Central and Eastern Europe does not have a single, full democracy according to the 2017 Democracy Index released early in February by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). Azerbaijan and Belarus are still classed as authoritarian regimes; seven countries are considered hybrid (Armenia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova and Albania); and the rest are still characterised as flawed democracies. “Eastern European countries usually register low scores in two categories of the Democracy Index: political culture and political participation,” Agathe Demarais, regional manager for Europe at The Economist Intelligence Unit tells Emerging Europe’s Claudia Patricolo:
In fact, the regional average democracy score fell to its lowest ever level, at 5.40 (compared with 5.43 in 2016 and 5.76 in 2006, when the index was first published). In particular, among the ‘flawed democracies’ in the region, every country except Bulgaria experienced a fall in its score in 2017. The main cause was a decline in public confidence in governments and political parties, something which is happening in the most developed countries of the region, such as Hungary and Poland.
“These low scores are due, at least in part, to chaotic political transition and weak political culture. As these two factors are structural, and have long-term roots, we believe it will take many years to see marked improvements in the politicisation of the population,” she explains.
“Poland and Hungary scored well in the electoral process, functioning of government and civil liberties categories, but more poorly in the political participation and political culture categories. The Polish and Hungarian governments were both elected in free and fair elections, so it is not that the countries are not democratic. Rather than a ‘democratic failure’, the regression in the score of these countries reflects recent illiberal, conservative policies, which we believe could undermine democratic institutions and processes,” said Ms Demarais. RTWT