Macedonia’s democracy rating falls to seven year low on Freedom House index

Macedonia’s democracy rating falls to seven year low on Freedom House index
By bne IntelliNews April 4, 2017

Democracy in Macedonia has dropped to its lowest level in the last seven years, according to Freedom House’s latest "Nations in Transit" report released on April 4. Macedonia is also singled out as one of the areas at risk of conflict due to inter-ethnic tension in the country’s long-standing political crisis. 

“The fall is due to the further escalation of the political crisis caused by the presidential pardons, lack of political dialogue, and controversial and conflictual functioning of national political institutions,” Freedom House said.

The decline in democracy in Macedonia comes in the context of resurgent populism and setbacks for democracy across the post-communist world. For the first time since Freedom House started publishing the annual Nations in Transit report in 2005, there are now more Consolidated Authoritarian regimes than Consolidated Democracies.

Macedonia has been without a government since the snap general election in December, which was called as part of efforts to resolve the political crisis. This was originally triggered in 2015 by the release of illegally wiretapped conversations that appeared to incriminate top level officials. 

In April, President Gjorge Ivanov pardoned 56 individuals, mainly politicians from the ruling VMRO-DPMNE and opposition Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) and their associates, in connection to allegations raised by the wiretapping scandal, but he later reversed his decision following public and international pressure. 

In the Freedom House report, Macedonia is placed in the group of countries with transitional governments or hybrid regimes together with Bosnia & Herzegovina, Albania, Kosovo, Ukraine and Romania.

The years of political crisis have seen a rise in “nationalist fear-mongering and hate speech”, which ramped up across the region in 2016. “In Macedonia, former prime minister Nikola Gruevski implied that opposition leader Zoran Zaev should be assassinated,” the report says. “Meanwhile, intimidation of nongovernmental groups reached a new level with an initiative called “Stop Operation Soros,” founded by the editors of the state-run news agency and two progovernment news portals.”

Freedom House also accuses Gruevski of playing on ethnic divisions to advance his political goals. “Gruevski in Macedonia has put his country’s multiethnic character at risk by courting nationalist sentiment against Albanians,” the NGO claims. 

The report analyses the development of democracy in 29 countries in Central Europe and Eurasia. On the index, countries are rated for a set of parameters on a scale of one to seven, with one representing the highest level of democratic progress and seven the lowest. 

The overall democracy score in Macedonia fell to 4.43 in 2017 from 4.29 in 2016 and from 3.82 in 2011.

The electoral process score fell to four points from 3.75 in 2016, while the corruption score dropped to 4.75 from 4.5. 

The electoral process rating declined as a result of the serial rescheduling of the general elections and persistence of electoral irregularities despite the legislative actions stipulated in the July 2016 political agreement aimed at ending the political crisis.

On the other hand the persistence of impunity in cases of high-level corruption, revealed to be more prevalent than previously thought, affected the corruption score.

The scores for civil society, independent media and local democratic governance remained unchanged from a year earlier at 3.25, 5.25 and 4 points respectively.

National democratic governance fell to five from 4.75 points, while judicial framework and independence dropped to 4.75 from 4.5 in 2016.

The judicial score declined due to increased political influence over the judiciary as illustrated by the obstacles to the work of the Special Prosecutor Office (SPO).

“The work of the SPO  until now still burdened with obstructions by political centres of power, will be very important for reinstating rule of law and reinvigorating the fight against corruption,” the statement said.

According to Freedom House, Macedonia’s further democratisation and its EU integration path will depend on the country’s ability to implement systemic reforms to pressing problems.

“For this to happen, the country needs to establish a stable, reform-oriented government,” it said, adding that the December 11 election results show that this will be a complicated task.

“Much will also depend on the ability to implement substantial reforms related to media independence,” according to Freedom House.

 
 
Nations in Transit Ratings and Averaged Scores - Macedonia

 

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

National Democratic Governance

4.00

4.00

4.00

4.25

4.25

4.25

4.25

4.75

5.00

Electoral Process

3.50

3.25

3.25

3.25

3.25

3.25

3.50

3.75

4.00

Civil Society

3.25

3.25

3.25

3.25

3.25

3.25

3.50

3.25

3.25

Independent Media

4.25

4.25

4.50

4.75

4.75

5.00

5.00

5.25

5.25

Local Democratic Governance

3.75

3.75

3.75

3.75

3.75

3.75

3.75

4.00

4.00

Judicial Framework and Independence

4.00

4.00

4.00

4.00

4.25

4.25

4.25

4.50

4.75

Corruption

4.25

4.00

4.00

4.00

4.00

4.25

4.25

4.50

4.75

Democracy Score

3.86

3.79

3.82

3.89

3.93

4.00

4.07

4.29

4.43

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