sexta-feira, outubro 13, 2006

158) Transicoes para a democracia no leste europeu: uma analise

Foreign Policy Research Institute
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by Adrian A. Basora

October 11, 2006

Adrian A. Basora ( is former U.S.
ambassador to Czechoslovakia and chair of FPRI's Project on
Democratic Transitions, which aims to better understand the
patterns of postcommunist transformation and to derive
lessons that can be applied elsewhere, particularly in the
transitional countries of Europe and Eurasia that are not
yet consolidated democracies. This e-note is adapted from
his introduction to the Fall 2006 issue of Orbis, which
focuses on East European Democratization. Orbis is available
electronically to subscribers to Elsevier's Science Direct
service. It is also available through standard subscription.
FPRI members at the $125 level or above receive a
complimentary subscription to Orbis.

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by Adrian A. Basora

Fall 2006 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Hungarian
Revolution. It is thus fitting that we renew our focus on
the history and geopolitics of Europe and on the role these
factors should play in Western strategy. The transatlantic
strategic consensus that guided foreign policy in Western
Europe and North America during the Cold War has largely
dissolved. Once again, it is easy for policymakers to
succumb to the temptation to focus on the present and the
politically expedient, given popular concerns with
terrorism, energy prices, immigration, and other sources of
insecurity. Accordingly, Western leaders tend to focus on
Iraq, counterterrorism, and short-term cures for political
and economic instability. And yet it is as essential today
as it was fifty years ago to ensure that American and
European foreign policies are firmly based on the lessons of
the history, geopolitics, and political economy of the past
fifty years.

The Soviet suppression of the Hungarian revolution
epitomized the broad reach of communism throughout Europe.
Life behind the Iron Curtain was grim, and Cold War tensions
characterized not only the 1950s but also much of the three
subsequent decades. During that period democracy seemed
fragile in most of continental Europe, where a few non-
democratic regimes were viewed as essential allies in the
West's attempt to halt the spread of communism. The
authoritarian governments of Greece, Turkey, Spain, and
Portugal have since become a distant memory, but as recently
as twenty years ago, the communist dictatorships of Eastern
Europe and the Soviet Union still seemed firmly entrenched.
Even as late as 1986 it would have seemed wildly optimistic
to predict that in less than a generation Eastern Europe
would be largely democratic and integrating rapidly with the

Yet today, in the landmass once controlled by just nine
Marxist-Leninist dictatorships (the nearly-monolithic Soviet
empire--the USSR, Poland, Czechoslovakia, East Germany,
Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria--plus Yugoslavia and
Albania), there are 28 noncommunist states, many of which
are either emerging or consolidated democracies with
prospering market economies and a high degree of association
with Western institutions. This is a remarkable historic
achievement involving a profound set of transformations.

In the space that had been the western phalanx of the Warsaw
Pact (plus a sliver of what was once Tito's Yugoslavia),
there are now eight fully consolidated democracies: the
three former Baltic republics (Estonia, Latvia, and
Lithuania), four Central European countries (Poland, Czech
Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia), and the one former
Yugoslav republic left relatively unscathed by the civil war
that erupted in the early 1990s (Slovenia). All are now
stable democracies with prospering market economies, and all
are established members of both NATO and the EU.

Close behind these eight frontrunners in the transformation
process are five other emerging democracies--Bulgaria,
Romania, Croatia, Serbia (from which Montenegro just gained
independence this year), and Macedonia--that seem likely to
move towards full democratic consolidation within the next
few years. Bulgaria and Romania are already members of NATO
and will become EU members in 2007; Croatia is an EU
candidate. Serbia and Macedonia are somewhat further behind,
partly as a result of the prolonged warfare that followed
the break-up of Yugoslavia. Nevertheless, while the
democracies of these two countries are less robust than the
others, Belgrade and Skopje have entered negotiations with
Brussels, and both countries seem headed in a positive

Five additional countries have also made significant
progress in creating pluralistic societies and more open
economies. This group, rated by Freedom House as
"transitional governments," includes most notably Ukraine
and Georgia, whose Orange and Rose revolutions make
reversion to full authoritarianism unlikely. The other
three--Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Moldova--also appear
to have good momentum. While each has a considerable
distance to go before attaining a fully functioning and
stable democracy, major regression is unlikely.

In sum, 19 of the 28 formerly communist countries of the
region are either solidly democratic or at least well along
the path to pluralism and unlikely to revert to

Lest this tour through the former Soviet and Eastern
European communist space seem too rosy, however, it is
important to discuss the nine remaining postcommunist
countries, which Freedom House rates as either semi-
consolidated or fully consolidated authoritarian regimes.
These include Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and the
five Central Asian republics (Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan,
Kazakstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan). While all of these
countries are now officially noncommunist and some have
taken important steps towards pluralism, several have
recently manifested serious regression toward stronger
authoritarianism. An antidemocratic trend has taken hold
over last few years, perhaps most blatantly in Belarus, but
also in Russia. This should not be surprising, given the
antidemocratic "counter-waves" that Samuel Huntington
documented in his study of democratization trends.[1] But
the fact that this reaction now includes and is abetted by
Russia is ominous. This underlines the need for a concerted
strategy to protect the gains in democracy and stability
achieved since 1989 and, we can hope, to build upon these
gains over time.

There are two fundamentally divergent perspectives as to
whether lessons of post-authoritarian transition learned in
one country can successfully be applied in another. One view
holds that each country is unique, and thus that attempts to
transfer successful approaches from one country to another
are misguided. The contrary view, to which we at the Project
on Democratic Transitions generally subscribe, is that both
the challenges and the keys to success in building effective
democracies and market economies are parallel in important
ways from one country to another. These parallels are
particularly striking for the postcommunist transitions of
countries in Europe and Eurasia because of their similar
communist legacies and experiences. Since 1989, when the
West initiated a policy of systematic support for these
countries' political and economic transformations, they have
also been subject to similar influences from the West and
from international financial institutions.

As one looks more closely at the consolidated and emerging
democracies of Eastern Europe and their transition
experiences, several similarities emerge. A few of them are
worth noting in particular.

BREAK WITH PAST. The countries that have made the transition
successfully managed to engineer a sharp break with the
past. This has generally involved episodes of mass
mobilization and/or "electoral revolutions" sufficiently
powerful to oust the prior communist ruling elite at least
temporarily. Breakthroughs of this type have in most cases
been critical in accelerating the pace of democratization
and in helping to anchor its sustainability.

ELITES. New or reformed elites have played major roles.
These "counter-elites" have both helped to instigate the key
mass mobilizations and electoral movements that produced a
break with the past and themselves been further shaped by
these movements. In some cases, the new reformist elites had
their origins in splits within the former communist
leadership. In other cases, the popular emotions that drove
mass protests brought forth new champions or empowered older
leaders who had previously languished after earlier
dissident movements were suppressed.

FORMER COMMUNIST PARTIES. Some former communist parties have
played a positive role, most notably in the case of Hungary.
While in some cases communists have remained unreconstructed
and marginalized, in others they have changed tack and
evolved into Western-style social democratic parties. Thus,
one important phenomenon throughout much of the region is
the reshaping of the former communist parties and their
leaders through elections. An electoral loss that leaves
open the possibility of a comeback in the next election can
thus produce a healthy transformational dynamic.

MEDIA. The rapid emergence of free and diverse media is
important, particularly in the early stages of transition
and in the consolidation phases. However, maintaining
sufficient readership and relatively neutral sources of
financial support has often proven to be a challenge in the
later, "post-euphoric" stages of democratic consolidation.

CIVIL SOCIETY. While an essential underpinning of a strong
democracy, the emergence of the not-for-profit,
nongovernmental sector has generally proven a slow and
difficult process in this region. Developing an independent
and well-rooted civil society where none existed before is
inevitably an arduous task. A few countries that had been
able to retain or regain some degree of domestic pluralism
during the communist period, such as Poland and Hungary, had
an important head start. Others, such as Romania, Belarus,
or other post-Soviet states, inherited much less of a
foundation to start with, given the extent to which their
societies had been atomized by harsher communist regimes.

POLITICAL PARTIES. As with the NGO sector, durable political
parties have in most cases developed only slowly and tend to
be consolidated only in the later phases of transition.
Often they have been built up from the fragments of the
prior regime: mass movements, splits within prior elites,
and defeated communist parties. External assistance, while
sorely needed, is hard to deliver effectively.

EARLY ECONOMIC REFORMS. While economic reforms are not of
themselves sufficient to ensure democracy's success, a
society that enjoys some degree of private ownership,
entrepreneurship, and individual wealth is better able to
support free media and a vigorous civil society than a
society based upon a state-dominated economy. Conversely,
continuing government control of the economy and the absence
of privatization and other economic reforms can severely
undercut prospects for democratization. Belarus and the
Central Asian republics are notable examples of the latter
phenomenon, and over the past few years Russia itself has
taken several significant steps backwards in this area.

NO ESSENTIAL PRECONDITIONS. Democratization can move ahead
reasonably well even in states lacking prior democratic
legacies or a strong middle class. While Western cultural,
religious, and historic traditions and prior democratic
experience are helpful, they are not essential preconditions
for democratic consolidation if other factors are
propitious. Romania and Bulgaria exemplify promising
transitions involving largely Orthodox countries that had
long been a part of the Ottoman Empire; Albania and Bosnia
are largely Islamic countries that also offer promising

INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY. The international community can
play a crucial role in fostering successful transitions to
democracy and viable market economies. The lure of NATO
membership has been a powerful factor in accelerating
Eastern Europe's reforms, particularly so in the 1990s. By
the latter part of that decade, as Brussels gradually geared
up for its eastward expansion, the EU became an even more
powerful magnet than NATO, and prolonged EU accession
negotiations became an effective source of leverage for
accelerated reform. Even now, with the EU suffering from
"enlargement fatigue," the United States and Western Europe
are still able to exert considerable influence by promptly
recognizing and rewarding effective steps towards democratic

"STICKINESS." A further positive conclusion is that
democracy has proven quite "sticky" once the transition has
moved past a certain threshold. Regression towards
authoritarianism has occurred mainly in countries where the
initial reforms were inadequate. In countries where the
conditions outlined above have been largely met, the
democratic trajectory has so far proven difficult to
reverse. Vladimir Meciar's attempt to do so in Slovakia is a
case in point.

These lessons are encouraging. Unfortunately, however,
experience to date has also produced important lessons on
the negative side. Two of these merit particular comment.

DOMINANT PRESIDENTS. As the cases of Russia and Belarus
vividly demonstrate, regression towards authoritarianism can
move ahead quickly where there is a president with strong
powers and an absence of any strong counterbalance in the
legislative or judicial branches of government, or in civil
society. Similar dynamics are apparent in the Central Asian
and Caucasian republics. The threats to success of the Rose
Revolution represented by a strong concentration of
presidential power. Therefore, in promoting enduring
democratization, it is important that firm constitutional
limits on presidential power are set and that strong
legislatures are established.

MINERAL RICHES. Excessive mineral riches in the hands of the
state can prove a strong negative factor. Not surprisingly,
autocracy seems to thrive particularly well in countries
with rich oil or gas reserves or other extractive wealth
that is easily controlled by the state. Russia, Kazakstan,
and Azerbaijan demonstrate how ample flows of easy cash into
the state treasury can be used to consolidate increasingly
autocratic rule.

On balance, however, there is a good case for cautious
optimism, particularly if reformers in the postcommunist
countries themselves, and those in the West who wish to aid
them, apply the lessons derived from the best practices of
the past decade and a half. Numerous promising opportunities
for further democratic consolidation remain, particularly in
"hybrid cases": countries such as Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova,
Croatia, Macedonia, and Serbia, which are not yet
consolidated democracies but do have regular elections, some
degree of press freedom, emerging civic sectors, and
openness to outside assistance and advice. Even the region's
more entrenched autocracies offer opportunities for gradual
evolution, particularly if both domestic reformers and
Western governments and NGOs play their hands carefully.

It is clearly in the strategic interest of both the United
States and the EU and its member states to continue to work
systematically to foster democracy and open economies
throughout postcommunist Europe and Eurasia. However, for
some of these countries the timeframe will be a very long
one. Just as democratic consolidation has taken nearly a
generation even in frontrunner countries such as Poland,
Hungary, Slovenia, and Estonia--and much work still remains
to be done even in these countries--so it is likely that
countries in the region that are much further behind in
their transitions will require at least another ten, fifteen
or twenty years to consolidate.

Focusing the attention of policymakers in Washington,
Brussels, and other Western capitals on such a prolonged
project will be a challenge. But success would have enormous
potential strategic benefits. Just as the West is
dramatically better off today than in 1986 when it still
faced massive Warsaw Pact armies based in Eastern Europe, so
in 2026 it could be distinctly better off than is the case
today, especially given the economic and strategic
importance of the transatlantic relationship to both Europe
and the United States. Even though democracy is not a cure-
all, the combination of democracy with a viable security
system and open-market economies that we have nurtured over
the past fifty-plus years in the transatlantic space has
worked remarkably well. Within the next twenty years it
seems quite reasonable to project the emergence of stable,
responsive governments and viable market economies in
Ukraine, Belarus, the Balkans, and the Caucasus. To the
extent that this endeavor proves successful, one can also
imagine progress in Russia and the Central Asian republics
over the coming decades.

However, even if democracy were to be consolidated only in
the European and Caucasian regions of the former Soviet
Union, there would be major benefits to the stability,
security, and prosperity of Europe and the entire
transatlantic region. A less direct, but no less important,
effect would be the spread of greater political stability
and prosperity, through the process of democratic diffusion,
to the next concentric circle of countries. This could well
include important parts of the greater Middle East. In sum,
U.S. and Western European persistence in long-term support
of the postcommunist democratic transitions would make an
important contribution to addressing many of the problems
that currently most concern Europeans and Americans.


[1] Samuel Huntington, The Third Wave: Democratization in
the Late Twentieth Century (Norman: University of Oklahoma
Press, 1991).

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