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TOPIC: democracy

Migrant Lives

Saviano v. Meloni: My Right To Curse Italy's Leaders For Letting Migrants Die

Acclaimed Italian writer Roberto Saviano is in court this month facing defamation charges from Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. With this essay, Saviano stands by his words, and his right to use them.

Italian writer Roberto Saviano is facing defamation charges from Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. Two years ago, before she was elected, Saviano called Meloni and her right-wing ally Matteo Salvini "bastards" for demanding that Italy refuse to help save would-be migrants stranded at sea.

-Essay-

ROME I stand in this courtroom today indicted for my harsh criticism of Giorgia Meloni and Matteo Salvini, whom I hold responsible for pushing their political propaganda upon the most desperate and vulnerable and least able to defend themselves: refugees.

It is a propaganda that not only attacks people seeking safety far from their countries battered by war, poverty and environmental destruction, but also violently lashes out against the NGOs attempting to rescue them in the Mediterranean before — or sometimes, tragically, after — the sea turns into their grave.

I find it odd that a writer is put on trial for the words he or she shares, however harsh they may be, while helpless people continue to suffer atrocious violence and relentless lies.

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Nelson Chamisa, The Outsider Shaking Up Zimbabwe’s Presidential Race

Backers of the opposition's presidential candidate see hope in upstart victories in Malawi and Zambia. But in Zimbabwe, a single party has been in power for more than four decades.

MUTARE — Precious Dinha elbows her way into a packed soccer stadium. Despite thunderclouds looming above, thousands of yellow-clad Zimbabweans are singing, dancing and thrusting their index fingers skyward. They wave placards in Shona and English saying, “We need democracy in Zimbabwe” and “Police stop brutality against citizens.” Dinha unfurls her own large white banner: “We want free and fair elections.”

Soon Zimbabwe’s leading opposition presidential candidate, 44-year-old Nelson Chamisa, bounds onto a stage. “Do you embrace the new?” he asks. “Yes!” the crowd shouts. Dinha traveled close to four hours from Harare, the capital, to hear Chamisa speak. She attends every Chamisa rally she can, wearing yellow, the color of his movement, and reveling in the festive atmosphere. This event marks the formal introduction of his new political party, Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), in eastern Zimbabwe ahead of next year’s presidential election.

Dinha, 32, believes Chamisa’s relative youth and outsider perspective can help resuscitate Zimbabwe’s listless economy, with high levels of unemployment, inflation and food insecurity. “I have never been employed despite having professional qualifications. I do not even know what a pay slip looks like,” Dinha says. She was trained as a human resources manager but raises chickens and sells secondhand clothes to get by. “He understands us as youths, and there are promises of reviving the economy so that we can also have jobs.”

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In Brazil And U.S., Elections As Stress Tests For Democracy

After the Brazilian presidential election and the American midterms, checking the temperature on the state of democracy in a world that has been heading in the opposite direction for too long.

-Analysis-

MONTREAL — Beyond climate change and the return of inflation, the war in Ukraine and the COVID-19 pandemic, we can add another element threatening the stability of the world: the backsliding of democracy and faith in a system based on the rule of law, free expression, and a sovereign choice of leaders.

The V-Dem Institute at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden publishes an annual report that has tracked this decline.

After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, there was a growing desire for democracy around the world, and the number of people living under a system of freedom and the rule of law was on the rise. But that number has been decreasing since the beginning of the 21st century.

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Is Israel's Far Right More Extreme Than In Italy Or The U.S.?

French writer and political scientist Dominique Moïsi was in Israel last week for the country’s latest elections, which saw the victory of a hard right coalition led by Benjamin Netanyahu. He warns that there is an inherent conflict between the self-declared "start-up nation" and the anti-science, anti-liberal program of the new government.

-OpEd-

PARIS — In his autobiography Things Seen, seminal French author Victor Hugo describes daily life in Paris during the revolution of the 1830s. He writes about the “limited reach of tragedy,” where one street is covered in barricades and the next is completely peaceful.

On Nov. 1, the day of the elections in Israel, I was walking around the streets of Tel Aviv with those images from Victor Hugo in mind. There was no indication that the future of the country might be at stake despite the huge election signs on buildings and buses. But for their fifth general election in four years, the people of the country's largest economic and cultural metropolis seemed jaded, if not indifferent.

This impression was quickly contradicted by a turnout of more than 70%, a significant increase over previous elections. But nothing seemed to suggest that Israel was on the brink of a tipping point.

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eyes on the U.S.
*Spenser Mestel

From Florida, The World's Most Secure Voting Machine (For Now)

After 19 years of work, Juan Gilbert says he has invented an "unhackable" voting machine. Ahead of Tuesday's U.S. midterms, some hardware hope for the future of free elections.

In late 2020, a large box arrived at Juan Gilbert’s office at the University of Florida. The computer science professor had been looking for this kind of product for months. Previous orders had yielded poor results. This time, though, he was optimistic.

Gilbert drove the package home. Inside was a transparent box, built by a French company and equipped with a 27-inch touchscreen. Almost immediately, Gilbert began modifying it. He put a printer inside and connected the device to Prime III, the voting system he has been building since the first term of the George W. Bush administration.

After 19 years of building, tinkering, and testing, he told Undark this spring, he had finally invented “the most secure voting technology ever created.

”Gilbert didn’t just want to publish a paper outlining his findings. He wanted the election security community to recognize what he’d accomplished — to acknowledge that this was, in fact, a breakthrough. In the spring of 2022, he emailed several of the most respected and vocal critics of voting technology, including Andrew Appel, a computer scientist at Princeton University. He issued a simple challenge: Hack my machine.

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Geopolitics
Rosendo Fraga

Brazil, The Next Election With Democracy Itself At Stake

Brazilians head to the polls this week in a runoff between leftist Lula and the far-right Bolsonaro. The elections will have far-reaching consequences for Latin America, and perhaps even the Western world.

BUENOS AIRES — The outcome of Brazil's presidential election on Sunday will of course have a major impact in the region: Brazil has by far the largest population in Latin America, and trails only the United States in the Western hemisphere. But the reverberations will also be felt around the world, and not only for the country's size.

A victory for the socialist candidate Luis Inácio Lula da Silva will confirm the trend in Latin America of the "progressive" Left's return to the countries it governed in the first decade of the 21st century. But another term for the sitting president, the radical right-winger Jair Bolsonaro, may kill off this revival and strengthen the right's electoral prospects across the region. In recent elections in Peru, Colombia and Chile, conservative candidates made it to hard-fought runoffs against their leftist rivals.

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Geopolitics
Juan Gabriel Tokatlian

America, Defender Of Democracy? Why The World (Still) Isn't Buying It

The West must address the degradation of democracy domestically, and worldwide. It's on the right side in the war in Ukraine. And in China. But what doesn’t ring true is President Biden’s flaunting the democratic cause as a foreign policy stick.

-Analysis-

BUENOS AIRES — Democracies are in poor shape, and one discerns not just a deterioration of democratic regimes, but a more blatant process of regression. The so-called Third Wave of democratization, which the author Samuel Huntington observed as lasting from 1974 into the 1990s, has slid backward over the past decade.

We are even seeing a "counter-wave" in so-called advanced democracies. According to Bastian Herre, an analyst and researcher, figures show a double decline in liberal democratic systems and electoral democracies, complementing a double rise in electoral autocracies and "plain" dictatorships, which dispense with the theater of elections.

The trend has two main aspects: One is an internal shrinking of democracy taking place, in contrast with the mid-20th century, without abrupt events like an invasion or a coup. The other is that, again unlike the Cold War period, there is no yearning for a revolutionary alternative, as the Soviet Union has ceased to exist.

The United States' current chief rival in the world, communist China, is not exporting its institutional model.

So the question is: will President Joseph Biden's China strategy, which effectively presents itself as a fight between democracy and autocracy, contribute to reviving, expanding and bettering democracy worldwide?

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Ideas
Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd*

Rishi Sunak May Become Britain's First Hindu Prime Minister — A Lesson For India

Rishi Sunak, a Hindu of Indian origin, is in the running to become the UK's next prime minister. His religion has not factored at all into debates — a fierce contrast to a religiously divided India.

This article was updated on October 23 at 5:45 p.m. EST

-Analysis-

NEW DELHI — Rishi Sunak, a British politician of Indian origin, is now the clear frontrunner to be the next prime minister of the United Kingdom after Boris Johnson''s announcement that he won't seek the leadership of the Conservative party following the resignation of Prime Minister Liz Truss.

Sunake is the most recent person of Indian descent in the West to try to reach the political pinnacle, coming on the heels of Kamala Harris’s arrival as U.S. vice president.

Britain was once the colonial master of India. From an Indian point of view, the British prime minister is the historical political head of an empire of exploitation – and also, let us remember, an empire of reform. Were it not for British colonial rule, and the rights-oriented struggle for freedom against it, India would not have become a democratic, constitutional republic in 1947, however loudly we claim that the roots of our democracy lie in our ancient structures, whether Hindu or Buddhist.

All major aspects of our freedom struggle and colonial life were linked to the British political system. Particularly from the beginning of the 20th century, Indians considered the British prime minister the symbol of colonial rule, the man to revile or to appeal to.

Given this historical context, that a man of Indian origin stands a realistic chance of becoming the British prime minister shows how the world is changing.

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In The News
Renate Mattar, Anne-Sophie Goninet, Laure Gautherin and Bertrand Hauger

Russia Declares Martial Law, Anarchy In The UK, HD Pillars Of Creation

👋 Kia ora!*

Welcome to Thursday, where Putin declares martial law in the Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine, UK Prime Minister Liz Truss clings to power and the James Webb telescope keeps wowing space enthusiasts. Meanwhile, Benjamin Quénelle reports for French daily Les Echos from the small Russian town of Ust-Labinsk, where support for Putin’s war remains strong.

[*Māori]

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Ideas
Massimo Recalcati*

Education As Pluralism: A Humble Manifesto Against Totalitarianism

Authoritarianism and conflict are on the rise around the world. Yet democracy will not be saved on the battlefield but in the classroom. Schools, and more importantly, how teachers teach is crucial in showing the next generations that there is no single defining point of view.

-Essay-

ROME — In this time of crisis and war, any true supporter of democracy must be reminded of the importance of school for a fundamental reason: to ensure a multiplicity of points of view. No, we must remind ourselves, there is no definitive last word on good and evil, life and death, justice or injustice. Freedom of speech must always be safeguarded: diverse, secular and democratic.

Diversity of points of view implies a bond that connects one person’s view point with another. For, as the COVID pandemic has shown, there is no such thing as one life separate from other lives. There is no such thing as a self-sufficient life, no autonomous life, no life that does not depend on the lives of others.

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The great task of school, in a traumatized time like ours, is to actively practice an ethic of plurality and inclusion. The question that starts with is: Does that happen by educating or by instructing?

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Geopolitics
Roshanak Astaraki

Beyond The Hijab: Iran's Protests Now Seek Nothing Less Than Revolution

Iran's protests have quickly expanded to be "national and revolutionary" in scope, having surpassed the various class, region and gender-based barriers that might have reduced their significance. The Islamic regime has never faced a bigger challenge.

-Analysis-

For three weeks now, the propaganda machine of the Islamic Republic of Iran has repeatedly announced the end of the mass protests that erupted in mid-September, following the suspected killing of a 22-year-old girl, Mahsa Amini, in a Tehran police station.

We keep hearing from official sources that "calm" has returned to many districts, in the face of all the audiovisual evidence of the recurrence of unrest on the streets, and in schools and universities in Tehran and elsewhere.

A good many of Iran's protesters are young people born just before or after the year 2000, constituting a generation the regime liked to dub the "foot soldiers of their commander," the term used of late for the country's supreme leader, Ali Khamenei.

It so it seems they have done everything but obey a "commander" they consider nothing more or less than a dictator.

By now, we can no longer describe these protests as a reaction against the hijab or the headscarves and thick clothes imposed on women in public, or in defense of their gender rights. For protests over hijab restrictions might just fit into the framework of the regime, with protesters seeking specific rights within the existing polity.

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Geopolitics
Angela Alonso

Capitol Riot, Brazil Style? The Specter Of Violence If Bolsonaro Loses The Presidency

Brazilian politics has a long history tainted with violence. As President Jair Bolsonaro threatens to not accept the results if he loses his reelection bid Sunday, the country could explode in ways similar to, or even worse, than the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol after Donald Trump refused to accept his defeat.

-Analysis-

SÂO PAULO — Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro delivered a message to his nation this year on the anniversary of its independence day, September 7. He recalled what he saw as the nation’s good times, and bad, and declared: “Now, 2022, history may repeat itself. Good has always triumphed over evil. We are here because we believe in our people and our people believe in God.”

It was a moment that’s typical of how this president seeks to challenge the democratic rules. Bolsonaro has been seen as part of a new populist global wave. Ahead of Sunday's first round of voting, the sitting president is trailing in the polls, and former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva could even tally more than 50% to win the race outright and avoid an Oct. 30 runoff. Bolsonaro has said he might not accept the results of the race, which could spark violence from his supporters.

However, Brazil has a tradition of political violence. There is a national myth that the political elite prefer negotiation and avoid armed conflicts. Facts do not support the myth. If it did all major political change would have been peaceful: there would have been no independence war in 1822, no civil war in 1889 (when the republic replaced the monarchy) and, even the military coup, in 1964, would have been bloodless.

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