Archive for the ‘Democracy & Human Rights’ Category

28
Sep

Defeat and victory

Written on September 28, 2015 by Waya Quiviger in Democracy & Human Rights, Europe, Op Ed

No one can ignore this result. Everyone, including the government, must react. The elections held in Catalonia on Sunday night were incredibly significant. Despite the confusion over the character of the vote – was it a plebiscite or an election – and despite the poor quality of the debate during the campaign, the voter turnout was extraordinary, setting a historic record for regional elections of this kind.

In effect, the turnout not only exceeded that of the 2012 polls, but all of those that came before. What’s more, the number of voters rose in all areas, whether urban or rural. As such, the September 27 polls should bring about great consequences.

But what are those consequences? The outgoing regional premier, Artur Mas, positioned the vote as a plebiscite on the future of the region. “We want a plebiscite and that is what we will have,” he said at the close of the campaign. Meanwhile, Antonio Baños, the leader of the CUP party, a radical pro-independence group, stated before the polls that the pro-secession forces would need to win at least “50% of the votes, because these elections are a plebiscite.

As EL PAÍS pointed out before the elections were held, the desired character of a plebiscite on independence was deceptive, given the nature of the elections – people were voting for parties, not a single question – and due to the lack of a legal framework.

With nearly 100% of the votes counted, the pro-secession parties did not reach half of the votes cast. But it is clear that the Catalan citizens have revealed themselves to be severely fractured into two blocs. The plebiscite on independence that the pro-independence groups wanted has been lost. This is a fundamental factor, in particular in an international context – especially when in other countries voting on similar questions an ample majority is usually required (Montenegro, Quebec, for example). Read more…

 

Published on 28/09 in elpais.com

8
Sep

THOSE of us outside Europe are watching the unbelievable images of the Keleti train station in Budapest, the corpse of a toddler washed up on a Turkish beach, the desperate Syrian families chancing their lives on the night trip to the Greek islands — and we keep being told this is a European problem.

The Syrian civil war has created more than four million refugees. The United States has taken in about 1,500 of them. The United States and its allies are at war with the Islamic State in Syria — fine, everyone agrees they are a threat — but don’t we have some responsibility toward the refugees fleeing the combat? If we’ve been arming Syrian rebels, shouldn’t we also be helping the people trying to get out of their way? If we’ve failed to broker peace in Syria, can’t we help the people who can’t wait for peace any longer?

It’s not just the United States that keeps pretending the refugee catastrophe is a European problem. Look at countries that pride themselves on being havens for the homeless. Canada, where I come from? As few as 1,074 Syrians, as of August. Australia? No more than 2,200. Brazil? Fewer than 2,000, as of May.

The worst are the petro states. As of last count by Amnesty International, how many Syrian refugees have the Gulf States and Saudi Arabia taken in? Zero. Many of them have been funneling arms into Syria for years, and what have they done to give new homes to the four million people trying to flee? Nothing.

The brunt of the crisis has fallen on the Turks, the Egyptians, the Jordanians, the Iraqis and the Lebanese. Funding appeals by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees have failed to meet their targets. The squalor in the refugee camps has become unendurable. Now the refugees have decided, en masse, that if the international community won’t help them, if neither Russia nor the United States is going to force the war to an end, they won’t wait any longer. They are coming our way. And we are surprised?

Blaming the Europeans is an alibi and the rest of our excuses — like the refugees don’t have the right papers — are sickening. Read more…

Published on 5 Sept. in http://www.nytimes.com; Michael Ignatieff is a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School.

17
Aug

Iraq’s reforms may help it avoid Lebanon’s sectarian fateYesterday afternoon, Iraq’s parliament approved some of the most significant changes to the country’s political system since the 2003 invasion.

Most analysts have focused on the proposals of prime minister Haider Al Abadi that tackle corruption. But the reforms also have another aspect, one that has the potential to fundamentally change how democratic politics is done in Iraq. Whether that change will be for the better is as yet unknown.

Mr Al Abadi proposed removing the positions of the two vice-presidents and three deputy prime ministers. The two vice-presidents were meant to be shared between the Sunni and Shia communities (one and two respectively), and the three deputy prime ministers divided among Sunni, Shia and Kurdish communities. When it was first proposed, in the aftermath of the 2003 invasion, it was an inelegant solution to a problem of representation.

Mr Al Abadi has also banned a quota system across ministries, which, again, had a sectarian element meant to placate various communities. He has replaced it with a committee to oversee appointments – chosen by him.

If the old system of allocating political positions based on religion sounds familiar, that is because it has been tried before, in Lebanon.

Read more…

Published on Aug. 11 in http://www.thenational.ae by Faisal Al Yafai

6
Jul

By Deniz Torcu, MIR 2014/2015 Current Student

The image that has started to go viral in social media amongst Greek users is simple, yet strong enough to explain the stand of the majority. It says a clear “NO”, however the rejection is composed of the sentence “YES TO THE EURO”.

My recent trip to Athens was a clear depiction of how devastated the country really is. The once busy neighbourhoods filled with restaurants, cafés and shops are now being replaced by two yellow signs that mark the desperation of the people: “for rent” and “for sale”, appearing side by side.

Yes, Greece owes billions of dollars. Yes, Greece cannot pay her debt to the IMF and has to redeem billions of bonds held by the ECB or run the risk of going into default.

These are the dry, non-human facts that we read in the news every day.

However, what we don’t get to read as much is the following: after the measures taken by the Greek governments over the past 5 years, the situation only got worse where the real GDP fell as much as 27%, unemployment rates broke a new record, pensions were cut by 48%, unofficial and non-registered labour started to make up as much as 34% of the entire labour force, and public debt kept growing finally reaching a level of nearly 180% of the GDP.

Do those developments seem as a healthy way to bring back an economy? Maybe to Angela Merkel and the German creditors who hold a majority of Greece’s debt, but definitely not to the Greek people.

Go to Greece, speak to ordinary people on the streets, the cafés, taxis, etc. You will hear stories like that of the taxi driver Antoni, who, despite having two degrees in hospital management, has to work in a rented taxi because the highest salary that he can get practicing his own profession doesn’t even reach 500 euros per month; he is thinking of migrating to Canada with his wife, even though he doesn’t want to leave Greece.

You will encounter the taverna owner Dimitri, who is concerned about the anti-Syriza propaganda that has been going strong from the creditors, pointing out to the fact that two extreme right-wing parties are already backing the government. There are fears that if Syriza is not given a proper chance to try to make things right, the fascist Golden Dawn would gain even more power.

Read more…

Published on 1 July, 2015 in  http://www.katoikos.eu/es/opinion

Deniz Torcu has a degree in Economics and previously worked for the Spanish governmental organization Instituto Cervantes and the Turkish National Commission for UNESCO. She currently studies International Relations at IE School of International Relations in Madrid as the Turkish scholar for 2014-2015.

28
Dec

Tunisia Wins Again

Written on December 28, 2014 by Waya Quiviger in Democracy & Human Rights, Middle East, Op Ed

image post

With the election of its first freely chosen president, Tunisia has taken another important step on its post-Arab Spring transition toward democracy. Although the country faces many difficult challenges, it remains a symbol of hope and sanity in a region consumed by chaos and dominated by authoritarian governments.

The winner, Beji Caid Essebsi, is an 88-year-old former government official and leader of the secular, anti-Islamist party Nidaa Tounes. Mr. Essebsi received 55.68 percent of the vote, while Moncef Marzouki, the interim president, received 44.32 percent.

Mr. Essebsi served as interior minister under Tunisia’s repressive first president, Habib Bourguiba, and as speaker of Parliament under Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, who was ousted in the 2011 Arab Spring revolution. During the campaign, he promoted himself as an establishment figure whose experience could help ensure Tunisia’s security. Mr. Marzouki, a former human rights advocate, embodied the ideals and fervor of the revolution.

Read more…

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