In March 2004 Putin was re-elected President of Russia for a second 4-years term. In September 2004 after the Beslan tragedy (1 st-3rd of September, school hostage massacre in Beslan, Russia, that ended with the death of at least 334 people, including 186 children) in the name of the fight against terrorism, Putin announced some radical institutional reforms, among them the appointment by the Kremlin of the regional governors, until than elected by universal suffrage (Libération, 27/09/2004). Franck Biancheri could not refrain, as always, from recording the concordances of the trends of the breaks of democratization. Russia, of course, but the United States and Europe are also concerned by denials of democracy, and therefore very difficult to give lessons to the world. In 2004 for sure (invasion of Irak 2003, terrorist attacks in Middle East, March 2004 Madrid train bombings…), but still today. This is the 4th issue of the Little political comments from a Euro-Citizen. (Editor’s note)
Little political comments from a Euro-Citizen (4)
Franck Biancheri, September 2004
Indeed once Putin and his FSB (Federal Security Service) friends have appointed all the governors and have full control of the candidacy of politicians for the Douma, there will be no terrorism in Russia anymore. Or, at least, there will be no democracy (or very little) left in Russia which means that there will be nobody free to talk about terrorism or to complain about it, which, in Putin’s mind is almost the same.
Meanwhile rather than complaining, Washington should pay attention to this idea. While the invasion of Iraq has now become ‘Operation Chaos in Iraq’ and since a new breed of terrorists (younger, less easy to identify and much more numerous) are ready to storm the world (including the USA) with more bloody attacks, if re-elected, G.W. Bush must discover a way to prevent bad news from finally reaching the average US citizen (most certainly after November). Controlling media networks may prove to be insufficient, so let’s not reject Putin’s interesting idea, i.e. directly appointing gubernatorial candidates, and preventing independent citizens from running for Congress. Who knows, if Bush does not follow Putin’s lead, one day his ilk may have to face good political opponents in an election?
In the European Union we do not face this kind of a troubling democratic future. How did we manage to achieve our current serene political state? Very simply, at the EU level, citizens have no right, nor means to influence. A bunch of nationally elected politicians and Eurocrats make the decisions for the 450 millions Europeans living in the EU: none of them were ever required to explain what their position on European matters before getting into office. So you see, in the EU, democracy is not a problem at all. It simply doesn’t exist at the European level. Of course nothing is perfect.
Take for example the fact that about half of the EU Member-States will ask their citizens if they agree or not with the project of the EU Constitution. Of course the other half is very upset by those irresponsible leaders that have decided to include average people in the debate … yes, you read correctly: people …. having a say on EU affairs.
One must admit that those upset leaders are pretty consistent: they always thought that Europe was too important to be left in the people’s hand; they keep on passing measures and decisions which upset a growing majority of Europeans (like in the coming months when the Commission and the Council will deliver a “greenlight” for Turkey’s accession …. and meanwhile contribute to the triumph of the ‘No’ camp in the Constitutional referenda in countries such as France). Furthermore, they know that they would not stand a chance to be elected if they had to show people that they indeed have a vision for Europe’s future. It seems therefore that the leaders who decided to approve a referendum are either very optimistic about their own ability to convince their fellow citizens, or totally unaware that they may indeed loose the referendum.
Another option though which may become more and more credible in coming months, is that some of these leaders find democracy useful when the people do the job that they themselves cannot do, such as rejecting a project like the EU constitution.
But nobody would be so Machiavellian in Europe these days, would they?
Paris (France) – September 2004