The CSS Blog Network

Growing Stress on Jordan: Contingency Planning Memorandum Update

An overview of Za’atari Refugee Camp in Jordan, courtesy UNHCR Photo Unit/Flickr

This article was originally published by the Council on Foreign Relations in March 2016.

In 2013, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) Contingency Planning Memorandum “Political Instability in Jordan” warned that the biggest threat to the stability of the Hashemite Kingdom stemmed from local grievances eroding the regime’s core tribal base of support. Although economic privation, the slow pace of reform, and a widespread perception of corruption remain significant sources of popular frustration in Jordan, the palace has since vitiated its most potent tribal and Islamist domestic political opposition, the Muslim Brotherhood. But as the risk of domestic unrest has diminished, the potential for spillover from the Syrian conflict has grown, posing an increasing threat to Jordan.

New Concerns

Jordan has a long tradition of providing sanctuary for refugees, but the kingdom has reached the saturation point. Syrian refugees in Jordan—currently around 1.4 million—constitute a significant source of instability in the kingdom. Only half are registered with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and less than 10 percent live in formal refugee camps; the majority are spread throughout the country.

» More

Afghanistan Post-2014: Will the Dark Days Return?

Will they be able to fight the Taliban after the Americans leave? Photo: Sally Armstrong, , RN/MOD via Helmandblog/flickr

October 7th marked the 11th anniversary of the United States-led war in Afghanistan. International combat forces are due to leave the country at the end of 2014, yet the war has remained “mission unaccomplished“. After years of conflict, NATO forces are set to handover responsibility for securing the country to the Afghan armed forces. However, it remains to be seen whether the Afghan’s will be able maintain order and stability after the withdrawal of foreign troops?

In the aftermath of 9/11, the United States and its NATO allies invaded Afghanistan in order to dismantle the Taliban regime and the core leadership of al Qaeda. After several weeks of conflict, NATO troops successfully ousted the Taliban from various cities and helped to establish a new democratic country — the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. » More

Madagascar Struggles to Control Domestic Instability

Student clash in Madagascar. Photo: r1_lita/flickr

Following the deaths of around a hundred people in southern Madagascar in clashes between zebu cattle rustlers (“dahalo”) and farmers, the government has decided to take special security measures to restore order. The violence is a symptom of the growing political instability in Madagascar that is affecting urban centers as well as rural communities.

People’s Justice in the South

Thefts and armed attacks are a recurring problem in Madagascar and have been growing more and more frequent since the political crisis in 2009. To overcome this problem, a national counter-instability plan [fr] was formally introduced in April 2012. The government has now mobilized the armed forces in the capital as well as in areas particularly affected by cattle theft.

However, initial attempts at stabilizing the southern region were far from successful. As Alain Rajaonarivony explains [fr]:

The military campaign carried out against the dahalo in the bush of the great south in June and July 2012 was a disaster. Not only were they more familiar with the local terrain, the dahalo were also just as well equipped as the government forces – and the lack of helicopters was sorely felt by the latter. The government forces were especially noted not for their combat ability but for their atrocities, when they burnt villages that could serve as support bases for the dahalo. » More

Belgium: Time to Move Forward

Working on common features. Photo: Everjean/flickr

No more caretaker government, demands the King of Belgium. After almost one year of failed attempts to reach an agreement between the French and Dutch-speaking parties, King Albert II has officially asked Elio di Rupo, a French-speaking socialist, to lead a government.

For too long both communities have been struggling over the country’s institutional set up. Several negotiators attempted to break the deadlock, but without success. Now everyone, including the King, is tired of the impasse and Elio di Rupo will receive a second chance to break the cycle.

Last year he failed to create a government coalition, but his role will be slightly different this time. Until now the King had only appointed politicians to find a consensus for a new government, the so-called “preformateurs”. Now he actually asked Elio di Rupo to  form his own government and become Prime Minister. A new strategy that triggers a paradoxical feeling: either the situation will soon be solved, or things will get really desperate.

Even if Elio di Rupo succeeds, the real problem will yet have to be solved. The separatist Flemish Nationalist party, which won the largest share of votes in last year’s general elections, will not simply give up on achieving more autonomy. They argue that they are tired of subsidizing the poorest part of the country, French-speaking Wallonia. A state reform appears inevitable. » More

Belarus – Stability on a Shaky Foundation

Photo of Belarus' President Lukashenko together with national flag

Belarus' President Lukashenko with national flag, courtesy of Zachary Harden/flickr

Alexander Lukashenko is still there, whether you like it or not. As president of Belarus since 1994 he has overseen the ostensible stabilization of his country, if you are willing to ignore how it has been achieved, that is.

But what are Lukashenko’s prospects after the next presidential election, expected to be held at the beginning of 2011?

After the collapse of the Soviet Union (a collapse it opposed) Belarus took a unique way, different from the 14 other former Soviet states. While the others went through political, economic and social turmoil, Belarus’ path resembled that of a light version of Soviet socialism with stability and modest prosperity.

Over the years, Lukashenko centralized economic and political power in the hands of his regime. Two thirds of Belarus’ economy is still state owned. This in turn assured loyalty from the bureaucracy and the political elites who could not  get access to sources of national wealth, which would have allowed them to develop a political appetite and gain leverage. Unlike in Ukraine or Russia, no ‘oligarch class’ could develop, making the president the ultimate re-distributor of wealth and political power in the country.

After the constitutional reform of 1996 a semi-presidential system was established that led to a complete dismantling of a western-style system of checks and balances. The legislative powers of the parliament are weak, the president controls the executive branch and the judiciary is simply an extension of the presidential administration. Since there is no liberal elite, pressure for liberalization and cooperation with the West is practically non-existent.

Another pillar of regime stability is sustained public support, despite rigged elections and lack of freedoms. Opinion polls from 2006 and 2008 demonstrate public support for the Lukashenko regime and its ability to ensure economic growth, low unemployment and social welfare – underlying the regime’s sustainability in a very real, tangible way.

Yet, what looks like a success story comes at a price that will be increasingly felt in the future – dependence on Russia. » More