator of the development of democratic institutions, and 7 the worst) in the published report noted that this year, 19 of the 23 countries in the region has shown a significant decline.

According to analysts, the biggest decline in rankings was demonstrated by Hungary and Poland, the government in Budapest saw “the largest decline in the history of the study Nations in Transit on all parameters”.

“…The government of Viktor Orban is headed by illiberal forces in Central Europe, showing that the seizure of a member state of the EU is possible by fiddling with the electoral system, the manipulation of public procurement and establishing control over mass media,” the report said.

Mass protests that occurred in 2017-18 years in Slovakia and Romania, led to the decrease of the index of development of democratic institutions.

In Latvia, the reason of such falling of the basic indicators are the scandals associated with money laundering in the banking sector in Serbia – the concentration of power in the hands of the President of the country Alexander Vucic.

As the researchers note, for the first time since 2014 the decline in the major democratic figures showed the Ukraine, where politicians used the ongoing Russian aggression in the East of the country for Patriotic rhetoric and attacks on NGOs and journalists.

The final place in the list of the 23 countries this year took the Turkmenistan received the lowest rating in six of the seven categories used to assess the state of democratic institutions in society. Years of authoritarian but non-professional public administration, corruption and excessive costs initiated by the state “megaprojects” has led the country to full-blown economic crisis.

However, three States – Macedonia, Uzbekistan and Estonia –showed an increase of positive ratings.

Russia, in turn, also demonstrated improved performance, but only the negative. If, for example, in 2015 from 7.0 possible points the Russian authorities scored 6.50, while in 2017 this figure dropped to 6.57, and in 2018 – up to 6.61 points.

According to analysts of Freedom House, during 2017, the main task for the Russian authorities were preparing to hold a presidential election. The authors of the report note that “years of bad management of the economy, the stagnation, the growth of contradictions between the formal and informal political practices, and conflicts within the leadership of the country has created uncertainty regarding the domestic political prospects in 2017”. These problems have been exacerbated due to international pressure and imposed by the US sanctions.

The response of the Russian authorities to these challenges is the increased pressure on dissidents, the opposition and representatives of the LGBT community. At the same time for most experts, “became increasingly clear” that the Kremlin “does not have the economic resources to stabilise the authoritarian system.” As an example, the authors of the report remind of “exorbitant” spending on defense and security, the growth of the budget deficit in the regions up to 1.5 trillion roubles, accompanied by increasing regional debt to the level of 2.14 trillion. rubles.

No added confidence and numerous political conflicts within the Russian elite. The authors recall the case of former Minister of economic development Alexei speaker, which was the result of disagreements with the head of “Rosneft” Igor Sechin.

Among the opposition leaders Freedom House analysts including Alexei Navalny, who has managed to create “an extensive regional network of volunteers and their supporters.” Because of Nastausheva pressure from the Kremlin the Russian opposition and failed to realize their political ambitions. The only successful example of this type of activity became the municipal elections in Moscow, where the opposition managed to win in a number of areas.

As a result, the rating of the state of civil society in Russia has improved slightly – from 6.50 to 6.25. The main reason for this were the actions of Alexei Navalny, who managed to organize and lead a nationwide protest against corruption.

But the rating of the independence and efficiency of legal system in Russia has deteriorated to 6.75 points due to the “complete absence” of judicial protection for members of the LGBT community in Chechnya and the authorities of the judicial system in order to prevent the activities of Alexei Navalny.

As a result the overall rating of democratic institutions in Russia became even worse: 6.61 score is 6.57.

The analysts of Freedom House as disappointing for Moscow. “The Russian leadership will have to make a choice between the limited economic liberalization and a further tightening of the (internal) policy – the document says. Factors, including foreign sanctions, war against Ukraine and intervention in the conflict in Syria will have an impact on this decision”.

The authors of the report note that the existing regime in Russia will remain stable, but “a struggle for power and (economic) assets among the political elite will continue with the increasing tension”.