Findings in Nations in Transit 2012 suggest that the countries that have achieved the greatest democratic success since the Cold War’s end are now displaying serious vulnerabilities in their young democratic systems. Over the past five years, stagnation and backsliding is evident in key governance indicators across the new EU member states and countries of the Balkans.
Hungary, a powerful example of this trend, continued on a negative trajectory that was propelled by the current government’s drive to concentrate power. Ukraine’s scores similarly continued to worsen, with declines in five of the seven Nations in Transit categories, as authorities undertook a broad assault on institutional accountability and transparency. Difficult economic conditions and harsh austerity measures posed challenges to democratic development in the region. In the Balkans, critical reforms stalled in nearly all countries in 2011.
Meanwhile, the failure of virtually any of the countries of Eurasia to shed old governance habits and end monopolies on political and economic power has been one of the greatest disappointments of the past two decades. The overall democracy scores of most Eurasian countries either declined or remained unchanged. Reverberations of the Arab Spring in authoritarian states like Belarus, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan led to harsher repression of civil society and an increased use of the judiciary as an instrument to punish political opposition.