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Energy-rich nations losing democracy

Energy-rich central Asia is becoming less democratic as their oil and gas resources become more strategically important to Europe.

india Updated: Jun 14, 2006 15:07 IST

Energy-rich Russia and several of its Central Asian neighbours are becoming less democratic even as their oil and gas resources become more strategically important to Europe.

Russia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan have deteriorated in key areas such as judicial reform, media freedom and fighting corruption, according to a report entitled "Nations in Transit 2006" produced by US pro-democracy group Freedom House's Budapest office.

"National leaders in these countries appear not to understand that improving accountability will provide what citizens want - prosperity and rule of law - and would give states more options internationally," said the report's editor, Jeannette Goehring.

The annual report tracks the performance of democratic performance in 29 countries from Central Europe to Central Asia.

Goehring stressed that the former republics of the Soviet Union are "taking advantage of high energy prices by building authoritarian regimes that are unresponsive to their citizens and unreliable in the international sphere".

The countries received democracy scores based on a one to seven scale, with one representing the highest level of democratic development and seven the lowest.

Russia was rated 5.57, Azerbaijan 5.93, Kazakhstan 6.39 and Turkmenistan 6.96, with all four countries deteriorated from last year's ratings.

The report said political power in Russia was increasingly concentrated in the hands of President Vladimir Putin and that the country was not fighting widespread corruption.