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A look at transition of power in ex-Soviet nations

(AP) – Georgia’s opposition won the parliamentary election and pro-Western President Mikhail Saakashvili conceded that his party lost. Saakashvili said that an opposition coalition led by a billionaire businessman, who made his fortune in Russia, has the right to form the new government, the first time in the country’s history that a government will be changed at the ballot box rather than through revolution.

Here’s a look at the way in which some other ex-Soviet nations handled the transfer of power since becoming independent states:


The Caspian Sea nation saw two of its popularly elected presidents ousted in rebellions in 1992 and 1993. Following their ouster, Azerbaijan’s Soviet-era Communist Party boss Geidar Aliev was elected president in 1993 and ruled the oil-rich nation until 2003. He was succeeded by his son, Ilham Aliev, in elections criticized as rigged. Ilham Aliev has stubbornly resisted any impulses to implement democratic reforms. Because of the country vast energy resources, few in the West are racing to apply pressure.


The Caucasus nation’s first post-Soviet president was forced to resign amid a political crisis in 1998 while serving his second term. His successor stepped down after serving two consecutive terms, a constitutional limit. The incumbent, Serge Sarkisian, was elected in 2008 with a slim majority after being anointed by his long-serving predecessor. Opposition supporters hotly disputed the results and held mass protests which were crushed by police, resulting in violence in which 10 people were killed.


Ukraine’s 2004 Orange Revolution marked a landmark moment in post-Soviet politics. Under pressure from massive months-long street protests against a rigged presidential vote, authorities held a re-run that handed power to pro-Western opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko.

Disillusionment at Yushchenko’s lackluster performance led to a collapse in support. His Orange Revolution nemesis grabbed power back in a fraught, but peaceful, 2010 election. Opposition and rights groups have accused incumbent President Viktor Yanukovych of rolling back democratic reforms.


President Alexander Lukashenko was voted into power in 1994 on the back of pledges to clean up corruption and reverse years of economic decline. Lukashenko has ruled the ex-Soviet nation since then, extending his rule in a series of fraud-tainted elections criticized by the West, and relentlessly cracking down on dissent and independent media. Lukashenko’s iron-fisted rule has earned him the nickname of “Europe’s last dictator.”


Veteran leader Nursultan Nazarbayev came to power in the oil-rich Central Asian nation even before the Soviet collapse and has firmly resisted relinquishing it ever since. In 2010, parliament voted to anoint Nazarbayev as “leader of the nation,” a title that gives him the right to approve important policies after he retires and grants him lifetime immunity from prosecution for acts committed during his rule. He won a widely criticized presidential election last year with an astonishing 95 percent of the vote.


Trained dentist Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov took over at the helm of this isolated energy-rich Central Asian desert nation on Iran’s northern border in 2006 after the unexpected death of his eccentric and deeply authoritarian predecessor. After winning a 2007 presidential election against token challengers, he hinted at possible democratic reforms, but that promise proved hollow when he won this year’s presidential election with 97 percent of the vote.


Islam Karimov has led Uzbekistan first as its Soviet-era Communist Party boss and then as president, tolerating no dissent or free media. He first extended his rule through a widely criticized referendum and then by two presidential elections, which saw only token competition.


Having joined the EU and NATO in 2004, and the euro area in 2011, the tiny Baltic nation is regarded as the epitome of a transparent transitional democracy in the former Soviet Union. The current government of Prime Minister Andrus Ansip has been in power for over seven years and enjoys broad-based popularity.


Though also a member of the EU and NATO, Lithuania has struggled with frequent government changes and a plethora of populist parties. Yet the country has still managed smooth power transitions, even after a populist president was impeached in 2004 _ the only such instance in recent European history.

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