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December 23, 1999
'Strong Correlation Between Democracy And Hinduism'
A P Kamath in New York
Pakistan joins five other countries -- Eritrea, Honduras, Malawi, Nicaragua and Venezuela -- where freedom declined in the past 12 months. The 1999-2000 Freedom House Survey finds Bangladesh among 12 countries, including Russia, Uganda and Ethiopia, that registered "significant negative trends".
The survey, released in New York on December 22, said of Pakistan: "The new military dictatorship, which toppled a democratically elected though corrupt regime, shows no inclination to restore electoral civilian government."
The survey explicitly linked democracy and Hinduism.
"There is also a strong correlation between electoral democracy and Hinduism (India, Mauritius, and Nepal)," it continued, "and there is a significant number of free countries among traditionally Buddhist societies and those in which Buddhism is the most widespread faith (Japan, Mongolia, Taiwan, and Thailand)."
"If we factor in the Muslims living in the electoral democracies of Europe, the Americas, and India, a majority of the world's Muslims (roughly 600 million out of 1.15 billion) live under democratically elected governments," the survey said.
Thirteen countries, including Afghanistan and Burma, received Freedom House's lowest rating for political rights and civil liberties. The others are Equatorial Guinea, Iraq, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Turkmenistan, Chechnya and Tibet (under the 'oppressive control of China').
The momentum towards freedom around the world was sustained during 1999, the survey said, indicating that freedom gained ground in 26 countries, while setbacks were recorded in 18 countries.
Despite the persistence of civil strife in a number of countries and growing problems with corruption in societies emerging from authoritarian rule, the survey found that 85 countries, representing 44 per cent of the world, were "free" and their inhabitants enjoy a broad range of political rights and civil liberties.
Fifty-nine countries, (31 per cent) rank as "partly free," a category which indicates human rights problems, some restrictions on liberty and a weak rule of law. The survey also found that 48 countries (representing 25 per cent of the world) are "not free," indicating systematic human rights violations and the absence of democratic institutions.
Thirteen of the 63 countries with the poorest record in terms of political rights and civil liberties are predominantly Christian, the survey said.
By this indicator, a predominantly Christian country is more than five times as likely to be free and democratic as it is to be repressive and non-democratic, it added.
Among the major factors that restricted freedom, the Freedom House listed corruption.
"The growth of crony capitalism, money-laundering, bribery, and other forms of corruption continues even as concern about corruption became more acute," the survey said.
"Corruption ranks as the number one obstacle to democratic consolidation in many countries struggling against the legacy of dictatorship."
It faulted American business for lauding Beijing.
"In a fawning and cynical display, representatives of US business presented China's President Jiang Zemin with a bust of Abraham Lincoln, while praising the repressive Communist leader for his commitment to openness," it observed.
The end of century Survey of Freedom found that 2.34 billion people (39 per cent of the world's population) now live in "free societies", 1.5 billion (25 per cent) live in countries that are "partly free," and 2.1 billion (36 per cent) live in countries that are "not free".
"China accounts for over one half of those living under Not Free conditions," the survey observed.
These year-end reviews of freedom began in 1955 and the program has been issued in a more developed context as a yearbook since 1978. Called Freedom in the World: The Annual Survey of Political Rights and Civil Liberties, the 1999-2000 yearbook, which includes lengthy analyses of each country and territory, will be available from Freedom House in April 2000. It is written by Freedom House president Adrian Karatnycky.
The survey is an evaluation of political rights and civil liberties in the world. It assesses a country's freedom by examining its record in two areas-political rights and civil liberties. A country grants its citizens political rights when it permits them to form political parties that represent a significant range of voter choice and whose leaders can openly compete for and be elected to positions of power in government.
A country upholds its citizens's civil liberties when it respects and protects their religious, ethnic, economic, linguistic, and other rights, including gender and family rights, personal freedoms, and freedoms of the press, belief, and association, as per the Freedom House criteria.
While some Arab states such as Kuwait saw a gain in democratic ideals, the democratic fervent was found in Muslim countries outside the Arab territories, the report noted, pointing out to Indonesia and the modest gains in Burkina Faso, Burundi, Nigeria, and Tanzania and more modest declines in freedom in Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Comoros, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Zimbabwe.
"Our findings for 1999 show the further momentum of the march towards freedom and democracy that has been a notable feature of the twentieth century," declared Karatnycky.
"At the beginning of the century, not one country granted its citizens universal suffrage. Today, three-fifths of the globe's population lives under democratically-elected governments.
"Despite the horrors of global war and genocide, in the end, this has been democracy's century," declared Bette Bao Lord, chairman of Freedom House.
"If the world's community of established democracies embraces freedom as a major goal, the next century will be freedom's century as well."
Freedom House is located at 120 Wall Street, New York, NY 10005. For more information call (212) 514-8040, fax, 514-8055; or check www.freedomhouse.org.
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