Democracy Rising

"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable" ~ President John F. Kennedy

Friday, December 30, 2005

2005: Democracy Rising?

As 2005 draws to a close it is only appropriate to look back, and reflect, on the year gone by. As I am sure the case has been for you, my past 12 months have passed by with alarming speed, yet looking back January seems long ago. I hereby offer a short review of Democracy from continent to continent, during the fifth year of the new millennium.


After a promising start to the decade, Africa has without a doubt taken a few steps backward this year. Regimes we believed to be Democratic, were revealed to be no more than Dictatorships in drag.

The rigged elections in Ethiopia, but the more shocking repercussions for the opposition, proved the farce that is Meles Zenawi's Parliamentary government. The events in Addis Ababa bring into question other so-called 'Democractic Nations' transparency. Zenawi implemented 'Democracy' after winning a civil war. He had held power without any real challenge since the 1990's, yet when his rule was threatened he turned to guns. Barring the final statement, Ethiopia's history is not at all dissimilar to South Africa or Namibia's. How Democracy progresses in those and other African nations this year, will prove whether accountable government is being merely used as a myth to attract foreign donors.

Nations we knew had no Democractic credentials slid into further misery this year. Zimbabwe saw two more rigged elections, cementing Mugabe's rule. His exit strategy looks as if, unless violent revolution occurs, Harare is doomed until at least 2008. Togo saw yet more violence and became another Family Dictatorship, with Faure Gnassingbe, the son of Gnassingbe Eyadema winning an April vote.

Somalia had a more positive year, with a transitional government now in place, and Somaliland holding a free and fair election.

Middle East

The Invasion of Iraq continued to send political tremors throughout the region, with all attempting to portray themselves as emerging Democracies. Kuwaiti Women received the vote, Egypt legalised competitive Presidential elections, and Saudi Arabia dipped its toes into Democracy. Syria also paid lip service to allowing opposition parties who did not challenge the Ba'ath rule to operate. However much promised legislation providing for this never came about. The year ended on a sour note however with the jailing of Egyptian opposition leader Ayman Nour. Mubarak appears to be casting himself as the only moderate force in the face of a strong Muslim Brotherhood. Democracy in Egypt is likely to grind to a halt for the next few years, until Mubarak's expected exit from office.

Central Asia

They said it would never happen. Yet by March Central Asia was in upheaval. President of 15 years, Askar Akayev fled the country in a dramatic day of rioting in the Kyrgyz capital. Opposition leaders were released, State TV freed, a new leader became interim President. Yet despite the high expectations that Bakiyev or Kulov would become a Yushchenko or even Saakashvili were short lived.

Uzbekistan clamped down on its own protests in dramatic fashion. The U.S went from friend to foe within the space of weeks. Meanwhile Turkmenistan nudged towards Democracy, before realising things were already perfect. As I stated in October, quite rightfully, Kazakhstan became the new darling of the West. Meanwhile the one true beacon of Democracy in Central Asia held yet another free and fair election.


The Kremlin bandits sold Russian Democracy even further down the river this year, as they panicked over Revolution. By the end of the year Putin had resulted to playground bully tactics in an attempt to get his puppet Yanukovych back into power. As I stated in September lets hope Ukrainians don't back that bunch in Parliamentar elections for 2006.

Georgia had a somewhat mixed year Democracy wise, with some by-elections and needless rhetoric from President Saakashvili. Ooh here's some more of that rhetoric.

Moldova meanwhile muddled along quite nicely, struggling to elect a mayor over and over again. My longest post to date covers a rough guide to exactly how Democracy is progressing in Chisinau. Check it out if you missed it first time round!

Azerbaijan surprised nobody with a rigged election, although revolution was avoided.

Rest of World

I do not claim to be an expert on America (or infact anywhere) so one continent is missing from my Democracy update. Although, the BBC has a nice section on the left-wing shift in South America. China made some steps towards Democracy this year. As always progress is slow and hardly noticeable, however there were some positive trends. Certain quarters of the media continued to be daring in their coverage, eventually attracting the ire of the authorities. Village Democracy continued, although that too faced trouble. Thankfully the wool was not pulled over the eyes of Hong Kong's population, in regard to universal suffrage.

All in all, 2005 has been a mixed year for Democracy. The continuing rise of China gives Authoritarian regimes, such as Zimbabwe, a much needed lifeline, and will likely halt the development of pluralism in 2006. Keep an eye on Iraq (of course), Kyrgyzstan, Uganda, Belarus, Palestine and Ukraine as next year's Democracy hotspots.

Finally thank you to you all for reading Democracy Rising this year. As you have noticed my posting frequency has decreased in recent weeks, due to educational and work commitments. However, I have no intentions of closing the blog for the foreseeable future, and hope to return to my normal postings in February. In the meantime I'll do my best to update, and may you and your families have a very happy new year!

Matt Jay

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Off-Topic: Iraq's Sectarian Woe's

Whilst this blog mainly focuses upon Democracy, occasionally I do wander off my own path to discuss other issues.

As you may have read, today 12 Shia Iraqi's have been abducted and murdered, after insurgents threatened them to leave a mainly Sunni town or face the consequences. Despite many hundreds of Iraqi's being killed by various lunatics every week, usually 'collaborators' or occupying/coalition forces are targets. This time things have changed. Ordinary people are being grabbed from their homes and being murdered just for following a different sect of Islam. A worrying development for Iraq, and all part of the insurgency's plan to bring about Civil War. I therefore present to you a few potential routes Iraq's future may take:

1) The insurgency is somehow defeated and brought into the political process, with a few renegade members causing occasional trouble/skirmishes.

2) The insurgents wear down the Iraqi authorities and coalition/occupying forces to such an extent that they take control of the country, ala-Taliban.

3) A Colombia scenario, where a civil war of sorts goes on for decades, neither side making any significant gains or losses, and a barely functioning state apparatus.

How do you feel Iraq's future will pan out? Often I look to history for parallels, yet the most common example given is Vietnam. As we all know the Vietcong were a well organised, united organisation, and it is therefore hard to compare them to the rag-tag group of bandits currently operating in Iraq.

On a side note, one story that demonstrated the insurgency's 'amateurism' was the abduction of Bernard Planche yesterday. An unknown group demanded all French troops leave Iraqi territory immediately. There are no troops from France based in the country - yet another tragic example of the insurgency's stupidity.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

A Year In Pyongyang

For those of you yearning for a bit of late-night online reading, I present an excellent site I came across many months ago.

The page provides a forum, for what should have been a bestseller, charting Andrew Holloway's year inside the Hermit Kindgom. Despite having been written about his stay during 1998, the story has much relevance for today's North Korea. As those who read will discover change is virtually non-existant or incredibly slow. It took me a good few hours to get through, but gave me an insight into many smaller, but significant, details you just wont discover on other sites.

Enjoy reading, I will update again before the end of the year, and will provide a review of 2005 on New Years Eve.

Seasons Greetings, Matty

Zimbabwe 'Braces' For Street Protests

Noticed this article tucked away, on what has been otherwise a relatively quiet period for Democracy across the globe.

Apparently the Zim-opposition MDC will be launching 'street-protests' next year. All a lot of hot air? Considering it was 2 years ago that Tsvangirai launched his infamous 'final push', I think the boat may have been missed on that front. It's a shame that its taken 4 rigged elections for the opposition to realise; "It is now clear that Mugabe's misrule will not be liquidated through elections." Unfortunately I really do believe people are so worn down by Mugabe, that whilst having nothing to lose, they dont have the motivation to bring about change. Expect more of the same in 2006

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Saddam's Bruises?

I don't like to venture away from the Democracy track, but sometimes its necessary. The accusation by Saddam Hussein that he has been beaten on every part of his body appears ludicrous. I can't believe the American army would be as stupid as to beat their number one prisoner black and blue...oh wait.

Seriously though, if this abuse really has occured where is the evidence? Come on Saddam, tell the world, show us your bruises!

Where Is Bhutan Heading?

There's been a flurry of excitement in Bhutan recently, with alleged moves towards Democracy in the tiny Himalayan kingdom. On Sunday, as you may have read, the Monarch there announced his intention to abdicate in 2008, in favour of his son. This will be the year, according to King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, that Bhutan will have it's first parliamentary election. Despite no online record of the referendum necessary to approve this constitution taking place, things seem to be moving forward. But how Democratic will Bhutan become? I've read the draft, as you can here, and things aren't as rosy as some make out.

First of all, a quick look at some well-known human rights organisations data, shows Bhutan is lagging far behind the rest of the world. The tiny nation is ranked 142nd out of 167 in Reporters Without Borders press freedom index. Freedom House meanwhile notes the authorities are unwelcoming to criticism of the King.

Now to the constitution. One of the first things that may strike you is, for a constitutional monarch, the amount of power wielded by the King. He can appoint the majority of members to the Privvy council, which is to oversee his actions. He also reserves the right to introduce legislation into the National Assembly.

What is most telling is that Parliament is unable to alter any section of the Article referring to the King. In effect this makes certain parts of the constitution untouchable (something going against the very spirit of democracy). The uneditable articles are not extended to preserving Freedom of Speech or Assembly, more necessary characteristics of Democracy. Worrying.

What is most unique and concerning about this Constitution is it's method for elections. Rather than multiple-parties competing for power, a primary election will occur. This will pit all parties against each other, with the top two going through to the actual ballot. This is likely to entrench a two-party system, with smaller parties (such as a Green Party) unable to fully participate in political life. Whilst the need for stability is understood, the necessity of shutting out so many groups from Parliament is questionable. It has echoes of Fascist Italy, whereby Mussolini created a system where the largest party took 75% of seats. Look how that one turned out.

The Bhutanese constitution is certainly a step in the right direction, idea-wise, yet whether this particular draft will bring about Democracy is certainly questionable...

Kyrgyz Constitutional Reform

According to Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev, his nation will hold a referendum next year to ask people if they want a different system of government. According to Bakiyev people will be presented with the choice of a Presidential, Parliamentary or Hybrid system. Changes will be implemented by 2010.

A wise move for Bakiyev.

There had been fear that he could put forward a system offering himself even greater power, with only the choice of acceptance or rejection by the people. By offering a real choice, the electorate can make a decision for themselves, one that will hopefully take some of the Head of State's power away. My personal preference would be for a semi-presidential system, such as the one in existance in France, offering a strong leader, but parliamentary accountability for government.

If the people do move towards Parliamentary government, it may be a get-out-of-jail-free card for Bakiyev. His administration has been largely ineffective in dealing with corruption, and the rule of law has fallen behind Akayev-era standards. Bakiyev is becoming unpopular, so this reform might just save his skin.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Georgia "Waging Psychological Warfare" Against South Ossetia

Interesting article at Media Network Weblog, about the suspected use of a pirate television station by Georgian authorities. Read the story here

Friday, December 16, 2005

Belarusian Presidential Vote: 19 March 2006

That's right, Lukashenka's rubber-stamp parliament has unanimously approved 19th March as the date for the Presidential election. Luka will be standing once again, as will Alexander Milinkevich the united opposition candidate. Keep your eyes peeled, no doubt the repression will only grow as voting day gets closer.

Meanwhile lawmakers have passed a bill that would crack down on Internet dating. Stupidest law of the year?

Zimbabwean Security Agents Raid Voice Of The People

Media Network Blog has the full story. Worrying news, following on from the confiscation of leading government critic, Trevor Ncube's passport earlier in the week. One positive is that the High Court has ruled this action to be illegal

Monday, December 12, 2005

Latest News: UN Accuses Syria

Breaking news from the excellent BBC site, revealing that the second UN report on the murder of Rafik Hariri confirms Syrian officials are key suspects in the inquiry. The report goes on to urge Damascus to arrest Syrian suspects, calling that country's co-operation in the case as "slow-paced".

All this against the back-drop of another assassination of a Syrian critic in Lebanon. Gibran Tueni an MP and journalist owned a popular liberal newspaper in Beruit and had been outspoken in his condemnation of the al-Assad regime. As Syria Comment Plus notes, all this is political suicide for President Bashar if he is in fact involved.

Tueini's popularity in Lebanon is bound to make certain issues resurface such as the resignation of Emile Lahoud, Lebanon's president whose complete and utter allegiance is to the Syrian regime and the issue of an international tribunal to hold those suspected of killing Hariri accountable.

The regime fails to see that the tide has gone against them. The spread of Democracy into Iraq, Egypt and to a lesser extent nations such as Jordan and Kuwait means these old style dictatorships are doomed. A million Lebanese people did not pour on to the streets of Beirut to denounce the Ba'ath only to be intimidated by car bombings. The forces of democracy are too strong. Therefore I feel it is appropriate to close with an image that shows al-Assad just what he's up against to survive. Long live Democracy!

Democracy Newswrap

Friday, December 09, 2005

Strange and Worrying Events in Kyrgyzstan

With this from RIA Novosti claiming that 'people [claiming to call] themselves the new owners of the Piramida TV channel, accompanied by law enforcement officers' have attempted to seize the stations HQ. The Director General says there has been no legal transfer of the station, and that the intruders 'said they planned to reform the channel and turn it into a purely entertainment one...[firing]... the top managers and some journalists."

ITAR-TASS has a little more on this, interesting to note only Russian agencies are carrying the story.

There can only be two possible angles from which this 'takeover' is occurring. Either it is a result of the continuing breakdown in Kyrgyzstan's rule of law, and irritated politicians/mafia have attempted to intimidate the station, or it represents the government's hand. Pyramid had previously been an independent television station, until its eventual takeover by, former President, Askar Akayev's son at the start of the decade. The editorial line currently taken by the broadcaster is unclear to me, as its site was taken offline several months ago. All I can therefore offer is speculation - that it has continued a pro-Akayev editorial policy. This would likely have agitated the authorities, and may be why this 'takeover' has occurred. If so, it is a worrying move towards the Putinization of the media.

Once more it is all speculation and no doubt clear facts will emerge in the coming days. Keep it here for the latest

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Zbigniew Brzezinski On Ukraine, Democracy and Russia

Had to include this fascinating article I noticed over at the Kiev Ukraine News Blog. For those of you who don't know Zbigniew Brzezinski, was National Security Adviser to President Jimmy Carter back in the day. He has some interesting thoughts on Russia, and why it is vital for Yushchenko and Tymoshenko to reunite politically.

As Zimbabwe Heads For Collapse, Kenya Faces Political Meltdown

2005 hasn't been great for Africa. The opening years of the Millenium looked to be the start of a new era of Democracy and prosperity. Perhaps the continent would finally climb out of poverty and embrace liberal ideas?

According to Jan Egeland who has been visiting Zimbabwe this week, things are beyond 'crisis'. Mugabe, a man sure of his own brilliance, basically told the UN where to stick their tents for the homeless. Apparently Zimbabwean's aren't tent people, and the UN should build permanent houses for them. Im sure his people will prefer to sleep on the cold streets than in tents. Good one Mugabe. I think his only aim now is to become the most vile dictator ever.

From one basket case to a nation which looked so much brighter in 2002 - Kenya. After a failed referendum, President Mwai Kibaki's attempts to quell discontent have backfired. Several MP's appointed as ministers have refused to take up their posts, citing a lack of consultation. If Kibaki cannot keep his own coalition in line, the chances of workable government are slim. Kenya is either about to slip into its own chaos, or the President may have to go against his own wishes, and call fresh elections.


If you want a good round-up of Africa's Despotism and Corruption, check out Razi Azmi from the Daily Times, as he 'thinks aloud' from a Pakistani point of view.

Through The Kazakh Looking-Glass

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Democracy Quote Of The Day

State Department spokesman Adam Ereli on the Kazakh Presidential election.

"They did some things well. There were other areas where they fell a little short,"

Kazakh Web Roundup

Here's a few pages, summarising the the impact to the Kazakh Presidential election

Monday, December 05, 2005

Reflections On Hong Kong Demonstration

The Key To Trickery... to create a distraction on the right, whilst out of sight on the left something more significant occurs. Saakashvili appears to be partaking in something far from magic with this one. As a crisis over pensions, rallying people around the opposition, escalates, suddenly this pops up. A random arrest warrant when Aslan Abashidze left the country almost two years ago, certainly appears to be out of the blue. Unfortunately for Misha, things aren't easy at the moment, is this possible attempt to distract Georgian's likely to succeed? I doubt it. But maybe, just maybe it shows the opposition is growing in strength. Possibly the government is feeling uncomfortable, if so Georgia is politically maturing.

Democracy Quote Of The Day

Aidos Sarimov, main Kazakh opposition candidate, Zharmakhan Tuyakbai's spokesman:

"I can only regret that Nazarbayev wasn't given 120 or 150 percent"

Democracy Rising Returns: Kazakh Election Update

After a week or so away, the blog is back, with your fix of Democracy news. What better than a Central Asian election to get my writing juices flowing?

For those of you who had never even heard of Kazakhstan, and are unaware of the political situation, here is how it looked pre-December 4th

Well the results are in and they go something like this:

91% of voters voted for Nursaltan Nazarbayev

6.6% voted for Tuyakbai (For a Fair Kazakhstan)

0.38% voted for Yerasyl Abylkasymov (Communist Party)

1.65% for candidate Alikhan Baimenov (Ak Zhol)

0.32% for Mels Yeleusizov

Unfortunately despite the rhetoric it would appear Nazarbayev's victory is tainted with violations. Interesting to note that the previous election gave the President a more 'convincing victory' and that was deemed as rigged too. Throughout the last few months the Prez has declared his intention for Kazakhstan to chair the OSCE in 2009. Unfortunately Astana isn't even a member of that organisation yet, so it's all pie in the sky for now. A flawed election is unlikely to boost the nation's credentials in that respect.

So what are the geo-political implications? Well the authoritarian Chinese and Russian governments are likely to be waiting in the wings for Nazarbayev should the west turn its back on him. However don't expect anything other than a muted condemnation from Washington. There has been some more, er, headline grabbing news today and don't forget Kazakhstan is only entering the world stage. Most people won't know where it is or even that it exists at all.

With the Egyptian elections, for example, things were different. Everyone has heard of its Pyramids and the Nile. Egypt is a regional player and that makes it all the more easy for the U.S public to empathise with people fighting a Dictatorial regime. Kazakhstan won't make this evening's news, even if it perhaps more important to western interests. Therefore expect gentle, unnoticed pressure on Astana.

Nazarbayev can't constitutionally stand again, and I don't believe even he would be foolish enough to forced through a rigged constitutional amendment twice. By the next ballot Nazarbayev will be 72, perhaps his leaving gift will be handing over to his daughter, Dariga, in that long awaited succession? The world is likely to change between now and 2012, and if Kazakhstan rises to it's rightful place on the international stage, next time a rigged election might not go unpunished.