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from The Great Debate:

Elections were a wild party in the 1880s — that’s one reason why more people voted back then

A man dressed as Uncle Sam drums up the crowd at an election campaign rally in Saginaw.

The United States has a low voter turnout by comparison to other Western democracies, and our turnout in midterm elections is especially abysmal, attracting roughly 40 percent of eligible voters to the polls.

What can be done to attract more voters to the polls this season? History and science offer some telling advice.

A look back at American history reminds us that turnout in federal midterm elections routinely exceeded 65 percent in the 1880s – slightly higher than presidential turnout rates nowadays. This was despite the fact that voter registration was more arduous, the transportation system of the day made it harder to get to the polls and the electorate was less literate.

Why was turnout so high in the 19th century? One answer has to do with the context within which elections took place.

from The Great Debate:

Being the ‘indispensable nation’ is killing American democracy

U.S. military personnel take pictures of U.S. President Barack Obama as he speaks during visit to Al Faw Palace on Camp Victory in Baghdad

America -- proudly dubbed the “indispensable nation” by its national-security managers -- is now the entangled nation enmeshed in conflicts across the globe.

President Barack Obama, scorned by his Republican critics as an “isolationist” who wants to “withdraw from the world,” is waging the longest war in U.S. history in Afghanistan, boasts of toppling the Muammar Gaddafi regime in Libya, launches airstrikes in Iraq and Syria against Islamic State and picks targets for drones to attack in as many as eight countries, while dispatching planes to the Russian border in reaction to its machinations in Ukraine, and a fleet to the South China Sea as the conflict over control of islands and waters escalates between China and its neighbors.

from Global Investing:

Measuring political risk in emerging markets

(Corrects to say EI Sturdza is UK investment firm, not Swiss)

Commerzbank analyst Simon Quijano-Evans recently analysed credit ratings for emerging market countries and concluded that there is a strong tendency to "under-rate" emerging economies - that is they are generally rated lower than developed market "equals" that have similar profiles of debt, investment or reform. The reason, according to Quijano-Evans, is that ratings assessments tend to be "blurred by political risk which is difficult to quantify and is usually higher in the developing world compared with richer peers.

However there are some efforts to measure political risks, and unfortunately for emerging economies, some of those metrics seem to indicate that such risk is on the rise. Risk consultancy Maplecroft which compiles a civil unrest index (CUI), says street protests, ethnic violence and labour unrest are factors that have increased chances of business disruption in emerging markets by 20 percent over the past three months. Such unrest as in Hong Kong recently, can be sudden, causing headaches for business and denting economic growth, Maplecroft says. Hong Kong where mass pro-democracy protests in the city-state's central business district which shuttered big banks and triggered a 7 percent stock market plunge last month.

from Ian Bremmer:

Chinese leader’s reforms are bad news for Hong Kong protesters

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In 1997, Britain returned Hong Kong to China after some 150 years of colonial rule. In exchange, China agreed to a set of principles: Hong Kong would maintain its capitalist system for half a century, by which point its chief executive and members of the legislature would be elected by universal suffrage. As the thinking went, “one country, two systems” would suffice in the interim; Hong Kong and the Mainland would surely converge on democracy in the half-century to come.

Not so fast. Recently, Beijing has been systematically moving in the other direction. The decision on August 31 to rule out democratic elections for Hong Kong in 2017 was just the latest example. Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s transformational reform agenda is driving this shift — and it does not bode well for Hong Kong.

from John Lloyd:

In clashes over Ukraine or Iraq, liberty must be defended

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A few weeks after Winston Churchill became British prime minister in 1940, he had to tell the House of Commons that Britain had just suffered one of the worst military defeats in its history. He announced the setback with these words:

“The House should prepare itself for hard and heavy tidings. I have only to add that nothing which may happen in this battle (at Dunkirk) can in any way relieve us of our duty to defend the world cause to which we have vowed ourselves; nor should it destroy our confidence in our power to make out way … through disaster and through grief, to the ultimate defeat of our enemies.”

from Nicholas Wapshott:

Democracy is on the ropes. So what are we going to do about it?

child holds her father's hand at a polling station in Kabul

Democracy is taking a bashing. On almost every continent, attempts to extend the right of people to choose their own government is running into deep trouble. In Iraq, Egypt, Ukraine, Russia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and many other countries, democracy is being overwhelmed by despotism and despair.

A commonly heard response is that Western democracy is not for everyone, that what works in our society does not automatically work elsewhere. Another is to suggest that we should not try to spread democracy to the rest of the world; it is none of our business.

from The Great Debate UK:

Youth is the answer to the EU’s troubling voter turnout rate

MJC--Dr Marie Julie Chenard is Deputy Head of the Cold War Studies Programme at LSE IDEAS and Academic Officer for the Dahrendorf Symposium Project at the London School of Economics and Political Science. The opinions expressed are her own.--

The European elections are the second biggest exercise in democracy world-wide (behind India). Nearly 400 million EU citizens were eligible to vote their representatives to the European Parliament between the 22nd and 25th May, but only 43% actually did. What can be done to increase participation in elections that have an impact on 500 million people?

from The Great Debate:

Eyewitness Views: From hope to horror in Tiananmen Square


Eyewitness View: From hope to horror in Tiananmen Square On Changan Avenue, a small crowd confronts the People's Liberation Army (PLA) in Tiananmen Square after the army stormed the square and the surrounding area the night before. This is near the location a day later where "Tank Man" confronted and momentarily halted a column of the army's tanks leaving the square. (Alan Chin)June 4, 1989. In Chinese the reference is usually made with just the numbers “Six Four,” like in English, “9/11.” As the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen ...

View "Eyewitness View: From hope to horror in Tiananmen Square" on Spundge

from The Great Debate UK:

Scepticism about the state runs deep

--Sheila Lawlor is Director of the London think tank, Politeia. The opinions expressed are her own.--

As UKIP's earthquake materialises, with the party topping the European poll and the Conservative party narrowly missing second place, a shift in the political landscape is underway. Even before counting of the council votes had finished, or that for the European parliament had begun, the message from voters was clear - people were returning to the values with which they most readily identify: socialist or conservative.

from John Lloyd:

Modi: Democrat or divider

India’s 815 million voters started the five-week voting cycle earlier this week. It’s already being celebrated as a triumph just for taking place -- “the largest collective democratic act in history,” according to the Economist.

The winner will matter. India now punches far below its demographic weight -- its 1.24 billion people are served by just 600 diplomats, about the same number as the Netherlands. The United States, with 314 million people, has 15,000. But that apparent lack of interest in making a mark on the world seems about to end.

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