Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Vladimir Putin Mustafa Kaya/ZumaPress

De autoritaire verleiding

NEW YORK – Deze maand is het vierentwintig jaar geleden dat Sovjet-hardliners, in een wanhopige poging een einde te maken aan de ontluikende democratische transitie van hun land, Michael Gorbatsjov arresteerden en de noodtoestand uitriepen. In reactie daarop stroomden miljoenen betogers de straat op in Moskou en andere steden in de Sovjet-Unie. Belangrijke onderdelen van het leger weigerden de coup te aanvaarden, en die was dan ook snel verleden tijd – net als de Sovjet-Unie zelf.

Ook al waren de economische omstandigheden in de laatste maanden van de Sovjet-Unie zwaar, de mensen konden de vrijheid zien aankomen en waren, anders dan vandaag de dag, bereid om daarvoor te vechten. In de beginjaren van de democratische transitie die volgde, bezweken de meeste post-communistische kiezers niet voor de verleiding om te stemmen op extremisten, die beloofden een eind te zullen maken aan de zware tijden die zij doorstonden. Zij kozen doorgaans voor de meest zinnige kandidaat die beschikbaar was.

De Russen wezen bijvoorbeeld Vladimir Zjirinovski af, een clowneske Donald Trump-achtige  nationalist en anti-semiet, ten faveure van Boris Jeltsin, die tijdens de mislukte coup van 1991 de tanks had getrotseerd en inzag dat de toekomst van zijn land in de democratie en betere banden met het Westen lag. In Roemenië legde de extremistische dichter Corneliu Vadim Tudor het af tegen een reeks corrupte pragmatici, te beginnen met Ion Iliescu, die een vooraanstaande rol had gespeeld bij het wippen van de laatste communistische leider, Nicolae Ceaușescu.

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