Kenya's new president William Ruto shakes hands with outgoing President Kenyatta, as he is sworn into office. In the other hand, Ruto holds a box. Fireworks can be seen.
Kenya’s new president Ruto shakes hands with his predecessor Kenyatta, as he is sworn into office. | Photo: © picture alliance/AP | Brian Inganga

Have the Tables Turned? What to Expect from Kenya’s New “Hustler” President William Ruto

Kenya had awaited the presidential elections held on August 9, 2022 with bated breath. The elections were won by William Ruto, who defeated opponent Raila Odinga by just a few percentage points. Ruto succeeds Uhuru Kenyatta, who leaves office having served his two permitted terms. This Spotlight analyzes the reasons for Ruto’s success, and, reflecting on his political career, discusses what can be expected from his presidency. We argue that both his success and his career have been strongly influenced by Kenya’s political history and the power structures of political alliances—especially in the context of previous elections.


Ornamental image of eyes and figures with hands in front of their faces
Women's rights act as a connector to unite different groups and social classes fighting for democracy and rule of law. | Image: © Parastou Forouhar

“For this Forced Heaven”: Women’s Rights as the Path to Democracy in Iran

Iran’s streets have been the scene of inspiring portraits created by women and young girls chanting “women, life, freedom” over the past six weeks. Starting as a reaction to the death of 22-year-old Zhina (Mahsa) Amini, who was killed by the so-called “morality police” for wearing her hijab improperly, the protests have now turned into a cross-class, women-led movement for democracy and rule of law. This post looks at the situation of women from a historical perspective after the Islamic revolution and argues that women’s rights are acting as a connector to unite different groups and social classes fighting for democracy and rule of law in the current protests.


Shadow of a person walking seen on a mural painted with the Brazilian flag
Even if Lula emerges victorious, the legacy of Bolsonaro will cast a pall over a Lula administration. | Photo: Gustavo Minas via flickr | CC BY-NC 2.0

Brazil’s Presidential Election: How Far does the Populist Glow Reach?

The first round of Brazil’s presidential elections took place on 2 October 2022. The result was 43.2% for incumbent Jair Bolsonaro and 48.4% for ex-president (2003–2010) Luiz Inácio Lula Da Silva. Given that none of the candidates achieved more than 50%, a final run-off is scheduled for 30 October. Pre-election polls predicted Lula would reach the critical 50% threshold. These polls also projected Bolsonaro would win around 36%. But in the end, his vote share was more than 43%. This result left the world searching for an explanation.


Treppen im Europäischen Parlament und zwei Personen, die sich in unterschiedliche Richtungen bewegen
The EU might pave the way for measures that do more harm than good to democracy. | Photo: European Parliament via flickr | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Responding to Foreign Interference in the EU: Beware of Unintended Consequences

The EU’s emerging response to foreign interference, as it is currently debated in the EU Parliament, contains striking similarities to arguments put forth by some governments around the world seeking to justify harsh restrictions on foreign funding and “foreign agents.” This risks producing serious ramifications for civic spaces and international civil society support—both within and beyond the EU.


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.


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.


Foto zeigt die Donau und im Hintergrund das Parlamentsgebäude in Budapest, im Vordergrund einen Brückenpfeiler mit der darauf gesprühten Aufschrift "Get off Russian (durchgestrichen) All Gas"
Die Energiekrise sollte statt dem Fokus auf Russland im Kontext der Klimakrise verhandelt werden. | Foto: Artivist Network via flickr | CC BY-NC 2.0

„Wutwinter“, heißer Herbst und Klimakrise: Ohne sozial-ökologische Vision erstarkt die extreme Rechte

Die Energiekrise stellt die Gesellschaft vor große soziale und politische Herausforderungen. Intensiv wird über den kommenden „Wutwinter“ und heißen Herbst diskutiert, während erste Proteste bereits stattfinden. Protest ist nichts Negatives und gehört zur demokratischen Willensbildung. Es gilt aber das Protestgeschehen auf den demokratischen Gehalt zu befragen und Initiativen von Links und Rechts nicht über einen Kamm zu scheren. Erneut droht, wie schon bei Pegida und den Corona-Protesten, die extreme Rechte von der gesellschaftlichen Stimmung zu profitieren. Um hier entgegenzuhalten, könnte es helfen, die Diskussionen um die Energiekrise von dem Fokus auf Russland zu lösen und umfassender im Kontext der Klimakrise zu verhandeln.


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.


Vor einem großen Plakat über das Erzgebirge stehen Polizisten.
Freiberg in Alarmbereitschaft: Polizist:innen aus Nordrhein-Westfalen postieren sich am 13.12.2021 am Rande eines „Spaziergangs“ gegen die Corona-Maßnahmen | Foto: © dpa /dpa-Zentralbild | Sebastian Willnow

Eine polarisierte Stadt. Die Corona-Proteste, Demokratieverdruss und die Rolle der Lokalpolitik in Freiberg

Seit 2021 fanden im mittelsächsischen Freiberg über 60 „Spaziergänge“ gegen die Coronapolitik statt. Wie im ganzen Freistaat wurden die Proteste von den extrem rechten „Freien Sachsen“ dominiert. Auch Mandatsträger:innen von Parteien unterstützten sie. Die Kommunalpolitik reagierte nur zögerlich. Erst ein Appell der Zivilgesellschaft veränderte die Situation: Der Oberbürgermeister distanzierte sich deutlich und wurde wiedergewählt. Nun braucht es politische Antworten auf anhaltende Polarisierung und Demokratieverdruss in der Region.