Opinion: Populism as Reformation
Though it is popular to contrast “populism” with “democracy,” the two are more alike than different. Like the Reformation 500 years ago, today’s populist movements aim to wrest power from the elites and give it back to the people. Instead of petering out, variations on the democratic populist system are likely to multiply, and traditional democratic models may undergo a radical renewal.
Malaysia’s political transition: Mahathir to Anwar 2.0
Before his triumphant return to office at the unlikely age of 93, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad made a deal to hand over power after an interim period to his former deputy-turned-bitter rival Anwar Ibrahim. Both men left the timing vague, intent to avoid any repeat of the falling-out that led to Mr. Anwar’s imprisonment in 1999. It might take Dr. Mahathir more than two years to clean up the previous government’s mess, but Mr. Anwar seems content to wait.
Opinion: Yellow Vests are a symptom of France’s dysfunctional democracy
With the Yellow Vest protests, France has finally fractured between its metropolitan areas and a resentful low-wage periphery. What started as a tax revolt has become a diffuse and unstructured uprising against an unaccountable ruling caste. Many of the movement’s demands would only perpetuate France’s administrative and social centralism, yet its appearance shows that this political model may no longer be sustainable.
Iraq at a crucial moment (Part 2)
Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi’s to-do list reads like Mission Impossible. Staff his cabinet with honest officials; rebuild war-torn Sunni areas in the north; placate an angry Shia south that is desperately short of water and power; deal with Kurdish demands; reintegrate Iranian-backed militias into civilian life; balance carefully between Iran and the U.S. He must do all this without a secure parliamentary majority or even a solid support base. Mr. Abdul Mahdi’s position as an honest broker gives him great strength, but if he fails, Iraq could become Libya.
Iraq at a crucial moment (Part 1)
Iraq’s new prime minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi, was reportedly hand-picked at meeting in Beirut by the leaders of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps and Hezbollah. Yet the man they chose is far from a radical. Close examination of Mr. Abdul Mahdi’s career shows him to be an experienced, honest and gutsy politician, friendly to the U.S. and hardly in Tehran’s pocket. The task he faces is gargantuan, but Mr. Abdul Mahdi has hidden strengths.
GIS Dossier: Europe as a global player: The Maghreb and sub-Saharan Africa
The most important part of Europe’s security perimeter in the 21st century may be its southern rim. The migration crisis of 2015 was only a foretaste of the demographic, economic and political pressures that are building up in the Maghreb and sub-Saharan Africa. Yet the approaches tried by European powers in this vital and growing region have generally failed. They need to get it right as new rival enters the neighborhood – China.
Opinion: African democracy’s long and winding road
Since the collapse of communism, Western powers have kept urging African countries to establish democracies by holding elections. Yet democracy is a complex institution that does not adapt well to multiethnic, impoverished societies – especially when it is imposed from outside. Too often the trappings of centralized democracy have been used to legitimize “elected autocrats,” yet there are signs the import will take if grafted onto native roots.
Thailand searches for a new balance between monarchy and modernity
Thailand has a wealth of geographic, historical and economic advantages, and yet it lags in terms of political liberalization. It is more monarchy than democracy, an arrangement that worked to its advantage during the Cold War but is now holding it back. At issue is whether the country can find a new balance between the forces of tradition and modernity. If not, Thailand may become too weak to resist China’s expanding influence in the region.
Scenarios for Chad’s President Idriss Deby
Chad’s President Idriss Deby leads an authoritarian government that is increasingly under pressure, both politically and economically. However, his regime has been a strong ally of the West. A new constitution that strengthened his grip on power was approved this year, but it could, ironically, further undermine his legitimacy.
Opinion: In Nicaragua, the opposition must unite to oust Ortega
Since April, Nicaraguans have been protesting in the streets for an end to the regime of President Daniel Ortega. One of the original Sandinista leaders who brought down the Somoza family dictatorship 40 years ago, Mr. Ortega himself now faces accusations of authoritarianism. He is losing support, but unless opposition groups unify, Nicaragua’s leader could hold on for months.