Freedom House: Serbia experiences historic decline

Source/Author: N1

The Freedom House Nations in Transition 2024 said that Serbia experienced a historic decline due to President Aleksandar Vucic’s efforts to consolidate power in 2023.

The report listed Serbia as a Transitional or Hybrid Regime whose democracy score showed the largest decline.

According to the report, Serbia’s Independent Media score has also dropped due to the gradual, but overt, dominance of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) in media coverage, increasing hostility and financial pressure on independent journalists, and the state’s effective capture of public and private media.

The report warned that autocratizing hybrids like Hungary and Serbia are on their way to what Nations in Transit classifies as Semi-Consolidated Authoritarian Regimes. “Key institutions, from the media to the courts, have gone beyond the level of politicization expected under classical definitions of hybrid regimes and are now effectively captured by ruling parties and abused for partisan or personal gain,” it added.

“In 2002, democracy scholar Thomas Carothers observed that certain hybrid regimes, like those in this group, suffer from “dominant-power politics,” in which the opposition or civil society has some space to operate, but the ruling political faction is able to prevent any change in leadership. The description applies perfectly to present-day Serbia, where President Vucic’s regime has kept a tight grip on power by rigging electoral processes, dominating both public and private media, brutally smearing opposition members and activists, and cowing municipal governments,” the report said.

“The ability of the opposition or civil society to influence the government’s policies is more limited in hybrids with dominant-power politics. These regimes may appear on the surface to simply ignore dissent, but in practice they are likely to repress critics with more covert tactics, such as the smearing, intimidation, and surveillance that Serbian civil society, independent media, and the opposition movement Srbija protiv nasilja (Serbia against Violence) faced during 2023,” it added.

Back-to-back mass shootings in May prompted protests throughout the summer, to which the Serbian government responded with rigged snap elections in December, it said.

Source: N1