Armenia fell from 86th to 89th place in the EIU’s latest Democracy Index after rising substantially in the global ranking during the previous two years.
The EIU rates 167 countries and territories on five indicators, including civil liberties and electoral process and pluralism, and divides them into four categories: “full” and “flawed” democracies, “hybrid regimes” and “authoritarian regimes.”
Armenia remains in the “hybrid regime” category of nations with an aggregate democracy “score” of 5.35 out of 10. The EIU gave it 5.54 points in the Democracy Index 2019 released a year ago.
“Armenia’s score declined significantly in 2020, after the country had bucked the regional trend and registered significant improvement in 2018-19,” reads latest EIU report.
“As a result of the armed conflict with Azerbaijan over the breakaway region of Nagorny Karabakh, the Armenian government imposed martial law which significantly limited citizens’ freedoms, including freedom of expression. Martial law continued even after the fighting was ended via a ceasefire and was used as a pretext to disperse anti-government protests and detain opposition leaders,” it says.
Daniel Ioannisian of the Yerevan-based Union of Informed Citizens played down Armenia’s drop in the democracy ranking. He argued that the country still did much better than in EIU surveys conducted before the 2018 “Velvet Revolution” that brought Nikol Pashinian to power.
“Although we have regressed, it is not that terrible and not comparable to the pre-revolution years,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service on Friday.
Ioannisian noted that Pashinian’s government restricted civil liberties not only during the recent war but also after imposing a state of emergency in March to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
“For example, the freedom of speech in Armenia was restricted at the start of emergency rule, from March 13 to April 16, which was quite controversial. It’s good that this restriction was quickly lifted,” he said.
Armenian opposition groups have accused the government exploiting the state of emergency and ensuing martial law to crack down on dissent.
They have also denounced it for enacting in June 2020 constitutional amendments that significantly changed the composition of the country’s Constitutional Court. The court was locked in a yearlong standoff with Pashinian.