The American non-profit organisation Freedom House has recently put out their latest report on the state of democracy in the Eastern-European and Caucasian regions. Their analysis covers the calendar year of 2022, when the parliamentary elections were held in Hungary. PM Viktor Orbán and his Fidesz-KDNP coalition won a two-thirds supermajority for the fourth time in a row.
Unsurprisingly, Freedom House had issues with Hungarian election results and the events leading up to the vote as well. This ultimately
resulted in the downgrading of Hungary’s ‘democracy index score’ from 45 in last year’s report to just 43 in this latest one.
The NGO uses a 0–100 scale system to rate the level of democracy in each country, the higher score being the better.
Freedom House claimed in their analysis that some of the actions of the Orbán administration’s actions were questionable last year, such as the alleged diverting of government funds to the Fidesz party’s campaign. They also took issue with how the apparent majority of the media is covering current affairs in the country; as well as alleged irregularities with voting on election day (of which, curiously, no specifics were cited in the report).
The report also highlighted ‘the Orbán regime’s deepening intolerance of dissenting voices’, which was manifested in, in their opinion, ‘government-backed smear campaigns against critical NGOs and members of the National Judicial Council, considered to be Hungary’s last reservoir of judicial independence’.
While Hungary’s democracy score got knocked down by Freedom House, Poland’s, another Eastern-European country headed by a conservative government, was actually increased—they are at 59 right now, 16 points ahead of Hungary. This most likely has to do with the concessions the Polish government made last year in order to unlock EU funds.
Estonia was ranked the highest out of the 29 nations examined in the paper, with a score of 83. Meanwhile, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan were ranked in the last two spots on the list.
Evidently, the outbreak of the Russo-Ukrainian war in the region also affected the state of democracies tremendously. According to the organisation, the level of democracy increased in Ukraine (even though historically, war-torn nations tend to temporarily curtail individual freedoms while the fighting takes place); while it further decreased in Russia.
That is certainly an interesting interpretation of facts on the part of Freedom House regarding Ukraine. As Hungarian Conservative has also reported, the rights of Ukraine’s Hungarian minority population, for one, continue to be violated by Kyiv, despite the repeated protests of the local Hungarian community and the Hungarian government.
What Is Freedom House?
Freedom House is a non-profit organisation based in Washington DC. They were founded in 1941, in a bipartisan effort, by First Lady Elenor Roosevelt, wife of Democrat President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and businessman, lawyer, and 1940 Republican Presidential candidate Wendell Wilkie. Its original goal was to promote the fight against fascism to the American public in the midst of World War II.
Since 1973, however, they have been focused on assessing the state of democracies in different countries around the world, scoring them on their proprietary (or, according to critics, arbitrary) scale. Their current president is Michael J. Abramowitz, the former director of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Levine Institute for Holocaust Education.
The majority of the organisation’s funding comes from grants from the US government, while the rest is from private donations. Since they are a 501c non-profit group, they have to make public financial reports annually. According to their latest one for the 2022 fiscal year, they spent $80 million on expenses in one year.