The CSS Blog Network

The Venezuelan Crisis and Fragmented Multilateralism in the Americas

Image courtesy of Nicole Resseguie-Snyder/Flickr. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

This article was originally published by IPI Global Observatory on 23 August 2017.

In 2013, Venezuela was a defective democracy experiencing serious breaches of civil and political rights, but with more or less functioning electoral institutions, and accountability between the branches of the state. Today, the country is an authoritarian regime. President Nicolás Maduro’s government crossed into that territory on March 29 this year, when the Supreme Court, following instructions from the executive, stripped the country’s National Assembly of its competences, triggering the wave of demonstrations that continues today (42 a day on average) and that has cost the life of 126 Venezuelans. Another definitive step occurred on July 16, with the election, through massive electoral fraud, of a Constituent Assembly with total powers over the National Assembly and aimed at rewriting the national constitution.

There are two main victims of the Venezuelan crisis. The first are the Venezuelan people, who have not only witnessed a dramatic deterioration of their living conditions, but have also lost the ability to live together in harmony, for an undetermined amount of time. The second victim, on which I focus here, is multilateralism—the ability of states to bring collective solutions to conflicts and crises through institutions and other forms of cooperation.

» More

A Tale of Two Illiberalisms: Why Is Poland Failing Where Hungary Succeeded?

Courtesy of Walkerssk/Pixabay

This article was originally published by IPI Global Observatory on 2 August 2017.

The European Union has threatened to sanction Poland unless it drops legal reforms that undermine the independence of its judiciary. The Polish legislation mirrors earlier changes in Hungary, leading many analysts to draw parallels between the broader challenges to liberal democracy by the two regimes.

There are certainly similarities between the goals and rhetoric of Fidesz, the ruling party in Hungary since 2010, and PiS (Law and Justice), in power in Poland since 2015. Both appear to be following the same template: First, target the highest courts and the judiciary, then restrict the independence of the media and civil society, and finally transform the constitutional framework and electoral laws in ways that enshrine their hold on power. Viktor Orban of Fidesz and Jaroslaw Kaczynski of PiS share the same goals, have had lengthy meetings together, and have repeatedly vowed to protect each other from potential EU sanctions.

» More

Europe in the German Federal Elections: What Do the Manifestos Say?

Image courtesy of Thomas Dämmrich/Flickr. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

This article was originally published by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) on 26 July 2017.

Here we compare the parties’ positions on the four core EU policy domains: common security and defence, migration, financial, and trade policy.

How does Europe feature in the German elections? How do Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), Martin Schulz’ social democrats (SPD), the Greens (Bündnis90/Die Grünen), the business-friendly free democrats (FDP), the left party (Die Linke), and the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) aim to reshape four core EU policy domains: common security and defence, migration, financial and trade policy? A comparison of their election manifestos provides some first answers to these questions.

Nearly all established parties running for the coming Bundestagswahl on 24 September have adopted a narrative that combines a pro-European outlook with an emphasis on the need for European reforms. Only the Eurosceptic AfD bucks the trend with its calls for a ‘Dexit’ referendum.

» More

Rwanda’s Election Signals Risk to Recovery from Genocide

Image courtesy of Dean Terry/Flickr. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

This article was originally published by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) on 6 July 2017.

President Kagame, Facing Weak Opposition, Should Renew Peacebuilding Efforts

Rwanda has been hailed by observers as a model of post-conflict recovery following the atrocities in the early 1990s that left hundreds of thousands of Rwandans dead and many more displaced. In many respects, the praise is well-deserved. But, when held up against key benchmarks for reducing state fragility and the risk of conflict, signs are growing that peacebuilding efforts may be falling short. Fortunately, this election isn’t expected to stoke violence, but to sustain Rwanda’s remarkable progress, particularly its development gains, it will be critical to heed these warning signs early, before tensions build or another deadly wave of violence emerges.

Consensus is growing among experts in foreign policy, development and defense concerning the definition of state fragility; it’s now widely understood as a lack of institutional capacity or legitimacy that weakens the social contract between citizens and their government, increasing the risk of conflict. In fragile conditions, particularly following a violent conflict like the one that tore apart Rwanda’s social fabric and destroyed its economy in 1994, peacebuilding efforts there and anywhere else should focus on five objectives that are critical to sustaining progress.

» More

Why Stalin’s Popularity Doesn’t Have to be as Terrifying as it Seems

Image courtesy of Julian Stallabrass/Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

This article was originally published by the European Council on Foreign Relations on 29 June 2017.

Stalin’s increasing popularity in Russia is worrying, but its importance should not be exaggerated.

This week, yet another poll confirmed Joseph Stalin’s unwavering hold on the popular imagination of Russians. Surveys have documented steadily rising admiration for the Soviet leader in the last several years, but Monday’s open-ended study published by the Levada Center established him as “the most outstanding person” in history, for 38 percent of respondents. Vladimir Putin came in joint second position at 34 percent, alongside the poet Alexander Pushkin.

The poll sounds particularly alarming because instead of answering multiple choice questions, respondents were asked to name the first person to pop into their head – not just Russian, but anyone, anywhere. The fact that for 38 percent of people that was Stalin – without the respondent first being prompted – seems to confirm what many have been fearing for some time: that Russians are steadily forgiving and embracing a tyrant who oversaw a system that slaughtered tens of millions of its own people.

» More

Page 1 of 25