From politics to protest: taking it to the streets

IvanKrastevThe pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong are just the latest in a wave of political protests that has swept the world since late 2010. In “From Politics to Protest,” Ivan Krastev (left) examines why people have been taking to the streets, not only where they are denied the right to freely elect their leaders (as in Hong Kong), but also in countries where they fully enjoy the right to vote. Krastev suggests that elections are losing their capacity to make voters feel that their voices are being heard, and he explores what this may mean for the future of democracy.

India’s sixteenth general elections heralded a new era in the country’s politics: The Hindu-nationalist BJP won an unprecedented absolute majority in parliament, while the long-dominant Congress party suffered a stunning defeat. Four essays by leading experts explain the electoral outcome, look at the economic implications of the BJP’s victory, weigh the possibility of renewed communal violence, and give a big-picture assessment of India’s future.

jodoctIndonesia held successful parliamentary elections in April and presidential elections in July. Yet the news is not all good. The parliamentary contest was marred by pervasive “money politics,” as Edward Aspinall explains in “Politics and Patronage,” and the presidential race was nearly won by Prabowo Subianto, a populist who “promised to undertake the radical and dangerous experiment of restoring Indonesia’s pre-democratic order.” In “How Jokowi Won and Democracy Survived,” Marcus Mietzner cautions that “Indonesian democracy is still vulnerable, and will be for years to come.”

Elsewhere in the issue, Ghia Nodia writes on “The Revenge of Geopolitics,” part of a set of articles on “External Influence and Democratization” that also features pieces by Jakob Tolstrup and Steven Levitsky & Lucan Way; a pair of essays by João Carlos Espada and Liubomir Topaloff examine the rise of Euroskeptic parties in the EU and what it means; Richard Joseph explores the prospects for democracy in Africa through the lens of Nigeria; and Javier Corrales & Michael Penfold detail the growing trend in Latin America to relax or eliminate presidential term limits.

To see the complete Table of Contents, please visit www.journalofdemocracy.org.

 

Nigeria’s 2015 Elections: weak state a greater problem than democracy?

Weak state capacity is a greater problem for Nigeria than democratic governance, says a leading expert.

fukuyama pol order decay“Lack of democracy is not the core of the country’s problems,” Stanford University’s Francis Fukuyama writes in his latest book. Nigeria needs “a strong, modern, and capable state … The Nigerian state is weak not only in technical capacity and its ability to enforce laws impersonally and transparently. It is also weak in a moral sense: it has a deficit of legitimacy.” 

Join a discussion on expanding public participation in Nigeria’s forthcoming national elections, scheduled for February, 2015. Panelists will discuss strategies to educate voters on the electoral process, increase participation among traditionally underrepresented groups—women, youth, rural voters—and ensure the overall safety and integrity of the vote. This session will begin with a recently completed micro-analysis by the National Democratic Institute examining voter participation patterns in the 2011 elections. The conference is part of an ongoing series, supported by the Ford Foundation, bringing Nigerian officials, civil society activists, and opinion leaders to Washington, D.C. to engage with U.S. policymakers and Africa experts on how best to ensure the success of Nigeria’s 2015 elections.

Nigeria’s 2015 Elections: Engaging Voters

Panel 1: Lessons from 2011 and INEC’s Outreach Strategy

Chris Fomunyoh Senior Associate and Regional Director for Central and West Africa National Democratic Institute (NDI) Richard Klein Senior Advisor for Election Processes, NDI Oluwole Osaze Uzzi Director of Voter Education, Publicity, Gender, and CSOs Independent National Election Commission (INEC) Panel 2: Building an Informed and Active ElectorateYemi Adamolekun Executive Director, Enough is Enough Idayat Hassan Director, Centre for Democracy and Development Tunji Lardner Executive Director, WANGONeT Ayisha Osori CEO, Nigerian Women’s Trust Fund

Thursday, September 25, 2014 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Center for Strategic and International Studies 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20036 2nd Floor Conference Room Conference to be followed by a reception

Please RSVP to africa@csis.org

Nigerian women: A New Dawn

A New Dawn is a short film from Nigeria‘s Create Her Space Project, featuring Kate Henshaw, Joke Silva, Nita George, Jide Attah and others. It captures the story of a dissatisfied community and a resilient woman who wanted change.

Women understand feminine challenges and only women can represent the right to save women., argues the Nigerian Women Trust Fund, a partner of the National Endowment for Democracy. Nigeria has 2% of the world’s population but 10% of global maternal deaths. Each day, 144 Nigerian women die in childbirth, which is equivalent to one death every 10 minutes. The group’s Create Her Space project aims “to get more women into the system to save our girls, sisters, mothers and women.”

Nigeria’s youth key to countering Boko Haram

nigeria girls

In the shadow of Boko Haram‘s kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls, bombings on 20 and 24 May have thrown Jos – a city in the middle belt of Nigeria – into the spotlight, notes Janet Adama, the West Africa program director at Conciliation Resources.

Although the attacks did not discriminate between Muslim and Christian, or Fulani and Berom (the main ethnic groups in Jos), there are growing fears of increased sectarian tensions and youth gang violence, she writes for The Guardian. These fears are not unfounded – over the past decade, Jos has experienced an enduring cycle of violence stemming from disputes over land, resources and political power that has exploited sectarian and ethnic differences. Since 2001, when major riots first erupted in Jos, at least 4,000 (and possibly as many as 7,000) people have been killed in the city.

Jos’ young people are often seen as the main aggressors when conflict escalates. The association of political, religious and ethnic conflict with criminal violence, drugs and gang culture, has seen many point to high youth unemployment as a key cause of violence.

Over the past year, Conciliation Resources, a UK-based INGO, and the Centre for Peace Advancement in Nigeria (CEPAN) have been working with Youth Platforms for Peace, a project funded by the National Endowment for Democracy, to transform young people from perceived aggressors to facilitators of peace.

The project is led by youth ambassadors, who map gang centres in their communities, as well as recruit youth participants for the Youth Platforms for Peace. Through this process, the youth ambassadors gain a greater understanding of the root causes of conflict in their community, and an appreciation of what is needed to build peace. …..The platforms seek to rebuild damaged relationships between youth and other members of the community. Discussions are hosted with women’s groups and elders, who feel most threatened by youth gangs.

Looking forward, conflict in Jos will be deeply affected by how the Nigerian government and international community decide to respond to Boko Haram.

Janet Adama is the West Africa program director at Conciliation Resources. Follow @CRbuildpeace on Twitter.

RTWT

Why U.S. promotes democracy – Samantha Power

At a time of democratic regression and authoritarian challenges, there is a moral and a strategic imperative “to ensure that democracy expands, deepens, and delivers,” according to a senior U.S. diplomat.

“True democracy, complete with checks and balances, offers what no other system can,” said Samantha Power, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. “If you give people the tools to correct the parts of their government that are broken, as only democracy can…they will seize them.”

“Democracy wins out in the long run because it offers a chance to fix its own mistakes. It is the only system built on the premise that if something is not working, people can actually correct it, from the bottom up,” she said in a commencement address this week to graduates of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. “Self-correction is not destabilizing; it is stabilizing.”

“To those who are disillusioned with what’s happened in places like Syria — places where people took valiant first steps towards demanding democracy, only to suffer a horrific backlash — I would remind you that what we are witnessing in the Middle East is not the consequence of too much democracy but rather the toxic consequences of too little democracy for too long,” said Power, who previously served as a professor and founding executive director of the Kennedy School’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy.

“Even as some countries continue steadily along the path toward greater democracy, others have taken some concerning steps back with respect to political rights and civil liberties,” she said. “Still others seem caught in a rut of tyranny from which even the ambitions and the aspirations of their people have not yet freed them. Your challenge is to ensure that democracy expands, deepens, and delivers.”

“President Obama has instructed all his diplomats to make supporting civil society an integral part of American foreign policy — to support the change makers who are on the front lines of the struggle for universal rights,” said Power, a forceful advocate within the Obama administration for advancing democracy.

No hidden agenda

“It is no coincidence that civil society and journalists are often the first to come under fire when democracy is backsliding,” she said. “That’s why, every day, American diplomats stand up for the right of people to organize peacefully for change, bringing real resources and sustained diplomatic pressure to bear. There is no hidden agenda here, simply a fundamental expression of our support for, and belief in, democratic values.”

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As President Obama told graduates of West Point earlier today, the United States must continue to lead efforts to confront threats to democracy and to advance freedom and human progress.

For starters, in some of the “younger” democracies — countries that had been on the path towards greater democracy and rule of law — progress has slowed or setbacks have occurred. This shouldn’t come as too big a surprise, because we know it is much tougher to build a system of genuine checks and balances than it is to depose an autocrat. In too many places, the outward marker of a democracy — elections — marks the absence of basic rights and the strong institutions needed to defend them.

In Ukraine, one of the electoral democracies born out of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Maidan protests started last year because successive elections had done little to end the state’s rampant corruption and authoritarian tendencies. In Venezuela, the current government came to power through an election, but when protesters turned out to criticize certain policies, security forces brutally beat them and locked up opposition leaders on false charges.

Additionally, in some places where citizens have demanded the right to choose their own leaders, democratic transition has coincided with political instability and a dramatic increase in ethnic and religious conflict. For all of the jubilation that accompanied the original Arab Spring, this journey was never going to be easy. Think for a second how hard it is to grow trustworthy institutions on fallow ground where, for decades, rulers governed by fear, where people on the losing side of a political contest could never reasonably expect to have a shot at winning the next time around, where there had never before been a next time around.

And finally, at the very moment when we most yearn for a city, or cities, on a hill — models that serve as proof that the democratic system can deliver — many “older,” established democracies are delivering too much dysfunction. Gridlock and partisanship are too common. Political influence can seem to be a special privilege reserved for those with wealth and power.

True democracy, complete with checks and balances, offers what no other system can. You know already that democracies are less likely to go to war, are less corrupt, and, on average, are wealthier than non-democracies. You are also familiar with Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen’s landmark finding that no genuine democracy has ever experienced a famine.

But I want to emphasize something else today: Democracy wins out in the long run because it offers a chance to fix its own mistakes. It is the only system built on the premise that if something is not working, people can actually correct it, from the bottom up. In fact, democracy works best when people are given the opportunity to constantly monitor and repair the kinks in the machinery. And given the choice, nearly everybody would welcome the chance to rein in abusive police, to stop paying bribes to get social services, and to ensure their children have access to quality education. Self-correction is not destabilizing; it is stabilizing.

Democratic governments that respect human rights have not and will not fail to deliver on their promise. Nor have they lost their intrinsic appeal. In fact, the opposite is true.

To those who are disillusioned with what’s happened in places like Syria — places where people took valiant first steps towards demanding democracy, only to suffer a horrific backlash — I would remind you that what we are witnessing in the Middle East is not the consequence of too much democracy but rather the toxic consequences of too little democracy for too long.

To those who would argue that such fear cannot be overcome and such conventions cannot be changed, I would point you to Tunisia. The Arab Spring began there, as you all know, when a humble street vendor who was humiliated and beaten by local officials went to his governor for help. He wanted to work within the system. He went to his governor. But he was turned away. It was only when he could see no other way to secure change that he set himself on fire.

Show me a clearer illustration of hopelessness in the face of injustice, of living in a system that lacks the means for self-correction.

But look at what’s happened in Tunisia since that time. The Tunisian people not only unseated a dictator but also replaced him with a diverse mix of Islamists and secularists. After two years of intense negotiations, those representatives approved a new constitution, which recognizes fundamental freedoms and the separation of powers. Many people claimed an Arab democracy would never respect the rights of women or religious minorities. Now Tunisia has a constitution that protects both.

Yet it would be a mistake to look at this achievement as the work of Tunisia’s leaders alone. It was the Tunisian people, backed by human rights defenders, civil society groups, a vibrant press, NGOs, and so many others, who pressed these new leaders to reach such a compromise.

Even in places where leaders have repeatedly failed to live up to their pledges, citizens have shown remarkable patience with democracy. This past weekend, millions of Ukrainians voted and elected a leader who promised to replace the graft and divisiveness of his predecessor with accountability and unity. Notwithstanding their recent history, Ukrainians hold out hope in democracy not because they are naïve or because they have short memories but out of a reasoned pragmatism. They know that no model gives them a better shot or a greater hand in correcting the mistakes of the past.

President Obama has instructed all his diplomats to make supporting civil society an integral part of American foreign policy — to support the change makers who are on the front lines of the struggle for universal rights. It is no coincidence that civil society and journalists are often the first to come under fire when democracy is backsliding. That’s why, every day, American diplomats stand up for the right of people to organize peacefully for change, bringing real resources and sustained diplomatic pressure to bear. There is no hidden agenda here, simply a fundamental expression of our support for, and belief in, democratic values.

Indeed, all of the steps toward more inclusive and rights-respecting democracies — in India, in Tunisia, in the United States, and in so many other democracies, young and old — can be traced back to the demands of citizens and the agents of change who have inspired and empowered them. And all of these changes would have been impossible if the system itself were not predicated on fixing its own mistakes.

As we sit here today, at least 200 Nigerian girls are in captivity. They were targeted, quite simply, because they chose to get an education.

I suspect you will not hear me utter a line like this one again, but here goes: Boko Haram understands something very important about those girls. They understand that educated girls will ask smart questions. An educated girl will question whether she wants to grow up in a society where she is condemned to silence and servitude.

An educated girl will question the values of a justice system that sentences a woman to death simply because of her religion or that of the man she loves, as happened two weeks ago in Sudan to a woman who, just yesterday, gave birth to a child in prison.

And an educated girl will question whether a woman should earn less than a man simply because she’s a woman, as a woman named Lilly Ledbetter asked in the United States. For all of those reasons, Boko Haram understands that a generation of girls armed with books, with pencils, and with the ambition to learn is a greater threat to their close-minded vision of the world than any military.

RTWT