Romania remains 10th among former Communist countries in terms of democratic consolidation, according to the Freedom House Nations in Transit 2016 Report. The best (and slightly improved) score is for civil society, which contributes decisively to keeping Romania among the semi-consolidated democracies. The slight improvement of score for civil society was offset by the decline in local democratic governance rating.
The report monitors progress and setbacks in democratization in 29 countries from Central Europe, the Balkans and Central Asia, following the evolution of seven indicators: National Democratic Governance, Electoral Process, Civil Society, Independent Media, Local Democratic Governance, Judicial Framework and Independence, and Corruption. Each indicator receives a rating from 1 to 7, where 1 represents the highest level of democracy, whereas 7 is the lowest.
From last year, Romania has stagnated in most of the areas included in the report. The report analyses events taking place between January 1st and December 31st 2015, and this is the third year in a row that the final score remains unchanged at 3.46.
The improvement from 2.50 to 2.25 of the score for civil society is due mostly to increased participation in of (non)institutionalized civil society in the public sphere, and to the new Government’s stated intention to improve transparency and citizen involvement in decision making processes.
The protests in the fall of 2015, the largest since 1990, were aimed at the entire political class, under the tagline “Corruption Kills”, and, following the technocratic government’s appointments in November, civil society’s involvement in the decision making processes became more visible. The improvement was aided by the establishment of the Ministry for Public Consultations and Civic Dialogue, whose purpose is to create horizontal communication channels and increase institutional transparency, access to information of public interest, and to the decision-making process. The Cioloş cabinet encouraged civil society professionals to get involved even through including them in the government staff.
On the other hand, local democratic governance ratings declined from 3.00 to 3.25 because of the Government’s non-compliance with the law and with a court order calling for early elections to occupy vacancies in local administration. More precisely, anticorruption efforts lead to the creation of power voids at local level, which the Government – under normal circumstances and under authority of the law – was obliged to address by organizing elections. Rather than comply, however, the Ponta Government assigned the task of appointing temporary local leaders to the prefects. The legislation regarding local public administration was later quickly amended via emergency ordinance to legitimize the act.
The full report (in English) is available HERE.