Posts In Category

Democracy and Elections

The coalition government is nearly halfway through its term and little way towards finding a strategy for growth. For the British Labour party, several key priorities for growth are taking shape, but sharper definition is now required The Left has to identify a new politics of production and growth. The recent UK growth statistics underline the catastrophic damage and continuing aftershocks inflicted by the financial meltdown in 2008-9, exacerbated by the never-ending crisis in the eurozone. Despite it’s disastrous track-record of macro-economic management, epitomised by the Lawson boom in the late 1980s and George Osbourne’s ill-timed retrenchment since 2010, the Conservatives have consistently positioned themselves as the party of fiscal discipline and economic competence, as well as the party of …

On August 22, 2012, German Chancellor Angela Merkel conducted an important one-day visit to Moldova to celebrate 20 years of German-Moldovan cooperation. Some of the key topics of discussion during her visit were a potential resolution of the Transnistrian conflict, triggered by the self-proclaimed independence of this Moldovan region in 1990 and suspended by the 1992 ceasefire, as well as Moldova’s integration into the European Union (EU). Indicative of the importance of this visit was the fact that the German Chancellor took part in the visit personally, rather than sending a lower ranking representative to address her Moldovan counterpart. Most commentators who have analyzed Merkel’s visit have played down its importance, arguing it merely represents a strengthened effort to resolve …

In these days of financial crisis, austerity and expenses scandals, one doesn’t have to go far to find citizens complaining that our democracy is in decline.  Most people do this from the comfort of their armchairs, shouting at Question Time or changing the TV channel when a particularly annoying politician crosses their screen.  However, the founder of the Independent newspaper, Andreas Whittam Smith, is prepared to go one step further. Yesterday, Whittam Smith announced a plan for a new British movement to ‘restore democracy’.  He argued that the UK’s current MPs are drawn from a narrow set of backgrounds – law, medicine, journalism and, of course, political hackery.  In this view, we are left with a cohort of politicians more suited to marketing …

After suffering decades of repression and forced to go underground, the recent election victory for Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood has emboldened the movement to spread its influence in a region where mainstream political Islam has for so long been denied. At the same time, this is cause for much anxiety to the remaining despotic Arab regimes, particularly in the oil-rich Gulf. Even prior to the elections it was widely reported that the Saudi’s preferred an Egypt run by the remnants of Mubarak’s regime, such as Ahmed Shafik, than an Islamist candidate.[1] They fear that a brotherhood victory will not only embolden the already problematic Islamist opposition at home but also set the grounds for Egypt reclaiming leadership of the Islamic world, upstaging …

Following decades of internal civil strife, on July 11, 2011, the African nation of Sudan separated into two de jure sovereign states as the South finally gained its long-awaited independence. Yet those with any sort of intimate knowledge of Sudan will have viewed the scenes of jubilation across the South and the calm acceptance displayed by the North on the day of separation with caution. Although South Sudan’s moral claims to independence were never in doubt, its possibility of a peaceful future appeared, if anything, less certain following its separation from the North. A year on, it is a prescient time to reflect on how Africa’s most recently divorced couple are faring on their separate paths. For South Sudan, like …

After former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was toppled in February 2011, the Supreme Council for the Armed Forces assumed executive power in Egypt, and launched the ‘transitional period.’ In the seemingly boundless space created by Mubarak’s absence, millions of citizens freely debated every aspect of the emerging political and social order, in public meetings, at home, in the media, and on the streets. It was a time of limitless imagination. Meanwhile, amongst international and Egyptian human rights organisations, a more contained conversation began on the practice and precedents of transitional justice. Cairo soon played host to major conferences on the subject. In these meetings, three central assumptions were regularly made, particularly by international participants. First, transitional justice precedents offer the …

This weekend, Hong Kong, the newly declared “best city in the world”, celebrated the 15th anniversary of its return to China, and swore in its new leader, Beijing-backed Leung Chun-ying, the third Hong Kong Premier since its re-joining of the mainland. However, events that took place on Saturday and Sunday have indicated that the public mood within Hong Kong is far from universally jubilant. While the official media has been full to the brim of Chinese nationalism-oriented elation, on the Saturday evening many residents of Hong Kong displayed their increasing anger with the actions and dictates of the parent state by protesting outside of the Convention centre where Hu Jintao was due to inaugurate Leung. Protests continued throughout the Saturday …

Having toppled a dictator of thirty years in the uprisings of January and February 2011, millions of Egyptians looked ahead to a future of comprehensive change. In May 2012, they faced the disturbing prospect of choosing a new president from a list that included Mubarak’s last prime minister, and foreign minister. When the former, Ahmad Shafik, was allowed to pass through to the second electoral round, waves of nationwide protest decried his candidacy. Yesterday, to the alarm of pro-revolution political forces, the High Constitutional Court dissolved parliament, and legislative powers passed to the ruling military council. Several prominent activists have slammed the entire transitional process, and have been protesting with fellow Egyptians to boycott a poll they dismiss as illegitimate …