A Good Year (So Far) for Europe’s Separatists

The flags of Scotland and the United Kingdom. Image: The Laird of Oldham /Flickr

The European Union’s (EU) separatist movements have never had it so good. Faltering economic conditions, unpopular austerity measures and ‘out of touch’ governments have combined to reignite secessionism like never before. As a result, separatist fervour has never been so vocal – both in public and the national corridors of power. And there’s more to come. » More

Will Tunisia’s Democracy Survive? A View from Political Demography

A Tunisian voter prepares to cast his ballot. Image: Freedomhouse/Flickr

This article was originally published by New Security Beat, a blog run by the Environmental Change and Security Program of the Wilson Center, on 12 May 2015.

Among the few bright spots in the 2015 Freedom in the World Report, the brightest may be Tunisia, which for the first time was assessed as “free” – Freedom House’s highest “freedom status” and for many political scientists the definitive indication of a liberal democracy. Tunisia is the only North African state to have been assessed as free since Freedom House began its worldwide assessment of political rights and civil liberties in 1972, and only the second Arab-majority state since Lebanon was rated free from 1974 to 1976.

Tunisians have had little time to celebrate. A deadly raid by jihadists on Tunis’ Bardo Museum on March 18 left 20 foreign tourists and 3 Tunisians dead and has led several analysts to warn that Tunisia’s fledgling democracy is at serious risk. » More

After April Stalemate, Could Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement Rise Again?

Protesters in Hong Kong during the “Umbrella Revolution”. Image: Pasu Au Yeung/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by IPI Global Observatory on 5 May 2015.

With Hong Kong’s April reform package to elect a new chief executive in 2017 falling far short of creating genuine universal suffrage, and doing little to bridge the region’s political divides, the battle between the government and pro-democracy supporters for hearts and minds has been revived. The “umbrella” movement that caught the world’s attention last year could therefore resurface in the coming weeks and months.

By strictly following an August 2014 decision made by China’s Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPCSC), the April package angered pro-democracy members of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council—the so-called “pan-democrats” who supported the street-based umbrella movement—who want to preserve the region’s autonomy as part of the “one country, two systems” model. » More

Building a Viable Ukraine: Can the EU Deliver?

Image: Wanderherr/Wikimedia

It has been clear for some time that EU governments, and most of their publics, find the thought of extending military support to conflict-ridden Ukraine wholly unpalatable.  Debates regarding the pros and (mostly) cons of sending European military aid and European peacekeepers have run their course throughout European capitals without much enthusiasm.

Against this background another struggle has begun to receive the attention of pundits, and rightly so. It is the long and arduous battle for a viable Ukrainian state, one that is built on a functioning democracy, a competitive economy, and the rule of law. This vision entails a process that The Economist has aptly termed de-oligarchisation and—most importantly—the ultimate objective of countering corruption.  If this vision is to succeed, the EU and Ukraine will have to demonstrate that they are as committed to each other as they claim to be. » More

Thailand: a New Constitution for a New Kind of Democracy?

Protesters in Bangkok, December 2013. Image: ilf_/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by ASPI Strategist on 4 May, 2015.

For many years Thailand was admired for its rapid economic growth. It was a good security partner for the US and Australia, and many foreigners liked visiting the country. The zigzag course of its political development, alternating between democratically-elected governments and military regimes, has prompted frowns at the appropriate times from Western governments, but the widespread assumption was that there was an underlying upwards trajectory. The election of Thaksin Shinawatra—a wealthy communications tycoon—as Prime Minister in 2001, held out the prospect of a more contemporary and business-oriented style of government. » More

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