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Democracy and Elections

The Five Star Movement is one of the most interesting political ‘experiments’ on political landscape of Western democracies. Once again Italy, which with Berlusconi has experienced Trumpism before Donald Trump, is a political laboratory for novel political phenomena that the world looks at, with a mixture of concern and excitement, to learn something about the future of our democratic systems. Only five years ago Beppe Grillo, a stand-up comedian and the founder of the Five Star Movement (M5S), launched his parole guerriere (warlike words) and M5S obtained a remarkable 25% of the national vote in its first electoral showing. Italian voters again expressed loudly and clearly their preference for the Five Star Movement in last weekend’s general election. The M5S not …

In 2016, Uganda’s Presidential election was met with a surge in violence. More than 20 people reportedly died and even more were threatened and beaten in the lead-up to the election. Current Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who has ruled the country since 1986, captured another term in office through a strategy that relied on intimidation tactics. Voters throughout the country were told that their regions would not receive aid support if they did not vote for Museveni, leading EU and U.S. election monitors to deem that there was “an atmosphere of intimidation” that was “deeply inconsistent with international standards.” In the lead-up to next year’s election, there are again fears of an illegitimate democratic process. Namely, increasing internet suppression may mar the  outcome of the …
Image of stethoscope tugged in one direction by red strings and in other by blue strings.

Since the 2018 midterm election, Democratic socialists have been leading voices in the Democratic Party, a trend that was all the more evidenced by Bernie Sanders’ resounding primary victories in states like Nevada, Colorado, and among others California. If anything, these voices have successfully brought poverty and social justice to the forefront of the Party’s politics as issues like child poverty, wages, housing and education dominated the primary debates. This was especially the case in Iowa on 14 January as protests by the Poor People’s Campaign took place outside the debate venue. The organisation represents the interests of the poor with a name referencing a series of demonstrations for economic justice organized in 1968 under the leadership of Martin Luther …

In October 2019, demonstrators took to the streets of Lebanon, chanting “all of them means all of them”— a cry for the entire government to resign. For the first time in years, the country witnessed the mobilisation of thousands of its citizens across every city. There were even Lebanese protests in major European cities and North America. Together, they formed a united front: citizens coming together regardless of religious affiliation, gender or age differences. Four months after the protests began, the country’s institutions are in shambles, a financial crisis worsens, and the media is in a near-total blackout. Unfortunately, Western attention has turned away from Lebanon. The situation, though, still warrants careful observation, as what happens next could mean a …
Supporters holding signs that read "Bernie or BUST".

The #BernieOrBust slogan was widely adopted in the 2016 Presidential Elections by ardent supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders. These devotees insisted that they would not vote for any candidate (namely Hillary Clinton, the eventual Democratic Party nominee) in the eventual general election showdown with Trump. Four years later, the slogan has resurfaced as a credible threat directed toward what many perceive to be a recalcitrant Democratic Party establishment. In what follows, I do not claim that “#BernieOrBusters” are morally justified (all things considered), but merely offer a possible defence for why some #BernieOrBust advocates are behaving in a rationally justified manner.  I grant two premises amenable to most critics of #BernieOrBusters: first, Trump is a highly problematic candidate in his actions and dispositions; second, whilst not …
Side by side photos of the Mexican President AMLO (waving) and former Brazilian President Lula (giving thumbs up).

For the last two decades, observers and scholars of Latin American politics have wondered about the electoral fate of the left. Some analysts in particular have highlighted how the end of the ‘Pink-tide’ precipitated the comeback of right-of-centre governments across the region. But in this regard, Mexico has been running in dissonance to its regional counterparts. The right-of-centre parties Partido Acción Nacional (PAN) and then the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) occupied the executive office from 2000 to 2018 while most Latin American countries turned to either a radical or a reformist left.  Now, however, left-of-centre Andres Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) and his National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) hold the Mexican presidency. To delineate what the future might hold for AMLO, we can look to the previous experience of the …

Protest in an age of globalization relies on performance. From Hong Kong to La Paz and Santiago to Khartoum, global attention is increasingly captured by mass movements of people, demonstrating strength in numbers against prevailing political and economic systems.  Modern protests, however, only work some of the time. Drawing on current events, scholars might consider a protest’s success hinging upon which audience they choose to target and the power of that audience to act. We see differences, for example, between Hong Kong — where protesters engaged the global community with limited effect thus far on Beijing — and protests in Sudan earlier this year — which targeted an old, autocratic leader’s military cadre, but did in fact precipitate a military coup.  Has globalization changed protesting? Today’s global stage is nothing new — consider the nationalist movements …

On 15 January, President Vladimir Putin called for a “greater balance between the branches of power” as he announced significant changes to the Russian constitution. On the same day, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and his cabinet resigned and were quickly replaced. The new Prime Minister, Mikhail Mishustin, was a relatively unknown figure in Russia until recently, having previously spearheaded digital modernization efforts as head of the Federal Tax Service.  The surprise changes are seen as preparation for the Putin’s departure from the presidency in 2024 given current constitutional restrictions, which prevent him from being president more than two consecutive terms. The proposed constitutional reforms would not facilitate his return to the post in the future, however, but instead propose to weaken the presidency …

As protests in Hong Kong have become more violent, have the demographics of the protesters changed? Political scientists have argued that a shift toward more violent protest action can alienate moderate protesters. Moderates, in this definition, are those who may share common cause with radicals (or those who embrace violent tactics) but reject those tactics. Once alienated, such moderate protesters tend to withdraw their support from a movement and may refrain from participating in protest action in the future. Hong Kong’s protests seem to have defied this trend. My surveys of protest participants find that the demographic profile of protesters has remained relatively constant even as violence has escalated in the demonstrations. Certain types of protesters who might be expected …