For all the talk of contagion across the region, the Economist’s new Political Instability Index
offers (almost certainly quite right) contrasting assessment of the political prospects of Central and East European states in the global downturn. Small, ethnically homogeneous, successfully reforming states with strong social safety nets and good(-ish) economic fundamentals such as Slovenia and the Czech Republic, are rated alongside Germany and Japan as among the most internationally stable political systems. Ukraine’s uncertain national identity, high levels of inequality and corruption and proximity to a restive and powerful Russia, by contrast, see it rated alongside African and South American states as the amongst the world’s highest risks for political instability. Expect a riot. Other Central and East Europe states get more mixed scores. Estonia’s success in democratic and market reform, for example, was offset by the higher risks associated with its ethnic diversity and weak welfare state.
Poland’s traditions of protest politics also see it rated as moderately risky, despite otherwise good indicators.
The methodology is a fairly standard political science approach of producing baskets of variables covering different risk factos, some structural and longer term, others more short-term and conjunctural. It’s not sure whether all these have been crunched in some regression analysis or totted up some other way (the former, I suspect), but their high risk rating of Moldova seems to have been quickly borne out with the violence surrounding Moldova’s elections, won by the incumbent Moldovan Communists. The opposition cry foul and claim a stolen election – the first move for any Coloured Revolution scenario – and students vent their frustration on some government office equipment (PCs thrown through a window). I don’t know enough about Moldovan politics to make any judgements, but I suspect that if the PCM did steal the elections they probably didn’t need to.