Dictators come up with some pretty lame excuses for abusing the rights of their citizens. And these excuses get taken way too seriously. Dictators want us to believe that what they do is about the same as what happens in the United States or in European Union countries. It isn’t. In the following blog post we look at some of the most common claptrap dictators throw at us.
Many observers have compared the recent Turkish antigovernment protests to those in Russia in late 2011 and early 2012. In both cases, the social unrest followed a serious decline in civil liberties and political freedoms under increasingly imperious national leaders, prompting some to warn of the “Putinization” of Turkey.
The White House announced last week that President Obama will be hosting the president of Vietnam, Truong Tan Sang, on his first visit to Washington on July 25. The meeting appears to fall under the U.S. administration’s Asia-Pacific rebalancing strategy, or Asia Pivot, which is aimed in large part at addressing the rising regional tensions associated with China’s political and economic pressure on its smaller neighbors. While stepping up its dialogue with Beijing, the United States is strengthening ties with allies and other countries in East and Southeast Asia. But unlike most of these partners, Vietnam remains a repressive one-party state and has done little, by way of democratic reform, to earn a presidential invitation.
Now that Muhammad Morsi has become the third executive authority to be replaced in Egypt since early 2011, many residents are optimistic about the future of the country, even as they fear the potential for renewed bouts of political violence.
U.S. president Barack Obama’s current visit to South Africa, the second stop in his three-nation tour of Africa, presents an opportunity to examine the state of the country’s democracy. Former president Nelson Mandela is rightly praised for overseeing a smooth transition from apartheid in the early 1990s, and South Africa remains the anchor of an African subregion that is dominated by Free societies, according to Freedom House’s annual Freedom in the World report. However, the country’s scores have been slowly deteriorating for several years, and it has yet to achieve a rotation of power among competing parties—an important step in the maturation of democratic governance. These are signs that South Africa, which is often cited as a model for other African states, should not take its freedoms for granted.
The transition from the 20th to the 21st century marked a pivotal moment in the Western Balkans. By the end of 2000, the three leaders—Franjo Tuđman of Croatia, Alija Izetbegović of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), and Slobodan Milošević of Serbia—who had presided over the most destructive crisis in Europe since the end of the Second World War were no longer on the political scene. Moreover, the electoral success of democratic coalitions in Croatia and Serbia, the progress toward democratic standards recognized in Albanian local elections, and electoral reforms introduced in BiH all aroused a sense of optimism for democratization in the region. Thirteen years later, where do these countries stand on the path toward democracy? Has their performance fulfilled expectations?
“Democratizing the media” is a common refrain in Latin America these days. It can be heard in weekly presidential “cadenas” and verbose diatribes during the biannual hearings of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). While the phrase may suggest a process that would lift restrictions on media and increase citizen access, it has been invoked to support policies that do the opposite, becoming a favorite slogan of the region’s least democratic leaders, chief among them Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa.