Democracy Research News March 2019

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March 2019

news from the network of Democracy research institutes (NDRI)

The NED’s International Forum for Democratic Studies (United States) is pleased to announce its new podcast, “Power 3.0: Authoritarian Resurgence, Democratic Resilience.” In tandem with the Power 3.0 Blog, the Forum’s new podcast examines how modern authoritarian regimes, like those in China and Russia, have in some ways leapfrogged the capabilities of democracies by exploiting their openness through the features of globalization: the interconnected economic and financial system; the Internet, telecommunication technologies, and social media networks; international norms and institutions; global media; academic exchange; and culture. Recent episodes feature Andrea Kendall-Taylor on “Curbing Authoritarian Influence in Europe,”  Moises Naim on “The Intersection of Globalization and Polarization,” and Marc F. Plattner on “Democracy and the Illiberal Temptation.”

Sign up to receive notices about future podcast episodes and blog posts, and subscribe to the Power 3.0 podcast on Android, Apple Podcasts (iTunes), Google Play, Overcast, Pocket Casts, PodBean, Spotify, Stitcher, and Tune In.



The V-Dem Institute (Sweden) has announced that Policy Dialogue Day 2019, centered around “New Challenges to Democracy, Governance, and Peace,” will take place on Wednesday May 22, 2019, at the Wallenberg Conference Center in Gothenburg, Sweden. Registration for Policy Dialogue Day is now open until May 8, 2019.



The January 2019 issue of the International Forum for Democratic Studies’ Journal of Democracy features a cluster of articles on “The Road to Digital Unfreedom,” examining how new digital technologies are transforming the authoritarian arsenal and reshaping demoratic politics – from the proliferation and abuse of artificial intelligence to the “personal-data surveillance economy” underlying social media. The issue also features Wendy Hunter and Timothy J. Power on the rise of Brazil’s Jair Bolnasaro, Lee Morgenbesser on the recent crackdown in Cambodia, Alex Magaisa on Zimbabwe’s first post-Mugabe elections, and more.

The International Forum and the Embassy of Canada hosted Anwar Ibrahim, President of the People’s Justice Party of Malaysia, for the Fifteenth Annual Seymour Martin Lipset Lecture on Democracy in the World on February 11. The lecture outlined processes necessary for “Confronting Authoritarianism.”

Once it was conventional wisdom to assume that social media would enable greater access to information, facilitate collective organizing, and empower civil society. Now, these platforms are seen as contributing to society’s ills. Writing for the International Forum’s Power 3.0 Blog, Ron Deibert discusses “Social Media and Democracy: Three Painful Truths” and what they mean for the future of liberal democratic practices.

Also writing for Power 3.0, Nick Monaco’s  “Using Research to Uncover State-Sponsered Harassment Online” assesses the threat of state-sponsored trolling and explores strategies for solving the problem of disinformation and protecting journalists.

The V-Dem Institute published two thematic reports: “Accountability in Southeast Asia & Southeast Africa” and “Women’s Rights and Political Empowerment in Benin, Bolivia, Malawi, and Morocco.”



The Centre for Development and Enterprise (South Africa) published a report titled “Making South Africa More Labour Intensive,” which examines why South African economic activity is not more labor-intensive despite a high unemployment rate in the country.

Afrobarometer’s Round 7 public opinion survey in Liberia found mixed perceptions of a democracy in evolution and that a majority of Liberians approve of President Weah’s performance since he assumed office but rate the government poorly on economic management.

Afrobarometer‘s inaugural survey in The Gambia reveals that citizens want perpetrators of human rights abuses during Jammeh’s era to be tried in court, a majority think the government is performing well in the fight against corruption, and that almost six in 10 citizens have considered emigrating.

Afrobarometer’s survey in Cape Verde shows that a majority of citizens oppose granting visa exemptions to EU passport holders, which many fear will increase crime.

In Ghana, Afrobarometer’s 2017 survey data show that popular support for a free media has dropped sharply in Ghana.

Sierra Leoneans are split on whether dual citizens should be allowed to vote according to Afrobarometer.

The Center for Democracy and Development – West Africa published a report on “Statelessness: Identity and Citizenship,” which offers a comprehensive overview of some of the key issues that continue to shape discourses about nationality and legal identity in the region and examines how the crisis manifests itself in countries such as Ghana, Sierra-Leone, and other countries.

During a February 14 discussion, International Forum Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow George Sarpong examined the approaches to digital migration in Africa, explained the legal and regulatory fault lines, and explored how migration strategies could undermine democratic principles if governments, civil society, and the international community do not address fundamental policy questions. He delved further into the topic in his Q&A on “Defending Media Freedom During Ghana’s Digital Migration.”

China’s communications technology giant Huawei has invested more than $1 billion USD in countries across Africa. In his Power 3.0 Blog post, “The Imitation Game: Will China’s Investments Reshape Africa’s Internet?” Emeka Umejei discusses the extent to which these investments may contribute to the replication of an authoritarian model of Internet governance with adverse consequences for democracy, freedom of expression, and human rights.



The East Asia Institute (South Korea) published a working paper titled “Civic Engagement between MP and their Regional Community.”

In his Power 3.0 Blog post, “India’s Interest in a Democratic Indo-Pacific,” Constantino Xavier discusses the consequences that the simultaneous rise of a democratic India and an authoritarian China have for the future of democracy in Asia.



The Association for International Affairs (Czech Republic) published a working paper on “China’s Activities in 16+1: Pooling Knowledge and Sharing Lessons Learnt,” which examines China’s political and economic involvement in the 16+1 countries. The Association also published a working paper titled “Going Beyond the Anti-Refugee Rhetoric: A New Formula for Czech-Polish Relations,” which ‘argues that the anti-refugee symbolism that unites the Czech Republic and Poland in the EU does not lead to a strengthening of the two countries’ positions in European politics. On the contrary, it could lead either to isolation or a break-up of the Visegrad Group.’

The Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (Montenegro) released the results of its second annual poll on “Political Public Opinion of Montenegro.” The results reveal that citizens’ confidence in the Government and other institutions has declined since last year.

The Institute for Public Affairs (Slovakia), along with the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung, published a book titled Phantom Menace: The Politics and Policies of Migration in Central Europe. The book analyzes the socio-economic aspects of migration, the integration of migrants and refugees, and domestic political aspects of the migration and refugee issue.

The Prague Security Studies Institute (PSSI, Czech Republic) published a series of briefing papers presenting the results of ongoing research within the project “Western Balkans at the Crossroads: Assessing Non-Democratic External Influence Activities.” While the first paper provided background on the project topic, each of the following papers focuses on a specific area in which influence activities of Russia, China, Turkey and the Gulf states take place: politicseconomicsculture and religion, and media and elections.

PSSI also contributed to a new “Guide to Critical Thinking,” created within the framework of the project “Mythbusters.” The chief aim of the publication is to provide practical examples and offer useful recommendations on how to recognize manipulation in the digital age.

Writing for the Power 3.0 Blog, Peter Kreko’s “Conformation Bias: Political Tribalism as a Driver of Disinformation” argues that disinformation and conspiracy theories are spreading more widely and quickly in Poland and Hungary because they serve as important weapons in tribal war, going against the persistent belief in propaganda and conspiracy theories as a consequence of personal cognitive failings and shortcomings.

During a January 24 event on “The Struggle to Achieve Public Media Reform in Ukraine,” veteran journalist and International Forum Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow Kyrylo Loukerenko discussed the role of public media in Ukraine’s democracy and the challenges it faces in becoming a strong and stable institution. He offers further details in his Q&A on “Public Service Media as a Model for a New Ukraine.”



The Center for the Opening and Development of Latin America (CADAL, Argentina) released its 2018 Annual Report, along with an article on “A Dubious Referendum on a (Slightly) Revised Constitution Shows Growing Opposition to the Revolution in Cuba.”

The Latin American Public Opinion Project at Vanderbilt University (United States) published a report by Julia Gabriel titled “Interested, Educated, and Alienated: Who Says Corruption is the Most Serious Problem Facing Their Country?” The report examines what type of Latin American citizens view corruption as the dominant problem facing their country. It finds that wealthy, educated men are more likely to identify with the issue.



In Tunisia, citizens say corruption continues to increase, and they consider it the third-most-important problem that the government needs to address, and a majority of Tunisia’s youth and highly educated have considered emigrating, according to Afrobarometer.

The Lebanese Center for Policy Studies published “Lebanon’s Parliamentary Election of 2018: Seats, Coalitions, and Candidate Profiles,” which aims to empirically assess the election’s fairness and competitiveness, as well as identify the characteristics of its coalitions.

In a February 26 discussion on “A Crisis of Legitimacy in the Islamic Republic of Iran Forty Years After the Revolution,” International Forum Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow Dr. Ladan Boroumand reflected on crucial phases that have defined Iran’s state-society dialectic, and brought to light the unprecedented cultural and ideological consequences of this dynamic. Using state violence as an indicator, she examined the diverse ideological and religious challenges faced by the Islamic regime of Iran.



During a December 11 event titled, “Is the Party Over? Youth, Political Parties and Elections in Georgia,” civil society activist and International Forum Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow Vera Gogokhia discussed the role of youth in the recent Georgian elections and considered the roots of the current disconnect between political parties and young people, and whether the gap can be bridged.



Stanford University’s Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law (United States) and the Hoover Institution published an article on “Chinese Influence and American Interests: Promoting Constructive Vigilance,” which highlights ways in which the Chinese government uses coercive or corrupting methods to interfere in the functioning of American civil and political life.


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