Talking to myself about foreign policy, US politics, technology, &c.

Archive for the ‘Democratization’ Category

Best news I’ve heard out of KG

Monday, April 12th, 2010

He’s the anti-Rahm, but I can’t say how delighted this excerpt from a Times story made me.

Edil Baisalov, Ms. Otunbayeva’s chief of staff, dismissed any threat of a civil war in Kyrgyzstan. … Mr. Baisalov [is] a civil society activist who returned from exile in Sweden to join the new government.

Edil has spent years fighting for legitimate representative government in Kyrgyzstan as head of the NGO “For Democracy and Civil Society.” For his troubles he has been threatened and attacked.

To have him in such a high-ranking position in the interm government gives me great hope that this unfortunate little country will genuinely democratize.

Pakistan – Bright spot for democracy?

Monday, April 5th, 2010

Weird. Looks like Pakistan is about to make some significant constitutional changes that should advance the power of Parliament significantly.

Democracy doesn’t begin and end with elections. Changes like this that make Parliament more powerful and the President more accountable are a critical piece to provide the checks and balances to keep a government in line in between elections.

It’s awfully nice to see glimmers of progress in a corner of the world that seems to provide unrelentingly grim news.

Most impressively, the Pak President is pushing this package. Which will reduce his power. Maybe Mr. Ten Percent isn’t all bad.

Facebook in the Kingdom

Friday, December 4th, 2009

jeddah-fbSaudis outraged over the government response to devastating flooding in Jeddah are rioting in the streets.

OK, no, they aren’t. But they are protesting on Facebook.

Another example of how the opening of digital agora for conversation can have an impact; people are able to share their opinions, organize, and mobilize. Skills people learn and networks they develop will grow and expand over time.

This isn’t all negative for an authoritarian government; one of the problems with an ossified and autocratic bureaucracy which has little more than a nodding familiarity with its own subjects is that there are few routes for people to communicate problems.

Even indolent, corrupt groups like the Saudi royals want to be able to find out and fix problems; if things like FB provide a route for them to find out about the proverbial potholes then the people will be less likely to, say, overthrow them and string them up from a light pole.

In Azerbaijan, the Law is an Ass

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

Two young political activists in Azerbaijan were given two years in prison on trumped-up charges after posting a sardonic video mocking the government with a man in a donkey suit.

Working in human rights can be pretty depressing. I don’t really have anything witty or wise to add to the sad case.

Partial Democracy as Ice Cream Cone

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

The NYT has a great piece on ongoing dissent in Iran. While Ahmadinejad has bloodily quieted the streets, within the government struggles continue.

The most powerful quote:

A dissident senior cleric, Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, once in line to succeed Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic republic, released a letter on his Web site that struck at the moral and religious credentials of the leadership, saying it had chosen a “deviant path.”

“I hope they will compensate for their damages and not hold innocents in prison any longer,” he wrote, “and end the legal trials and the broadcasting of confessions, so that they no longer mock the Islamic judiciary; or at least have the courage to announce that this government is neither a republic nor is it Islamic.”

Oooh, snap! A bit of the power of constitutional democracy on display. While authoritarian, Iran’s always had something of a liberal mask; after all, apart from Israel & Turkey they were the most democratic system in the Middle East. But that has been ripped away. On the same principle that you don’t take an ice cream cone away from a toddler, this may have been a significant strategic error.

There’s a lot of smart, educated middle-class people in Iran who were already chafing under the religious thuggishness. Not that it is clear they are living under a dictatorship, who knows what the long-term consequences might be.

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