The latest edition of Freedom House's annual assessment of democratic development in the former Soviet Union, "Nations in Transit 2011", says the authoritarian countries of the region have built governance systems that are resistant to reform and so are increasingly vulnerable to unpredictable crises of the sort recently seen in the Middle East and North Africa.
Freedom House argues the ever-lengthening tenures of authoritarian leaders, as shown in the table, have contributed to a number of looming governance problems, including the inability to develop law-based systems, to tackle corruption and - especially in the case of energy-dependent states such as Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Russia - to diversify their economies.
"Without an opportunity for a peaceful rotation of power, citizens in the non-Baltic former Soviet Union are presented with the frustrating prospect of political stagnation for many years to come, adding to the potential for unrest," says David J. Kramer, president of the Washington-based democracy and civil rights advocacy and monitoring agency. "The recent upheaval in the Middle East should raise real questions among authoritarian, seemingly entrenched regimes in the former Soviet countries. While the case for meaningful reform in these countries is clear, the non-democratic regimes in the region are heading in the wrong direction and run the risk of suffering the fate of their counterparts in Egypt, Tunisia, and Syria."
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