This article was originally published by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) on 17 March 2017.
When the iconic democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi won her historic, landslide election in Burma (Myanmar), she was met by soaring expectations, as well as by the formidable challenges of violent conflicts, a stuttering economy and the significant constraints of sharing authority with a still-powerful military.
Not surprisingly, she has fallen short.
Since taking office just over a year ago, she has been navigating a thorny and complex landscape with great caution. Many say too cautiously, but getting that balance right will be critical for a successful and peaceful transition.
This article was originally published by Pacific Forum CSIS on 16 March 2017.
If Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo wakes up these days with an extra bounce in his step, it’s with good reason. He has overtaken Nakasone Yasuhiro to become the sixth longest serving prime minister in Japanese history, and he will soon pass Koizumi Junichiro, who set the standard in the post-Cold War era. The ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) just agreed to revise party rules to extend the maximum presidential tenure to three consecutive three-year terms for a total of nine years. (The previous limit was two.) If Abe completes a full third term, he will become Japan’s longest serving prime minister ever.
Changing the rules is a smart move. While in office, Abe built and cemented his party’s parliamentary majority, bringing stability to a political system that was marked by uncertainty and hobbled by ineffectual leaders. The economy has regained its footing, with growth on the upswing, unemployment shrinking, and business confidence surging. Abe has set the standard for a good working relationship with US President Donald Trump and reduced tensions (somewhat) with Beijing and Seoul (although neither relationship can be counted on to continue its current path untended). He has made good on his promise to secure Japan’s place among the first tier of nations and to make it a force to be reckoned with in international relations.
This article was originally published by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) on 3 March 2017.
What future for Europe does Jean Claude Juncker want?
On 1 March 2017, President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker delivered a White Paper on the future of Europe, which is meant to be discussed by governments and to encourage reflection on the role of the European Union. Later this month the Treaty of Rome will turn 60, but timing and context already indicate that the Commission does not believe any decisions on next steps will be taken until that anniversary is long past. More likely, they will wait for the dust to settle after national elections in the Netherlands, France, and Germany, and discuss the proposals towards the end of 2017.
The paper reads like a run-of-the-mill think-tank report from ten years ago, featuring a hefty dose of disillusionment with EU reform and failed referendums. In fact, the White Paper falls short of laying out any specific plan or recommendations for what to do next. Instead, it provides scenarios that seem to scare the reader about what could happen to the EU over the coming years, while failing to state what might actually trigger the alternative futures it sketches.
This article was originally published by E-International Relations on 24 February 2017.
The world is sick. Un/fortunately, while advocates of Brexit and other populists have correctly identified the symptoms of broad societal illness—overpowering anxiety about the present and the future; a loss of control of the self, the family, the community and the nation itself—they have misdiagnosed the primary cause of our infirmity and their efforts to cure the patient are therefore doomed to fail.
The palliative narrative offered by Leavers is a simple one. In their view, a nefarious cabal of ‘globalists’ are far removed from the everyday realities of regular people. Yet they have somehow wrested authority from local representatives (since globalism and national interest are inherently at odds), and thereby have undermined the democratic character and unique identities of individual countries. Leavers now suggest that a ream of new barriers and other protectionist measures will seal and heal the punctured state and allow people to “take back control” of their countr(ies).
This article was originally published by openDemocracy on 15 February 2017.
Since the early 1990s, political elites have enthusiastically embraced the values and practices of democracy in the Americas. At the international level, this enthusiasm translated into collective commitments to defend democracy against its enemies, through specific instruments added to the legal frameworks of the regional organizations existing in the region. The tendency has continued in the new millennium as new organizations such as the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) have also committed themselves to assist and, if necessary, to sanction those countries in which democracy is breached.
Liberal intellectuals and politicians were quick (maybe too quick) to interpret these regional developments as further proof of the consolidation of democracy in the Western Hemisphere. Yet, it is worth taking a more careful look at this phenomenon, especially in a phase in which illiberal democracies, competitive authoritarian, and truly authoritarian regimes seem to be coming to stay, at least for a while, alongside traditional democracies in the Americas and in Europe.