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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.

This article was originally published by Arab Centre Washington DC and is republished with their permission from http://arabcenterdc.org/policy_analyses/has-saudi-arabia-become-a-monarchy-of-fear/ 

By Daniel Brumberg

The murder of prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi reminded Americans that the United States remains aligned with Arab leaders who regularly repress, imprison, and kill opponents for expressing their political views. Khashoggi’s killing in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul on October 2 was an especially gruesome crime. To be sure, Washington has often backed regimes that employ lethal violence on a far grander scale. Egypt’s current president, General Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, took power in a July 2013 military coup that ended the country’s brief and tumultuous democratic experiment. Less than a month later, Egyptian security forces slaughtered some 800 civilian protesters in Rabaa Square. Sisi’s government, backed by the judiciary, then proceeded to jail tens of thousands of Egyptians on vague or trumped-up charges. Yet President Barack Obama’s secretary of state, John Kerry, did not protest and even praised Sisi and his allies for “restoring democracy.” From a strictly moral point of view, then, was Kerry’s statement worse than President Donald Trump’s assertion that Khashoggi’s killing was probably the work of “rogue killers”? This assertion was taken up by Saudi leaders who proceeded to dismissalleged conspirators from their positions and imprison other collaborators—acts that are nevertheless seen by the world as only a cover-up for perfidious behavior by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Photo: Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping. (via Kremlin)

By Avram Reisman

At a time when democracy is in recession and facing new challenges, it is worth looking back on essential literature written when democratic change was similarly challenged by authoritarian powers. Transitions from Authoritarian Rule, by Guillermo O’Donnell and Phillippe Schmitter, was a paradigmatic publication that set parameters and expectations for democratic transitions in U.S. policy and for democratic opposition groups in many parts of the world. Looking with a contemporary critical lens, it’s clear the sands of time have eroded the model’s validity. However, with some adaptation, the model provides some direction for new international landscape.

By Kwadwo A. Boateng

African states have been struggling to democratize for decades, and Zimbabwe was no exception. Only a quarter of African states in 2012 have democratized, while 43% were autocracy, and the rest were hybrid regimes. Among multiple underlying reasons for failure to democratize was the absence of free and fair election, which reflects the principle of democracy by allowing legitimate transfer of authority and regime change. However, Zimbabwe has not seen transfer of power for more than thirty years – allowing competitive authoritarianism to thrive – due to the manipulation of election that imposed great obstacles to conducting a democratic election. Emmerson Mnangagwa, Zimbabwe’s new President, must understand this fundamental aspect of democratic society, and thereby, end his predecessor’s competitive authoritarianism and political violence.