Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Downgrade

Filpinos have become used to demotions in international surveys. Usually, these are related to the economy, particularly the credit ratings. Sadly, we must now add a political downgrade: The negative status change in the annual “Freedom in the World”-report from “free” to “partly free” may be termed a kick in the face for a nation that has been celebrated as a beacon of democracy in Asia and beyond.

That not all is well with Philippine democracy is no secret. To characterize the deficiencies, political scientists have coined the term “illiberal democracy” and applied it also to the Philippines.

In the essay published together with the empirical data, Freedom House calls the Philippine downgrade “the most significant development.” They say that the decision to relegate the country from "free" to “partly free” (together with Thailand and Guyana) is “based on credible allegations of massive electoral fraud, corruption, and the government’s intimidation of elements in the political opposition.”

Add to all this the killings of journalists and leftist activists and the picture of the Philippine political culture is indeed far from rosy.

The government has repeatedly shown notable concern to please foreign economic rating institutes and initiated various reforms in the financial sector. Let’s hope it takes the political downgrade just as seriously and pushes for long overdue political reforms.

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