Photo: President Donald Trump at a campaign rally in Phoenix, AZ. Source: Gage Skidmore

By Avram Reisman

On Friday, President Trump declared a national emergency to address the “national security and humanitarian crisis at the border.” Presidents have declared national emergencies over 50 times since the National Emergencies Act was signed into law in 1976, and Trump has already implemented three, but a national emergency has never been used to override the Congressional power of the purse.

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Pictured: Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza speaks to the media after casting his vote at the constitutional referendum in Buye, north of Ngozi, in northern Burundi on May 17, 2018. (Photo Credit: Berthier Mugiraneza, Associated Press). 

By Kwadwo A. Boateng

The results of Burundi’s most recent referendum on constitutional amendments see the possible extension of President Nkurunziza’s term until 2034. He has been President of Burundi since August 2005. The results have made the opposition uneasy; however, this is not the first time the President has sought to bypass constitutional term limits. The vulnerability of Burundi’s national legislature has been on display before: Burundi’s Parliament allowed the President to run for re-election in 2015, at the end of his second (and last) term, prompting a crisis that culminated in government forces clashing with protestors.  Parliament must become independent from governmental influence to prevent strongmen from taking advantage of constitutional law.

Burundi’s President, Pierre Nkurunziza, has secured a constitutional amendment that will enable him to remain in office until 2034.  A referendum held on 17 May extended his presidential powers by approving the amendment. Questions remain about whether Burundi’s National Independent Electoral Commission can become independent of government influence, following the referendum result. It could do so by persuading Burundi’s national legislature to insist on different behavior from its executives at the national level. This could come about in several ways, which are discussed below. Opposition groups in Burundi such as the Union for Peace and Democracy and the Frodebu-Nyakuri party are also (understandably) concerned about the referendum results, because they add to a pattern of undemocratic governance that has existed since the ruling party, the National Council for the Defense of Democracy-Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD), became more radicalized following post-conflict elections in 2010.

Jennifer Raymond Dresden, Ph.D.

It turns out that yesterday was not the busiest air travel day of the year in the United States.  Neither is Sunday. (I know, I’m shocked too.)  Statistics don’t help you much, though, if you’re currently stuck in an airport, sandwiched between your fellow disgruntled passengers in an overcrowded waiting area, or on a train or bus just trying to get to a loved one’s home for Turkey Day.

Never fear, though, we here at the Democracy & Governance Program have got you covered.  While you’re in the air, on the rails, or on the road (assuming you’re not doing the driving), here are a few of the best democracy & governance reads from around the web the last few weeks.

By Georges A. Fauriol

The past decade has convincingly brought to a close a period of global democratic growth and consolidation underway since the late 1970s – Samuel Huntington’s “third wave.”  We have instead now witnessed twelve years of democratic decline. This is fueled by the resurgence of expansionist authoritarianism armed with a vision strategically eager to compete with the norms and institutions of democracy; worse, there is also a measurable decline by established democracies in their commitment to democratic governing principles – in the aggregate, this is Larry Diamond’s “democratic recession.”

Photo: Ilhan Omar, MN-05 Representative-Elect. (Photo credit: Lorie Shaull)

By Democracy & Society Editors

The Democratic party performed about as well as expected in the midterm elections, perhaps restoring confidence to the electoral prediction industry. Though the success of the Democratic party in the House of Representatives can be taken as a sign that Americans are rejecting some of the more authoritarian aspects of President Donald Trump’s rhetoric, the conduct of candidates’ during the campaign and after the election should leave (small-d) democrats pessimistic. The Democratic party’s new majority in the House will place a check on President Donald Trump’s power, but the 2018 midterms served to highlight the profound problems of American democracy.

By Han Wool Jung

Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese (Myanmarese) Nobel Peace prize winner who was under house arrest for pro-democracy activism, came to power as State Counsellor and leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD) in 2016 with a considerably free election. In the beginning, her victory was an auspicious win for the Myanmar democratization process. However, the prolonged ethnic conflict between the Buddhist majority and Muslim minority, the Rohingya, has turned into a genocide. In addition, the media, responsible for promoting freedom of information and dispersing injustice done to the Rohingya, is still severely repressed. As shown by recent imprisonment of two Reuters journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who were investigating the brutal violence on the Rohingya, the military is controlling the coverage of the violence. All these have incited international outrage against the Myanmar military and the government, and especially Suu Kyi for not promoting media freedom and attempting to end the vicious cycle of violence and discrimination on the Rohingya.