1The 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.


2An 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.


3Turkey 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.


4European 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.


5Unpopular 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.


6Summit 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."


7Israel 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.


8French 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.


9What is the reason for protests in Georgia regarding the 'Foreign Agents' law? (8 Mar. 2023)

Protests have erupted in Tbilisi, Georgia, for the second day in a row over a controversial “foreign agents” draft law. The bill passed its first reading in parliament on Tuesday, 4 March, triggering violent protests and the arrest of 66 people. The draft law requires disclosure of financial support received from overseas, but critics have suggested it could be used to silence opposition voices. The proposed legislation specifies that media outlets and other organizations can be labeled as “foreign agents” if over 20% of their funding comes from outside the country. Detractors have cited a similar law in Russia where those receiving financial aid from abroad are declared “foreign agents.” Opponents in Georgia claim the new legislation could suppress press freedom, a concern voiced by Ghia Nodia, the country’s former education minister. Critics have also pointed out that limiting funding opportunities for civil society groups would obstruct the country’s efforts to join the European Union. Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili has supported the bill, arguing that it will root out those working against the country and the Georgian Orthodox Church. The president of Georgia, Salome Zourabichvili, addressed protesters, promising to veto the bill if it were passed by parliament. Protests resumed on Wednesday afternoon with a march for International Women’s Day, with demonstrators carrying Georgian and EU flags and shouting “No to the Russian law.” The draft law has also raised concerns among foreign officials, with the foreign ministers of the Baltic states issuing a joint statement expressing anxiety about the bill's potential consequences.


10Protesters in Mexico claim that proposed electoral reforms would endanger democracy (28 Feb. 2023)

On 26 February, a vast crowd of protestors gathered in Mexico City's central square to voice their opposition to contentious electoral law revisions that some fear could undermine democracy. After contentious electoral reform plans by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador were enacted last week, protesters at Zocalo plaza asked the government not to "touch their vote," donning the white and pink of Mexico's National Electoral Institute, the country's elections body. The local administration estimates that 90,000 people participated in the march, although organizers claim that 500,000 people did. The plans, if adopted, would reduce pay, financing for local election offices, and training for personnel in charge of running and supervising polling places. The revisions "aim to reduce thousands of individuals who work every day to guarantee trustworthy elections, something that will, of course, pose a risk for future elections," according to Lorenzo Cordova, the director of the National Electoral Institute. The president of Mexico continued by saying that although he anticipates legal challenges, all of his ideas would be maintained since they were all "lawful." Several protesters on Sunday expressed the wish that, as with earlier presidential initiatives, the Supreme Court of Mexico will partially invalidate the change. López Obrador has regularly criticized Mexico's judicial system and asserted that judges are involved in a conservative plot against his government.


11Transparency International : Corruptions Perceptions Index 2022 (21 Feb. 2023)

The increasing security concerns worldwide, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the climate catastrophe are all contributing to a new wave of uncertainty. Countries' failure to handle their corruption issues worsens the impact in a world that is already unstable. They also strengthen authoritarians and contribute to the demise of democracy. According to this year's Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), 124 nations have static levels of corruption, while the number of nations seeing a drop is rising. Since global peace is deteriorating and corruption is a major factor in both its causes and effects, this has the most serious ramifications.

Both corruption and warfare pose a threat to long-term peace. On the one hand, armed conflict fosters corruption. Crimes like bribery and embezzlement are made possible by political instability, increasing demand on resources, and weakened oversight bodies. Predictably, the majority of the nations at the bottom of the CPI are presently involved in, or have recently been involved in, armed war. On the other hand, by stoking social resentments, corruption and impunity can nevertheless lead to violence even in cultures that are otherwise calm. Additionally, draining funds from security agencies makes it difficult for states to defend the public and respect the rule of law. Hence, larger organized crime rates and more security risks are more likely to be present in nations with higher levels of corruption.

Global security is also threatened by corruption, and CPI-high nations contribute to this. They have long embraced foreign filthy money, which has helped kleptocrats advance their geopolitical goals and increased their wealth, power, and influence. During Russia's extensive invasion of Ukraine, the disastrous effects of the developed economies' participation in transnational corruption became brutally obvious. To prevent additional conflict and maintain peace in this complex context, eliminating corruption, encouraging openness, and bolstering institutions are essential.


12A grave warning concerning the vulnerability of democracy is issued by the UN Secretary-General (16 Feb. 2023)

The value, fragility, and complexity of democracy were the main points of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres' annual 2023 speech to the UN General Assembly, which came just a few weeks before the one-year anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. In a stark warning that the clock is "closest it has ever stood to humanity's darkest hour," Guterres said that the value, fragility, and complexity of democracy were at the core of his message. Bypassing the veiled references to Sustainable Development Goal 16 and instead emphasizing the importance of democracy for a more sustainable, inclusive, and peaceful world, Guterres reminded the General Assembly that "freedom of expression and political participation constitute the essence of democracy," as well as inclusive societies and economies. He emphasized the "inherent dignity and equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family as the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace," urging nations to "take inspiration from its spirit and its substance." He also reminded the Assembly of the "ambitious and audacious" nature of the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which this year celebrates its 75th anniversary. In his remarks, he made reference to the necessity of self-correction and the need to put a stop to the menace of war, which democracies are intrinsically better at than non-democracies.

Public discourse, a free press, a thriving civil society, and the renewal of political representatives through free and fair elections are all factors that, in comparison to other regime types, enable democracies to better self-correct and shift direction. Referring to the devastation caused by conflict, both in Ukraine and elsewhere, he also subtly foreshadowed the perils of authoritarianism for both democracy and the maintenance of world peace. Additionally, he stressed the significance of gender equality for long-term peace and progress, and he expressed worry about the difficult path ahead for achieving equality in all facets of life. According to data from International IDEA's Global State of Democracy report, a more democratic and gender equal world are both necessary to realize the goals of the 2030 Agenda. The significance of youth and future generations participating in defining the Summit of the Future in 2024 and for more equitable and inclusive governance was also emphasized.