At the end of the 20th century, the Russian analyst says, the West insisted that post-communist countries adopt democratic systems with divisions of powers and competitive party systems; but that effort is now collapsing because in ever more places such regimes are failing to deliver either because local elites subvert them or because they are simply incapable of doing so.
That failure has been much in evidence in Eastern Europe and in Ukraine, but despite the fact that it has not attracted much attention from the international media, it is occurring in Mongolia as well as the population is coming to recognize that the democratic regime is only a cover for elites who are robbing the population of its present and future.
A corruption scandal that broke out three months ago was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, he suggests. It showed that 124 of the 134 most important businessmen had close ties to the regime and profited because of these corrupt relationships and that the regime was refusing to clean house, with ministers refusing to resign and parliamentarians refusing to allow their fellow members to be tried.
While the attention of the world has been focused elsewhere, Mongolia is proceeding along “almost the Ukrainian path,” with the regime increasingly out of touch with the people and the people outraged that supposedly democratic arrangements are not giving them a better life but only enriching elites.
Since the start of this year, Mongolia has roiled by protests. Given that 46 percent of the population lives in the capital, “in fact all the events have been limited to Ulan Bator.” Increasingly, Zapolskis says, those taking to the streets are demanding not just a change in the cast of characters who control the state and economy but regime change of a more radical kind.
What will happen if the government falls and how Mongolia’s two largest neighbors, China and Russia, will respond remains very much an open question. But one aspect of Zapolskis’ critique of democracy, an aspect he doesn’t mention, deserves perhaps even closer attention.
The problems he points to in Mongolia, with clans controlling the economy and the government unresponsive to the population despite the existence of democratic forms, apply with equal or even greater force to the Russian Federation. At some point, perhaps, even Russians will follow the Ukrainians and the Mongols in seeking the unfulfilled promise of democracy.