A lesson in democracy

A lesson in democracy
by Igor Fedyukin, Vitaliy Ivanov, Anna Nikolayeva

SOURCE: Vedomosti, No 88, p.A2

RusData Dialine – Russian Press Digest
May 26, 2004 Wednesday

Pro-democracy group says Russia is headed towards authoritarianism

Russia and other former Soviet countries outside the Baltics lag far
behind most of Europe in political reforms, a pro-democracy nonprofit
group said in a report.

The European Union’s recent expansion to include 10 new members,
eight of them in Eastern Europe, highlights a “widening and worrisome
democracy gap,” said the report, issued Monday by Freedom House.

The group’s annual “Nations in Transit” report tracks progress in
six categories: electoral process; civil society; independent media;
governance; constitutional, legislative and judicial framework;
and corruption.

Russia’s ratings declined in the greatest number of categories (5
out of 6). Azerbaijan, Armenia, Moldova and Ukraine performed better
(4 out of 6 each). Out of the CIS countries, Turkmenistan received
lowest ratings, followed by Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan
and Kyrgyzstan.

The report states that Russia “is moving further along the
authoritarian path.” In particular, President Putin “strives to
concentrate the power, leaving no space for viable civil society,
independent media or political opposition.”

The State Duma’s independent deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov told Vedomosti he
fully agrees with Freedom House: “Our democracy has indeed degraded
in all aspects, and it has been noted by all the international
organizations that monitor the development of democratic institutions.”

Such ratings “are as relevant to reality as the Pravda’s reports in
the sixties about the hard life of African Americans in the U.S.,”
believes Aleksey Volin, the Cabinet’s former deputy chief of staff.
“Even Armenia has been ranked higher than Russia, although there the
presidential elections and the state of opposition sparked serious
criticism of foreign observers,” Volin remarks. “And if Freedom
House believes that the status of Russian-speaking minorities in
the Baltic states corresponds to the international norms, then the
Pravda’s reports about life in the U.S. were absolutely true.”