The Measure of Macedonian Democracy


Recent publications have given the impression that Macedonia is one of two unfree states in >East Europe and Western Soviet Republics. This author examines such arguments in the context of quantitative data collected from 25 countries in the region. Evidence shows that rating Macedonia as undemocratic is flawed. Furthermore, Macedonia is actually considered more democratic than several other countries in the region in many quantitative measures. Such findings have serious implications for Macedonia’s external relations and aid policy.

In 2001, Albanian guerrillas attacked Macedonian democracy. Two years later, Macedonian democracy is again under siege, but from a different foe. Recent publications have challenged Macedonian’s liberalization. Authors have coded Macedonia’s government as “Not Free,” one out of two East European (or Westernmost former Soviet Republics) receiving such classification. Yet upon further review of the statistics as well as a variety of data sources, such claims do not measure up to scrutiny. Far from being an unfree state, Macedonia actually displays more freedom than several of its counterparts in a variety of tests. Such an investigation is warranted by the importance such findings have for Macedonian admittance into Western institutions such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and European Union. It also may affect the aid Macedonia receives from bilateral and multilateral sources.

In the “Map of Freedom: The Location of Democratically Governed Countries at the Start of 2003,” many East European countries and nearby counterparts are coded as “Free” countries. A few, such as Russia and Bosnia are rated “Partly Free.” Yet only Macedonia and Belarus are classified as “Not Free” by this map. Originally adapted from Michael Kilborn’s (1997) publication “Liberty’s Ebb and Flow” in The Christian Science Monitor, the map was reprinted in the most recent version of World Politics: Trend and Transformation by Charles Kegley and Eugene Wittkopf. It should be noted that this book represents one of the prominent texts in America for undergraduate instruction on the subject of international relations. Is Macedonia one of the 48 countries in the world “where citizens’ human rights and civil liberties are systematically abused or denied” (Kegley and Wittkopf, 2004)? Or is this measure an error in need of correction?

In this investigation, I begin by examining the original sources of data for Macedonia’s classification as an unfree state. I continue by examining other democratic data sources collected by scholars to determine if such a measure is an aberration. I also examine other possible reasons for the decision to label Macedonia as unfree. I conclude by discussing the implications of Macedonia’s measure of democracy.

Freedom House Measures of Macedonian Democracy

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To begin the analysis, it is necessary to determine where the Macedonian data came from. Kegley and Wittkopf (2004) and Kilborn (1997) claim to have received their data from the Freedom House organization ( Freedom House determines which countries are democratic with a pair of extensive checklists. The former looks at political rights, which deal with the fairness of elections, the rights of political participation, the ability of minorities to vote, etc. The latter examines a country’s respect for a variety of civil liberties, ranging from human rights and freedom of expression to rights of assembly and ability to conduct one’s own economic affairs without governmental interference (Freedom House, 2000).

An inspection of the Freedom House dataset reveals that these coders have never coded Macedonia as “Not Free.” In fact, since its inception into the database in 1991, Macedonia has been classified as “Partly Free” (Freedom House, 2001). Furthermore, recent studies conducted by Freedom House has shown that Macedonia deepened its democratization with increased respect for civil liberties and political rights, leading researchers to lower Macedonia’s rating by two points (one in each category), indicating an overall increase in freedom in the tiny former Yugoslav Republic (Freedom House, 2003a). In fact, Freedom House’s own “Map of Freedom, 2003” displays Macedonia as a partly free country (Freedom House, 2003b). It is not clear why the authors claimed to have based their data on Freedom House scores, yet did not code Macedonia correctly.

Otherwise, Kilborn and Kegley and Wittkopf’s classifications of other countries according to Freedom House’s own data are reasonable accurate. Belarus is also unfree (and has been coded as such since 1996). Other states listed as partly free on the map (Albania, Yugoslavia, Bosnia, Ukraine, Russia, Turkey, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Moldova) are also coded as such by Freedom House. The map does include another mistake: the Kilborn Map of Freedom accidentally codes Free Cyprus as “Partly Free.”

Other Dataset Measurements of Macedonian Democracy

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In order to determine whether the Map of Freedom was merely in error, I look at how Macedonia has been coded in other datasets on the subject of democracy. I analyze Macedonia’s scores in the Polity IV dataset (Marshall and Jaggers, 2002). These codings, which look at factors ranging from constraints upon elected leaders, the competitiveness and regulation of political participation, and how open the political processes is to a variety of candidacies and issues. In this dataset, Macedonia has always been coded as being democratic. This is measured in several ways. First, Macedonia’s democratic score is judged to have exceeded a certain threshold (6 of a possible 10, a frequently used measure adopted by Dixon, 1993). Second, Macedonia is judged to have more democratic characteristics than authoritarian factors, a measure adopted by other scholars (Oneal, 1994). The data also reveals that Macedonia does not possess a single authoritarian component. Other East European countries judged to be democratic by Polity or Freedom House do have at least one or more authoritarian factor present (Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Estonia and Turkey). Democratic longevity is a final characteristic to note: it examines how long have countries maintained their democratic credentials. Macedonia has maintained these democratic standards since 1991. Unlike Macedonia, however, several countries (Albania, Armenia, Croatia, Georgia, Romania, Russia and Yugoslavia) were judged to have been authoritarian at some point in the 1990s by these standards. Belarus is joined by Azerbaijan as contemporary autocratic nations in the region. By these four measures, Macedonia is considered more democratic than half of the 24 East European and Westernmost former Soviet Republic countries examined in the Polity dataset (no data is available for Bosnia for this time frame).

To this point, two datasets have classified Macedonia as democratic or at least partly free. For additional analysis, Tatu Vanhanen’s Polyarchy Dataset (2000) is consulted. This incorporates another set of variables different from those of Polity or Freedom House. It codes the percentage of voting-age population that casts a ballot. It also treats “electoral competitiveness” as a function of votes garnered by the opposition parties, precluding a consolidation of power. Results show that while Macedonia has modest turnout and opposition power, both scores are high enough to have Macedonia be considered a democracy. Subsequent elections in 1999 and 2002 have produced statistics (such as a 70% voting rate in 2002), which will only enhance Macedonia’s scores on the Vanhanen Index of Democracy (in fact, no country reports a 70 percent voting rate between 1991 and 1998). Several countries, on the other hand, have scores that prevent them from being coded as democracies (Albania, Azerbaijan, Belarus) during this time frame.

A final dataset of Macedonia’s policy comes from the World Audit for the Democratic Ranking of Southeastern European states in 2001. These researchers not only take information from Freedom House, but also combine it with data concerning Press Freedom, Corruption Perception Index (CPI) from Transparency International and measures of Economic Freedom. According to this measure, Macedonia equals Greece and outperforms many of its regional neighbors, including Bulgaria, Romania, Bosnia, Albania, Turkey, Croatia and Yugoslavia (Macedonian, 2001). More recent updates of this measure have several of these countries moving ahead of Macedonia, but clearly such evidence does not support coding Macedonia as “Not Free.”

Conclusion: Implications of Macedonian’s Democracy Measure

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Given this overwhelming amount of data that suggests coding Macedonia as nondemocratic is a serious mistake, we must ask why Macedonia received its score. One may consider the map to be replete with mistakes. Yet this does not seem to be a likely explanation; additional analysis reveals that few additional mistakes exist beyond Macedonia. Another possible rationale stems from Macedonia’s recent problems with the “National Liberation Army” and the necessity of peacekeeper intervention from NATO. Yet this does not explain why Bosnia, Croatia, Yugoslavia and Georgia have had both insurgencies and peacekeeping missions without being downgraded to the status of “Not Free.”

Regardless of the reasons why Macedonia has been coded as unfree by this Map of Freedom, results of this analysis show that they are in error. This has been confirmed by examining the purported source of data for the map, as well as consulting additional datasets, each focusing upon a different element of Macedonia’s political or economic life. It should be noted that the implications of such an error are significant in nature. Macedonia is being considered for possible membership in key international organizations such as NATO and EU. Coding Macedonia as unfree is likely to chill the desires of Americans and West Europeans to extend a warm welcome to Macedonia. Such membership would go a long way toward expanding Macedonia’s contacts, markets and defense. Macedonia might also lose potential development aid from countries or institutions if either is unwilling to interact with an authoritarian country. Given the recent attempts to link foreign policy with economic policy, such a miscalculation might have important financial implications. This analysis has demonstrated that Macedonia measures up as a democracy and should not be classified with North Korea, China, Cuba, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Libya as a “Not Free” state.


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Dixon, William “Democracy and the Management of International Conflict.” Journal of Conflict Resolution. 1993. Vol. 37, pp. 42-68.

Freedom House “Survey Methodology” Freedom in the World. 2000.

Freedom House “Annual Survey of Freedom Country Scores, 1972-73 to 1999-00.” Freedom in the World. 2001.

Freedom House “Country and Related Territory Reports: Macedonia. Freedom in the World. 2003.a

Freedom House “Map of Freedom, 2003” Freedom in the World. 2003b.

Kegley, Charles W., Jr. and Eugene R. Wittkopf. World Politics: Trend and Transformation. 2004. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Kilborn, Michael “Liberty’s Ebb and Flow” The Christian Science Monitor, May 9, 1997, pp. 18-19.

Macedonian “World Audit: Democratic Ranking of Southeastern European States” The Macedonian Record On Democracy April 23, 2001.

Marshall, Monty G. and Keith Jaggers “Political Regime Characteristics and Transitions, 1800-2001” Polity IV Project. December 15, 2002. College Park, MD: University of Maryland.

Oneal, John “The Affinity of Foreign Investors for Authoritarian Regimes. Political Research Quarterly. 1994. Vol 27, Issue 3132, pp. 565-589.

Vanhanen, Tatu “The Polyarchy Dataset: Vanhanen’s Index of Democracy.” August 15, 2000. International Peace Research Institute, Oslo (PRIO).