referendum : colombian peace agreement 2016

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by Santiago Ospina Celis

On October 2, 2016, Colombians were asked to endorse or reject a proposed peace agreement between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia–People’s Army (FARC–EP) guerrilla group. Though the peace agreement would not redress the country’s rampant poverty and economic inequality (Colombia is the second-most unequal country in Latin America), nor would it bring a sudden end to armed conflict (many guerrillas and paramilitary groups are still active, like the National Liberation Army (ELN)), it did contain several bright spots: it would bring peace to a considerable portion of the countryside; it would return land illegally seized during the conflict; it promised to subsidize economic losses incurred by the replacement of illegal albeit extremely profitable coca or poppy crops with legal albeit less profitable agricultural activities, by offering credits for land acquisition to the rural population; it opened up the space for the formation and consolidation of social movements, many of which were able to participate directly in the negotiations; it would mean the end of hostilities between the government and the FARC, whose members would undergo a process of socioeconomic reincorporation into civilian life; and it promised recognition, truth, and reparations for the many victims of the country’s war crimes by establishing a new transitional and restorative justice system.

The shockwaves of the referendum still reverberate through much of Colombia’s social and political landscape. What happened on October 2, 2016, determined the country’s future agenda in terms of land distribution, the illegal drug trade, gender relations, transitional justice, political rhetoric, and the demands of the rural population.

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election : india 2014 – 2020

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by Amrita De

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”

election : serbia 2000 – 2003

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by Marko Velickovic

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.

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