No bums to throw out – The Economist Oct 24th 2015 | PORT-AU-PRINCE


A troubled country has the chance to take a step forward

FOR the capital of a country where recent election turnouts have been low, Port-au-Prince does not lack for political advertising. Lampposts, electricity poles, even the lintels of lottery shops are plastered with toothy photos of the 53 candidates who are competing to be Haiti’s president in elections that begin on October 25th. Hundreds more are vying for parliamentary and municipal seats.

Though teeming with would-be presidents, Haiti barely has any elected officials. Just 11 are in office in the entire country: the current president, Michel Martelly, and ten senators. Elections were delayed twice—in 2011 and 2013—and parliament was dissolved early this year, leaving Mr Martelly, who cannot run again, to govern by decree. This month’s vote is thus a step towards restoring a functioning elected government.

Whoever leads it will face huge challenges. More than five years after an earthquake flattened much of the capital, Haiti is hobbled by corruption and political instability, and still vulnerable to disasters. The biggest shortcomings are in education, electricity and governance, says Gilles Damais of the Inter-American Development Bank. Money to fix them is scarce. Income from foreign donors dropped from 12% of GDP in 2010 to 7% last year. The government’s domestic revenues were a scant $1.1 billion, or 13% of GDP, in 2013.

Article continues:

http://www.economist.com/news/americas/21676823-troubled-country-has-chance-take-step-forward-no-bums-throw-out

 

The prospect of a shutdown looms – BY J.A. Sep 18th 2015, 21:48 | WASHINGTON, DC


THE leading contenders for the Republican presidential nomination include eight more or less distinguished politicians, such as Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush, and two men, Donald Trump and Ben Carson, with no political experience and some odd ideas. Mr Trump wants to deport 11.3m people in two years; Mr Carson thinks being gay is a matter of choice and the Affordable Care Act the “worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery”. Polls suggest these greenhorn screwballs command more than half the Republican vote.

To understand why Americans are so fed up with politicians, it would be reasonable to start with the government shutdown of September 2013, when the failure of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives to pass a budget led to about 800,000 federal employees being sent home for 12 days and the mothballing of numerous government programmes and services. This was estimated to have cost the economy $24 billion in lost output; it also hurt the Republicans.

At the time, almost half of Americans said the shutdown had cost them and most blamed the GOP—even if the nation’s disdain for Congress at the time was a lesson in bipartisanship. Only around a quarter of voters, Republican or Democratic, said they were satisfied with their congressional representative.

You might think the Republicans, now in control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate, would want to avoid a repeat of that embarrassing, damaging episode. Yet the prospect of another shutdown looms. Lawmakers have only 12  days to pass a fresh budget for the fiscal year beginning on October 1st; or, if they cannot, to sign off on a stopgap agreement, called a “continuing resolution”, which would maintain the current rates of expenditure for three or four months. Their progress is discouraging.

Article continues:

http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2015/09/americas-dysfunctional-politics

 

California Is About to Fix Democracy – —By Inae Oh | Mon Sep. 14, 2015 12:59 PM EDT


Andrey Burmakin/Shutterstock

On Thursday, California’s Senate advanced a new reform bill that would automatically register all state residents to vote when they apply or renew their driver licenses.

Residents will also be able to opt out of automatic registration.

The 24-15 vote, which follows the Assembly’s approval in June, now awaits the signature of Gov. Jerry Brown, who is expected to adopt the measure. If signed, California will become the second state in the country to have automatic voter registration, after Oregon.

Supporters of the bill say it would dramatically increase voter turnout in the state. Secretary of State Alex Padilla reminded her fellow lawmakers on Thursday that nearly 6.7 million California residents remain unregistered, despite being eligible to do so.

“We ought to do anything and everything possible to ensure that people participate,” Padilla said ahead of the vote.

In March, Oregon became the first state to pass an automatic registration law. Soon after that, lawmakers in 17 states proposed similar measures. While speaking to an audience in Texas back in June, Hillary Clinton announced her support for universal automatic registration.

California Republicans voted against the bill, citing warnings of potential voter fraud. However, such claims have been overwhelmingly disproved. Restrictive voting laws, as demonstrated in the last midterm elections, have been found to create significant obstacles that prevent minorities and the poor from voting.

http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2015/09/california-verge-passing-automatic-registration

Where America’s Democracy Went to Die – By Paul D. Shinkman Aug. 14, 2015 | 12:01 a.m. EDT


In Iraq, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s bold plan to revitalize a country ravaged by war may provide stability – or it could undo it all.

More than a decade after being invaded by the U.S., Iraq is moving away from the democracy the West tried to establish in the country.

On the streets of Baghdad, and in other corners of Iraq where locals have endured almost unimaginable chaos and tragedy over the last decade, two popular phrases capture the complexities of modern life.

“We used to have one Saddam Hussein, now we have a thousand,” one saying goes. The other: “The patch is small, and the hole is big.”

The first adage helps personify what has become endemic corruption in Iraq, giving rise to massive protests against public officials’ exploiting their positions to steal money and the government’s failure to stop it. The second represents the inherent fear among Iraqis that no leader, particularly in the current government, possesses the vision to see beyond the country’s existing problems and come up with a proactive solution in service of Iraq’s future.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi attends a press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel following talks at the Chancellery on Feb. 6, 2015, in Berlin.

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Abadi’s Bold Plan for Iraq

The sentiments reflect the concerns of demonstrators who have taken to the streets in recent days in frustration over the government’s inability to deliver basic services like a reliable flow of electricity at a time when summer temperatures have topped 120 degrees. The largely peaceful and nonsectarian protests, set against the urgency of war with the Islamic State group, prompted Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to announce a bold set of anti-corruption reforms over the weekend aimed at making the government more effective. The seven-point plan attacks fraud and waste in key areas of the political, national security and leadership infrastructure where Abadi, a Shiite Muslim, sees some of the most flagrant abuses.

Some consider it the beginning of a labyrinthine path to actual reform. For others, it suggests a power grab by Abadi, who may have just laid the foundation to oust encroaching rivals, consolidate power and build his base of support.

Regardless, in a country defined by autocrats, the move almost certainly marks the official death of the model of democracy the U.S. attempted to impose over a decade of war.

“Iraqis in general blame the U.S. government [for choosing to] fund, train and support the present, corrupt Iraqi government,” says Kamal Jabar, an Iraqi-American human rights activist and journalist who recently returned to the U.S. from Baghdad and has been closely monitoring the tenor of the protests in and around the capital city. Many of the protesters on the streets celebrated the news, he says, but Iraqis have learned to temper their optimism.

Article continues:

http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2015/08/14/abadis-reforms-and-the-death-of-us-imposed-democracy-in-iraq?int=a14709

Joe Biden’s closest allies are donating to Hillary Clinton. There’s a very good reason. – Updated by Jonathan Allen and Soo Oh on July 31, 2015, 4:10 p.m. ET


In a capital city defined by its cutthroat politics, no commodity is more precious than loyalty. That’s especially true in Clintonworld, where every favor and every slight is carefully tracked.

And it helps explain why scores of federal workers, including several members of Congress, would make maximum contributions of $2,700 to Hillary Clinton’s campaign. The donations won’t buy jobs in the West Wing, but they are a time-honored way for Washington’s most ambitious players to prove their loyalty to the person they think will be the next president of the United States. And the earlier they give, the better.

Take, for example, Tony Blinken and Evan Ryan, who are married to each other. He’s a deputy secretary of state; she’s an assistant secretary of state. They both donated to Clinton in late June, just before the most recent deadline for campaigns to file finance reports with the Federal Election Commission. Given the tradition of giving for political gain, it’s not surprising that one of the rare true power couples would part with a total of $5,400.

It’s really a small investment when you think about it. Blinken could be in line for any number of jobs in a Clinton administration, including the one he has, secretary of state, or national security adviser to the president. Ryan would certainly be under consideration for at least an undersecretary post at State or perhaps a high-ranking White House job.

What’s surprising about their contributions to Clinton is that Blinken and Ryan couldn’t be much closer to Vice President Joe Biden, who hasn’t said yet whether he will seek the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016. Blinken was a top aide to Biden on Capitol Hill and the vice president’s national security adviser. Ryan handled intergovernmental affairs for Biden at the White House. Both of them moved over to State after Clinton left. The facile read — and one we admit was our first thought — is that they just unintentionally signaled that Biden won’t run.

But Blinken and Ryan are too smart for that. After all, he plays the 195-dimensional chess of international politics for a living, and she’s one of the more capable unelected politicians in Washington. Blinken declined to comment for this story, but it doesn’t take much training in game theory to figure out his basic incentive structure and the optimal choice.

Article continues:

http://www.vox.com/2015/7/31/9078755/biden-allies-give-to-clinton

Nigeria set for historic democratic handover to Buhari – Al Jazeera English 29 May 2015 03:03 GMT


President-elect Muhammadu Buhari prepares to attend swearing-in ceremony in Abuja, amid tight security in the capital.

Buhari, 72, takes over as head of Africa's most populous nation, top economy and leading oil producer [AP]

Buhari, 72, takes over as head of Africa’s most populous nation, top economy and leading oil producer [AP]

Former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari is preparing to formally take over as Nigeria’s elected head of state following his election victory in March 28 elections.

Buhari will attend a swearing-in ceremony in Abuja, the capital, on Friday after becoming the first Nigerian to oust a sitting president through the ballot box.

On Thursday, outgoing President Goodluck Jonathan hosted a dinner event at the state banquet hall in Aso Villa, the presidential villa, to mark his handover to Buhari.

Attending Thursday night’s event were former heads of state, representatives and presidents of various countries.

Earlier on Thursday, Jonathan, who as he entered his final week in office had offered up a prayer for the success of Buhari, showed the president-elect around his new quarters.

The 57-year-old took Buhari and his vice-president-elect Yemi Osinbajo on a tour of Aso Rock before submitting his formal handover notes.

High expectations

Buhari, 72, takes over as head of Africa’s most populous nation, top economy and leading oil producer as it limps back to normality after fuel shortages that brought the country to a near standstill.

Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC) accused Jonathan’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) of orchestrating the fuel crisis to scupper the transition.

But Jonathan told him: “Our administration has done its best to intervene robustly and impact positively on key aspects of our national life.”

Expectations are high, some say too high, that Buhari can fix Nigeria, with corruption seemingly entrenched in public life and decades of mismanagement.

The enormity of his task includes not just preventing further fuel supply problems but bringing an end to the Boko Haram insurgency, which has claimed at least 15,000 lives since 2009.

Article continues:

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/05/nigeria-set-historic-democratic-handover-buhari-150529025601554.html

Carving Up Congo – By Christoph Wille May 21, 2015


President Kabila’s Latest Ploy to Stay in Power

Screen Shot 2015-05-23 at May 23, 2015 5.00

Earlier this year, angry demonstrators filled the streets of Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They were outraged by President Joseph Kabila’s attempts to extend his last term as president through a new electoral law that would likely have delayed the November 2016 elections by at least two years. One of the most keenly contested provisions of the law required a national census before elections could take place, a laborious effort that was never budgeted. Kabila responded violently to the protests—his security forces killed around 40 people.

The new law was eventually passed in late January of this year without the census provision, but it appears that Kabila has yet another card to play.

On March 2, he set a 120-day deadline for the implementation of découpage, a constitutional change introduced in 2006 intended to divide Congo’s 11 provinces into 26. The 2006 constitutional change was a milestone in the country’s transition from almost a decade of civil war and was meant to transform Congo into a fully fledged democracy. However, while Kinshasa should have completed découpage by 2010 in accordance with the constitution, the process has not yet even begun. The delay is not surprising given that découpage is one of the most complex processes that the government has had to grapple with since the official end of the war. As a result, it neither budgeted nor designed an execution plan for découpage.

In pursuing découpage now, Kabila can ostensibly hold on to power. In the last few months, a number of his former supporters, such as the political party Union of Federalists and Independent Republicans, defected from the ruling majority. In December 2014, one of his allies, Moïse Katumbi—the powerful governor of Katanga Province and representative of the ruling party in Katanga—publicly opposed Kabila’s quest to extend the presidential term limits and run for a third term. The speech sent shock waves across the business and political scene; although Katumbi was widely believed to harbor his own presidential aspirations, his ties to Kabila were generally seen as essential to his potential ascension.

If implemented, découpage could allow Kabila to marginalize such power brokers and defectors. Katumbi and many others would be replaced once their provinces were dissolved and reconfigured into smaller ones.

At the same time, if logistic, financial, and political reasons prevent the successful implementation of découpage (and that is quite likely), the process may not only help delay the electoral process but also serve as a convenient justification for Kabila to amend the constitution. After all, if the constitution’s call for découpage is no longer practical, Kabila might argue that other conditions—such as the two-term limit—also require amending.

Article continues:

https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/democratic-republic-congo/2015-05-21/carving-congo