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Democracy in Secessionism: Transnistria and Abkhazia's Domestic Policies

10 August 2006

Nicolae Popescu - policy study August 2006

Nicu Popescu

2005-06 International Policy Fellow
The Challenge of Wider Europe working group

Abstract:
Despite varying levels of political pluralism, democracy is not at home in either of the secessionist entities of Transnistria and Abkhazia, where the development of a siege syndrome hampers democratic developments and conflict settlement. In Transnistria there is no credible opposition, no active civil society, foreign funding for NGO's is prohibited and it is policed by a strong repressive apparatus guided by the ministry of state security. The economy is highly concentrated and even if big businesses are dissatisfied with the current political leadership they do not dare to challenge the authoritarian leader who has held power for a decade and a half.

While Abkhazia is certainly no beacon of democracy it does enjoy a higher degree of pluralism than Transnistria. It has held elections and its civil society is active and well developed for the region. Elements of democracy exist but the ethnic Georgians who account for about a third of the population have been excluded from such developments. This paper inquires into the origin of these developments and addresses such questions as how undemocratic the secessionist entities really are, whether they are inherently undemocratic and why some are less democratic than others. It gives an account of domestic policies in Transnistria, and the political processes in Abkhazia and part of South Ossetia and concludes with an analysis of the factors that determine divergent political patterns in the secessionist entities.

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