Entries in Democracy (6)


Russia Takes Swipe at US Democracy Ahead of Election

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(MOSCOW) -- Moscow’s Foreign Ministry took a shot at American democracy on Wednesday.

“The #US lectures the world on democracy and human rights, but looks only to its own laws when flaws in its voting system are pointed out,” the ministry tweeted from its English-language account.

“The #US electoral system is decentralised, fragmented and obsolete,” the ministry added in another tweet moments later.

Opponents of the electoral college (which could include more Americans if one candidate loses next Tuesday’s election despite winning the popular vote) might not disagree with the broad strokes of that second point.

Of course, recent Russian elections have been marred by reports of widespread voter fraud. And since President Vladimir Putin’s inauguration in May, human rights activists have sounded the alarm about a string of new, increasingly restrictive laws and policies that appear aimed at intimidating Russia’s opposition.

The Russian Foreign Ministry’s statements came amid rising anti-American rhetoric from the Kremlin and echoed criticism from Russia’s election chief, who penned a lengthy piece ripping apart the American election process in a state-owned newspaper on Wednesday.

“The elections for the president of the USA are not direct, not universal, not equal and do not preserve voting secrecy,” Vladimir Churov wrote, according to Britain’s Guardian newspaper. “It’s a stretch of the imagination to talk about the right of American citizens to choose their president.”

The ministry’s criticism also followed a pair of tweets slamming threats by the Texas State Attorney General that international election observers could be prosecuted if they try to enter polling places there.

The Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, an arm of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, is one of several international observers that keep an eye out for voting fraud around the world and plans to operate in Texas.

“The situation around the #ODIHR observers monitoring the upcoming #US presidential election in #Texas is disturbing,” the ministry tweeted Wednesday, before adding some criticism of the OSCE as well.

“Unfortunately, the #ODIHR has not fully assessed the #Texas authorities’ threats to file criminal charges against international observers,” the ministry tweeted.

Last week, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott wrote a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to warn that the OSCE was still subject to Texas state law.

“It appears that OSCE is under the misimpression that the State Department can somehow help its representatives circumvent the Texas Election Code,” Abbott wrote. “Texas law prohibits unauthorized persons from entering a polling place — or loitering within 100 feet of a polling place’s entrance — on Election Day. OSCE monitors are expected to follow that law like everyone else.”

In the end, Russia’s concerns and Texas’ uproar may all be for nothing. OSCE Ambassador Daan Everts, dismissed Abbot’s concerns, saying his observers had no plans to enter polling places.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters that the OSCE is attempting to resolve the situation.

“The OSCE has reassured us. They have also made commitments to Texas that they have no intention of violating any U.S. laws. They are now talking to Texas authorities about how to proceed here, and that’s the right channel for the conversation to go on,” she told reporters last Friday.

Nuland also confirmed that the OSCE monitors “are eligible for full immunities in the United States.”

“We don’t think that it’s going to come to having to invoke these. We have every confidence that OSCE representatives in Texas and any other state where they are observing will be able to work things out,” she added.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Bush Celebrates Democracy Activists, Sides with Syrian Resistance

Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- As President George W. Bush quietly returned to Washington Tuesday, he brought along a slew of global democracy activists known mostly for never being quiet.

Tuesday’s lineup at the George W. Bush Presidential Center-sponsored event, “A Celebration of Human Freedom,” included Ammar Abdulhamid, a Syrian activist living in Washington; Bob Fu, a native Chinese pastor; and Normando Hernandez, a former political prisoner in Cuba.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the democracy activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, joined the conference via Skype from her living room in Myanmar, formerly Burma.

“These are extraordinary times in the history of freedom,” Bush said. “In the Arab Spring, we have seen the broadest challenge to authoritarian rule since the collapse of Soviet communism. Great change has come to a region where many thought it impossible. The idea that Arab people are somehow content with oppression has been discredited forever.”

“America does not get to choose if a freedom revolution should begin or end in the Middle East, or elsewhere. It only gets to choose what side it is on,” he added.

Abdulhamid, founder of the Tharwa Foundation and one of the earliest dissident voices behind the Syrian uprising, introduced Bush Tuesday, emphasizing the importance of fearless activism.

“The price of activism could be the death of the human body. But the price of silence could result in the death of human spirit, a far greater price to pay,” Abdulhamid said.

“All of us here today join you in hoping and praying for the end of violence and the advance of freedom in Syria,” Bush told Abdulhamid as he took the stage.

When Suu Kyi appeared on the big screen above the stage, she too offered her support to Abdulhamid’s home country.

“I would like to say to the people of Syria, we are with you in your struggle for freedom,” she said.

Asked if she had a solution to the violence in Syria that has claimed more than 12,000 lives in the last 15 months, Suu Kyi replied, “If there was an easy answer, I think Syria would be at peace now.”

But Suu Kyi said she’s hopeful about peace abroad and at home.

Last month, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States would begin to ease sanctions in Myanmar, and on Monday, Sen. John McCain advocated for the suspension of sanctions, echoing the recent move by the European Union.

“I am not against the suspension of sanctions, as long as the people of the United States feel that this is the right thing to do at the moment,” Suu Kyi said Tuesday.

“I do advocate caution, though,” she said. “I sometimes feel that people are too optimistic about what we are seeing in Burma. You have to remember that the change in Burma is not irreversible.”

And there is reason for optimism. Suu Kyi was sworn in on May 2 as a member of parliament and will soon make her first trip abroad in more than two decades, to London and then Oslo, Norway, to finally accept her 1991 Nobel Peace Prize.

In one final word, Suu Kyi offered advice to her fellow activists: “Persevere. You’ll get there in the end. Don’t lose hope. There are many people who are with you in mind and in spirit.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Secretary Clinton: US Soon to Name Potential Ambassador to Burma  

US Dept of State(WASHINGTON) -- Calling Burma’s parliamentary elections this weekend a “dramatic demonstration of popular will” and an important step for the country’s transformation to democracy, Secretary Hillary Clinton announced Wednesday that the U.S. is moving to normalize relations with the former rogue nation.
Clinton said that the U.S. will be seeking to name a fully accredited ambassador to Burma in “the coming days” for the Senate to confirm. She also said that the State Department will be establishing a fully operational USAID office, and lifting sanctions for private non-profit organizations to operate in the country as well as some businesses to help accelerate Burma’s economic growth. The State Department also plans to facilitate travel to Burma for select U.S. officials and individuals, Sec. Clinton said.

Clinton said the United States will "meet action with action," stressing that some sanctions will remain for those in the regime who are on “the wrong side” of the country’s progress, and calling for an unconditional release of political prisoners and a lift on any conditions restricting those already released.
But overall, Clinton had glowing praise for Burma President Thein Sein, once considered the right-hand man of the country’s former dictator, and noted the election of Aung San Suu Kyi, the democracy activist who spent decades under house arrest.  She said Burma’s leadership is showing its willingness to work toward a more hopeful future.

“We fully recognize and embrace the progress that has taken place,” the secretary said.

Clinton traveled to Burma late last year, making her the most senior American official to visit the country in 50 years, according to The Telegraph.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Pakistani President Warns of Military Takeover

Chris Hondros/Getty Images(ISLAMABAD) -- Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari is hoping to head off a potential military coup by imploring Pakistanis to reject attempts at usurping democracy.

Zardari made his remarks Tuesday in southern Sindh province on the fourth anniversary of the assassination of his late wife, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

Bhutto had just returned from exile two months earlier and was rumored to be seeking a return to power when she was slain on Dec. 27, 2007.

Zardari, who was later elected president, told his supporters that his wife's enemies "may have succeeded in eliminating her physically but [her] ideas and ideals … shall never be killed."

He also told the thousands who gathered at the family shrine to pay tribute to his wife that it was up to them "to defend and protect democracy and democratic institutions in the country and foil all conspiracies against it."

Zardari has always had uneasy relations with Pakistan's powerful military and his camp believes they will either try to remove him by force or through the judiciary.  His ouster would be a blow to Washington, which considers Zardari one of its strongest allies in Pakistan.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Protesters March for Chinese Democracy in Hong Kong

Getty/George Doyle/Thinkstock(BEIJING) -- While Chinese leaders marked the 62nd anniversary of communist rule with appearances in Tienanmen Square in Beijing, Saturday protests calling for democracy in China were staged in Hong Kong.

Hundreds marched in Hong Kong, calling for the release of political prisoners and an end to one-party rule in China.

Leung Kwok-Hung, who organized the Hong Kong protest, had the victims of the oppressive Chinese government on his mind.

"People will never forget so we will never forget ah those political prisoners like Mr. Liu Xiaobo who still in the prison and suffering," he said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Madagascar Leaders Sign Deal for Democracy Plan

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar) -- Democracy is one step closer to being reestablished in Madagascar as political leaders signed an agreement Saturday in Antananarivo, paving the way for future elections.

BBC News reports that the island’s ousted president Marc Ravalomanana, who was exiled in 2009 by current president Andre Rajoelina in an army-backed coup, agreed to the plan along with a group of eight political parties.

The deal was drafted with help from South African Development Community.

The agreement calls for Rajoelina to be in charge of a transitional authority until elections, expected to take place in March 2012.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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