Will Kurdistan get a second chance?
The independence referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan was clearly a miscalculation by President Massoud Barzani. His assumption that Erbil could present a bill to Baghdad for services rendered in defeating Daesh was swiftly trumped by realpolitik. Now, the question is what can be saved from the debacle, and whether war can be avoided in Kurdistan itself.
Opinion: Regional disparities strike back in northern Italy
Two northern Italian regions have voted overwhelmingly in support of more autonomy from Rome. They are two of the country’s richest areas, frequently paying more in taxes than they receive in public spending, and the vote laid bare the dissatisfaction over this disparity. Worse, the money being transferred to poorer parts of Italy has not lifted them out of poverty. Italy can no longer sweep these issues under the rug. Federalism is now back on the table.
Opinion: Catalonia, Kurdistan and the legitimacy of independence
Catalonia and Kurdistan will soon hold referenda on independence. The international community has been less than supportive of these regions’ right to make such a decision. But the right to self-determination is fundamental. Moreover, keeping regions in a country where they do not want to remain can be harmful. On the other hand, using democratic systems to allow independence votes can make governments more efficient and populations more unified.
Olympic spending and democratic accountability
Rich, Western nations are less and less eager to host the Olympics. Dictatorships and countries with weak democracies are more than willing to take them on, however. That is because democratic societies have become aware of the costs, and their representatives are more accountable. Leaders in countries where freedoms are restricted see a chance to buff their image, and do not have to answer to the people.
Restarting the peace process in Colombia
Many of those who voted to reject Colombia’s peace deal with FARC in the October referendum did so because of the level of impunity the agreement gave guerilla fighters. If this provision can be changed, hope remains that a revised deal could win popular approval.
Italy’s referendum and the specter of instability
On December 4, Italians will go to the polls in a referendum on amending their constitution. Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has said he will resign if the changes are rejected. A win for the opposition could be seen as a populist turn for this highly indebted country, bringing instability domestically and uncertainty about the fate of the eurozone.
In defense of referenda
Many have been shocked by the outcomes of referenda in the UK, Colombia and Hungary. Some critics now question direct democracy, and whether the people can be trusted with making decisions on major issues. They are forgetting that citizens, not governments, should initiate such votes. When they do, the results are usually very sensible.
Colombia’s peace pact: now comes the hard part
The Colombian government and the FARC guerrillas have signed a long-awaited peace agreement. Now comes the hard part: making it work. There is no guarantee that Colombians will approve the deal in a referendum on October 2. If they do, there will be many other challenges ahead, including asserting state control over the entire country and reintegrating fighters into society. Though all of that will be difficult, the alternative is much worse.
Drug money keeps Venezuelan military in Maduro’s corner
Venezuela is in dire straits, with its economy contracting, its oil income falling and supplies of food and medicine dwindling. Against this backdrop, President Nicolas Maduro is resisting a recall referendum and installing generals in the top posts around him. Because he allows the military to profit from drug trafficking, it is likely to remain on his side.
Venezuela crisis reaching breaking point
Venezuela’s national oil company cannot pay its bills. Supplies of food and medicine are dwindling. A malaria epidemic looms. Some 500,000 took to the streets of Caracas in protest. Meanwhile, President Nicolas Maduro is stalling a recall vote and packing top government posts with military men. How long can this go on?