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Freedom House: Georgia’s Democracy Score Lowest in Years
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 1 Jul.'09 / 19:55

Georgia’s democracy score fell to its lowest since 2005, according to a research by the U.S.-based Freedom House.

Nations in Transit 2009, an annual research, covers 29 former communist European and Eurasian countries. Scores in the survey are based on a 1 to 7 scale, with 1 representing the highest level of democratic development and 7 the lowest.

An overall democracy score is an average of ratings for separate categories, involving electoral process; civil society, independent media, national and local governance; judiciary and corruption.

Georgia’s overall democracy score, according to this year’s survey, is 4.93 down from 4.79 in the last year’s similar study and 4.17 in 1999-2000. The same score stood at 4.96 in similar study released in 2005.

“Despite constitutional guarantees of civil and political rights, Georgia remains a hybrid system in which a parliament loyal to the president fails to curtail authoritarian tendencies on the part of the executive,” the report reads, when it describes situation under the category of National Democratic Governance.

“President Saakashvili’s failure to address the concerns of the population of the breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia enabled Moscow to draw Georgia into a conflict Due to the absence of any real constraints on the president, the authorities’ reluctance to engage in dialogue with the opposition, and unanswered questions concerning the August war with Russia, the rating for democratic governance worsens from 5.75 [in last year’s report] to 6.00,” it says.

Georgia’s score has also declined in electoral process category from 4.75 to 5.25 “in light of the shortcomings registered by the OSCE during the January presidential election, and the authorities’ failure to remedy some of those failings before the May parliamentary ballot.”

Decline in scores have also been reported by the study in civil society category from 3.5 to 3.75 saying that “the varied and vibrant civil society that emerged during the late 1990s lost momentum in the wake of the 2003 Rose Revolution.”

Scores have remained unchanged in respect of media freedom (4.25); local governance (5.5); judiciary (4.75) and corruption (5.00).

In respect of media freedom the study says that media outlets “whose owners support the country’s governing powers dominate the media landscape.”

“Mayors of large cities and provincial governors are still not popularly elected. Citizens frequently encounter difficulties in obtaining either assistance from local authorities or information about local initiatives that could affect them personally,” the study says about the local governance category and also adds that the authorities continued “to ignore or dismiss complaints of discrimination expressed by the Armenian and Azerbaijani communities of southern Georgia as unfounded.”

On judiciary the report says that the Georgian authorities have taken “few concrete steps to counter the widely held convictions that the government, not the judiciary, determines the outcome of criminal trials, and that the Interior Ministry is a law unto itself, accountable to no one.”

In respect of corruption it criticizes the authorities for having waged “a selective campaign against corruption that many believe exempts the president’s closest entourage.”

In overall, the Freedom House said, Nations in Transit 2009 shows democratic declines in nearly two-thirds of the 29 countries covered by the study.

Freedom House also said that the ratings drawn-up in the survey reflect the consensus of Freedom House, its academic advisers, and the authors of the separate country reports and the opinions expressed in separate reports are those of the author (Elizabeth Fuller Carlson in case of Georgia report).

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