30 June 2010

Trend: Democracy declines in former Soviet Union and new EU states

Freedom House, a US organization advocating democracy around the world, and Freedom House Europe, its regional hub based in Hungary, yesterday released their "Nations in Transit 2010" report:


From the press release: "In a sign of broad, cross-regional pressures on democratic development, countries throughout the former Soviet Union and Central and Eastern Europe suffered declines in their democratic institutions [...]. The democracy scores for 14 of the 29 countries examined in Nations in Transit worsened in 2009 compared with the previous year. In the former Soviet Union, six countries saw an erosion in their overall score. Six new European Union member states also experienced declines, with two countries in the Balkans accounting for the remainder. By contrast, only five countries covered by the survey registered improvements. The findings in this year's edition cap a decade in which all of the countries in the former Soviet Union save one suffered declines in democratic accountability. Russia experienced the single largest overall deterioration during this 10-year period. [...]

"At the close of the decade, and 20 years after the end of the Cold War, nearly 80 percent of residents of the former Soviet Union – some 221 million people – still live under entrenched authoritarian regimes [...]. Amid pressures that included economic recession and rising nationalism, a number of new EU member states suffered declines. Slovakia experienced the sharpest downturn, with its scores falling in five of seven categories. Hungary's ratings fell in three categories [...]. Over the past five years, eight of the ten new EU states have undergone declines in their overall democracy scores."

29 June 2010

CFP: Breakdowns of Democracy Revisited

12th Mediterranean Research Meeting of the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, European University Institute (EUI), Florence and Montecatini Terme, Italy, 6-9 April 2011

Call for papers for Workshop 7: "Breakdowns of Democracy Revisited: Transitions from Liberal-Democratic to Authoritarian Regimes around the Mediterranean Littoral"


From the workshop description: "Studies of democratization have matured greatly over the last two decades [...]. Nevertheless, early expectations that new democracies would survive and flourish have run up against significant cases in which political reform has quickly stalled out or regressed to liberalized authoritarian rule. This development has opened the door to systematic investigations of the circumstances under which initial liberalization programs have failed to gain momentum, most notably in Tunisia and Jordan. Such studies raise the crucial question of whether democratization can be assumed to move in only one direction. History suggests that liberal democracies on occasion collapse and get replaced by highly illiberal regimes. Classic cases of democratic breakdown include Italy in the early 1920s and Germany a decade later.

"Less fully investigated are parallel instances of democratic collapse in Spain, Greece and Turkey. Completely ignored are countries whose brief liberal-democratic eras have been overlooked by political scientists and historians. A number of important examples of the transition away from liberal democracy can be found in the MENA [Middle East and North Africa region]. Among these stand Egypt, Syria, Iraq and perhaps even Libya, not to mention the aborted transition to illiberal governance in Lebanon of the late 1950s. Focused comparisons between well-studied episodes of the breakdown of liberal political orders along the northern shores of the Mediterranean and largely overlooked instances to the south and east are certain to enhance our understanding of the causal factors and processes that lead democracies to be supplanted by authoritarian regimes.

"Scholarship on the topic has lain virtually dormant since the late 1970s. [...] This workshop proposes not only to bring a wide range of additional, long-overlooked cases into the literature on democratic collapse but also to begin the crucial task of formulating well-structured comparisons across different empirical examples. Contributions which focus on countries that have so far been ignored in the academic literature, particularly ones situated in the MENA region, will be expected to make reference to analyses of better-studied examples. Given the peculiarities of the German model, the organizers anticipate that the experience of Italy during the first two decades of the twentieth century is likely to prove particularly thought-provoking, and would therefore welcome proposals from specialists in Italian history and politics. Contributions intended primarily to advance the theory of liberal-democratic breakdown are certainly encouraged, but will be expected to rest on a firm empirical foundation.

"Liberal experiments in the MENA during the 1920s and 1930s are routinely dismissed as too imperfect to be included in discussions of the structure, workings and transformation of democratic governance. The workshop organizers firmly reject such dismissiveness toward the variety of party-based, electoral systems that one finds throughout the Arab world in the decades before the wave of military-led revolutions washed across the region. Instead, they hope that detailed explorations of the liberal-democratic moment in the MENA, unbiased by what E.P. Thompson might call 'the enormous condescension of posterity,' will offer new insight into the dynamics of politics in this part of the world, while at the same time reinvigoring conceptual debates about the dynamics of democratization on the basis of evidence drawn from all shores of the Mediterranean."

Please find detailed instructions on how to submit a paper proposal for this workshop on the conference website (see particularly full call for papers and online form). The procedures and requirements are uncommonly stringent.

Deadline: 15 July 2010

Only for workshop-related questions, contact directly the workshop directors, Fred Lawson (Mills College, California): lawson@mills.edu
and Abdelwahab Shaker (Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Egypt): abdelwahab.shaker@bibalex.org

27 June 2010

Article: China: Our Internet is Free Enough

On 16 June 2010, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's "Technology Review" published on its website an article titled "China: Our Internet is Free Enough", written by Chief Correspondent David Talbot.

The full text of the article can be read free of charge here:


Excerpts: "China, with the most Internet users of any country in the world, has issued its first government whitepaper declaring an overall Internet strategy – one that advocates Internet growth while implicitly defending censorship policies amid global concern over online repression and China-based cyber espionage. 'I think this whitepaper is a statement that the Chinese Communist Party intends to stay in power, and also intends to expand Internet access, and be on the cutting edge of Internet innovation, and that there isn't any contradiction in any of those things,' says Rebecca MacKinnon, a China Internet expert who is a visiting fellow at Princeton University's Center for Information Technology Policy. [...]

"[T]he Beijing whitepaper makes a bold assertion: 'Chinese citizens fully enjoy freedom of speech on the Internet.' Left unstated is that Chinese Internet companies are under government pressure to self-censor, and do so very effectively on a slate of banned topics, including advocacy of democracy [...]. 'Frankly, I think China is Exhibit A for how authoritarianism will survive the Internet age,' MacKinnon says. 'I think Americans have this assumption that nondemocratic regimes can't survive the Internet, and I think that's naïve. The Chinese Communist Party fully intends to survive in the Internet age and has a strategy for doing so. So far, it's working.'"

26 June 2010

Book: Marketing Dictatorship: Propaganda and Thought Work in Contemporary China

Anne-Marie Brady, "Marketing Dictatorship: Propaganda and Thought Work in Contemporary China" (Rowman & Littlefield, 2007):


Publisher's description: "China's government is no longer a Stalinist-Maoist dictatorship, yet it does not seem to be moving significantly closer to democracy as it is understood in Western terms. After a period of self-imposed exclusion, Chinese society is in the process of a massive transformation in the name of economic progress and integration into the world economy. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is seeking to maintain its rule over China indefinitely, creating yet another 'new' China. Propaganda and thought work play a key role in this strategy. In this important book, noted China scholar Anne-Marie Brady answers some intriguing questions about China's contemporary propaganda system. Why have propaganda and thought work strengthened their hold in China in recent years? How has the CCP government strengthened its power since 1989 when so many analysts predicted otherwise? How does the CCP maintain its monopoly on political power while dismantling the socialist system? How can the government maintain popular support in China when the uniting force of Marxist-Leninist-Maoist ideology is spent and discredited? What has taken the place of communist ideology? Examining propaganda and thought work in the current period offers readers a unique understanding of how the CCP will address real and perceived threats to stability and its continued hold on power. This innovative book is a must-read for everyone interested in China's growing role in the world community."

Reviews: "Anne-Marie Brady has written a timely book about the Chinese media. She has done much to demystify an understudied topic. [...] Brady's work deserves much admiration." (Ashley Esarey, "The China Journal")

"[T]he surface diversity of the Chinese media hides the guiding hand of a high-level Party office in Beijing called the Central Propaganda Department, which works its will across the whole spectrum of activities in media, education, entertainment – [...] what Brady calls a campaign of mass distraction." ("New Republic")

The book is fully searchable on Google Book Search (including table of contents):


Anne-Marie Brady is Associate Professor in the School of Social and Political Science at the University of Canterbury.

24 June 2010

Article: Somali rebel leader urges fight against democracy

Reuters Africa today posted an article online, written by its own Hussein Ali Noor, under the title "Somali rebel leader urges fight against democracy".

The full text of the article can be read free of charge here:


Excerpts: "Islamist al Shabaab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane has urged Somalis to reject 'the Devil's principles' of democracy, just several days ahead of elections in the breakaway Somaliland region. 'The reality is that democracy is something Allah made unlawful, and someone else cannot make it lawful,' the reclusive leader, also known as Sheik Mukhtar Abdirahman [or Abu Zubeyr], said. [...] Abu Zubeyr urged Muslims in an audio recording on the Internet to move away from areas that tried to build democracy. [...] 'If people fight ... till everyone is killed, that is much easier than legalising the devil's principles such as constitutions or making a ruler who governs against Allah's laws,' he said. Abu Zubeyr did not mention Somaliland specifically, but analysts said the timing of the message showed that it was intended to frighten people away from polling stations. [...] Somaliland police have arrested dozens of men linked to al Shabaab rebels in the last two weeks [...]."

22 June 2010

Article: Turkey, from Ally to Enemy

Michael Rubin's article "Turkey, from Ally to Enemy" will be published in the July/August 2010 issue of the neoconservative American-Jewish monthly magazine "Commentary". The article has already been put up online.

The full text of the article can be read free of charge here:


Excerpts: "Turkey has changed. Gone, and gone permanently, is secular Turkey, a unique Muslim country that straddled East and West and that even maintained a cooperative relationship with Israel. Today Turkey is an Islamic republic whose government saw fit to facilitate the May 31 flotilla raid on Israel's blockade of Gaza. Turkey is now more aligned to Iran than to the democracies of Europe. [...] The story of Turkey's Islamic revolution is illuminating. It is the story of a charismatic leader with a methodical plan to unravel a system, a politician cynically using democracy to pursue autocracy [...]. For Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, it is a dream come true. For the next generation of American presidents, diplomats, and generals, it is a disaster. [...]

"Mustafa Kemal Ataturk founded the Republic of Turkey and [...] charged the army with defending the state from those who would use Islam to subvert democracy. [...] Erdogan's strategy was multi-tiered. He endorsed the dream of Turkey's secular elite to enter the European Union but only to rally European diplomats to dilute the role of the Turkish military as guardians of the constitution. [...] His ideological constituents had no interest in Europe, and Erdogan himself is intolerant of European liberalism and secularism. [...] He sought to revolutionize education, dominate the judiciary, take over the police, and control the media. Erdogan worked to achieve not short-term gains on hot-button issues like the headscarf but rather a long-term cultural revolution that, when complete, would render past battles moot. [...]

"The real coup against democracy, however, came on July 14, 2008, when a Turkish prosecutor indicted 86 Turkish figures – retired military officers, prominent journalists, professors, unionists, civil-society activists [...] – on charges of plotting a coup to restore secular government. [...] The indictments had a chilling effect across society. Turks may not like where Erdogan is taking Turkey, but they now understand that even peaceful dissent will have a price. [...] Nor can liberal Turks rely on the Turkish military to save them. Bashed from the religious right and the progressive left, the Turkish military is a shadow of its former self. [...] A decade ago, Turks saw themselves in a camp with the United States, Western Europe, and Israel; today Turkish self-identity places the country firmly in a camp led by Iran, Syria, Sudan, and Hamas. Turkey may be a NATO member, but polls nevertheless show it to be the world's most anti-American country [...].

"Many diplomats and journalists inserted into this situation their own disdain for any military, let alone Turkey's, and embraced a facile dichotomy in which Islamism and democracy represented one pole, while the military, secularism, and fascism represented the other. Hence, they saw the AKP [Erdogan's Justice and Development Party] as democratic reformers, while the military became defenders of an anti-democratic order. Certainly, the healthiest democracies have no room for the military in domestic politics, but by cheering the AKP as it unraveled the military's role in upholding the constitution without simultaneously constructing another check on unconstitutional behavior, the European Union and Western diplomats paved the way for Erdogan's soft dictatorship. [...] As mayor of Istanbul, Erdogan quipped, 'Democracy is like a streetcar. When you come to your stop, you get off.' Perhaps, in hindsight, the West's mistake was to ignore the danger of Erdogan's ascendance into the driver's seat."

Michael Rubin is a Senior Lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School's Center for Civil-Military Relations and a Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

19 June 2010

Journal "Internationale Politik" on "The False Glamour of Dictatorship" (in German)

The May/June 2010 issue of the German foreign policy journal "Internationale Politik" ("International Politics"), published by the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP), is dedicated to the theme "Der falsche Glanz der Diktatur" ("The False Glamour of Dictatorship"; my translation).

Those able to read German can find a table of contents and some articles accessible free of charge here:


This journal special issue has been reviewed in English, on 15 June 2010, in an unsigned article titled "A Bit of Dictatorship" on the "Information on German Foreign Policy" website, a news and opinion site "compiled by a group of independent journalists and social scientists".

The full text of the review article can be read free of charge here:


Excerpts: "Foreign policy specialists from Berlin's establishment are discussing possible advantages of dictatorial forms of government. According to the current issue of a leading German foreign policy review, some observers see the West as being currently in a 'state of democratic fatigue with an erosion of democratic institutions.' Simultaneously there are 'diverse discussions of dictatorial powers and measures' even if usually in terms of a temporary dictatorship. They see as the primary question, whether 'beyond the system of rule of law, legitimacy reserves can be tapped' to 'rejuvenate the system (– democracy –) that has grown old' [...], a terminology used in the 1930s by the key Nazi jurist, Carl Schmitt[,] to justify the annulment of the [Weimar] democratic constitution. [...] [S]ome business representatives are in no way adverse to authoritarian measures and are questioning whether 'the constitutional state can still hold its own' in the competition of systems against China and Russia. [...] [A] 'spreading discomfort with democracy' provides 'a certain seductiveness for a flirt with dictatorships.'"

15 June 2010

Article: "Democracy could disappear" in Greece, Spain, and Portugal, warns Barroso

The UK newspaper "Daily Mail" yesterday published an article online, by its political correspondent Jason Groves, titled "Nightmare vision for Europe as EU chief warns 'democracy could disappear' in Greece, Spain and Portugal".

The full text of the article can be read free of charge here:


Excerpts: "Democracy could 'collapse' in Greece, Spain and Portugal unless urgent action is taken to tackle the debt crisis, the head of the European Commission has warned. In an extraordinary briefing to trade union chiefs last week, Commission President Jos[é] Manuel Barroso set out an 'apocalyptic' vision in which crisis-hit countries in southern Europe could fall victim to military coups or popular uprisings as interest rates soar and public services collapse because their governments run out of money. [...] John Monks, former head of the TUC [UK Trades Union Congress], said he had been 'shocked' by the severity of the warning from Mr Barroso, who is a former prime minister of Portugal. Mr Monks, now head of the European TUC, said: '[...] [H]is message was blunt: "Look, if they do not carry out these austerity packages, these countries could virtually disappear in the way that we know them as democracies. They've got no choice, this is it." [...]'

"Greece, Spain and Portugal, which only became democracies in the 1970s, are all facing dire problems with their public finances. All three countries have a history of military coups. [...] Mr Barroso's warning lays bare the concern at the highest level in Brussels that the economic crisis could lead to the collapse of not only the beleaguered euro, but the EU itself, along with a string of fragile democracies. [...] Mr Monks yesterday warned that the new austerity measures themselves could take the continent 'back to the 1930s'. In an interview with the Brussels-based magazine EU Observer he said: 'This is extremely dangerous. This is 1931, we're heading back to the 1930s, with the Great Depression and we ended up with militarist dictatorship. I'm not saying we're there yet, but it's potentially very serious, not just economically, but politically as well.'"

I can't figure out whether the article appeared in print today.

14 June 2010

Booklet: Should Christians Vote?

Christians against democracy: David C. Pack is the author of the booklet "Should Christians Vote?", published in 2008 by the North America-based Restored Church of God, which operates a worldwide online ministry.

The booklet is available free of charge here:


Excerpts: "You may have supposed that the governments of modern nations generally reflect God's way. This is almost everyone's assumption. Yet, while God does, in fact, establish and remove nations, this is not His world! [...] Christ would not vote, because He understands the origin of the governments of this world and who is behind them. [...] This world, with its ways and systems, is controlled by the devil! [...] Not only does Satan govern the kingdoms of this world, through his power and influence, but he also does it in an undivided, unified fashion with the aid of hundreds of millions [...] of demons. [...] Together they deceive, confuse and exert far-reaching influence over all the governments and activities on earth. [...]

"Christians never participate in the governments of this world [...]. It is not God's purpose that the 'better' people win. God determines the winners in advance. In the end, the 'will of the people' has no power or effect, because God is in charge of the outcome of elections. [...] For instance, what if true Christians are actively voting in Europe as the final beast of Revelation 17 arises? This great military, political, religious power is prophesied to come soon – and is already rising! By voting, Christians would literally be participating in establishing the final world-dominating counterfeit government foretold to deceive the world and fight Christ at His Return! [...]

"The practices of favoritism, endless debates and arguments, bribes, lust for power, corruption, lying and deceit, scandals and cover-ups, greed, exploitation, aggression, intense and relentless accusation, inefficiency, vanity, decisions based on polls, voter apathy, strife and back-stabbing are just some of the fruits of democracy [...]! Democratic politics are shot full of division and disagreement, over nearly every issue that any society might face. [...] Study the Bible from Genesis to Revelation and you will not find a single instance where an election was used to select a leader. Nowhere in the Bible can you find people electing leaders – and the Bible is the pattern that Christians are supposed to follow in all matters. [...] God's Word neither authorizes nor reflects any kind of pattern of voting. [...]

"Christ understood the corrupting nature of self-exaltation! He sees through the guise of phony 'concern' for the people whose votes these 'leaders' must get and/or retain to be in office. [...] To participate in a system in which men exalt themselves, in the seeking of high office, is to endorse – to validate – to agree with – a corrupt system, with terrible fruit, emphasizing vanity and pride. Democracy is completely opposite to what God expects of all people when He commands them to humble themselves! [...] Christians participating in the governments of Satan's world, through voting, [...] is far more serious than most realize. It is disloyalty – a form of spiritual fornication and spiritual treason – to the government of God and His complete authority over a Christian's life."

David C. Pack is Pastor General of the Restored Church of God, with headquarters in Wadsworth, Ohio, USA.

13 June 2010

Article: Israeli Post-Democracy: Origins and Prospects

Keith Kahn-Harris and Joel Schalit are the authors of an article titled "Israeli Post-Democracy: Origins and Prospects", published on 10 June 2010 on the pro-democracy news and opinion website openDemocracy.net.

The full text of the article can be read free of charge here:


Excerpts: "'The middle east's only democracy'. [...] This profound sense of itself as a democracy, which by that token makes the country an exception in the region, is woven into Israelis' self-perception. This makes it all the more painful for many Israelis to feel obliged to lament that the country's political character is now seriously threatened and that its democratic political institutions and culture are in effect under siege. It is even harder for them to confront the reality that as the repressive nature of Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories is increasingly exposed to the light, Israel's government has begun to treat sections of its own Jewish citizenry as it does Palestinians. True, the project of settling the West Bank (and until the withdrawal of 2005, Gaza) has always carried dangers for Israeli democracy within the 'green line' that demarcated Israel proper from the territories it conquered in 1967. The central conceits of the settlement project [...] rely on the false supposition that Israeli democracy could avoid being undermined by a fundamentally non-democratic project imposed on its closest neighbours. [...]

"Alarm about the corrosive effects of colonial occupation on Israel has long been expressed by intellectuals, radicals and jeremiahs (such as the late Yeshayahu Leibowitz); but its spread can be measured in the way that even establishment political figures (such as Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert most recently) have publicly stated that without disengagement from Palestinian territory, Israel cannot remain a democracy. [...] [A] rightist [government] coalition led by Binyamin Netanyahu's Likud [...] seeks to hold onto the maximum possible number of West Bank settlements and contains figures with explicitly anti-democratic instincts. [...] These developments in themselves do not suggest that Israel inside the green line will, any time soon, dispense with elections or become a dictatorship. However, there is a real possibility that this Israel may drift into a kind of 'post-democracy' (in Colin Crouch's term): imposing restrictions on civil rights and the rights of minorities, the media and NGOs, in a way that erodes the checks and balances on the Israeli state. Israel would become a different kind of polity, one that in key respects might resemble Vladimir Putin's Russia or (at best) Silvio Berlusconi's Italy. [...]

"Even if Israel did fully withdraw to the green line, the 'post-democratic' tendencies that have been set in motion cannot now easily be stalled. The reason is in part because the tendencies pushing Israel towards post-democracy are connected to more than the settlement project; they are also the product of possibilities that have long been inherent within Zionism. [...] Zionism, in important ways comparable to other nationalisms even if the details differ, sought to create a national Hebrew culture forged out of the disparate Jewish diaspora, and to erect a state for Jews. [...] The strength of Israeli civil society has provided a powerful bulwark against the ever-present possibility that Israel would devolve into openly racist authoritarianism. In the post-democratic era, this bulwark is being eroded. Zionism is being reduced to a retrograde 'statism' that seeks only to build state power, and is suspicious of any counterweights. [...] Israel's political horizons were in historical terms always more limited than they once appeared, but [...] it has taken the rise of anti-democratic forces to national leadership for everyone, including Israelis, to figure this out."

Keith Kahn-Harris is an Honorary Research Fellow in the Centre for Religion and Contemporary Society at Birkbeck College, University of London.

Israeli-American Joel Schalit is a book author and editor based in Berlin, Germany.

10 June 2010

CONF: American Political Science Association annual meeting 2010

106th Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association (APSA), Washington, DC, USA, 2-5 September 2010


The programme of this year's APSA meeting features a panel on "Democratic Ethics in a Post-Democratic World", organized by APSA's "Normative Political Theory" section (2 September, 4.15 pm). The participants are Stephen Macedo (Princeton), Melissa A. Orlie (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign), Nancy L. Rosenblum (Harvard), and Ian Shapiro (Yale).

Also of interest, but unfortunately scheduled at the same time: The panel "Women, Authoritarianism, and Conflict", organized by APSA's "Comparative Politics" section and "Comparative Politics of Developing Countries" division, includes a paper by Dara Kay Cohen (University of Minnesota) and Amelia Hoover Green (Yale), "Are Non-Democracies Better for Women in Wartime? Regime Type, Sexual Violence, and Conflict" (2 September, 4.15 pm).

Further information and the full programme are to be found on APSA's website.

09 June 2010

Book: Freedom of Speech and Incitement Against Democracy

The (expensive) contributed volume "Freedom of Speech and Incitement Against Democracy" was edited by David Kretzmer and Francine Kershman Hazan and is based on papers presented at a 1996 conference organized by the Minerva Center for Human Rights at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the German Friedrich Ebert Foundation (Kluwer Law International, 2000):


Back cover description: "While the protection of political speech is essential to the preservation of a democratic legal order, events of political violence and assassinations highlight the need to rethink questions relating to the boundaries of free speech in a democratic society. To what extent should democratic countries committed to freedom of speech limit those forms of extreme speech that may be considered as incitement to violence? This is a question that has long divided academics and activists alike. It has become even more relevant today, with the recent rise of extreme right-wing parties in various European democracies. In this book, leading scholars of constitutional law, human rights and criminal law, from various countries with divergent philosophies on freedom of speech, address the question of whether we can, and should, regulate speech in order to protect democracy and, if so, how."

The book is fully searchable on Google Book Search (including table of contents):


David Kretzmer is now Louis Marshall Professor Emeritus of Environmental Law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Francine Kershman Hazan was, at the time of publication, Executive Director of the Minerva Center for Human Rights. She appears now to hold another administrative position at the Hebrew University.

07 June 2010

Transcript: Condemnation of the Democratic Process, Voting, and the Islamic Stances on these Issues

"Condemnation of the Democratic Process, Voting, and the Islāmic Stances on these Issues" is the English translation of the transcript of an undated, but fairly recent Arabic audio recording of Shaykh Abū Qatādah 'Umar Ibn Mahmūd Abū 'Umar Al-Filastīnī (also: Abu Qatada [al-Filastini], Abū-Omar, or Omar Mahmoud [Mohammed] Othman/Uthman), the Jordanian-born presumed former spiritual leader of al-Qaeda in Europe currently imprisoned in the United Kingdom, being interviewed by At-Tibyān Publications, an online organization accused of spreading terrorist propaganda in the West.

The transcript can be downloaded free of charge here:


Excerpts: "[E]lections are [...] an ideology [....] The meaning of an election is that I am satisfied with this one (individual) as a representative for me in expressing my will in declaring something to be Halāl [permitted] or Harām [forbidden], here in the legislation. And this, as it is clear, is in opposition to [...] the will of the Muslim who says 'I render myself obedient to Allāh [...]'. In other words, I do not accept anyone, in this issue, the legislation, I do not accept a legislator except Allāh. I do not accept as a ruler over me, (and) a ruler, not in the meaning of ruling in the meaning of implementation, but a ruler in the meaning of the right to issue commands, except Allāh. [...] But for, for you to vote for this one to be a god for you, then this is another issue, as you see, it differs with complete difference [...], because if you chose him as a ruler for you then you would have disbelieved."

Another, related At-Tibyān Publications title: "The Doubts Regarding the Ruling of Democracy In Islām" is a booklet whose author(s)
remain(s) anonymous, dated June 2004.

The booklet is (as of now) available free of charge here:


Excerpts: "Democracy [...] is a system, which is at odds with the very essence of Allāh's exclusive right of legislation and as such it steps outside the mere disobedience of Allāh into the realm of Shirk [idolatry], in that it seeks to elevate mankind to the level of the Legislator (i.e. Allāh). [...] And because the people are the ones who select the laws, by means of their representatives, these laws are based upon what the people wish and they are in accordance with the desires of the majority, rather than what Allāh has revealed. [...] And for this reason, Allāh, the Most High, referred to any person or system that does not rule by what Allāh has revealed, as a 'Tāghūt' (i.e. false deity) [...]. And if we conclude that these Members of Parliament commit Shirk and Kufr [disbelief] by legislating laws besides Allāh, then what would be said about the people who elect them for this job, knowing that this candidate will be engaging in the formation of man-made laws on behalf of the people who elect him?"

Two harmless texts.

06 June 2010

Trend: Enemies of democracy have become stronger due to economic crisis, says Aznar

On 27 May 2010, the Geneva-based non-governmental organization UN Watch awarded its first Guardian of Freedom Award to the conservative former Spanish Prime Minister, José Maria Aznar:


In his acceptance speech, titled "Leadership on the World Stage", Aznar said: "There is a widespread feeling of crisis and confusion in the face of some new and complex phenomena. Old problems have not disappeared and yet new ones are arising. [...] In my view, they are the economic crisis, the threats to global security and the challenges to democracy and human rights worldwide. I firmly believe that the three of them are interconnected and that all of them have in common the fact that liberal democracy is at stake. [...] It should not come as a surprise if the enemies of free and open societies take advantage of this situation. It is not by chance that those who oppose the free-market economy end up criticizing the principles and values that underpin liberal democracy. The authoritarian forces and the enemies of democracy have become stronger in the last year and half. Our current crisis emboldens the enemies of freedom; emboldens those who do not believe in liberty, market economy, democracy or equality [...]. It is also worrisome to see the growing alliance of authoritarian regimes and theocratic tyrannies around the world. We should pay more attention to what is going on in Latin America, where old dictatorships and their new disciples are taking advantage of our weaknesses to advance on their populist and socialist agendas."

05 June 2010

Article: Celebrating eleven years of democradura

Abba Gana Shettima's op-ed article "Celebrating eleven years of democradura" was published on 4 June in the Nigerian national daily newspaper "Daily Trust".

The full text of the article can be read free of charge here:


Excerpts: "A year after Nigeria returned to democratic rule in 1999, The Economist [...] narrated, in murky details, the tribulations confronting Africa. These range from natural disasters to the social plague of 'tribalism', and the failure of democracy and leadership, all combining to produce 'shell states'. According to the magazine, 'Democracy does not have much to offer Africa. Democracies are no more stable than dictatorships ... The African ruler finds himself trapped. He wants power and control; but the outside world makes demands about democracy, human rights and good governance [...]'. What the Economist did not contemplate was that Africa, or at least some parts of Africa, such as Nigeria could have the scientific ingenuity to clone their own breed of democracy. Nigeria, 'the giant of Africa' is leading the way in this social and political revolution of the 21st century. The trade mark of the Made in Nigeria Democracy is first and foremost the negation of the very principle of democracy. [...]

"In Nigerian democracy, elections are secondary, if at all important. Elections are conducted simply to mask the political thievery with a moral garment. Since 1999, Nigerian elections at all levels have been a sham. [...] Perhaps, the root of all the election malpractice in the country can be traced to the influence of money in the whole electoral process. Beginning from the level of party primaries to the actual elections, money is the magic that buys and shifts alliances. In Nigeria's cash and carry democracy, everybody has a price – ranging from the electoral officials and security agents to highly placed party delegates and desperate blue-collar political activists and passive voters on the streets. [...] [I]t is deceptive and futile to talk about enforcing due process in the award of contracts and the general conduct of government business when the leaders did not emerge through a due electoral process. How can leaders who emerged through rigging of elections become accountable to the people?

"Nigerian politicians keep telling us that it is all part of the painful 'learning process', and that the nation must endure to 'foster its nascent democracy', as if the country is a perpetual democratic toddler. [...] Now, because the leaders are not accountable to the people, the type of democracy they have succeeded in enforcing on the nation in the last eleven years comes close to what some scholars called democradura or 'hard democracy' – a very hard one for that matter, and habitually gruesome to the core. [...] Even as hundreds of thousands of poor people continue to languish and die in droves, the profligate political class keep stealing and hoarding the resources of the nation like some army of rapacious ants. [...] Do our politicians think that they can continue to subvert democracy to serve their personal interests, and keep hoping that the institution can be maintained? This democracy, the Nigerian democracy, this democradura appears to take so much pleasure in inflicting sufferings on its people. [...] This is why we should not celebrate the so-called 'democracy day', never again [...]."

Abba Gana Shettima is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Sociology at the University of Maiduguri, Nigeria.

04 June 2010

Article: Unemployment Linked to Dislike of Democracy

On 2 June, the science news site LiveScience.com published an article titled "Unemployment Linked to Dislike of Democracy" by staff writer Zoë Macintosh.

The article can be read free of charge here:


Excerpts: "Individuals out of a job are more likely to harbor negative opinions about democracy and desire a rogue [sic] leader than their employed counterparts, a new study suggests. Using data from more than 130,000 people from 69 countries, scientists found that having or not having a job is enough to make otherwise similar individuals feel differently about the effectiveness of democratic political systems. [...] The results only showed correlations between these variables, but not cause-and-effect relationships. Joblessness was not linked to one's disapproval of how the country was run or the specific leadership in charge, only to discontent with democracy as a whole. [...] Across the board, those with greater wealth or education held significantly less negative opinions about democracy. [...] The results held even when scientists controlled for reverse causality (with political view causing joblessness) posed by 'political misfits' whose opinions about democracy go against the mainstream."

The article is based on a working paper by Duha Tore Altindag and Naci H. Mocan, published in May 2010 by the American research organization National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER).

Unfortunately, the full text of the working paper is not available without paying:


Turkish-born Duha Tore Altindag is a PhD candidate in Economics and Turkish-born Naci H. Mocan is Ourso Distinguished Professor of Economics, both at Louisiana State University.

03 June 2010

CFP: Democracy, History, Universality: Beyond the Decline of the West

Sixth General Conference of the European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR), University of Iceland, Reykjavik, 25-27 August 2011

Call for panels and papers for a section on "Democracy, History, Universality: Beyond the Decline of the West"


Description: "The global debate about the universal significance of democracy represents one of the defining features of our time. Democracy is accepted by nearly everyone as the only legitimate form of government. At the same time, the appeal of the democratic values is weakened both by an ever greater degree of alienation between the population and the democratic institutions in the quintessentially democratic societies of Europe and North America and by the fact that in the more peripheral countries the pro-democracy rhetoric is often cynically used to justify some of the most undemocratic decisions and practices.

"Another crucial dimension of the debate is the increasing recognition that liberal democracy is indeed rooted in the historical experience and cultural particularity of the West. This tension between universalism and particularism has several dimensions. In Europe, it is reflected in the clash between universalist ambitions associated with the European democratic model and the rise of xenophobic politics that strive to redefine Europe in cultural or religious terms. At the same time, accepting the fact that democracy is historically conditioned immediately opens it up to the relativist challenge.

"The western community is often accused of monopolising the power to define what democracy means in political practice, which arguably exposes the Eurocentric nature of democracy promotion undertaken by democratic governments. Political leaders of many nations that explicitly define themselves as non-western now offer their respective political regimes as possible alternative models of democratic development. These claims have to be taken seriously despite their underlying instrumental motives, because what makes them possible in the first place are genuine grassroots concerns about western unilateralism, shared by many people all over the world.

"The panels within this section will be focused around the tension between the supposedly universal value of democracy and its embeddedness in a particular historical experience. The following questions will be discussed, among others: Can we think of truly universal democracy, or must the universal, as some theorists argue, be cleared of any positive predicates? What is happening to the idea of the West as a model democratic community? Does the universal appeal of the European idea give way to xenophobic particularism? What are the consequences of the internal tensions within the West and external challenges to its alleged domination? Can the criticism of democracy as 'too western' pave the way towards truly generic emancipation of humankind?"

Instructions on how to submit proposals for panels and papers are to be found here:


Currently, only proposals for panels will be accepted. Proposals for papers can be submitted from 1 November 2010, when a list of the panels accepted for this section will be published on the ECPR website. All proposals are to be submitted online.

Deadline for panel proposals: 1 September 2010

Deadline for paper proposals: 1 February 2011

For further information, please contact the section convenors:
Viatcheslav Morozov (University of Tartu): viacheslav.morozov@ut.ee
Christopher S. Browning (University of Warwick): c.s.browning@warwick.ac.uk
Pertti Joenniemi (Danish Institute for International Studies): pjo@diis.dk

Please note that conference participants may only appear in the academic programme once in any one capacity. That is, they may only chair one section, they may only chair one panel, they may only present one paper, they may only act once as a discussant.

02 June 2010

Article: The Really Creepy People Behind the Libertarian-Inspired Billionaire Sea Castles

"The Really Creepy People Behind the Libertarian-Inspired Billionaire Sea Castles" is an article by Mark Ames that was published today on the independent news site AlterNet.org.

The full text of the article can be read free of charge here:


Excerpts: "The super-wealthy are already building their first floating castle, a billion-dollar-plus luxury liner that offers permanent multimillion-dollar housing with the best protection of all: moats made of oceans, keeping the land-based Americans they've plundered at a safe distance. The first such floating castle has been christened the 'Utopia' – the South Korean firm Samsung has been contracted to build the $1.1 billion ship, due to be launched in 2013. Already orders are coming in to buy one of the Utopia's 200 or so mansions for sale – which range in price from about $4 million for the smallest condos to over $26 million for 6,600 square-foot 'estates.' The largest mansion is a whopping 40,000 square feet, and sells for $160 million. [...] The floating castle is a longtime dream of libertarian oligarchs – a place where they can live their lives in peace free from the teeming masses of starving losers and indebted parasites and their tax demands.

"Since they've grown so rich off of America, they have enough spare change to fund projects like the Seasteading Institute, run by Milton Friedman's grandson, Patri Friedman, and financed by the bizarre right-wing PayPal founder, Peter Thiel. [...] Both Thiel and Milton Friedman's grandson see democracy as the enemy – last year, Thiel wrote 'I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible' at about the same time that Milton Friedman's grandson proclaimed, 'Democracy is not the answer.' Both published their anti-democracy proclamations in the same billionaire-Koch-family-funded outlet, Cato Unbound, one of the oldest billionaire-fed libertarian welfare dispensaries. Friedman's answer for Thiel's democracy problem is to build offshore libertarian pod-fortresses where the libertarian way rules."

Whatever one may think of libertarian billionaires or seasteading, this article is a prime example of smear journalism posing as "investigative".

Mark Ames is an American journalist and book author, long based in Russia.