Democracy Rising

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

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Ukraine, ITAR-TASS And Disinformation

Originally posted at Publius Pundit

Well, as we approach nearly 2 months since Ukraine’s first democratic elections of the century, the political wrangling continues. Any Kiev watchers will be familiar with the daily news stories coming out from Our Ukraine, Yulia Tymoshenko’s Bloc, The Party of Regions and the Socialists in regard to coalition building talks. Every evening a brief Google news search highlights constant backstabbing, foot-stamping and occasionally outright lies passed on to the international media.

Today, one such story emerged from the oh so reliable ITAR-TASS. For the busy, a brief summary: Our Ukraine (Viktor Yushchenko’s pro-European, Liberal Bloc) and the Party of Regions (Former Kuchma ally and Presidential candidate, Viktor Yanukovych’ pro-Russian, Industrialist Bloc) have allegedly agreed upon a new joint ‘neutral’ premier - Serhey Taruta.
The flaws in this item? Well let’s first look at the political issues associated with the article

This story for starters, leaves me feeling suspicious. For non-Ukrainian readers, just yesterday, Regions leader Viktor Yanukovych claimed he would accept nothing less than the Prime Ministers post in any future government - somewhat interesting when we consider today’s alleged announcement. A sudden U-Turn in the space of 24 hours?

Secondly during his trip to Latvia today, President Yushchenko claimed that Ukraine would join NATO by 2008. Somewhat at odds with the staunch pro-Russian position adopted by Yanukovych. I think it is fair to say that many core supporters of the Party of Regions would rather surrender their very houses than see Ukraine join such a pro-American organisation.

Moving on to the reliability of the original story. Despite ITAR-TASS claiming the ’sensational’ report was broadcast by ‘a number of electronic mass media organs’ I cannot find a single other site with such a story. Not Interfax-Ukraine, nor 5TV, not even the Kiev Post. Perhaps a story put-out by a partisan Russian news site?

Comparing the Russian and English editions of ITAR-TASS, the impartiality of the Anglo version seems to be much greater than the Russo counterpart. For example, readers of the mother tongue version will not be hearing the tales of the Belarusian opposition leader’s arrest, nor of the recent demonstrations by journalists in Moscow - all stories covered in the western-tailored English site.

The lessons of this story?

Ukrainian coalition talks are likely to drag on until Yushchenko accepts Tymoshenko’s Premiership. Afterall, even if another member of her party took the reigns over, they would be taking orders from party leader Yulia - someone they most likely share similar viewpoints with. The Yanukovych option is not viable in my opinion as Yushchenko would be alienating both his own voters and party’s representatives, and the Regions have not yet shown their full commitment to European politics.

As for ITAR-TASS…it is not of great concern for myself here in London, yet must be for Democratic forces in Moscow. The manner in which the state-run agency portrays one image to the West and another to it’s own people is a true demonstration of the downward spiral in Russian media pluralism. I guess just how far that spiral continues will be shown in 2008, but for now Ukraine’s Orange Revolution appears safe and sound.

28 April 2006

Is 2006 Mugabe’s Last Year?

Originally posted at Publius Pundit

There was once a time when I predicted roughly when Mugabe’s regime might collapse. During the Presidential election of 2002? Maybe in the MDC’s final push? Perhaps he would just die of a heart attack? So far Mugabe has proved myself, and most probably every Zimbabwe watcher wrong. Yet could 2006 be Mugabe’s last year in office?

The succession within Zanu-Pf began in late 2004.

At the party congress, much-hated information minister Jonathan Moyo attempted to boost his own position, by calling for a parliamentary speaker to be elevated to a vacant Vice-Presidential position. When Mugabe, a man with his own plans, caught wind of this, Moyo quickly found himself without a job and out of favour. Some had thought Moyo was positioning himself to take over as President. The former professor had been an advocate of Democracy in the past - maybe another u-turn as Head of State could smash the Zanu-Pf grip on power. This was never likely, Moyo was, and still is hated for his change from Democrat to Dictators lap-dog.

Rather than promoting a member of his own clique, Mugabe elevated a surprise candidate, Joyce Mujuru, to the state’s second most powerful position. Mujuru, a liberation fighter who failed to complete secondary education, appeared to be at first a weak character - someone who would pose no threat to a man seemingly hell-bent on ruling until he died. Yet Mujuru has become a comforting voice for some. Rather than continuing the anti-Blair rhetoric, Mujuru seems to favour loosening the tightly controlled state and winning back western backers. Perhaps not a move to Democracy, but in this desperate state of play most Zimbabweans only seek jobs, food and sanitation.

Whilst Mujuru may be the future for Zanu-Pf, and her standpoint appears to show that many feel Mugabe is the roadblock to reform, the opposition MDC also seeks a strong role in Zimbabwean politics. Despite internal fighting that has seen a split between two factions (those favouring participating in elections and those against) the party appears to be the only viable alternative to ZAnu-Pf’s rule.

The long-term leader Morgan Tsvangirai has recently called for Civil Disobedience, but other than demonstrations, what disobedience can there be in a society with 80% unemployment and a civil service in Mugabe’s pocket? As the current crisis shows, Mugabe doesn’t believe his countries total collapse should be an obstacle to furthering his rule. Furthermore protests are only likely to be harshly repressed, as was seen in the ‘Final Push’. Zimbabwe is a police state with lower tolerance than China or Vietnam.

In addition just how many people will come out for an MDC that has let them down so many times before? Tsvangirai has consistently shown himself to be a weak leader, unable to lead troops in to battle, unsure after the last rigged elections exactly what to do.

Mugabe survives due to support from South Africa and the military. If one of these turned against him, the regime would collapse almost overnight. However with Thabo Mbeki in office until 2009, and his likely successor claiming lessons could be learnt from Zimbabwe’s land clearances, expect no abandonment from Johannesburg. Furthermore, the army still appears to be more concerned with fighting colonial ghosts and protecting the liberation victory Zanu-Pf achieved, than pulling the country out of its crisis.

As crisis after crisis mount, Mugabe remains strong. Most Zimbabweans appear to have given up, a symptom of a long-suffering cancer victim, tired of struggle, just allowing the tide to sweep them along. Will this be Mugabe’s last year in office? There doesn’t appear to be much hope for that - the President claims he will continue in office until the end of his term in 2008. But what there is hope for is a brighter future for Zimbabwe, people who see the errors of the past cannot be repeated. Besides, life after Mugabe can’t be any worse.

23 March 2006

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Democracy Update: Thursday 6th April 2006

Quite a busy day, so here is how the world's Democracy looks at 18:00 GMT

  • We thought it was all over. Perhaps not. Former Thai PM has said he will retain his parliamentary seat, and his leadership of the ruling 'Thai's Love Thai's' party. Effectively he will therefore still be calling the shots for any future PM. The opposition reaction? More Protests.

That's all for now guys, Enjoy!

Matt Jay

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Off-Topic: Zuma's Ridiculous Testimony

It's this sort of 'old wives tale' nonsense that is hindering the chances of HIV in Africa being brought under control. From a man of supposed intellect, a man who was the Second most powerful South African politician and who was National Aids Council chairman for many years, the claim that 'a shower' could cleanse him of AIDs after unprotected sex with a HIV positive woman is ludicrous. Shame on Jacob Zuma - whether or not the trial's origins are questionable it can only be a good thing that such ignorance is out of government.

Now back to the Democracy...

Protests And Corruption In Mongolia

Check out these two posts from the excellent Mongolian NewEurasiaBlog. Good examples of just how what was once a beacon of Democracy is in danger of slipping into an oligarchy and failed state.

My heart was certainly heavy the day the MPRP withdrew from the governing coalition, after allegations of corruption. Following on from this they formed their own coalition and are now in full control of the state. I think it says a lot about the potential for Democracy wavering. If the MPRP can't face accusations of corruption whilst in government, will they be prepared to risk losing power and facing them in opposition?

Democracy Update: Wednesday 5th April 2006

Here's a few links to Democracy news around the world at 13:41 GMT

That's all for today guys, take care

Matt Jay

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Democracy Update: Tuesday 4th April 2006

Here's a few links to Democracy news around the world at 21:00 GMT

That's all for now, take care

Matt Jay

Lukashenka Reappears - Looks Very Tired

Well after going missing for a while I can confirm that Lukashenka has not suffered a stroke. However, judging my his reappearance today he clearly looks very tired. Large bags that were not under his eyes before have appeared, his head was down a lot of the time. Check out the footage here.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Singapore Elections: Government In Panic?

As earlier mentioned it is likely that Singapore will hold elections towards the end of the month. Under law in the city-state the campaign lasts roughly a week - so little time between Parliament's dissolution and the final votes being counted. Therefore the usual positioning has begun early. But is the PAP ruling party in a state of panic? The opposition seems to be growing strength - but don't expect any Revolution here. Not just yet.

Seah Chiang Nee looks at the 'Furore Over Political Antics'. Thanks to Singabloodypore for this one.

Democracy Update: Monday 3rd April 2006

This is how the world's Democracy looks at 13:18 GMT

That's all for now, take care

Matt Jay

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Democracy Update: Saturday 1st April 2006

Here's a few links to Democracy news around the world at 17:33 GMT

That's all for tonight guys, enjoy your evening!

Matt Jay