In 1998, the Green Party in Germany ran an election campaign with the slogan “New majorities only with us.” But what kind of majorities can elections create? I might be asking the obvious, given that elections are decided by majority votes channeled through an elaborate system of representatives. The elections in Germany in 1998 provide a case to complicate this notion of political and consequently national majority, because the Green Party and the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) campaigned by centering social justice and by addressing the politically marginalized and ethnic minority segments of the populace, specifically German-Turks. A new political majority was constituted in 1998, and old convictions of an ethnically homogeneous nation were challenged through several statements, policies, and ultimately legal reforms. The figure of the foreigner (Ausländer) was deployed productively by all parties and ultimately facilitated the shift into a new national self-conception within a neoliberal Europe. In fact, I think, more than “new majorities,” a new minority emerged in the years after the 1998 elections—a Muslim minority. And for this minority to emerge and remain productive for political purposes, a longer history of migration built on the logic of return had to be undone.
How so? Let me explain through a personal-political account of ever-shifting Turkish life in Germany.
In a rare 2013 interview, right after his official election as the 2014 prime ministerial candidate for the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party), Reuters spoke to the then head of BJP’s election campaign, now twice-elected prime minister of India—Narendra Modi. On being asked whether he regretted the Gujarat riots that had claimed over two thousand Muslim lives during his term as the state’s chief minister, he said: “If someone else is driving a car and we’re sitting behind, even then if a puppy comes under the wheel, will it be painful or not? Of course, it is. [Whether] I’m a chief minister or not, I’m a human being. If something bad happens anywhere, it is natural to be sad.”
This lackadaisical comment had then sparked widespread outrage from his political opponents, who demanded accountability and apology from Modi for the deaths during the riots. The Gujarat riots were amongst the worst accounts of communal violence in recent times. Considering all that unfolded after Narendra Modi’s re-election in 2019, one can now retroactively read in his 2013 comment—in his refusal to condemn the violence or take any accountability for what had transpired—a striking precedent for what would become the country’s future direction.
On December 11, 2019, the BJP government, with Narendra Modi at its helm, passed the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which provided citizenship for immigrants from the neighboring countries of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, on the condition that they were not of Muslim ethnicity. This act must be seen in tandem with the National Register of Citizens (NRC), which cast into doubt the citizenship status of many Indian Muslims while granting immunity from deportation to non-Muslims under the CAA. For the first time in Indian history, legislation directly challenging the secular fabric of the Indian constitution was put into motion.Continue reading “election : india 2014 – 2020”
Unlike other East European countries, Serbia’s main transitional challenges since Slobodan Milošević’s overthrow in 2000 remain overshadowed by the legacy of war in the 1990s in former Yugoslavia, which Serbian society failed to deal with. After the end of the wars, the denial of war crimes became a strong force in generating new divisions and affecting the way politics in Serbia is understood, so that patriotism, territorial disputes, and war crimes, which have dominated public narratives in Serbia since 2000. The ensuing political debates and electoral campaigns have thus not adequately focalized building independent institutions, separating legislative, executive, and juridical powers, transforming a planned centralized economy into a free market economy, or combatting existing poverty through improving social programs, healthcare, or educational reforms. In 2000, Serbia’s leading reformist and pro-European politician Zoran Đinđić led the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS)—a big tent coalition of 18 parties, all of different political backgrounds—in its successful overthrow of authoritarian president and war criminal Slobodan Milošević, leader of the left-wing nationalist Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) and president of Serbia/Yugoslavia (1987–2000). Following this, Đinđić, co-founder and president of Serbia’s Democratic Party (DS), the main non-nationalist, socially liberal opposition party to Milošević throughout the 1990s, became prime minister and Vojislav Koštunica, leader of the national-conservative Democrcatic Party of Serbia (DSS), became president. Đinđić hoped to reform and modernize Serbia from his position as prime minister, but his efforts faced strong obstruction from newly elected president Koštunica. Đinđić was assassinated in 2003 and Koštunica became the new prime minister soon after.
(adapted from Kamara’s article “Burkina Faso: Nothing will be as it was before,” published in Africa is a Country, October 2019)
A few years after the Jasmine Revolutions had shaken up North African countries, events came to a boil south of the Sahara in Burkina Faso. On October 31, 2014, massive street protests toppled President Blaise Compaoré who was in power for 27 years. Revolutions, uprisings or insurrections, whatever label you give them, tend to be presented as clear-cut turning points in history books, but the truth is that the first few years after such upheavals are often confused, complex, and sometimes downright demoralizing. It is still not clear how the outcome of the 2014 Burkina Faso insurrection will go down in history books—indeed, there is not yet even consensus on how the events should be referred to, though with time, the term “insurrection” has come to displace the term “revolution.” Awaiting the clarity of hindsight, here is a look back through the eyes of an ordinary bystander to the extraordinary events that occurred at the end of October five years ago.