South Korean President Moon Jae-in boards a flight at Seoul Air Base in Seongnam, South Korea, April 10, 2019 (AP photo by Lee Jin-man).

As South Korean President Moon Jae-in heads into his third year in office this week, he faces a familiar political burden. Ever since South Korea’s transition to democracy in the late 1980s, its presidents have been limited to a single five-year term. That stipulation in the constitution, which otherwise grants substantial political power to the presidency, was intended as a constraint on the executive branch following decades of authoritarian rule. It also tends to cause the rapid onset of lame-duck syndrome, as most modern-day South Korean presidents see an average decline in both approval ratings and political capital over the […]

A demonstrator waves a Honduran flag during a protest against the government of President Juan Orlando Hernandez in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Jan. 27, 2019 (AP photo by Fernando Antonio).

Honduras was rocked by mass protests last week against proposed reforms of the health and education sectors that demonstrators feared would lead to mass layoffs of teachers and health professionals. The rallies were mostly peaceful but turned violent in some places after demonstrators clashed with riot police. The Honduran government responded by putting the proposed reforms on ice and calling for dialogue with labor union leaders. WPR spoke recently with frequent contributor Christine Wade, a Latin America specialist at Washington College, about the deep crisis facing Honduras. Last week’s protests tapped into a powerful undercurrent of frustration with President Juan […]

A banner depicting slain Guatemalan Bishop Juan Jose Gerardi at a rally to mark the 12th anniversary of his murder in Guatemala City, April 26, 2010 (AP photo by Moises Castillo).

LA JOYA, El Salvador—On a Thursday morning in October 2017, Rosario Lopez, a 72-year-old Salvadoran woman with square wire-rimmed glasses and dark, gray-speckled hair pulled into a bun, took the stand in a small courtroom in northeastern El Salvador. She had been called to provide testimony in a trial stemming from the worst atrocity of El Salvador’s 12-year civil war. The massacre had unfolded in and around the small mountain village of El Mozote in December 1981, still in the early period of a grueling, grinding conflict between the military government, which took power in a coup in 1979, and […]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, points toward the city center as he speaks with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg during a meeting in Ankara, May 6, 2019 (Presidential Press Service via AP Images).

The United States and Turkey have engaged in extensive diplomacy for over a year and a half now to try and resolve the festering dispute over the Turkish government’s decision to buy the advanced S-400 missile defense system from Russia. President Donald Trump and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have spoken about it personally several times, including in a phone call late last month. But the rift between the two is still too great to bridge. How this standoff is resolved, if at all, could permanently alter the trajectory of U.S.-Turkey relations, and by extension, Turkey’s role in NATO and its […]

People protest against the parliamentary election results in Chisinau, Moldova, March 21, 2019 (Photo by Dmitrij Osmatesko for Sputnik via AP).

Parliamentary elections were held in Moldova in late February, but the country has yet to form a government. The opposition Socialist Party, which favors closer ties with Russia, gained 35 out of 101 seats in Parliament, while the ruling Democratic Party took 30 seats. A pro-European Union opposition coalition called the ACUM campaigned on an anti-corruption platform and came in third, with 26 seats. Any two of these three parties could form a governing coalition, but wide gaps in their platforms have so far precluded any agreements, says Denis Cenusa, a researcher at Justus Liebig University in Giessen, Germany. In […]

A man rides past soldiers securing a Muslim neighborhood following overnight clashes, Negombo, Sri Lanka, May 6, 2019 (AP photo by Eranga Jayawardena).

The fallout from the coordinated suicide bombings in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, which the Islamic State claimed responsibility for, is likely to reverberate across South Asia. With the threat of more attacks still looming, according to U.S. officials, and the surprising reemergence of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, will the Islamic State seize on South Asia as the new ground zero in what al-Baghdadi, in his video last week, called its “war of attrition”? The answer will depend in large part on whether leaders in the region resist the temptation to overreact and don’t give in to the […]

Benin’s president, Patrice Talon, arrives at the “Compact With Africa” conference in Berlin, Germany, Oct. 30, 2018 (Photo by Annegret Hilse for dpa via AP Images).

Editor’s Note: Every Friday, WPR Senior Editor Robbie Corey-Boulet curates the top news and analysis from and about the African continent. It has been clear for weeks that opposition leaders and outside observers were unlikely to quietly accept the results of this week’s legislative elections in Benin, which took place under highly unusual circumstances. In accordance with revised electoral rules, the opposition was excluded entirely, and only two parties were allowed to participate, both of them aligned with President Patrice Talon. Given the pride Benin’s political class takes in its reputation for having a strong democracy, there was some speculation […]

Japanese Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako on their way to the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, May 1, 2019 (Kyodo photo via AP Images).

In this week’s editors’ discussion episode of the Trend Lines podcast, WPR’s editor-in-chief Judah Grunstein, managing editor Frederick Deknatel and associate editor Elliot Waldman talk about the challenges facing Japan as a new emperor ascends to the Chrysanthemum Throne, as well as the burgeoning debate among Democratic Party presidential candidates over America’s Middle East policy as they vie for the role of challenging President Donald Trump in 2020. The editors also discuss the ongoing crisis in Venezuela and what it says about the Trump administration’s stance on regime change. If you like what you hear on Trend Lines and what […]

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waves to supporters after polls for Israel’s general elections closed in Tel Aviv, Israel, April 10, 2019 (AP photo by Ariel Schalit).

JERUSALEM—At 10 p.m. on election night on April 9, as polling stations were closing all over Israel, Channel 12 News, the country’s most popular newscast, predicted a tie between the two major political blocs. It looked like Benny Gantz, the former chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces who had entered the fray just four months earlier, was set to unseat Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister. Buoyed by the fact that a tie should work in his favor, as no center-left parties were willing to join a Netanyahu government, while a couple of parties on the right had not […]

Bruneian Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah delivers a speech in Singapore, July 5, 2017 (AP photo by Wong Maye-E).

Last month, Brunei implemented part of a harsh new criminal code based on Islamic law that stipulates, among other things, a potential sentence of death by stoning for those convicted of gay sex and adultery. The move drew swift condemnation from LGBT rights groups as well as the broader international community, with some prominent celebrities like George Clooney and Ellen DeGeneres calling for a boycott of certain Brunei-owned businesses. But according to Dominik Müller, an expert on Islam in Southeast Asia at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle, Germany, important aspects of the legal and social reality […]

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Eloi Alphonse Maxime Dovo, then the foreign affairs minister of Madagascar, arrive for a meeting in Moscow, Russia, Oct. 22, 2018 (Photo by Vitaliy Belousov for Sputnik via AP).

Concerns about Russian activities across Africa have been growing for some time, and new revelations about the Kremlin’s alleged efforts to interfere in the most recent presidential election in Madagascar have lifted the veil on what looks like a concerted campaign to expand Moscow’s influence by a variety of means. As outlined in a BBC documentary last month, in addition to investigative reporting by The Project, an independent Russian journalism collective, these efforts have been spearheaded by Yegveny Prigozhin, a Russian oligarch close to President Vladimir Putin who is known as “Putin’s Chef.” Prigozhin rose to prominence after he was […]

Protesters wear yellow vests as they denounce Khalifa Haftar’s military offensive, Tripoli, Libya, April 19, 2019 (AP photo by Hazem Ahmed).

When Khalifa Haftar, the leader of the self-declared Libyan National Army, released an audio message announcing his offensive on Libya’s capital, Tripoli, on April 4, he likely expected things to go very differently. Despite being the centerpiece of a United Nations political process that his international backers—primarily France, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt—had essentially hijacked to provide him a diplomatic route to uncontested power in Libya, Haftar used the assault on Tripoli to send a clear message that he rejected even the semblance of diplomacy and power-sharing. After all, it began on the same day that U.N. Secretary-General Antonio […]

Hundreds of demonstrators hold candles to protest against proposed changes to Poland’s justice system, in Warsaw, Poland, Aug. 3, 2018 (AP photo by Czarek Sokolowski).

The European Commission announced new legal measures last month aimed at curbing the erosion of judicial independence and the rule of law in member states. While several Central and Eastern European governments have sought to exert political influence over their judiciaries, the European Union’s latest actions were primarily directed at Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party, known by its Polish acronym PiS, which has intervened in the country’s justice system since winning an outright majority in parliament in 2015. In an email interview with WPR, Artur Wolek, the public policy and administration professor at the Jesuit University Ignatianum in Krakow […]

Devotees wait to worship at the Sabarimala temple, one of the world’s largest Hindu pilgrimage sites, in Kerala state, India, Nov. 5, 2018 (AP photo by Manish Swarup).

Narendra Modi has been associated with Hindu nationalism, or the notion that India is for Hindus first and foremost, since long before he became prime minister in 2014. Nevertheless, the manifestations of Hindu nationalism on display during his first term have alarmed his critics. They include controversial proposals to place new restrictions on citizenship as well as “cow protection” gangs, vigilantes who have killed dozens of people as part of a violent campaign against the trade and consumption of cattle. Modi’s government, and Modi himself, have taken pains not to explicitly champion a “Hindu first” agenda, yet the government’s policies […]

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