Chávez vs UKIP? How Latin America Has Reinvigorated the European Left

Nigel Farage, the leader of UKIP

Nigel Farage, the leader of UKIP

This article was originally published by SPERI on 13 August 2014.

The numbers speak for themselves. Though currently in opposition, both its plurality in European elections and recent polling suggest that Syriza (Coalition of the Radical Left) will soon become Greece’s largest political force. Only founded in March, Spain’s Podemos (We Can) took five seats and 8 per cent of the vote in May’s European elections. Its support now stands at 15 per cent, compared to 25 per cent apiece for the traditional parties. How did both manage it? Surprisingly, the answer is by emulating the Latin American left. Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras has undertaken numerous fact-finding missions to Venezuela over the past decade and considers Hugo Chávez a personal hero. Podemos, meanwhile, was established by a group of longstanding advisors to the governments of Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela, all based at Madrid’s Universidad Complutense. So central has their experience been that Podemos cite ‘thorough analysis and learning of recent Latin American processes’ as one cornerstone of their approach. » More

What Does the Modi Election Mean for India-Pakistan?

Narendra Modi giving a speech at a rally in Rewari, courtesy of Flickr upload bot/wikimedia

This article was originally published on the Australian Strategic Policy Institute‘s blog, The Strategist, on 22 May 2014.

The massive landslide victory of Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in India’s recent parliamentary election will have been received with mixed feelings in neighbouring Pakistan. Still, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was one of the first heads of state to call Modi to congratulate him on his election victory.

Reportedly, Sharif stressed his country’s desire for a ‘new beginning’ and his desire to resume the normalisation process with India. In that spirit, he extended an invitation to Modi to visit Pakistan. But that’s unlikely to happen anytime soon. » More

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Elections Not Enough to Bring Stability to Troubled Guinea-Bissau

Image: Flickr.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published by IPI’s Global Observatory on 25 March 2014.

It is widely accepted that elections do not make a democracy, but they are generally viewed as a key first step in that direction. As the campaign for legislative and presidential elections kicked off in Guinea-Bissau last Saturday, it was clear that hopes for this first step may be overstated.

Guinea-Bissau is one of the world’s poorest nations, and the West African country of 1.7 million people has been plagued with political problems over the last several years. No president has ever fully completed his term. And though the late 2000s were marked by a modest yet cautious increase in international confidence in the country, the most recent period of unrest was triggered by the March 2009 assassination of the head of the armed forces and the apparent revenge killing of the president shortly afterwards. Three years later, the military carried out a coup in April 2012 as a new government was being formed, removing the front-runner for the presidency, Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Júnior. » More

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The Election Question

Presidential election workers in Afghanistan’s Nawa District, courtesy of US Marine Corps/wikimedia commons

NEW DELHI – With street protests roiling democracies from Bangkok to Kyiv, the nature and legitimacy of elections are once again being questioned. Are popular elections an adequate criterion by which to judge a country’s commitment to democracy? Beginning next month, elections in Afghanistan and India will throw this question into even sharper relief.

Afghanistan will hold a presidential election on April 5. But a smooth electoral process is far from guaranteed – especially given that US President Barack Obama has already informed Afghan President Hamid Karzai that the United States and NATO have no choice but to withdraw their troops by the end of this year. » More

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Mediation Perspectives: The Local Elections in Kosovo

Kosovo flag

Flag of Kosovo. Source: Cradel/Wikimedia Commons.

The local elections that took place in Kosovo towards the end of 2013 were celebrated by the international community as a historic event and a turning point in the conflict over the status of the former Yugoslav province. They were also hailed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as a milestone for the normalization of relations between Serbia and Kosovo and a clear sign that the Serb-dominated north of the disputed territory was finally prepared to become part of the Kosovar political system. Alongside the encouragement of ethnic Serbs to participate in the elections, Belgrade also committed to abolish its parallel political institutions. In return, Serb majority municipalities were granted the right to create a community with autonomy in areas such as economic development, health, education, urban and rural planning. Such initiatives helped to allay fears that the Serb minority would be dominated by an overwhelming Albanian majority.

Less than perfect conditions

However, the elections were far from being smooth, especially in the northern part of Kosovo. Voter turnout in Serb dominated municipalities was low and hovered between 15% and 20% of the electorate. The first round of elections had to be repeated in three polling stations after they were stormed by masked men. In the second round, ballots were transported to Kosovo Polje for no obvious reason instead of being counted at the polling station. In all rounds, employees of Serbian state-run enterprises were practically “ordered” to the polls. Whereas these circumstances would have warranted a critical assessment elsewhere, there seemed to be no appetite to engage in a prolonged discussion about the legitimacy of the elections – as long as they produced a result that everybody could live with. » More

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