Freedom at Issue:

Insights on the global struggle for democracy

February 2013

Alexander Brockwehl

This Sunday, Ecuadorians will go to the polls to choose a president in what is expected to be a landslide reelection victory for President Rafael Correa. Pollsters predict that Correa will win by as many as 40-50% over the leading opposition candidate, Guillermo Lasso, the former head of the Ecuadorian bank, Banco de Guayaquil. Correa’s PAIS party is also likely to win an overwhelming majority of the 137 National Assembly seats, which will be contested on the same day. While Correa’s victory will serve to reinforce the global perception that he is an immensely popular president, there is a far darker reality:  Correa has managed one of Latin America’s largest democratic declines in recent decades.

A thick skin is a necessary prerequisite for every successful politician, at least in democratic societies. Love them or hate them, political satirists like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are symbols of the deep-seated respect for freedom of opinion in the United States (as well as Americans’ love of a public roasting). In nondemocratic parts of the world, however, politicians are much less willing to become the butt of the joke.

The Egyptian public and the international community were shocked last week by televised images of civilian Hamada Saber being dragged, stripped, and brutally beaten by police officers amid ongoing clashes between police and protesters in Cairo.

Gérard Depardieu’s bombastic personality and distinguished acting career have made him a cultural icon in France. However, he recently earned international notoriety by embracing Russian president Vladimir Putin and announcing that he would give up his French passport in favor of a Russian one.

As Armenia prepares for a presidential election on February 18, the international community should direct its attention to a recent proposal by a presidential advisory body that—if implemented—would drastically increase government control over civil society in the country.