Americans, I don’t think we’re getting the most out of our political system

Last night’s Republican debate was entertaining if viewed as a sort of ridiculous spectacle, the ongoing descent into madness of our entire political system. But given some recent events in eastern Europe, I have to wonder if we’re getting the maximum amount of enjoyment out of our political leaders.

Take, for example, Romania. The Romanian Parliament recently enacted new regulations limiting the number of sheepdogs that a person can own there, because…wait, what? Sheepdogs? Yes, they limited the number of sheepdogs, owing to the concerns of hunters and environmentalists. OK, that’s a little eccentric but not too outrageous.

The problem, as it turns out, is that there are a lot of shepherds in Romania, and they have a lot of sheep (in the neighborhood of 10 million of them). Understandably, Romanian shepherds didn’t appreciate being told that they had to limit the number of dogs they owned in order to protect their flocks, and so yesterday downtown Bucharest looked like this:

That’s more than 1000 shepherds storming the grounds of the Romanian Parliament to protest the new sheepdog regulations. Police resorted to tear gas, which is not funny nor entertaining in the least, but how can you not watch that video and imagine a bunch of big guys, some of them in very big fur coats, swarming the Capitol (in a completely non-violent way, of course) to protest, I don’t know, limits on the number of cat memes that any one person is allowed to post online in a single day? And they won! Today, the Parliament ended its sheepdog restrictions, and Romania’s shepherds undoubtedly went home and fixed their doggies something nice, maybe some bacon or whatever (I like to think it was bacon), for being such good boys and girls.

Then there’s Ukraine. There’s nothing funny about the general situation in Ukraine, either–stuck in a frozen civil war, with people in the war zone struggling to meet basic needs, people in Crimea cut off from electricity, and corruption still running amok in Kiev. But tell me you can watch this video and not let out at least a little chuckle:

That’s Parliament member Oleh Barna handing Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk a bouquet of roses and then trying to forcibly carry him away from the podium in the middle of a legislative session last Friday. Big props to Yatsenyuk for hanging on to that podium and, really, not even looking all that freaked out about what was probably a pretty frightening moment. Was Barna planning to carry Yatsenyuk back to his village and make him his bride? No, but it kind of looks like it, doesn’t it? Actually Barna has been leading an effort to have Yatsenyuk and his government removed via a no-confidence vote, blaming him for high energy prices and a stagnating economy. But as that effort apparently wasn’t moving fast enough for him, he tried to remove Yatsenyuk via a more direct method. For his trouble, Barna got booted from his party, the Petro Poroshenko Bloc, and, I assume (?), he’s going to be spending a lot of time with Ukrainian police over the next few days.

Also in Ukraine,

Tell me your average primary debate wouldn’t be significantly improved if the candidates were allowed to throw glasses of water at each other on stage. Trump would probably hire Aroldis Chapman (ask someone who likes baseball) to throw glasses for him. Anyway, that was Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, on Monday, hurling a water vessel at Odessa governor (and former President of Georgia) Mikhail Saakashvili during a meeting of the National Council for Reforms, in front of President Poroshenko and everyone. The two of them don’t think highly of each other, obviously, and Avakov (along with Yatsenyuk, his political ally) is apparently fond of expressing to Saakashvili his hopes that Saakashvili will get the hell out of Avakov’s country (though, I mean, Saakashvili is a Ukrainian citizen now, so that seems unlikely to happen). Both are accusing each other of corruption in that clip, and, let’s be honest, there’s a pretty good chance that they’re both right.

Finally, let’s go to Kosovo, where the political opposition released tear gas on the floor of Parliament on Monday:

Oh, wait, I’m sorry. That’s from early October, another time when Kosovo’s political opposition released tear gas on the floor of Parliament. Here’s the more recent episode:

No, actually, that’s from mid-October, when they did it again. There were actually three separate tear gas incidents in the Kosovo Parliament in October. Here’s the one from Monday:

Now, really, there’s nothing funny about somebody tear gassing a parliament. But when it happens this many times, it kind of starts to take on a gallows humor feel.

The opposition, both inside and outside of the government, is angry at a deal, brokered by the European Union, between Kosovo, Serbia, and Montenegro, which more clearly demarcates the border between Kosovo and Montenegro and allows greater autonomy for Kosovo’s remaining Serbian community. It’s part of implementing the 2013 Brussels Agreement, a pact that’s supposed to lead to normal relations between Serbia and Kosovo and that Serbia, which still refuses to recognize Kosovo’s independence, sees as something it must do in order to eventually qualify for EU membership.

The EU won’t demand that Serbia recognize Kosovo, but it will insist that relations between the two states be improved and may even try to admit both at the same time. Kosovo has a ways to go before it will be ready for EU membership, though–it needs to do something about its huge organized crime problem, for one thing, and also about the fact that five current EU members don’t even recognize it as an independent state. It’s presumably the tenuous state of Kosovar independence and of the country’s economy that has helped fuel this violent backlash against the deals with Serbia and Montenegro.

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One thought on “Americans, I don’t think we’re getting the most out of our political system

  1. The Ukrainian Parliament operates in a fashion amusing similar to the Korean, albeit with less vigorous fisticuffs. Small world, eh wot?

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