American Neoconservatism

When George W. Bush was re-elected president, if not earlier, neoconservatism took over in the United States. This, at least, is the impression you are bound to get from reading some German papers. Aggressiveness in American foreign policy and ,cowboy‘ capitalism are two characteristics of the ,neocons‘, facets that are symbolic of what ,we Europeans‘ reject.

Parliamentary Elections in Azerbaijan in 2005

A Test of Democracy for the People and the Political Elite as well as for the West

The parliamentary elections held in Azerbaijan last November were the political highlight of the year 2005 in the former Soviet republic. The event was observed by the West with some interest, Azerbaijan being generally regarded as that post-communist country whose path to democracy appears particularly rocky, a country where the president, who is elected every five years, possesses enormous power, while parliament is extremely weak.

Stability in Instability

The Situation in Poland Six Months after the Parliamentary Elections

As expected, the government of the left was voted out of office in the elections of September 2005. The performance of the PiS, the strongest party at 27 percent, came as a surprise, while the liberal-conservative Civic Platform (PO) obtained no more than 24 percent. The PiS now holds 155 of the 460 seats in the Polish parliament, the Sam party holds 56, the LPR 34, and the PSL 25. The election result supported a strong social-paternalist state as well as the ongoing struggle against post-communism.

Strengthen Europe's Role on the Gulf!

Security-policy Developments and Economic Interests Cry out for Action

The European Union is far from arriving at a common policy on the Gulf. This is as sobering as it is alarming, particularly in view of the open question of Iran’s use of nuclear power, the need to secure Europe’s energy supply, and the economic boom on the Gulf. Europe has a vital interest in political stability based on regional integration, and its active engagement is theoretically more than overdue.

The Friday Sermons (hutbe) of the Presidium for Religious Affairs in Turkey

Spiritual Care, Religious Service, or an Instrumentalisation of Religion?

The interest of the world increasingly focuses on Islam, a process often dominated by wholesale mutual recriminations and suspicions that occasionally culminate in the inference that Islam and terrorism are one and the same thing. In the Federal Republic of Germany, a certain sensitivity towards Islam has evolved by now, although the dialogue is not yet quite free of prejudices and clichés.

Africa ante Portas

Europe’s image of Africa, the unknown black continent, is coloured by fascination and horror. People in Europe think they know all about the situation in Africa, and Africa’s picture in the minds of German pupils is full of familiar stereotypes: Africa is poor, weird, and wild, but then the Africans are musical and athletic. Relationships between the two continents have never been on an equal footing since the 15th century, when Africa became Europe’s colonial backyard. While one party possessed both resources and self-confidence, the other had no resources at all. The occasions when Africans appeared as players, be it as scurrilous dictators like Idi Amin or Mr Bokassa or, more recently, as positive role models like Nelson Mandela, were few and far between, and Europe’s expectations were often not met at all. Political and economic developments in Africa made no headway in the last five decades, causing the West to respond in different ways: While some demand a comprehensive remission of debts for the continent, others call for an end to development aid. However, what actually happened and is still happening in Africa never really aroused any interest in Europe. After all, the continent was far away, and what was happening happened ‘nowhere in Africa‘, so to speak. The end of the Cold War aroused great hopes that the winds of change might put things to rights. However, theses hopes remained unfulfilled. As long as push factors such as war, poverty, and over population remain dominant in Africa while Europe is governed by pull factors such as stability, merit, and education, matters will not change very much. However, there is another fact that currently concentrates Europe’s attention on Africa. Many countries on the continent are establishing or enhancing relations with China, a country that is known to hunger for raw materials but has also something to offer to the Africans, such as cheap products and economic relations without long-winded debates about human rights. While African rulers bask in the interest of the Chinese, the West is coming to realize that Africa is perfectly capable of surprising it with its receptiveness towards unexpected alliances. When the film ,The March‘ described in 1990 how thousands of Africans flee to Europe to escape starvation at home, a debate began that was revived a short while ago, when hundreds of Africans climbed Europe’s increasingly high fences at Ceuta and Melilla.There is no country in Africa where living conditions can be compared to those in Europe. What is more, the entire continent lacks the economic dynamism that can be observed in the developing countries of Asia. Young Africans think they know that Europe is a land of milk and honey, that it is rich while they themselves are poor. They never ask why this should be so. In 2005, the UN refugee organization supported around three million refugees in Africa – a figure that is as daunting as the resultant consequences. Large migrations are still confined to Africa itself, exceeding the accommodation capacities of the host countries. Moreover, as the refugees themselves hardly have anything positive to say about realities in their host countries, Europe retains its attraction as the destination the migrants dream of. According to the Federal Statistical Office, seven million foreigners were living in Germany in 2004, almost four percent of them Africans. Official data suggest that about 4.8 million Africans are currently living in the whole of the EU. While this does not make immigrants from Africa a weighty factor in Europe’s migration statistics, it appears impossible for Europe to go on ignoring the fires burning on the African continent, particularly in view of the political and economic stagnation to be expected in Africa, the HIV/AIDS issue, and the recent unrest in the suburbs of France. Meanwhile, German politicians have proposed to set up internment camps in ‘culturally related’ areas, i.e. in Africa itself. Even Mr Barroso, the president of the EU Commission, announced that Europe would increase its development aid ‘in its own interest’. However, this merely means treating the symptoms while leaving the underlying problems intact.Europe’s relations with Africa are disturbed. This disturbance is rooted in the colonial era, in which asymmetrical relations were established which have not become symmetrical to this day. Yet Africa is right on Europe’s doorstep. It must be in the interest of Europe to enable its neighbours to live a life of prosperity and dignity in their own countries. Fences, camps, and more development aid are probably not the proper way to achieve this goal. Africa’s problems are situated on the continent itself, and their solution must be tackled by Africans. Nevertheless, Europe has a role to play as well. Axelle Kabou demands that Europe should get rid of its superciliousness and Africa of its chip on the shoulder, there being no other way to establish a partnership. While many Africans today are clear in their minds about this, we must not wait for collective psychotherapy to work. What is needed now is a blend of familiar and innovative approaches. It may well be that the structure of development aid itself will have to change as well. For only if development aid succeeds in treading new, creative paths together with its African partners will it have a future in its present form

Chile after the Presidential Elections

Is the Country about to Change its Policy?

For the first time in their history, the Chileans elected a woman president. Michelle Bachelet, a socialist, won the run-off election against her opponent Sebastían Piñata, an entrepreneur. Mrs Bachelet’s supporters have been pinning high hopes on her election. The daughter of a man who was tortured by the military and a woman who was sent into exile for opposing the Pinochet regime is regarded by many as a symbol of their desire for reconciliation and for coming to terms with the past.However, as almost half the country voted against her, she will need to integrate, although her coalition holds a majority in both houses of parliament. Speaking on the evening of the election, Mrs Bachelet stated that she wished to be a ‘president for all Chileans’. In addition, she promised to continue on the successful path of economic and financial policy. This announcement was a signal intended to boost the confidence of entrepreneurs and investors. The same holds true for her cabinet, the first ever in which every other member is a woman. Many of the ministers appointed, including the minister of finance (a man) and the minister of economics (a woman), belong to the liberal left wing of the ruling centre-left coalition, trusting to market liberalization and the advantages of globalization.It is not to be expected that the Bachelet government will change to a socialist order concept. On the contrary, Mrs Bachelet is much more likely to continue with the pragmatic policies of her predecessors. The new head of state announced that she would follow a more dialogue-oriented, participative style of government, laying great emphasis on social security. Mrs Bachelet stated that in the four years of her term she would strive for the ambitious goal of establishing in Chile a ‘grand system of social protection’. In addition to her popularity, she will have to prove her ability to lead. Ominous rumblings are heard in the government coalition, particularly from the strife-riven Christian Democrats. In view of the difficulties some segments of the party had with supporting a socialist in the presidential elections, it remains to be seen what those Christian Democratic groups will do whose political influence in the new government is almost nil.

Der Friedensprozess in Sri Lanka – eine unendliche Geschichte (zu übersetzen)

Four years went by since the peace accord between the government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was concluded, but the situation in the Asian country still is tight as a drum; after all, the military conflict that has endured for 25 years is far from solved. Even in colonial times, an English-speaking Christian elite had formed in Sri Lanka which continued to cling to power after independence and marginalized the Sinhalese majority in the country by adhering to English as the official language. The Sinhalese majority, in turn, regarded the Tamil minority as too powerful. Thus, a Sinhalese nationalist movement arose in due course which engineered the introduction of Sinhalese as the only official language in the country in 1965. Subsequently, Tamil politicians strove in vain to obtain equal status for the Tamil language with Sinhalese, and when access to universities, which had formerly been open to all, was restricted for Tamils in 1972, their rising anger led to the formation of various militant groups. One of these was the LTTE, which pinned the creation of an independent Tamil state, Tamil Eelam, to its colours. While Tamil was accorded the status of a national language in the Tamil regions in 1977, the decentralization that accompanied this move proved a farce as the central government in Colombo began to tighten the apron strings that held the Tamils. A massacre committed by the LTTE on soldiers was followed by a pogrom in 1983, in the course of which thousands of Tamils were murdered by Sinhalese, increasing tension to an even higher pitch. In the three wars that followed, around 60,000 people lost their lives. Even when the conflict began, Tamil politicians claimed the exclusive right to represent all Tamil-speaking citizens of Sri Lanka, including Muslims. Inevitably, this led to violent disputes between Tamils and Muslims, particularly after the foundation of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress. After September 11, 2001, the LTTE declared a unilateral cease-fire which was sealed by an agreement early in 2002. Peace talks and the introduction of a federal system raised serious hopes which, however, were shattered when the LTTE withdrew from the negotiating table in April 2003. Based on general autonomy for the northern provinces, the concept of an interim self-governing authority (ISGA) proposed by the LTTE even provided for an independent Tamil navy, among other things. The peace process ground to a halt, and it was not revived even when the United National Party rose to power. The situation was exacerbated further by the disputes between the new prime minister, Mr Wickramasinghe, and the president, Mrs Kumaratunga, who blamed the head of government for being too soft towards the LTTE. When the president dissolved parliament early in 2004, paving the way to victory for the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) in the subsequent elections, the former leader of the opposition, Mr Rajapakse, was sworn in as prime minister. Regarding herself as one of the winners in the election, the president did declare herself prepared to begin direct talks with the LTTE, but nothing came of that declaration. The rift between the government and the LTTE widened again, a process that accelerated when colonel Karuna, the LTTE’s commander-in-chief in the eastern provinces, seceded from the separatist movement and began to try for a separate armistice. Many expected that the tsunami disaster at Christmas 2004 and its aftermath might lead to a rapprochement between the government and the LTTE, but they were disappointed. It was only in June 2005 that an agreement was concluded on the distribution of monetary aid and/or the implementation of programmes, a move which, however, was doomed to failure. The elections of November 2005 propelled the Sri Lanka Freedom Party into power and the then prime minister, Mr Rajapakse, into the office of president. Mr Wickremanayake became the new prime minister. Mr Rajapakse owed his success as much to his nationalist utterances as to his tough attitude towards the LTTE. Some say, however, that even the LTTE is anything but dissatisfied with Mr Rajapakse’s rise to power, as his anti-Tamil policy would justify the increased use of force by the group on its way to a separate Tamil state in the north of Sri Lanka. And indeed, the LTTE’s demands from the government in Colombo became sharper, and violence escalated again. While both sides kept on emphasizing their desire for peace in Sri Lanka, there was little chance of that happening. In that situation, a small ray of hope came from the Norwegian mediator, Mr Solheim. It is to his credit that the embattled parties could at least agree on a venue for their negotiations, namely Geneva, where the talks will be conducted in the future. The question is whether the new perspective opened up by these talks really justifies any hope for peace in the Asian country. Further questions relate to the LTTE’s strategy against the background of Mr Rajapakse’s election as well as to its long-range objectives. Although a separate Tamil ‘state within the state’ does exist in point of fact in the north of Sri Lanka, the vision of an independent Tamil Eelam will probably remain the supreme goal of the group. After all, not only the government in Colombo but also the LTTE itself have by now drawn away from the option of a federal solution for the country, which seemed so close in 2003. The positions of the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government appear practically irreconcilable. This being so, many foresee yet another war, although it would not serve the interests of either side. Both sides have much to lose. International pressure on the warring parties is growing. The LTTE is exhausted. Lastly, the structures that have already been built in the Tamil region may well form the foundation of a separate state even without a war, although this is hardly likely to happen in the near future. In this complex situation, India might play an important role. It is true that Colombo’s endeavours to obtain India’s support failed, and the country will hardly allow itself to become embroiled in an armed conflict within Sri Lanka. Even so, the Indian government is not likely to remain idle in the face of the possible establishment of an independent state of Tamil Eelam, particularly because of the separatist movements in India itself. To give the peace process in Sri Lanka a chance, an answer would have to be found to the Tamil question, the reservations of the Sinhalese Buddhist majority about the peace process would have to be cleared away, the Muslims in the country would have to be given a role of their own in the process, and the LTTE itself would have to give up its demand for an independent state and agree to integration in a united Sri Lanka. The conditions for lasting peace in the Asian country are numerous and, to some extent, painful for everyone. At the present time, it is certainly impossible to answer the question of whether the peace process in Sri Lanka has any chance at all.

Senatswahlen in Kambodscha (zu übersetzen)

Ein weiterer Schritt im Prozess der Demokratisierung?

Since the Paris Peace Accord of 1991 and the constitution of 1993 Cambodia has been working hard becoming a democratic state. The first senate election on the 22nd of January 2006 could be another establishing a democracy. The Senate of the Kingdom of Cambodia was founded in 1998 after the 2nd National Assembly election. After that election the National Assembly passed an amendment to the constitution, which added the Senate into the Cambodian legislative structure. The senators of the first legislative period were nominated by the parties, represented in the National Assembly at that time. Only in 2005 a Senate election law was set in forth, which stated then a non-universal election of the 57 eligible senators. All commune councils of the 1581 Cambodian communes as well as the members of the National Assembly were appealed for voting for the new senators. Four parties participated in the senate election: CPP, FUNCIN-PEC, SRP and KDP. The election campaign proceeded from the 31st of December 2005 until the 20th of January 2006 raising only little public debate and attention. The eligible candidates travelled through their respective provinces to commit the commune councilors to shared aims. The press coverage about the senate election was neutral and unemotional. The election itself took place without disturbance. As expected, the former strongest party in the Senate of the Kingdom of Cambodia remains CPP. CPP holds 45 seats of the new Senate; followed by the coalition partner of CPP in the National Assembly, FUNCINPEC, with ten senators. SRP won only two seats in the 2005 Senate election.1)KDP received just 13 votes in total and won no mandate. Table 1: Results of the senate election 2006 (Number of seats) 2)CPP 45 FUNCINPEC 10 SRP 2 King 2 National Assembly 2 All commune councils in Cambodia are members of a party, most of them are members of the ruling CPP. From a legal point of view, the senate election on January 22nd is a further step towards the establishment of democracy in the country. In that endeavor the senate election law is significant as legal rules are the essential basis of a functioning democracy. However, the circumstances of the election, the incidents which took place in the last few months, do not allow such a positive conclusion. Leader of the democratic movement were arrested and accused for alleged defamation – they are meanwhile released from prison on bail. The leader of the opposition party, Sam Rainsy, was convicted in absentia to an 18 month imprisonment – he stays in exile and will not be eligible in the 2008 elections, if the verdict remains legally binding.3)So, in the puberty of the young Cambodian democracy, the country is on a tipping point. The next few months will show in which direction Cambodia will develop: undertaking a further step to a democratic country or turning back into an autocratic leadership. It is to hope for Cambodia, the democracy will undertake the next step.

The Transformation Process in Iraq

An Option for a Government of National Unity?

The parliamentary elections of December 2005, the first held after the adoption of the country’s new constitution, took Iraq a long step forward towards democracy. The substantial turnout in general, and particularly the wider participation of the Sunni population, certainly constitute key elements of success. What needs to be done now is to consolidate these achievements. The spread of violence in the country shows that this will not be easy to do, and that there is no alternative to a ‘government of national unity’ on which all relevant groups of the population are represented. Ethnic fragmentation in the society of Iraq forbids implementing the classical principle of majority rule that is traditional in democratic systems. This is yet another reason why only a government of national unity can guarantee the integration of all groups and the settlement of political conflicts without violence. In view of the widely diverging interests of the country’s groups and the years of discrimination of the Shiite majority by the Sunni minority, it is clear that patience will be required in negotiating crucial decisions. On the other hand, it will be necessary, particularly during the build-up of the new Iraqi state, to secure the effectiveness of political decision-making as soon as possible. There are two questions that must be asked in this context: First, can a government of national unity be formed in the first place, despite all current obstacles? Second, can the process of forming a government be optimized and stabilized for the future? The election was contested by 307 political groups and more than 7,000 candidates. 19 alliances were formed by almost 100 parties. The Shiite camp was dominated by the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), while the Iraqi Consensus Front and the Iraqi Front for National Dialogue predominated on the Sunni side. The Kurdish camp was led by the Kurdistan Alliance and the Kurdistan Islamic Union, while the Iraqi National List and the Iraqi National Congress predominated among the secular and/or trans-denominational alliances. At 41.19 percent of the vote, the UIA emerged victorious, although it failed to win an absolute majority. Formed by more than 20 Shiite groups, the alliance, which is close to the Shiite spiritual leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, is in a position to nominate the prime minister and form the government. At 21.67 percent of the vote, the Kurdistan Alliance ranks second, holding a fifth of the seats in parliament, while the three-party Iraqi Consensus Front came in third. The results show that the Iraqi electorate was motivated mainly by ethnic and/or religious aspects, clearly rejecting secular parties. However, they also reflect the powerful trend towards fragmentation in the country’s party landscape. For this reason, forming a government will be anything but easy. After all, ethnic and/or religious fault lines coincide with rifts in practical politics that embody a wealth of potential conflicts.Constitutional requirements constrain the UIA to agree on a presidial ‘troika’ with two other parties before forming a government. It appears likely that yet another agreement will be concluded dividing membership in the presidial council among Kurds, Shiites, and Sunnis. Because of the results of the election, and because of the above-mentioned constitutional provisions, Kurds and Shiites now have a variety of opportunities of making their influence felt in future government policies. However, fundamental content-related differences do exist with regard to the role of religion in the state to come, the degree of autonomy to be granted to individual groups, and the distribution of the country’s natural resources, especially oil.After the election, the UIA’s leaders at first refrained from demanding an Islamic polity. However, as the religious orientation of the alliance cannot be denied, its policy may be expected to retain its Islamic character in the long run. Belonging largely to the Sunni persuasion, the Kurds may be expected to respond to this by advocating a secular state. This indeed is the issue that might trigger an all-embracing conflict among the political forces of the country. Regional autonomy is another bone of contention. While the constitution does grant a maximum of autonomy to the individual regions, it forbids any involvement on their part in national policy-making. Claimed by the Kurds as well as by the Iraqi Turkmenians and the Sunnis, the oil town of Kirkuk holds a position of eminent importance in this context. The fact that the Sunnis left the table during the negotiations about the constitution, leaving Shiites and Kurds to adopt it on their own, shows how disruptive the situation really is. Yet another hotbed of conflict is the question of how the country’s natural resources should be shared out, including water resources and, most importantly, oil deposits. While the constitution stipulates that resources should be shared out ‘fairly' as the demographic situation in the country dictates, no distribution matrix has as yet been defined, and the problem will be anything but easy to solve. Despite the difficulties described above, the formation of a government of national unity appears feasible at the moment because the constitution offers political players various inducements to cooperate, and because the UIA’s key motivation to collaborate with the Kurdish and Sunni camps is to gain political power. Moreover, representatives from all camps are probably well aware that ethnically-motivated violence in the country may be ended only by involving all relevant groups. How, then, can the process of government formation be optimized and stabilized in the future? One way would be for the constitution to stipulate minority votes in all fundamental political decisions. Another way would be to codify a composition of the government that reflects ethnic proportions. Additional obvious alternatives include the establishment of a truly federal structure in Iraq and a purposeful development of the electoral system, which might serve to afford additional protection to minorities under the specific conditions obtaining in the country. An institutional success in forming a government of national unity would provide a positive impulse to the settlement of content-related issues. What would serve particularly well to avoid conflict would be the involvement of the Sunnis and their interests. One approach to institutionalize the work of the government would be to ensure the protection of minorities through proportional ethnic representation in the government. Already emerging in practice, this approach might establish itself as a firm tradition of voluntary power-sharing which might defuse relations among ethnic groups and make the Sunnis less inclined to think they were being disadvantaged. Respect for the interests of minorities should occupy centre stage particularly in the current phase of state-building, in which the foundations for the future Iraqi state are being laid. Now is the time when political institutions may be designed that ensure access to the highest levels of decision-making for all groups of the population. While this is certain to lead to sluggishness and inefficiency in political processes, it is probably the price that will have to be paid for a future in which violent disputes among ethnic groups no longer form part of everyday life.

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