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Freedom House Reports New Alarming Signals to Democracy-Building

By Vladimer Napetvaridze
Thursday, January 18
After the collapse of Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War in 1991, most post-soviet states declared transition into a liberal democratic regime. A Famous American political scientist, Francis Fukuyama, called this process “The End of History.” He was claiming that the Western liberal democracy would be the endpoint of the humanity's sociocultural evolution and the final form of the human government.

However, time has posed questions to Fukuyama’s theory. Today, there are a lot of autocratic regimes in the world, and even the western states, which had to become exemplary for the rest of the world, are declining from the democratic values according to the recent report of Freedom House.

Freedom in the World is the annual report of Freedom House comparative assessment of global political rights and civil liberties. The publication is widely used by policymakers, the media, international corporations, civic activists, and human rights defenders. Published since 1972, it includes the survey ratings and narrative reports on 195 countries, among them Georgia and its neighboring countries.

Since the internal political situation has significantly influenced the country’s external politics, it is crucial to study not only Georgia’s outcomes in the Freedom House report, but those of its neighbors. Especially as the political decision made by neighboring states shall affect the entire region.

The report states that Armenia’s voting system is heavily flawed and the ruling party misuses administrative resources to maintain its power. In November 2017, Armenia signed a Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement with the European Union. Therefore, such results in the report of Freedom House stand at odds with the country’s pursuit of a closer relationship with the EU.

According to Freedom House report, one of the most alarming threats to democracy in the region was Afgan Mukhtarli’s case. Exiled Azeri journalist was abducted in Tbilisi by men who spoke Georgian, and transported across the Azerbaijani border. The Georgian government denies that Mukhtarli was abducted from Tbilisi by Georgian law enforcers. However, in one of his interviews, one of the high-ranking Azeri officials thanked the Georgian government for their support in the operation.

The report names Turkey as the State that a decade ago seemed a promising success story, but is sliding into the authoritarian rule at this stage. In reports of Freedom House, Turkey was described for years as – partly free. The 2017 report describes the country’s status as “not free.” Since 2014 the country’s score has been falling due to a series of assaults on the press, social media users, protesters, political parties, the judiciary, and the electoral system. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan held the flawed constitutional referendum to create a “super-presidential” system. Erdogan’s authoritarian governance caused coup attempts in July 2016, but the State response resulted in the arrest of some 60,000 people, the closure of over 160 media outlets, and the imprisonment of over 150 journalists. Nearly 100 mayors across the country have been replaced immediately.

The report describes Russia as one of the most authoritarian regimes, which has threatened or invaded its closest neighbors and served as an alternative source of military aid for Middle Eastern dictatorships. Its chief goal is to disrupt democratic states and fracture the institutions - such as the European Union - that bind them together.

Together with Afghanistan, Angola, Iraq, Macedonia, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, United States and Uzbekistan, Georgia was named among the countries that may be approaching the important turning points in the democratic trajectory. Apart from Afgan Mukhtarli’s case, which was recognized as one of the most alarming threats for democracy in the Caucasus region, Georgia’s constitutional amendments were also named as a serious flaw to democracy.

“The ruling Georgian Dream (GD) party recently pushed through constitutional amendments that- combined with the financial backing of its reclusive billionaire patron - will make an effective challenge by the fractured opposition in future elections even more unlikely, potentially cementing the party’s control for years to come,” reads the Freedom House report.

According to the report “Freedom in the World,” the Caucasus region can be assessed as one of the non-democratic regions in the world. Three from Georgia’s four neighboring countries are on the list of top 30 states that during the last 10 years reached the largest decline in freedom: Turkey, with the score of 34 took 1st place in the aggregate score of freedom decline for the last 10 years; Azerbaijan with the score of19 took 12th place; and Russia with 12 points was listed on 18th place in the global ranking of dramatic declines in freedom.