May 6 (UPI) — The government of Hungary has dropped all pretense of being a democracy and other countries are following the same path, a report Wednesday by democracy watchdog Freedom House concluded.
The Washington-based non-governmental advocacy group, which conducts research on democracy, political freedom, and human rights, identified “a stunning democratic breakdown” in Central European and Central Asian governments in its “Nations in Transit 2020” report.
The analysis said there are fewer democracies in the 29-country European region today than at any point since the annual report began in 1995 and singled out Hungary’s decline as “the most precipitous ever tracked” by the group.
“Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s government in Hungary has similarly dropped any pretense of respecting democratic institutions. After centralizing power, tilting the electoral playing field, taking over much of the media, and harassing critical civil society organizations since 2010, Orbán moved during 2019 to consolidate control over new areas of public life, including education and the arts. The 2020 adoption of an emergency law that allows the government to rule by decree indefinitely has further exposed the undemocratic character of Orbán’s regime… Neither Poland nor Hungary has faced repercussions for damaging the rule of law at home.”
The report also said Poland, whose governing Law and Justice Party has limited powers in Polish courts, likewise has devolved from a functioning democracy to single-party, authoritarian rule.
In March, the Hungarian Parliament granted Orban the right to rule by decree.
Using a self-designed scale, Freedom House determined that Hungary and Poland moved from a category it named “consolidated democracy” to “semi-consolidated democracy” in the decade since 2010, while Serbia and Montenegro, each a country with one-party rule, fell from “semi-consolidated democracy” to “transitional hybrid regime.”
Armenia and Ukraine are the two countries with the largest two-year improvement in democracy ever recorded in the annual report. Only 10 the 29 surveyed countries were regarded by Freedom House as democracies. Estonia, Slovenia, Latvia and the Czech Republic have made the highest levels of democratic progress, the report said, with Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan ranked lowest.