Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Kremlin's friend wins in Ukraine, but democratic process could cause problems

The author of this article makes a very good point. Yes, Russia's preferred candidate won the election in Ukraine, yet the election he won stands in sharp contrast to recent heavily-managed elections in Russia. Will Russian's care that their Slavic cousins to the west have experienced a democratic presidential election? Some Russians tell me- "But we do have democracy at the local level." This local-level democracy, however, is inevitably limited by the fact that processes by which national leaders have been chosen in national years is anything but democratic. (It reminds me, in fact, of the apologists for autocracy of the tsar, when people could point to the local level zemstvo or the mir as examples of local democratic processes and autonomy. In reality, however, the autonomy was not grounded in law and was subject to the caprices of the tsar and his administration.)

One of the statistically significant factors in predicting whether a nation will be democratic is its contiguity to other democracies. So, if Ukraine is successful in holding its tenuous grip on democratic institutions, Russia's oligarchs and their patrons might just have reason to worry.