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In a recent blog “Is Ukraine democratic?” I noted an “Economist”, report, The Democracy Index 2011 (pdf file), which showed Ukraine’s democratic ranking falling from 67th in 2010 to 79th in 2011 out of 167 countries.  I noted that we should not read too much into a single report; and said it would be interesting to see what this year’s “Freedom in the World” survey, produced by US-based NGO Freedom House, would say about Ukraine.

On 19 January Freedom House published “Freedom in the World 2012” (pdf file).  As I noted last year, the survey attempts to form an assessment by giving countries scores of between 1 (good) and 7 (bad) for “political rights” and “civil liberties” respectively, producing a potential top score of 2 and a potential bottom score of 14.  It then groups countries into Free (scoring 2-5 points); Partly Free (6-10); and Not Free (11-14).  In 2011, Ukraine’s score slipped by one point from 5 to 6, taking it from the “Free” to the “Partly Free” category, and putting its score equal with Moldova as the two highest-scoring countries of the CIS.  In the Freedom House rating for 2012, Ukraine slips a further point from 6 to 7 points.  Moldova is unchanged on 6.  Thus, according to Freedom House, Moldova has overtaken Ukraine as the “most free” country in the CIS.

Under a sub-heading “Danger Signs for New Democracies”, the Freedom House report states: “Until recently, Ukraine, Hungary, South Africa, and Turkey were regarded as important success stories for democratic development. Now, increasingly, the democratic credentials of each is coming under question. The steepest decline in the institutions of freedom has taken place in Ukraine, where a series of negative developments was punctuated by the conviction of opposition leader Yuliya Tymoshenko on dubious charges. In the past two years, Ukraine has moved from a status of Free to Partly Free and suffered deterioration on most indicators measured by Freedom House.”

One thing the Freedom House figures show clearly is that democratic standards can move both up and down, sometimes significantly, as this updated graph prepared by my embassy colleagues from data since 1992 shows. Ukraine’s two-point slide in the Freedom House rankings in the past two years is undoubtedly disappointing, as is the fact that it is no longer rated the freest country in the CIS.  The only potentially good news is that given sufficient political will, it would be possible to reverse that trend.  Question to readers: does that political will exist?

Freedom House Rankings



Leigh Turner


Ukrayinska Dumka


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