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  • Publication Date: 02-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: On 5 January, the first anniversary of the deeply contested 2014 elections, the most violent in Bangladesh's history, clashes between government and opposition groups led to several deaths and scores injured. The confrontation marks a new phase of the deadlock between the ruling Awami League (AL) and the Bangladesh National Party (BNP) opposition, which have swapped time in government with metronomic consistency since independence. Having boycotted the 2014 poll, the BNP appears bent on ousting the government via street power. With daily violence at the pre-election level, the political crisis is fast approaching the point of no return and could gravely destabilise Bangladesh unless the sides move urgently to reduce tensions. Moreover, tribunals set up to adjudicate crimes perpetrated at the moment of Bangladesh's bloody birth threaten division more than reconciliation. Both parties would be best served by changing course: the AL government by respecting the democratic right to dissent (recalling its time in opposition); the BNP by reviving its political fortunes through compromise with the ruling party, rather than violent street politics. With the two largest mainstream parties unwilling to work toward a new political compact that respects the rights of both opposition and victor to govern within the rule of law, extremists and criminal networks could exploit the resulting political void. Violent Islamist factions are already reviving, threatening the secular, democratic order. While jihadi forces see both parties as the main hurdle to the establishment of an Islamic order, the AL and the BNP perceive each other as the main adversary. The AL and its leader, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajid, emphasise that the absence from parliament of former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia and her BNP make them political non-entities. Yet, concerned about a comeback, the government is at-tempting to forcibly neutralise the political opposition and stifle dissent, including by bringing corruption and other criminal cases against party leaders, among whom are Zia and her son and heir apparent, Tarique Rahman; heavy-handed use of police and paramilitary forces; and legislation and policies that undermine fundamental constitutional rights. The BNP, which has not accepted any responsibility for the election-related vio-lence in 2014 that left hundreds dead (and saw hundreds of Hindu homes and shops vandalised), is again attempting to oust the government by force, in alliance with the Jamaat-e-Islami, which is alleged to have committed some of the worst abuses during that period. The party retains its core supporters and seems to have successfully mobilised its activists on the streets. Yet, its sole demand – for a fresh election under a neutral caretaker – is too narrow to generate the public support it needs to over-come the disadvantage of being out of parliament, and its political capital is fading fast as it again resorts to violence. The deep animosity and mistrust between leaders and parties were not inevitable. Despite a turbulent history, they earlier cooperated to end direct or indirect military rule and strengthen democracy, most recently during the 2007-2008 tenure of the military-backed caretaker government (CTG), when the high command tried to re-move both Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia from politics. Rather than building on that cooperation, the two leaders have resorted to non-democratic methods to undermine each other. In power, both have used centralised authority, a politicised judiciary and predatory law enforcement agencies against legitimate opposition. Underpinning the current crisis is the failure to agree on basic standards for multi-party democratic functioning. While the BNP claims to be the guardian of Bangladeshi nationalism, the AL has attempted to depict itself as the sole author and custodian of Bangladesh's liberation. The International Crimes Tribunal (ICT), established by the AL in March 2010 to prosecute individuals accused of committing atrocities during the 1971 liberation war, should be assessed in this context. While the quest to bring perpetrators to account is justifiable, the ICTs are not simply, or even primarily, a legal tool, but rather are widely perceived as a political one, primarily for use against the government's Islamist opposition. In short, the governing AL is seen to be using the nation's founding tragedy for self-serving political gains. The AL needs to realise that the BNP's marginalisation from mainstream politics could encourage anti-government activism to find more radical avenues, all the more so in light of its own increasingly authoritarian bent. Equally, the BNP would do well to abandon its alliances of convenience with violent Islamist groups and seek to revive agreement on a set of basic standards for multiparty democracy. A protracted and violent political crisis would leave Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia the ultimate losers, particularly if a major breakdown of law and order were to encourage the military to intervene; though there is as yet no sign of that, history suggests it is an eventuality not to be dismissed. The opportunities for political reconciliation are fast diminishing, as political battle lines become ever more entrenched. Both parties should restrain their violent activist base and take practical steps to reduce political tensions: the AL government should commit to a non-repressive response to political dis-sent, rein in and ensure accountability for abuses committed by law enforcement entities, reverse measures that curb civil liberties and assertively protect minority communities against attack and dispossession of properties and businesses; the AL should invite the BNP, at lower levels of seniority if needed, to negotiations aimed at reviving the democratic rules of the game, including electoral reform. It should also hold mayoral elections in Dhaka, a long-overdue constitutional requirement that would provide opportunities to begin that dialogue; and the BNP should commit to non-violent political opposition; refrain from an alliance with the Jamaat-e-Islami that is enhancing the Islamist opposition's street power with little political return for the BNP; and instead demonstrate willingness to engage in meaningful negotiations with the AL to end a crisis that is undermining economic growth and threatening to subvert the political order.
  • Topic: Democratization, Political Activism, Elections
  • Political Geography: Bangladesh, Asia
  • Publication Date: 07-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The accelerating deterioration of Venezuela’s political crisis is cause for growing concern. The collapse in 2014 of an incipient dialogue between government and opposition ushered in growing political instability. With legislative elections due in December, there are fears of renewed violence. But there is a less widely appreciated side of the drama. A sharp fall in real incomes, major shortages of essential foods, medicines and other basic goods and breakdown of the health service are elements of a looming social crisis. If not tackled decisively and soon, it will become a humanitarian disaster with a seismic impact on domestic politics and society, and on Venezuela’s neighbours. This situation results from poor policy choices, incompetence and corruption; however, its gravest consequences can still be avoided. This will not happen unless the political deadlock is overcome and a fresh consensus forged, which in turn requires strong engagement of foreign governments and multilateral bodies.
  • Topic: Democratization, Development, Health, Food, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: Latin America
  • Publication Date: 09-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Crisis in the Central African Republic (CAR) is longterm and characterised by sporadic surges of violence against a backdrop of state disintegration, a survival economy and deep inter-ethnic cleavages. Armed groups (including the anti-balaka and the ex-Seleka) are fragmenting and becoming increasingly criminalised; intercommunal tensions have hampered efforts to promote CAR’s national unity and mend its social fabric. Unfortunately, the roadmap to end the crisis, which includes elections before the end of 2015, presents a short-term answer. To avoid pursuing a strategy that would merely postpone addressing critical challenges until after the polls, CAR’s transitional authorities and international partners should address them now by implementing a comprehensive disarmament policy, and reaffirming that Muslims belong within the nation. If this does not happen, the elections risk becoming a zero-sum game.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Arms Control and Proliferation, Democratization, Ethnic Conflict, Political Economy, Fragile/Failed State
  • Political Geography: Africa
  • Publication Date: 10-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Somaliland’s hybrid system of tri-party democracy and traditional clan-based governance has enabled the consolidation of state-like authority, social and economic recovery and, above all, relative peace and security but now needs reform. Success has brought greater resources, including a special funding status with donors – especially the UK, Denmark and the European Union (EU) – as well as investment from and diplomatic ties with Turkey and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), though not international recognition. It is increasingly part of the regional system; ties are especially strong with Ethiopia and Djibouti. Given the continued fragility of the Somalia Federal Government (SFG), which still rejects its former northern region’s independence claims, and civil war across the Gulf of Aden in Yemen, Somaliland’s continued stability is vital. This in turn requires political reforms aimed at greater inclusion, respect for mediating institutions (especially the professional judiciary and parliament) and a regional and wider internationally backed framework for external cooperation and engagement.
  • Topic: Democratization, Governance, Elections
  • Political Geography: Africa, Somaliland
  • Publication Date: 10-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Ashraf Ghani was inaugurated as president of Afghanistan on 29 September, under difficult circumstances. He inherited a government that is running out of money and losing ground to a rising insurgency. His ability to confront those problems and other challenges as foreign troops withdraw will be shaped by the aftermath of the political contest that brought him to power. Forming a national unity government with his election rival Abdullah Abdullah presents opportunities to stabilise the transition, preventing further erosion of state cohesiveness. Yet, it also poses risks, particularly of factionalism within Kabul, which could undermine urgently needed reforms. Given the international role in developing the agreements that have created this new partnership, and the absence of mechanisms to resolve internal differences, the international community should serve as a guarantor of Kabul's new political order and, if necessary, mediate any serious disputes that arise.
  • Topic: Corruption, Democratization, Islam, Governance
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Central Asia
  • Publication Date: 12-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: On 22 May, for the twelfth time in Thailand's history, the army seized power after months of political turbulence. This is not simply more of the same. The past decade has seen an intensifying cycle of election, protest and government downfall, whether at the hands of the courts or military, revealing deepening societal cleavages and elite rivalries, highlighting competing notions of legitimate authority. A looming royal succession, prohibited by law from being openly discussed, adds to the urgency. A failure to fix this dysfunction risks greater turmoil. The military's apparent prescription – gelding elected leaders in favour of unelected institutions – is more likely to bring conflict than cohesion, given a recent history of a newly empowered electorate. For the army, buyer's remorse is not an option, nor is open-ended autocracy; rather its legacy, and Thailand's stability, depend on its success in forging a path – thus far elusive – both respectful of majoritarian politics and in which all Thais can see their concerns acknowledged.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Democratization, Ethnic Conflict, Governance, Authoritarianism
  • Political Geography: Asia, Thailand
  • Publication Date: 10-2013
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: As the presidential election approaches in 2014, with the security transition at the year's end, Afghan women, including parliamentarians and rights activists, are concerned that the hard-won political, economic and social gains achieved since the U.S.-led intervention in 2001 may be rolled back or conceded in negotiations with the insurgents. Afghanistan's stabilisation ultimately rests on the state's accountability to all its citizens, and respect for constitutional, legal and international commitments, including to human rights and gender equality. There will be no sustainable peace unless there is justice, and justice demands that the state respect and protect the rights of women, half its population.
  • Topic: NATO, Democratization, Development, Gender Issues, Peace Studies, War, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States, Central Asia
  • Publication Date: 03-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Something is brewing in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. It is not so much that protests have been spreading since 2011; the country has experienced these before and so far they remain relatively small. It is, rather, who is behind them and from where dissatisfaction stems. East Bankers – Jordanians who inhabited the area before the arrival of the first Palestinian refugees in 1948 – have long formed the pillar of support for a regime that played on their fears concerning the Palestinian-origin majority. That pillar is showing cracks. The authorities retain several assets: popular anxiety about instability; U.S. and Gulf Arab political and material support; and persistent intercommunal divisions within the opposition. But in a fast-changing region, they would be reckless to assume they can avoid both far-reaching change and turmoil. Ultimately, they must either undertake the former one or experience the latter.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Civil Society, Democratization, Regime Change, Political Activism
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Arabia, Jordan
  • Publication Date: 04-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Since it assumed power after Hosni Mubarak's ouster, the performance of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has been, at times, head-scratching. Extolled in the wake of the uprising as the revolution's protector, many have come to view it as an agent of the counter-revolution. It often has been obstinate, before abruptly yielding to pressure. It values its long ties with Washington, from which it receives much assistance, but seemed willing to jeopardise them by targeting U.S.-funded NGOs. Suspected by Islamists of seeking to deprive them of opportunity to govern and by non-Islamists of entering a secret pact with the Muslim Brotherhood, it finds itself in the worst of both worlds: an angry tug-of-war with liberal protesters and a high-wire contest with Islamists. It displays little interest in governing, wishing instead to protect privileges, but erratic behaviour threatens even that. On the eve of presidential elections that have become a high-stakes free-for-all, the SCAF should take a step back and, with the full range of political actors, agree on principles for a genuine and safe political transition.
  • Topic: Democratization, Development, Islam, Regime Change
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Arabia
  • Publication Date: 04-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: One year into the new semi-civilian government, Myanmar has implemented a wide-ranging set of reforms as it embarks on a remarkable top-down transition from five decades of authoritarian rule. In an address to the nation on 1 March 2012 marking his first year in office, President Thein Sein made clear that the goal was to introduce “genuine democracy” and that there was still much more to be done. This ambitious agenda includes further democratic reform, healing bitter wounds of the past, rebuilding the economy and ensuring the rule of law, as well as respecting ethnic diversity and equality. The changes are real, but the challenges are complex and numerous. To consolidate and build on what has been achieved and increase the likelihood that benefits flow to all its citizens, Myanmar needs the international community to come closer, seeking opportunities for greater engagement rather than more reasons why sanctions should be sustained.
  • Topic: Democratization, Economics, Human Rights, Law Enforcement
  • Political Geography: Southeast Asia
  • Publication Date: 05-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Dans un contexte arabe marqué par des transitions bâclées ou sanglantes, la Tunisie fait encore figure d'exception. Depuis le 14 janvier 2011, ce n'est pas seulement la tête de l'ancien régime, symbolisé par l'ancien président Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, qui est tombée. C'est tout un système qui se trouve bouleversé, principalement dans le cadre d'un consensus relativement large. Mais les défis qui pourraient menacer ces progrès existent. Parmi ceux-ci, deux en particulier sont étroitement liés : restaurer la sécurité et mener une véritable lutte contre l'impunité. Pour le nouveau gouvernement d'union, dénommé Troïka et emmené par le mouvement islamiste An-Nahda, la clé demeure dans un dialogue large, permettant de réformer les forces de sécurité sans trop les provoquer, rendre justice aux victimes de la dictature sans céder à la chasse aux sorcières, et garantir une justice efficace tout en tenant compte des limites du système judiciaire en place.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Democratization, Development, Government, Regime Change
  • Political Geography: Arabia, North Africa
  • Publication Date: 06-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Dans un contexte arabe marqué par des transitions bâclées ou sanglantes, la Tunisie fait encore figure d'exception. Depuis le 14 janvier 2011, ce n'est pas seulement la tête de l'ancien régime, symbolisé par l'ancien président Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, qui est tombée. C'est tout un système qui se trouve bouleversé, principalement dans le cadre d'un consensus relativement large. Mais les défis qui pourraient menacer ces progrès existent. Parmi ceux-ci, deux en particulier sont étroitement liés : restaurer la sécurité et mener une véritable lutte contre l'impunité. Pour le nouveau gouvernement d'union, dénommé Troïka et emmené par le mouvement islamiste An-Nahda, la clé demeure dans un dialogue large, permettant de réformer les forces de sécurité sans trop les provoquer, rendre justice aux victimes de la dictature sans céder à la chasse aux sorcières, et garantir une justice efficace tout en tenant compte des limites du système judiciaire en place.
  • Topic: Corruption, Democratization, Economics, Regime Change, Labor Issues
  • Political Geography: Arabia, North Africa
  • Publication Date: 06-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Bangladesh could face a protracted political crisis in the lead-up to the 2013 elections unless Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's government changes course and takes a more conciliatory approach towards the political opposition and the military. In December 2008, following two years of a military-backed caretaker government, the Awami League (AL) secured a landslide victory in what were widely acknowledged to be the fairest elections in the country's history. The hope, both at home and abroad, was that Sheikh Hasina would use her mandate to revitalise democratic institutions and pursue national reconciliation, ending the pernicious cycle of zero-sum politics between her AL and its rival, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). Three and a half years on, hope has been replaced by deep disillusionment, as two familiar threats to Bangladesh's democracy have returned: the prospect of election-related violence and the risks stemming from an unstable and hostile military.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Political Violence, Democratization
  • Political Geography: Bangladesh, Asia
  • Publication Date: 06-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: International, particularly U.S., military and civilian aid has failed to improve Pakistan's performance against jihadi groups operating on its soil or to help stabilise its nascent democracy. Lopsided focus on security aid after the 11 September 2001 attacks has not delivered counterterrorism dividends, but entrenched the military's control over state institutions and policy, delaying reforms and aggravating Pakistani public perceptions that the U.S. is only interested in investing in a security client. Almost two-thirds of U.S. funding since 2002 ($15.8 billion) has been security-related, double the $7.8 billion of economic aid. Under an elected government, and with civilian aid levels at their highest in decades, the U.S. and other donors can still play a major part in improving service delivery, supporting key reforms and strengthening a fragile political transition vital to internal and regional stability. Re-orientation of funding from military security purposes to long-term democracy and capacity building support is the best way to guarantee the West's and Pakistan's longterm interests in a dangerous region. But aid policies must be better targeted, designed and executed.
  • Topic: Democratization, Terrorism, Foreign Aid, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, United States, South Asia
  • Publication Date: 06-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Uncertainty over President Hugo Chávez's health adds to Venezuela's fragility in the run-up to October's presidential election. Amid deep polarisation, his illness overshadows the campaign, while the personalised nature of his rule, weakened institutions, and high levels of criminal violence bode ill for stability even beyond the polls. Brazen violation of the constitution would probably require army support, which not even the president can bank on; regional powers, too, would eye such action warily. But with much at stake, upheaval, even a violent political crisis, remain dangerous possibilities. Political leaders should condemn violence and pledge publicly to respect the constitution – whatever lies ahead. Venezuela's partners in the region should press for international observation and signal clearly they will not condone unconstitutional acts.
  • Topic: Democratization, Political Economy, Regime Change
  • Political Geography: Latin America, Venezuela
  • Publication Date: 06-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: After May's parliamentary elections, Armenia is preparing for a pivotal presidential vote in 2013 that will determine whether it has shed a nearly two-decade history of fraud-tainted elections and put in place a government with the legitimacy needed to implement comprehensive reform and resolve its problems with Azerbaijan. President Serzh Sargsyan has a brief opportunity to demonstrate statesmanship before he again faces the voters in what is likely to be a competitive contest. Sargsyan has demonstrated some courage to promote change, but like his predecessors, he has thus far failed to deal effectively with serious economic and governance problems, including the debilitating, albeit low-intensity, Nagorno-Karabakh war. Another election perceived as seriously flawed would serve as a further distraction from peace talks and severe economic problems. The likely consequences would then be ever more citizens opting out of democratic politics, including by emigration.
  • Topic: Civil War, Democratization, Development, Economics, Financial Crisis, Governance
  • Political Geography: Armenia, Azerbaijan
  • Publication Date: 07-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Myanmar has embarked on an ambitious program of sweeping reforms to end its isolation and integrate its economy with the global system. Closely entwined with its dramatic political transition, the end of longstanding Western sanctions is supporting this reconfiguration. If the reforms are done well, many across the country stand to benefit, but those who profited most from the old regime's restrictions and privileges will lose access to windfall profits and guaranteed monopolies. The crony businessmen, military and party elite will still do well but will need to play by new rules, meet domestic and foreign competition and even pay taxes. Perhaps recognising the opportunities a more vibrant economy in a fast-growing region will bring for all, there is no major pushback to these changes, rather attempts to adapt to the new economy. The challenges and risks are numerous for a government with little experience juggling the many changes required, but it cannot resist the pent-up political pressure for change it has already unleashed.
  • Topic: Democratization, Economics, Globalization, Government, International Trade and Finance, Politics
  • Political Geography: Southeast Asia, Myanmar
  • Publication Date: 08-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: At a distance, Syria's conflict can resemble a slow, painful slog, punctuated by intermittent accelerations and apparent tipping points, influenced by international activity. Zoom in, and one can cast such impressions aside. Diplomatic manoeuvrings have ended up being little more than inertia masquerading as motion. The West used them to pretend it was doing more than it was; Russia exploited them to feign it backed the Syrian regime less than it actually did. Meanwhile, in Syria, one sees neither deadlock nor abrupt transformation; virtually everything has been changing but at a steady pace: the shape of the conflict; civil society dynamics; sectarian relations; and the very nature of the regime the opposition seeks to depose.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Democratization, Armed Struggle, Regime Change, Insurgency
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, Syria
  • Publication Date: 08-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Nepal's peace process was to end with a new constitution. Yet, after four years of delays and disputes, the country's main political parties were unable to agree on federalism, a core demand of large constituencies. On 27 May 2012, the term of the Constituent Assembly, which also served as parliament, ended without the new constitution being completed. The parties must now decide what to do next: hold an election for a new assembly or revive the last one. This will be hard. Obduracy on federalism, bickering over a unity government, a changing political landscape and communal polarisation make for complex negotiations, amid a dangerous legislative vacuum. The parties must assess what went wrong and significantly revise the composition and design of negotiations, or risk positions hardening across the political spectrum. Talks and decision-making need to be transparent and inclusive, and leaders more accountable. The public needs much better information. None of this will necessarily mend the deep social rifts, but it would reduce space for extremists and provocateurs.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Democratization, Peace Studies, Politics
  • Political Geography: South Asia
  • Publication Date: 08-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The peace process and stalled constitution writing exercise, in particular the debate about federalism, have expanded Nepal's political matrix. Identity politics is a mainstream phenomenon and new ethnic-based and regional political forces are coalescing. Actors who want a federal structure that acknowledges Nepal's many identities have allied, overcoming other political differences. The Maoist party has split. Once centrist forces have moved to the right. All parties are grappling with factional and ideological divisions. Old monarchical forces are more visible. How these political shifts will settle depends on the parties' decisions on resuming constitution writing and future electoral calculations. The Constituent Assembly has been dissolved after failing to deliver the new constitution on the 27 May deadline. The constitution was to establish federalism and address the demands of marginalised groups. Social polarisation over these issues compounds constitutional uncertainty and the legislative vacuum. The tensions around federalism and fluid political equations threaten to provoke volatile confrontations.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Democratization, Peace Studies, Politics
  • Political Geography: South Asia
  • Publication Date: 08-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The stabilisation of Pakistan's democratic transition will depend to a considerable extent on the manner in which the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) conducts the next general elections. These are due when the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)-led coalition government ends its fiveyear term in March 2013, or earlier if it so decides. Rigged elections and distortions of the process by military regimes or military-controlled governments have left the ECP in an advanced state of institutional decay. If the next elections are to result in the smooth transfer of power from one elected government to another and be widely perceived as legitimate and democratic by all stakeholders, it is imperative that the ECP be truly independent, impartial and effective.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Democratization, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, South Asia
  • Publication Date: 08-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Local institutions in Indonesia, empowered by decentralisation, are defying the country's highest courts with impunity, undermining judicial authority and allowing local conflicts to fester. District councils, mayors and regional election commissions have learned that there is little cost to ignoring court rulings on electoral or religious disputes, pandering instead to local constituencies and pressure groups. Decisive leadership from the president could make a difference; instead, slow and ineffective responses from Jakarta brew more insubordination. If the regions become overconfident in their new powers and the central state continues to respond weakly, this lack of commitment to rule of law could encourage more conflict as the national political temperature rises ahead of the 2014 presidential election.
  • Topic: Democratization, Development, Law Enforcement, Law
  • Political Geography: Southeast Asia
  • Publication Date: 09-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Kosovo has implemented much of the Ahtisaari plan – the blueprint for its democracy, providing substantial rights for Serbs and other minorities – and deserves to be fully independent, but there should be no slippage, and remaining parts of the plan should be honoured. The Pristina government mostly abides by it, and many Serbs south of the Ibar River now accept its authority, obey its laws and take part in political life in a way unimaginable four years ago. These achievements are threatened, however, by the tense Kosovo-Serbia relationship, declining Serb numbers and Pristina's frustration at its inability to extend its sovereignty to the Serb-majority northern areas and to achieve full international recognition. A surge in ethnically-motivated attacks shows peace is fragile. The government should remain committed to the Ahtisaari requirement for minorities. But the plan was not meant to work in isolation and cannot be separated from the overall Kosovo-Serbia relationship. Belgrade needs to earn Pristina's trust and acquiescence for its continued involvement on Kosovo territory, especially the south.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Political Violence, Democratization, Ethnic Conflict, Treaties and Agreements
  • Political Geography: Kosovo, Serbia, Balkans, Pristina
  • Publication Date: 10-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Malaysia's thirteenth general election, which Prime Minister Najib Razak will have to call by April 2013, could be a watershed in communal relations. More than ever before, there is a chance, albeit a very small one, that opposition parties running on issues of transparency, economic equity and social justice could defeat the world's longest continually-elected political coalition, the National Front (Barisan Nasional), that has based its support on a social compact among the country's Malay, Chinese and Indian communities. That compact, granting Malays preferential status in exchange for security and economic growth, has grown increasingly stale as the growing middle class demands more of its leaders. Both ruling party and opposition are using images of the Arab Spring – the former to warn of chaos if it is not returned to power, the latter to warn of popular unrest unless political change comes faster.
  • Topic: Democratization, Development, Ethnic Conflict, Islam, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: Malaysia, Southeast Asia
  • Publication Date: 10-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: With three years of devastating floods putting the lives and livelihoods of at least four million citizens at risk, and military operations against militants displacing thousands more in the conflict zones of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), Pakistan's humanitarian crises need urgent do-mestic and international attention. Since the democratic transition began in 2008, some progress has been made, but much more is needed to build the federal and provin-cial governments' disaster and early recovery response. Efforts to enhance civilian ownership and control have also had mixed results, particularly in the conflict zones, where the military remains the dominant actor. To effectively confront the challenges, the most urgent tasks remain to strengthen the civilian government's capacity to plan for and cope with humanitarian crises and to prioritise social sector and public infrastructure development. It is equally important that all assistance and support be non-discrimi-natory and accompanied by credible mechanisms for citi-zens to hold public officials accountable.
  • Topic: Democratization, Development, Disaster Relief, Humanitarian Aid
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, South Asia
  • Publication Date: 10-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: En dépit du fonctionnement régulier des institutions et du discours officiel vantant les progrès en matière de déve- loppement et de sécurité, le Burundi est en train de perdre les acquis de l'accord d'Arusha. En raison de l'impasse électorale de 2010, le système de partage du pouvoir conçu à Arusha a fait place à un monopartisme de fait qui se traduit par la fin du dialogu e entre l'opposition et le gouvernement, une dérive autorita ire et le retour de la vio- lence politique. Le respect de la minorité politique et de la règle de droit, essentiel à la démocratie, semble ignoré depuis 2010. Afin de pérenniser les acquis du processus de paix et la stabilité du pays, la classe politique burundaise doit renouer avec le dialogue, ga rantir le pluralisme poli- tique en vue des échéances électorales de 2015 et veiller à un processus de justice trans itionnelle consensuel. En rai- son de leur implication dans le processus de paix, l'importance de leur aide au Burundi et l'absence de bailleurs alternatifs, les partenaires internationaux actuels doivent mettre ces trois questions au centre de leur dialogue avec le gouvernement.
  • Topic: Security, Civil Society, Corruption, Democratization, Governance
  • Political Geography: Africa
  • Publication Date: 11-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Myanmar's leaders continue to demonstrate that they have the political will and the vision to move the country decisively away from its authoritarian past, but the road to democracy is proving hard. President Thein Sein has declared the changes irreversible and worked to build a durable partnership with the opposition. While the process remains incomplete, political prisoners have been released, blacklists trimmed, freedom of assembly laws implemented, and media censorship abolished. But widespread ethnic violence in Rakhine State, targeting principally the Rohingya Muslim minority, has cast a dark cloud over the reform process and any further rupturing of intercommunal relations could threaten national stability. Elsewhere, social tensions are rising as more freedom allows local conflicts to resurface. A ceasefire in Kachin State remains elusive. Political leaders have conflicting views about how power should be shared under the constitution as well as after the 2015 election. Moral leadership is required now to calm tensions and new compromises will be needed if divisive confrontation is to be avoided.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Democratization, Human Rights, Governance
  • Political Geography: Southeast Asia, Myanmar
  • Publication Date: 11-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The Sri Lankan government’s refusal to negotiate seriously with Tamil leaders or otherwise address legitimate Tamil and Muslim grievances is increasing ethnic tensions and damaging prospects for lasting peace. The administration, led by the Sri Lanka Freedom Party of Mahinda Rajapaksa, has refused to honour agreements with the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), broke n promises to world leaders and not implemented constitutional provisions for minimal devolution of power to Tamil-speaking areas of the north and east. Militarisation and discriminatory economic development in Tamil and Muslim areas are breeding anger and increasing pressure on moderate Tamil leaders. Tamil political parties need to remain patient and keep to their moderate course, while reaching out more directly to Muslims, Upcountry Tamils and Sinhalese. International actors should press the government more effectively for speedy establishment of an elected provincial council and full restoration of civilian government in the north, while insisting that it commence serious negotiations with elected Tamil representatives from the north and east.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security, Democratization, Ethnic Conflict, Governance
  • Political Geography: South Asia, Sri Lanka
  • Publication Date: 12-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Since 2001, violence has erupted in Jos city, capital of Plateau state, in Nigeria's Middle Belt region. The ostensible dispute is over the “rights” of the indigene Berom/ Anaguta/Afizere (BAA) group and the rival claims of the Hausa-Fulani settlers to land, power and resources. Indigene- settler conflicts are not new to Nigeria, but the country is currently experiencing widespread intercommunal strife, which particularly affects the Middle Belt. The Jos crisis is the result of failure to amend the constitution to privilege broad-based citizenship over exclusive indigene status and ensure that residency rather than indigeneity determines citizens' rights. Constitutional change is an important step to defuse indigene-settler rivalries that continue to undermine security. It must be accompanied by immediate steps to identify and prosecute perpetrators of violence, in Jos and other parts of the country. Elites at local, state and federal level must also consistently implement policies aimed at reducing the dangerous link between ethnic belonging and access to resources, power and security if intercommunal violence is to end.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Political Violence, Democratization, Ethnic Conflict, Natural Resources, Territorial Disputes
  • Political Geography: Africa, Nigeria
  • Publication Date: 02-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Six mois après la nouvelle victoire électorale du Conseil national pour la défense de la démocratie et Forces de défense de la démocratie (CNDD-FDD), le Burundi s'enfonce dans une impasse politique qui pourrait se transformer en une crise majeure susceptible de remettre en cause dix ans de progrès. En effet, au lieu de consolider la démocratie, les élections communale, parlementaire et présidentielle de 2010 ont abouti à la marginalisation de l'opposition, au p assage dans la clandestinité des Forces nationales de libération (FNL) et à l'émergence d'une nouvelle rébellion. Combinée à un système de gouvernance faible, cette évolution pourrait conduire à un recul démocratique. Seul s le rétablissement du dialogue politique entre le gouvernement et l'opposition, la sortie de la clandestinité pour les FNL et le renforcement des institutions démocratiques sont de nature à inverser cette dangereuse évolution.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Democratization, Politics, Political Power Sharing
  • Political Geography: Africa
  • Publication Date: 02-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: It is early days, and the true measure of what the Egyptian people have accomplished has yet to fully sink in. Some achievements are as clear as they are stunning. Over a period of less than three weeks, they challenged conventional chestnuts about Arab lethargy; transformed national politics; opened up the political space to new actors; massively reinforced protests throughout the region; and called into question fundamental pillars of the Middle East order. They did this without foreign help and, indeed, with much of the world timidly watching and waffling according to shifting daily predictions of their allies' fortunes. The challenge now is to translate street activism into inclusive, democratic institutional politics so that a popular protest that culminated in a military coup does not end there. The backdrop to the uprising has a familiar ring. Egypt suffered from decades of authoritarian rule, a lifeless political environment virtually monopolised by the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP); widespread corruption, cronyism and glaring inequities; and a pattern of abuse at the hands of unaccountable security forces. For years, agitation against the regime spread and, without any credible mechanism to express or channel public discontent, increasingly took the shape of protest movements and labour unrest.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Democratization, Insurgency
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arab Countries
  • Publication Date: 03-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Even before the popular wave from Tunisia and Egypt reached Yemen, President Saleh's regime faced daunting challenges. In the north, it is battling the Huthi rebellion, in the south, an ever-growing secessionist movement. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is showing mounting signs of activism. Sanaa's political class is locked in a two-year battle over electoral and constitutional reforms; behind the scenes, a fierce competition for post-Saleh spoils is underway. Economic conditions for average Yemenis are dire and worsening. Now this. There is fear the protest movement could push the country to the brink and unleash broad civil strife. But it also could, and should, be a wake-up call, a catalyst for swift, far-reaching reforms leading to genuine power-sharing and accountable, representative institutions. The opposition, reformist ruling party members and civil society activists will have to work boldly together to make it happen. The international community's role is to promote national dialogue, prioritise political and economic development aid and ensure security aid is not used to suppress opposition.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Civil Society, Democratization, Economics
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Yemen, Arabia, North Africa, Egypt, Tunisia
  • 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: 04-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Nepal is entering a new phase in its fitful peace process, in which its so-called "logical conclusion" is in sight: the integration and rehabilitation of Maoist combatants and the introduction of a new constitution. The Maoists, the largest party, are back in government in a coalition led by the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist-Leninist), UML party. Negotiations, although fraught, are on with the second-largest party, the Nepali Congress (NC), to join. Agreement is being reached on constitutional issues and discussions continue on integration. None of the actors are ramping up for serious confrontation and few want to be seen as responsible for the collapse of the constitution-writing process underway in the Constituent Assembly (CA). But success depends on parties in opposition keeping tactical threats to dissolve the CA to a minimum, the government keeping them engaged, and the parties in government stabilising their own precariously divided houses. It will also require the Maoists to take major steps to dismantle their army.
  • Topic: Security, Democratization, Peace Studies, Politics
  • Political Geography: South Asia, Asia, Nepal
  • Publication Date: 07-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The Syrian uprising has defied conventional expectations and patterns established elsewhere in the region from the outset. It happened, first of all, and to many that in itself was surprising enough. The regime was not alone in believing in a form of Syrian exceptionalism that would shield it from serious popular unrest. Once the uprising began, it did not develop quickly, as in Egypt or Tunisia. Although it did not remain peaceful, it did not descend into a violent civil war, as in Libya, or sectarian affair, as in Bahrain. To this day, the outcome remains in doubt. Demonstrations have been growing in impressive fashion but have yet to attain critical mass. Regime support has been declining as the security services' brutality has intensified, but many constituents still prefer the status quo to an uncertain and potentially chaotic future. What is clear, however, is the degree to which a wide array of social groups, many once pillars of the regime, have turned against it and how relations between state and society have been forever altered.
  • Topic: Democratization
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Libya, Arabia, Syria, Egypt, Bahrain, Tunisia
  • Publication Date: 07-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Deeply entrenched connections between criminal and political actors are a major obstacle to conflict resolution in Colombia. Illegal armed groups seek to consolidate and expand their holds over local governments in the October 2011 governorship, mayoral, departmental assembly and municipal council elections. The national government appears more willing and better prepared than in the past to curb the influence of illegal actors on the elections, but the challenges remain huge. The high number of killed prospective candidates bodes ill for the campaign, suggesting that the decade-old trend of decreasing electoral violence could be reversed. There are substantial risks that a variety of additional means, including intimidation and illegal money, will be used to influence outcomes. The government must rigorously implement additional measures to protect candidates and shield the electoral process against criminal infiltration, corruption and fraud. Failure to mitigate these risks would mean in many places four more years of poor local governance, high levels of corruption and enduring violence.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Corruption, Crime, Democratization, Governance
  • Political Geography: Colombia, Latin America
  • Publication Date: 09-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Les opérations nationales d'enregistrement des électeurs qui avaient débuté en avril 2011 ont pris fin le 17 juillet. Cet enregistrement, qui aboutit à une augmentation de l'ensemble du corps électoral de presque 6,3 millions de personnes (24,5 pour cent) par rapport aux élections de 2006, a pu avoir lieu dans les délais prescrits, y compris dans les régions troublées que sont les provinces des Ki- vus et le district de l'Ituri. Si les enrôlements se sont rela- tivement bien déroulés, cela tient surtout au fait que la carte d'électeur sert aussi de carte d'identité et qu'elle est aussi utile aux miliciens qu'aux citoyens ordinaires. Ni la société civile ni les partis politiques n'ont fondamentale- ment contesté les opérations d'enregistrement au niveau local mais cela n'est pas synonyme de satisfaction. Les surprenants résultats annoncés par la Commission Electo- rale Nationale Indépendante (CEN I), le déficit de dialogue et l'absence de vérification de leur bonne inscription par les électeurs alimentent une su spicion latente mais généra- lisée dans l'opposition et la société civile. Afin de renfor- cer la crédibilité du processus électoral, il convient d'amé- liorer sa transparence, de respecter scrupuleusement le code électoral et de mettre en place un dialogue formel entre la CENI, les partis politiques et la société civile.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Political Violence, Civil War, Democratization
  • Political Geography: Africa, Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Publication Date: 09-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Six months after the transition to a new, semi-civilian government, major changes are taking place in Myanmar. In the last two months, President Thein Sein has moved rapidly to begin implementing an ambitious reform agenda first set out in his March 2011 inaugural address. He is reaching out to long-time critics of the former regime, proposing that differences be put aside in order to work together for the good of the country. Aung San Suu Kyi has seized the opportunity, meeting the new leader in Naypyitaw and emerging with the conviction that he wants to achieve positive change. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) seems convinced that Myanmar is heading in the right direction and may soon confer upon it the leadership of the organisation for 2014. This would energise reformers inside the country with real deadlines to work toward as they push for economic and political restructuring. Western policymakers should react to the improved situation and be ready to respond to major steps forward, such as a significant release of political prisoners.
  • Topic: Democratization, Human Rights, Political Economy, Governance
  • Political Geography: South Asia, Burma, Southeast Asia, Myanmar
  • Publication Date: 09-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Après l'élection d'Alpha Condé à la présidence en novembre 2010, des élections législatives doivent clôturer une nouvelle étape de la transition politique guinéenne. La récente expérience de politisation violente des ethnicités et le manque de confiance des acteurs politiques dans le dispositif électoral sont des motifs d'inquiétude. Le président Condé a engagé unilatéralement une refonte du système électoral, mais il suscite d'autant plus de méfiance que les perspectives du parti présidentiel pour les législatives sont incertaines. Il n'a prêté que peu d'attention, et bien tard, à la réconciliation et au dialogue avec son opposition, très mobilisée. La Guinée ne peut se permettre ni un bricolage du système électoral ni une nouvelle campagne fondée sur des arguments ethniques. Un accroissement des tensions à l'approche du scrutin pourrait susciter des violences intercommunautaires. Il pourrait aussi offrir une opportunité d'agir à ceux qui, dans l'armée, se satisfont mal d'avoir regagné les casernes. L'attaque lancée le 19 juillet 2011 par des militaires contre la résidence du président confirme la réalité de ce risque. Un véritable accord entre les principaux acteurs politiques sur les modalités des élections législatives est impératif et urgent. Sans une forte implication internationale, les chances de parvenir à un tel accord sont minces.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Democratization, Political Economy, Governance
  • Political Geography: Africa
  • Publication Date: 09-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: A surge in violence has dashed plans for a negotiated end to the 27-year-old Kurdistan Workers' Party (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan, PKK) insurgency. Since Turkey's elections in mid-June, clashes have killed more than 110 people, country-wide ethnic friction has hardened opinion, and the government has started bombing PKK bases and talking about an imminent ground offensive in northern Iraq. The PKK must immediately end its new wave of terrorist and insurgent attacks, and the Turkish authorities must control the escalation with the aim to halt all violence. A hot war and militaristic tactics did not solve the Kurdish problem in the 1990s and will not now. A solution can only lie in advancing the constitutional, language and legal reforms of the past decade that have gone part way to giving Turkish Kurds equal rights. Given the recent violence, returning to a positive dynamic requires a substantial strategic leap of imagination from both sides. Neither should allow itself to be swept away by armed conflict that has already killed more than 30,000 since 1984.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Democratization, Ethnic Conflict, Insurgency
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Central Asia, Turkey, Kurdistan
  • Publication Date: 08-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Liberia's October 2011 general and presidential elections, the second since civil war ended in 2003, are an opportunity to consolidate its fragile peace and nascent democracy. Peaceful, free and fair elections depend on how well the National Elections Commission (NEC) handles the challenges of the 23 August referendum on constitutional amendments and opposition perceptions of bias toward the president's Unity Party (UP). The NEC, the government, political parties, presidential candidates, civil society, media and international partners each have roles to play to strengthen trust in the electoral process. They should fight the temptation to treat the elections as not crucial for sustaining the progress made since the civil war. But even after good elections five factors will be critical to lasting peace: a more convincing fight against corruption; deeper commitment to transforming Liberia with a new breed of reform-minded political players; sustained international engagement in supporting this more ambitious transformation; economic development; and regional stability, particularly in Côte d'Ivoire.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Civil Society, Democratization, Development, Political Economy, Mass Media
  • Political Geography: Africa, Liberia
  • Publication Date: 11-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Since taking office in March 2011, President Thein Sein has moved remarkably quickly to implement reforms. He has reached out to opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, released significant numbers of political prisoners, cut back on media censorship and signed a new law allowing labour unions to form. On the eve of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's early December visit, key benchmarks set by Western countries imposing sanctions, such as releasing political prisoners and creating the conditions for Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) to join the political process, appear well on their way to being met. Now, a bold peace initiative has given hope the country's biggest challenge – the devastating 60-year-long civil war between the government and ethnic groups – can also be resolved.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Democratization, Diplomacy, Peace Studies
  • Political Geography: United States, South Asia, Myanmar
  • Publication Date: 12-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The ability of Pakistan's radical Islamic parties to mount limited but potentially violent opposition to the government has made democratic reform, and by extension the reduction of religious extremism and development of a more peaceful and stable society, more challenging. This is a reflection of those parties' well-organised activist base, which is committed to a narrow partisan agenda and willing to defend it through violence. While their electoral support remains limited, earlier Islamisation programs have given them a strong legal and political apparatus that enables them to influence policy far beyond their numerical strength. An analysis of party agendas and organisation, as well as other sources of influence in judicial, political and civil society institutions, is therefore vital to assessing how Pakistan's main religious parties apply pressure on government, as well as the ability and willingness of the mainstream parties that are moderate on religious issues to resist that pressure.
  • Topic: Democratization, Islam, Religion, Governance
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, South Asia
  • Publication Date: 02-2010
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: As a rule, Iraq's post-Saddam elections have tended to magnify pre-existing negative trends. The parliamentary polls to be held on 7 March are no exception. The focus on electoral politics is good, no doubt, but the run-up has highlighted deep-seated problems that threaten the fragile recovery: recurring election-related violence; ethnic tensions over Kirkuk; the re-emergence of sectarianism; and blatant political manipulation of state institutions. The most egregious development was the decision to disqualify over 500 candidates, a dangerous, arbitrary step lacking due process, yet endorsed by the Shiite ruling parties. Under normal circumstances, that alone might have sufficed to discredit the elections. But these are not normal circumstances, and for the sake of Iraq's stability, the elections must go on. At a minimum, however, the international community should ramp up its electoral monitoring and define clear red lines that need to be respected if the results are to be considered legitimate. And it should press the next government to seriously tackle the issue – long-neglected yet never more critical – of national reconciliation.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Democratization, Governance
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Arabia
  • Publication Date: 07-2010
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The protracted struggle between the royalist establishment and those allied with ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has left Thailand deeply polarised. It sparked the most violent political confrontations in recent times, killing people, injuring nearly 2,000 and inflicting deep wounds on the national psyche. The government of Abhisit Vejjajiva's unilateral offer of a “road map” to national reconciliation will lead nowhere without the participation of its opposition, including his deposed predecessor. A credible investigation of the violence, enduring legal reforms, and properly addressing societal inequities cannot succeed without the Thaksin-aligned Red Shirt movement. This cannot happen if its leaders are detained, marginalised, or on the run. Fresh elections that are peace­ful, fair and accepted by all sides will be the first test to see if the country is back on track or has lost its way. Thailand should lift the emergency decree imposed over large swathes of the country or risk further damaging its democracy, hindering much needed reconciliation, and sowing the seeds of future deadly conflict.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Democratization, Armed Struggle, Insurgency
  • Political Geography: Southeast Asia
  • Publication Date: 06-2010
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: After 28 years of the Biya presidency, Cameroon faces potential instability in the run up to the presidential elections scheduled for late 2011. Constitutional and legal uncertainty; rivalries between the regime's leading figures; the government's attempts to control the electoral process; the rupture of the political contract between leaders and the population; widespread poverty and frustration; extensive corruption; and the frustration of a large part of the army all point to the possibility of a major crisis. To escape this Biya and his government must restore the independence of the body responsible for elections; institutionalise an impartial fight against corruption and ensure the military's political neutrality. They must also urgently establish the institutions envisaged by the 1996 constitution, so that a power vacuum and the potential for violence can be avoided in the event of a transition, including an unexpected one such as the death of the 77-year-old president in office. Cameroon's most influential partners, particularly France and the U.S., should actively support such measures to avoid unrest.
  • Topic: Corruption, Democratization, Politics, Political Power Sharing
  • Political Geography: Africa
  • Publication Date: 08-2010
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: En cette veille d'élections, le Tchad a enfin une opportu- nité de sortir de la crise politico-militaire dans laquelle il s'est retrouvé depuis plus de cinq ans. L'apaisement per- ceptible des tensions avec le Soudan depuis le début de l'année 2010 ainsi qu'une relative accalmie dans les af- frontements entre l'armée gouvernementale et les groupes rebelles augurent d'un possible retour progressif à la normale. Cependant, le contrôle rigide de l'espace poli- tique national par le président Déby et les problèmes ré- currents du processus électoral pourraient replonger le pays dans de nouveaux troubl es. Le gouvernement tcha- dien doit profiter de l'accalmie actuelle pour poursuivre la normalisation avec le Soudan, garantir la sécurité des populations ainsi que des opé rateurs humanitaires dans l'Est comme stipulé par la résolution du Conseil de Sécu- rité 1923 (2010), réaliser les réformes intérieures qu'il s'est engagé à mener et pr oposer aux opposants armés et leurs combattants une paix honorable et durable.
  • Topic: Security, Political Violence, Democratization, Treaties and Agreements, Fragile/Failed State
  • Political Geography: Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa
  • Publication Date: 10-2010
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Haiti votes in a month's time – on 28 November 2010 – for a new president and nearly an entire legislature in perhaps the most important elections in its history. The government that emerges will need to manage a major part of the decade of recovery from the worst disaster ever in the Western Hemisphere. To do so, it requires the legitimacy that can only come from credible elections. But the historical obstacles – such as low turnout, suspicion of fraud and campaign violence – not only persist but have been greatly exacerbated by the 12 January earthquake that killed a quarter million people and left the capital in ruins and its government in disarray, as well as by the current outbreak of cholera. Polarising politics and a body organising the balloting that lacks full public confidence in its integrity add to the challenge. If the electoral process is to be as transparent, non-violent and widely participated in as it needs to be, the government must meet a higher standard than ever before, and the UN, regional organisations and donors like the U.S., Canada, the EU and Brazil must urgently press for this and expand support.
  • Topic: Democratization, United Nations, Natural Disasters
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe, Canada, Brazil, Caribbean
  • Publication Date: 12-2010
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Indonesia needs to learn promptly the lessons from the sporadic violence witnessed in its local elections during 2010 as there is some evidence these easily preventable incidents could be increasing in frequency since the last cycle. While most district polls pass peacefully, the small number that do not reveals nationwide institutional weaknesses that should be fixed. These contests are often intense personal rivalries for community power that can be highly emotive and, if not closely watched, can quickly turn violent. While religious and ethnic ties are accentuated by these tense races, to date they have not triggered any sectarian schisms. Many confrontations could be avoided in future polls by relatively simple changes in practices, policies and laws. Rather than being too small for national attention, these political battles matter to this large country because, since decentralisation, it is this level of public administration that has the greatest impact on the lives of citizens. How these elections take place can determine the judgments that voters make on the success or failure of democracy throughout the archipelago.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Democratization, Ethnic Conflict
  • Political Geography: Indonesia, Southeast Asia
  • Publication Date: 01-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: On 31 January, Iraqis will head to the polls in fourteen of eighteen governorates to elect new provincial councils. The stakes are considerable. Whereas the January 2005 elections helped put Iraq on the path to all-out civil war, these polls could represent another, far more peaceful turning point. They will serve several important objectives: refreshing local governance; testing the strength of various parties; and serving as a bellwether for nationwide political trends. In several governorates, new parties or parties that failed to run four years ago may oust, or at least reduce the dominance of, a handful of dominant parties whose rule has been marred by pervasive mismanagement and corruption. This in itself would be a positive change with far-reaching consequences as the nation braces for parliamentary elections later in 2009.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Civil War, Democratization, Ethnic Conflict, Islam, War
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Arabia