Former Soviets Still Need Democracy


Five former Soviet states could do a much better job of advancing democracy, by removing their dictators, holding new elections, and by enforcing a two-term limit of no more than 10 years total.

BELARUS: Alexander Lukashenko has ruled the former Soviet Republic of Belarus since 1994. After winning the 2001 election, he abolished presidential term limits in 2004, and essentially made himself dictator for life. Opposition candidates received just 2% of the vote in 2006, in a contest the EU called fundamentally flawed. Policemen severely beat two opposition candidates in the 2010 race, causing EU members to boycott his 2011 inauguration. Belarus must now remove Lukashenko, choose a new leader, enforce term limits, and rightfully join the democracies of Europe.

KAZAKHSTAN: Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan has been in power since the Soviet Union dissolved, under a system which is one of the most corrupt in the world. His regime drafted a constitution that virtually gives him unchecked powers. He took bribes in the 1990s from U.S. oil interests. He won the 1991 election, because opposition candidates were not allowed. Instead of using the electoral process, he extended his rule for four more years in 1995, through a referendum. Although the constitution had a two-term limit, it was amended by his friends in parliament to let him run as often as he wanted. He was re-elected in 1999 and 2005, with 91%, in races criticized by international groups.

UZBEKISTAN: Islam Karimov has controlled Uzbekistan since 1989. When independence was declared in 1991, he became their first president, with 86% support, by manipulating the vote. He limited opposition parties by requiring them to obtain 60,000 signatures to register. He extended his reign in 1995 for five more years via a referendum, and then claimed 91% of the vote in 2000. He let the U.S. use military bases (2001-05). Despite a two-term limit, he won a third term in 2007 with 88% of the vote against no opposition. As one of the worst dictators, Islam Karimov must go.

TAJIKISTAN: Emomalii Rahmon has held power in Tajikistan since 1992. He was “elected” in 1994, and again in 1999, with 97% of the vote. He controls much of the economy. Like others in the region, he used referendums, instead of elections, to remain in office beyond his term. He received 79% of the vote in 2006, and commenced another 7-year term. It is time to remove this dictator and establish a true democracy in Tajikistan.

RUSSIA: Outside pressure from Russia would help to change the politics in this region, but Vadimir Putin also has trouble letting go. When Boris Yeltsin resigned as President, Putin finished his term (1999-00). Putin was then elected in his own right, (2000-04), and re-elected for another 4-year presidential term (2004-08). Instead of stepping down at that point, and leaving government, he became Prime Minister (2008-). After 12 years as President and Prime Minister, Putin still appears to be the one in control, and it’s time for him to set an example by leaving the Kremlin.

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