Public square in Istanbul with election banners signifiyng different political parties.
Election banners signifying different political parties in Istanbul. | Photo: Aris Gionis via flickr | CC BY-NC 2.0

The 2023 Elections in Turkey. Can the Opposition Challenge Erdoğan and the AKP?

Turkey’s presidential and parliamentary elections on June 18, 2023, will be a notable juncture point. These elections will determine the country’s future and direction, and are therefore not only significant for domestic politics, but also at the international level as regards Turkey’s capacity to serve as a global actor. During these elections, the opposition will take on the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to gain political power after two decades of AKP rule. They will only have a chance of success if they propose a strong candidate to challenge Erdoğan.

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Vladimir Putin's Face on a TV-Screen
September 21, 2022, Vladimir Putin, Delivers a Speech on Russian TV, Photo: Adrien Fillon, picture alliance | ZUMAPRESS.com

Putin’s Mobilisation, Annexation and Nuclear Threats: Last-Ditch Effort or More of the Same?

Just as leaders from across the world gathered in New York to address challenges to global peace and stability, the Russian president Putin declared mobilisation in Russia for the third time in its history. This step, which had formerly was ruled out by Russian officials, indicates that the Kremlin does not have any viable options but to escalate. Even though Putin still prefers to call the war a “special military operation”, he has virtually introduced martial laws across the entire spectrum of Russian economy and society, doubling down on the only gamble that he thinks can still pay off.

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In early September, Russian state-controlled gas corporation Gazprom announced that Nord Stream 1 would be shut down indefinitely. | Foto: JanChr via flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Russia Cuts Off Nord Stream 1: How Will This Affect Germany’s Foreign Policy?

In early September, Russia announced an indefinite stoppage of gas deliveries to Germany via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline system, causing economic turmoil. Research findings on patterns in German and Russian policy and ongoing trends shed light on these events and their probable  future impact. Despite denials from Moscow, this is a Russian attempt to influence German policy on sanctions and Ukraine. This attempt is unlikely to succeed for now. However, future developments – notably major shifts on the Ukrainian battlefield, changes in German public sentiments, and specific dynamics within the Kremlin – could cause German policy to become more susceptible to Russia’s demands.

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Presidential election campaign flags hang for sale, featuring the faces of both current President Jair Bolsonaro, left, and former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, outside the Supreme Electoral Court in Brasilia, Brazil
Presidential election campaign flags hang for sale outside the Supreme Electoral Court in Brasilia, Brazil. | Photo: © picture alliance/AP | Eraldo Peres

Democracy on the Razor’s Edge: The 2022 Presidential Elections in Brazil

Brazil’s presidential elections are scheduled to take place on October 2, 2022. The confrontation between the extreme-right incumbent president Bolsonaro and the center-left former president Lula Da Silva provides a rare setting. The election places Brazil at a crossroads and will set the stage for either a comprehensive commitment to democracy under Lula or a continuation along the path to authoritarianism under Bolsonaro. Recent polls suggest that the most likely scenario is a win for Lula. Nevertheless, Brazil’s democratic institutions are continuously under attack. Currently, the possibility of the elections being preemptively cancelled or the final results being contested cannot be fully dismissed.

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Nighttime scene with silhouettes of people holding glowing letters that spell out "We the people"
There are good political reasons to hold fast to a pluralist conceptualization of democracy – precisely in light of the current challenges to democracy. | Foto: Backbone Campaign via flickr | CC BY 2.0

The Reconstitution of Liberal Hegemony in Comparative Regime Research: V-Dem’s Discursive Turn from the Contestation to the Decontestation of Democracy

Within just a few years, the Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) project has experienced a remarkable rise to both academic and political prominence. As I show in a paper that was just published open access with Contemporary Politics, this rise has been accompanied by a notable discursive shift: Having started as a project aimed at taking seriously the essential conceptual contestability of democracy, in recent years V-Dem has adopted an increasingly narrow and taken-for-granted focus on liberal democracy. This turn from the contestation to the decontestation of democracy, which responds to the perception of serious threats to democracy in general and liberal norms in particular, is not only remarkable in and of itself. In the face of the current crisis of democracy, it is also deeply problematic as it contributes to downplaying the inherent limitations of liberal democracy. The following contribution presents and summarizes the main arguments from the paper.

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Front of a bar in Gao, Mali, with bullet holes
No country-specific overall political strategies have yet been formulated for either Mali or Niger that operationalize the goal of promoting sustainable peace. | Photo: © picture alliance / REUTERS | Joe Penney

Policy Coherence for Peace in Germany’s Engagement in Mali and Niger? Five Recommendations for Action for the German Government

The German government’s Guidelines “Preventing Crises, Managing Conflicts, Promoting Peace”, adopted in 2017, are intended to serve as a strategic compass for Germany’s engagement in crisis and conflict contexts, such as the Sahel. There, Germany is supporting stabilization and peacebuilding measures through several ministries and in conjunction with international partners. In light of the widespread failure of previous international efforts to promote peace in the region, a critical review and reorientation of this engagement is required. Our study, commissioned by the Advisory Board to the Federal Government for Civilian Crisis Prevention and Peacebuilding, uses the examples of Mali and Niger to show that Germany’s engagement in both countries has so far failed to adequately implement the principles formulated in the Guidelines.

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Exponation of different missiles at the territory of the White Sands Missile Museum with a MIM-14 Nike Hercules nuclear missile in the center.
MIM-14 Nike Hercules nuclear missile at the White Sands Missile Range Museum, New Mexico. | Foto: Kelly Michals via flickr | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

A Stress Test of Nuclear Deterrence

This month, the Tenth Review Conference of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is taking place in New York City. The meeting of states parties, postponed four times because of the Covid pandemic, had originally been scheduled for April 2020. With Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, the geopolitical context has since deteriorated to the point where progress on nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation seems almost impossible. The war and Russia’s nuclear threats are fostering a renaissance of nuclear deterrence and rearmament and are threatening to deepen pre-existing fissures in the NPT. To counter the looming erosion of this cornerstone of global arms control, we need to acknowledge the darker side of nuclear deterrence that the Ukraine war is exposing. Understanding the current crisis as a crisis of nuclear deterrence can open up opportunities for de-escalation, disarmament and arms control – similar to the transformative effects of the Cuban Missile Crisis during the Cold War.

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Two hands lighting three white candles. Attached to the candles are small notes; one claiming "Hold Duterte Accountable for Killing the Poor!".
A scene from the past? Activists lit candles to protest the killing of farmers in a central Philippine province in Manila, Philippines, Monday, 1 April 2019. Police said that they were suspected communist rebels who opened fire during raids. But rights groups countered that the men were farmers and victims of extrajudicial killings. | Photo: © picture alliance / AP Photo | Aaron Favila

Impunity and Police Vigilantism – Is the highly excessive use of deadly force by the police in the Philippines now over?

Since June 30, Rodrigo Duterte’s presidency has been a thing of the past. This Spotlight asks why police forces in the Philippines were so willing to carry out the killing of drug personalities at Duterte’s behest in 2016 and what that may mean for the future. I argue that the inability to successfully bring suspects to justice and the resulting damage to the police’s self-image as a potent guardian of peace and order foster vigilante activities by police where a political and social environment exists that legitimizes such a strategy of violent crime control.

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Protesters in front of the White House, dressed in red with black hoods over their heads holding a sign that reads: "Free the Uighurs". Another protester to the right holds a sign that reads "Shut down Guantanamo"
Activists protest in front of the White House against Chinese treatment of the Uyghur population. | Photo: Daniel Lobo via flickr | CC BY 2.0

The Xinjiang Police Files and the Visit of the UN High Commissioner: Will This Open Up New Opportunities?

The treatment of the Uyghur population  by the CCP has been an ongoing concern for the last 5 years. Over this time information has leaked from government and security sources which indicates that grave human rights violations and potentially even crimes against humanity have been committed. The UN High Commissioner has recently visited China and the Xinjiang region and in this context the newest significant trove of information was released, showing once more the human rights abuses. Yet it is unlikely that any multilateral action will be taken, outside of diplomatic efforts. As there are few avenues to address these human rights violations in international law, the more diplomatic approach that can be seen in the visit of the High Commissioner should be supported.

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Protestors in Tyre/Sour, Southern Lebanon, cheering to a female singer during nonsectarian demonstrations against government corruption and austerity measures that started across the country on October 17th, 2019.
European institutions and organizations active in Lebanon should intensify political cooperation with reformist MPs. | Photo: RomanDeckert via wikimedia commons | CC BY-SA 4.0

Reformist MPs Deny Hezbollah Majority in Lebanese Parliament – Prospects for Lebanon after the Elections

The results of the Lebanese parliamentary elections on May 17 showed a decrease in the number of seats claimed by Hezbollah and its supporters, and increases favoring the non-partisan reformist candidates supporting the October 17 protests of 2019. These developments reflect the growing will for change towards a democratic civil society in Lebanon, but they do not come without significant challenges. This blog examines the results of the Lebanese parliamentary elections and discusses the political difficulties in the coming phase; arguing that, given the risks of a power vacuum, the best possibility of democratic states is to support reformist representatives.

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