Serbia and Montenegro are no longer democracies, according to the Freedom House report “Nations in Transit”. The conclusion marks a significant downgrade in the countries’ ranking in terms of quality of governance, classifying them in the same group with other Western Balkan countries like Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and North Macedonia.
The “Nations in Transit” report assessed democracy in 29 countries in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.
Freedom House uses five categories: Consolidated Democracy, Semi-Consolidated Democracy, Hybrid Regime, Semi-Consolidated Authoritarian Regime, and Consolidated Authoritarian Regime. Serbia and Montenegro had been “Semi-Consolidated Democracies since 2003”.
Noticeably, Poland also dropped out of the Consolidated Democracies category and became a Semi-Consolidated Democracy, while Hungary left the group of democracies and became Hybrid Regime. Former soviet states of Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia are also Hybrid Regimes.
In a hybrid regime democratic change has not been completed and rulers tend to gain ever more power pushing the country toward growing authoritarianism.
“For years, with increased state capture, abuse of power, and tactic of ruling by fear, Aleksandar Vučić in Serbia and Milo Đukanovic in Montenegro have taken their states below the line – for the first time since 2003, they are no longer in the category of democracies among countries in transit,” the report notes.
It pointed out how the ruling party of President Vučić in Serbia has hindered opposition’s involvement in political processes since 2012 by excluding it from parliamentary life. The report recalls that the last parliamentary elections in 2016 were abused by the ruling party. All these formed the opposition to boycott the parliament. In addition, the ruling party routinely adopts laws in parliament by emergency procedure; more than half of the laws were adopted this way.
Montenegro’s main problem is the judiciary and its lack of independence and slow electoral reform.
Issues pointed out by the Freedom House in Serbia and Montenegro’s regimes show similarities with those noted in Albania, whose score in the report dropped from 3.89 to 3.82 in 2019.
While the position of Bosnia and Herzegovina didn’t change, the report underlined the progress made by Kosovo and North Macedonia. Kosovo is the only country that has made steady progress over the last five years.