Freedom House, a Washington-based NGO that monitors political rights and civil liberties worldwide, released its "Nations In Transit" report Tuesday, an annual assessment of Eastern European and former Soviet states' transition to democracy. The report, first released in 1995, has always been something of a downer. And this year's incarnation is on exception. Two thirds (18 of 29) nations evaluated were found to be backsliding from democratic reform.
"2008 was a dark year for democracy in the region, in particular in the former Soviet states," said Vladimir Shkolnikov, who oversaw the report. "With economic conditions worsening, the region is likely to see authoritarians resort to greater repression, rather than adopt needed reforms." Indeed, for the first time, Russia was determined to be "a consolidated authoritarian regime," due to its persistent problems with corruption, press censorship, and rigged courts, not to mention last year's highly suspect presidential election in which Putin acolyte, Dmitry Medvedev, came out on top. Similar authoritarian trends also appeared in Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, and Georgia.