Embryonic democracy

Another parallel is the protection and representation of minority groups. US history boasts numerous successful civil rights movements; for example womens'and black rights. Federal and constitutional reform cannot protect ethnic groups involved in the Chechnya-Tartarsan conflict, because of its extremity. The extent of the separation of powers affects political cultures immensely. When Gorbachev weakened the CPSU's power, party control of branches lessened. The US on the other hand has constitutionally guided separate powers which limit interference overlaps and allow the branches to be impartially controlled.

In Russia, the President can interfere with the State Duma & can initiate and veto legislation. And also, key to the governors' power is the fact that they often control not only their regions' executive branches,but also local legislatures,judges and media outlets. This has predictably led to widespread corruption and disregard for civil liberties. Also, some regions,like Bashkortostan and Tatarstan have written constitutions that contradict Russia's federal laws.

Likewise, leaders in many regions are elected and re-elected without even the pretence of democratic procedure. This is not the only problem for Russia's reputation as a legitimate democracy. The first Congress session in the new Russia was televised. Unfortunately the State Duma gained a reputation for corruption, criminal activities and sexual harassment, increasing apathy among electors. In the US, the interests of the electors and constitutional conventions prevent any such instance of unlawful conduct.

With regard to the 1993 Russian constitution, at present,one must question whether a democratic constitution represents the realities of a political system in the absence of a tradition of human rights, individual liberties and toleration of opposing political opinions. Stalin's constitution introduced direct elections by secret ballot and universal suffrage but prohibited opposition parties. Russia, unlike America,lacks the 'Enlightenment' ideas about freedom and the representation of rights and interests; essential to democratic society.

This possibly explains the low civic-participation. Only a bare majority voted for the 1993 constitution. To add to his worries, President Putin has to put up with ethnic tension in Chechnya and terrorist attacks. Both administrations then have similar obstacles. President W Bush, ever since the 9/11 attacks, has used the war on terror to win over public opinion. An example of the impact of events on public opinion is the fluctuating stability in Iraq. Public opinion in Russia however seems to rest mainly on Putin's strong stance against inter-ethnic violence.

To avoid further problems a'Law of Political Parties' was passed against any group undermining state security. Likewise, Bush introduced the Patriot Act to curb terrorism. In both political cultures then, the success of campaigns rest largely on security. In conclusion both political cultures show similarities despite their evolutionary positions in terms of democratic development, notably because of the inevitable baggage that accompanies a capitalist society. However, unlike the US, Russia lacks a precise separation of powers, a progressive Federal system and a coherent and practical constitution.

All that is left therefore, is a rather embryonic democracy.

References:

Participate America, Last visited on the 21/04/04 at http://www. participateamerica. org/partamer/issues/alert/? alertid=1584316&type=CO, Petrov, N. , last visited on the 18/04/04 at http://www. ishipress. com/ Democracy. Ru(2004), Institute for Comparative Social Research, Last Visited on the 22/04/04 at http://democracy. ru/english/article. php? id=541 Bush, G, W. , Sky News 16/4/2004 http://time.com/