For the first time in a number of years, the former Soviet Union saw modest gains, with improvement noted in Moldova, Georgia, and Kyrgyzstan. At the same time, the region’s democracy indicators continued to rank near the global bottom, only slightly above those for the Middle East.
Among other trends:
Violence and Organized Crime as Enemies of Democracy: Mexico’s decline from Free to Partly Free was a result of the uncontrolled wave of organized criminal activity that has afflicted several states. The problem, of course, is regionwide; at year’s end, Guatemala declared a state of siege in a part of the country where criminal violence has grown unchecked, and there is strong evidence that similar problems could be migrating from the Americas to Africa.
Freedom Gap Persists in Muslim-Majority Countries: Despite a few noteworthy gains, primarily Indonesia’s embrace of democracy and civil rights, Muslim-majority countries have failed to make significant progress over the past decade. Only two are ranked as Free, with 19 Partly Free and 26 Not Free. While practically no improvements were registered in the Middle East and North Africa, some gains were recorded in Muslim-majority countries outside the region.
Economic Crisis Challenges Central Europe’s Progress: Among the countries most severely affected by the global economic downturn are a number of formerly communist states in Central Europe and the Baltic region. While the consolidation of democratic institutions and the influence of the European Union have prevented major regression, some of these societies are already showing evidence of backsliding, most notably Latvia and Hungary.
China’s Latest Pretext for Repression: In 2008, Beijing cited the need for security during the Olympic Games as the reason for its crackdown on dissident intellectuals, journalists, and others. In 2009, the rationale for repression was the need for order surrounding the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Communist Party’s seizure of power. In 2010, the authorities’ mobilization was presented as a response to the supposed hostility behind the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo.
Immigration Woes: France’s civil liberties score slipped due to the country’s inability to cope with immigrants from the Middle East and Africa, as well as Roma from Eastern Europe. But the failure to deal humanely with mass immigration was a common theme that affected Europe, the United States, and other societies ranging from Argentina to South Africa and the monarchies of the Persian Gulf.
Results for 2010
The number of countries designated by Freedom in the World as Free in 2010 stood at 87, representing 45 percent of the world’s 194 polities and 2,951,950,000 people—43 percent of the global population. The number of Free countries declined by two from the previous year’s survey.
The number of countries qualifying as Partly Free stood at 60, or 31 percent of all countries assessed by the survey, and they were home to 1,487,000,000 people, or 22 percent of the world’s total. The number of Partly Free countries increased by two from the previous year.
Signs of Decline
These findings suggest that while elections remain critical, an effective strategy for the advancement of freedom should pay special attention to freedom of the press (especially freedom for bloggers and new media), building the foundations of a genuine rule-of-law society, effective crime-fighting tactics that protect civil liberties, and measures to increase government transparency and curtail corruption.
ANALYSIS OF REGIONAL TRENDS
Middle East and North Africa: Election Rigging, Repression, and Violence
Central and Eastern Europe/Former Soviet Union: ‘Color Revolution’ Gains and Losses
Americas: Violence in Mexico, Autocracy in Venezuela
Asia-Pacific: Pressure on Free Assembly and Expression, Progress in Philippines
Sub-Saharan Africa: Past Gains in Jeopardy
Western Europe and North America: Immigration, Free Speech, and Security
President Barack Obama has not attempted major rollbacks of his predecessor’s antiterrorism policies. While the Obama administration has put an end to practices that were widely regarded as torture and taken other steps applauded by civil libertarians, it has also aggressively pursued terrorists abroad—including through targeted killings by unmanned aircraft—and declined to investigate, much less prosecute, officials from the Bush administration who were responsible for extreme antiterrorism measures. Moreover, Obama has so far failed in his efforts to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where over 100 terrorism suspects are still held.
Eliza B. Young assisted in the preparation of this report.