Posts tagged ‘Democracy’

05/08/2012

Russia’s Putin is no Gorbachev

Russia has a new virtual czar named Vladimir Putin, who was sworn in yesterday for a third term as President, despite the fact the legitimate Russian Constitution limits him to just two terms.

Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union over 20 years ago, Russia remains an important country, since it continues to hold a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, and remains influential in many developing nations. Although Russia adopted market and political reforms under Gorbachev in 1991, Putin’s recent power grab, has set Russia back in the eyes of the world.

The problem is many Russians like Putin lack a role-model for good governance. They have no George Washington to look up to, a man who could have been the first American king, if he had only wanted a crown. Since George abhorred the very idea of monarchy, he settled for President, and proved his real faith in democracy, as he voluntarily left office after two 4-year terms.

The problem in Russia is most of their well known figures were either czars or brutal dictators. Peter the Great, whose army expanded Russian interests along the Baltic, was no democrat. When Napoleon’s Grand Army invaded Russia in 1812 to liberate humanity from the tyranny of monarchs, the Russians stood on the wrong side of history, and defended the czar. When Alexander II freed the serfs in 1861, he forgot to give them any land, and of course doomed them to a never-ending cycle of poverty.

Even after the birth of the Bolsheviks, Russians gained no lasting role-model. While Karl Marx condemned the Czar, arguing wealth was accumulated through the exploitation of labor, no one today uses his icon. Vladimir Lenin, whose bust was everywhere in the Soviet Union 30 years ago, has been relegated to the pages of history. Certainly no one now could emulate Joseph Stalin, whose murderous dictatorship carried on for nearly 30 years, (1924-53).

The man Putin and others could admire is Mikhail Gorbachev (1985-91), but for some reason his lead is not being followed. Gorbachev was perhaps the greatest man of the 20th Century, as he unilaterally withdrew Soviet troops from Afghanistan in 1988, advocated glasnost (openness), and promoted perestroika (a rebuilding). He ushered in open elections in 1989, for the first time in 70 years. He received the Nobel Peace Prize, as he took out old-line communists, and faced off against 100,000 reactionaries, whose coup attempt against him failed. Gorbachev single-handedly dissolved the Soviet Union from within in 1991, as 14 former Soviet republics celebrated their independence.

Following Gorbachev, Boris Yeltsin served as President (1991-99) until he resigned in 1999. When Vladimir Putin, finished his term (1999-00), there was hope Russia was on its way to a free and open system, as Putin was elected in his own right (2000-04), and then re-elected for a second four-year term (2004-08).

Russia however turned in the wrong direction in 2008, when Putin failed to leave government, and instead cut a deal with a little inconsequential man named Dmitry Medvedev, who kept Putin’s seat warm for four years, while Putin served as Prime Minister (2008-12). After Medvedev abolished the Constitutional ban against serving more than two terms, Medvedev stepped down, making way for the Presidential return of the power-hungry Putin.

As President for nine years and Prime Minister for four, Putin has already been in charge for 13 years, and he should now leave the Kremlin. Gorbachev did not dissolve the dictatorial rule of the old Soviet guard, only to see it replaced by a new round of corrupt men. While Russia badly needs another Gorbachev, they got stuck instead with Putin, and more of the same. The Russian people must re-assert their Constitutional term limits, take Putin and Medvedev out, and replace them with a modern-day Gorbachev.

 

05/07/2012

France: What Socialist Win Means

FRANCE NOW SOCIALIST: While Republican strategists in the U.S. totally distort the meaning of the word “socialist” by claiming President Obama has become one, since he signed a bill that preserved capitalism, by placing private sector insurance companies, instead of the government, in control of America’s health care system, French voters are not that gullible, and they were not at all confused last week when they elected Francois Hollande, the Socialist Party candidate, to be their next President.

U.S. CONFUSION: Many in the U.S. confuse the meaning of political and economic systems. Political systems can range from monarchy, or dictatorship, on the one extreme, to democracy, or Republican forms of government on the other. Economic systems include pure free market capitalism, on one hand, socialism in the middle, and communism on the other end of the spectrum.

POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC SYSTEMS CAN BE MIXED: Countries are free to mix together different types of economic and political systems. Saudi Arabia has a dictatorial monarchy, coupled with a capitalist economic model. The one-party dictatorship in North Korea functions within a communist framework. Voters in the U.S. democracy lean towards more capitalism and less socialism, while those in other republics, like France, are now opting for more socialism, and less capitalism.

U.S. REQUIRES ONLY DEMOCRACY: The U.S. Constitution requires only a Republican form of government, or in other words, a democratic electoral process. The Constitution makes no mention of “capitalism” or “free markets.” U.S. House members and Senators are free to implement whatever regulations of commerce they wish, using more or less capitalism, or socialism.

SOCIALISM BEGAN IN EUROPE: After the first Socialist Party was founded in Germany in 1861, over time it gained popular support throughout Europe. While progress was made in the Russian Revolution in 1917, as the absolute monarchy of the Czar was overthrown, the movement went too far in the civil war, as a harsh dictatorial communist state gained control. Socialists, who had supported personal liberties and regular democratic elections, had no place in Stalin’s Soviet Union.

DICTATORSHIPS ARE PER SE BAD: To be clear, no country should ever return to the old Stalinist communist model, as it was dictatorial, and denied opportunities to modify economic policies in the market, or through the ballot box. One way or another, individuals had to be free to influence politics and economics.

CONTROLLED-ECONOMIES FAIL ON SUPPLY-SIDE: When government-controlled command economies decide what goods to manufacture, and determine supply, without regard to consumer demand, systems become dysfunction, shortages arise, and black markets develop. If central planners fail to open up enough retail outlets, service declines from the absence of competition.

CAPITALISM PREFERRED AS TO RETAIL GOODS: Supply should never be determined from the top down, but rather from the bottom up. It should be based on the collective demands of consumers, not guesses by bureaucratic planners. Market economies are useful when it comes to boots, blue jeans, and other goods. It is the bottom up message that creates efficiencies.

UNREGULATED CAPITALISTS TEND TO MONOPOLIZE: The government does however have an important role to play in free enterprise, particularly in maintaining competition, which is essential for the system to work. Total free market capitalists, when completely left to their own devices, ultimately devour their own. Where power concentrates, firms get too big to fail, and governments must step in with antitrust laws to bust them up. Without antitrust actions one corporation in each economic sector ultimately dominates, eliminates all competition, and the same inefficiencies observed in command economies surface.

UNREGULATED CAPITALISTS WOULD ABUSE LABOR: Without regulatory laws, workers in a pure free market economy would serve at the whim of their employers. There would be no collective bargaining, no occupational health or safety rules, wages would have no floor, and injured or laid-off workers would go uncompensated. There would be no pensions, or retirement for that matter, since everyone would just keep working.

UNREGULATED CAPITALISTS WOULD POLLUTE: Without restraints on a totally free market economy, factories would be able to dump polluted water into rivers, and motor vehicles would belch noxious exhaust fumes into the atmosphere, unabated.

SOCIAL DEMOCRATS HAVE ENACTED GOOD LAWS: Laws to improve living conditions and to give individuals some degree of security against unemployment, accident, illness, old-age, and the like were needed, and have been enacted by state legislatures using their police powers, and by the federal lawmakers under the Congressional power to regulate commerce.

SOCIALISM IS BETTER FOR ESSENTIAL SERVICES: While the free market is better when it comes to consumer goods, the pure capitalist system has many flaws in the delivery of essential services, since it does not concern itself with equitable distributions of wealth. Many people suffer when the government stays out and gives private enterprise a free hand as to everything. A system in which only those who can afford essential services can buy them, and those who cannot go without, is not a good one, and is prone towards revolution. While pure capitalists believe government should never interfere in economic affairs, no matter how much disparity exists, Social Democrats have made the world a better place, and it could be improved even more, if more nations would follow the French lead.

03/24/2012

Mali Struggle Against the Tuareg

As the nomadic Tuareg of northwest Africa initiated another rebellion, the Mali military started to respond, but soon turned on their own president, and removed him in a coup, claiming he was failing to give them the materiel they needed to succeed.

The important question arising from all this is not about the deposed president, or the military officers who conducted the coup, but rather the Tuareg. Just who are they, and what do they want?

The Tuareg of northern Mali have resisted authority on and off for nearly 100 years. In the colonial era, when France ruled Mali from Dakar, the French quashed an anti-colonial Tuareg uprising in 1916.

As the winds of change swept French colonial rule from Africa, Mali gained independence in 1960, and soon the new nation confronted what became known as the First Tuareg Rebellion (1962-64). As Tuareg, Berber, and Arab peoples in the Saharan region in the north demanded a separate state, Mali’s first president, Modibo Keita (1960-68), defeated them in a two-year struggle.

Following a 1968 junta, Keita was removed, and replaced by Lt. Moussa Traore, a dictator who kept the Tuareg under control for the next 22 years, until a Second Tuareg Rebellion (1990-95) erupted, triggering a second coup in 1991, that took out Traore.

Upon returning to free and fair elections in 1992, the people chose President Alpha Konare (1992-02), who ended the Second Tuareg uprising in 1995, and gained re-election in 1997 for another five-year term.

The 2002 elections were interesting, because Amadou Toumani Toure was selected, even though he had led the 1990 Tuareg Rebellion. After his re-election in 2007, he proved himself as an able leader of all of Mali, as his forces successfully subdued a Third Tuareg Rebellion (2007-09).

This year, however, as a Fourth Tuareg Rebellion (2012-) arose, the military lacked confidence in Toure, and took him out on the allegation he had denied them the supplies they needed to win.

In the short run, Toure should not be reinstated, even though he was removed by a coup, because he already served two terms over a 10-year period, and term limits should be applied in every democracy. Open elections for a successor should be conducted promptly.

In the long-run, the recurrent problem as to the Tuareg cannot be ignored, and their demand for a separate state must be resolved. Legally, they do not have a right to self-determination, as they would have had under external colonial rule. Their situation is like the attempted secession of South Carolina in 1861, when the U.S. government had every right to preserve the union. Since complete independence may not be granted, perhaps some kind of virtual self-rule may be the answer, through the creation of an autonomous government in the northwest. After roughly 100 years of resistance, it is certainly time to try something new.

02/22/2012

Senegal: Support Term Limit Protests

We should support the protesters in Senegal who are objecting to the decision by President Abdoulaye Wade to run for a third term, since the Senegalese Constitution limits their leaders to no more than two terms in office.

Senegal’s road to democracy is a long one. For roughly 500 years, the colonial Europeans denied black Africans self-rule. The Portuguese were the first to take Senegalese treasure from the coast, beginning in the 1440s. After the Netherlands built a port at Goree Island in 1588, the French constructed a trading post at St. Louis in 1659, and seized Goree from the Dutch. Following an 1825 conflict, the French moved inland in 1854, and by 1893, had suppressed all resistance. French West Africa ruled this part of the African continent from 1895, through independence in 1960.

The removal of French colonialism was a major step towards democracy. Unfortunately, the initial version of the Senegalese Constitution contained no term-limits, and as a result, their first president, Leopold Senghor, served for 20 years, through 1980, and their second, Abdou Diouf, ruled for 19 years through 2000, despite protests in the 1988 and 1993 campaigns.

The current president, Mr. Wade, was first elected in 1999. Shortly afterward, the Senegalese changed their constitution, by adopting a two-term limit in 2001. Although Wade was re-elected to a second term in 2007, he announced he would run again in 2012, sparking protests, because this would be a third term. Wade, 85, further aggravated pro-democracy protesters, by trying to create a family dynasty, by making his son Vice-President.

Wade took the issue before the Senegalese Supreme Court, where a friendly judiciary ruled his first election did not count, since the term-limit amendment was not implemented until 2001, which was after he had already started serving.

Wade may have won a technical argument in court, but he lost in the eyes of those who seek more, not less, democracy. No one told our first President George Washington to step down after two terms totaling eight years. He did it to set an example of how democratic power should be transferred. President Obama, Sec. of State Clinton, and the American public should now pressure Wade to do the right thing and simply step down. 12 years in office is long enough.

12/02/2011

Congo: How Long Will Joe Kabila Rule?

The Democratic Republic of the Congo-Kinshasa (DRC), a large country of 69 million in South-Central Africa, which borders Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and Tanzania, to the east, and the Republic of the Congo-Brazzaville, to the west, held elections this week, but only time will tell if they are on the road to democracy.

After the Portuguese navigated the mouth of the Congo River in the west (1482), Henry Stanley located its source in the east, and followed it down to the Atlantic (1874-77), where he claimed the entire area for Belgium’s King Leopold II, who exploited rubber and ivory, upon declaring the land his personal property (1885).

Belgium soon defeated Arab traders in the War of the Eastern Congo (1892-94), and gained control of the Katana Province, in the southeast. The country became the Belgian Congo, when the King transferred his personal property to the Nation of Belgium (1908).

Anti-colonial rioting in 1959 led to a Declaration of Independence in 1960. The Crisis in the Congo (1960-66) followed, as the West took out and executed their first leader, Patrice Lumumba (1961). Belgian troops finally vacated the country, as UN Peacekeepers replaced them, and tried to disarm secessionists in Katanga, near Zambia and Tanzania (1961). The UN later turned security over to the Organization of African Unity (1964).

Col. Joseph Mobutu seized power in a coup in 1965, and ruled for the next 32 years. He re-named the capital Kinshasa (1966), and the country Zaire (1971). Non-Africans were expelled to erase the colonial past. European coats and ties were banned. Foreign-owned businesses were seized and sold to locals (1974).

Real trouble started in the east, in the 1st Congo War (1996-98), as Mobuto supported the Hutus of Rwanda and Burundi. Tutsi armies, with soldiers from Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi, entered the Congo, attacked the Hutus, and ousted Mobutu, ending his 32 dictatorship (1997). When Laurent Kabila replaced Mobutu, he renamed the country the Dem. Rep. of the Congo (1997).

The 2nd Congo War (1998-2003) was primarily fought in the Nord Kivu Province, in the east. Forces from Uganda and Rwanda advanced into the Congo, as troops from Angola, Namibia, and Zimbabwe joined the DRC to resist. A ceasefire signed by all was monitored by a UN Organization Mission in the DRC (1999), but trouble continued, when Laurent Kabila was assassinated (2001).

Joseph Kabila, the son of Laurent, assumed power in 2001. He negotiated a Rwandan troop withdrawal, and signed the Pretoria Accord (2003), in which all countries agreed to stop fighting. The conflict finally ended, under the Gbadolite Agreement (2003).

During the conflict, 2.5 million were estimated to have died from disease, famine, and violence. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) found Ugandan troops violated the ban against unilateral force, and the rules of war, as they killed and tortured civilians, and looted and destroyed property. Dem. Rep. of Congo v Uganda (2000). The ICJ also dismissed a Congolese complaint that alleged citizens of the Congo were murdered, raped, and otherwise violated by Burundi and Rwanda soldiers, who occupied the Congo in 1998. DRC v Burundi and Rwanda (2000).

It has been eight years since the war ended, and the question now is whether Congo-Kinshasa will become a stable democracy. Joseph Kabila, who replaced his father in 2001, and was re-elected in 2006, should have stepped down in 2011, after 10 years in office. Instead, he ran for a third term, and it appears he will win. The Congo should have instead elected a new leader, and moved towards a more democratic system, by limiting the terms of their leaders to no more than 10 years. Now, only time will tell if a third term for Joseph Kabila will be the correct path for the Congo, or a road to a lifetime of unchallenged rule.

11/03/2011

Greek Referendum: Democracy 101

After Greece joined the European Economic Community (1981), ratified the European Union Treaty (1992), and adopted the Euro currency as part of the EU Monetary Union (2002), they gave up their sovereign right to print money, or to spend in excess of limits set by the European Central Bank.

Although Greece was required by the Central Bank to maintain a Balanced Budget, and to limit their National Debt to no more than 60% of GDP, the Greeks failed to control spending, and their Debt rose well beyond the EU limits, to a crisis level.

Under the recent Greek Bailout Plan, promoted by the leading EU powers Germany and France, Greece was required to cut their budget in consideration for loan forgiveness and other assistance.

There was one small problem with the bailout plan: someone forgot to ask the Greek people if they approved. In the birthplace of democracy, the EU attempted to dictate from the top down, ignoring the principle that consent must come from the governed.

If Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou had allowed the EU to proceed without submitting a referendum to the people, seeking their approval, and draconian spending cuts were made without regards to the wishes of the people, a revolt may likely have erupted in Athens. It is naïve to assume Greeks would simply allow the Central Bank in Frankfurt to reduce their jobs and pensions without a fight.

Papandreou wisely realized the only way benefits could be cut and taxes can be raised in Greece is with the consent of a majority of the people. While the referendum poses risks, such as a vote that disapproves of the EU plan, observers must recognize that the absence of democratic participation would have led to an even greater risk of civil war, and at the very least, the violent removal of George Papandreou and his government.

The absolute best case scenario is for the Greek people to approve of the referendum so the EU plan has the will of the people behind it. We should not criticize George Papandreou for resorting to time-honored Greek democratic principles to solve this crisis.

10/18/2011

Bachmann Is No Commander-in-Chief

Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann is not fit to serve as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, because she has no statewide, national, or worldly experience, little knowledge of international law, and several incorrect views on foreign policy.

While she opposed the military operation that President Obama successfully prosecuted in Libya, claiming no American interests were involved, she remains overly willing to engage in armed conflict in Iran, even though there is no evidence they are building a bomb, or pose any credible threat to the U.S.

Bachmann has obviously not studied Middle East history, because she criticized President Obama for suggesting a Palestinian peace plan that would require Israel to withdraw to the pre-1967 borders, and give up lands illegally occupied for 44 years.

Bachmann lives in the past, as she still sees Cuba as a sponsor of global militarism of the sort used during the Cold War, even though the Soviet Union dissolved 20 years ago, and Cuba no longer receives any weapons or instructions from Russia.

Bachmann incorrectly concludes the elimination of Osama bin Laden had something to do with our mistreatment of prisoners at Guantanamo, and worse yet, she shows little or no regard for the Geneva Conventions, and international law, as she thinks the U.S. somehow has a special god-given right to engage in torture.

Bachmann’s Evangelical religious views make her unqualified in an era when we need a President who will take on fundamentalist viewpoints all across the globe. We need one who believes no government should ever establish a religion. Bachmann’s problem is she would interject religion in politics, and not separate the two.

We need a President like Obama who supports democracy against the rule of tyrants, such as Gaddafi in Libya. Our next leader must not be a sucker for fabricated proofs of the sort that drew President Bush into Iraq. He must understand special interests are right now trying to trump up another phony case for war, this time against Iran. We need a candidate with courage to broker a peace in the Mideast, which means not blindly taking Israel’s side, but rather considering the views of the Palestinians. Our next leader must respect international law, and understand that if we torture, our soldiers will likely be subjected to do the same abuse.

Since Michelle Bachmann is not a person who will ever be fit to serve as Commander-in-Chief, the Republicans should not advance her cause any further. If they do, all Americans should be prepared to rally to her defeat, whether she runs in 2012 as a Presidential candidate, or as a Vice-Presidential sidekick.

10/13/2011

Myanmar: Prisoner Release a Good Move

Myanmar, an Asian country surrounded by Thailand (southeast), Laos (east), China (northeast), India (northwest), and Bangladesh (west), witnessed the release of political prisoners yesterday, in what appears to be a thawing in the brutal regime that has gripped the country for past several decades.

Historically, Myanmar was known as Burma. British-India captured Burmese coastal areas in 1826, and expanded into Rangoon and Lower Burma in 1853. After Britain annexed the rest of the country in 1886, they administered it from India. Burma became a separate colony, when it was severed from India in 1937. In WWII, the Japanese occupied Burma (1942-45).

As Burma gained total independence from Britain in 1948, they slipped into civil war (1948-51), which was not settled until the Karens Tribe was awarded a separate area (1954). The country then lost their grip on democracy in 1962, as 50 years of military rule began. Under the first military junta, one ruler presided for the next 26 years (1962-88), 750,000 Indians were returned to India in 1965, when their businesses were nationalized. By 1970, 50,000 guerillas were fighting the government from Thai bases.

The second tragic episode in Burmese history commenced when another military junta deposed the first in 1988, causing things to go from bad to worse. Burma renamed itself Myanmar in 1989, as a hard-liner became Head of State and imposed Martial Law. Opposition leaders were put under House Arrest. When the junta lost the 1990 election in a landslide, they refused to step down, prompting 200,000 to demonstrate for democracy, and the regime to torture and kill pro-democracy activists. 160,000 were moved into resettlement areas in 1990, as many others fled to Thailand.

The West finally stepped up pressure against the brutal government in the past decade, as sanctions were imposed by the U.S. in 2003. Following the suppression of protests by Buddhist monks in 2007, the Red Cross accused Myanmar of abuse, prompting the EU to impose sanctions. Despite these measures, relief was delivered in 2008, after a cyclone had killed 80,000.

Although elections were held in 2010 for the first time in two decades, they were labeled fraudulent by the West, because a key opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, was not released from House Arrest, until one week after the balloting. The ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party won 80% of the seats, and in March 2011, their leader, Thein Sein, who had retired from the military in 2010, became the first civilian President in 50 years.

Perhaps Myanmar is now finally moving in the right direction with civilian leadership, and the release yesterday of political prisoners. The world can only wait and see if they are now on track towards serious political change, or if the past practices of the repressive regime will continue.

10/11/2011

Liberian Elections: Will Democracy Hold?

Liberia, with a population of 3.4 million, is raising hopes for the future, as it is once again about to conduct democratic presidential elections, in a tough West African neighborhood, located next to Sierra Leone (northwest), Guinea (north), and Ivory Coast (east).

Liberia is an interesting nation, as it was created by U.S. President Monroe in 1822, as a place for freed American slaves. It became the second oldest black republic in the world, behind Haiti, when Joe Roberts, a native of Virginia, became their first President.

During the 28-year reign of President Tubman (1943-71), Liberia enjoyed some economic development, as the WWII allies built an airport and broke ground on a new seaport. Upon completion of the new harbor in 1948, many international ships commenced flying the Liberian flag. Tubman also succeeded in the 1960s in opening a power plant, an oil refinery, and an iron-ore facility.

Political instability began in 1980, when President Tolbert (1971-80) was overthrown by Sam Doe, with the support of the Krahan Tribe. Doe had promised equal treatment for native blacks, who had been mistreated historically by descendants of U.S. Slaves.

When Doe was overthrown in 1989, and executed in 1990, by Charles Taylor, Prince Johnson, and the National Patriotic Front, a civil war broke out. A framework for peace, known as the Yamoussoukro Accord (1991), failed to stop the fighting, and military units from the Organization of African Unity were also unable to end the conflict, when they intervened in 1992.

Following a UN imposed arms embargo in 1993, an Observer Mission (1993-97) was sent to monitor elections, which in 1997 resulted in a win for Taylor, who was later implicated in the violence in Sierra Leone and Guinea, where there was a struggle over the gold and diamond mines, located near the border.

Meanwhile, the Liberian Civil War continued, until Taylor finally fled to Nigeria in 2003, allowing for a peace agreement, monitored by a 2nd UN Mission in Liberia. An estimated 200,000 died in the civil war, while thousands became refugees.

Nigeria extradited Taylor to the Special Court of Sierra Leone, sitting in the Hague, Netherlands in 2006, where he faced 5 counts of war crimes, 5 counts of crimes against humanity, and another count of using child soldiers. He is said to be responsible, among other things, for murder, mutilations, sex offenses, and forcing children to fight as soldiers. Proceedings against him began in 2007 and ended in 2010. A guilty verdict was returned in 2012.

After years of unrest, a fragile democracy returned in 2005, when Ellen Sirleaf became Liberian President. She reopened the diamond and timber export trade in 2007, and is today up for re-election. Only time will tell if Liberia’s new democracy will hold.

08/31/2011

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.