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Presidential elections in Ukraine [What Think Tanks are thinking]

15-03-2019

Ukraine will hold presidential elections on 31 March, five years after the Maidan protests resulted in the impeachment of pro-Kremlin President Viktor Yanukovich, setting the country on a course to deepen ties with the West. Russia reacted by launching a hybrid war against Ukraine, which resulted in the illegal annexation of the Crimean peninsula in March 2014, and in military aggression in eastern Ukraine. The outcome of the ballot is uncertain, but the new leader is expected to continue the efforts ...

Ukraine will hold presidential elections on 31 March, five years after the Maidan protests resulted in the impeachment of pro-Kremlin President Viktor Yanukovich, setting the country on a course to deepen ties with the West. Russia reacted by launching a hybrid war against Ukraine, which resulted in the illegal annexation of the Crimean peninsula in March 2014, and in military aggression in eastern Ukraine. The outcome of the ballot is uncertain, but the new leader is expected to continue the efforts of incumbent President Petro Poroshenko to deepen relations with the European Union and NATO, and continue the country's reform process, including anti-corruption measures. A record 44 candidates are contesting the election, with actor and political novice Volodymyr Zelenskiy holding the lead in opinion polls, followed by Poroshenko and former prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko. If no candidate secures an absolute majority in the first round, the top two contenders will face each other in a run-off on 21 April. This note offers links to recent commentaries, studies and reports from major international think tanks on the situation in Ukraine.

Ukraine's presidential election 2019

19-02-2019

Ukrainians will be heading to the polls twice in 2019, five years after Ukrainians toppled the pro-Kremlin President Viktor Yanukovich, demanding a functioning democracy and an end to kleptocracy. On 31 March, Ukrainians will cast their ballot in the first round of the first presidential election since the Euromaidan revolution. In October, they will elect a new parliament. Amid Russia's ongoing hybrid war against Ukraine, the elections are a test case for the country's democracy, its unprecedented ...

Ukrainians will be heading to the polls twice in 2019, five years after Ukrainians toppled the pro-Kremlin President Viktor Yanukovich, demanding a functioning democracy and an end to kleptocracy. On 31 March, Ukrainians will cast their ballot in the first round of the first presidential election since the Euromaidan revolution. In October, they will elect a new parliament. Amid Russia's ongoing hybrid war against Ukraine, the elections are a test case for the country's democracy, its unprecedented reform process and its European path.

The Venezuelan migrant crisis: A growing emergency for the region

17-12-2018

Although the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has traditionally been a country of destination for migrants, around 2010 its migratory profile started to change to that of a country of origin. In fact, in the past few years migration away from Venezuela has reached massive levels, creating an unprecedented humanitarian crisis in the region. According to the United Nations' International Organization for Migration (IOM), the number of Venezuelans abroad has risen from under 700 000 in 2015 to 3 million ...

Although the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has traditionally been a country of destination for migrants, around 2010 its migratory profile started to change to that of a country of origin. In fact, in the past few years migration away from Venezuela has reached massive levels, creating an unprecedented humanitarian crisis in the region. According to the United Nations' International Organization for Migration (IOM), the number of Venezuelans abroad has risen from under 700 000 in 2015 to 3 million in November 2018. About 70 % of this human wave has been directed to South American countries such as Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Chile, Argentina and Brazil, but also to North and Central America and the Caribbean, and even Europe. The main factors contributing to this exodus are Venezuela's deteriorating political situation, a severe economic crisis and increasing violence. This mass migration could have a destabilising effect on the main recipient and transit countries. Besides individual responses developed by host countries to provide migrants with emergency assistance and protection and to facilitate their integration, Latin American countries are trying to give a coordinated regional response to the crisis. Furthermore, migration authorities, ombudsmen and NGOs have also promoted regional initiatives to defend the rights of Venezuelan migrants abroad and their access to basic services. The UN and regional organisations are also working to help deal with the crisis, and the EU is contributing €35.1 million in emergency aid and medium-term development assistance for the Venezuelan people and the affected neighbouring countries. The European Parliament sent an ad hoc mission to Brazil and Colombia in June 2018 to assess the situation, and has adopted resolutions on the subject.

Algeria and the EU: Challenges before the elections

05-12-2018

Algeria will shortly be holding elections in April 2019 that will be crucial for its future. The country did, it is true, introduce constitutional reforms in response to the Arab Spring in the region, but whether or not President Bouteflika will have a fifth term in office is still the chief cause of the uncertainly hanging over the country. Although elderly now and in frail health, the President is still the glue binding Algeria’s political system together after its terrible civil war in the 1990s ...

Algeria will shortly be holding elections in April 2019 that will be crucial for its future. The country did, it is true, introduce constitutional reforms in response to the Arab Spring in the region, but whether or not President Bouteflika will have a fifth term in office is still the chief cause of the uncertainly hanging over the country. Although elderly now and in frail health, the President is still the glue binding Algeria’s political system together after its terrible civil war in the 1990s. In this context, the Algerian equation remains a complex one with three unknown factors (youth, climate and migration) that may shape short and medium-term prospects. Algeria has a high number of young people and constant growth is needed for them to find jobs on the labour market. Young people are still not particularly engaged in Algeria’s political system and little is known about their preferences. Climate warming is a second unknown: it will have major consequences for the area and will probably push both Algeria’s population and people in the wider Sahelian region towards coastal towns, making investment in sustainable urban planning and suitable public services essential. Lastly, demographic dynamics, both as regards the country’s own population and how migration affects it, constitute an important challenge for the future. These concerns place Algeria firmly in its regional context where it plays a central role in the conflicts in the western Sahara, in relation to Libya, and in the Sahel. Algeria is also a vital partner in the fight against international terrorism. The country’s economic situation still needs to be watched: Algeria’s economy is coming under pressure from fluctuating energy prices. The Algerian authorities agree that reforms are needed but they are difficult to bring in when the State is facing a fall in revenue. The European Union is Algeria’s main trade partner and the Association Agreement provides a framework for further developing trade relations. The two partners recently opened discussions on Algeria’s tariff barriers as they do not seem to be heading in the right direction.

Maldives: New president gives hope for change

15-11-2018

The image of the Maldives seen by many tourists is at odds with the country’s situation. On the one hand, it has just emerged from five year’s rule by iron-fisted Abdulla Yameen, who left a legacy of serious human rights issues. On the other hand, the tiny archipelago, formerly one of the world's poorest countries, risks disappearing before the end of the century, due to climate change. Yet, hope is on the horizon with the surprise outcome of the September 2018 presidential elections, won by opposition ...

The image of the Maldives seen by many tourists is at odds with the country’s situation. On the one hand, it has just emerged from five year’s rule by iron-fisted Abdulla Yameen, who left a legacy of serious human rights issues. On the other hand, the tiny archipelago, formerly one of the world's poorest countries, risks disappearing before the end of the century, due to climate change. Yet, hope is on the horizon with the surprise outcome of the September 2018 presidential elections, won by opposition candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. Will the new president be able to change the course of events and address his country's numerous challenges?

Brazil ahead of the 2018 elections

05-10-2018

On 7 October 2018, about 147 million Brazilians will go to the polls to choose a new president, new governors and new members of the bicameral National Congress and state legislatures. If, as expected, none of the presidential candidates gains over 50 % of votes, a run-off between the two best-performing presidential candidates is scheduled to take place on 28 October 2018. Brazil's severe and protracted political, economic, social and public-security crisis has created a complex and polarised political ...

On 7 October 2018, about 147 million Brazilians will go to the polls to choose a new president, new governors and new members of the bicameral National Congress and state legislatures. If, as expected, none of the presidential candidates gains over 50 % of votes, a run-off between the two best-performing presidential candidates is scheduled to take place on 28 October 2018. Brazil's severe and protracted political, economic, social and public-security crisis has created a complex and polarised political climate that makes the election outcome highly unpredictable. Pollsters show that voters have lost faith in a discredited political elite and that only anti-establishment outsiders not embroiled in large-scale corruption scandals and entrenched clientelism would truly match voters' preferences. However, there is a huge gap between voters' strong demand for a radical political renewal based on new faces, and the dramatic shortage of political newcomers among the candidates. Voters' disillusionment with conventional politics and political institutions has fuelled nostalgic preferences and is likely to prompt part of the electorate to shift away from centrist candidates associated with policy continuity to candidates at the opposite sides of the party spectrum. Many less well-off voters would have welcomed a return to office of former left-wing President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (2003-2010), who due to a then booming economy, could run social programmes that lifted millions out of extreme poverty and who, barred by Brazil's judiciary from running in 2018, has tried to transfer his high popularity to his much less-known replacement. Another part of the electorate, appalled by growing public-security issues and endemic corruption, but also disappointed with democracy more broadly, appears to be strongly attracted by the simple and unconventional answers to complex challenges posed by far-right populist rhetoric. The latter – worryingly – glorifies Brazil's dictatorship (1964-1985). As candidates with unorthodox political approaches appear to be an emerging norm, Brazilians may opt for a populist turn as well. If so, EU-Brazil relations may become more complex in the future.

US-Russia relations: Reaching the point of no return?

03-10-2018

In August 2018, Russia's embassy in Washington claimed that US-Russia relations were moving towards irreversible breakdown. Long-standing bilateral tensions have been aggravated in recent years by Russia's aggression against Ukraine, sanctions, and accusations of Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential elections. Initially, Donald Trump's electoral victory raised hopes in Russia that tensions could ease. But while Trump often appears to share Russian wishes to move from confrontation to a more ...

In August 2018, Russia's embassy in Washington claimed that US-Russia relations were moving towards irreversible breakdown. Long-standing bilateral tensions have been aggravated in recent years by Russia's aggression against Ukraine, sanctions, and accusations of Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential elections. Initially, Donald Trump's electoral victory raised hopes in Russia that tensions could ease. But while Trump often appears to share Russian wishes to move from confrontation to a more transactional relationship, a rift has opened up between him and the rest of the US political establishment, which insists that the differences between the two countries are too fundamental to be easily set aside. Growing hostility towards Russia has led to harsher rhetoric and increasingly draconian sanctions. Alongside these more recent developments, US-Russia relations have been complicated for many years by fundamental foreign policy differences. The US sees itself as a global leader and champion of liberal values. For its part, Russia resents what it perceives as US hegemony and unwarranted interference in other countries' internal affairs. Russia is far from being a military equal to the US. Nevertheless, Moscow's nuclear arsenal makes it a potentially formidable adversary. A series of arms-control agreements aims to contain the threat of an arms race or even conflict between the two sides. However, deteriorating relations are making such arrangements look increasingly precarious. Compared to political and security issues, economic ties play only a minor role in US-Russia relations. Bilateral trade and investment have suffered from tensions and are likely to remain limited, not least due to sanctions.

Zimbabwe's post-electoral challenges

13-09-2018

As international isolation is no longer economically bearable, Zimbabwe has been searching for legitimacy on the global stage. The post-Mugabe transition government, from a ruling party fraction, committed itself to free and fair elections and invited international observers for first time in 16 years. But much-awaited change in Zimbabwe needs much more than a newly elected president and legislature. The country suffers from institutional dysfunction driven by years of a de facto one-party, military-backed ...

As international isolation is no longer economically bearable, Zimbabwe has been searching for legitimacy on the global stage. The post-Mugabe transition government, from a ruling party fraction, committed itself to free and fair elections and invited international observers for first time in 16 years. But much-awaited change in Zimbabwe needs much more than a newly elected president and legislature. The country suffers from institutional dysfunction driven by years of a de facto one-party, military-backed regime, characterised by rampant corruption and systematic patronage, securing the capture of key economic areas and political institutions by party elites. The victory of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), in both the legislative and presidential elections, and the deadly crackdown on the opposition that followed, seriously undermine the prospects for genuine Zimbabwean democracy. Although international observers assessed the electoral process as relatively free and competitive, it took place on an uneven playing field due to years of ZANU-PF domination. EU observers, in particular, expressed strong concern regarding the intimidation of voters, the pro-state bias of the media, and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission's (ZEC) lack of transparency. Some observers have indeed warned that the ousting of Robert Mugabe, which had raised so many hopes, was just part of a power reshuffle inside Zimbabwe's authoritarian regime, meant to protect the interests of the governing elites. Indeed, powerful forces obstruct change in Zimbabwe, seeking the sole preservation of their economic interests in the renewed political context. It is likely that the newly-elected President, Emmerson Mnangagwa, will pursue some economic reform, especially to attract foreign investors, while maintaining political control from above. In this situation, the EU, having declared its readiness to fully re-engage with Zimbabwe, has to use every lever to induce structural changes and to support civil society in this deeply corrupt and dysfunctional state.

2018 elections in Colombia: A test for peace?

25-05-2018

2018 is an important election year in Colombia, with legislative elections held in March, and the presidential election due on 27 May, with a second round probable, on 17 June, if no candidate gets over 50 % of the vote. It is also the first time in more than 50 years that elections are being held in peace, after an agreement was reached, and is now being implemented, with the guerilla, FARC. The legislative elections have left a fragmented Congress dominated by the right, and the presidential race ...

2018 is an important election year in Colombia, with legislative elections held in March, and the presidential election due on 27 May, with a second round probable, on 17 June, if no candidate gets over 50 % of the vote. It is also the first time in more than 50 years that elections are being held in peace, after an agreement was reached, and is now being implemented, with the guerilla, FARC. The legislative elections have left a fragmented Congress dominated by the right, and the presidential race, though still uncertain, seems to be polarised by a right-wing candidate, Ivan Duque, and his left-wing opponent, Gustavo Petro. Of the six candidates for the presidency, only Ivan Duque, from the Democratic Centre, has openly opposed the agreements made with the FARC, and has promised to make 'structural modifications', in particular regarding the Special Justice for Peace mechanism. The EU, which has actively supported the peace process in Colombia, has sent an electoral expert mission to follow the elections, and the European Parliament will also be present, through a multi-party delegation of eight MEPs.

Russia's 2018 presidential election: Six more years of Putin

08-03-2018

On 18 March 2018, Russians will elect the president who will govern their country for the next six years. Incumbent, Vladimir Putin is firmly on track to win, with approval ratings that have stayed above 80 % since Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014. Russians see him as a strong president, who has brought order to the country and restored its great power status. They are worried about the economy, poverty and corruption, but these problems, though partly blamed on Putin, have barely dented ...

On 18 March 2018, Russians will elect the president who will govern their country for the next six years. Incumbent, Vladimir Putin is firmly on track to win, with approval ratings that have stayed above 80 % since Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014. Russians see him as a strong president, who has brought order to the country and restored its great power status. They are worried about the economy, poverty and corruption, but these problems, though partly blamed on Putin, have barely dented his popularity. Reportedly, Putin's campaign has set a twin target of a 70 % vote in his favour and a 70 % turnout. Polls suggest that Putin will indeed win by a record margin, but also that a low turnout will tarnish his victory, denying him a ringing endorsement at the start of his fourth and probably final term in office. Apathy will probably be the main reason for voters staying at home, but some will heed an election boycott called by Alexey Navalny, Putin's most vocal opponent, who has been barred from the race. Vying for second place are seven other candidates. The most likely runners-up are veteran Vladimir Zhirinovsky and newcomer Pavel Grudinin. Reality TV star Xenia Sobchak adds colour to an otherwise lacklustre campaign, but few see her as a credible candidate. Widespread electoral fraud on the day of the vote is not expected. Nevertheless, the exclusion of Alexey Navalny and the lack of any real alternative to Putin raise questions about the democratic legitimacy of the election.

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