The CSS Blog Network

War Dynamics and the “NO” Vote in the Colombian Referendum

No

Courtesy Grant Hutchinson/Flickr

This article was originally published by Political Violence @ a Glance on 20 October 2016.

After six years of negotiations, the Colombian government and the leadership of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) signed a peace agreement to end one of the oldest and bloodiest wars in the country’s history. Although not required to do so by law, President Santos sought to legitimize the agreement by asking Colombians to either ratify or reject the agreement in a referendum. On October 2nd, the “NO” vote (rejecting the peace agreement with the FARC) won with 50.22% of the vote, taking the world—and most Colombians—by surprise.

The leaders of the NO campaign, the international media (see here and here), and a few scholars, have privileged an interpretation of the NO vote as a cry for justice. In recent days, representatives of the NO vote made harsher penalties to the FARC one of their central demands to support a modified agreement.

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Brexit and the Binary Bind

UK EU Leave image

UK EU Leave, courtesy Rareclass/Flickr

This article was first published on 1 July 2016 in the Kluwer Mediation Blog series

Perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised by the whole Brexit affair. I’m not talking about the result of the vote itself, but about the referendum process, the behaviour it engendered, and its aftermath.

All the classic features were present. Classic features of what? Well, of binary processes. Those that offer a win/lose, yes/no, remain/leave outcome, and nothing else. Rather like courts, as it happens.

Of course, I realise that decisions do need to be taken, and referenda are intended to produce a clear picture of the will of the people (only just, on this occasion, but I suppose it’s clear at least). Nothing wrong with that.

But the problem is that for all the desire for clarity and decisiveness, binary processes come with some fairly hefty downsides. And these have been laid bare for all to see in the referendum process. I will mention three.

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The Truth will Set You Free

Lie Detecting Politics. photo: PearlsofJannah/flickr

Explosive claims about guerrilla bribes, narco-trafficking and vote tampering have rocked Ecuador’s president, Rafael Correa, just days after he appeared to triumph in a national referendum. Today, prosecutors in Ecuador have finally decided to investigate allegations that President Rafael Correa’s election campaign accepted funds from Colombian rebels back in 2006.

It all began last week, when the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) published a report which claims that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) helped to fund Mr Correa’s 2006 presidential election campaign. The 240-page oeuvre cites evidence that a $100,000 payment was delivered by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia to Correo’s election coffers and goes on to claim that for the Colombian guerrillas, this was a “climax” of years of efforts to infiltrate Ecuador. The report is based on a two-year study of e-mails and documents recovered during a raid by Colombian forces on a Farc camp in Ecuador in March 2008 and testimony provided by a former rebel who later defected.

Meanwhile, at a news conference in Ecuador’s capital Quito, President Correa denied ever meeting the Farc or a representative thereof. “I’ll take a lie detector test to prove I never received funds from the Farc,” he proclaimed. Yet the sense of alarm in Quito deepened even further when Jay Bergman, the US Drug Enforcement Administration’s Andean region director, stated that Ecuador was slowly turning into a “United Nations” of organized crime, with drug traffickers from Albania to China using it as a staging ground for Andean cocaine. » More

Scottish Independence: a Question of Timing

Soon a new country? Photo: Sheep purple/flickr

Recent elections in Scotland were historically significant. For the first time in history, the Scottish National Party (SNP) has won the majority in the Scottish parliament. In the previous term, the SNP only managed to constitute a minority government. But more than the remarkable majority achieved this year, it is one of the party’s main goals that is now in the spotlight: obtaining Scottish independence from the United Kingdom.

One might think that the way for independence is clear now, after the vote of confidence given by the Scots to the SNP. But this assumption is misleading. The election of the SNP should not be mistaken for a popular demand for independence. Recent studies show a clear objection to independence and attitudes haven’t changed much since. Two years ago an opinion poll commissioned by BBC Scotland confirmed that even though the population would like the government to hold a referendum, only 38% would actually vote for independence.

But what made the majority vote for the National Party, if it wasn’t the independence issue? Some analysts point out to the importance of the strategic abilities of Alex Salmond, leader of the SNP, to collect votes. The damaged image of the Conservative and Liberal parties certainly also gave him a hand. Both parties have endorsed controversial deficit reduction plans at the UK Parliament, and the Scots have demonstrated their strong disapproval through these elections. » More

Goodluck, Nigeria and Kazakhstan

Your boss promised us to play it fair this time. Photo: oscepa/flickr

Nigerians finally cast their votes for a new national assembly last Saturday, in the first of three successive elections. It did not start quite as imagined. A week earlier, polling had to be abandoned after election materials failed to arrive in many parts of the country. A bomb blast at an electoral office on the eve of the election killed several people, and polling itself was marred by sporadic violence.

But compared to the 2007 elections, which were characterized by violence, organized vote-rigging and fraud, Nigeria might do pretty well this time. A well respected academic and civil society activist presides over the Independent National Election Commission, and incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan has made repeated commitments to respect the rules of democracy. His main challengers include a former military ruler, who is now taking his chances at the polls. And even the estimated 10 to 15 percent ghost voters do not seem so bad after all. Progress is relative. According to one of Crisis Group’s Senior Analysts, “The polls could mark a turning point for Nigeria”.

The same cannot be said for Kazakhstan. In a sham election earlier this month, President Nursultan Nazarbayev won 95.5% of the votes in a turnout of 89.5%. Nazarbayev’s three challengers all expressed support for his candidacy and, bizarrely, one of them even admitted having voted for him. The way in which the elections took place not only embarrasses Western diplomats, whose praise for the call for elections now seems somewhat premature. » More

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