Showing posts tagged as "elections"

Showing posts tagged elections

25 Aug
Populist’s Brash Tactics Stir Fears of Crisis in Pakistan | DECLAN WALSHAUG
LONDON — Only last year, Imran Khan was casting himself as the savior of Pakistani politics: a playboy cricketer turned opposition leader who enjoyed respect and sex appeal, filling stadiums with adoring young Pakistanis drawn to his strident attacks on corruption, American drone strikes and old-school politics. When Mr. Khan promised that he would become prime minister, many believed him.
Now, though, Mr. Khan’s populist touch appears to have deserted him. 
He led thousands of supporters into the center of the capital, Islamabad, a week ago in a boisterous bid to force the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, whom he accuses of election fraud. But the crowds he attracted were much smaller than his party had hoped, and the protest movement has been messy, inchoate and inconclusive. 
FULL ARTICLE (The New York Times)
Photo: Mustafa Mohsin/flickr

Populist’s Brash Tactics Stir Fears of Crisis in Pakistan | DECLAN WALSHAUG

LONDON — Only last year, Imran Khan was casting himself as the savior of Pakistani politics: a playboy cricketer turned opposition leader who enjoyed respect and sex appeal, filling stadiums with adoring young Pakistanis drawn to his strident attacks on corruption, American drone strikes and old-school politics. When Mr. Khan promised that he would become prime minister, many believed him.

Now, though, Mr. Khan’s populist touch appears to have deserted him. 

He led thousands of supporters into the center of the capital, Islamabad, a week ago in a boisterous bid to force the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, whom he accuses of election fraud. But the crowds he attracted were much smaller than his party had hoped, and the protest movement has been messy, inchoate and inconclusive. 

FULL ARTICLE (The New York Times)

Photo: Mustafa Mohsin/flickr

21 Aug
Conflict Alert: Protecting Pakistan’s Threatened Democracy
Islamabad/Brussels  |   21 Aug 2014
A little over a year ago, Pakistan entered an unprecedented second phase of democratic transition, with one elected government handing power to another by peaceful, constitutional means. This fragile transition will be gravely threatened unless a fast-escalating political crisis is urgently defused. The protests rocking Islamabad threaten to upend the constitutional order, set back rule of law and open the possibility of a soft coup, with the military ruling through the backdoor. Renewed political instability at the centre would imperil any progress that has been made in addressing grievous economic, development and security challenges. The government’s moves, supported by the parliamentary opposition, to accommodate some of the protestors’ demands – particularly as regards electoral reform – are welcome. It is worrying, however, that protest leaders appear adamant in rejecting such outreach. Crisis Group calls on the political and military leadership to continue adherence to the constitution and enforcement of the rule of law, while permitting the right to peaceful protest. 
Protesting with several thousand supporters in front of the national parliament in Islamabad, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) Imran Khan and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek’s (PAT) cleric-cum-politician leader Tahirul Qadri are demanding Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s resignation. Beyond that their demands diverge. Qadri has called for resignation of the government, dissolution of all legislatures and formation of a national government to enact sweeping constitutional reform that would replace parliamentary democracy with a neo-theocratic order. Khan, who has prime ministerial ambitions, has claimed that massive rigging by the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), then Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, segments of the media and many other institutions and individuals deprived him of victory in the May 2013 national and provincial elections. He wants those responsible for rigging tried for treason, Sharif’s resignation, dissolution of the national parliament, formation of a neutral interim government and new elections. While threatening the PTI’s resignation from the national parliament and the Sindh and Punjab provincial legislatures in which he has very limited representation, he has yet to decide a course of action in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province (KPK) where his is the governing party.
The government cannot absolve itself of all responsibility for the impasse, including confrontation between the police and Qadri’s followers in Punjab’s capital, Lahore, that resulted in the deaths of several PAT supporters in June and foot-dragging on Khan’s initial demands for a limited electoral audit. In the face of the Islamabad protests, however, it has thus far exercised restraint, concerned that any attempt to use force could further inflame sentiment, exacerbate the crisis and give spoilers opportunity to disrupt the democratic process. Further, it has accepted Khan’s original demand to recount votes in some disputed constituencies. It has also accepted his demand for a judicial probe into rigging, having requested the Supreme Court to set up a commission to investigate conduct of the May elections; and has responded positively to Khan’s critique of the ECP and the electoral process by constituting a parliamentary committee, including PTI legislators, to develop proposals for meaningful electoral reform. However, Khan has rejected these concessions and moved the goal posts, rejecting the elections entirely and calling for new polls.
All the major parties in the national parliament, including the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), which leads the opposition and was in power until losing to PML-N in 2013, have strongly opposed any steps to derail democracy. They urge Qadri and Khan to resolve their differences with the government peacefully and vociferously reject demands for the dissolution of national and provincial legislatures. Elected representatives from Sindh and Balochistan consider the crisis a tussle for power between Sharif, Khan and Qadri – all from Punjab, the most populous province – and a threat to the budding democratic institutions. Justices of the higher courts, including the Supreme Court of Pakistan, have called on the government and protestors to refrain from anything that would undermine constitutionalism and rule of law. Pro-democracy activists and civil society organisations, including bar councils and associations and journalist unions, also vow to protect democratic institutions and governance. 
Khan and Qadri appear bent on upping the ante. They have reneged on commitments to the government to restrict their activities to areas allocated for their respective demonstrations outside the “Red Zone” that includes the legislature and Supreme Court, the prime minister’s official residence and secretariat and many embassies. To avoid violence, the government has allowed them to enter this sensitive area, but the crisis would escalate if Khan follows through on calls to his followers to seize the prime minister’s residence unless Nawaz Sharif immediately resigns. Despite a past record of his followers resorting to violence, including against law enforcement officials, Qadri insists his protest will remain peaceful. He has yet to moderate demands for an end to the entire political order.
Khan’s and Qadri’s refusals to moderate their demands and the increased potential for violence have brought the military in more directly. Even before the crisis escalated, the government had given it the responsibility, under article 245 of the constitution, to secure the capital. It is now in charge of protecting all important Red Zone buildings, including parliament. Prime Minister Sharif, his brother and Punjab Minister Shahbaz Sharif and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan have met with army chief General Raheel Sharif, apparently to seek army support or at least neutrality. Nisar has strongly rejected suspicions in some political quarters of a high-command role in fuelling the crisis, given its displeasure with the government’s decision to try former army chief and President Pervez Musharraf for treason and Khan’s and Qadri’s own ties with the defence establishment. 
That said, with several platoons of troops and paramilitary forces now facing off against demonstrators in the Red Zone, the dangers of military intervention have multiplied. If Khan’s threat to storm the prime minister’s residence or Qadri’s to cordon the National Assembly are realised, there could be bloody confrontation or, as in past political crises, an indirect military intervention. In the high command’s first public response, the head of Inter-Services Public Relations, Major General Asim Bajwa, called on all “stakeholders” to demonstrate “patience, wisdom and sagacity” and “resolve the prevailing impasse through meaningful dialogue in the larger national interests and public interests”. There is in this an implied risk that past military interventions – including the removal of three elected governments in the 1990s – cannot be ignored: that the military might decisively enter the fray if it judges the politicians to be insufficiently wise.
If democracy is to survive and stability preserved, it is essential that political and military leaders: 
Exercise restraint:
While Qadri has few stakes in the system and little interest in sustaining it, Khan’s party, which had its best electoral results in 2013, must understand that disruption of the democratic order could deprive it of the chance of forming governments by legitimate means. It should in particular cease calls to attack public property, including the prime minister’s residence or parliament. The danger that infiltrators, including terrorists and violent extremists, could exploit the situation to attack elected representatives, security personnel, diplomats or even demonstrators to provoke violence, cannot be ruled out. The government should allow the demonstrations to continue – peaceful protest is a constitutional right – while ensuring that citizens, public property and embassies are protected. 
Respect constitutionalism and protect democratic institutions:
The government, parliamentary opposition, demonstrators and the security apparatus must all respect the constitution and rule of law. Otherwise it would be next to impossible to resolve Pakistan’s security challenges, including militancy and terrorism that have claimed thousands of lives. The threat or use of force to advance political goals empowers spoilers and cuts the country’s moderate moorings. The abrogation of constitutions and closure of democratic avenues to address grievances and demands by successive dictatorial regimes fuelled political polarisation. The various components of the federation must not be led to believe that their interests and priorities could again be made hostage to extra-constitutional power deals. 
Hold meaningful negotiations:
The government must continue its efforts to seek a negotiated settlement of the crisis with Khan and Qadri, but should not allow the military to dictate the outcome of the bargaining process or concede to any demand that undermines constitutionalism, democratic governance and the rule of law. If Khan and Qadri are to convince the public their actions are in the national interest, they must respond constructively to such overtures.

Conflict Alert: Protecting Pakistan’s Threatened Democracy

Islamabad/Brussels  |   21 Aug 2014

A little over a year ago, Pakistan entered an unprecedented second phase of democratic transition, with one elected government handing power to another by peaceful, constitutional means. This fragile transition will be gravely threatened unless a fast-escalating political crisis is urgently defused. The protests rocking Islamabad threaten to upend the constitutional order, set back rule of law and open the possibility of a soft coup, with the military ruling through the backdoor. Renewed political instability at the centre would imperil any progress that has been made in addressing grievous economic, development and security challenges. The government’s moves, supported by the parliamentary opposition, to accommodate some of the protestors’ demands – particularly as regards electoral reform – are welcome. It is worrying, however, that protest leaders appear adamant in rejecting such outreach. Crisis Group calls on the political and military leadership to continue adherence to the constitution and enforcement of the rule of law, while permitting the right to peaceful protest. 

Protesting with several thousand supporters in front of the national parliament in Islamabad, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) Imran Khan and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek’s (PAT) cleric-cum-politician leader Tahirul Qadri are demanding Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s resignation. Beyond that their demands diverge. Qadri has called for resignation of the government, dissolution of all legislatures and formation of a national government to enact sweeping constitutional reform that would replace parliamentary democracy with a neo-theocratic order. Khan, who has prime ministerial ambitions, has claimed that massive rigging by the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), then Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, segments of the media and many other institutions and individuals deprived him of victory in the May 2013 national and provincial elections. He wants those responsible for rigging tried for treason, Sharif’s resignation, dissolution of the national parliament, formation of a neutral interim government and new elections. While threatening the PTI’s resignation from the national parliament and the Sindh and Punjab provincial legislatures in which he has very limited representation, he has yet to decide a course of action in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province (KPK) where his is the governing party.

The government cannot absolve itself of all responsibility for the impasse, including confrontation between the police and Qadri’s followers in Punjab’s capital, Lahore, that resulted in the deaths of several PAT supporters in June and foot-dragging on Khan’s initial demands for a limited electoral audit. In the face of the Islamabad protests, however, it has thus far exercised restraint, concerned that any attempt to use force could further inflame sentiment, exacerbate the crisis and give spoilers opportunity to disrupt the democratic process. Further, it has accepted Khan’s original demand to recount votes in some disputed constituencies. It has also accepted his demand for a judicial probe into rigging, having requested the Supreme Court to set up a commission to investigate conduct of the May elections; and has responded positively to Khan’s critique of the ECP and the electoral process by constituting a parliamentary committee, including PTI legislators, to develop proposals for meaningful electoral reform. However, Khan has rejected these concessions and moved the goal posts, rejecting the elections entirely and calling for new polls.

All the major parties in the national parliament, including the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), which leads the opposition and was in power until losing to PML-N in 2013, have strongly opposed any steps to derail democracy. They urge Qadri and Khan to resolve their differences with the government peacefully and vociferously reject demands for the dissolution of national and provincial legislatures. Elected representatives from Sindh and Balochistan consider the crisis a tussle for power between Sharif, Khan and Qadri – all from Punjab, the most populous province – and a threat to the budding democratic institutions. Justices of the higher courts, including the Supreme Court of Pakistan, have called on the government and protestors to refrain from anything that would undermine constitutionalism and rule of law. Pro-democracy activists and civil society organisations, including bar councils and associations and journalist unions, also vow to protect democratic institutions and governance. 

Khan and Qadri appear bent on upping the ante. They have reneged on commitments to the government to restrict their activities to areas allocated for their respective demonstrations outside the “Red Zone” that includes the legislature and Supreme Court, the prime minister’s official residence and secretariat and many embassies. To avoid violence, the government has allowed them to enter this sensitive area, but the crisis would escalate if Khan follows through on calls to his followers to seize the prime minister’s residence unless Nawaz Sharif immediately resigns. Despite a past record of his followers resorting to violence, including against law enforcement officials, Qadri insists his protest will remain peaceful. He has yet to moderate demands for an end to the entire political order.

Khan’s and Qadri’s refusals to moderate their demands and the increased potential for violence have brought the military in more directly. Even before the crisis escalated, the government had given it the responsibility, under article 245 of the constitution, to secure the capital. It is now in charge of protecting all important Red Zone buildings, including parliament. Prime Minister Sharif, his brother and Punjab Minister Shahbaz Sharif and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan have met with army chief General Raheel Sharif, apparently to seek army support or at least neutrality. Nisar has strongly rejected suspicions in some political quarters of a high-command role in fuelling the crisis, given its displeasure with the government’s decision to try former army chief and President Pervez Musharraf for treason and Khan’s and Qadri’s own ties with the defence establishment. 

That said, with several platoons of troops and paramilitary forces now facing off against demonstrators in the Red Zone, the dangers of military intervention have multiplied. If Khan’s threat to storm the prime minister’s residence or Qadri’s to cordon the National Assembly are realised, there could be bloody confrontation or, as in past political crises, an indirect military intervention. In the high command’s first public response, the head of Inter-Services Public Relations, Major General Asim Bajwa, called on all “stakeholders” to demonstrate “patience, wisdom and sagacity” and “resolve the prevailing impasse through meaningful dialogue in the larger national interests and public interests”. There is in this an implied risk that past military interventions – including the removal of three elected governments in the 1990s – cannot be ignored: that the military might decisively enter the fray if it judges the politicians to be insufficiently wise.

If democracy is to survive and stability preserved, it is essential that political and military leaders: 

Exercise restraint:

While Qadri has few stakes in the system and little interest in sustaining it, Khan’s party, which had its best electoral results in 2013, must understand that disruption of the democratic order could deprive it of the chance of forming governments by legitimate means. It should in particular cease calls to attack public property, including the prime minister’s residence or parliament. The danger that infiltrators, including terrorists and violent extremists, could exploit the situation to attack elected representatives, security personnel, diplomats or even demonstrators to provoke violence, cannot be ruled out. The government should allow the demonstrations to continue – peaceful protest is a constitutional right – while ensuring that citizens, public property and embassies are protected. 

Respect constitutionalism and protect democratic institutions:

The government, parliamentary opposition, demonstrators and the security apparatus must all respect the constitution and rule of law. Otherwise it would be next to impossible to resolve Pakistan’s security challenges, including militancy and terrorism that have claimed thousands of lives. The threat or use of force to advance political goals empowers spoilers and cuts the country’s moderate moorings. The abrogation of constitutions and closure of democratic avenues to address grievances and demands by successive dictatorial regimes fuelled political polarisation. The various components of the federation must not be led to believe that their interests and priorities could again be made hostage to extra-constitutional power deals. 

Hold meaningful negotiations:

The government must continue its efforts to seek a negotiated settlement of the crisis with Khan and Qadri, but should not allow the military to dictate the outcome of the bargaining process or concede to any demand that undermines constitutionalism, democratic governance and the rule of law. If Khan and Qadri are to convince the public their actions are in the national interest, they must respond constructively to such overtures.

19 Aug
The Waxing Crescent | MARIANA BAABAR
On Independence Day, along with revered state heroes, a nation needs to celebrate contemporary feats of heroism too. This August, Pakistan has been celebrating the achievements of 21-year-old Samina Baig. After conquering Mount Everest, Samina, with her brother Mirza Ali, is now heading towards Mount Elbrus in Russia. Having already had the better of the highest continental peaks in Argentina, Antarctica, Tanzania and Alaska, Elbrus will make them the first Pakistani siblings to have conquered all the highest peaks in seven continents.
But Pakistan’s government of the day has little time for celebrating the feats of the girl from Shimshal valley in upper Hunza. At the vanguard of the forces bes­­ieging it are hijab-clad, sloganeering women from Punjab, headline-grabbing footsoldiers of Can­ada-­­­­based firebrand cleric Allama Tahirul Qadri’s Pakistan Awa­mi Tehriq (PAT). With expectations and apprehensions surro­u­n­ding Qadri’s Inq­ilab March from Lahore to Islam­abad on Aug­­ust 14 reaching a fevered pitch as the date draws near, all eyes are on the so-called ‘chicks with sticks’.
FULL ARTICLE (Outlook)
Photo: Gul Hamaad Farooqi/GroundReport/flickr

The Waxing Crescent | MARIANA BAABAR

On Independence Day, along with revered state heroes, a nation needs to celebrate contemporary feats of heroism too. This August, Pakistan has been celebrating the achievements of 21-year-old Samina Baig. After conquering Mount Everest, Samina, with her brother Mirza Ali, is now heading towards Mount Elbrus in Russia. Having already had the better of the highest continental peaks in Argentina, Antarctica, Tanzania and Alaska, Elbrus will make them the first Pakistani siblings to have conquered all the highest peaks in seven continents.

But Pakistan’s government of the day has little time for celebrating the feats of the girl from Shimshal valley in upper Hunza. At the vanguard of the forces bes­­ieging it are hijab-clad, sloganeering women from Punjab, headline-grabbing footsoldiers of Can­ada-­­­­based firebrand cleric Allama Tahirul Qadri’s Pakistan Awa­mi Tehriq (PAT). With expectations and apprehensions surro­u­n­ding Qadri’s Inq­ilab March from Lahore to Islam­abad on Aug­­ust 14 reaching a fevered pitch as the date draws near, all eyes are on the so-called ‘chicks with sticks’.

FULL ARTICLE (Outlook)

Photo: Gul Hamaad Farooqi/GroundReport/flickr

Hundreds of Taliban fighters battle Afghan forces near Kabul: officials | AHMAD SULTAN
(Reuters) - As many as 700 heavily armed Taliban insurgents are battling Afghan security forces in Logar, a key province near the capital Kabul, local officials said on Tuesday, in a test of the Afghan military’s strength as foreign forces pull out of the country.
Militants have this summer mounted increasingly intensive assaults across several provinces, often involving hundreds of fighters, as the country braces to stand on it own feet militarily for the first time in nearly 13 years.
"There are some 700 of them and they are fighting Afghan forces for territorial control and they have also brought with them makeshift mobile (health) clinics," Niaz Mohammad Amiri, the provincial governor of Logar province, told Reuters by telephone.
The Taliban have dug-in in Logar, which lies about an hour’s drive south of Kabul, and nearby Wardak province to the west, in recent years. They have used the provinces - gateways to the capital - as launchpads for hit-and-run attacks and suicide bombings on Kabul.
FULL ARTICLE (Reuters)
Photo: Royal Canadian Air Force Capt. Alexandre Cadieux/NATO/flickr

Hundreds of Taliban fighters battle Afghan forces near Kabul: officials | AHMAD SULTAN

(Reuters) - As many as 700 heavily armed Taliban insurgents are battling Afghan security forces in Logar, a key province near the capital Kabul, local officials said on Tuesday, in a test of the Afghan military’s strength as foreign forces pull out of the country.

Militants have this summer mounted increasingly intensive assaults across several provinces, often involving hundreds of fighters, as the country braces to stand on it own feet militarily for the first time in nearly 13 years.

"There are some 700 of them and they are fighting Afghan forces for territorial control and they have also brought with them makeshift mobile (health) clinics," Niaz Mohammad Amiri, the provincial governor of Logar province, told Reuters by telephone.

The Taliban have dug-in in Logar, which lies about an hour’s drive south of Kabul, and nearby Wardak province to the west, in recent years. They have used the provinces - gateways to the capital - as launchpads for hit-and-run attacks and suicide bombings on Kabul.

FULL ARTICLE (Reuters)

Photo: Royal Canadian Air Force Capt. Alexandre Cadieux/NATO/flickr

18 Aug
Cricket star Imran Khan overplays hand in Pakistan power game | Katharine Houreld
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Cricket hero Imran Khan rode a wave of discontent to finally break through as a serious player in Pakistani politics at last year’s election. Now he is aiming even higher, leading thousands on a march to the capital in a bid to unseat the prime minister.
But in taking his campaign to force out Nawaz Sharif on to the streets of Islamabad, Khan may have overplayed his hand. This weekend his crowd of followers was already thinning out, and without overt support from the military his protests are unlikely to be a game-changer.
Thousands showed up for his rally on Saturday, but some supporters grumbled they had slept out in the rain while Khan relaxed in his nearby mansion.
"The path he’s chosen is one of protest," said Samina Ahmed, South Asia director of the Brussels-based International Crisis Group think tank. "Now the question is: does he have a strategy beyond the protest?"
FULL ARTICLE (Reuters)
Photo: Carol Mitchell/flickr

Cricket star Imran Khan overplays hand in Pakistan power game | Katharine Houreld

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Cricket hero Imran Khan rode a wave of discontent to finally break through as a serious player in Pakistani politics at last year’s election. Now he is aiming even higher, leading thousands on a march to the capital in a bid to unseat the prime minister.

But in taking his campaign to force out Nawaz Sharif on to the streets of Islamabad, Khan may have overplayed his hand. This weekend his crowd of followers was already thinning out, and without overt support from the military his protests are unlikely to be a game-changer.

Thousands showed up for his rally on Saturday, but some supporters grumbled they had slept out in the rain while Khan relaxed in his nearby mansion.

"The path he’s chosen is one of protest," said Samina Ahmed, South Asia director of the Brussels-based International Crisis Group think tank. "Now the question is: does he have a strategy beyond the protest?"

FULL ARTICLE (Reuters)

Photo: Carol Mitchell/flickr

18 Jul
Haiti Déjà Vu
Borrowing from Yogi Berra, when it comes to elections in Haiti, it is déjà vu all over again. The country’s political elite is embroiled once more in a controversy that has delayed parliamentary elections for three years, still arguing over the composition of its electoral council (CEP) and the content of an electoral law.
Secretary of State John Kerry just pulled off a compromise to save Afghanistan’s elections from yielding widespread violence. He might considering doing the same in Haiti. Here’s why.
The terms of one third of the 30-member Senate were up three years ago and the Senate has been crippled ever since. The second ten Senators’ terms will end by the end of this year. So too the terms of the 99-member Chamber of Deputies as well as the 142 mayors and members of local councils. The latter are functioning extra-constitutionally because they should have faced election more than three years ago.
As Crisis Group warned a year ago in its report, Haiti is now facing the specter of an elected president ruling by decree next January because everyone else’s terms will have ended. That would not be very democratic and donors will argue that their funds cannot flow to Haiti if that situation occurs.
Who is to blame? The political and economic elite bear a share of the blame. They are the ones who either lead parties, finance candidates, hold office or call the shots from behind the scenes. They have declined to carry out commitments made in more than one church-sponsored dialogue for a compromise CEP and a required electoral law. Some of the current parliamentarians may rightfully fear that they will lose their seats once elections are held.
But they are by no means alone. President Martelly has not been willing to make the compromises required to ensure an election occurs. Some of his coterie seem to be relishing the thought of ruling by decree come next January. The business elite, which finally seems to be coming together to do more than lament the current situation, has allowed the situation to fester.
In the absence of parliament passing an electoral law, President Michel Martelly has gone ahead and set the election date for 26 October by executive decree and the still not fully constituted CEP has set dates for parties and candidates to register. But four of the country’s major political movements with perhaps the largest number of supporters refuse to participate arguing that the agreement on a consensus CEP has not been met. They charge that new members named by the President to the CEP have not been the product of a political consensus.
The international community supports a 10-year old UN peacekeeping force and still finances substantial earthquake reconstruction aid for Haiti whose economy and government institutions were fragile even before the earth opened on January 12, 2010. Yet it has failed to harness its political resources to convince Haiti’s leaders to hold the required elections.
A civil society and church-managed negotiation — or more accurately the most recent such effort — achieved a breakthrough on 19 March when an agreement was reached between President Martelly and a portion of the opposition. However, the agreement did not include the signatures of key opposition parties including Inite, the party of former President Rene Preval; Lavalas, the party of former President Jean Bertrande Aristide; or the traditional opposition parties of OPL and Fusion.
A key point of the El Rancho agreement was the formation of a balanced CEP and its absence is now being argued by the opposition as the justification for abstention. Yet, those parties also seem committed to an illusion that the international community will move to oust Martelly if the opposition does not participate in the elections. That is not going to happen.
High-level US, UN, French, Canadian, and Brazilian leaders, public and private, need to come together again to urge the president and the opposition to agree now on a consensus, balanced CEP and an electoral law. And Secretary of State John Kerry might carry that same message on a visit to Port-au-Prince, which thankfully is a lot closer than Kabul.
Otherwise, there will be no elections in 2014, a president will be ruling by decree in January, street protests and violence will follow, and for the long-suffering people of Haiti, it will be déjà vu all over again.
Mark L. Schneider is Senior Vice President of the International Crisis Group and Special Advisor for Latin America and Tim Carney, former Ambassador to Haiti and Executive Vice President of the now-dissolved Clinton Bush Haiti Fund.
Huffington Post
Photo: European Parliament/Flickr

Haiti Déjà Vu

Borrowing from Yogi Berra, when it comes to elections in Haiti, it is déjà vu all over again. The country’s political elite is embroiled once more in a controversy that has delayed parliamentary elections for three years, still arguing over the composition of its electoral council (CEP) and the content of an electoral law.

Secretary of State John Kerry just pulled off a compromise to save Afghanistan’s elections from yielding widespread violence. He might considering doing the same in Haiti. Here’s why.

The terms of one third of the 30-member Senate were up three years ago and the Senate has been crippled ever since. The second ten Senators’ terms will end by the end of this year. So too the terms of the 99-member Chamber of Deputies as well as the 142 mayors and members of local councils. The latter are functioning extra-constitutionally because they should have faced election more than three years ago.

As Crisis Group warned a year ago in its report, Haiti is now facing the specter of an elected president ruling by decree next January because everyone else’s terms will have ended. That would not be very democratic and donors will argue that their funds cannot flow to Haiti if that situation occurs.

Who is to blame? The political and economic elite bear a share of the blame. They are the ones who either lead parties, finance candidates, hold office or call the shots from behind the scenes. They have declined to carry out commitments made in more than one church-sponsored dialogue for a compromise CEP and a required electoral law. Some of the current parliamentarians may rightfully fear that they will lose their seats once elections are held.

But they are by no means alone. President Martelly has not been willing to make the compromises required to ensure an election occurs. Some of his coterie seem to be relishing the thought of ruling by decree come next January. The business elite, which finally seems to be coming together to do more than lament the current situation, has allowed the situation to fester.

In the absence of parliament passing an electoral law, President Michel Martelly has gone ahead and set the election date for 26 October by executive decree and the still not fully constituted CEP has set dates for parties and candidates to register. But four of the country’s major political movements with perhaps the largest number of supporters refuse to participate arguing that the agreement on a consensus CEP has not been met. They charge that new members named by the President to the CEP have not been the product of a political consensus.

The international community supports a 10-year old UN peacekeeping force and still finances substantial earthquake reconstruction aid for Haiti whose economy and government institutions were fragile even before the earth opened on January 12, 2010. Yet it has failed to harness its political resources to convince Haiti’s leaders to hold the required elections.

A civil society and church-managed negotiation — or more accurately the most recent such effort — achieved a breakthrough on 19 March when an agreement was reached between President Martelly and a portion of the opposition. However, the agreement did not include the signatures of key opposition parties including Inite, the party of former President Rene Preval; Lavalas, the party of former President Jean Bertrande Aristide; or the traditional opposition parties of OPL and Fusion.

A key point of the El Rancho agreement was the formation of a balanced CEP and its absence is now being argued by the opposition as the justification for abstention. Yet, those parties also seem committed to an illusion that the international community will move to oust Martelly if the opposition does not participate in the elections. That is not going to happen.

High-level US, UN, French, Canadian, and Brazilian leaders, public and private, need to come together again to urge the president and the opposition to agree now on a consensus, balanced CEP and an electoral law. And Secretary of State John Kerry might carry that same message on a visit to Port-au-Prince, which thankfully is a lot closer than Kabul.

Otherwise, there will be no elections in 2014, a president will be ruling by decree in January, street protests and violence will follow, and for the long-suffering people of Haiti, it will be déjà vu all over again.

Mark L. Schneider is Senior Vice President of the International Crisis Group and Special Advisor for Latin America and Tim Carney, former Ambassador to Haiti and Executive Vice President of the now-dissolved Clinton Bush Haiti Fund.

Huffington Post

Photo: European Parliament/Flickr

25 Apr
"The CNDD-FDD leadership is so power-hungry and insecure that it wants to reduce the political space as much as it can before the 2015 elections"

—Thierry Vircoulon, Central Africa Project Director for the International Crisis Group on Burundi’s upcoming election, Al Jazeera

14 Apr
Guinea-Bissau votes in watershed elections | AFP
Guinea-Bissau held watershed presidential and parliamentary elections Sunday aimed at ushering in a new era of stability in a country plagued by drugs and upended by a military coup.
The polls cap four decades of chaos marked by a series of mutinies since the west African nation won independence from Portugal, and commentators have called for the new regime to finally bring the military into line.
The impoverished country has been stagnating for two years under the rule of a transitional government backed by the all-powerful military, with the economy anaemic and cocaine trafficking fuelling corruption.
Interim president Manuel Serifo Nhamadjo, who is not a candidate, told AFP he “hoped and wished to turn the page to stability”. 
"The problem of Guinea-Bissau is political and military, and everyone must work together in mutual respect," he said.
FULL ARTICLE (Agence France-Presse)
Photo:  Free Grunge Textures/flickr

Guinea-Bissau votes in watershed elections | AFP

Guinea-Bissau held watershed presidential and parliamentary elections Sunday aimed at ushering in a new era of stability in a country plagued by drugs and upended by a military coup.

The polls cap four decades of chaos marked by a series of mutinies since the west African nation won independence from Portugal, and commentators have called for the new regime to finally bring the military into line.

The impoverished country has been stagnating for two years under the rule of a transitional government backed by the all-powerful military, with the economy anaemic and cocaine trafficking fuelling corruption.

Interim president Manuel Serifo Nhamadjo, who is not a candidate, told AFP he “hoped and wished to turn the page to stability”. 

"The problem of Guinea-Bissau is political and military, and everyone must work together in mutual respect," he said.

FULL ARTICLE (Agence France-Presse)

Photo:  Free Grunge Textures/flickr

8 Apr
Voter anger, parties’ disarray could bring change in Bissau | Bate Felix and Alberto Dabo
Disarray in Guinea-Bissau’s political parties and frustration among voters could open the way for a Harvard-educated political outsider to win a presidential election next week aimed at turning the page on years of coups and crime.
Guinea-Bissau - a transit route for South American cocaine into Europe which has been dubbed Africa’s first ‘narco-state’ - was plunged into chaos two years ago when soldiers stormed the presidential palace days before an election for that post.
FULL ARTICLE (Reuters)
Photo: Gabor Basch/Flickr

Voter anger, parties’ disarray could bring change in Bissau | Bate Felix and Alberto Dabo

Disarray in Guinea-Bissau’s political parties and frustration among voters could open the way for a Harvard-educated political outsider to win a presidential election next week aimed at turning the page on years of coups and crime.

Guinea-Bissau - a transit route for South American cocaine into Europe which has been dubbed Africa’s first ‘narco-state’ - was plunged into chaos two years ago when soldiers stormed the presidential palace days before an election for that post.

FULL ARTICLE (Reuters)

Photo: Gabor Basch/Flickr

Guinea-Bissau: Elections, But Then What?
Brussels  |   8 Apr 2014
Guinea-Bissau’s elections are an important first step, but to address its economic and political fragility, the country needs strong international help, as well as political and military will for reform.
In its latest briefing, Guinea-Bissau: Elections, But Then What?, the International Crisis Group examines the bumpy road to the 13 April 2014 elections and the challenges a new government will face. Redistributing power and resources in a country where participation in government has been the main method for acquiring wealth will threaten a fragile balance of forces.
The briefing’s major findings and recommendations are:
International pressure and a crippled economy have finally forced the military and its political allies – two years after the April 2012 military coup – to hold legislative and presidential elections. But much like in 2012, they are concerned with a potential hegemony of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC). They could be tempted to resort to violence again, should their access to the formal and informal benefits associated with power be removed.
Peaceful elections and, more broadly, the fate of the ongoing transition, will depend largely on the leverage of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which has supported the transition authorities from the start but is tired of paying the bills for a regime that is close to bankruptcy.
The elections are only the first stage of a long-term effort to solve problems that have undermined progress for years. Given the country’s fragility, the political stakes in play, a suspicious military and a weak economy, real transformation will only be possible with strong international involvement, political and financial.
The international community should closely monitor the crucial post-elections period. It should use the lifting of individual sanctions on coup makers as an incentive to cooperate. Donors should be ready to help the government pay immediate expenses, including public sector wages, provide long-term funding for development programs and push for improved economic governance.
The new authorities will need to promote consensus as well as ethnic and political pluralism. This includes passing the proposed amnesty law for the coup makers agreed during the transition.
“The new government will have to call into question the privileges enjoyed by senior military officers and carefully resume the security sector reforms that prompted the army to stage the coup” says Vincent Foucher, West Africa Senior Analyst. “This time round, the government should proceed with caution and seek compromise to avoid a violent reaction from the army”.
“The election winners will face numerous challenges”, says Comfort Ero, Africa Program Director. “Nonetheless, this is an opportunity for a new generation of politicians, who are more willing to compromise internally and internationally and are able to manage the country well enough to allow the re-legitimisation of the state and convince the military to consent to the modernisation needed”.
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Guinea-Bissau: Elections, But Then What?

Brussels  |   8 Apr 2014

Guinea-Bissau’s elections are an important first step, but to address its economic and political fragility, the country needs strong international help, as well as political and military will for reform.

In its latest briefing, Guinea-Bissau: Elections, But Then What?, the International Crisis Group examines the bumpy road to the 13 April 2014 elections and the challenges a new government will face. Redistributing power and resources in a country where participation in government has been the main method for acquiring wealth will threaten a fragile balance of forces.

The briefing’s major findings and recommendations are:

International pressure and a crippled economy have finally forced the military and its political allies – two years after the April 2012 military coup – to hold legislative and presidential elections. But much like in 2012, they are concerned with a potential hegemony of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC). They could be tempted to resort to violence again, should their access to the formal and informal benefits associated with power be removed.

Peaceful elections and, more broadly, the fate of the ongoing transition, will depend largely on the leverage of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which has supported the transition authorities from the start but is tired of paying the bills for a regime that is close to bankruptcy.

The elections are only the first stage of a long-term effort to solve problems that have undermined progress for years. Given the country’s fragility, the political stakes in play, a suspicious military and a weak economy, real transformation will only be possible with strong international involvement, political and financial.

The international community should closely monitor the crucial post-elections period. It should use the lifting of individual sanctions on coup makers as an incentive to cooperate. Donors should be ready to help the government pay immediate expenses, including public sector wages, provide long-term funding for development programs and push for improved economic governance.

The new authorities will need to promote consensus as well as ethnic and political pluralism. This includes passing the proposed amnesty law for the coup makers agreed during the transition.

“The new government will have to call into question the privileges enjoyed by senior military officers and carefully resume the security sector reforms that prompted the army to stage the coup” says Vincent Foucher, West Africa Senior Analyst. “This time round, the government should proceed with caution and seek compromise to avoid a violent reaction from the army”.

“The election winners will face numerous challenges”, says Comfort Ero, Africa Program Director. “Nonetheless, this is an opportunity for a new generation of politicians, who are more willing to compromise internally and internationally and are able to manage the country well enough to allow the re-legitimisation of the state and convince the military to consent to the modernisation needed”.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY