Guest writer Ronnie Smith covers the change of regimes in Romania and elsewhere in the world.
As we watch, with great interest, how the ruling military junta in Egypt manages a, so far, relatively peaceful transition from the dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak to a nominally more liberal period in which Egypt has a properly elected parliament and President, it is interesting to reflect on how these things usually go.
In the case of Egypt, we must be clear that while the dictator has gone, his supporters in the military and security services still remain very much in power. Recently they closed down the recently elected parliament, saying that the rules governing the election had been unconstitutional. New elections may be held in the near future for the purpose of providing a Parliament that is more acceptable to the generals and admirals. At the same time the powers of the newly elected President, the candidate of the much maligned Muslim Brotherhood, were significantly reduced by the junta before he took office. The junta remains the most important actor in Egyptian politics and government and we can assume that will remain the case for some time.
Note that the US continues to work very closely with the junta on mutual interests of defense and security in the region and Egypt receives around USD 1.3 billion in military aide each year.
In Burma, the brutal military junta that suppressed all political opposition and waged a war against ethnic groups around the country, including the Karin people, recently decided that its political and economic isolation was preventing its members and their supporters from making lots of money. So they allowed the opposition to take part in elections for a limited number of seats in Parliament, suspended torturing people and allowed their most vocal opponent, the wonderful Aung San Suu Kyi, to enter Parliament and travel the world saying nice things about Burma. Now they are welcoming foreign investment and making some cash.
But note that the generals in Burma are a very long way from giving up power.
In Russia, as we know, the KGB and other powerful apparatchiks within the old Communist Party of the Soviet Union didn’t just disappear, nor were they held to account for crimes that some think they perpetrated against the people. Instead, they regrouped after the presidency of Boris Yeltsin, became the Siloviki and now run the country. They have brought most of the economic assets once controlled by the Russian oligarchs back under ‘state’ control and ensure political control through the regime of Vladimir Putin.
Similarly, in Romania, those most influential under the Ceausescu dictatorship, in government and the security services, did not simply evaporate into thin air, nor were they tried, nor were they prevented from holding high office and influential positions (lustration) in the post dictatorship era. They took over the running of the country once the regime had been removed and they, and their supporters and relatives are still there.
Note that the economic policy of the government of Romania hardly changes regardless of which party is in power. The rules are set by the EU and the IMF. Note also that the foreign policy of the government of Romania hardly changes either, so allied to US interest is the post dictatorship establishment.
Romania’s membership of the EU serves US regional strategic objectives very well indeed. And within a political and economic framework that is already set by those who took over from the dictatorship and made necessary and lasting accommodations with strategic partners, public politicians in the country have little to do except maintain stability and quarrel among themselves for any small advantages they can find. Like chickens in a yard.
Moses took 40 years to reach the promised land of Israel once he had led his people out of Egypt. 40 years to make a journey that should have taken 6 months if he had gone in a straight line. His purpose was to ensure that only a younger generation arrived in Israel, armed with new ideas and ready to build the new country. Even he had to die first.
The transitional period following a dictatorship always lasts longer than people wish or expect, it’s a generational thing. And so Romania may still have another 20 years to go... The country is still very much in the transition phase and the behavior of the President and the Prime Minister over the past few months makes that obvious. They are engaged in a factional battle for power within the institutions of the state, regardless of the consequences for the country. Will the elections in November this year bring forth new ideas, new policies and a new vision for the country from any of the competing parties? That will be a test. If not, then the country is still where it was 15 years ago.
The post transition period begins when most politicians start to act more clearly in the public interest and for the good of the country. The post transition period starts with public policy creation and debate initiated by people who know what they are talking about. The post-transition period starts with the emergence of new people, new ideas and the growing irrelevance of the old order.
By Ronnie Smith, Guest Writer
Ronnie Smith is Scottish and now lives in Romania, working as a professional training business consultant and communication coach. He is also a teacher of political science, a political and social commentator and a writer of fiction. The views expressed are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Romania Insider.com.
(photo source: sxc.hu)