The recent Freedom House’s report about the development of post-Soviet states highlights the setbacks in democratic governance in Eurasian, Balkan and Central European states. In 2014 from 29 countries only 13 were considered to be democratically governed, including Estonia. 6 states are still in the transition phase and 10 countries are rated as authoritarian.
Similarly to the report about 2013, the democratic rating of the region declined. Yet, Estonia managed to sustain its high 2nd position in the ranking.
‘We are surpassed only by Slovenia, but Estonia exceeds neighbouring Latvia and Lithuania. Index allocates the last places to Belarus, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan,’ explains analyst Jane Matt from Praxis, a think tank that was chosen by the Freedom House as a partner organisation, evaluating the developments and state of Estonian democracy.
According to the analyst Russia underwent the greatest fall, as Kremlin actively suppressed internal social dissent, attempting at the same time to destabilise the new Ukrainian government. Despite of Russia’s efforts, Ukraine’s position rose in four out of seven categories, constituting the index. Freedom House emphasises the importance of encouraging Ukraine’s journey towards democracy and invokes the European Union and other states to economically and politically support Ukraine.
The report asserts that the Russian, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan’s governments continue to harass non-profit and non-governmental organisations, setting legal restrictions on their activities. The main problems in Balkan countries are associated with the freedom and independence of the media and faltering reforms of the justice system.
Among the Central and Eastern European states Hungary’s status was highlighted, because after seven years of continuously declining democratic ratings the state was withdrawn from the list of democratic countries. Freedom House shows appreciation for the Baltic states for their vehemence in standing against the influence of Russian propaganda.
‘The report mentions positive developments and changes in Estonian election procedures, especially the idea to make political participation more accessible for newcomers, which originated from Rahvakogu. For example, the number of members required to found a party and the amount of security necessary for participating in the elections declined, which brought about changes in the allocation of seats in Riigikogu’ acknowledges Matt. The report presents that in 2014 the new Estonian government dealt effectively with numerous important topics, for example addressing and strengthening national defence and the rights of sexual minorities.
‘Despite several positive developments Freedom House did not deem necessary to raise the democratic score of Estonia, as reforms’ impacts will express and cement themselves over a longer period of time. Taking into account that from 29 transitioning states the democratic rating of 12 countries declined, Estonia’s position is very good,’ says Praxis’ expert.
Freedom House emphasises that in the context of the authoritarian states’ aggression the will of the people to ardently support democracy and mobilise to prevent corruption, misuse of power and the rise of extremist or populist parties is of upmost importance.
Index evaluates the situation of democracy based on events, political decisions, approved regulations and social movements in 2014. The report focuses on seven topics: democratic governance, elections, civil society, media freedom, democratic local authorities, justice system and corruption.
The state of the Estonian democracy was evaluated because of Freedom House’s request and based on their methodology by experts Jane Matt, Hille Hinsberg and Rauno Vinni from the think tank Praxis. Freedom House is an independent organisation, which support democratic changes, monitors the situation of freedoms in the world and promotes democracy and human rights.
The report and the separate evaluations of all countries are accessible here.