Speculation over whether Vladimir Putin’s presidential election victory is due to Russians’ preference for stability, electoral fraud or “Putin-fatigue” among the urban middle classes should not obscure three larger issues of significance, writes Daniel Kaufmann, a Senior Fellow in Global Economy and Development at the Washington-based Brookings Institution. .
First, Russia’s governance standards have been declining markedly for about a decade, ……. In particular, consistent with increasing political repression (ostensibly in the name of “stability”), Russia has experienced a marked decline in voice & democratic accountability over the past decade. Russia fails to measure up to the governance of countries that have attained relatively high governance standard, …… The presence of Ukraine and Pakistan in Russia’s governance cohort illustrates that there is a group of countries where good governance did not materialize during transition.
Second, for quite some time Russia has wrestled with endemic corruption, which has worsened over the past decade. High levels of corruption pervade the executive, legislature, judiciary and private sector interactions with the public sector…comparable with rates in countries like Nigeria and Libya.
Third, the troubling evolution of governance in Russia … should be a wakeup call for the world, which at times has been naïve about Russia’s and other transitions. ….These developments also carry a warning for the Arab world transition. Just because an old autocratic regime is discarded, the emergence of robust democratic institutions is by no means assured.
Of the scores of transitions to democracy that have occurred over the past 50 years, many have not been fully successful, resulting in either stagnation or reversals in democratic governance, as in the case of Russia
Democratic transitions are fragile and require constant vigilance, hard work and democratic institution-building for decades after the initial democratic episode. Short-term setbacks or even marked reversals are not uncommon.
The euphoria of the moment when an old autocratic regime is replaced, coupled with the political expediency of the international community, ought not to blur the analysis of how each transition is or is not progressing.
Yet a frank analysis of the lack of governance progress in a transitioning country ought not to rule out that positive developments may take place in governance-challenged settings such as Russia, Ukraine and Pakistan, or recent entrants to democratic transition in the Arab world.