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Freedom House: Lack of Institutional Reform Hinders Democratic Progress in the Middle East

September 17, 2012


A new Freedom House report highlights that a lack of substantive institutional reform, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, has left states struggling to maintain democratic achievements.

Nearly two years after a wave of popular uprisings began in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), a lack of substantive institutional reform has left states struggling to maintain democratic achievements, according to a new Freedom House report. The findings illuminate reform failures that have contributed to recent violence across the MENA region.

Countries at the Crossroads 2012 analyzes the performance of 35 policy-relevant countries that are at a critical juncture between democratic progress and deterioration. The best and worst performers in this year's edition—Tunisia and Bahrain, respectively—are in the MENA region, and the gap between them constitutes one of the largest intraregional divergences in the project. This gulf is due in large part to the drastic contrast between the two governments' commitments to strengthening democratic institutions.

"The weakness of the governance institutions in the Middle Eastern and North African countries covered in this year's edition can be seen in the riots occurring across the region and the authorities' inability to respond effectively to unrest," said Vanessa Tucker, director for analysis at Freedom House. "After decades of corrupt and repressive rule, citizens in these states are facing brutal and ineffective security forces, habitually divisive and confrontational politics, and a lack of productive avenues through which to lodge their grievances and assert their rights."

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