Democratic Consolidation in Eastern Europe - Vol. 1

By Jan Zielonka | Go to book overview

10 Power Imbalance and Institutional Interests in Russian Constitutional Engineering

Gadis Gadzhiev

In Russia, the communist legacy has been at least as strong and pervasive as in the other post-communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe. In most countries of the region, this legacy has been tamed through patient bargaining and eventual compromise on the balance of powers, regime type, and other crucial choices necessary for building a strong foundation for democratic consolidation. However in Russia, compromise was never reached, important decisions regarding power-sharing were postponed, and as a result, a super-presidential regime was created, not through negotiations and compromise, but through brute force. Russia is the only post-communist country that experienced a military intervention after democratic elections had taken place. When tanks and police were sent to the White House in September 1993 to bar parliament from meeting, President Boris Yeltsin succeeded in ending the stalemate between competing branches of power, but the underlying causes of the conflict were hardly resolved. The roots of this conflict are found in the weakness of civil society and political party organization. Without organized interest groups or ideologically based political parties, elected representatives had—and continue to have—nothing on which to base their policies other than the pursuit of self-interested goals. Moreover, the institutionalized state structure that gave the president a monopoly of power only aggravated the accountability deficit and pushed civil society further from the decision-making process. Far from creating the basis for another revolution, one prognosis for Russia's 'incomplete democracy' seems to describe the situation well: 'the overthrow of democratic institutions appears less a threat than the persistence of [a] regime in

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