Spoiler: In yesterday’s post, I showed the obvious in a graph. Lukashenka doesn’t care about individual rights and Belarus is far from the ideal of liberal democracies. People living in liberal democracies are protected from persecution and harassments of the state. The institutions in liberal democracies provide people possibilities to change governments through free and fair elections and hold their politicians accountable. All this was summarised into a graph showing the absence of liberal democracy in Belarus and Russia. It also showed how the Baltic countries’ people enjoy the rights in associated with liberal democracy.
Lukashenka has turned to Putin to help and, maybe to please him, has begun to talk about Ukraine in a negative way to put it mildly. This post elaborates on the concept of liberal democracy. And why not add Ukraine to the countries that were displayed yesterday? And that shows that even though it is far from perfect, conditions of Rule of Law is better, the judiciary is more independent, the media is more free and civil society organisations are less repressed in Ukraine than in Belarus and Russia. Maybe that’s why Lukashenka bashes conditions in Ukraine. But the Belarusian people would be better off if their country would turn to the west or the south instead of the east.
The data which I based yesterday’s post on, is the Varieties of Democracy project which is run by the Department of Political Science at the University of Gothenburg: https://www.v-dem.net/en/. To find out more about methodologies, definitions of indicators and sources, look here.
The indicators I will use here show how well the individuals are protected from oppression by their governments. I begin by having a fresh look at the developments of Liberal Democracy, now adding Ukraine to the other countries. The safety and security of citizens in a country depend very much on whether they can rely on the judiciary system. Is it characterised by Rule of Law, is the High Court independent or acts it as a rubber stamp and endorses the government’s violation of the country’s laws and constitution?
Ministers, government officials, economic and political elites can behave in nefarious ways and use their positions to enrich themselves at the people’s expense. It is more difficult to get away with this in countries with a free media. But the media can be tamed by Government Censorship of the Media. When individuals share a common set of ideas, they tend to organise in Civil Society Organisations (CSOs). Can these organisations work freely or are they and the members subject to persecution, harassment, and imprisonment by the government? And if members of CSOs, journalists, political opponents, religious leaders or, as is happening now in Belarus, peaceful demonstrators be arrested, will they be Tortured?
While far from the situations in the Baltics, conditions of Liberal Democracy improve in Ukraine and keep deteriorating in Belarus and Russia.
Beginning with Liberal Democracy, one finds that even though the situation of deteriorated markedly during the Yanukovych’s gangster regime, it never got as bad as in Belarus or Russia, c.f. Figure 1.
Figure 1. Liberal democracy in six former Soviet republics 1990-2019
Source: Varieties of Democracy Project. https://www.v-dem.net/en/. Note: The indicator shows the extent to which the ideal of liberal democracy is achieved. The liberal principle of democracy emphasizes the importance of protecting individual and minority rights against the tyranny of the state and the tyranny of the majority. The liberal model takes a ~negative~ view of political power insofar as it judges the quality of democracy by the limits placed on government. This is achieved by constitutionally protected civil liberties, strong rule of law, an independent judiciary, and effective checks and balances that, together, limit the exercise of executive power. To make this a measure of liberal democracy, the index also takes the level of electoral democracy into account.
People in the Baltic countries are equal before the law and ensured of their government’s compliance. It’s becoming better in Ukraine, but not in Belarus and definitely not in Russia
The ”Yanukovych” effect is visible also when it comes to Rule of Law. But the effects of Lukashenka and Putin on Rule of Law in Belarus and Russia are more obvious. The effects of this year is of course not yet available in the data. What we can see is that while the deterioration in Belarus stalled around 2010, it just kept getting worse in Russia, c.f. Figure 2.
Figure 2. Rule of Law in six former Soviet republics 1990-2019
Source: https://www.v-dem.net/en/ The indicator shows the extent to which laws are transparently, independently, predictably, impartially, and equally enforced, and to what extent the actions of government officials comply with the law. The indicator ranges from 0 to 1.
High Courts and Constitutional Courts act as rubber stamps for Lukashenka and Putin in Belarus and Russia. Since Yanukovych fled, these institutions are more independent in Ukraine though much remains before they meet the Baltic standards.
Being able to use the High Court and/or the Constitution Court is useful if you’re a dictator that has used up all the allowed presidential terms according to the existing constitution. In that case, you just tell the members of the High Court to rubber stamp the new constitution, which then can be published before the “referendum”. Putin abolished the judiciary’s independence early during his presidency which I showed in this post. He probably took some advice from Lukashenka who sorted this soon after he became president. He has kept violating the constitution with the aid of the Constitutional court since then. Since he picked the members of it, they’re in his pocket. Even though people often complain about the slow pace of reforms in Ukraine, the situation has improved significantly since the criminal Yanukovych fled to Russia, c.f. Figure 3.
Figure 3. High court independence in six former Soviet republics 1990-2019
Source: https://www.v-dem.net/en/ Note: The indicator shows whether the High Court is acting as a rubber stamp according to the Government’s wishes irrespective of the laws and the constitution of whether it is independent and takes decisions regardless of the government’s wishes. The indicator ranges from 0 to 4.
Inspired by Lukashenka, Putin has censored the Russian media. The media has become freer in Ukraine since Yanukovych fled but there are still much room for improvements
Putin also took a lesson from Lukashenka in taking control of the media. While Lukashenka acted more promptly when he became president, it took Putin a little longer to gain the same type of control as in Belarus. Again, the situation in Ukraine looks better after Yanukovych which is another reason for Lukashenka and Putin to hate the country, c.f. Figure 4.
Figure 4. Government censorship of the media in six former Soviet republics 1990-2019
Source: https://www.v-dem.net/en/ Note: The indicator shows the direct and indirect attempts by the government to censor the media. The indicator ranges from 0 to 4.
Being part of a civil society organisation in Belarus and Russia is risky…
The Orange Revolution and the Maidan Revolution¸ were characterised by participation of members from the whole spectra of civil society organisations. The mobilisation of protesters asking for freedom, justice, end of corruption and democracy were warning signs for especially Putin who has unleashed his police forces on Russia’s civil society, c.f. Figure 5.
Figure 5. Civil society repression in six former Soviet republics 1990-2019
Source: https://www.v-dem.net/en/ Note: The indicator shows the government’s attempts to repress the civil society. The indicator ranges from 0 to 4.
No doubt, there will be a visible deterioration in the graph for Belarus once data for 2020 become available.
…since you can be illegally detained, abused and tortured
The last days reporting from Belarus have chocking. Lukashenka’s riot police consist to big parts of savages. They have beaten and kicked demonstrators as I showed in the previous post. This will definitely bend the graph for Belarus downward, c.f. Figure 6.
Figure 6. Freedom from torture in six former Soviet republics 1990-2019
Source: https://www.v-dem.net/en/ Note: The indicator shows whether the authorities respect the right to freedom from torture. The indicator ranges from 0 to 4.
Though the Baltic countries are included in the graphs above, I did not comment on them. I did not need to do it. It was obvious that citizens there enjoy freedom, justice, democracy, rule of law, have a free media and can participate in civil society organisations without fear of being persecuted or tortured.
But all these things that the EU stand for are dangerous for Lukashenka and Putin. They and other dictators fear independent judiciary, free media, independent organisations with people who dare to demand democracy and free elections.