Categories
Government Elections Politics

Thailand: a New Constitution for a New Kind of Democracy?

Protesters in Bangkok, December 2013. Image: ilf_/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by ASPI Strategist on 4 May, 2015.

For many years Thailand was admired for its rapid economic growth. It was a good security partner for the US and Australia, and many foreigners liked visiting the country. The zigzag course of its political development, alternating between democratically-elected governments and military regimes, has prompted frowns at the appropriate times from Western governments, but the widespread assumption was that there was an underlying upwards trajectory. The election of Thaksin Shinawatra—a wealthy communications tycoon—as Prime Minister in 2001, held out the prospect of a more contemporary and business-oriented style of government.

Categories
Culture Justice Regional Stability Politics

An Irresistible Force? Arab Citizens of Israel after the Elections

Ayman Odeh, chairman of the Arab-Israeli Hadash party. Image: Anan Maalouf/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by OpenSecurity/OpenDemocracy on 24 March, 2015.

Despite much pre-election euphoria among those hoping to bring down the prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, a democratic political upheaval towards a new progressive era in Israel remains a receding horizon. And yet one political novelty stands out:  the increasing visibility of its Palestinian citizens.

For decades, they had to cope with a life at the margins of both Palestine and Israel, were largely excluded from the ‘peace process’ and were ascribed an ‘identity crisis’ as a people hopelessly stuck in political limbo. For the first time in Israel’s history, this month they voted collectively as Arab-Palestinians for a Joint List, reaching 13 out of 122 seats. Under the widely-respected leadership of Ayman Odeh, this now comprises the third-largest faction in the parliament. With increasing visibility of their grievances amid rising international recognition, their cause stands on solid ground.

Categories
Government Defense Politics

Juncker’s EU Army: a Tool of Politics More Than Defence

Juncker greeting members of the Greek Navy during his visit to Athens on 19 May, 2014. Image: Jean-Claude Juncker/Flickr

This article was originally published by the Barcelona Centre for International Affairs (CIDOB) on 23 March 2015.

Jean-Claude Juncker has revived the debate on a European army, an old, periodically torpedoed aspiration. In the 1950s, when the European integration process was in its embryonic phase, six nations led the European Defence Community. Its goal was to establish a supranational European army as an alternative to German rearmament, but it never saw the light of day due, ultimately, to the rejection of the country that put the initiative forward, France. In the 90s, when the Maastricht treaty set up the Common European Security Policy, its military component was also diminished by the reluctance of the more Atlanticist states to build a common European defence system.

Categories
Security Regional Stability Politics

The Future of the Two Koreas

The Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea. Image: flickr/stephan

What does the future hold for the divided Korean peninsula? How realistic is the prospect of reunification between the prosperous and democratic South and the persistently isolated North? Indeed, how might the end of this ‘frozen’ conflict impact regional and international security? To discuss these and related issues, the Center for Security Studies (CSS) recently hosted an Evening Talk with Dr. Eun-Jeung Lee, who is a Professor of Korean Studies at Freie Universität Berlin, and Nina Belz, who writes on international affairs for the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ). While Lee focused on the historical and geopolitical aspects of the conflict between the two Koreas, Belz looked at what their neighbors think about the possibility of Korean reunification.

Categories
Government Elections Regional Stability Politics

A Vulnerable Peace: What’s at Stake in the Upcoming Burundian Elections

Flag of the National Council for the Defense of Democracy–Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD); a political party and former rebel group in Burundi. Image: MrPenguin20/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by the IPI Global Observatory on 20 February 2015.

Starting in May, Burundians are scheduled to go to the polls for the third time since the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement and subsequent cease-fire agreements ended the Burundian civil war in 2003. These are important elections with significant consequences for the consolidation of peace and economic recovery in the country, as well as for democracy in the wider Great Lakes region.

The ruling party, the CNDD-FDD, is a former rebel movement that belatedly signed a cease-fire agreement in 2003 and then went on to win the first post-war democratic elections in 2005, and the second ones in 2010. Complex power-sharing provisions were agreed upon during the Arusha peace negotiations and enshrined in the Burundian Constitution, which intended to ensure a certain degree of inclusivity in governance. While the civil war was fought partly over the issue of ethnic exclusion, the Burundian Constitution requires that executive and legislative organs are multiethnic.