Prior to the national elections in Russia, I had the opportunity to travel to Voronezh, a formerly closed city about twelve hours by train south of Moscow. During my stay there I became acquainted with Russians who are teachers, politicians, and entrepreneurs (often called, somewhat disparagingly, "New Russians" by non-entrepreneurs). Although all the Russians with whom I interacted had strong feelings about who would be the best of the sixteen people running for the presidency, most of the people remarked that their choice among those running for the country's top office was to select the best among a field of candidates who were not very good.
Boris Yeltsin's victory showed that Russians still lean toward the principles of reform, but it is impossible to ignore the unrest and dissatisfaction caused by these reforms among the electorate. Rampant inflation during his tenure of office has plunged many people into an economic depression. Those suffering the most are older citizens and others receiving government pensions, which often amounted to only a fraction of the wages of workers, as well as rural citizens living on collective farms.
Human services have diminished during the period since Russia adopted democracy and a free market system. Driving through any community, it is obvious that road repairs are needed. When entering a public building it is clear that some paint or other repair is in order. The war in Chechnya was an unpopular event that people resented. Although Voronezh seemed relatively crime-free by American urban standards, stories of criminal actions are in the news and on the lips of the citizens. Many of those problems are seen by the public as the result of moving from the communist system to a democratic, free market system associated with Yeltsin and his supporters.
Gennady Zyuganov, the candidate of the Communist Party, stood in opposition to democratic reforms and a free market system, and was supported by those seeking a return to the old, "dependable," communist order. One evening during my stay, during dinner at a friend's family home, my friend's mother described a discussion she had with a stranger while riding a streetcar from the market to her home. The presidential election was on the minds of many of those who were on the streetcar. A woman was speaking, rather passionately, about the advantages people had under the communist system. She had gone on at some length about those advantages when my friend's mother injected a question. "How," she asked, "would you like to go back to the bread lines, milk lines, lines for clothing, and all the other inconveniences that existed prior to Glasnost? Would you like to go back to the time of Communism when we feared publicly expressing our feelings about elections?" Such considerations doubtless played their part when voters gave Yeltsin his election victory.
As I walked and rode around the city of Voronezh, it was evident that free enterprise was in action. Where there was considerable pedestrian traffic, near the center of the city, individual vendors had set up shops with card tables or boxes and a supply of goods they hoped to sell for profit. Those vendors, sometimes operating within a covered booth that reminds me of those seen at professional educational meetings, peddled goods that ranged from hair care merchandise to books, clothing, and a great variety of recognizable goods from Russia as well as the U.S. and other places. The city food market was located in a huge building that resembled an American field-house, selling everything from half a cow to shredded carrot salad, and all the accessories needed for an entire wedding.
The market was on three floors. The main floor was packed with meats, fruits, bakery goods, canned goods, vegetables, and some products I did not recognize. The vendors of various products offered samples to their potential customers. Walking down the dimly lit stairwell to the lower level, I encountered a broom vendor. The brooms were made in a village near Voronezh. The upper level of the market offered wedding gowns for rent, hair care products, and a great variety of flowers, much loved by Russians, who seem to spend every possible moment out of their apartments and homes in parks communing with nature. Although I had been warned that many commodities were in short supply, the Voronezh market has considerable quantities of almost any food that Russian citizens might want. A Russian friend noted, however, that while there were numerous goods to purchase, people on limited incomes were often unable to take advantage of their availability.
In short, grass-roots capitalism has sprung up quickly and widely across Russia, and this is a development of great importance for the future. It does not require great amounts of capital to become a small-scale trader, and Russians who have entered the field have the same hopes, ambitions and aspirations as small businessmen anywhere. Although the economic problems of past years have made Russia's economic reformers unpopular, the number of people who are now part of a free enterprise system is significant, and makes a return to the past much more difficult.
During April and May, it was not at all certain who would become the next elected president. On the state-owned Russian television, Yeltsin was prominent on most newscasts, shaking hands, kissing babies, and dancing at campaign rallies. In contrast, the coverage of other candidates was more sparse and distant: the coverage of the Zyuganov campaign often amounted to a still photo of the candidate, very small in size, along with a map and some text on the television screen. Despite this favoritism, many signs of freedom were in the air. I was impressed by the diversity of newspapers available in Russia. It was not uncommon to see Russians purchasing two or three different newspapers to read. In addition to the freedom of the press, the democratic period has been one of growth in other non-governmental organizations. There has been an upsurge in the restoration of churches throughout the country. Professional and public interest organizations, though embryonic, are developing and form a counterbalance to the many authoritarian tendencies that exist in Russian politics and public life.
Yeltsin's alliance with Alexander Lebed, who was Head of the Security Council until this October, convinced many Russians that Lebed was the most likely successor-particularly in light of the recent peace in Chechnya, for which it appears Lebed may receive considerable credit. Some people fear Lebed because he has been a military leader, but others argue that a military leader can be an excellent democratic leader, using Eisenhower as an example. With Yeltsin ailing and in bad health, the question of a successor was on Russian minds. Lebed's rival, Viktor Chernomyrdin, the prime minister, appeared to gain the upper hand with Lebed's recent replacement by Ivan Rybkin. On the other hand, Lebed's separation from the government also dissociated him from unpopular government measures, and left him likely to be an important independent factor in future Russian politics.
Whatever the outcome of the next few years, it appears that Russians appreciate the potential that a free market system offers, as well as democracy. They also like the idea of the federal government taking care of certain matters. Russia has a long history of leadership by a strong willed individual, and nothing in the latest election indicated that this has changed. n
In 1991, after more than 51 years of foreign rule, the people of Latvia effectively restored their independent nation-state, which had been forcibly incorporated into Stalin's Soviet Union in June 1940. The democratic constitution of the Republic of Latvia of 1922 was re-established amid declarations that the state was a continuation of the earlier Republic and should not be considered either newly independent or a "Soviet-successor state."
Much had, however, changed in the meantime. As a result of Soviet policies, the population composition had altered so that, in 1991, Latvians were barely a majority in their centuries-old homeland. In 1935, by contrast, they had constituted more than 75 percent of the population (Plakans 1995, 158). From June 1940 to June 1941, however, the Soviets executed or deported more than 35,000 persons (Misiunas and Taagepera 1993, 42; Plakans 1995, 147). Immediately after World War II, in 1945-1946, Soviet military forces deported about 60,000 people (Misiunas and Taagepera 1993, 73). Further, between March 24 and March 30, 1949, about 50,000 Latvians were deported and resettled in various parts of the Soviet Union, including forced labor camps in Siberia (Plakans 1995, 156).
Soviet authorities replaced the killed and deported Latvians with Russian, Belarusian, and Ukrainian settlers. Thus, Soviet policies profoundly changed the demographic and cultural composition of Latvia, a small country (64,610 square kilometers) with a population of about 2.5 million of whom only 1,422,395 (56.6 percent) are Latvians (Crampton 1996, 249). Although more than 850,000 people live in Riga, the capital, less than 40 percent of the city's residents are Latvians in their primary language and ethnic identity. Nearly 40 percent of the population of Latvia consists of Slavic peoples (Russians, Belarusians, Ukrainians, and Poles). About 30 percent are ethnic Russians. While Latvians represent 56.6 percent of the population, they constitute 79 percent of citizens. The remaining 21 percent are members of more than ten ethnic groups, including Russians (288,217), Belarusians (20,765), and Poles (8,390).1
At present, the total number of registered aliens and stateless persons in Latvia is approximately 720,000, nearly 30 percent of the population. According to Latvian law, any ethnically non-Latvian person who is descended from people living in Latvia before 1940 is automatically a citizen of Latvia today. Non-Latvian residents of Latvia may become naturalized citizens if they satisfy certain requirements, such as learning the Latvian language and history and pledging allegiance to the Constitution and the Republic (Chinn and Truex 1996, 137). The continued existence in Latvia of a proportionally large population of non-Latvians, who do not become citizens either by choice or exclusion, is a political problem that could threaten or impede the consolidation of Latvian democracy in the twenty-first century.
The political spectrum in Latvia is dominated by parties that are generally pragmatic. The system of election based on proportional representation means that a government can only be formed after compromises by parliamentary parties. Most parties also have cautious policies toward Russia, Latvia's much larger and more powerful neighbor to the east.
Constitutional Provisions for Representative Democracy
The Constitution of 1922 separates powers of government among executive, legislative, and judicial branches. But the Saeima, the legislature, is definitely supreme.2 The legislature, or Parliament, selects the State President, the chief executive, and members of the judiciary (who cannot be removed against their will until reaching a retirement age set by law). And, the Parliament's powers clearly outweigh those of the other branches of government.3 The primary check upon the power of Parliament is the citizens. In their roles as voters and petitioners, the citizens of Latvia can determine the composition and general direction of policy making in their Parliament. The regular triennial parliamentary election is thus a defining event of Latvian constitutional democracy. Citizens vote for lists of candidates presented by the competing political parties, and candidates are elected on the basis of proportional representation. An electoral list must receive at least 5 percent of all votes cast to gain representation in the Parliament. In this system, the deputies do not represent a specific territory, and their accountability is only to the members of their party. Citizens vote for a party list, not for a specific deputy.
Since 1991, there have been two parliamentary elections (1993 and 1995) followed by two presidential elections (1993 and 1996). In each case, the election was free, fair, and competitive. Information was freely communicated through independent mass media (Hoyer, Lauk, and Vihalemm 1993, 250; Freiberga 1995, 17). Several political parties competed for election to the Parliament; for example, 23 party lists competed in the 1993 election and 19 in the 1995 election. Further, large majorities of eligible voters participated in the two parliamentary elections of the 1990s, 89 percent in 1993 and 72 percent in 1995 (Ostrovska 1996, 88-92). Finally, a group of international observers of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) certified that the election of 1995 was "free and fair" (Baltic News Service October 1, 1995).
The OSCE election observers also noted in their report on the 1995 parliamentary election that "there is a large segment of the population of Latvia who are not citizens of any country" and thereby not eligible to vote. The OSCE delegation expressed "hopes that this situation can be satisfactorily resolved" (LETA October 3, 1995).
The 1993 election favored the centrist and right-of-center parties. Eight parties received enough votes to win representation in the Parliament. A five-party coalition, involving a majority of the 100 seats in Parliament, was organized to form a workable government (Crampton 1996, 250).
The 1995 election, however, favored the left-of-center Democratic Party Saimnieks, which led the polls with 15 percent of the votes and 18 seats. Latvia's Way Party, the leader in the 1993 election, was second in 1995 with 14.6 percent of the votes and 17 seats (Arklina October 5-11, 1995).
The right-of-center parties tend to favor a free-market economy, private property rights, and less governmental regulation of the economy and society. A strong Latvian nationalist orientation with emphasis on traditional values is also promoted by some right-wing parties, such as the Union for Fatherland and Freedom.
By contrast, the left-of-center parties tend to support a socialist economic orientation, public welfare policies, and more governmental regulation of economic and civic life. The Latvian Socialist Party is the most left-wing faction, and promotes Soviet-era interests and values. In concert with the National Harmony Party, the Socialists would grant automatic citizenship to all residents of Latvia.
Four left-of-center parties won 33 percent of the votes and 37 seats in the 1995 parliamentary elections. Three right-wing parties won 25 percent of the votes and 30 seats. The slightly right-of-center Latvia's Way Party, with 17 seats, was reluctant to join the other right-wing parties to form a ruling majority. Thus, a difficult-to-achieve coalition of parties of the right and left had to be made in order to approve a Prime Minister and form a Cabinet.
There was a stalemate in Parliament for 75 days, as the competing factions were unable to form a ruling coalition. The State President, Guntis Ulmanis, at first nominated Maris Grinblats, leader of the right-wing Fatherland and Freedom Party, to be Prime Minister and to form a Cabinet, but the Parliament rejected him (Baltic News Service November 23, 1995). Next, President Ulmanis nominated Ziedonis Cevers, leader of the left-wing Democratic Party Saimnieks, to be Prime Minister. He, too, failed to form a ruling coalition of parties (Baltic News Service November 29, 1995).
The parliamentary impasse finally was broken on December 15, 1995 when President Ulmanis nominated Andris Skele to be the Prime Minister. Skele, a prominent businessman, was neither a political party member nor an elected member of Parliament, and was accepted as a compromise candidate by the rival factions of the Parliament. The 100-member Parliament approved Mr. Skele and the Cabinet he proposed by a vote of 70 to 24 (LETA December 22, 1995).
The selection of Andris Skele to be Prime Minister is an indicator of practical democratic politics-a compromise between parties of the left and right in order to form a workable government. And the inability of either left-leaning or right-leaning parties to clearly dominate the government is an indication of the ongoing democratic debate that will decide the economic and political direction of Latvia in the twenty-first century.
On June 18, 1996, the Parliament re-elected Guntis Ulmanis to a second three-year term as State President. A coalition of 53 members of Parliament voted for Ulmanis. His main rival, Ilga Kreituse, was supported mainly by the left-leaning Democratic Party Saimnieks and received 25 votes (Arklina June 20-26, 1996).
President Ulmanis provides a stabilizing link to Latvia's political past, the era before World War II and the subsequent Soviet occupation of Latvia. He is the grandnephew of Karlis Ulmanis, State President of Latvia from 1936 to 1940. Thus, President Guntis Ulmanis is both a practical politician and a living symbol of Latvian sovereignty.
Prospects for Consolidating Democracy
The recent parliamentary and presidential elections in Latvia indicate that representative democracy has been revived. Further, the prospects for democratic consolidation and continuation are auspicious. There is robust rivalry among several political parties, which compete freely and fairly for public support. There is sufficient, if not exemplary, political interest and participation among citizens. And there is an emerging civil society that offers opportunities for citizens to acquire the skills and dispositions of democratic behavior through voluntary participation in more than 1,600 non-governmental organizations, which "seek to defend human rights, promote economic initiative and development, prevent environmental degradation, and provide social assistance to some of Latvia's most vulnerable groups, such as children" (Ostrovska 1996, 93). Latvian civil society also includes more than 800 religious congregations, more than 50 independent radio and television stations, and several privately owned mass circulation newspapers.
Obstacles and challenges to democracy, however, stem from the totalitarian legacy of Soviet rule. Many Latvians have had little opportunity to develop resources necessary for effective democratic participation. Five years of freedom have not provided sufficient time to undo the damage of 50 years of totalitarian rule. And if Latvia cannot satisfactorily integrate or otherwise accommodate its Slavic minorities, then the constitutional democracy will be at risk.
On balance, the prospects for democracy in Latvia appear to outweigh the obstacles. Latvians are well-educated, hard-working, and responsible people with deep love of their country and commitment to its future. Most Latvians seem to believe that a democratic future in association with civilizations of the West is their best hope for preservation of "fatherland and freedom" (tevzemei un brivibai), the phrase inscribed at the base of the inspiring Freedom Monument at the center of Riga.
1.O. Elmars Vebers, "Data of the Residents' Register," an unpublished report of the Latvian Department of Citizenship and Immigration, 6 February 1996. This unpublished report was given to John Patrick during a visit to an office of the Department of Citizenship and Immigration in Riga, Latvia, 20 June 1996.
2.A copy of the Constitution (Satversme) of the Republic of Latvia can be obtained through the World Wide Web from the Saeima homepage, URL: http//www.saeima.lanet.lv.
3.In the near future, the new Constitutional Court may enhance the power of the judiciary to check the legislature; but this remains to be determined. See Peteris Bebriss, "Latvia's Legislative Watchdog." The Baltic Times, 20 June 1996.
Arklina, Ilze. "Latvia Turns To The Left." The Baltic Observer, October 5-11, 1995.__________ "Ulmanis Reelected for Second Term." The Baltic Times, June 20-26, 1996.Baltic News Service. "International Observers Satisfied With Latvian Elections." October 1, 1995__________. "Latvian Parliament Rejects Cabinet of Maris Grinblats." November 23, 1995.__________ "Ziedonis Cevers Invited to Form New Cabinet." November 29, 1995.Crampton, Richard, and Ben Crampton. Atlas of Eastern Europe in the Twentieth Century. London: Routledge, 1996.Chinn, Jeff, and Lise A. Truex. "The Question of Citizenship in the Baltics." Journal of Democracy 7 (January 1996): 133-147.Freiberga, Ilze, ed. The Republic of Latvia: A Reference Book. Riga, Latvia: Latvian Encyclopaedia Publishers, 1995.Hoyer, Svennik, Epp Lauk and Peeter Vihalemm. Towards A Civic Society: The Baltic Media's Long Road to Freedom. Tartu, Estonia: Nota Baltica Ltd., 1993.Huntington, Samuel P. The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1991.LETA. "Andris Skele Becomes Latvia's New Prime Minister." December 22, 1995_________ "OSCE Observers in Latvia Report a Free and Fair Election." October 3, 1995.Misiunas, Rumuald J., and Rein Taagepera. The Baltic States: Years of Dependence, 1940-1990. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993.Ostrovska, Ilze, et al. "Participation and Strengthening Civil Society." In Latvia: Human Development Report, edited by Nils Muiznieks. Riga, Latvia: United Nations Development Programme, 1996, pp. 84-99.Plakans, Andrejs. The Latvians: A Short History. Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press, 1995.
The Dayton Peace Accords
The Dayton Peace Accords (the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina) officially ended the three-and-a-half year civil war that claimed more than 250,000 lives. The Accords fundamentally created a cease-fire agreement between a Bosnian-Croat federation and a Serb Republic. They reflected four partial and competing strategies for building peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina: (1) classic peacekeeping; (2) war termination based on military balance; (3) a just peace; and, (4) a Marshall Plan. Under the terms of the agreement, which was finalized on December 14, 1995, Bosnia is to remain a single nation within the present borders and is to contain two republics-the Bosnia-Croat Federation (51 percent territory) and the Bosnian Serb Republic (49 percent territory). Sarajevo, the capital, remains united under the control of the Bosnian-Croat Federation. Other major provisions of the peace agreement included:
The Recent Elections
The elections took place in a context of great, war-related deprivation. By the time the Dayton Peace Accords were signed in December 1995, one-third of the nation's health facilities, half of its schools, and nearly two-thirds of its houses and apartment buildings were destroyed during the war. According to The World Bank, nine of every ten Bosnians depended on humanitarian assistance for their basic survival needs. A year later, water and electricity are still available only sporadically, and land mines laid by military forces continue to maim and kill everyday.
The Bosnian refugee problem is particularly acute. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has estimated that three million people-nearly 80 percent of them women and children-were displaced by the conflict. This includes 1.3 million within Bosnia; 820,000 in other republics of the former Yugoslavia; and over 700,000 in other, mostly Western European, countries. Because of the ethnic cleansing, the human dimension of reconstruction is immensely difficult, especially for those in mixed ethnic marriages and for those who were brutally expelled.
In the elections, 2.9 million eligible voters for all of Bosnia-Herzegovina were asked to choose a national government made up of a presidency and national assembly. The presidency has three members, a Croat, a Muslim and a Serb, with the one receiving the most votes serving as the first chair. The chair is rotated in two years. All decisions are to be made by consensus of the three co-presidents. The bicameral national assembly consists of a 42-member House of Representatives and a 15-member House of People. The House of People was elected indirectly, with seats divided evenly among ethnic groups.
Under the national government, which has limited powers, are separate governments for the Muslim-Croat Federation and the Bosnian Serb Republic. Each of these has its own legislature, and the Bosnian Serb Republic elects its own president. Local elections for municipal governments have been postponed indefinitely due to allegations of voter registration fraud.
Some 27,800 people, representing 55 political parties, ran for elected office, which meant that in a country the size of Bosnia, there was one candidate for every 105 eligible voters. Sixteen candidates ran for the three presidential posts, including eight Muslims, four Serbs and four Croats.
Probably the most positive implication of the elections is the fact that they happened at all. While the three most ethnically nationalist political parties won the three co-presidency positions, there has so far been no attempt to partition the country into three separate entities, an act that would serve to solidify and validate the ethnic cleansing. Still, a re-integrated autonomous multi-ethnic state is far from reality, as is demonstrated by the Serb tricolor that flies over Banja Luka, the Bosnian fleur-de-lis imprinted on Sarajevan license plates, and the Croatian red-and-white checkerboard banners that decorate store-fronts in west Mostar.
According to a USIA (United States Information Agency) survey conducted just prior to the elections, 97 percent of the Muslims, who make up about 40 percent of Bosnia's population, favor reunification, while a majority of the Serbs and Croats support partition. With thousands of refugees unable to return to their homes, Bosnia remains largely divided along ethnic lines. In fact, some experts fear the elections did more to solidify separate ethnic communities than to promote their re-integration. Thousands of displaced persons demonstrated tremendous courage by returning to their pre-war homes to cast ballots and re-claim their homes.
More Post-Conflict Nation Building
As important as the September elections are to the peacekeeping and nation building efforts in Bosnia, they represent only one part of the democracy development process. Two other types of communities are contributing significantly-non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and educators.
Throughout the conflict, NGOs provided people with emergency food, shelter, medical care and other essential and life-saving services. Since the Dayton Accord, NGOs, which number in the hundreds worldwide, have continued to provide basic humanitarian aid, especially to refugees, and are now totally involved in other projects designed to heal the wounds. These projects range in size and scope from counseling rape victims and their families, to putting together Bosnian Croat and Muslim workteams to repair war-torn homes, classrooms, markets and public buildings.
While I was in Savajevo in March, working with teachers on an "Education for Democracy" project, the greatest fear I experienced was far less from the dark streets at night, the occasional sniper-fire off in the distance, or the soldiers carrying guns, than from the hundreds of cars and trucks zooming at high speeds through intersections and down exceedingly narrow streets. Used by the over 170 NGOs operating just in Sarajevo proper, these cars and trucks were carrying supplies and people for all sorts of purposes and to all parts of the city. Their continued work is essential if Bosnia has any hope of true reconstruction and reconciliation.
Another example of post-conflict peacebuilding in Bosnia is the collaboration of groups, including the Center for Civic Education (CCE), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the United States Information Agency (USIA), and the Council of Europe. Entitled "The CIVITAS Project," its mission is to work with Bosnian educators to help build a foundation for the development of democratic institutions-an effort that involves more than preparing people for elections. Since March, CIVITAS/Bosnia has translated curriculum materials and conducted workshops for Bosnian teachers on how to impart the skills of making and evaluating rules, and of selecting people to fill positions of authority.
Another CIVITAS project, "Project Citizen," shows how to formulate and assess public policy options and decisions. It is this last project that has proven most difficult, according to Jack Hoar, Director of International Programs at the Center for Civic Education. When translated from English, the concept of "public policy" became "internal politics." "Needless to say," commented Mr. Hoar, "it was very important (and challenging) that we explained the differences between the development and implementation of public policy and their negative past experiences with the authoritarian rule of the communist party and the nature of "internal politics."
CIVITAS has reached close-to 500 teachers and is planning future workshops on curriculum to be written by Bosnian teachers as part of the work conducted under a grant from the U.S. Department of Education.2 In time, the hope is that the teachers, parents, and government leaders will understand how important it is to integrate education for democracy into the curriculum at all grade levels.
Elections, war crimes trials, the repatriation of displaced persons, and a new curriculum in the schools cannot begin to solve all of Bosnia's problems or bring together communities where, less than a year ago, innocent people were terrorized, slaughtered, and forced to witness the worst atrocities in Europe since the Holocaust. It will take generations to repair the physical, political, and economic consequences of the conflict, longer to repair the psychological scars. Yet, in time, and with large amounts of foreign aid and economic investment, reconciliation may be possible in Bosnia. It is in everyone's best interests to support the work of peacebuilding. n