Without institutions, democracy turns into chaos. There is nothing in place to maintain the democratic spirit and transform it into something realistic and sustainable.
Unlike Afghanistan and Iraq, the many Arab nations are pleading for western assistance in transitioning to democracy. The West must step up, decisively and immediately, and start building democratic institutions as soon as the last bullets fall to the ground. Now it has an opportunity to redeem itself for how it failed to handle the transition of post-Soviet countries to democracy.
When hearing comparisons of the revolutions in the Arab world to that which took place in Ukraine, it is obvious that the right discourse is not taking place. Other commentators speak about the personalities of those in office as the reason for the failure of democratic progress. One op-ed writer suggested linking economics with human rights in order to prevent erosion of democracy. Another suggested that authoritarian leadership is the root of democratic backsliding. The problem is not with personalities, poor linkage or even leadership style. Certainly these things will weaken democracy, but only if a system of democratic governance is already in place. Without a system, the best leader will fail.The problem is not with personalities, poor linkage or even leadership style. Certainly these things will weaken democracy, but only if a system of democratic governance is already in place. Without a system, the best leader will fail.
The time has come for a global discussion on what is democracy. Does it grow on its own after a revolution? Or does it need strong institutions?
In Ukraine, the world expected democracy to grow like grass after the Orange Revolution. Simply pushing democracy in Arab nations will not transform these countries into democratic societies.Revolution started in the streets, but without revolution in institutions, democracy will not take. Without institutions, democracy turns into chaos. There is nothing in place to maintain the democratic spirit and transform it into something realistic and sustainable. Beware: what happened in Ukraine could happen in the Arab world.
When the USSR fell, shock therapy brought liberty without borders. The definition of democracy was translated as a state of absolute freedom.
And in government work, it translated into chaos, characterized by a lack of order and discipline.The offices that provide supervision and inspection were never installed. And so the whole executive branch turned into a competition battlefield.
Timoshenko appeared on television to announce that she would not fulfill the president’s orders.
The Orange Revolution put forth a merciless question: what happened to us, and why did liberty not work? There is an idea in the West that revolution brought democracy to Ukraine, and Ukraine betrayed it. The harsh reality is that a democratic revolution never happened in government institutions.
These institutions remained Soviet. International assistance in Ukraine was never aimed atWhen people in post-Soviet countries see chaos in public government, they say that it is democracy which does not work. The people come to associate order with a strong leader, not with a democratic system of legislation, accountability of public servants, rule of law, equal access to courts, protection of human rights. revamping public institutions from totalitarian to democratic. Assistance emphasized the role of civil society because civil society makes revolutions.
Yes, this is true, but the time comes when revolution is finished and people must simply work. And this work becomes totally ineffective if people must operate in a non-democratic environment.
Without revolution in institutions, the spirit of democracy cannot be transformed into real and lasting change. Giving money to civil society doesn’t mean you are building democratic institutions. We need civil society to be active, but this is not enough. We need it to be effective. Civil Society’s actions should always end with changes in government procedures and standards.
When people in post-Soviet countries see chaos in public government, they say that it is democracy which does not work. The people come to associate order with a strong leader, not with a democratic system of legislation, accountability of public servants, rule of law, equal access to courts, protection of human rights.
In Russia, the chaos in public life brought Putin’s notorious answer: “Russians are not born for democracy. A strong hand is needed to put the country in order.” This is what today looms over Ukraine, the challenge of bringing order to governance without losing democratic values.The trouble is that all of the experience we have comes from the Soviet days, in which the demand for public order was answered by repression.
Why should the Arab world remind the West of the Orange Revolution? The countries going through democratic revolutions, not to lose their freedom it is absolutely necessary to go through democratic institutional revolutions. If they don’t want to lose their achievements – like Ukrainians lost the Orange Revolution – they must build democratic public institutions. Public institutions of totalitarian regimes cannot possibly support democracy. The Arab world – and Ukraine – still has an excellent chance to develop democratic institutions. And there is still an opportunity for the donors to help build them. Planning new technical assistance, donors must rethink the way that democracy is understood.
Vira Nanivska is the Director of the International Centre for Policy Studies (ICPS) in Kyiv, Ukraine