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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Presidency in Turmoil

We in the former Soviet Union do not treat our presidents with excessive consideration. We might simply say "Get out! " as with the president of Tajikistan, Rakhmon Nabiyev. Or the president might leave under pressure from the opposition, like the president of Azerbaijan, Ayaz Mutalibov. Or weapons may be used to get him out, as, for example, with the president of Georgia, Zviad Gamsakhurdia.


And now it is Boris Yeltsin's turn. The parliament is threatening impeachment. It has decided to remove the president of Russia, while preserving the trappings of legality.


There is a pattern emerging in the politics of the countries that used to make up the Soviet Union. All the presidents who have been removed and who will be removed (besides Yeltsin the most likely candidates are Levon Ter-Petrosyan of Armenia and Askar Akayev of Kyrgyzstan) were popularly elected, with large majorities, in democratic elections.


It would have seemed that the people would jump in to defend their leader. But this did not happen. The presidents left. and perhaps the people breathed a sigh of relief when Nabiyev, Mutalibov and Gamsakhurdia left the political arena. Yeltsin's departure will be met with relief as well.


Why do political events seem to have such a dire effect on the fates of presidents? The simplest explanation is this: These presidents were not able to do anything to bring their people economic well-being. One could even say these presidents were doomed.


Each of them ruled at a time of economic collapse, political instability and social disorder. It is impossible to remedy such a situation in a short time -- 2-3 years. Dissatisfaction grows into anger, which the opposition then capitalizes on. and the public casts down its former idols.


But there is a more serious explanation. Soviet man is used to power being unified, indivisible, to the fact that all the strings of power come together in an all-powerful center -- the Central Committee of the Communist Party, with the general secretary at its head.


During perestroika attempts were made to violate this principle. A separation of powers was declared. In Russia and in the other former republics, parliaments began to form, the courts became independent, the executive branch received more power and more freedom of action.


But at the same time the idea of a presidency arose: It reflected the mood of the people, who were used to having one man at the head of the country. So with hope and enthusiasm the people elected their first presidents.


It soon became clear that the presidents did not have the power and might of the general secretaries. They did not have the party behind them, and the government hierarchy was not subject to their will. Another branch of power, the legislature, began to put forth its own demands for first place. The forces that had suffered defeat during the presidential elections cherished the idea of revenge. This eventually led to the president's positions becoming unstable, and ended in their removal. It seemed that President Boris Yeltsin stood like a bulwark against these tides. After the putsch in 1991 there was no one close to him in power, and all signs pointed to his being firmly ensconced as the one ruler of Russia for quite a long time.


What a contrast at the Eighth Congress! The deputies openly mocked the president of Russia, they tried to outdo each other in humiliating him. It became clear that Yeltsin was doomed. and when he took his last, desperate step, and turned to the people with his decree introducing "special rule", he himself started the mechanism for his removal. Ruslan Khasbulatov, speaker of the parliament, could not let this action pass.


Not all presidents share this fate. Those who manage to turn parliament into an obedient instrument of their policies, and who are able to stifle opposition at its inception, will sit firmly in their seats of power. Sapannurad Niyazov of Turkmenistan, Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan, and even, perhaps, Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan can be cited as examples.


The next act in Russia's political drama is unfolding. No matter how it ends, the fight to rule this vast country will continue. This fight will take on ever harsher forms, and the hopes that it will remain peaceful are dwindling.


Nikolai Andreyev is a political observer for Izvestia.