Freedom at Issue:

Insights on the global struggle for democracy

Vukasin Petrovic

Next Monday, Kenyans will go to the polls for what are regarded as the most important general elections in the country’s history. But these voters face a less than inspiring choice. Regardless of whom they elect, it is doubtful that the process will result in a much-needed transformation of the dominant political culture, which is characterized by ethnic favoritism, widespread corruption, and impunity for human rights violations.

Alexander Brockwehl

This Sunday, Ecuadorians will go to the polls to choose a president in what is expected to be a landslide reelection victory for President Rafael Correa. Pollsters predict that Correa will win by as many as 40-50% over the leading opposition candidate, Guillermo Lasso, the former head of the Ecuadorian bank, Banco de Guayaquil. Correa’s PAIS party is also likely to win an overwhelming majority of the 137 National Assembly seats, which will be contested on the same day. While Correa’s victory will serve to reinforce the global perception that he is an immensely popular president, there is a far darker reality:  Correa has managed one of Latin America’s largest democratic declines in recent decades.

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Mary McGuire
Mary Humphreys

A thick skin is a necessary prerequisite for every successful politician, at least in democratic societies. Love them or hate them, political satirists like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are symbols of the deep-seated respect for freedom of opinion in the United States (as well as Americans’ love of a public roasting). In nondemocratic parts of the world, however, politicians are much less willing to become the butt of the joke.

Nancy Okail

The Egyptian public and the international community were shocked last week by televised images of civilian Hamada Saber being dragged, stripped, and brutally beaten by police officers amid ongoing clashes between police and protesters in Cairo.

Dawes Cooke

Gérard Depardieu’s bombastic personality and distinguished acting career have made him a cultural icon in France. However, he recently earned international notoriety by embracing Russian president Vladimir Putin and announcing that he would give up his French passport in favor of a Russian one.

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Anna Borshchevskaya

As Armenia prepares for a presidential election on February 18, the international community should direct its attention to a recent proposal by a presidential advisory body that—if implemented—would drastically increase government control over civil society in the country.

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Leonard R. Sussman

Max M. Kampelman was many men to many people. He was well known to presidents who appointed him to vital national missions. As a public servant, he displayed personal courage in advancing controversial causes in national and international affairs.

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This Thursday, former senator Chuck Hagel will appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee to seek confirmation as secretary of defense. While he will not have primary responsibility for U.S. foreign relations in that post, he will have substantial influence over U.S. policy toward regimes that are hostile to both American interests and democracy. Senator Hagel’s record on these issues raises critical questions that should be addressed during the hearing, which are included in the following blog post.

Nancy Okail

One of the primary demands of the 2011 Egyptian revolution was to end the three decades of emergency rule under President Hosni Mubarak. But two years later, President Mohamed Morsi has declared a state of emergency in three canal cities: Port Said, Suez, and Ismailya.

Andrew Rizzardi

Earlier this month, Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa replaced Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake with a political ally following a parliamentary impeachment process that was deemed unconstitutional. While the government claimed that Bandaranayake had abused her position for personal gain, her ouster was widely regarded as a Rajapaksa vendetta and yet another blow to judicial independence in the country. In the wake of this showdown between the branches of government, the judiciary has been reduced to little more than an appendage of the ruling party. According to the latest edition of Freedom in the World, Sri Lanka experienced declines in political rights and civil liberties indicators in 2012, adding to a multiyear deterioration. If January is any indication, the coming year promises more of the same.

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