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TOPIC: democracy


On Democracy, Republics And Lula's Theory Of Relativity

A democracy is not just the vague and dangerously malleable promise of popular rule. It is instead an institutional regime or "republic" that defines and protects the rights of the people, and of individuals.


BUENOS AIRES — In a column in this newspaper ( Clarín) earlier this year, Professor Loris Zanatta drew our attention to declarations made in July by Brazil's President Lula da Silva rejecting criticisms against Venezuela's socialist regime. Lula said "democracy is a relative concept, for you and for me," when asked if Venezuela is a democracy .

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Why The World Still Needs U.S. Leadership — With An Assist From China

Twenty years of costly interventions and China's economic ascent have robbed the United States of its global supremacy. It is time for the two biggest powers to work together, to help the world.


BOGOTÁ — The United States is facing a complex moment in its history, as it loses its privileged place in the world. Since the Second World War , it has been the world's preeminent power in economic and political terms, helping rebuild Europe after the war and through its growing economy, aiding the development of a significant part of the world.

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Its model of democracy, long considered exemplary around the world, has gone through a rough patch, thanks to excessive polarization and discord. This has cost it a good deal of its leadership, unity and authority.

How much authority does it have to chide certain countries on democracy, as it does, after such outlandish incidents as the assault on Congress in January 2021? The fights we have seen over electing a new speaker of the House of Representatives or backing the administration's foreign policy are simply incredible.

In Ukraine's case, President Biden failed to win support for the aid package for which he was hoping, even if there is a general understanding that if Russia wins this war, Europe's stability would be at risk. It would mean the victory of a longstanding enemy .

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“I Am Palestinian” — When History Calls Us To Stand In Their Shoes, To Say Who We Are

There are certain watershed moments where the world comes together in defense of an idea or a people, or maybe both. A call from afar to stand up in the name of the Palestinian people.


CALGARY — Stanley Kubrick’s 1960 film “Spartacus,” starring Kirk Douglas and Laurence Olivier, is based on a true story of the leader of a momentous slave rebellion against the Roman empire circa 70 BC.

Near the end of the movie, when the slaves have been captured, the Roman general offers to let them all live if they reveal their leader, the gladiator Spartacus. In a show of solidarity and final act of bravery, the slaves stand up one-by-one, to declare: “I am Spartacus.”

And with that, all are crucified.

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The Demagogue's Biggest Lie: That We Don't Need Politics

Trashing politics and politicians is a classic tool of populists to seduce angry voters, and take countries into quagmires far worse than the worst years of democracy. It's a dynamic Argentina appears particularly vulnerable to.


BUENOS AIRES — I was 45 years old when I became a politician in Argentina, and abandoned politics a while back now. In 1987, Raúl Alfonsín , the civilian president who succeeded the Argentine military junta in 1983 , named me cabinet minister though I wasn't a member of his party, the Radicals, or any party for that matter. I was a historian, had worked as a lawyer, wrote newspapers articles and a book in 1985 on science and technology with chapters on cybernetics, artificial intelligence and genetic engineering.

That book led Alfonsín to ask me to join his government. My belated political career began in fact after I left the ministry and while it proved to be surprisingly lengthy, it is now over. I am currently writing a biography of a molecular biologist and developing a university course on technological perspectives ( futurology ).

Talking about myself is risky in a piece against 'anti-politics,' or the rejection of party politics. I do so only to make clear that I am writing without a personal interest. I am out of politics, and have never been a member of what Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni calls la casta , "the caste" — i.e., the political establishment.

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FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War
Prem Shankar Jha*

India, That (Imperfect) Template For A Two-State Solution

At the moment, a two-state solution to end the conflict between Israel and Palestine seems impossible. But should a miracle occur, there is one example that, although not perfect, could serve as a model to build a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural federation: the ethno-federal democracy of India.


NEW DELHI — In a televised news conference on October 28, Israel’s President Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Israel had opened a “new phase” in the war by sending ground forces into Gaza and expanding attacks from the ground, air and sea. It’s “very clear objective” he said, was destroying Hamas’s military and governing capabilities. A past master at depicting every Israeli act of oppression as defense, he linked Hamas ’s October 7 attack to the Holocaust and roared ,“We always said, ‘Never again’. Never again is now .”

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Adama Wade

With 190 Presidential Candidates, Senegalese Democracy Is Vibrant — And Messy

Nearly 200 people are running to be the president of Senegal in the 2024 elections. What does this say about the state of Senegalese democracy? Financial Afrik takes a closer look.

DAKAR — Senegal faces an exceptional influx of candidates vying for the presidential office in the February 2024 elections.

With 190 people having obtained the necessary endorsements from the Directorate General of Elections, Senegalese citizens will have an abundance of choices.

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From former prime ministers to activists, trade unionists, social media influencers , and even figures like Anta Babacar Ngom from the Sedima Group, Senegal's " king of chicken ," as well as singer Queen Biz — the political landscape of Senegal appears saturated with contenders. Each carries with them hopes, ambitions, pretensions, frustrations, and, it must be said, the advanced symptoms of the political landscape’s impoverishment.

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Yves Bourdillon

What Makes Rugby The Defining Sport Of Modern Democracy

As the Rugby World Cup final approaches, French writer Yves Bourdillon notes that the sport is popular almost exclusively in democratic countries. The reason? Its Anglo-Saxon origins, the complexity of its rules and its values, a miracle of balance between individualism and collective spirit.


PARIS — The Rugby World Cup has an unusual, if not unique, feature among major national team competitions: all 20 participants are free-market democracies.

The list of countries — South Africa, New Zealand, England, Wales, Ireland, Australia , France , Japan, Scotland, Argentina , Fiji, Italy, Samoa, Georgia, Uruguay, Tonga, Romania, Namibia, Chile and Portugal — can be verified as being among the more or less liberal states that, according to the Freedom House think-tank, account for only one-quarter of humanity.

It's true that some of these democracies, such as Georgia, have room for improvement, or haven't always been so democratic, as in the case of Argentina 40 years ago. And of course there's the unique case of South Africa, which lived under the racist system of apartheid until 1991, before the team's memorable post-apartheid victory in the 1995 World Cup — albeit controversial for other reasons, with suspicions of doping and poisoning of New Zealand's opponents before the final.

But none of the participants in this year's tournament are to be found among the authoritarian regimes of the Middle East , Africa, Asia or Latin America, where rugby is hardly ever played — the number of rugby players never exceeds 0.01% of the population.

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Bálint Madlovics and Bálint Magyar

After Pro-Democracy Surge In Poland, Is Viktor Orban's Hungary Next?

In its latest parliamentary elections, Poland opted to oust the ruling party, PiS, from power. Now will Viktor Orbán's Hungary, a victim of democratic backsliding, be able to do the same. Political scientist and economist Bálint Madlovics and sociologist and former Hungarian Parliamentarian Bálint Magyar investigate.


WARSAW — For years, Hungary and Poland have fallen victim to the two most dangerous attempts of governments to build an autocratic system from within the European Union . But although both countries stood out in their tendencies towards authoritarianism, the erosion of democracy and the rule of law in these two countries was of a fundamentally different nature, and took place on a different scale.

The victory of the opposition in Poland's elections on Sunday may stop this process, and put the country back on the democratic path. In Hungary, there is practically no chance for this to occur anymore.

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The process of building an autocratic order has three phases: initialization, autocratic breakthrough and consolidation. This allows us to understand the difference between both countries.

Poland under the rule of PiS leader Jarosław Kaczyński was still in the initial phase of the autocratic system, while in Hungary a breakthrough had already taken place.

The Fidesz party, led by Viktor Orbán, won a two-thirds majority of seats in parliament in 2010, which allowed it to amend the constitution. Unlike Kaczyński's PiS, Fidesz gained a monopoly of political power in Hungary. Orbán not only changed the Constitution, but also appointed his people to managerial positions in the institutions that make up the system of systemic security (checks and balances).

For nearly 15 years, we have been witnessing the consolidation of the autocratic system in Hungary: the media, economic entities and social organizations have been deprived of their autonomy and subordinated to the authorities. This eliminates the possibility of change, because systemic alternatives to authoritarianism no longer have an institutional or social base.

These differences in the level of advancement of an authoritarian system constructed within both countries are most clearly visible when we compare last Sunday's elections in Poland with the Hungarian elections in 2022. The former is described as "free but unfair," while the Hungarian elections are referred to explicitly as “manipulated”.

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Pierre Haski

Neither Hamas, Nor Abbas: After The War, The Palestinians Will Still Need A Leader

The lack of credible Palestinian leadership could plague the region once the war is over, leaving it without any legitimate political representation.


PARIS — It's an unanswerable question, but one that we will have to face once the dust settles: Who can speak for the Palestinians?

It may be hard to imagine right now, but at some point, a political dialogue will have to be restarted, to put an end to the cycle of violence. The question is, with whom?

The two main forces in the region both face significant obstacles. First is Hamas, which has undoubtedly gained significant popularity among desperate Palestinians by directly confronting Israel , but whose terrorist methods have disqualified it from being a potential interlocutor. And even if history has taught us to never say never, its actions seem impossible to overlook today.

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The other major player is the Palestinian Authority. Chaired by Mahmoud Abbas — representing what's left of the once-powerful Palestine Liberation Organization, headed by Yasser Arafat — it has lost credibility in a profound, irreversible way.

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Robert Goldman

The "Laws Of War" Applied To Israel And Hamas

The ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas has raised numerous issues under international law, including Israel's unlawful siege of Gaza and Hamas being a non-state actor.

The killing of Israeli civilians by Hamas and retaliatory airstrikes on the densely populated Gaza Strip by Israel raises numerous issues under international law .

Indeed, President Joe Biden made express reference to the “laws of war ” in comments he made at the White house on Oct. 10, 2023, noting that while democracies like the U.S. and Israel uphold such standards, “terrorists” such as Hamas “purposefully target civilians.” Speaking the same day, the European Union’s top diplomat Josep Borrell condemned Hamas’ attack but also suggested that Israel was not acting in accordance with international law by cutting water, electricity and food to civilians in Gaza.

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But international law and the very nature of the conflict itself – along with the status of the two sides involved – is a complex area.

The Conversation turned to Robert Goldman , an expert on the laws of war at American University Washington College of Law, for guidance on some of the issues.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War
Ihor Myslovsky

How Russia Will Capitalize On The New Wave Of Terrorism Set To Hit The West

Western leaders must take a more resolute stance in addressing terrorism and its hybrid forms, and see the connection with the tactics and strategy of Putin's Russia.


Terrorist violence often follows a dangerous spiral . If not promptly curtailed, it can escalate, resulting in more frequent and severe attacks.

In recent years, we've observed a rise in violent incidents displaying certain recognizable characteristics of terrorism , involving both state and non-state actors, which involve a wide array of ideologies and methods.

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The ongoing Russian war in Ukraine offers another trouble model, where such tactics as nuclear threats , targeting energy infrastructure in winter, and missile strikes on civilian areas have been employed as tactical acts of terrorism.

There are others more recognizable: like the brutal attacks against civilians like those recently seen by Hamas in southern Israel, the murder of a teacher in France and a fatal shooting in Brussels of two Swedish soccer fans.

It is evident that both Western political leaders and societies need to respond. Political leaders should take resolute action, and societies should unite to safeguard their countries from destabilization by these adversaries. Failure to do so could ultimately benefit terrorists and authoritarian regimes.

The connection, in other words, is legitimate between the Middle East's sudden outbreak of violence and the way Russia conducts itself in international affairs.

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This Happened

This Happened — October 5: Chilean Referendum

The referendum in Chile took place on this day in 1988, when citizens voted against extending General Augusto Pinochet's regime .

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