Friday, July 15, 2005

The Next Wave of Democratization

EurasiaNet has an interesting op-ed on democratization in the post-soviet space. In particular, it focuses on upcoming elections in Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan but the same will be true for Armenia in 2007 when the next parliamentary elections are due. Of course, that's not to say that the West, and the Council of Europe in particular, shouldn't also keep on eye on local elections scheduled for October and the referendum on constitutional amendments in November.
Since the 1991 Soviet collapse, hopes for the institutionalization of democratic systems in the region -- in which free-and-fair elections would enable peaceful transfers of political power – have faded. Instead, an authoritarian trend has taken hold. Incumbents have tried to rig their respective political systems to defend their positions of political supremacy, engineering sham elections in an attempt to give their authority a stamp of popular approval.

To a certain extent, the heavy-handed governing methods found in most former Soviet states are backfiring. Corruption and a lack of political accountability, combined with dreadful social conditions and limited economic opportunities, have fostered an atmosphere ripe for change.


It is crucial that the United States and European Union [along with other interested states] continue their investments in the future success of democratization initiatives in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan. But they must also prepare for the more complex challenges presented by other static and unreformed FSU states. Given the high level of frustration that already exists among the population in so many of these countries, this suggests that far more unpredictable and potentially volatile transitions are in the offing.
The full article can be read online here.

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