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  • Publication Date: 03-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Electoral rigging has hampered Pakistan's democratic development, eroded political stability and contributed to the breakdown of the rule of law. Facing domestic pressure for democracy, successive military governments rigged national, provincial and local polls to ensure regime survival. These elections yielded unrepresentative parliaments that have rubber-stamped extensive constitutional and political reforms to centralise power with the military and to empower its civilian allies. Undemocratic rule has also suppressed other civilian institutions, including the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), which is responsible for holding elections to the national and four provincial assemblies, and local governments. With the next general election in 2013 – if the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)-led government completes its full five-year term – the ruling party and its parliamentary opposition, as well as the international community, should focus on ensuring a transparent, orderly political transition through free, fair and transparent elections.
  • Topic: Corruption, Democratization, Government
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, South Asia, Asia
  • Publication Date: 02-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Far from being a bulwark against the spread of extremism and violence from Afghanistan, Tajikistan is looking increasingly like its southern neighbour – a weak state that is suffering from a failure of leadership. Energy infrastructure is near total breakdown for the second winter running, and it is likely migrant labourer remittances, the driver of the country's economy in recent years, will fall dramatically as a result of the world economic crisis. President Emomali Rakhmon may be facing his greatest challenge since the civil war of 1992-97. At the very least the government will be confronted with serious economic problems, and the desperately poor population will be condemned to yet more deprivation. At worst the government runs the risk of social unrest. There are few indications that the Rakhmon administration is up to this challenge. To address the situation, the international community – both at the level of international organisations and governments – should ensure any assistance reaches those who truly need it, place issues of governance and corruption at the centre of all contacts with the Tajik government, and initiate an energetic dialogue with President Rakhmon on democratisation.
  • Topic: Democratization, Development, Government, Islam, Terrorism, War
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Asia, Tajikistan
  • Publication Date: 08-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The bizarre prosecution and conviction of opposition leader and Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi for violating her house arrest has returned attention to repression in Myanmar, as preparations were underway for the first national elections in twenty years, now scheduled for 2010. This further undermined what little credibility the exercise may have had, especially when based on a constitution that institutionalises the military's political role. The UN Secretary-General's July visit, which produced no tangible results, added to the gloom. But while the elections will not be free and fair – a number of prominent regime opponents have been arrested and sentenced to prison terms over the last year – the constitution and elections together will fundamentally change the political landscape in a way the government may not be able to control. Senior Generals Than Shwe and Maung Aye may soon step down or move to ceremonial roles, making way for a younger military generation. All stakeholders should be alert to opportunities that may arise to push the new government toward reform and reconciliation.
  • Topic: Democratization, Government, Human Rights
  • Political Geography: South Asia, Asia, Myanmar
  • Publication Date: 04-2008
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Kyrgyzstan's judiciary is failing to act as a neutral arbiter of political disputes or as a fair channel for economic arbitration. It requires significant reform to gain the trust of the public and to assert its role as an independent branch of government. A failure to achieve reform would make it impossible to develop a pluralistic and stable political system over the long term and also undermine attempts to tackle widespread corruption and encourage development. Unless the government allows greater self-governance for lawyers and independence for judges, no amount of education or piecemeal reforms will create an effective system.
  • Topic: Corruption, Government, Reform
  • Political Geography: Asia, Kyrgyzstan
  • Publication Date: 06-2008
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: South Korea's electoral politics has made a turn to the right that is likely to lead to closer security ties with the U.S. and some other important adjustments in foreign policy and has already strained relations with the North. The shift toward the Grand National Party (GNP), evident in President Lee Myung-bak's victory in late 2007, was completed when it won a majority in the 18th National Assembly in the 9 April 2008 elections. Those elections were dominated by domestic concerns, especially the economy; foreign policy and inter-Korean relations were near the bottom of voters' interests. The GNP's legislative agenda will include deregulation and privatisation, intended to revitalise business. Although generally supportive of Lee on foreign policy, the new assembly may cause him problems, particularly over unpopular economic liberalisation and deregulation proposals. Opposition to these, which have already produced a major political crisis, may have an impact on wider security concerns.
  • Topic: Government, International Cooperation, Politics
  • Political Geography: United States, Asia, South Korea, North Korea
  • Publication Date: 07-2008
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The Taliban has created a sophisticated communications apparatus that projects an increasingly confident movement. Using the full range of media, it is successfully tapping into strains of Afghan nationalism and exploiting policy failures by the Kabul government and its international backers. The result is weakening public support for nation-building, even though few actively support the Taliban. The Karzai government and its allies must make greater efforts, through word and deed, to address sources of alienation exploited in Taliban propaganda, particularly by ending arbitrary detentions and curtailing civilian casualties from aerial bombing.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Democratization, Government, Communications
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Asia, Taliban
  • Publication Date: 08-2008
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The government of Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej is struggling for political survival and has handed the military full responsibility for tackling the violent insurgency in the Muslim-dominated Deep South, which has claimed more than 3,000 lives in the past four years. The military has restructured its operations and has made headway in reducing the number of militant attacks, but temporary military advances, though welcome, do nothing to defuse the underlying grievances of the Malay Muslim minority. For that to happen, the otherwise preoccupied government needs to find the will and energy to undertake a serious policy initiative.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Conflict Prevention, Political Violence, Government, Islam
  • Political Geography: Asia, Thailand
  • Publication Date: 09-2008
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Street protests are threatening to bring down the government led by the People Power Party (PPP) just nine months after it won a decisive victory in general elections. Clashes between pro- and anti-government protesters have left one dead and 42 people injured. Mass action is hurting the economy, including the lucrative – and usually sacrosanct – tourism industry. The replacement of Samak Sundaravej with Somchai Wongsawat as prime minister is unlikely to defuse tensions. The immediate need is to restore the rule of law and authority of the government – not because it is perfect, but for the sake of stability and democracy. In the medium and longer term, the priorities must be to resolve political differences through democratic processes and to address the root causes of the current divisiveness, including the gap between the urban rich and the rural poor. Overthrowing the government – by street protesters or a military coup – will do nothing to resolve the political polarisation that is tearing Thailand apart.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Conflict Prevention, Government
  • Political Geography: Asia, Thailand, Southeast Asia
  • Publication Date: 10-2008
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Pakistan's return to civilian government after eight years of military rule and the sidelining of the military's religious allies in the February 2008 elections offer an opportunity to restore the rule of law and to review and repeal discriminatory religious laws that restrict fundamental rights, fuel extremism and destabilise the country. Judicial reforms would remove the legal cover under which extremists target their rivals and exploit a culture of violence and impunity. Ensuring judicial independence would also strengthen the transition to democracy at a time when it is being undermined by worsening violence.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Conflict Prevention, Government, Politics
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Asia
  • Publication Date: 07-2007
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: President Musharraf faces the most serious challenge to almost eight years of military rule. Opposition has gathered momentum following his failed attempt to remove the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Moderate political parties, all segments of civil society and the public at large are vociferously demanding restoration of democracy and rule of law and the military's withdrawal from politics. The choice is not whether a transition will come but whether it will be peaceful and orderly, through free and fair elections, or violent. Musharraf and the high command are tempted to retain their power at all costs. Several of their options - particularly emergency - could portend disaster. Rigged or stalled elections would destabilise Pakistan, with serious international security consequences. Especially the U.S., needs to recognise its own interests are no longer served by military rule (if they ever really were) and use its considerable leverage to persuade the generals to return to the barracks and accept a democratic transition through free and fair parliamentary, followed by presidential, elections this year.
  • Topic: Democratization, Government, Politics
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Asia