First Published: 2013-01-16

 

Political rights in decline: World’s democratic deficit grows wider

 

Democracy is in decline in 2012 for seventh year in row as Arab Spring leads nervous leaders to clamp down on any stirrings of dissent.

 

Middle East Online

By Jo Biddle – WASHINGTON

Sophisticated authoritarianism on rise

Democracy around the world was in decline in 2012 for the seventh year in a row as the Arab Spring led nervous autocratic leaders to clamp down on any stirrings of dissent, a study said Wednesday.

The annual report by the Freedom House non-governmental organization found 90 countries now enjoyed full freedom, up from 87 nations in 2011, but 27 places saw new restrictions on rights of assembly, expression, and the media.

There "is a critical need for leadership from the United States and other democracies," the "Freedom in the World 2013" report said, arguing in favor of a greater US engagement with civil society in oppressed nations.

Some three billion people, or 43 percent of the global population, enjoyed full political rights and civil liberties, while 1.6 billion resided in partly free countries, where there is only limited respect for freedoms in place.

Some 34 percent of the world's population, or 2.3 billion people, however lived in countries deemed to be not free.

Russia, Iran, which stepped up its repression of journalists and bloggers, and Venezuela -- where President Hugo Chavez was re-elected against a backdrop of a "badly skewed" electoral playing field -- were singled out by the report.

"Our findings point to the growing sophistication of modern authoritarians," said Arch Puddington, Freedom House vice president for research.

"They are flexible, they distort and abuse the legal framework, they are adept at the techniques of modern propaganda," he added in a statement.

"But especially since the Arab Spring, they are nervous, which accounts for their intensified persecution of popular movements for change."

Authoritarian regimes moved to weaken "the elements of democratic governance that pose the most serious threats to repressive and corrupt rule: independent civil society groups, a free press, and the rule of law," the report said.

There were some successes for democracy, with the most dramatic improvements since 2008 seen in Libya, Tunisia and Myanmar. Egypt, Zimbabwe, Moldova and Ivory Coast were also among those countries where repressive restrictions were eased.

But Mali, where rebel soldiers ousted the elected government last year, topped the list of nations in which the most freedoms were lost, suffering "one of the greatest single-year declines in the history of Freedom in the World," said the report, which has been drawn up annually since 1972.

"Nigeria, another country plagued by Islamist militants, suffered a less dramatic decline, as did the Central African Republic, which at year's end risked being conquered by a rebel group."

The most serious declines in freedom in the Asia-Pacific region were seen in the Maldives, where the democratically-elected president was forcibly removed, and Sri Lanka, marred by corruption.

And China's communist leaders continued to operated "the world's most complex and sophisticated apparatus for political control."

The report also warned that since the re-election of Vladimir Putin as the president of Russia, the country has "ushered in a new period of accelerated repression."

"Putin has moved in a calculated way to stifle independent political and civic activity, pushing through a series of laws meant to restrict public protest, limit the work of NGOs, and inhibit free expression on the Internet.

"With Russia setting the tone, Eurasia (consisting of the countries of the former Soviet Union minus the Baltic states) now rivals the Middle East as one of the most repressive areas on the globe," the report said.

Freedom House also took aim at the administration of US President Barack Obama, saying it had "failed to offer a credible response" after Moscow kicked out the US Agency for International Development late last year.

"The administration has built an uneven record on support for freedom to date. There have been some positive initiatives, but there have also been occasions when the United States stood by while those who put their lives on the line for political change were crushed, as with Iran in 2009," it charged.

 

Essebsi claims victory in Tunisia presidential poll

Barzani in Mount Sinjar after end of jihadist siege

U-turn: Qatar pledges 'full support' to Sisi's Egypt

UAE blames 'irresponsible' non-OPEC output for oil price plunge

Turkey TV regulator fines popular show over ‘dance with foreigners’

Berlin seeks to set up trauma centre for IS rape victims

Syria claims downing of Israeli reconnaissance drone

Rafah border crossing reopens for two days

Israel parliament approves funding for settler tourism plan

Five jihadists killed in clashes with Egypt police

Coalition targets ‘Islamic State’ in areas north of Aleppo

Libya Islamist-backed government urges foreigners to return to Tripoli

Palestinians enter Egypt as Rafah crossing reopens for two days

Davutoglu accuses EU of 'dirty campaign' against Turkey

Raid on terrorists accidentally kills Saudi youth in Awamiya town

Egypt sentences ‘spy for Israel’ to ten years in prison

Jordan ends eight-year moratorium on death penalty

Egypt President removes powerful spy chief

Tunisia votes for president in final leg of democratic transition

Turkey acquits sociologist over 1998 explosion

EU foreign affairs head to visit Iraq

Turkey court remands Samanyolu TV chief in custody

IS threatens to kill Lebanese soldiers held hostage

Obama concerned about Egypt mass trials

Tough times for oil-rich GCC

Tumbling oil prices cut budgets of Mideast arms exporters

Iraq’s peshmerga ‘break’ Mount Sinjar siege

Turkish media chiefs charged with terrorism

Iraq may delay payment of Kuwait war reparations

Over $900 million needed to help Syria children

Saudi rules out oil output reduction

Dutch populist lawmaker to be tried for 'fewer Moroccans' vow

Outrage in Algeria over Islamist call for Algerian author's death

Iraq Kurds, coalition launch offensive to retake Sinjar

Three years to end Israeli occupation in UN resolution

Yemen’s Huthis seize Sanaa state offices

Somalia appoints new PM after bitter infighting

Blow to Israel: EU court removes Hamas from terror blacklist

Sharp rise in Syria passport applications

Turkey FM visit to Iran highlights Syria divide

UK troops mistreated Iraq detainees in 2004

Saudi to carry on massive public spending

Iran to Australia: We warned you about the gunman

From bikini to Jihad in Ceuta, Melilla

Tunisia votes Sunday in second round of presidential poll