Gambia secures first peaceful transition since 1965
Yahya Jammeh, Gambia’s autocratic leader for the past 20 years, finally stepped down as president on Saturday, escaping on his private jet into exile in Equatorial Guinea – a country conveniently not subject to the International Criminal Court. This peaceful transfer of power was made possible by a month-long campaign of combined pressures by West African leaders within the African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
Facing intense diplomatic pressures, a deployment 7,000 ECOWAS troops along the Senegalese border, and abandonment of his close allies and advisors, Jammeh finally gave in, allowing property-developer Adama Barrow to assume his democratically elected position. Jammeh initially refused to accept Dec. 1st election results, causing 45,000 people to promptly flee into Senegal and Guinea fearing unrest and violence.
According to the AP, President Barrow will launch a truth and reconciliation commission to investigate the alleged human rights abuses of Yahya Jammeh’s 22-year regime. Jammeh initially rejected the Dec. 1st elections results fearing persecution over human rights violations.
For more reading on President Barrow’s plans, go here.
The Economist Intelligence Unit Downgrades U.S. to “Flawed Democracy Status”
According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, an independent research organization owned by the parent company of The Economist, the United States has lost its status as a “full democracy,” joining the second of five tiers grouping countries by how well they perform on the organization’s Democracy Index. The index scores countries on five categories: electoral process and pluralism; civil liberties; the functioning of government; political participation; and political culture.
The country’s score fell to 7.85 in 2016, below the 8 point threshold necessary to maintain “full democracy status”. It scored 8.05 in 2015.
The report stressed, however, that the recent election of Donald Trump as President was not to be blamed for the downgrade. Declining trust in government was the real culprit, which had been trending downward for several years.
The report also notes that almost half of the countries tracked by its index saw their scores decline in the past ten years, however some, such as the United Kingdom, slightly improved.
With a score of 9.93, Norway has held the top spot on the list for two consecutive years.. North Korea, Syria, Chad, and the Central African Republic rounded out the bottom of the rankings, carrying the title “authoritarian regime.”
Via Internet Campaign, Trump Supporters Attempt to Manipulate France’s Presidential Election
A loosely organized social media campaign led by a group of Trump supporters is attempting to swing France’s 2017 Presidential election in favor of Marine Le Pen, BuzzFeed News reported this week. Ms. Le Pen is the leader of the Front National, a far-right political party known for its hostility to immigrants and the European Union.
The organizers are attempting to manipulate voters social media feeds by using “trolls,” “bots” and shell accounts “to create as much chaos on social media as possible” ahead of the election in May.
BuzzFeed gained access to one of the campaign’s chatrooms, called “The Great Liberation of France” and posted a series of screenshots showing its participants discussing their tactics. Users were apparently instructed to create fake Facebook and Twitter profiles to post pro-Le Pen messages and memes as well as disparage François Fillon, the current frontrunner in the presidential contest who is expected to face Le Pen in a head-to-head match up during the election’s second round of voting.
Turkey Approves a New Constitutional Amendment, Handing More Powers to Erdogan
On January 21st, Turkey’s parliament voted to approve several constitutional amendments that would grant President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expanded powers if approved by a referendum in March.
The new constitution would transform the Turkish Presidency from a largely ceremonial post to an executive office, abolishing the position of prime minister and allowing the president to unilaterally issue decrees. Currently, Turkey is governed under a semi-presidential system where a directly elected president has the power to appoint the prime minister and members of the cabinet, but cannot give orders himself. In practice, however, President Erdogan already has informal control over much of the country’s political infrastructure and has ruled by emergency decree since an attempted coup last summer.
The constitutional amendment package was made possible by a deal between Mr. Erdogan’s own Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the right-wing National Action Party (MHP), who provided the necessary votes to pass the package. Voters are expected to weigh in on the proposal via a national referendum scheduled for March.
Critics have long lamented what they perceive as the erosion of democracy in Turkey. The Council of Europe, an international organization responsible for promoting democracy, human rights, and rule of law in Europe and its periphery, has repeatedly condemned Erdogan’s crackdown on democratic institutions.