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Security Defense Politics

The Trouble with Japan’s New Security Bills

Flag Emblem on a Japanese Military Uniform. Image: Koalorka/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by the East Asia Forum on 3 August, 2015.

The debate over Japan’s new security bills, which seek to overhaul post-war defence policies, has shifted to the upper house and the streets, as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe presses on to secure their passage into legislation. On 16 July the lower house passed the package of bills in a vote that was boycotted by opposition parties as tens of thousands protested outside the Diet.

Abe has extended the parliamentary sitting by three months to secure the outcome before he faces re-election to the presidency of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and therefore the prime ministership. He rammed the bills through the lower house in the knowledge that, even should the House of Councillors reject them, ultimate passage of the bills would be secured after a 60 day reconsideration and re-passage with a two-thirds majority through the House of Representatives. So, with enactment of the unpopular proposals almost guaranteed even if all of the opposition parties band together to block them in the upper house, why is the Abe government in trouble over the issue?

Categories
Humanitarian Issues Politics

Why Term Limits Matter for Africa

Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza. Image: AMISOM Public Information/flickr

Africa has a problem of presidents not leaving office when it’s time to do so.  The latest illustration of this is the maneuvering of Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza. After 10 years in office, he is attempting to stay on for a third five-year term – in contravention of Burundi’s constitution that limits presidents to two five-year terms.

Nkurunziza’s determination to stay in power has brought the country to the brink of another civil war. (It’s estimated that 300,000 people were killed in Burundi’s ethnically-based civil war of 1993-2005). The government’s hardline response to protests against a third term has resulted in more than 100 deaths, the arrests of some 500 media and civil society leaders, a fracturing of the military, and the exodus of some 200,000 refugees since April.

Unfortunately, Nkurunziza is not alone among African leaders who defy the fundamental requisite of democracy that leaders must step down when their terms expire. In fact, the continent as a whole is in the midst of a wider battle over governance norms. Burundi’s relevance to this larger struggle compels assertive action on the part of key African and Western governments interested in upholding the rule of law.

Categories
Technology Development Politics

Cities Emerging Soft Power: 5 Key Advantages for Improved Global Governance

Tradition vs. modernity in China. Image: 月明 端木/Flickr

This article was originally published by the Barcelona Centre for International Affairs (CIDOB) on 27 May 2015.

With the majority of the world’s population already urban, people have voted cities as the place to live. This emerging trend is an outcome of the spread of globalization, which generates economies of scale by clustering economic activities -fueled by technological change, international trade, finance and foreign direct investment- in cities.

Urban congregations are nests that attract opportunities -based on accumulation of resources- and act as recipients of hazardous global challenges -climate change, security, immigration or poverty- alike. However, the unstoppable power of cities is underrepresented at a global scale, where cities still have a limited voice in the architecture of international big decision-making. Against this backdrop, what are the influence and implications of cities as a key actor for global governance? What can they bring to the world? Cities’ differentiated proposition adds a more efficient model -than nation-states- in dealing with matters of relevant global concern that hinge upon the following five advantages.

Categories
Government Regional Stability Politics

Will Tunisia’s Democracy Survive? A View from Political Demography

A Tunisian voter prepares to cast his ballot. Image: Freedomhouse/Flickr

This article was originally published by New Security Beat, a blog run by the Environmental Change and Security Program of the Wilson Center, on 12 May 2015.

Among the few bright spots in the 2015 Freedom in the World Report, the brightest may be Tunisia, which for the first time was assessed as “free” – Freedom House’s highest “freedom status” and for many political scientists the definitive indication of a liberal democracy. Tunisia is the only North African state to have been assessed as free since Freedom House began its worldwide assessment of political rights and civil liberties in 1972, and only the second Arab-majority state since Lebanon was rated free from 1974 to 1976.

Tunisians have had little time to celebrate. A deadly raid by jihadists on Tunis’ Bardo Museum on March 18 left 20 foreign tourists and 3 Tunisians dead and has led several analysts to warn that Tunisia’s fledgling democracy is at serious risk.

Categories
Government Elections Regional Stability Politics

After April Stalemate, Could Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement Rise Again?

Protesters in Hong Kong during the “Umbrella Revolution”. Image: Pasu Au Yeung/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by the IPI Global Observatory on 5 May 2015.

With Hong Kong’s April reform package to elect a new chief executive in 2017 falling far short of creating genuine universal suffrage, and doing little to bridge the region’s political divides, the battle between the government and pro-democracy supporters for hearts and minds has been revived. The “umbrella” movement that caught the world’s attention last year could therefore resurface in the coming weeks and months.

By strictly following an August 2014 decision made by China’s Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPCSC), the April package angered pro-democracy members of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council—the so-called “pan-democrats” who supported the street-based umbrella movement—who want to preserve the region’s autonomy as part of the “one country, two systems” model.