1The role of artificial intelligence in shaping voter choices (22 November 2023)
In 2024, forty countries will hold general elections in countries where almost half the population of the Earth will be called to elect the next governments. With so much at stake, the role of artificial intelligence and the influence that can be exerted through this tool cannot be overlooked. Artificial intelligence can determine election results in a variety of ways, including by producing false and misleading information. With information overload and the scourge of misinformation, the production of non-factual material through artificial intelligence can shape public opinion and voter direction. Disinformation can be used to create scandals at the expense of political opponents but also to cover up real scandals as "fake news." The analysis of infinite data that artificial intelligence is capable of can be used by candidates before elections to convey personalised messages to voters according to each person's beliefs. With social media being the primary source of information for young voters, AI can be used by politicians to target undecideds and reach them with political messages. Bearing in mind the above, propaganda through artificial intelligence tarnishes democracy and the right of citizens to vote at will. The misuse of artificial intelligence and disinformation produced for partisan political expediency tarnishes the values of democracy and can lead societies into undesirable regimes.


2 V-dem Institute "Democracy Report 2023: Defiance in the Face of Autocratization" (7 November 2023)
Read here the V-dem Institute's latest "Democracy Report 2023: Defiance in the Face of Autocratization"


3Poland's Opposition Parties unite in democratic bid to replace Ruling Party (27 October 2023)
In a move that highlights the essence of democracy, Poland's three largest opposition parties are collaborating to forge a coalition with the aim of replacing the current ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party. They've made a request to President Andrzej Duda, who plays a pivotal role in Poland's democratic system, to allow them to form a new government. This collaborative effort is a demonstration of how democracy functions, as it emphasizes the power of the majority. The opposition coalition, made up of the Civic Coalition, the center-right Third Way, and the Left, collectively holds a majority of seats in the lower house of parliament. Their intention is to provide an alternative government, which is an essential aspect of democratic competition. Traditionally, the largest party is given the first opportunity to form a government, but in this case, the opposition is underlining that they have the necessary support in the parliament to govern effectively. This represents the democratic principle of checks and balances, ensuring that the governing party or coalition has the support and confidence of the elected representatives. The call for President Duda to act swiftly and the opposition's support for Donald Tusk as the potential new government leader showcase the role of democratic leaders and their responsibility to respond to the will of the people. The democratic process in Poland, as governed by its constitution, dictates the steps to be followed after an election, emphasizing the rule of law and established procedures. Ultimately, the outcome of this democratic process will be determined by President Duda's decision, reinforcing the notion that, in a democracy, leaders are accountable to the people and must adhere to constitutional principles. The story in Poland underscores how democracy involves not only the act of voting but also the subsequent formation of a government through cooperation and constitutional procedures.


42023 SDG Summit: Assessing Progress and Global Priorities for Sustainable Development (22 October 2023)

The 2023 SDG Summit, positioned halfway between the adoption of the 2030 Agenda in 2015 and the 2030 deadline for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), offered nations an opportunity to review their progress and challenges in implementing the SDGs. This event took place against a backdrop of significant ongoing global crises, including climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, and international conflicts such as Russia's aggression in Ukraine. These crises have not only hindered progress toward the SDGs but have disproportionately affected vulnerable communities and nations, exacerbating existing inequalities. Recent data illustrates that only 15% of the SDGs are currently on track, underscoring the urgency of renewing commitments to and expediting progress toward the 2030 Agenda.

Throughout the Summit, various key themes emerged, reflecting the concerns of member states:

Reforming the International Financial System: A primary focus was on enhancing developing countries' access to financial resources, with calls for an annual SDG stimulus of at least $500 billion, effective debt-relief mechanisms, and changes in the operational model of multilateral development banks to better support developing nations.

Food Security: Many nations highlighted food security as a pressing global issue. Despite some progress, a significant number of people continue to experience hunger, necessitating immediate action.

Climate Change: Climate change was a central concern throughout the Summit, with an emphasis on the need for developed countries to honor their commitments under The Paris Agreement. Small island states, in particular, underscored climate change as an existential threat, calling for increased climate finance, carbon pricing, and the activation of Loss and Damage Funds to assist developing nations in addressing the adverse impacts of climate change.

Social Protection and Education: Expanding social protection and improving education emerged as critical priorities. The focus was on ensuring that these services are accessible to all, especially those who are vulnerable or marginalized.

Private Capital: The imperative of mobilizing private capital for sustainable development was emphasized, with substantial commitments, including the European Union's pledge to invest in renewable energy, health systems, education, green transport, and digital infrastructure.

Three overarching themes were frequently cited:

Digitalization: The importance of digitalization and the urgent need to bridge the digital divide were underscored, with universal internet access considered a vital component of development.

Gender Equality: Achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls was a shared priority, not only for its intrinsic value but also for its critical role in international cooperation, climate action, and equitable finance policies.

Strengthening Multilateralism: The significance of bolstering multilateralism and fostering global solidarity was emphasized by all groups. It was recognized that achieving the SDGs necessitated international collaboration.

The negotiation process for the Political Declaration adopted at the Summit faced challenges, particularly in reconciling differences between the G77+China and Global North countries. The declaration reaffirmed commitments, assessed progress and gaps in SDG implementation, and called for member states to take action toward realizing the 2030 Agenda.

The importance of democracy and strong institutions, particularly in the context of Goal 16 (peace, justice, and strong institutions), was highlighted by some countries. These nations stressed the need to link peace, justice, security, development, human rights, and strong institutions to promote good governance and evidence-based policy making.

While democracy and strong institutions were not explicitly highlighted throughout the Summit, their indirect acknowledgment was evident in discussions related to peace, justice, security, and good governance.


5Brussels terrorist attack (18 October 2023)
In the de facto capital of the European Union, Brussels, where pluralism, multilingualism, and multiculturalism are the main characteristics of the city, a terrorist attack took place on Monday, October, 16. Two Swedes have been tragically shot dead by an Islamic terrorist who was found and executed by Belgian authorities. The victims of the terrorist attack were not accidental, as they were wearing jerseys of Sweden, and recently, in demonstrations, they burned the Koran as a sign of protest. The terrorist attacks in Brussels and France (October 13, 2023) are phenomena that come from the Middle East war between Israel and Hamas, where the Western states sided with Israel while at the same time extremist Islamic organisations sided with Palestine and incited Muslims to holy war. Western countries are putting airports and crowded areas on high security alert for fear of new terror attacks.


6 France is on red alert for fear of terrorist attacks (13 October 2023)
With the war between Israel and Hamas, France is on the alert with draconian security measures for fear of new attacks, as it has the largest Jewish and Muslim communities in Europe. With Hamas calling on Muslims to protest around the world, the pro-Israeli leanings of the Macron government are causing backlash, with anti-Semitism protests being suppressed by French authorities. On Friday, October 13, an Islamic terrorist stabbed a professor to death and injured two others while shouting, "Allah is great." After this incident, 7,000 soldiers were mobilised to patrol the streets of France.


7 Genocide and then ethnic cleansing of the Armenians (3 October 2023)
After a military operation by the Azerbaijanis on September 19, 2023, 100,000 Armenians were displaced from their ancestral homes in the so-called Republic of Artsakh. The dissolution of every state institution and mechanism was signed by the president of the unrecognised republic of Artsakh on January 1, 2024. The Republic of Armenia condemns the persecution of Armenians who have been living in the enclave for centuries, speaking of ethnic cleansing after the Genocide experienced by Armenians by the Ottomans. The international community condemned the military operation and the persecution of the Armenians, with the European Union and Russia urging the start of a dialogue and an end to the bloodshed. France has called for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council. Armenians who were persecuted from their homes are protected by the "1951 Refugee Convention," since Article 1 defines a refugee as "a person who, due to a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, or nationality [...] is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, through fear, unwilling to place himself under the protection of the said country."


8Impartiality of the rule of law (26 September 2023)
The impartiality of the US institutions was demonstrated by the rejection of the request of the former President of the United States, Donald Trump, by the Supreme Court of New York on Tuesday, September 26, to dismiss a lawsuit in which he is accused of committing fraud. Judge Arthur Engoron found that Trump overstated the value of his real estate by as much as $2.5 billion. Real estate overvaluations gave access to loans by fooling banks and insurers. Following the judge's decision, the licences and operating certificates of some of the former president's New York businesses were revoked. The court's verdict eases the next trial by the state Attorney General's Office, which previously set a penalty of about $250 million. In addition to the above, the former President of the USA was arrested four times and charged with 91 felonies in four different states.


9 Military coup in Gabon as President Ali Bongo is detained by officers (31 August 2023)

A military coup has been controlling Gabon since Wednesday, August 30, 2023, just four days after the election of President Ali Bongo for a third term. With the announcement of the results of the elections by the competent committee, the opposition questioned the process. It should be noted that President-elect Bongo secured 64.27% in the election and his political opponent, Albert Odo Osa, 30.77%, who publicly expressed his concern about electoral fraud. In the early hours of Wednesday morning, 10 senior officers broadcast on state television a relevant announcement where they stated that "all the institutions of the Republic are being cancelled due to the irresponsibility of the government, which would lead the country to chaos". The self-named "Committee for Transition and Restoration of Institutions" chose among themselves General Brice Oligui Nguema as head of the military government. The international community has immediately and strongly condemned what is happening in Gabon, with the United Nations and the African Union calling for the safety of President Bongo and his family. China and Russia expect immediate stability and security in the region, and the United States considers the situation alarming.


10Striking a balance: police violence and democratic values in Tunisia (23 August 2023)
In Tunisia, the interplay between police authority and democratic principles has propelled concerns about police violence. Activists revealing personal encounters with brutality underscore an enduring issue, rooted in pre-independence history. Despite democratic strides, instances of police violence persist, prompting a crucial dialogue on safeguarding democratic ideals while ensuring security. Recent events highlight the tension between civil liberties and maintaining order. During protests against President Kais Saied's constitutional referendum, police response invoked memories of past autocratic regimes. However, public outrage remains limited, possibly due to a tacit understanding that some police misconduct is tolerated for perceived security. Efforts to reform police practices encounter obstacles. Legal changes to limit police discretion in interpreting laws face challenges. Vulnerable communities, like the LGBTQ+ community, endure escalated intrusions, violence, and threats from law enforcement. President Saied's collaboration with security services has concentrated power, raising concerns about democratic principles. His use of security forces against his own support base risks eroding his populist image, particularly amid economic turmoil. Tunisia's struggle against police violence underscores the intricacies of balancing security with democratic values. Striking this equilibrium remains a global challenge, necessitating continued reflection and action to protect citizens' rights while maintaining order.


11Justice and accountability: French officer's detention sparks debate within democracy (3 August 2023)
Detaining a French police officer involved in the shooting of a 22-year-old during riots in Marseille has ignited a heated debate about justice and accountability within a democratic society. The officer's pre-trial detention has sparked a strong response from fellow officers across the country, highlighting the tension between upholding the law and protecting those responsible for enforcing it. The victim, Hedi, a young assistant restaurant manager, sustained severe head injuries from a rubber bullet, raising questions about the proportionality of force used by law enforcement during public demonstrations. The officer in question admitted to firing the shot but denied seeing any injuries. This incident is part of a larger pattern, as protests erupted following the death of a 17-year-old at the hands of police in Paris. While the police unions and higher authorities called for the officer's release, the decision to detain him reflects the principle that in a democracy, no one, not even those entrusted with maintaining order, is above the law. The concerns about potential collusion among colleagues and the need to ensure accountability underscore the essence of justice within democratic societies. These events also bring to light a broader debate about the appropriate balance between maintaining public order and respecting the rights and safety of citizens exercising their democratic right to protest. The use of rubber bullets, as seen in the case of Hedi and other instances of injury or death, raises questions about the limits of force that can be employed by law enforcement in a democratic nation. The incident serves as a reminder that democratic societies strive to uphold the rule of law and individual rights, even in situations involving those responsible for enforcing the law. It prompts citizens and leaders alike to consider how to ensure accountability, transparency, and justice within institutions charged with safeguarding democracy and protecting the rights of all citizens.


12France: Democracy at risk triggered by the fatal shooting of a 17- year-old (10 July 2023)

The situation in France over the last week is raising alarm bells for the country's internal security, projecting insecurity about social cohesion between the French government and its citizens. The shooting of 17- year-old Nachel M. by the police on Tuesday 27/06/2023 caused both his death and chaos across France, reigniting pre-existing backlash against police brutality and racism. By Thursday, 492 buildings had been damaged, 2,000 cars had been burnt and 3,880 fires had broken out across France, with the French government deploying 45,000 police and army personnel to try to control the situation. In just a few months, the French citizens clash for the second time strongly with the government, which seems to have difficulty controlling the crowds but above all managing to convince and defend its social cohesion and democracy. The constant chaotic reactions of French citizens towards social issues and political decisions, focus the lens on the inability of the French government to persuade and govern smoothly. Both during the imposition of pension reforms and now, the democratic and productive dialogue does not prevail, but a period of crisis is going through in which an inappropriate relationship between the state and citizens is revealed which, if not normalized, may lead to even worse situations.


13Germany: far-right AfD's victory in local election marks a pivotal moment for democracy (26 June 2023)

The recent local election victory of the far-right AfD in Sonneberg, Germany has sparked concerns about the state of democracy in the country. This watershed moment in German politics has prompted a reflection on the challenges that defenders of democracy now face. The rise of a right-wing extremist party winning a significant political office is seen as a warning sign for established parties and a call for reevaluation.

The far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) has achieved its first victory in a district council election in Germany, marking a significant moment in the country's political landscape. The election took place in Sonneberg, Thuringia, and resulted in the election of Robert Sesselmann from the AfD as the district administrator, defeating the Christian Democrats' (CDU) Jurgen Köpper. The Thuringia branch of the AfD has been labeled as right-wing extremist by intelligence services and is led by Björn Höcke, considered part of the party's far-right wing. This victory is seen as a breakthrough for the AfD and could have implications for upcoming elections, particularly in the eastern regions of Germany.

The outcome has raised concerns among established parties and civil society organizations, who view it as a turning point and a challenge to democracy that requires a response. The Central Council of Jews in Germany expressed devastation over the result, highlighting the extremist background of the AfD candidate. The election outcome, despite the low voter turnout, carries significance beyond Sonneberg and serves as a warning to established parties that voters may be seeking alternatives. The AfD's success in Sonneberg aligns with its recent strong polling nationwide, with support ranging from 18% to 20%. Dissatisfaction with the current coalition government and issues such as energy procurement, military strength, migration policy, and health reform have contributed to the AfD's rise in popularity. Recent polls indicate the AfD's support at 20%, similar to the Social Democrats, with the Greens at 13% and the opposition CDU at 26%. Sesselmann campaigned on issues such as pursuing a peace agreement with Russia over the invasion of Ukraine and opposing Germany's military support to Kyiv. However, local concerns were primarily focused on living standards, low wages, and pensions compared to western Germany, as well as a perceived lack of acknowledgment for the experiences of citizens from the former communist east. The election result in Sonneberg is seen as a reflection of dissatisfaction and calls for a reevaluation of German unity to include the concerns of eastern Germans. The AfD views this victory as just the beginning and aims to win over the majority with its policies centered on people's interests. They believe this will lead to a positive shift in the political landscape.


14European Parliament set to forge groundbreaking regulations ensuring AI safety and transparency (14 June 2023)

The European Parliament has adopted its position on the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Act, aiming to ensure the development and use of AI in Europe aligns with EU rights and values. The adoption reflects the democratic principles and values upheld by the European Union. In the context of AI, this means safeguarding the rights and interests of European citizens while promoting responsible and ethical development and use of AI technologies. The rules establish obligations for AI providers and users based on the level of risk involved. Prohibited AI practices include social scoring, intrusive and discriminatory uses of AI, real-time and post remote biometric identification systems, predictive policing systems, and untargeted scraping of facial images. High-risk AI applications now include those influencing elections and recommender systems used by large social media platforms. General purpose AI providers must assess and mitigate risks, register models, comply with transparency requirements, and disclose copyrighted data used for training. Exemptions for research activities and open-source AI components were added to support innovation. The law also promotes regulatory sandboxes for testing AI, enhances citizens' right to file complaints, and reforms the EU AI Office's role in monitoring implementation of the AI rulebook. The adoption of the AI Act by the European Parliament demonstrates a commitment to democratic governance and the protection of citizens' rights in the context of AI. By establishing regulations, promoting transparency, and enhancing citizen participation, the Act aims to strike a balance between technological innovation and the democratic values and principles that underpin European society.


15The South American minimum consensus on democracy is gone (31 May 2023)

On Tuesday, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva called for the rebooting of South American regional integration efforts and summoned eleven South American heads of state to Brasilia. Lula proposed various ideas such as a regional energy market, coordinated action on climate change, and even the possibility of a regional currency. However, his embrace of Venezuela's autocratic president, Nicolás Maduro, stole the headlines. Lula defended Maduro against accusations of anti-democratic practices and criticized the narrative constructed against him. This drew condemnation from some leaders, while others, particularly left-leaning politicians like Gustavo Petro of Colombia, supported Maduro. The incident highlights a trend in Latin America where there is a lack of consensus on what constitutes democracy, straining regional integration and diplomatic relations. Previously, there was a minimum consensus on democracy among the member states of the Organization of American States (OAS), but it has since frayed. The ambiguity surrounding democratic breakdowns has allowed governments to avoid taking action against ideological allies. This lack of agreement on democracy hampers efforts to address cross-border challenges and maintain bilateral relations. The politicization of diplomacy has led to clashes between leaders, such as Bolsonaro and Fernández, and strained relations between countries. As regional sentiment may shift towards the right, diplomatic friction is expected to continue. Lula's remarks in Brasilia highlight how ideological divisions and the abandonment of dialogue and cooperation have hindered regional integration efforts.


16An uncertain future for Turkey's economy and democracy (29 May 2023)

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's victory in Turkey's presidential election has left millions of citizens worried about the country's future. The election took place against the backdrop of a severe cost of living crisis, with the currency at record lows and inflation soaring. Erdoğan's unorthodox economic policies, including his opposition to high interest rates and interference with the central bank's independence, have contributed to the crisis. The state's resources are further strained by election giveaways and a near-record current account deficit. Foreign investors have been deterred by Erdoğan's policies and his confrontational approach towards Western allies, leading to a decline in resources available to defend the currency. To address the economic challenges, Erdoğan must abandon his unconventional monetary policies and restore credibility to state institutions. This would increase the chances of attracting wary investors back to the country. However, if Erdoğan remains true to his previous actions, the relationship between Turkey and the West is likely to remain unpredictable and strained. Concerns also arise regarding the state of democracy in Turkey. Erdoğan has consolidated power and centralized decision-making, moving closer to one-man rule. He has transformed Turkey's parliamentary democracy into an all-powerful executive presidency, limiting the playing field for elections and gaining control over the mainstream media. Opposition figures, including Selahattin Demirtaş and Ekrem İmamoğlu, face imprisonment and bans from politics. Civil liberties are also at risk, as Erdoğan has targeted marginalized groups and made divisive accusations against his opponents. While Erdoğan's supporters see his victory as a sign of enduring popularity, the fact that he was forced into a run-off election indicates a significant political divide. Constitutionally, this should be Erdoğan's final term, and he should consider the legacy he intends to leave. Regardless, Turkey faces turbulent times ahead, with the risk of economic crisis and diminishing democratic freedoms.


17Turkey is preparing for its pivotal fight for democracy (3 May 2023)

Turkey's upcoming elections on May 14 have put the centralisation of power under an increasingly authoritarian President Erdogan under scrutiny. The six-party opposition bloc is focusing its campaign on undoing the “one-man regime,” with a focus on restoring Turkish democracy. However, the country's cost of living crisis is the number one electoral battleground, with inflation hitting a record high of 85.5% last October and running at just over 50% in March. Erdogan has been criticised for advocating for slashing interest rates, which has poured fuel onto the inflationary fire. The main thrust of the opposition’s manifesto for switching power away from the presidency focuses on legalistic provisions to ensure a non-partisan presidency and impose a one-term limit, among other measures. The opposition is calling for greater emphasis on parliamentary decision-making and teams in decision-making candidates. In contrast to the image of Erdogan as the lone almighty leader, opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu portrays himself as building consensus, ready to draw on a broad pool of talent.


18European Commission introduces an innovative approach to assist decision-makers in protecting democracy from hybrid challenges (20 Apr. 2023)

The European Union (EU) and its member states are facing an increasing threat from hostile actors employing hybrid tactics such as disinformation, economic pressure, cyber-attacks, and abuse of migrants. Hybrid threats are intended to undermine the core democratic processes of the EU and erode citizens' trust in their institutions and governments. In response to these threats, the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission and The European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats have developed a new model called the Comprehensive Resilience Ecosystem (CORE) to counter hybrid threats and strengthen Europe's resilience.

The CORE model is a systems-thinking approach that takes a whole-of-society approach to analyzing society comprehensively. It considers different "spaces" of society such as governance, civic, and services, different "levels" such as international, national, and local, and their interactions. The CORE model helps policymakers counter complex hybrid threats in an efficient and coordinated way by mapping how malicious actors use various tools against different domains to reach their target, detecting hostile activities and their intensity, monitoring affected dependencies to avoid possible cascading effects, facilitating the anticipation of damage to our democracies, and assessing impacts of possible hybrid attacks and campaigns.

The CORE model provides democratic policymakers with a hands-on methodology to estimate how authoritarian states or non-state actors employ hybrid threats activity to manipulate or destabilize democracies. It may be considered a blueprint for adaptive thinking and helps EU member states understand how they can foster resilience and enhance their margin of maneuver when facing hybrid threats.

The CORE model is a significant step in countering hybrid threats and building resilience, and it will assist EU policymakers in creating the EU Hybrid toolbox announced in A Strategic Compass for Security and Defence. This document also will serve as the basis for further work on the Sectoral Hybrid Resilience Baselines.


19Unpopular plans to raise the retirement age to 64 are supported by a leading French court (16 Apr. 2023)

France's President Emmanuel Macron has won a major political victory, as the country's pension reforms, raising the age of retirement by two years to 64, were passed into law following approval by the Constitutional Council. The Council, while rejecting some elements of the reform, including the conversion of pension points earned by the workers into a euro value, has left the controversial retirement age change intact. France's pension system, where the right to retire at 62 is deeply cherished, is highly sensitive and the reforms have prompted mass protests and clashes between the police and demonstrators. While the government says the changes are necessary to prevent the pension system's finances from slipping into the red, opposition parties and union leaders have pledged to continue fighting the reforms. The leader of the CGT union, one of France's biggest unions, has called for a "historic" protest on May 1st, while far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon accused the Council of being "more attentive to the needs of the presidential monarchy than to those of the sovereign people". Despite the changes, France's new retirement age will still be below the norm in Europe and many other developed economies, where the age at which full pension benefits apply is 65 and increasingly moving towards 67. State pensions in France are also more generous than elsewhere. At nearly 14% of GDP in 2018, the country's spending on state pensions is larger than in most other countries, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.


20Summit for Democracy: The world's democracies are becoming more stable, according to President Biden (29 Mar. 2023)

Building on what he described as his administration's "enduring commitment to enhance democracy globally," President Joe Biden delivered a speech to the second Summit for Democracy on 29th March from the White House, reassuring attendees that democratic institutions are effective. Biden is one of the co-hosts of this year's multi-day conference, together with the presidents of Zambia, South Korea, the Netherlands, and Costa Rica. In Washington, Biden presided over a virtual summit event centered on how democracies can address global difficulties. He urged democracies to remain united in the face of these challenges. "This is what I hope the summit will demonstrate to everyone in attendance and watching around the world: it is effective. It's effective," Biden declared. "Too many areas in the world believed that democracy's greatest days were behind us when we convened here in December 2021. Over 15 years in a row, democracy suffered in some ways. Yet, we can state that the story to be told this year is different. The president stated that the summit's goal was to "continue building on our progress so we don't start going in the wrong direction again." He continued, "Democracy is hard work, and it must be continually protected."


21Israel comes to a halt due to 'historic' strikes as masses take to the streets to demonstrate against judicial reform (27 Mar. 2023)

Israel's largest trade union has announced a “historic” strike that has resulted in the closure of transportation, universities, restaurants, and retailers, among other establishments, in protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's proposed judicial overhaul. Government ministries, the three largest cities in the country, banks, ports, and many other companies and agencies are also on strike, but essential services such as hospitals and firefighters will operate on a Saturday schedule. The strike has caused disruptions to flights from Israel's main airport and has shut down the country's largest port in Haifa, among other impacts. Protests have been ongoing in Israel against the planned judicial changes that would give the ruling parties more control over Israel's judiciary, with hundreds of thousands of Israelis protesting for months. The firing of Israel's defense minister, who opposed the reforms, and the subsequent protests have prompted prominent officials to call for a halt to the judicial reform process. These officials include mayors from across Israel, who have declared a hunger strike over the judicial overhaul. Netanyahu is under increasing pressure from his own party as protests continue, and even some of the most forceful proponents of the reform have appeared to soften their stance. Justice Minister Yariv Levin, who has strongly advocated for the reform to be pushed through, opened the door to the possibility of a delay on Monday.


22French democracy in crisis as Macron circumvents parliament amidst acrimonious pension dispute (17 Mar. 2023)

French President Emmanuel Macron's decision to push through his pension reform without a vote has sparked a political and institutional crisis. The use of Article 49.3 to bypass parliament led to widespread protests, with ordinary people as well as leftist and unionist activists taking to the streets in the capital, Paris. Critics have denounced Macron's "violation of democracy" and accused him of trying to force through a reform that is both unpopular and unfair. The reform, which includes raising the minimum retirement age and making it harder to claim a full pension, has touched a raw nerve in a country where equality is enshrined in the motto. The government's decision to use Article 49.3 was seen as an admission that it lacked a parliamentary majority for its reform. The move has been widely criticised by right-wing politicians, who have warned that it risks radicalising the opposition and undermining the law's democratic legitimacy.