The most violent nation in the world is Honduras, with more murders per capita (92 per 100,000) than even Iraq or Afghanistan and twenty times more than the United States. It is now getting worse, as a wave of brutal killings sweep over the nation in the run-up to the country’s elections on November 24. The left-leaning opposition Partido Libertad y Refundación (Liberty and Refoundation, or LIBRE) has emerged as the target of choice in the majority of attacks. Honduras’ recent troubles grow directly out of the events of June 2009, when a military coup removed democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya (2006-2009). Honduras, one of the last Latin American nations to move toward authentic democracy, had been slowly constructing democratic political institutions until the coup. But with this one stroke, Honduras’ nascent democratization suffered a damaging blow from which it has yet to recover. Honduras, a Tennessee-sized country of 8.4 million people, is in many respects Latin America’s most unreconstructed nation. It only began the process of democratization in the 1980s and its economy is still built around unprocessed agricultural exports—chiefly coffee and bananas—produced on latifundio plantations and the beginnings of a maquila industry. The nation’s GDP per capita is under $4,000 USD PPP (purchasing parity power), ranking near the bottom of all Latin American nations.
Mauritania, a predominately Arab country that straddles North and West Africa, will hold legislative and local government elections on November 23 (first round) and December 7 (second round), which will be the country’s first full elections since 2006. These elections will replace officials of the national assembly and local governments (i.e. communes) who have continued to carry out their duties even though their elected terms ended, constitutionally, in 2012. Since gaining independence from France, Mauritania has had a turbulent history: the country’s first president and university graduate, Moktar Ould Daddah, who assumed power in 1960, was ousted by a military coup in 1978. Subsequently, Mauritania was rocked by several additional coups: in 1979, 1980, and 1984. In 1984, a general-cum-president — Maaouya Sid’ Ahmed Ould Taya — asserted control and constructed a dominant regime party, le Parti Républicain Démocratique et Social (PRDS). Akin to Egypt’s National Democratic Party, the PRDS dominated Mauritanian politics for the next 21 years until 2005, when Taya was deposed in a putsch led by two of his closest military advisors, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz and Ely Ould Mohamed Vall.
If all goes according to plan, election-watchers of all sorts will be thick on the ground for Malaysia’s upcoming thirteenth general elections. Admittedly, that plan is dependent upon rounding up and training an extraordinary number of volunteers, and doubtless will be forced to exclude the least accessible, but purportedly most watch-worthy districts. But what tends to get lost in the tea leaf-reading and data-crunching of this long-awaited showdown is the why behind such widespread interest in process and participation, which extends well beyond the polls themselves. Malaysia has seen heightened mobilization since 2008, if not since Reformasi in the late 1990s—part of why the unusually prolonged run-up to the polls has seemed so, well, long. This more sustained mobilization represents a true trend toward “democratization” in Malaysia, beyond the mere act of voting.
From a podium at an Amman street rally, the leader of Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood vowed that soon the country would become a “state in the Muslim Caliphate,” bringing cheers of “God is great” from the crowd of bearded, Islamist supporters. It was extreme rhetoric, suggesting that the monarchy that defines this U.S. ally in the Mideast will disappear to be replaced by an Islamic state. The Brotherhood, the top opposition group in Jordan, usually avoids such bold strokes and insists on its loyalty to the king. But the speech last week by Hammam Saeed points to how the heat is turning up in the country’s simmering political confrontations as Jordan holds parliamentary elections Wednesday that the government touts as a milestone in a gradual process of bringing greater democracy.
Five years ago the remote Himalayan state of Bhutan turned from an absolute to a constitutional monarchy, making it the youngest democracy on earth. Looking back at the developments since the transition, the democratization of Bhutan was a success story despite a few shortcomings. Come March 2013, and Bhutan will be set fair for its second round of parliamentary elections. While the past five years have been an exploratory phase for Bhutan, in terms of experimenting with and internalizing democratic norms, they nevertheless bear witness to the fact that the formal structures of democracy have indeed taken root in Bhutan. The criteria for assessing the success of democratization towards the end of the fifth year should be gauging the spread of the ‘effective components’ of democracy. One still often comes across the description of “democracy as a gift” (kidu) from the King, but any kind of analysis reveals that the process of democratization has indeed given rise to various stakeholders in the internal politics of Bhutan. How far the internal democratic space impinges on Bhutan’s foreign policy orientations is yet to be seen in the years to come.
Last month, the Iranian Interior Ministry announced that the next presidential election had officially been scheduled for June 14, 2013. Despite mechanisms already in place to limit reformers’ influence in the government, including the vetting process performed by the Guardian Council and the willingness to falsify election results as occurred in the 2009 presidential election, Iran’s presidency remains an avenue to liberalize the Iranian government. For this reason, the Supreme Leader considers the presidency a potential threat and will likely influence the upcoming election to make sure one of his allies comes to power. However, the dire economic straits that Iran finds itself in are likely to make an anti-reformist hijacking of Iran’s premier elective office a much harder sell this time around.
Depending on whom one believes, Mongolia’s former president Nambaryn Enkhbayar is either a champion of democracy targeted for judicial persecution by an increasingly authoritarian regime or he is a corrupt charlatan whose finely crafted portrayal of martyrdom hoodwinked Washington, the United Nations and the European Union. The evidence suggests the second view is nearer the truth and Mongolia’s Constitutional Court has upheld a General Election Commission ruling that because Enkhbayar, president from 2005 to 2009, is facing five corruption charges, he is not eligible to run in parliamentary elections on June 28. That ruling has stalled and perhaps ended Enkhbayar’s attempts at a political comeback after his defeat in the 2009 presidential election.
The U.S. and other Western democracies have spent the better part of the last decade pushing for democratization across the globe. We have intervened in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya and supported countless other efforts with aid and ideas to press democratic ideals for the disenfranchised and oppressed. While this is undoubtedly a worthy cause, there are still instances when even democratic nations need our attention. What is currently happening in Mongolia is a sharp reminder that we cannot ignore nations that are burgeoning democracies who suffer from crippling democracy deficits. Former Mongolian President Nambaryn Enkhbayar is due to stand trial today on charges of corruption and of misusing property and government powers. He was arrested in a televised dawn raid in April where viewers saw Mr. Enkhbayar shoved into a van with a sack over his head. The charges, he says, are a complete fabrication.
A special ceremony marking the swearing-in of members of the Puntland Election Commission (PEC) was held at the Puntland State University campus in the Puntland capital of Garowe on Sunday, 17 July 2011.
The event was attended by the President of Puntland State of Somalia, H.E. Abdirahman Mohamed Mohamud (Farole), Vice President H.E. Abdisamad Ali Shire, Speaker of Parliament, H.E. Abdirashid Mohamed Hersi, among Cabinet ministers, Puntland parliamentarians, High Court judges, traditional elders (Issimo), religious scholars, business community, and civil society of Puntland.
President Farole’s 22-minute speech covered a range of topics, including the ongoing democratization process in Puntland and the role of PEC, the history of democratization in Puntland, the security situation and pardon for insurgents, insecurity in Mogadishu and south-central Somalia, the drought and the refugee exodus, and the expected Somalia National Consultation Conference.