Friday, May 23, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Ukrainian Political System is Stronger than Russian One, Kasparov Blogger Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 23 – Only at first glance does the Ukrainian political system appear to be weak and its Russian counterpart strong, according to Sabidzhan Badretdinov, but a closer focus shows that the Ukrainian system has far greater chances for lasting over the long haul than does the Russian, a reality that may explain some of the Kremlin’s unease.

                In a blog post on yesterday, Badretdinov says that democracy does not make a people “somehow better, smarter, more experienced, more literate or more active.” Nor does it cure corruption.  But its other features make it a system likely to outlast authoritarian regimes which may appear stronger for the moment (

            “The Ukrainian political system,” he writes, “only at first glance appears to be weaker than the Russian. In fact, everything is just the reverse. Ukraine after the Maidan is a tough nut, while Russia after Crimea is a zombie ... And the next few years will show that the super-concentrated power in Russia will prove unable to lead the country out of [its] crisis.”

            Ukraine in contrast, with its decentralization and divisions of power will be able to proceed with “stable democratic development” and given time will “flourish” both politically and economically, something that the Kremlin fears because of what it says about its own very different prospects.

                A major advantage of democratic systems is that power is divided “among a large number” of institutions and officials chosen by the people “who constantly control one another” because they are fighting to gain or retain support among the electorate.

            Such competition “and the complete absence of centralized discipline” appear “at first glance” to be “a shortcoming, but in fact this is an enormous advantage.” That is because “no society is guaranteed from mistakes. Instead, they are practically inevitable.” Democracies can correct them, but dictators “who are the initiators of mistakes (and more often crimes) aren’t able to fight them.”

            The approaching presidential elections in Ukraine are an exemplar of this.  According to Badretdinov, “Ukraine does not need a strong president or a strong executive authority. Even fistfights in the Verkhovna Rada are better than the authoritarianism of a new Yanukovich,” he insists.

            Indeed, what may appear to be weakness is in fact an advantage and over the long term a source of strength. Consequently, “whoever is chosen president on May 25, he must not become the most important figure in the country, and the term of his (or her) service must be limited” to a fixed time.

            That doesn’t seem to be adequately understood anywhere, he says. “Unfortunately, now all conversations are about WHO must become president instead of “HOW this post of president should be defined.”  And that tragically raises the suspicion that “many, albeit silently, have decided that the Ukrainian president must be an all-powerful dictator on the Russian model.”

            If Ukrainians do come to understand this, Badretdinov concludes, then they will have “a unique chance” to become “a clear symbol of a successful breakout to the side of democracy and Western values and by so doing provide an example to Russia and Belarus” of what could be possible across “the entire Eastern Slavic world.”

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