Democracy is facing a challenge to sustain as a form of government in the contemporary world. In 2008 economic crisis played a role in increasing the trust deficit on the national and global democratic institutions to explore and provide solutions to the challenges. The citizens in democracies are dependent on the leaders who blame elite and many voters rely on these speculative reports.
The policy of quick fixes is widely used to solve the problems of governance. The modern democratic system needs to balance between the mandate given to a leader and ensuring the rule of law. The leaders who have a majority claim they can topple systems and laws to serve their interests.
Generally, the populists along with their supporters are not in favor of the external influences and forces of globalization. The world has become interdependent and fluid. The democratic process has not benefited the working class but elite groups as well. According to experts, without active and educated voters it is difficult to develop a political culture. The system based on the principles of accountability and transparency is required to establish democracy as the form of government in the coming years. There is no viable alternative that seems to take the place of democracy.
Samuel Huntington predicted that democracy will spread from 1970s. It started with the Portuguese Revolution and ended with the Franco regime in Spain by the end of the Cold War. It has become as the most popular form of governance in the world. Similarly, the movements of democratization started in the Philippines and Sub-Saharan Africa. Democracy as a form of government will become a universal system. In the next decade, it will cause protests at China’s Tiananmen Square, in Russia, Serbia, Georgia, and Ukraine to topple the authoritarian regimes. But it is not the case anymore because democracy is facing a crisis in wake of strong autocratic governments in the world.
The global debt crisis of 2008 has played a major in decline of civil liberties and democratic values. The authoritarian regimes are challenged in the process of democratization. Democracy has gained the stronghold in China in form of new economic and political system with the help of the Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank. Iran adopts the norms of the international community by accepting restrictions on its nuclear weapons program. In Russia, Vladimir Putin is praised by politicians in Europe.
In Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan got elected through the referendum. The constitutional changes in Turkey are made to overhaul the electoral system of Turkey. The recent amendments will finish the office of the prime minister and president will have the power to make laws. If the referendum is successful, Erdoğan can become president for two terms till 2029 without any election. People in general are reluctant to protest against the anti-democratic moves of the present government due to the crackdown against those who were involved in recent coup in Turkey.
In Poland, the Law and Justice Party came to power in 2015 have made constitutional changes in the Supreme Court. It raises the question how the court’s neutrality will be ensured and to sustain as independent institution without getting influence from state power? The government is using power to control over state media and politicized the bureaucracy by appointing people on political affiliations. The public protests in Poland are not able to stop their government from adopting undemocratic norms in their country. The democracy is facing a serious threat for its survival and become a most stable form of government in the contemporary world.
The resentment in civil society has legitimacy, but it is not effective in all cases. A sense of anger and helplessness has increased over the potential of state institutions to resolve problems of governance. For example, US presidential election, Donald Trump, and Bernie Sanders represented the right and the left. They focused on interest groups including the corporate sector powerful lobbies that are strong in terms of their influence.
According to the Francis Fukuyama who argued in his essay “The End of History,” the government has become a technical process and failed to provide solutions. There are some moments of democracy that are new followers for liberal democracy including the Arab Spring, the Obama campaign of 2008, the Mateo Renzi in Italy or Alexis Tspiras in Greece. They wanted to bring positive change by promoting the equitable development. In terms of governance, they advocated technocracy. Liberal leaders except for Justin Trudeau have to face opposition. Another example is Angela Merkel, who after Barack Obama has a potential to become the leader of the liberal West. However, she is in power for around eleven years. Merkel is isolated if we compare it with the cases of Orbán, Trump, Erdoğan, and Putin in the contemporary power politics.
The weak position of the United States and its democratic allies at the international level has played the significant role in the decline of the democratic governments. Due to ineffective policies to deal with challenges related to governance. Furthermore, the decrease in the “hard power” or military might which is not effective in comparison to the soft power. The influence of soft power has the far-reaching effect and it is cost effective for small countries. The use of soft power has increased the stakes of small states in contemporary power equation of 21 century.
According to the recent article titled Authoritarianism Goes Global which explains how Russia, China, and other authoritarian countries have used the soft-power and multilateral coalitions like the Shanghai Cooperation Organization to change the global norms contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They have replaced the democratic norms with the state sovereignty and revival of nationalism. They have neutralized their civil society with restrictive NGO laws and banning the indigenous civil society groups in defending democratic norms at international level. To conclude, the crisis of democracy gains pace in wake of globalization and revive nationalism in contemporary world.
The story of Elysees Palace and nuclear deal with Iran
The paradoxical Macron game against a nuclear deal with Iran has reduced the credibility of Paris and its role in the international system.
Today, few speak of France as an independent player in the world, since after the end of the presidency, Jacques Chirac, all three current French presidents have become one of the White House actors in Europe. Emanuel Macron, the young and new president of France, also goes on to lead his ancestors. He was the main European politician who agreed to “change the nuclear deal with Iran” at the request of Trump. Macron, Trump and Netanyahu (prime minister of the occupying regime of Jerusalem) promised to meet all their demands for a nuclear deal. Undoubtedly, this French attitude was contrary to their obligations in the international system.
It was for the first time that the French President Emanuel Macron insisted that the nuclear deal could be amended in some parts, including Iran’s missile power and the introduction of new time limits (after 2025). During the meeting between Macron and Trump in New York (2017) and on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, France’s opposition to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and the Islamic Republic of Iran became more and more evident. In the joint project conducted by the White House and the Elysee Palace, the French are tasked with focusing on Iran’s missile power, providing the ground for simultaneous restriction of Iran’s nuclear and missile capabilities. In other words, Paris’ main goal here was to link Iran’s missile program to the JCPOA and turn the existing equation into a two-variable equation. In their latest position against Iran, the French have accused our country of violating United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231. The French authorities have also explicitly stated that the use of ballistic missiles by the Islamic Republic of Iran is unacceptable and that it should be negotiated with Tehran.
Today, after the departure of the United States of America from a nuclear deal with Iran, Macron continues to play its paradoxical game with Iran. He argued last week that a more complete agreement with Iran (including missile and regional concerns) would be inevitable. However, the French President during a meeting with the Russian president has emphasized the adherence to the current nuclear deal!
At a recent meeting between the Russian and French presidents, Putin stated:
“We can not make preserving the Iranian nuclear deal dependent on these three parameters because if we do, it means that we too are withdrawing from the accord because the deal that exists foresees no additional conditions.”
As Reuters reported, a Macron adviser hailed Putin’s comments as a “key” point of convergence between Paris and Moscow as the Trump administration urges its European allies to sever economic ties with Iran.
After talks that ran long over schedule, Macron and Trump entered the news conference looking relaxed and smiling. Macron acknowledged Paris and Moscow disagreed on a range of issues but called for “strong multilateralism”.
Another point is that in this equation, the main difference between the French and the American officials is the “tactic” employed by the White House and the Elysee Palace. Since the presidential campaigns of 2016, the JCPOA was called “the worst deal ever” by Trump and called for “changing” it or “withdraw” from it. However, the French have chosen the policy of “playing with ambiguous words”. The vocabulary used by the French authorities is wider than Americans in this regard: from “commitment to the JCPOA” to “completing the JCPOA”! Therefore, the French game is more complicated than that of the Americans. Many analysts of international affairs believe that France hasn’t played a transparent game considering the nuclear accord. Sometimes it is said that this lack of transparency is due to the French’s confusion over Iran’s nuclear deal, but by looking at the positions of the American and French officials towards the JCPOA, we can clearly see that they are trying to complete the same puzzle in opposition to Iran.
Ultimately, the actions of French President Emmanuel Macron and other officials of the country, in contrast to the nuclear deal, will never be a reminder of the Iranian nation. Obviously, in the event of a complete cancellation of the nuclear deal, there will be no difference between the presidents of the United States and France.
First published in our partner Mehr News Agency
US-EU possible soft tactic to contain Iran
The US withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) has created a new rounds of speculations about the three European major players’ (the UK, France and Germany) capabilities and abilities to keep the deal alive without the US.
Following the US President’s unilateral move to withdraw from the Iran’s Nuclear Deal, lots of diplomatic and political efforts have been made both by the European and Iranian officials to keep the internationally achieved deal alive.
Islamic Republic of Iran has announced that it will remain in the JCPOA just if the EU can guarantee Iran’s benefits and interests under the JCPOA in the absence of the US, otherwise Teharn will leave the deal, too.
Despite all measures taken and political promises made by the European sides to keep the JCPOA alive, over the past ten days many big EU firms and international companies have announced their decisions to stop their activities and operations in Iran including Total, Eni, Siemens, Airbus and Maersk.
Just couple of days after the US withdraw from the JCPOA, French gas and oil giant Total has announced that due to return of the US sanctions against Iran it has to pull out of Iranian Southern Pars oil field.
Italian oil giant Eni has also decided to abrogate its agreement with Iran to study oil and gas in Iran.
Maersk as the biggest shipping company in the world has announced that due to its vast activities in the US and to avoid possible US punishments, it will stop its activities in Iran.
Considering the limited capabilities and potentialities of the EU to challenge the US hegemony and also the fact that EU governments cannot force private sectors to work with Iran, it is not realistic to expect the EU to save the JCPOA.
As I mentioned in my previous writing, the possibility of job division between the US and EU to contain Iran should not be ignored.
All facts on the ground imply that all EU measures and promises to keep the JCPOA alive will only result in remaining of some small European companies in Iran. Big companies that can invest and transfer technology to Iran will leave Iran to avoid the US possible punishments. This possible soft and indirect US-EU tactic can help the joint goal of the US and EU to contain Iran.
By this tactic, firstly the EU can buy time and contain Iran so that not to leave the JCPOA. Secondly, the EU will pave the way for selling of its products and services in Iran’s market without investment and transferring technology. Thirdly, Iran’s incomes and revenues will be limited which Americans and the Europeans consider it as a good soft and indirect way to increase pressure on Iran to limit Iran’s regional influence and missile capability.
First published in our partner Mehr News Agency
Internally weak EU cannot be strong international player
Commenting on the EU capabilities to protect its interests against the US unilateralism, Italian political science professor, Dr. Pastori Gianluca believes that an internally weak EU cannot be a strong international player.
The US president’s decision to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) despite the US key European allies’ opposition has raised so many questions about the global weight of the EU.
Despite many promises from EU key states to keep the JCPOA alive without the US, many believe even if the EU decides to do so the block won’t be able to challenge the US President’s decision due to its internal disunity and limitations. The issue was discussed with political science associated professor of Milan Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Dr. Pastori Gianluca.
How can the EU protect the right of its companies working and investing in Iran? Is it feasible?
European companies have always had good economic relations with Iran and these relations have grown even stronger in the last few years. I do not think that this attitude will really change in the coming months. In the past, the US already adopted secondary sanctions against countries investing in Iran (e.g. with the ‘Iran and Libya Sanctions Act’ in 1996), but their impact on the behaviour of foreign investors was quite limited. At that time, even some US companies managed to bypass the sanctions operating through foreign branches. Moreover, US-EU relations are currently quite tense, also due to the US will to introduce tariffs on European export. For this reasons, I think that, while the European governments will take a low profile in face of new US sanctions, on the political level they will keep on supporting their national presence in Iran.
Despite being an economic superpower, the EU is not able to protect its interest against the US unilateralism in recent year. Why?
The main problem is that the EU still faces difficulties in transforming its economic power into political power. Traditionally, the EU has been quite effective in promoting and protecting the economic interests of its members but has been far less effective in the political filed. There are many reasons to explain this state of things. As an economic community, the EU exists since 1957, when the European Economic Community was established, while the political union is far more recent. Moreover, the different member states have different visions of the international system and different interests to pursue. Finally, many of them are very jealous of their own sovereignty in international matters and are not ready to submit this kind of matters to a meaningful coordination or – even more — to subordinate them to a common foreign and defence policy.
The EU officials have talked about independent EU over the recent years. Considering the existing facts and EU potentialities, how feasible is it? What are the obstacles to this end?
The EU is currently facing one of the most difficult phases in its history. Anti-European parties are gaining strength in several member states, while the results of the referendum held in 2016 on the exit of the UK from the Union (‘Brexit’) have shown that integration is a reversible process. In the long term, this is the main problem that the EU has to face to affirm its international role. An internally weak EU cannot be a strong international player. At the same time, the development of a strong international profile can help to re-launch the European project, showing to the member states that the EU can be helpful even in the political field. Worth noting, since 2017, several countries are striving to implement a more effective common security and defence policy, largely due to Donald Trump’s proclaimed will to reduce the US engagement in Europe.
First published in our partner Mehr News Agency
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