When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Anti-Maduro protest in Caracas
Anti-Maduro protest in Caracas
Benjamin Witte

-Analysis-

Democracy has never been an easy thing. That most British of statesmen Winston Churchill famously called it "the worst form of government, except for all the others."

In its ideal form — with regularly scheduled elections, peaceful transfers of powers, constitutions that are upheld, checks and balances respected — democracy can work quite well. Certainly there are examples still in today's world. But as shown by events taking place right now in Venezuela, Turkey and even on Churchill's turf, it can also be a deeply messy affair.

In Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro is clinging to power against a groundswell of popular discontent over the country's imploding economy, high crime rate and what many claim are abuses of power by his "Chavista" government. Perhaps the most glaring example came two weeks ago, when the country's Supreme Court, stacked with Maduro loyalists, stripped the opposition-controlled legislature of its powers. Opponents accused the government of executing a "self-coup."

The move was a mistake, and Maduro tried to quickly reverse course. But as Colombia's El Espectador reports, the damage — to his credibility, and as a major momentum boost for the opposition — was already done. Opponents want Maduro out, and have stepped up their calls for early elections. Massive street demonstrations are set to take place today in the capital, Caracas.

Venezuela has plenty of company around the world in grappling with a democratic dilemma at the moment.

But Maduro — who won the presidency fair and square after his popular predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez, died in 2013 — says there's no reason he should step down prematurely. Indeed it would be undemocratic! From his perspective, it is the opposition trying to orchestrate a coup. And to protect Venezuela's democracy, he suggested Tuesday night that the speaker of the legislature, Julio Borges, be prosecuted.

He also announced plans to expand the country's 100,000-strong civilian militia force — armed civilians loyal to the government — by an additional 400,000, and give each person a gun. "Now is not the time to hesitate," he said.

Venezuela has plenty of company around the world in grappling with a democratic dilemma at the moment. In Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan — who faced his own attempted coup last July — has taken advantage of the chaos to rule in large part by decree. Not very democratic. But then, in a bid to expand his powers further, he organized a popular referendum. On Sunday, the Turkish people had their say, voting in favor of Erdogan's plans to modify the constitution, but only narrowly: 51.4% versus 48.6%. A mandate, perhaps, albeit not a very convincing one.

And then there's Britain, which had its own game-changing experience last year with a referendum, the famous "Brexit" vote to pull out of the European Union. Now Prime Minister Theresa May has stunned everyone by calling for snap elections in June. Like Erdogan, and unlike Maduro, she believes that popular sentiment is on her side, and is betting that an election can ultimately increase her position of authority. It is a bold but uncertain wager on the will of the people. Winston Churchill would be proud.

You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Geopolitics

Why The 'Perfect Storm' Of Iran's Protests May Be Unstoppable

The latest round of anti-regime protests in Iran is different than other in the 40 years of the Islamic Republic: for its universality and boldness, the level of public fury and grief, and the role of women and social media. The target is not some policy or the economy, but the regime itself.

A woman holds a lock of her hair during a London rally to protest the murder of Mahsa Amini in London

Roshanak Astaraki

-Analysis-

The death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in Tehran on Sept. 16, after a possible beating at a police station, has sparked outrage and mass protests in Iran and abroad. There have been demonstrations and a violent attempt to suppress them in more than 100 districts in every province of Iran.

These protests may look like others since 2017, and back even to 1999 — yet we may be facing an unprecedented turning point in Iranians' opposition to the Islamic Republic. Indeed newly installed conservative President Ibrahim Raisi could not have expected such momentum when he set off for a quick trip to New York and back for a meeting of the UN General Assembly.

For one of the mistakes of a regime that takes pride in dismissing the national traditions of Iran is to have overlooked the power of grief among our people.

Keep reading...Show less

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in
Writing contest - My pandemic story
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS

Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

Watch VideoShow less
MOST READ