In the recent report dubbed Freedom in the World, Freedom House qualified Hungary as a free country but gave it 72 points out of 100, the lowest among European Union member states, and four points down from last year’s score. The rights organisation expressed concerns stating that Hungarians are increasingly afraid of expressing their political opinions because of what it termed as the growing intimidation of NGOs and the opposition.
By Michael J. Abramowitz, President
Political rights and civil liberties around the world deteriorated to their lowest point in more than a decade in 2017, extending a period characterized by emboldened autocrats, beleaguered democracies, and the United States’ withdrawal from its leadership role in the global struggle for human freedom.
Democracy is in crisis. The values it embodies—particularly the right to choose leaders in free and fair elections, freedom of the press, and the rule of law—are under assault and in retreat globally.
A quarter-century ago, at the end of the Cold War, it appeared that totalitarianism had at last been vanquished and liberal democracy had won the great ideological battle of the 20th century.
Today, it is democracy that finds itself battered and weakened. For the 12th consecutive year, according to Freedom in the World, countries that suffered democratic setbacks outnumbered those that registered gains.
States that a decade ago seemed like promising success stories—Turkey and Hungary, for example—are sliding into authoritarian rule.
The military in Myanmar, which began a limited democratic opening in 2010, executed a shocking campaign of ethnic cleansing in 2017 and rebuffed international criticism of its actions. Meanwhile, the world’s most powerful democracies are mired in seemingly intractable problems at home, including social and economic disparities, partisan fragmentation, terrorist attacks, and an influx of refugees that has strained alliances and increased fears of the “other.”
The challenges within democratic states have fueled the rise of populist leaders who appeal to anti-immigrant sentiment and give short shrift to fundamental civil and political liberties. Right-wing populists gained votes and parliamentary seats in France, the Netherlands, Germany, and Austria during 2017. While they were kept out of government in all but Austria, their success at the polls helped to weaken established parties on both the right and left. Centrist newcomer Emmanuel Macron handily won the French presidency, but in Germany and the Netherlands, mainstream parties struggled to create stable governing coalitions.
Perhaps worst of all, and most worrisome for the future, young people, who have little memory of the long struggles against fascism and communism, may be losing faith and interest in the democratic project. The very idea of democracy and its promotion has been tarnished among many, contributing to a dangerous apathy.
The retreat of democracies is troubling enough. Yet at the same time, the world’s leading autocracies, China and Russia, have seized the opportunity not only to step up internal repression but also to export their malign influence to other countries, which are increasingly copying their behavior and adopting their disdain for democracy. A confident Chinese president Xi Jinping recently proclaimed that China is “blazing a new trail” for developing countries to follow. It is a path that includes politicized courts, intolerance for dissent, and predetermined elections.
The spread of antidemocratic practices around the world is not merely a setback for fundamental freedoms. It poses economic and security risks. When more countries are free, all countries—including the United States—are safer and more prosperous. When more countries are autocratic and repressive, treaties and alliances crumble, nations and entire regions become unstable, and violent extremists have greater room to operate.
Democratic governments allow people to help set the rules to which all must adhere, and have a say in the direction of their lives and work. This fosters a broader respect for peace, fair play, and compromise. Autocrats impose arbitrary rules on their citizens while ignoring all constraints themselves, spurring a vicious circle of abuse and radicalization…Freedom House
…In Hungary and Poland, populist leaders continued to consolidate power by uprooting democratic institutions and intimidating critics in civil society. Smears of the opposition appeared in public media in both countries, and both passed laws designed to curb the activities of nongovernmental organizations.
Poland’s ruling party also pressed ahead with an effort to assert political control over the judiciary, advancing laws that will affect the Supreme Court, the local courts, and a council responsible for judicial appointments.
Read the original report HERE.
The latest report by US-based rights organisation Freedom House, linked to US financier George Soros, is politically motivated and biased, the government spokesman said on Tuesday.
Considering where the organisation receives its financing from, it is completely obvious that the report on political and freedom rights represents another open attack against Hungary by a Soros organisation, Zoltán Kovács said.
The methodology and course of action followed by Freedom House have been politically motivated, he added.
The assessments are political, linked to Soros and the liberal circles that are in dispute with Hungary in terms of ideology and politics, Kovács said.
It is also problematic that all of the organisations’ past reports have neglected the obvious violations of law committed on October 23, 2006, he added, referring to how the then ruling Socialist-liberal coalition had handled anti-government demonstrations.
Photo: MTI/EPA/Lukas Barth
Source: Freedom House/MTI