For the third time in four years, the Russian people cast their ballots for democracy and free markets. On Apr. 25, they voted beleaguered President Boris Yeltsin a clear mandate, rebuffing an obstructionist Parliament and backing painful economic reforms.
In so doing, the Russians showed up Western observers who believe they still harbor a serflike need for authority. Instead, they rejected the racist appeals of xenophobic fascists and the promises of Communist holdovers in Parliament.
That isn't to say Russia is out of the woods. Yeltsin failed to get enough votes to call new elections for Parliament. So there's little chance Parliament will approve his new draft constitution that provides for a strong, Western-style government. Yeltsin needs that constitution to push such key reform measures as private land ownership, factory privatization, and control of the money supply.
The West should be heartened by this vote. Western hopes for peace and prosperity in this decade rely on the nonviolent transformation of the former Soviet Union. Yeltsin is already helping out on the diplomatic front. Just two days after the Russian referendum, Yeltsin solidly backed Western steps to end Serbian carnage in Bosnia. It is in the interests of the West to keep up the momentum toward democracy and a market economy in Russia.