The claim that "democracy is bad for Russia" is balderdashby Mikhail Gorbachev / May 19, 2016 / Leave a comment
Published in June 2016 issue of Prospect Magazine
Of late, the word “democracy” has figured rarely in the speeches of Russian politicians. Disillusionment with democracy is also rife among Russian citizens, and not only them. A rolling back of democracy after its tumultuous inroads in the late 1980s and early 1990s has been a global phenomenon. There are serious reasons for that, of which the most important has been that the democratic leaders were not always competent to deal with the situation. I am convinced, however, that there is no alternative to democracy.
Different countries come to democracy by different routes and practise its principles in different ways. Russia will have to build a democracy that takes account of and builds on its cultural characteristics, traditions, mentality and national character. There are, however, certain features without which a system cannot be democratic. Some of these are of particular importance for Russia because we cannot yet claim they are found in our present way of life. These are: regular, honest elections ensuring a periodical turnover of those in power; stable constitutional order and a balance of powers between the three branches of government; competition between political parties; respect for basic human rights and freedoms; a just and impartial legal system and a developed civil society.
We in Russia have not yet found the “algorithm” for stable democracy, but that is not inevitable. Even less is it the result of “historical inability” or unreadiness of our people for democracy. “Democracy is not for Russians”—whether that claim comes from the right or the left, it is still balderdash.