Mercy Wambua, the CEO of the Law Society of Kenya, protesting outside the Supreme Court, after the government deported an opposition politician in defiance of a court order, Nairobi, Kenya, Feb. 15, 2018 (AP photo by Ben Curtis).

In a historic ruling earlier this month, Malawi’s Constitutional Court overturned President Peter Mutharika’s victory in the country’s presidential election last May. The court criticized the Malawi Electoral Commission for failing to organize a credible vote; in some cases, ballots had reportedly been altered with correction fluid. The presiding judges also ruled that the country’s first-past-the post electoral system—which had allowed Mutharika to secure a second term with a plurality of only 38.5 percent of the vote—was unconstitutional, and ordered new elections to be held within 150 days. The following week, the court rejected an appeal by Mutharika and the […]

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa speaks to the BRICS Business Council prior to the BRICS Summit in Brasilia, Brazil, Nov. 13, 2019 (AP photo by Eraldo Peres).

South Africa assumed the annually rotating chair of the African Union earlier this month, its second term since serving as the organization’s inaugural chair following its founding in 2002. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa took over the role from his Egyptian counterpart, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, on Feb. 8 at the AU’s annual summit in Addis Ababa. The position adds to South Africa’s already deep engagement in multilateral organizations. It is currently in the middle of its third two-year term as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, and is a member of both the G-20 and the BRICS […]

Rwandan President Paul Kagame speaks at a meeting on the sidelines of the G-20 Compact with Africa summit in Berlin, Germany on Nov. 19, 2019 (Photo by John MacDougall for AFP via AP Images).

In a country where political opponents and outspoken critics of President Paul Kagame have a tendency to turn up dead or disappear, the official explanation of the death of a popular Rwandan gospel singer last week was immediately met with skepticism. The singer, Kizito Mihigo, had been arrested at the border earlier this month for allegedly trying to flee the country illegally and join armed rebels in neighboring Burundi. Three days later, he was found dead in his cell; the police say he committed suicide. Some of Mihigo’s songs run counter to the government’s preferred narrative about the Rwandan genocide, […]

An anti-government demonstrator waves an Ecuadorian national flag during clashes with police in Quito, Ecuador, Oct. 12, 2019 (AP photo by Fernando Vergara).

When it comes to repairing the harm done by populist authoritarian leaders, restoring the independence of democratic institutions is often just the start. The next challenge can be to steer polarized societies through the economic belt-tightening that is required after an autocrat’s spending spree. That seems to be the message from Ecuador, where President Lenin Moreno won overwhelming support in a 2018 constitutional referendum that overturned much of the political legacy of his predecessor and one-time mentor, the brash leftist Rafael Correa, and also blocked him from returning to office by putting a two-term limit on the presidency. But Moreno […]

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, left, and South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo, speak during a news conference at the Pentagon in Washington, Feb. 24, 2020 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

In what has been called a “protection racket” and a “blatant shakedown,” President Donald Trump is again pressuring South Korea to increase its contribution to the costs of maintaining U.S. military bases in the country. The mafia-esque terminology employed by commentators seems apt given Trump’s shocking initial demand for a fivefold increase in Seoul’s share of American basing costs, from around $900 million per year to nearly $5 billion. While U.S. negotiators have reportedly climbed down from that position, the two sides have yet to find common ground after six rounds of negotiations, heightening fears of a lasting standoff that […]

Anti-government demonstrators throw tear gas canisters back at riot police on a road leading to the parliament building during a protest in downtown Beirut, Lebanon, Feb. 11, 2020 (AP photo by Bilal Hussein).

After four months of widespread protests, Lebanon has a new government. Voted in by a slight majority in parliament in late January, it must deal with the gargantuan task of an economic meltdown of historic proportions, and of assuaging countrywide protesters questioning the legitimacy of the entrenched political elite. Lebanon’s economy, and with it perhaps its long-term political fortunes, are at stake. Since October, protesters across Lebanon, disillusioned with the gross political and economic mismanagement of successive governments, have demanded sweeping reforms. They have put the blame squarely on elites who draw their influence from Lebanon’s dysfunctional power-sharing system. This […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks to Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko during their meeting in Sochi, Russia, Feb. 7, 2020 (Photo by Sergey Mamontov for Sputnik via AP Images).

At a recent summit meeting in the Black Sea resort town of Sochi, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Belarusian ally, Alexander Lukashenko, did their best to put on a public show of comity. They even enjoyed a friendly game of hockey during a break from meetings. But despite the public proclamations of “brotherly” ties, the relationship between Russia and Belarus is much more nuanced—and much more troubled—than that. Tensions have been especially high in recent months, as Putin pushes for greater integration between the two countries, raising fears that he could try to annex Belarus outright. Lukashenko has staunchly […]

An amphibious assault vehicle carries American and Philippine troops during a joint military exercise in Zambales province, northwest of Manila, the Philippines, April 11, 2019 (AP photo by Bullit Marquez).

Last week, after hinting at it for some time, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announced he would terminate a key military pact with the United States. The Visiting Forces Agreement, in place for two decades, allows Washington to keep rotations of American soldiers in the Philippines. As Richard Heydarian has noted, the deal also provides a legal basis for the numerous annual joint military exercises between U.S. and Philippines forces. Tearing it up is the biggest break in bilateral relations at least since Manila forced Washington to give up its Philippine bases in 1991 and 1992. Some analysts, like Heydarian, go […]

Thomas Gould of the Sinn Fein party celebrating with supporters after the election, in Cork, Ireland, Feb. 9, 2020 (Photo by Yui Mok for Press Association via AP Images).

Ireland’s general election earlier this month was, by all accounts, historic. For the first time, the staunchly nationalist and leftist Sinn Fein party won the popular vote, even as it failed to secure the highest number of parliamentary seats under Ireland’s complicated electoral system. Equally important was the continued decline of the two traditionally dominant parties, Fianna Fail and Prime Minister Leo Varadkar’s Fine Gael, one of which has led every government since Ireland’s independence in 1921. Now, it is conceivable that neither will be involved in the next government. Conceivable, but still unlikely. As the party that narrowly won […]

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, and German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer at the 32nd party conference of the Christian Democratic Union, in Leipzig, Germany, Nov. 23, 2019 (Photo by Frank Hoermann for dpa via AP Images).

BERLIN—German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s plan for a smooth retirement collapsed last week when her hand-picked successor unexpectedly resigned, throwing Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union, or CDU, into turmoil. Germany’s most powerful political party is now frantically searching for a new leader, even as it grapples with a broader identity crisis after shedding supporters to both left-leaning and far-right parties. Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, or AKK as she is widely known in Germany, succeeded Merkel as CDU leader in late 2018 as part of the veteran chancellor’s plan to gradually retire from politics ahead of next year’s general election. Her tenure as party […]

A ship sails through the Bosporus strait in Istanbul, Turkey, June 24, 2018 (AP photo by Emrah Gurel).

ISTANBUL—Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has made multibillion-dollar infrastructure schemes a hallmark of his years in power, championing megaprojects like an ongoing extension of Turkey’s high-speed rail network and a gargantuan new airport outside Istanbul. He and his ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, claim they spur economic development and create jobs. Many activists in Turkey have long opposed Erdogan’s building spree due to its high social and environmental costs, but have had little success in stopping it. That may change with Erdogan’s latest push for what he once called his “crazy project”: digging a 28-mile canal on the […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses the State Council in Moscow, Jan. 15, 2020 (pool photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko of AP).

MOSCOW—Svetlana Alliluyeva, Joseph Stalin’s daughter, recalled in her memoir that before the tyrant drew his final breath, he cast a menacing glance at the confidantes and relatives gathered around him, then raised his arm as if to point to something or threaten someone. He may have been attempting to articulate his final request or even designate a successor, but no one ever decoded the gesture. Stalin left no formal plans for succession despite having ruled the Soviet Union for three decades. After his death, three senior officials—Nikita Khrushchev, Georgy Malenkov and Lavrenty Beria—quickly entered into a fierce power struggle to […]

A U.S. Air Force Reaper drone at the Singapore Airshow, Singapore, Feb. 11, 2020 (AP photo by Danial Hakim).

Decades of technological advances have made drones readily available not only to governments, but to non-state groups, commercial actors and hobbyists as well, for everything from military strikes to package deliveries. The United States last month used an MQ-9 Reaper drone to assassinate Iran’s top military commander, Qassem Soleimani. In September, an attack on Saudi oil facilities utilizing drones and cruise missiles temporarily cut Saudi oil production in half. Even smaller, unarmed drones can cause massive disruptions. In December 2018, London’s Gatwick Airport, the second-busiest in Britain, shut down for 36 hours after a drone was spotted nearby, causing hundreds […]

Mining operations at the Suncor Energy oil sands project near Fort McMurray, Alberta, June 13, 2017 (AP photo by Larry MacDougal).

In consecutive victories for the country’s oil-producing provinces, Canadian courts recently turned down challenges to a contentious plan to expand a major oil pipeline. Last month, the Supreme Court rejected a bid by British Columbia to block the expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline, which would triple the flow of oil from the tar sands of Alberta to Canada’s Pacific Coast, allowing more oil to be shipped to growing export markets in Asia. A similar legal challenge from indigenous groups, largely based on environmental concerns, was dismissed by a federal appeals court last week. The court decisions are likely to […]

A man waves an Iraqi flag during anti-government demonstrations in Tahrir Square, Baghdad, Iraq, Feb. 9, 2020 (AP photo by Khalid Mohammed).

BAGHDAD—Anti-government protesters in Iraq have spent more than four months calling for political and economic reforms and venting their anger at the failure of successive governments to provide better living standards and economic opportunities. Security forces, caught off-guard by the strength and resilience of the youth-driven protest movement, have responded with a campaign of repression that has killed more than 600 people and wounded tens of thousands more across the country. But the crackdown has only intensified the crisis, as Iraqis continue to take to the streets demanding justice for slain demonstrators and reforms of the political system. The government […]

Armed Special Forces soldiers of the Salvadoran Army stand guard in the Legislative Assembly, San Salvador, El Salvador, Feb. 9, 2020 (AP photo by Salvador Melendez).

In a blatant display of disregard for the country’s democratic institutions, President Nayib Bukele ordered the military to briefly occupy El Salvador’s legislature last weekend. He was apparently irritated with the slow pace of legislative negotiations over his proposal for a $109 million loan from a regional development bank to pay for new military equipment, as part of a broader crime bill. Bukele’s supporters applauded the show of force, but it provoked an outcry from critics concerned about the 38-year-old president’s disdain for the rule of law and his willingness to politicize the military. Bukele argues that the loan from […]

Nigerian Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama speaks next to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the State Department in Washington, Feb. 4, 2020 (AP photo by Jacquelyn Martin).

The Trump administration provoked another international outcry when it announced late last month that it was adding six new countries to its list of nations that face broad travel restrictions to the United States: Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Nigeria, Sudan and Tanzania. The expansion of the travel ban, which President Donald Trump first issued as an executive order just days after his inauguration in January 2017, will take effect on Feb. 22. The inclusion of Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country and its largest economy, generated immediate outrage among many observers. But the reaction from the Nigerian government was more muted than […]

Showing 1 - 17 of 241 2 Last