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Nations in Transit 2013: Authoritarian Aggression and the Pressures of Austerity

In 2012, autocratic regimes in Eurasia fought ener­getically to keep the threat of democratic change at bay. In some cases, govern­ments with established records of repression introduced new and arguably redundant measures to further constrain dissent, having already engaged in years of censorship, sub­jugated the justice system, and in some contexts resorted to violence. As a result, govern­ance institutions in the region’s autocracies grew more dysfunctional, less independent, and more prone to corruption.

Meanwhile in Central Europe, a public backlash against unpopular austerity measures de­stabilized several governments in 2012, testing the durability of democratic institutions. Despite frequent government changes and heightened political polarization, most states in the region were able to respond to mounting pressure without significantly straying from core democratic norms. Corruption in the Balkan states appears to be deepening, despite pressure from the European Union and international lending institutions to strengthen judicial independence and produce verdicts in high-profile cases. Across the region, political interests and personal connections between government and business regularly influence public tender and privatization procedures. Judicial institutions are overburdened and subject to political inter­ference. And journalists—particularly those covering organized crime and corruption—face political pressure, intimidation, and attacks.

Notable Trends in Nations in Transit 2013 include:

  • Assault on civil society in Eurasia
  • Electoral gains in Georgia and Armenia; abuses in Russia and Ukraine
  • Signs of strain under austerity in Central Europe
  • Persistent corruption in the Balkans

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