German Chancellor Angela Merkel is greeted with military honors by Burkina Faso’s president, Roch Kabore, at the Presidential Palace, Ouagadougou, May 1, 2019 (Photo by Michael Kappeler for dpa via AP Images).

BAMAKO, Mali—“The terrorists are quick,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters after a summit with the leaders of Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad and Burkina Faso in Ouagadougou in May. “This is why we have to be quicker, so that we can beat them.” What happens in the Sahel, the vast sub-Saharan region of Northern Africa, “is not only the responsibility of the region, but is also a European responsibility,” Merkel added in what was for her some uncharacteristic alarmism. “If chaos gains the upper hand here—something we want to prevent—other areas would be impacted.” The sight of Merkel standing side […]

Finnish Prime Minister Antti Rinne speaks to journalists prior to an EU summit, Brussels, Belgium, June 20, 2019 (Photo by Jakub Dospiva for CTK via AP Images).

A new five-party coalition government was formally appointed in Finland earlier this month, led by Prime Minister Antti Rinne. Rinne’s Social Democratic Party narrowly won legislative elections in mid-April with only 17.7 percent of the vote, leading it to partner with four smaller parties to form a left-leaning majority coalition in the Parliament. But the far-right populist Finns Party placed a close second in the elections with 17.5 percent, and it has emerged as the most popular party in Finland in recent public opinion polls. In an email interview with WPR, Teivo Teivainen, a professor of world politics at the […]

French President Emmanuel Macron at a press conference in Brussels, Belgium, June 21, 2019 (AP photo by Riccardo Pareggiani).

Editor’s Note: This article is part of an ongoing seriesabout press freedom and safety in various countries around the world. During his campaign for the presidency in 2017, Emmanuel Macron assiduously cultivated good relationships with the French press. He appeared to enjoy his interactions with the media, and his message always seemed tailored to his audience. In his interviews with mainstream newspapers and networks, he peppered his answers with philosophical references, projecting a sense of genuine intellectual engagement. When he spoke with the tabloids, he answers were soft and frivolous, and the coverage was fawning. The campaign was “a masterpiece […]

Lilit Martirosian, a founder of the Armenian transgender organization Right Side, during an interview for the Associated Press in Yerevan, Armenia, April 26, 2019 (AP photo by Sona Kocharyan).

On April 5, Lilit Martirosyan, the first registered transgender woman in Armenia, became the first member of the country’s LGBT community to speak in the Armenian parliament. LGBT people in Armenia, she told the National Assembly, have been “tortured, raped, kidnapped, physically assaulted, burned, stabbed, murdered, robbed and unemployed.” It was a courageous public appearance in a country where homophobic and transphobic sentiments are widespread. Sadly, but not surprisingly, Martirosyan’s speech was followed by a torrent of death threats and verbal abuse. The chairperson of the parliamentary session she spoke at denounced her appearance. Days later, a crowd of more […]

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage at a Brexit Party rally in Peterborough ahead of the upcoming by-election, June 1, 2019 (Press Association photo by Danny Lawson via AP Images).

Just two weeks after the far-right Brexit Party emerged as one of the winners of the European Parliament elections, Nigel Farage’s new political outfit was presented with its first opportunity to win a British parliamentary seat. It was in a by-election in the constituency of Peterborough that appeared firmly slanted in its favor. Peterborough voted to leave the European Union in the 2016 referendum by a clear majority of nearly 61 percent. Its disgraced Labour MP, Fiona Onasanya, who was only elected in 2017 by a paper-thin margin of 607 votes, had been recalled by her own party after being […]

A protester holds a sign mocking Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban during an anti-government march in central Budapest, Hungary, Dec. 21, 2018 (AP photo by Marko Drobnjakovic).

Around the world, political debates are increasingly being shaped around social and cultural issues rather than questions of policy. The result is a hardening of national discourses in many countries, as well as a shrinking of the space required for compromise. Meanwhile, a new generation of populist leaders is increasingly willing to not only flout democratic norms, but also to use traditional tools of democratic governance to consolidate and expand their own power. 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, discuss the emerging […]

Planes from the Battle of Britain memorial flight pass over Arromanches, France, during a service to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings, June 6, 2019 (Press Association photo by Gareth Fuller via AP Images).

Can the norms and institutions of liberal democracy still effectively arbitrate the issues driving debate in Western democracies? The ideological movements roiling politics throughout Europe and the United States have been seen as a popular backlash against the elite technocratic policy consensus of Third Way globalization. But in some ways, they portend a new form of contesting politics that is fundamentally incompatible with the premises on which liberal democracy is based. These movements may be working within the system to achieve their aims for now, but in the long run, the battles they seek to join could represent existential threats […]

U.S. President Donald Trump, First Lady Melania Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife, Brigitte Macron, attend a ceremony to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day, Normandy, France, June 6, 2019 (pool photo by Ian Langsdon via AP Images).

Last week, President Donald Trump joined world leaders to commemorate Operation Overlord, history’s most ambitious amphibious invasion and a portent of the extensive U.S. international engagement that was to come in the wake of World War II. The pageantry of the event, which marked the 75th anniversary of D-Day, and the poignancy of the Normandy landings’ last surviving veterans, could not conceal the brutal truth: The ties that have bound the United States to its European partners in the decades since that war are badly frayed. For the first time in the postwar era, an American president has repeatedly undermined […]

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban casts his vote at a polling station for the European Parliament election, Budapest, May 26, 2019 (MTI photo by Szilard Koszticsak via AP).

In his visit to the White House last month, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who proudly describes himself as an illiberal democrat, did what every good populist does: He explained that he had a mandate from the people. “From the people, by the people, for the people. That is the basis for the Hungarian government,” he said when asked about democratic backsliding in his country. Like other populist leaders, Orban uses a number of tactics to back up his claims: sidelining the media to quell critics, whipping up perceived threats from migrants, refugees and others from abroad, and, like other […]

Then-Chancellor Sebastian Kurz during a news conference after the resignation of his vice chancellor, the Freedom Party's Heinz-Christian Strache, spelled an end to his governing coalition, Vienna, May 21, 2019 (AP photo by Michael Gruber).

VIENNA—In a bizarre showing of defiant support late last month, about 200 people cheered on the man who’d just become the briefest chancellor in Austria since 1945. “Stand up for Sebastian,” the crowd chanted, their words subdued by loud music, the rain, and the uncertainty of the political future. Austria’s Parliament had voted that Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and his entire Cabinet be dismissed and replaced with a caretaker government until fresh elections in September. Despite his high approval ratings, Kurz became the first chancellor to be disposed of by Parliament in more than seven decades. At age 31, Kurz had […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump at a joint news conference at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, Aug. 18, 2018 (AP photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais).

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been described as the most “powerful” and “influential” man in the world, but do these assessments accurately capture reality? Putin is undoubtedly the most powerful man in Russia, but how much control does he actually have over the country’s bureaucracy? And is there actually a grand strategic vision underpinning his foreign adventurism in Venezuela, Syria and Ukraine? In this week’s podcast interview, WPR’s associate editor, Elliot Waldman, discusses these questions with Mark Galeotti, an honorary professor at University College London’s School of Slavonic and East European Studies and the author of “It’s Time to Talk […]

A fishing boat displays a pro-Brexit banner, near Newcastle, United Kingdom, April 8, 2018 (Photo by Owen Humphreys for Press Association via AP Images).

Many people in the United Kingdom’s coastal fishing communities supported the “Leave” campaign during the 2016 Brexit referendum, since they consider European Union rules that allow other member states’ fishing boats to trawl British waters to be unfair. Now, British politicians committed to Brexit will have to make good on their promises to “take back control” of the U.K.’s rich fisheries. But that will prove difficult and may not even be in the best interest of British fishing communities, says Ben Drakeford, a senior lecturer at the University of Portsmouth in the U.K. who specializes in fisheries economics. In an […]

British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn leaves EU headquarters in Brussels, March 21, 2019 (AP photo by Frank Augstein).

When the last of the ballots had finally been counted in the recent European Parliament elections, it became abundantly clear that one of the biggest losers was Britain’s Labour Party, and its Brexit strategy most of all. The party finished in third place, behind both Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party and the ardently pro-Remain Liberal Democrats, with a mere 14.1 percent of the total vote. If the results are anything to go by, then Labour’s attempts to appeal to both Leavers and Remainers by being as ambiguous as possible about Brexit have actually had the opposite effect and alienated both sides […]

Tens of thousands of people protest against Prime Minister Andrej Babis, at Wenceslas Square, Prague, Czech Republic, May 21, 2019 (CTK photo by Michal Kamaryt via AP Images).

PRAGUE—An estimated 50,000 protesters rallied in Prague’s iconic Wenceslas Square in mid-May—the center of 1989’s Velvet Revolution and the earlier anti-communist revolt in 1968—amid rising fears that the Czech Republic could follow neighboring Hungary and Poland in sliding toward authoritarian rule. The mass protest marked a fourth week of growing demonstrations, kicked off by the surprise announcement on April 18 that an ally of billionaire Prime Minister Andrej Babis would take over as the justice minister, just a day after Czech police had recommended that Babis be prosecuted for fraud. The protesters worry that the previous justice minister, Jan Knezinek, […]

The French Navy ship Vendemiaire, docked for a five-day port call in Manila, Philippines, March 12, 2018 (AP photo by Bullit Marquez).

France is stepping up its naval activities in the Asia-Pacific. Last month, the French navy conducted joint exercises with the United States, Australian and Indian navies, just weeks after a separate naval drill with India that involved two aircraft carriers. In April, the French frigate Vendemiaire made a rare passage through the strategically important Taiwan Strait. Some observers fear that these maneuvers could heighten tensions with Beijing, but so far, both France and China have worked to prevent that from happening, says Jean-Pierre Cabestan, a professor of government and international studies at Hong Kong Baptist University. In an email interview […]