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133 Conclusion Democracy promotion efforts have accelerated around the globe since the fall of communism in Eastern and Central Europe and the demise of the USSR. Despite the substantial amount of assistance allocated to international democratization and the multiple actors involved, the results of democratic aid have been inconsistent, and a number of newly established democracies have been short-lived.1 In the academic world, a number of articles have been published about the obstacles to democratization, and some have candidly acknowledged that democracy promotion as currently practiced may not work.2 According to Freedom House’s Freedom in the World 2011, global freedom suffered its fifth straight year of decline in 2010, representing the longest continuous period of decline in the survey’s nearly forty-year history.3 The states of Central Asia have become a worrisome manifestation of this trend of stalled democratization and unsuccessful democracy assistance from abroad. After tenuous and halfhearted efforts at political reform in the early years of their independence, these republics have reverted to their familiar authoritarian forms. Talk of unique and indigenous models of democracy and development and growing resentment toward international democratization have replaced these governments’ commitment to democratization and liberal democratic norms. In an effort to understand the reasons for the ineffectiveness of international democracy assistance in Central Asia, this book has focused on the discursive aspects of democracy promotion abroad. It has examined the ideas, beliefs, and perspectives advanced by the United States, the European Union, Russia, and China in the three Central Asian republics of Kazakhstan , Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan, as well as these three states’ perspectives on democracy and democratization. By conceptualizing democracy promotion as “discourse,” this study was able to identify multiple competing representations of democracy and routes to democratization and explore how these competing ideas influence societies subjected to international democratization. This study used the concept of “frames,” which refer to specific ways of presenting, packaging, and positioning issues of democracy and democratization, to discuss these issues. Alternative democracy 134   Democracy in Central Asia frames were evaluated based on their compatibility with the target governments and populations, using several criteria to determine the effectiveness of discursive frames. Competing Discourses of Democracy in Central Asia The US and EU democracy promotion frames advocate a liberal democratic model grounded in their experiences with democratic institutions. Both the United States and the European Union conceive of their support for democracy as indispensable to their role in building a more peaceful and prosperous world. For the United States, democracy promotion has been discursively framed as a divine ideological mission that the nation has been called on to fulfill. In the context of the European Union’s foreign policy, democracy assistance has been less ideologized but is nonetheless connected to the European experience with integration, democracy, and marketization. The official US discourse has portrayed democracy and its derivative concepts as a matter of institutions. This prevailing understanding has informed the discourse and practice of democracy promotion, which became tantamount to establishing the structural characteristics of a democratic regime. The ability of an electorate to express the people’s will through competitive political forums has become the yardstick for defining states as democratic in the official US discourse. This understanding of democracy and democracy promotion has stayed consistent across consecutive administrations, but the Obama administration has placed more emphasis on development, good governance, and the fight against corruption . The EU conception of democracy also underscores the importance of regular, free, and fair elections, in addition to the rule of law and human rights. Lacking a strategic and ideological dimension similar to that of the United States, the practical side of EU democracy promotion has featured various forms of depoliticized technical assistance, and its discourse in recent years has shifted to a less politically contentious good-governance dimension. Although human rights and the rule law have been retained in the rhetoric and public appeals of the United States and the EU, both actors have deprioritized these dimensions in their democracy promotion initiatives in Central Asia. As demonstrated in chapter 7, the ideas, beliefs, and practices promoted by the United States and the EU in Central Asia lack cultural compatibility , salience, consistency, and credibility for Central Asians. Rather Conclusion  135 than administering a coordinated and well-thought-out set of programs linked to both Central Asian and donors’ priorities, American and European democracy promoters continue to rely on “off-the-shelf” democracy assistance templates approbated in the Western context.4 In addition, their language...


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