Archive for the ‘Democracy & Human Rights’ Category


Tunisia: A Model for Turkey

Written on October 30, 2014 by Waya Quiviger in Democracy & Human Rights, Middle East

Nidaa Tounes supporters 28 Oct 2014

Tunisia, the North African country that initiated the “Arab Spring” in 2011, continues to be the only democratic success story in the Arab world. Last weekend, Tunisians freely and peacefully voted to change their government for the second time since the overthrow of their longtime dictator, Ben Ali, more than three years ago. (Notably, as political scientists point out, democracy begins to take root only when power is changed twice, not just once, via the ballots.) The count was still ongoing as I wrote these lines, but the apparent winner was not the Islamist En-Nahda Party that had won the previous elections in 2011. It was rather their secular rival: Nidaa Tounes.

Yet what really matters is not who won these elections. It is that Tunisians, as a nation, so far have been able to move forward with democracy, without devolving into civil war, such as in Syria, or military coup, such as in Egypt. Moreover, unlike Turkey, which has been yet unable to draft a much-hailed “civilian Constitution” due to political polarization, Tunisia accepted a fairly liberal national charter last February with a very broad national consensus. The civility of the Tunisian political elite, including the wise and humble leader of En-Nahda, Rashid al-Ghannushi, has been key to this success. Instead of mutual demonization and chest-beating, which is so common in this part of the world, Tunisians have opted for concession and consensus.  Al-Ghannushi showed his moderation once again after last weekend’s elections, by congratulating the victory of his secular opponents. (He did not declare, for example, that Nidaa Tounes was a pawn of a Zionist conspiracy or some similar bilge, which is again so common in this part of the world.)

Back in Turkey, I have been watching this democratic experience in Tunisia with admiration, if not envy. As I wrote last February in an International New York Times piece, titled “Turkey’s Model Nation.” I said: “Turkey sorely lacks the consensus-making skills that Tunisians so clearly possess. Turkish politics is poisoned by bitter fighting between leaders who view compromise as cowardice. Quarreling political figures condemn one another for ‘high treason,’ and often resort to extravagant conspiracy theories to delegitimize opponents. The result is that confrontation is common, and agreement all too rare.”

I still think along these lines. Turkey’s true problem, I believe, is not its competing ideologies and identities. It is the arrogant, aggressive, rude, confrontational and paranoid political culture in which they all swim or sink.” None of this is to deny Tunisia’s obvious problems and Turkey’s obvious assets. Turkey’s economy is incomparably more advanced and its democratic experience is much older and deeper. Turkey is also lucky to lack the troubles caused by the Salafis, the ultra-orthodox and ultra-literalist Sunnis, in Tunisia. It is even perhaps fair to say that the liberal-leaning Islamic ideas of al-Ghannushi are more readily accepted among Turkey’s Islamists then those of Tunisia. However, the same Islamists in Turkey also bitterly lack the civilized political language that their Tunisian counterparts have. That is why I keep saying, “they are too Turkish, not too Islamist.” That is also why I am increasingly convinced that if we need a “model” nation in the Muslim Middle East, it should be not Turkey, but Tunisia.


Written by Mustafa Akyol; Published on 29 October in


Palestinians mark Nakba Day in Jerusalem

The British vote in parliament recognising a Palestinian state alongside Israel is seen by many as a landmark moment in British policy on the Palestinian question. The vote comes shortly after Sweden’s newly elected prime minister, Stefan Löfven, expressed his readiness to recognise the state of Palestine. But Sweden’s gesture is the more significant one, since Britain’s Conservative-led government has made it abundantly clear that the parliamentary vote will not change its positionon the Israel-Palestine issue.

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Mexico’s Deadly Narco-Politics

Written on October 13, 2014 by Waya Quiviger in Americas, Democracy & Human Rights, Op Ed, Security

IGUALA, Mexico — STUDENT protesters in rural Mexico have long dealt with heavy-handed police officers. But on the black night of Sept. 26, students who attended a rural teachers’ college realized they were facing a far worse menace in this southern city. Not only were police officers shooting haphazardly at them, killing three students and several passers-by; shady gunmen were also firing from the sidelines.

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This week, Brazil’s stock index dipped sharply and the national currency, the real, slumped after polls showed incumbent Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff securing a lead in the run-up to Sunday’s first round of voting. This reaction by capital markets reflects misgivings about the continuation of statist policies that have dried up jobs, driven up debt and led the world’s seventh-largest economy into a recession.

Although Rousseff has recovered her lead over the 10 other candidates, she will likely fall short of obtaining an outright majority and will be forced into a run-off Oct. 26 against free-market maverick Marina Silva. And while most observers expect Rousseff to win re-election by challenging Silva’s lack of executive experience, the campaign has exposed profound popular doubts about the president’s own management of Brazil’s economy.

Silva’s steady rise in the polls buoyed private-sector hopes, but markets tumbled this week after a series of polls showed Silva losing her lead over the incumbent in the projected second round of voting. On Monday, Petrobras shares fell more than 11 percent – the largest one-day loss in nearly six years. Shares in the state-run Banco do Brasil fell nearly 8.5 percent, while the real lost as much as 2.5 percent of its value against the U.S. dollar.

Published on Oct. 2nd,

Roger Noriega was U.S. ambassador to the Organization of American States and assistant secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs in the administration of President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2005 and is a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. His firm, Vision Americas LLC, represents U.S. and foreign clients.


A Turning Point in the Fight for Hong Kong

Written on September 29, 2014 by Waya Quiviger in Asia, Democracy & Human Rights

HONG KONG — Future generations may well commemorate Sept. 28, 2014 in the history of Hong Kong as the day when the famously apolitical city turned unmistakably political. Tens of thousands of protesters, calling for “true democracy” — that is, no Beijing-led nomination process in the planned 2017 election for the city’s chief executive, its top government official — confronted the police in the heart of Hong Kong. The smell of tear gas hung in the air near Prada and Gucci shops in glitzy Central area. Police in full riot gear marched on thoroughfares normally congested with traffic in the Admiralty district, where the government is headquartered. By midnight, hundreds of protesters blocked the main roads in Causeway Bay and Mongkok, two bustling shopping areas favored by locals and tourists alike.

Even a day earlier, it had not seemed that Beijing’s relationship with Hong Kong, a former British colony and now a special administrative region of China, would deteriorate this quickly. On Sept. 27, university students, joined by some high school students, had called for a school strike and stormed a small plaza in front of the Hong Kong government headquarters, which resulted in forcible removal by police and arrest of dozens. But most protesters were unharmed and were released within hours.

Matters escalated with shocking speed when protesters began to block roads in the Admiralty district on the afternoon of Sept. 28. Riot police arrived en masse and deployed tear gas against the gathering crowd in the early evening. The police even held up signs warning the protesters that they would be fired upon if they did not disperse. Protesters held up umbrellas against pepper spray, and made gas masks using lab goggles and saran wrap.

The protesters were brought together by the student organizers and the Occupy Central campaign, a civil disobedience movement that had threatened to shut down Hong Kong’s financial district in order to pressure Beijing into giving Hong Kong open nomination rights in the 2017 chief executive election. Occupy Central was highly controversial, with many worried that such a movement would taint Hong Kong’s business-friendly reputation and negatively affect its freewheeling markets. Multiple surveys conducted prior to September 2014 all showed that more than half of Hong Kongers did not support Occupy Central, with a significant minority in favor. Two separate surveys released in August 2014 showed that more than half of Hong Kongers were willing to accept the flawed nomination process.

That narrative has now changed for good after Hong Kong police’s rash response on Sept. 28. The images of Hong Kong as a war zone — where police used tear gas, batons, pepper spray, and rubber bullets against unarmed protesters — were deeply unsettling to residents here. Local online discussion boards are now full of discussions of police brutality. Many Hong Kongers on Facebook, a popular social network here, have changed their profile photos into a yellow ribbon in support of the protesters and talked about supporting students with funding and supplies.

 The real action (or inaction), however, is taking place in Beijing, some 1,200 miles north. The current chief executive Leung Chun-ying, commonly known as C.Y.,admitted in a press conference today that he and the Hong Kong government have no authority to request the People’s Congress, China’s top legislative body, to withdraw its decision on the electoral plans for Hong Kong as the protesters have demanded.

 And Beijing has shown no sign of budging since handing down the decision on Aug. 31. On Sept. 28, China’s state-run Xinhua news agency called the protests “unlawful,” Beijing’s representative office in Hong Kong “strongly condemned” the Occupy Central movement and claimed that the People’s Congress’ decision “cannot be challenged.” The Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of China’s State Council also issued a statement avowing that the electoral framework has an “unshakeable legal basis and effectiveness.”

Given Beijing’s intransigent stance, Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters are unlikely to get what they want — but many probably also knew that when they organized boycotts or took to the streets. The real battle, still very much ongoing, is for Hong Kong’s people’s hearts and minds. After watching protesters facing down the riot police, C.Y. apparently doing Beijing’s bidding, and students being arrested, even moderate Hong Kongers are likely to become even more distrustful of the Hong Kong government’s willingness to look out for their interests. A sign making the rounds on social media — “I cannot keep calm because Hong Kong is dying” — shows an increasing unease and anger among the population. Governing the special administrative region is about to become even more difficult for Beijing.

By Rachel Lu

Published on Sept. 28 in

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