Freedom at Issue: Insights on the global struggle for democracy | Freedom House

Freedom at Issue:

Insights on the global struggle for democracy

Caption: Bayard Rustin and Dr. Eugene Reed at Freedom House
Photo Credit: Library of Congress
All who love liberty and equal rights should raise a glass in celebration of Bayard Rustin’s designation as a Medal of Freedom recipient.

The fall of Hosni Mubarak raised hopes for a democratic transition in Egypt, but these hopes have been dashed by successive governments. Human rights abuses increased during the interim rule of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), persisted under the elected government of President Mohamed Morsi, and have continued since the military-backed government of Adly Mansour took power on July 3. In the past month, Egypt’s democratic institutions have suffered a significant decline, according to Freedom House’s Egypt Democracy Compass.

What happens in the next few months may determine whether Tunisia becomes a functioning constitutional democracy or finds itself embroiled in escalating political confrontations driven by appeals to the street rather than the ballot box.


This week marks the second anniversary of the arrest of former Ukrainian prime minister Yuliya Tymoshenko. A polarizing personality, Tymoshenko was a key leader of the forces that took power after challenging the results of deeply flawed 2004 elections in what became known as the Orange Revolution. In the 2010 presidential election, she was narrowly defeated by Viktor Yanukovych, leader of the Party of Regions, whose earlier presidential bid had been thwarted by the Orange protests.

When a far-right political party with a nationalist, anti-immigration, and Euroskeptic agenda joined a coalition government after Austria’s 1999 parliamentary elections, the 14 other countries of the European Union (EU) balked. The inclusion of Jörg Haider’s Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) challenged an implicit agreement among EU members that extremist parties would be barred from central government positions.

Côte d’Ivoire has yet to reckon with the crimes committed during the conflict that followed the November 2010 presidential election, in which 3,000 people were killed and over 150 women were raped. Although the country has taken some steps to pursue justice, they have been slow and largely ineffective.The unresolved issues from the postelection period have contributed to countrywide political polarization and reduced faith in both the government and the electoral process. If these crimes are not addressed, the country’s prospects of becoming a successful democracy will be in jeopardy.

Photo Caption: Nasser Shaikh leaves flowers at the grave of his brother, Khuram Shaikh.
On Christmas Eve 2011, Khuram Shaikh was murdered and his girlfriend, Victoria Tkacheva, was gang-raped while they were vacationing at a resort on the southernmost tip of Sri Lanka. Soon after, eight suspects, including Sampath Chandra Pushpa Vidanapathirana, a local political figure with ties to President Mahinda Rajapaksa, were arrested. Eleven months later, they were released on bail. One imagines the regime hoped that everyone would just forget about it and move on, and that is basically what happened. Of course, Khuram’s family, starting with his brother, Nasser, never forgot. But most everyone else did, and the story receded into the morass of terrible stories, in Sri Lanka and elsewhere.

The steep gains for the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) in Sunday’s elections reveal increasing public discontent with the three-decade stranglehold of Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) on political and economic power in the country.


Photo Credit: Kevin Walsh

Here are 11 key numbers you should know before next week’s general elections in Zimbabwe.

The foreign affairs budget, which represents less than 1 percent of the annual U.S. budget, is invaluable for advancing U.S. foreign policy interests.

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