Among 29 post-communist nations, Estonia ranks first in democratic development in an index compiled by Freedom House, a US-based human rights organisation.
Estonia is followed in the index by Slovenia, Latvia and the Czech Republic. Lithuania ranks fifth, Poland sixth and Slovakia seventh.
The countries in the index, called “Nations in Transit”, are rated on a scale of 1 to 7, with 1 representing the highest and 7 the lowest level of democratic progress. Estonia scored 1.93 in democratic development; in comparison, the worst nations in the index – Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan – both scored 6.93.
Freedom House notes that Estonia has long been considered to have a low level of corruption, outperforming in various indices even among some Western European countries.
However, the organisation says that two events this year may change that perception. “In addition to several minor cases of money laundering, political patronage, and influence peddling, investigations by the Internal Security Service (ISS) revealed two major corruption cases. In one, the managing board of the state-owned Port of Tallinn was accused of taking bribes. In the second, Centre Party head Edgar Savisaar was suspended from his post as mayor of Tallinn and accused of accepting property and monetary bribes. Savisaar has denied the charges.”
According to Freedom House, the process and outcomes of these cases will play a significant role in demonstrating the practical effects of anticorruption laws and other regulations that aim to enforce the country’s democratic principles.
Freedom House also says that discussions on how to deal with the major challenges facing Estonia – such as slow economic growth, declining population, shortage of skilled labor, weak local governments, imbalance between the capital and regions, and finding new revenue sources to cover increasing social costs – will remain on the political agenda.
“Although there are no quick solutions to Estonia’s internal problems or to burning external issues like the migrant crisis, it is obvious that these difficulties will not pass and the country must devise strategies to deal with them. Yet the government appears to have no clear idea how to address the challenges in an effective way and prefers to fine-tune existing measures. It is probable that the power struggle between the coalition parties will continue, and the government will likely not find the strength to deal with these pressing issues in 2016.”
Cover photo is illustrative.