The Great Debate UK

from The Great Debate:

Why democracy will win

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Philip N. Howard, an associate professor at the University of Washington, is the author of "The Digital Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy:  Information Technology and Political Islam". The opinions expressed are his own.

The Day of Rage in Saudi Arabia was a tepid affair, and Libyan rebels have suffered strategic losses. Only two months ago, popular uprisings in Tunisia inspired Egyptians and others to take to the streets to demand political reform. Will the tough responses from Gadaffi and the Saudi government now discourage Arab conversations about democratic possibilities? It may seem like the dictators are ahead, but it’s only a temporary lead.

Ben Ali ruled Tunisia for 20 years, Mubarak reigned in Egypt for 30 years, and Gadaffi has held Libya in a tight grip for 40 years. Yet their bravest challengers are 20- and 30-year-olds without ideological baggage, violent intentions or clear leaders. The groups that initiated and sustained protests have few meaningful experiences with public deliberation or voting, and little experience with successful protesting. These young activists are politically disciplined, pragmatic and collaborative. Where do young people who grow up in entrenched authoritarian regimes get political aspirations? How do they learn about political life in countries where faith and freedom coexist?

The answer, for the most part, is online. And it is not just that digital media provided new tools for organizing protest and inspiring stories of success from Tunisia and Egypt. The important structural change in Middle East political life is not so much about digital ties between the West and the Arab street, but about connections between Arab streets.

from FaithWorld:

In free Egypt, Islamic Jihad leader says the time for the gun is over

Abboud al-Zumar

(Abboud al-Zumar in an interview with Reuters in his home after his release from Liman Tora Prison at Helwan, south of Cairo, March 17, 2011/Mohamed Abd El-Ghany)

Abboud al-Zumar went to jail 30 years ago for his role in killing Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. Now a free man, he believes democracy will prevent Islamists from ever again taking up the gun against the state.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Pakistan’s political crisis

gilani kayaniNever in the history of Pakistan has a democratically elected civilian government served out its full term and then been replaced by another one, also through democratic elections. It is that context that makes the latest political crisis in Pakistan so important.

Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani is scrambling to save his PPP-led government after it lost its parliamentary majority when its coalition partner, the  Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), announced it would go into opposition.  A smaller religious party, the Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F), already quit the coalition last month.  If the government falls and elections are held ahead of schedule in 2013, the opportunity for Pakistan to have a government which serves its full term will be lost. 

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Pakistan, India and the value of democracy

gilani kayaniOf the many comments I heard in Pakistan, one question particularly flummoxed me. Was democracy really the right system for South Asia?  It came, unsurprisingly, from someone sympathetic to the military, and was couched in a comparison between Pakistan and India.

What had India achieved, he asked, with its long years of near-uninterrupted democracy, to reduce the gap between rich and poor?  What of the Maoist rebellion eating away at its heartland? Its desperate poverty? The human rights abuses from Kashmir to Manipur, when Indian forces were called in to quell separatist revolts? Maybe, he said, democracy was just not suited to countries like India and Pakistan.

“Always a borrower, never a lender be”

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-Laurence Copeland is professor of finance at Cardiff University Business School. The opinions expressed are his own and do not constitute investment advice. -

The first chapter of the Eurozone crisis story has ended as expected, with the Germans (and Dutch and Austrians) left to foot the bill, repeating the pattern we have seen in the last couple of years, at the micro and macro level: savers bailing out borrowers, the solvent rescuing the insolvent, the responsible minority rescuing the feckless majority from the consequences of their irresponsibility. No wonder banks don’t want to lend and firms don’t want to invest.

Inflation or deflation: a stress test for democracy

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-Laurence Copeland is professor of finance at Cardiff University Business School. The opinions expressed are his own-

The policy debate is hotting up. On one side, we have the expansionists, arguing that it’s the Nineteen Thirties all over again, that Keynes is right now as he was then – we need more, not less government spending, we are digging our own graves by cutting back, especially as the fiscal retrenchment is continent-wide, covering thrifty North Europe as well as profligate ClubMed. According to this view, fiscal contraction will exacerbate the situation by magnifying the fall in the level of economic activity, leading to a downward spiral and, incidentally, making it harder than ever to repay our debts.

from Africa News blog:

Niger following Mauritania’s blueprint for an African coup

“We didn’t launch a coup,” said Colonel Djibril Hamidou Hima, spokesman for the military group which had days earlier overthrown the president of Niger, “We just re-imposed legitimacy.”

The statement was almost a carbon copy of the one I heard in Mauritania in 2008, where the soldier who had hustled an elected head of state out of the presidential palace spent the first few days denying his actions amounted to a coup d’etat.

There’s more to deliberative democracy than deliberative polling

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Parkinson

- John Parkinson is Senior Lecturer in Politics at the University of York, specialising in democratic theory and comparative democratic institutions. In a previous life he was a facilitator, internal communications and public relations consultant. The opinions expressed are his own. -

Last weekend 200 randomly-selected citizens got together in London for a “deliberative poll” to sort through ideas for transforming British democracy. Judging by the organizers’ blog – at www.power2010.org.uk – the participants were blown away by the experience, as ordinary people always are when they take part in serious discussion on big political questions. It’s brilliant stuff to be part of, and there should be more like it, I think.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Pakistan’s political pandemonium

sharifzardaridubaiA Supreme Court ruling striking down an amnesty given to politicians and officials by former president Pervez Musharraf has created havoc in Pakistani politics.  Among those affected on a list of 8,000 politicians and bureaucrats who were protected by the amnesty are the interior and defence ministers, who are now no longer allowed to leave the country until they clear their names in court.

"Pakistan's interior minister today found himself in the unusual position of being asked to bar himself from leaving the country," wrote Britain's Guardian newspaper.

Jack Straw cites trust as top issue for UK democracy

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In a wide-ranging lecture in London on Monday hosted by Brunel University‘s Magna Carta Institute, Justice Secretary Jack Straw outlined his thoughts on the state of democracy in Britain and beyond.

After the talk, Straw told Reuters that the most pressing issue in UK democracy is the need for politicians to restore public trust following an expenses scandal that forced the main political parties to work together to resolve the crisis.

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