Viva la Revolutsione! Now, Don't Mess it Up Like Everyone Else, Ukraine!
When a leadership neglects the best interests of its own population, it is well within the rights of the people to attempt to remove this leadership from power. Ukraine is now in the subsequent stages of a revolution which has ousted the former president from power. Now though, careful deliberation and planning is vital. Opposition leaders must not rush into conducting immediate elections, or they risk jeopardizing the very gains they have fought so hard to achieve.
I have no problem with revolutions. There is no shame in people taking to their own streets and overthrowing decrepit, negligent, corrupt, or evil national governments. Since most corrupt and authoritarian governments usually take great pride in how much they control and commandeer the collective methods of state violence, I have no sympathy when one cannot govern properly and resorts to putting down what is usually, relatively speaking, small pockets of unrest. I do, however, have major problems with a mistake that now seems to be common to every single revolutionary country in the 21st century: bending to pressure (often Western-initiated) to hold immediate new presidential elections on a very dubious and unrealistic time-table. This timetable in Ukraine, apparently set for May 25th, is one of the fastest I have come across.
When you launch full-tilt into new elections in a state that heretofore has been nothing but quasi-authoritarian - crippled by rampant corruption, poor institutions, controlled media, and crushed political dissent – then you are ignorantly creating the very recipe to make those new elections irrelevant and possibly detrimental to the very soul of the revolution that brought them into reality. Think about it: in a country with no real sense of multi-party health, free media, experienced and measured political opposition or robust civil society (in terms of how a civil society should and must behave in a free and fair democratic state), what results can possibly come from a rush to hold elections? Only poor results can come from this every time.
Elections after a revolution in the 21st century seem to have basically become a great and mighty symbolic maneuver signifying nothing (at best). At worst, they collapse in on themselves or stunt the great success and hope felt by the initial revolutionary stimulus. Why does one think the joy and jubilation of the Arab Spring has already sprung a cottage scholarly industry on the new ‘Arab Winter?' There is a difference between the power, wisdom, cunning, and courage needed to undertake a revolution successfully and the same qualities that are required for successful democratic development. The world should not be so naïve as to think that these revolutionary qualities can then capitalize on the aftermath of that revolution and truly build long-term, stable, and healthy foundations for a better government and society. The latter is a new phase resting upon the shoulders of the former, but requiring new talents and insights to truly succeed.
It does not matter if we are talking about places where revolutions have taken place or where the West might wish to see a revolution take place. It does not matter if we are discussing Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Bahrain, Yemen, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Venezuela or Ukraine. Crucially, in the midst of the passion and self-righteousness of the victors, someone must step forward and push for careful deliberation and well-reasoned planning. The lack of such a strong organizational presence in all of these revolutionary venues is what inevitably spells doom for their hard-earned win. And given how tragic and self-sacrificing revolutions tend to be, that would be unforgivable in all of this.
So take a breath Ukraine. Step wisely. Think thoughtfully and carefully. Ignore the Monday-morning-revolution-couch-quarterbacks in the West who will try to push and pull you in every which way, continuously emphasizing speed and tempo. It may bother many if you wait to hold elections, perhaps, for another year. But it will bother everyone, ultimately, when they see how poorly your country fares because you rushed into new elections in just two and a half months. Breathe. And don't mess up in the same the way everyone else seems to be doing.
Dr. Matthew Crosston is Professor of Political Science, Director of the International Security and Intelligence Studies program, and Miller Chair for Industrial and International Security at Bellevue University in the USA. He has extensive experience, real-world and scholarly, in this area of the world and is deeply passionate about better connectivity between disparate societies.
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