International Day of Democracy: Global Legislative Openness

glowTo mark today’s International Day of Democracy, the National Democratic Institute is helping to organize around issues of legislative openness.

The Global Legislative Openness Week (GLOW) is being organized by the Legislative Openness Working Group of the Open Government Partnership (OGP), which is co-anchored by NDI and the Chilean Congress. The full calendar of activities, which will run from September 15 to 25, is listed here, although a few events are still being added by additional partners.

Mobile technology and social media are changing the way that citizens engage in politics. At the same time, however, many tradition-bound representative institutions have been slow to harness the power of technology to improve legislative transparency or to open the legislative process to greater citizen participation. GLOW is intended to help highlight this issue and to share information on good practices around legislative openness. Parliaments and civil society organizations in more than a dozen countries are participating in GLOW through in-country events or by helping to share information online regarding their legislature’s efforts to become more transparent and to better engage citizens.  

Several organizations are also using GLOW to advocate for greater legislative transparency in their countries. The Sunlight Foundation is coordinating a number of advocacy efforts to coincide with the event, including this letter which has been translated into multiple languages and will be sent to presiding officers of legislatures and parliaments around the world. NDI has not signed on to the letter because it is not a parliamentary monitoring organization, but it is supportive of the effort. To date, the letter has been endorsed by more than 80 organizations in more than 40 countries.  

While there will be a fair amount of activity on the hashtag throughout the week, there are several “tweet talks” being held using the hashtag at specific times throughout the week:  

  • Sept. 19, 10-11 AM EST/ 6-7 PM Tbilisi: Money in Parliaments, Best Practices for Financial Disclosure, moderated by Sunlight Foundation and Transparency International Georgia.
  • Sept. 22, 10-11 AM EST:  What Commitments Can Your Legislature Make? Expanding Open Government Partnership Action Plans, moderated by the National Democratic Institute.
  • Sept. 23, 3-4 AM EST/ 9-10 AM Prague/5-6 PM Sydney: Analyzing and Visualizing Parliamentary Data, moderated by

Please feel free to follow and participate in these discussions and to follow the hashtag throughout the week.    

More information on the week’s events can be found at, or by contacting Sarah Welsh on NDI’s governance team at  

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Imran Khan’s threat to Pakistan’s democracy

The month-long dharnas (sit-in) in the nerve centre of Pakistan’s federal capital can easily be described as the ‘Disneyland of Pakistani dystopia,’ notes a prominent observer.

Shocking is the fact that a cleric with good oratory skills can create an illusion of revolution with his half-baked ideas, selective reading of the often mutilated Constitution and his captive religious supporters. And an ex-cricketer with his nostalgic charm primarily in non-political fields can ZafarullahKhanmarket himself as a sole Massihaa (salvager) and a revolutionary reformer, writes Zafarullah Khan, an Islamabad-based civic educator/researcher:

This can happen only in 21st century Pakistan. …The life of pure parliamentary experience including caretakers has been slightly less than 35 percent with dozens of unnecessary disruptions. Who do we blame and ask for the accountability of these lost years of national life? Juxtaposed with these odds is the historic resilience of Pakistanis for the federal parliamentary system that cares for the concerns of the periphery otherwise expediently ignored by the centralised state and its decaying institutions. It is the same with circumvented constitutionalism that asserted ‘due process’ as one of the fundamental rights only in 2010 through the 18th Amendment.

The stand-off also risks bringing the military back into politics, notes the FT:

The army has been able to present itself as a neutral “third force”, a mirage in a country that has been under military rule for almost half of its independent years. [Imran] Khan has vehemently denied suggestions that he is being manipulated by the military, which is angry with Mr Sharif for pursuing the prosecution of Pervez Musharraf, a former military ruler, and for trying to seize control of foreign policy. Yet Mr Khan’s actions are playing into the hands of those who would bring the whole shaky democratic edifice toppling down.

Can the military’s ingrained strategic worldview change? Analyst Christine Fair is not hopeful, notes the Jinnah Institute’s Raza Rumi:

She paints a dire picture and argues the institution is “fundamentally unsatisfied with the status quo, desiring additional territory even when it is not desired for security.” In a striking insight, she also challenges the conventional wisdom that democratization will improve things. Fair says the Army’s strategic culture permeates Pakistan’s “civil society, political culture and bureaucracies.”

aqil shahIn his book, The Army and Democracy: Military Politics in Pakistan (published in April 2014), Aqil Shah, a political scientist at Dartmouth [and former Reagan Fascell fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy], presciently said, “…it could be reasonably speculated that Pakistan might be heading toward a new civil-military arrangement in which civilian supremacy becomes a euphemism for the military’s formal and active participation in matters of war and peace. In other words, this would constitute a situation in which the military does not seize direct power but formally insinuates its non-democratic privileges into the functioning of a democracy.” (The Army and Democracy, Conclusion, page 286).

The nursery of politics – students unions – has been forbidden fruit since 1984. Similar is the case of vibrant labour unions, notes Khan, a member of the World Movement for Democracy’s steering committee:

On the contrary traditionalist religio-political thoughts enjoy the liberty of refuge behind taqlid (following). The story of nation-building agencies like public service broadcast and educational curriculum are equally pathetic. Deepening understanding about democracy and its vital ingredients is also missing from the radar of the vibrant private media and educational sphere.

The theme of the International Day of Democracy-2014 is: engaging the youth for democratic ideals and dreams. In sociological terms Pakistan is experiencing a youth bulge. This is an appropriate time to seize the opportunity and make the largest segment of the society a vanguard of democracy and harbinger of democratic culture, constitutionalism and rule of law.

The overwhelming majority of our youth require a compulsory vaccine of democratic civic education to understand the dynamics and institutional architecture of politics and the design of polity to make democracy more meaningful and transform the democratic culture. Most of our struggles in the past had been for democratic space and survival. It is now time to add some real substance to the nation’s democratic experience. Can we meet this enormous challenge?


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Democracy’s depressing paradox: Fukuyama’s ‘Political Order and Political Decay’


fukuyama pol order decayFrancis Fukuyama’s “Political Order and Political Decay,” a whirlwind tour of modern political development from the French Revolution to the present, is nothing if not ambitious, says Columbia University’s Sheri Berman.

“He wants to do more than just describe what liberal democracy is; he wants to discover how and why it develops (or does not),” she writes for the New York Times:

He suggests that the sequencing of political development is important, arguing that “those countries in which democracy preceded modern state building have had much greater problems achieving high-quality governance than those that inherited modern states from absolutist times.” But the cases he gives as examples do not necessarily fit the argument well (since Prussia’s state eventually had trouble deferring to civilian authorities and the early weakness of the Italian state was probably caused more by a lack of democracy than a surfeit of it). In addition, he surely understands that authoritarianism is even more likely to generate state weakness than democracy since without free media, an active civil society and regular elections, authoritarianism has more opportunities to make use of corruption, clientelism and predation than democracies do.

Fukuyama, a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy, leaves his readers with a depressing paradox, Berman notes:

Liberal democracy remains the best system for dealing with the challenges of modernity, and there is little reason to believe that Chinese, Russian or Islamist alternatives can provide the diverse range of economic, social and political goods that all humans crave. But unless liberal democracies can somehow manage to reform themselves and combat institutional decay, history will end not with a bang but with a resounding whimper.


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Eulogy for Ukraine?


ukrainesolidarnoscKiev has lost eastern Ukraine to Russia, says a leading analyst.

The turning point came on August 27, as the first direct invasion of Ukraine by Russian regulars broke the Ukrainian army’s siege of pro-Russian rebel strongholds in Donetsk and Luhansk, Elizabeth Pond writes for the German Council on Foreign Relations:

The truce of September 5 echoed Thucydides’ maxim that “the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.”….

In the short run Ukraine’s position is weak, while Russia’s is strong. In the long run the reverse may be true. The problem for the West in the interim is that hard military power wins instant victories, while soft economic power, if it works, will do so only in the long run.

In this interim period Ukraine is again playing its historical role as a borderland playground for mightier neighbors.


ELIZABETH POND, a Berlin-based journalist, is the author of “The Rebirth of Europe.“ She has covered Ukraine for over 30 years.

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How far will Putin go? Wants ‘hot peace’ not Cold War

RUSSIA-UKRAINE-POLITICS-CRISISThere are four founding principles of Vladimir Putin’s strategy, according to Mark Galeotti, Professor of Global Affairs at New York University.

First of all, he believes the West to be powerful – more powerful than Russia – but weak in discipline, ruthlessness, determination, and unity. As a result, he has turned to what I call “guerrilla geopolitics,” trying to capitalize on these perceived vulnerabilities without triggering a direct conflict. The days when NATO feared waves of Soviet tanks crashing through the Fulda Gap are long gone. Instead, the challenge is from non-linear operations that blend political misdirection, subversion and propaganda with small but carefully calibrated injections of military force, whether from local proxies or deniable special forces.

Thirdly, one of the key distinctions between today’s “hot peace” and the old Cold War is that there is no desire on the Kremlin’s part to export any ideology. The aim is entirely defensive: to protect the regime’s grip on its country and its economic and security interests in its immediate neighborhood. Putin and the small circle of elites to whom he still listens essentially want to be left in peace to rule Russia and dominate Eurasia.

Finally, Putin’s nationalism is neither Soviet nor tsarist, although he bears the stamp of both. He does not want to restore the old empire, not least because that would incorporate many non-Russians, further diluting – in his opinion – the cultural unity of the Russian Federation. Instead, his vision of Russia’s true bounds is essentially cultural, anchored on “the Russian people” as a linguistically, culturally, historically, and religiously unified entity.

“However, Putin will not sacrifice his personal position or Russia in the name of ideology, empire, or personal crusade,” Galeotti writes for The European. “So long as he still feels that the West is divided and irresolute – and no number of diplomatic statements will do anything to change this – he will continue to push and to needle.”

“He seeks not to invade the West, but to neuter it.”

“Moscow is not looking for a major world transforming struggle with the West because it knows that it would probably lose such a struggle,” he tells Bernard Gwertzman, Consulting Editor at the Council on Foreign Relations:

Nor does Moscow have some great ambition to reshape the rest of the world. The Cold War was driven by an ideological premise. The West was for democracy and liberal markets; the Soviets were for state socialism and wanted to export that.

The Russians are not looking to export anything now. More than anything else, they want freedom of maneuver to maintain their current hybrid, pseudo-democratic authoritarian oligarchy. At home, they want to have the freedom to impose their will in their immediate hinterland of Eurasia. They don’t want to be restrained by international institutions like the United Nations.

“It is more of a hot peace. They are not out for war,” Galeotti contends. “On the other hand, Russia will be aggressive. It will become confrontational. The Russians will use methods we will regard as reprehensible.”


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