Публикации: Аналитика

08:43:45 07-12-2012

Specific Aspects of Promoting National Leaders: Experiences of Post-soviet Realities


The forthcoming presidential elections on March 4th, 2012 in Russian Federation, will be marked with the reappearance of Vladimir Putin to the post of the head of state. This event is quite legitimate within Russian socil-political realities. At the same time, looking at the irremovability of the heads of some post-Soviet republics, and, on the contrary of others, where the change of presidents had been done as a result of “colour revolutions”, Russian «tandemokratia» represents relatively effective variant of supremacy and general political course succession.

All, mentioned above, make the issues of political and, first of all, national leadership topical. It is quite obvious that the process of promoting national leaders and establishing on that basis the institute for national leadership in the post-soviet countries is rather challenging on account of the factors as described here below.

Firstly, a clear-cut and generally accepted notion of National Leader does not exist in either scientific, or official terminology throughout not only the post-soviet countries but also the entire world community; the same is true for the universal criteria to measure the national leadership. Hence, the countries in question are practically lacking the conceptual basis to establish and develop the institute of national leadership as such.

Secondly, the process under discussion reflects the entire complexity and ambiguousness of the state-building processes, political modernization and society development in the relevant countries. On the background of frequent fluctuations between the democratic and authoritarian development trends along with the numerous social, political and economic crisis and challenges, up to the civil and interstate armed conflicts, there is no point to mention the existence of sustainable and efficient mechanisms of promoting the national leaders.

Thirdly, in the context of society atomization as observed basically in each of the post-soviet states primarily determined by its social stratification by income, and the absence of its consolidating idea, it is difficult to gain the overall perception and recognition of one or another politician as a national leader. Particularly it is the case where community spirit changes periodically affected by various factors.

Fourthly, the influence of the subjective factor that is, in turn, connected with the personality features and traits of the state leaders and other members of political elite of the post-soviet countries. While having the necessary psychological, professional and other capacities to appear on the national leadership level, not all of them are able to come through the test of post-soviet realities.

The political practice of promoting political leaders who claim for the head of state status and managed to serve at different times in such capacity in the post-soviet states (except for the Baltic countries) enables to identify the following key varieties of such process:

1. The Emergence of Political Personalities in the Political Arena in the Forefront of the USSR Disintegration Mainly by Playing off Against the Former Soviet System.

It needs to be noted that those were mainly charismatic personalia with special talents and capabilities for which they have gained an exclusive popularity in public at the outset of their carrier. Specifically, those were the first presidents of Russia (Boris Eltsyn), Ukraine (Leonid Kravchuk), Armenia (Levon Ter-Petrosyan), Georgia (Zviad Gamsakhurdia), Moldova (Mircha Snegur), as well as the Chairman of the Supreme Soviet of Belarus (Stanislav Shushkevich) [Ashimbayev D. Fifteen-year presidency. Part 1 // «World of Eurasia», № 5, 2005, p. 22].

None of them, however, have gained the national leader title. Most of them were not able to cope with the challenges of the first years of independence and establish a sustainable policy and power system in their countries. For instance, in 1992 Gamsakhurdia was overthrown under arms. In 1994 Shushkevich was relieved of his post of the Chairman of the Supreme Soviet of Belarus based on the findings of the Parliamentary Commission headed by Alexander Lukashenko who was the Parliament member at that time. Kravchuk had to hold the pre-term presidential election in 1994 at which he lost the vote in favor of ex-Prime Minister Leonid Kuchma.

In 1996 Snegur has lost the vote in favor of Pyotr Luchinsky, the former soviet and party leader of Moldova. In 1998, as a result of aggravating disagreements within the power elite, Ter-Petrosyan has submitted resignation from the presidential post [Levon Ter-Petrossian // Wikipedia - The free encyclopedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Levon_Ter-Petrossian)]. Though Eltsyn was elected for the second term, he gradually lost control over the situation within the country and eventually had to transfer the powers to his successor, Vladimir Putin who held the Prime-Minister post.

2. Nomination of a Leader by the Political Regime of Power

Here we refer to the mechanism typical of the post-soviet states, specifically where the leaders of the countries in question were nominated from among the former party and state leaders.

At the same time, from the standpoint of ensuring stability in the state-building process and succession of the official policy line, the reference may be given to both successful and unsuccessful experiences. In the latter case, the first President of Azerbaijan Ayaz Mutalibov and the second President of Tajikistan Rakhmon Nabiyev could be mentioned who have been overthrown under arms in 1992. The successful experience is demonstrated by Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan represented by the first presidents, respectively, Nursultan Nazarbayev, Islam Karimov and Saparmurat Niyazov died in 2006.

3. Nomination of Compromise Political Figures

In the absence of sustainable and efficient institutional mechanisms of recruiting political leaders, the latters could be nominated through the agreements reached between the elite groups powerful at that point in time. In such case, the emphasis is normally placed on the persons who seem to be politically weak and satisfy the relevant elite groups in terms of meeting their interests.

In this respect, the successful experience is represented by ex-President of Kyrgyzstan Roza Otunbayeva and the sitting presidents of Tajikistan (Emomali Rakhmon) and Turkmenistan (Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov). At the same time, as opposed to her colleagues from the neighboring countries, R. Otunbayeva has demonstrated a brand new for the Central Asian region model of governance and succession of the supreme powers serving as the president of the transition period. Having assumed the plentitude of power and responsibility in the critical period, she ensured the shift of form of government from the presidential to parliamentary republic and has quitted as the head of state in less than 1.5 years without any attempts to secure a footing in her post [Otunbayeva Roza // «Lenta.ru» (http://lenta.ru/lib/14171007)].
As far as Rakhmon and Berdymukhamedov are concerned, after the accession to the head of state office and progressively as they were strengthening their positions, they have gradually edged out the persons who played key roles in their promotion from the political and power system of their countries, up to the criminal prosecution [Central Asia Еoday: Сhallenges and Еhreats / edited K.L. Syroezhkin: Monograph. - Almaty: KazISS, 2011, p. 60, 61, 80]. Thereby, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan have actually come in for the permanent presidents.

The unsuccessful experience in relation to the issue concerned was shown by Georgia and Kyrgyzstan represented by the former presidents Eduard Shevardnadze and Askar Akayev respectively. Both of them are known to have been toppled as a result of the so-called color revolutions.

4. Nomination of Leaders in Opposition to the Former State Heads

A comparatively successful experience was shown here by the following presidents: the President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko who has actually managed to gain the president-for-life status by obtaining the right to run for president for an unlimited number of times; the President of Armenia Robert Kocharyan and the President of Ukraine who had two consecutive presidential terms and left the post without any excesses. Considering the current situation, the reference here may be given to the current President of Georgia Mikhail Saakashvili who has managed to outride the opposition pressure and win the early presidential election held in 2008 [Georgian presidential election, 2008 // Wikipedia - The free encyclopedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Georgian_presidential_election,_2008)].

The less successful was the presidency of Pyotr Luchinsky in Moldova and Victor Yushenko in Ukraine who had only one term of presidency. The first of them has quitted his post as a result of the two parliamentary election wins (in 1998 and 2001) of the oppositional Communist Party of Moldova Republic. In 2000 the Communist Party deputies have proclaimed Moldova the parliamentary republic by the amendments made to the Constitution of Moldova Republic, and in 2001 Vladimir Voronin, the Leader of the Communist Party, was elected to the presidential post. As far as Victor Yushenko is concerned, he, while holding the presidential post, was not able to establish a sustainable governmental coalition and has failed to make it to the second round of election held in January-February 2011.

The unsuccessful was the presidency of the second presidents of Azerbaijan (Abulfaza Elchibei) and Kyrgyzstan (Kurmanbek Bakiyev). In 1993 Abulfaza Elchibei, driven by the political crisis caused by the armed forces rebellion headed by colonel Suret Guseinov, has actually held aloof from governance and has further been officially dismissed from the presidential post by the decision of the Parliament [Zenkovich N.A. Heydar Aliyev. – М.: Exmo, 2007, p. 328]. Bakiyev was toppled in April 2010 as a result of mass political upheavals that may be figuratively called the second tulip revolution.

5. Succession of Supreme Power

Here we speak about the transition of presidential powers to one of the close teammates of the former head of state to maintain the continuity of the official political course and status quo of the ruling elite.

The reference here may be given to the assumption of power of the current presidents such as Ilkham Aliyev, the President of Azrbaijan whose case is often called the dynastic transfer of power; Serzh Sargsyan, the President of Armenia, Dmitry Medvedev, the President of Russia as well as his predecessor Vladimir Putin.

When it comes to promoting the national leaders as such, the process has its own, though rare cases connected with the political experience of the relevant post-soviet countries:

1. Formation of the Cult of Personality

Said experience was shown by Turkmenistan whose first president Saparmurat Niyazov was officially declared Turkmenbashi (Head of the Turkmen) in 1993.

At the same time, as it follows from the world historic experience, after resignation of the heads of certain countries that have been awarded the titles of supremo, father of nation etc. or after their decease the cult of personality has inevitably been dispelled to a greater or lesser extent. As a result, all the merits of such persons are either qualified the black spots of history or artificially buried in oblivion by their successors. The latter of said trends is seen in Turkmenistan progressively as the second President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov governs the country [Central Asia Еoday: Сhallenges and Еhreats / edited K.L. Syroezhkin: Monograph. - Almaty: KazISS, 2011, p. 90, 91].

2. Historic Acknowledgement

The highest level of proclaiming a politician the national leader is by acknowledging his title without any conditions and ceremonies by the overwhelming majority of his fellow countrymen.

That was the case to proclaim the third president Geidar Aliyev the national leader of Azerbaijan after his decease in 2003. At the same time, to a certain extent the title is maintained by the factor of presidency of his son, Ilkham Aliyev.

To be impartial, we should also mention some nuances of the official exaltation of Geidar Aliyev's leadership while alive. Specifically, I'm referring to the fact that in 1997, June 15 was declared the National Survival Day in Azerbaijan that has been celebrated as a national holiday as from 1998. It is connected with the fact that on June 15, 1993 Geidar Aliyev has resumed his governance of the republic started as far back as in soviet times and was elected the Chairman of the Supreme Soviet of Azerbaijan [Azerbaijan celebrates The National Survival day // "RIA Novosti", 15.06.2010 (http://ria.ru/world/20100615/246310134.html)].

3. Official Proclamation

In this case we need to mention the assignment of Yel Basy (Leader of Nation) status to the Current President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev by the Constitutional Law «On Amendments to Some Constitutional Statutes of the Republic of Kazakhstan Regarding the Improvement of the Legislation in the Sphere of Ensuring the Activity of the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Leader of Nation» and the Law «On Amendments to Some Legal Documents of the Republic of Kazakhstan Regarding the Improvement of the Legislation in the Sphere of Ensuring the Activity of the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Leader of Nation» as adopted by the Parliament and enacted on 14 June 2010 [Chebotarev А. KZ–Leader // Internet-magazine «Oasis», № 15, August 2010 (http://www.ca-oasis.info/oasis/?id=1014)].

At the same time, the efficiency of such mechanisms to ensure the national leadership of the President of Kazakhstan has not been manifested so far in any specific practical terms. Therefore, the mechanisms in question will be evaluated at the lapse of a certain period of time when some or other events will take place in relation with e.g. the succession of the supreme power in this country.

4. Promotion through Parliamentary and Party Mechanisms

Here we may refer to the initiative put forward in 2007 by some party organizers of the ruling All-Russian Political Party United Russia to proclaim Vladimir Putin the National Leader who held the presidential post of the Russian Federation at that time [Barakhova А., Nagornykh I. "National Leader" project // "Commersant", № 204, 7.11.2007]. Said initiative was designed to address the issue of the so-called third term for Putin. But the latter refused from the plan and preferred to recommend Dmitry Medvedev, Senior Deputy Chairman of the RF Government for the head of state post. And now, when we expect Putin to come back to the presidential post it may happen that the United Russia party members will come forward with the same initiative again.

In view of the above, below are the main trends to mention that characterize the process of promoting national leaders in the post-soviet countries:

First of all, being at the outset of the state independence and gaining the status of the first president are not the guarantees of the national leader nomination. The same observation is true for the factor of the long-term inning of one president or another. For instance, the potential claims of Emomali Rakhmon, the President of Tajikistan, for the leader of nation role are seriously constrained by the factor of regional and clan disunity of Tajik society and the country’s political elite.

A yet more serious trend is the lack of potential national leaders amongst public and political personalities being in opposition to the ruling powers practically in all the post-soviet states. That is to say, there are no leaders of the level as e.g. the head of Polish Solidarity Lech Walensa or the human rights advocate and dissenter Waclaw Gavel who was the first President of Czech Republic. The same is also true for the Baltic countries. So, e.g. Vitautas Landsbergis, the full leader of independence movement in Lithuania in 1988-1991, did not gain the national leader acknowledgement of his people.

For the time being, only Alexander Lukashenko, the President of Belarus, can be identified as the prospective leader of nation who has been given the title godfather (batka) among the people [Dyadin P. Why belorussians call Mr.Lukashenko “batka” // «UDF.BY – Balarus News», 18.02.2010 (http://udf.by/news/main_news/7503-pochemu-belorusy-zovut-lukashenko-batkoj.html)]. In Belarus this title is typically assigned to the recognized people who courageously protect the interests of their families and communities. Therefore, the President of Belarus has the key precondition to remain the national leader in the history of his country and gain the public recognition subject to a favorable set of circumstances.

On the whole, the incumbent presidents of the post-soviet states need to invest a lot of effort in order to come to a level of national leaders. Those who, by virtue of some or other factors and mechanisms, have already managed to do that need to dedicate their further activities to preserving and keeping the relevant official status or public recognition in future.

Andrey Chebotarev, Director of Centre for Contemporary Research «Alternativa» (Kazakhstan)

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