Lessons in democracy for Ukraine

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

The democratic transformations that Ukraine is going through are not unique – other countries that are now democracies had similar problems, observes a July 30 paper from the International Centre for Policy Studies (ICPS).

The ICPS paper remarks that political competition now exists in Ukraine, with a system for dividing powers currently under development. 

However, the author claims that Ukraine’s transformation is “spontaneous” and “disorganised” as a result of the country having to go through in a short space of time what other countries experienced over hundreds of years. 

Thus, Ukraine should proceed with caution, warns ICPS – drawing on the experiences of western democracies not to “copy certain models or practices”, but instead “to avoid the typical mistakes other countries have made” in order to deduce what political principles and practices make a country a real democracy. 

ICPS examine the precedents set by the evolution of other democracies, concluding that a political system can be described as successful if it is focused “on the needs of the country and learns from its past mistakes” – citing the eventual adoption of a “semi-presidential” model in France and the reluctance of Romania to centralise power in the hands of one person as examples of this. 

The author claims that although western democracies employ different systems, the principles that underpin them are identical – leading to the development of similar institutions on which democracy is based, including a professional civil service and robust parliamentary opposition. 

Finally, the article adds that in the western tradition, parliamentary opposition generally guarantees rights for participation in governing the country, and that legislation is “not mandatory” in order for democracies to function, with many countries establishing the rights of the opposition only informally. 

Subscribe to our newsletters