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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: 02-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: S.Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: Corruption has become a perennial issue that has shackled political parties to a groundswell of unpopularity in Indonesia. In the run up towards the 2014 General Elections, it is envisaged that such an issue may jeopardise the electability of certain political parties. This report explores the influence of corruption cases on the elections by first highlighting the current status of competing political parties in the 2014 elections. The report then looks at the notable corruption cases that have an adverse effect on the political parties. The report concludes with four points. First, how utilising the "corruption-card" has become the new weapon of choice among political parties. Second, how the acute problem of corruption signifies that Indonesia's democratic consolidation process is far from over. Third, how shadowy affairs between political parties, their elites and the media can and should be constantly monitored. Lastly, the need to strengthen and continuous evaluation of the Corruption Eradication Committee (KPK) to prevent unnecessary interventions by political parties in the future.
  • Topic: Corruption, Democratization, Development, Political Economy, Governance
  • Political Geography: Indonesia, Asia
  • Publication Date: 03-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: S.Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: The Democratic Party (PD) – the incumbent party that won a majority sweep in the 2009 general elections, conferring Yudhoyono his second presidency – is now experiencing a dramatic reversal of fortunes. The party's electability rate has dipped significantly from its heyday peak of 21 per cent in 2009 to a meagre 7 per cent in 2013. A convention based on democratic proceedings ha s been hatched as part of a last - ditched effort by PD with the express purpose of generating the requisite publicity before legislative elections commence in order to restore confidence among its voters. While the convention has been proceeding apace, its impact on the electorate and on the image of the party as a whole has been disappointing. This report analyses the reasons why PD's novel attempt at a democratic convention failed to rejuvenate the party like its predecessor the Golkar party did a decade a go. Included in the analysis are scenario analyses of the various outcomes of the convention, given the plausible choices that party Chairman Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono may take in consideration of the current dire status of PD.
  • Topic: Democratization, Development, Islam, Political Economy, Governance
  • Political Geography: Asia
  • Author: Yuddy Chrisnandi, Adhi Priamarizki
  • Publication Date: 07-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: S.Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: Following the implementation of Law No. 2/1999 on political parties by former president Bacharuddin Jusuf Habbibie, the multiparty system has been championed as the more prominent feature of the rapidly democratized Indonesian political landscape in the post-Suharto era. he implementation of such a law replaced the three-party system that had previously been dominated by the single hegemonic political vehicle of the New Order, Golkar or Golongan Karya [the Functional Groups], for almost 26 years. In the 1999 General Elections (GE), Indonesia witnessed an exuberance of new political parties. A total of forty-eight new political parties joined the 1999 election, the first free and fair democratic election since the 1955 GE. While the number of political parties may seem overwhelming, such a political turnout is not surprising given the degree of plurality of Indonesian society. In the 2004, 2009, and 2014 GE respectively, 24, 38, and 12 national political parties competed.
  • Topic: Democratization, Politics, Governance
  • Political Geography: Asia, Southeast Asia
  • Author: Joshua Kurlantzick
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Between the late 1980s and the late 2000s, many countries in Southeast Asia were viewed, by global democracy analysts and Southeast Asians themselves, as leading examples of democratization in the developing world. By the late 2000s, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Singapore all were ranked as "free" or "partly free" by the monitoring organization Freedom House, while Cambodia and, perhaps most surprisingly, Myanmar had both taken sizable steps toward democracy as well. Yet since the late 2000s, Southeast Asia's democratization has stalled and, in some of the region's most economically and strategically important nations, gone into reverse. Over the past ten years, Thailand has undergone a rapid and severe regression from democracy and is now ruled by a junta. Malaysia's democratic institutions and culture have regressed as well, with the long-ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition cracking down on dissent and trying to destroy what had been an emerging, and increasingly stable, two-party system. Singapore's transition toward contested politics has stalled. In Cambodia and Myanmar, hopes for dramatic democratic change have fizzled. Only the Philippines and Indonesia have stayed on track, but even in these two countries democratic consolidation is threatened by the persistence of graft, public distrust of democratic institutions, and continued meddling in politics by militaries.
  • Topic: Democratization, Economics, Human Rights
  • Political Geography: Asia, Southeast Asia
  • Author: Sarah Stern, Anna Mitri
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: EastWest Institute
  • Abstract: With the end of the ISAF mandate, Afghanistan will enter the "de-cade of transformation" in late 2014, and assume security for and within the country. The challenges with regard to security and governance are obvious; they attract much political and public attention.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Democratization, Development, Diplomacy
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Central Asia, Asia
  • Author: Robert Nalbandov
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College
  • Abstract: This monograph analyzes the interconnections between the democratic institutionalization of the newly independent states of Ukraine, Georgia, and Belarus, their political (in)stability, and economic development and prosperity. By introducing the concept of regime mimicry into the field of public administration, this monograph extends the epistemological frameworks of the democratization school to the phenomenon of political culture. Successes and failures of the democratic institutionalization processes in these countries largely depend on the ways their institutional actors reacted to internal and external disturbances of their domestic political, econmic, and cultural environments. While Georgia's political culture revealed the highest degree of flexibility in accepting the externally-proposed institutional frameworks and practices, the bifurcate political culture in Ukraine impeded its democratic institutionalization, while the rigid political culture in Belarus completely stalled the process of institutional transformations.
  • Topic: Democratization, Development, Economics
  • Political Geography: Ukraine, Asia, Georgia, Belarus
  • 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
  • Author: Sabrina Zajak
  • Publication Date: 02-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies
  • Abstract: This paper contributes to the debate on the role of democratic participation in complex systems of governance. It takes a process-oriented constructivist approach asking how transnational activism over time contributes to the construction of access and voice from below and uses the Asia-Europe Meetings (ASEM) to analyze how interactions between civil society and global governance institutions shape concrete forms of participation. The paper shows that transnational activism triggers both discursive and institutional changes within the official ASEM process leading to an informal, fragmented, and fragile institutionalization of civil society participation. However, the paper reveals a division between civil society organizations with some, such as business representatives, having preferential access and voice in comparison to more contentious organizations. The paper explains this fragmented form of democratization as the result of three interrelated processes: the particular history and economic origins of the ASEM; international developments particularly in the ongoing economic crisis; and domestic developments within individual countries (in particular China) which have begun to favor controlled access for civil society participation.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Democratization, Economics, History, Governance, Developments
  • Political Geography: Europe, Asia
  • Author: Ebru Oğurlu
  • Publication Date: 03-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Over the last few years, the Eastern Mediterranean has been increasingly fraught with growing competition between regional players, most notably Turkey, Cyprus, and Israel, signalling an apparent return of power politics in regional relations. Of all actors involved, Turkey stands out for being both an ever more influential power and a source of serious concern to other countries in the region due to its greater assertiveness and perceived hegemonic ambitions. Against the backdrop of recent regional developments and their international implications, including the dispute over drilling rights off Cyprus' coasts, Turkey's image as a constructive and dialogue-oriented country, a critical achievement pursued by a generation of Turkish politicians, diplomats and officials, risks being replaced by one of an antagonistic/assertive power. Facing the first serious challenge to its claim to embody a benign model as a secular Muslim democracy and a responsible international actor, Turkey should not indulge in emotional reactions. It should opt instead for a more moderate and balanced approach based on the assumption that only cooperation and constructive dialogue, even with rival countries, can help it realize its ambition of being the regional pivot.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Democratization, Development, Islam, Power Politics
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe, Middle East, Israel, Greece, Asia, Colombia, Cyprus