US-based international democracy and rights watchdog Freedom House has released the new edition of its annual Nations in Transit 2013 report.
Nations in Transit 2013 is Freedom House’s comprehensive, comparative study of democratic development in 29 countries from Central Europe to Eurasia. This edition covers the period from January 1 through December 31, 2012 and measures progress according to the following indicators: electoral process, civil society, independent media, national democratic governance, local democratic governance, judicial framework and independence, and corruption.
“While neighboring Azerbaijan aggressively stifled political opposition, Georgia and Armenia conducted parliamentary elections under new electoral laws that emphasized equal access to campaign resources and media coverage. Some abuse of administrative resources and polling-day violations persisted, but overall competitiveness improved, and both votes yielded more representative legislatures. For the first time, the Armenian National Congress, which had formerly denounced all government institutions, won seats in Armenia’s National Assembly and began participating in parliamentary politics,” according to the report.
“The democracy gap between Azerbaijan and its Caucasian neighbors continued to grow in 2012. The peaceful and more inclusive elections in Georgia and Armenia contrasted sharply with the brutal suppression of public gatherings in the run-up to the Eurovision song contest in Baku, and the introduction of huge fines for anyone participating in unauthorized rallies in the country,” the report reads.
The report reminds that “when Hungarian authorities made a surprising decision to repatriate former Azerbaijani army officer Ramil Safarov, who had been imprisoned for brutally murdering an Armenian officer while training in Budapest in 2004, the government in Baku gave him a hero’s welcome and immediately set him free, thereby halting any progress in Azerbaijan’s negotiations with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh.”