French President Nicolas Sarkozy once made headlines with the remark, “If Turkey were Europe, we would know it.” In July, European Commission president José Manuel Barroso gave voice to similar European sentiments in a Greek newspaper interview: “Let’s be honest,” he said, “Turkey is not ready to become an EU member and the EU is not ready to accept Turkey as a member. Neither tomorrow, nor the next day.” Despite the overwhelmingly positive European response to Erdogan’s recent triumph at the polls, and calls to revamp Turkey’s political and economic reforms by European leaders, one fact remains clear: Turkey’s membership […]

DENPASAR Indonesia — The long overdue reform of the murky Indonesian intelligence service, Badan Intelijen Negara (BIN), could be spurred by revelations emerging in the trial of the alleged killer of the country’s top human right activist. Munir Said Thalib, known simply as Munir, died from arsenic poisoning while on a flight on Garuda, Indonesia’s national airline, from Jakarta to Amsterdam via Singapore on Sept. 7, 2004. Pollycarpus Budi Priyanto, an off-duty pilot who travelled on the same flight to Singapore, was first jailed for the murder, but then acquitted in October 2006 by the Supreme Court due to lack […]

Asmaa Abdol-Hamid has made clear what she thinks of the Danish soldiers stationed in Iraq: They are occupying Iraq exactly like the Nazis occupied Denmark in the Second World War. Those who fight against them are, consequently, not terrorists, but freedom fighters, and their combat is absolutely justified. Abdol Hamid, who only appears in public with head and hair carefully veiled, is a candidate on the unified list formed by Socialists and Greens for the upcoming Danish Parliamentary elections. Her remarks in late July had immediate and wide-ranging consequences: The conservative politician Rasmus Jarlov filed charges against her for treason. […]

TOKYO — In a desperate attempt to jump-start the ruling party’s fortunes after a recent electoral drubbing, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is set to announce a reshuffle of his Cabinet next week. But it’s going to take more than that if he wants to breathe life into his premiership. Last month, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) lost its majority in the House of Councilors, which is now led by a member for the opposition for the first time in 50 years. The loss was hardly a surprise — the government’s poll numbers had been on the slide almost since […]

On Aug. 14, 165 million Pakistanis celebrated their country’s 60th anniversary as an independent nation state. The festivities were tempered, however, by the widespread realization that the country is experiencing its most serious political crisis since Gen. Pervez Musharraf seized power in 1999. The decision by Musharraf to dismiss Chief Supreme Court justice Iftikhar Chaudhry on March 9 precipitated the situation. The president claimed he acted after learning of unspecified misconduct performed by Chaudhry. Most observers, however, view Musharraf’s move as an attempt to eliminate a potential impediment to his securing another five-year term as president. Musharraf assumed the presidency […]

SHYMKENT, Kazakhstan — While seven political parties are campaigning to win seats in Kazakhstan’s lower house of parliament, common Kazakhs remain largely indifferent to the election, believing the results aren’t likely to bring change from a government whose commitment to democracy is lately in doubt. Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev dissolved the parliament’s lower house, the Mazhilis, June 20 and called for new elections. Ninety-eight deputies of the Mazhilis will be elected Aug. 18 in accordance with a system of party-list proportional representation that allocates seats among parties winning at least 7 percent of the vote. (The remaining nine seats of […]

DENPASAR, Indonesia — August is celebration time in Southeast Asia, where Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia are donning their best dresses and marking their respective independence days. However, while parades snake through the streets, fireworks light up the night sky and politicians try to outdo each other with poignant speeches and lists of their countries’ achievements, unresolved problems and the emergence of new ones in the three countries are dampening the spirits of average citizens. Singapore’s Income Gap Behind Singapore’s glitz and gloss, the country’s long-term prosperity — and perhaps its social harmony — is threatened by an ever-widening wealth gap […]

To look at him, one would never suspect that Vladislav Surkov once worked as an agent for a crack special operations unit in the Red Army’s intelligence corps. A svelte, retiring figure, Surkov, 42, usually shies away from the public spotlight. When he does give interviews or make public appearances, therefore, it commonly occasions a media frenzy. Attempts to slice through the veil of mystery shrouding this high-placed presidential aide assume particular urgency because, by some estimates, Surkov is the second most influential person in Russian politics. Surkov came to the attention of casual Russia-watchers in the West following a […]

GUADALAJARA, Mexico — A year after losing Mexico’s contested presidential election, runner up Andrés Manuel López Obrador has largely fallen out of view and it’s unclear whether he can stage a comeback. But he can certainly still draw a crowd. Last month, on the eve of the one-year anniversary of the vote he narrowly lost, López Obrador beckoned his followers to Mexico City’s enormous Zocalo (town square) for a rally, where the self-proclaimed “legitimate president of Mexico” once again branded the election fraudulent, invoked a new theory to explain his defeat and railed against proposed economic reforms. He also promoted […]

The Turkish nation delivered its verdict last week, even taking Erdogan and his supporters by surprise. Turkey’s parliamentary elections on July 22 resulted in a decisive victory for Prime Minister Recep Erdogan, of the Islamic-rooted party AKP. The AKP’s 47 percent of the vote has reaffirmed the party’s place as one of the most powerful political parties in the history of Turkish elections, claiming an even larger share of the vote than was realized in 2002. “Democracy has passed a very important test,” Erdogan said in his victory speech, amidst bursting firecrackers and showering balloons at his Ankara party headquarters. […]