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Over two months have passed since the July 3 coup in Egypt, but nearly nothing new has been achieved. Assurances of reform by the new leadership differ little from the ones given by previous dictators, including Mubarak, Tantawi, and Morsi. The current legal framework is now essentially back to what it was during Mubarak's rule. The leaders of the new military government declared a state of emergency when they took over, and on Sept. 12 they extended it for another two months.
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Twenty-five years have now passed since Burma started its struggle for democracy. It began as the “8-8-88 Movement,” a nationwide popular uprising calling for the removal of military dictatorship and the restoration of democratic government. Tens of thousands of young Burmese took to the streets, shouting the slogan: “To achieve democracy is our cause, our cause.”
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Recently I spoke to Amera Ali, a young lawyer from Tripoli, who had little good to say about the current situation. During the early days of the Libyan revolution, Ali took to the streets as part of a lawyers' movement to protest the killing of anti-Qaddafi protesters. As she was putting her life on the line, I am sure she never dreamed that the end of the conflict would bring a-not-so subtle campaign to drive women out of the judicial and legal profession altogether.
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As dusk was falling on Sunday, the city of Benghazi was rocked by two huge explosions. Bombings have become depressingly frequent in Libya's second-largest city over the past year. But they're not the only form of violence plaguing Benghazi, either. There have been 57 assassinations since the end of the war that toppled Qaddafi's regime.
The explosions come two days after the assassination of prominent lawyer and activist Abdulsalam al-Mesmari, who was shot as he left one of Benghazi's mosques after Friday prayers. Mesmari, who was credited with playing a prominent role in Libya's revolution, was also an outspoken critic of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamists.
On January 29, 2011, nearly a week into the popular uprising that would eventually topple the Mubarak regime, a series of well-organized and violent attacks against prisons took place throughout Egypt. Among those escaping in the chaos were 34 members of the Muslim Brotherhood -- including the man who is now Egypt's president, Mohamed Morsy. Freed alongside this small cadre of Islamist activists were many thousands of regular prisoners held for apolitical (read "criminal") offenses. This flood of prisoners onto the streets resulted in a sharp spike in criminality from which the beleaguered country has yet to recover.
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Last month, the local Burmese authorities in Arakan State banned Rohingya Muslims from having more than two children and one wife. Officials in the western state, where hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced by ethnic conflict, decided to revive the long-dormant restriction and reaffirm it in response to the current political situation.
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Last week, the Permanent Mission of Kenya to the United Nations submitted a letter to the U.N. Security Council (UNSC), asking for the "immediate termination" of the International Criminal Court (ICC) cases against President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto. They are currently scheduled to begin trial this July and May, respectively, for their alleged roles in inciting ethnic violence in the aftermath of the 2007 election and are being charged with crimes against humanity.
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Over the weekend, Libya's interim legislature, the General National Congress (GNC), voted overwhelming in favor of a controversial political isolation law that will ban Qaddafi-era officials from holding public office. As many as 164 voted in favor of the law, while four members voted against it and 19 members did not show up for the voting session. The circumstances under which the vote passed were far from ideal for deciding important legislation: The capital of Tripoli was effectively being taken over by armed supporters of the law. Militias besieged numerous government ministry buildings for more than a week, and several ministries continue to be blockaded even after the passing of the law. Many lawmakers are demanding Prime Minister Ali Zeidan's resignation.
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Nicolás Maduro, who is now officially Venezuela's president, is not enjoying much of a honeymoon period. After narrowly winning a special election to replace the late President Hugo Chávez -- only to have his main rival question the results -- Maduro should be extending an olive branch to the vast sectors of voters that opposed him.
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When the losing candidates in a presidential election cry foul, it is usually an uphill battle to reverse the results. Equally challenging is the task of changing international perceptions about what really happened during the voting or counting processes.
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Earlier this month, Libya's Supreme Military Court reviewed an appeal by 19 Ukrainians, three Belarusians, and two Russians who stand accused of aiding the regime of Muammar Qaddafi by helping his forces to maintain military equipment during the revolution. The defendants maintain that they are engineers who were working for an oil company and were not politically motivated to assist the Qaddafi regime.
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On Tuesday April 9, the Libyan General National Congress (GNC) voted to amend the Constitutional Declaration, the interim legal charter that's filling the gap while the country's future constitution is being drafted and ratified, to provide the controversial "isolation law" with constitutional immunity in the face of Supreme Court opposition. The amendment is a breach of judicial sovereignty and tantamount to directly undermining Libya's transition to democracy.
In what might be a first for history, a group of Egyptian conscientious objectors protested in Cairo last Tuesday for the freedom of a Jewish Israeli citizen. Representing the "No to Compulsory Military Service" movement, while simultaneously promoting the right of Israel to exist, the peace activists came out to Talaat Harb Square, just meters from Tahrir Square, to support the rights of their fellow objector, Natan Blanc.
Maikel Nabil Sanad
On Sunday, March 31, armed gunmen stormed Libya's Ministry of Justice. The gunmen (reportedly militia members under the Supreme Security Committee) threw Justice Minister Salah Marghani and his staff out of the building in protest over recent televised remarks the minister made during an interview with Libya AhrarTV.
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Mocking rulers is a tradition almost as old as rule itself. At times mockery is subtle and allegorical; at others it is blunt, sometimes gauche, but always funny. Some wonderful examples are the fables of Nasreldin Goha, a folkloric character rumored to have lived in thirteenth century Turkey. One of his jokes comes to mind:
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When I left Burma sixteen years ago, the last place where I stayed was the Rangoon home of my friend Thet Win Aung. We got up at three in the morning and said goodbye to his parents as monsoon rain poured down outside. Then we got in a car and headed for the Thai-Burmese border. Little did I know how much was to happen before I would be able to return to my homeland.
There's a statistic that sheds a harsh light on the current gang-rape scandal in India. According to the Association for Democratic Reforms, a nongovernment organization, there are quite a few Indian politicians who stand accused of rape and other crimes against women. Six state assembly members have actually been elected to office despite facing rape charges.
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Joseph Allchin explains why the war crimes trials under way in Bangladesh show why transitional justice and party politics don't mix.
Christian Caryl argues that treating democracy as an inevitable outcome may actually hurt the cause of democracy.
Nazila Fathi looks at how Iranian leaders are responding to the deepening economic crisis created by sanctions.
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Cleaning up corruption in Indonesia could be the main legacy that Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono will be remembered for when he steps down after ten years as president in 2014. It looks increasingly likely, though, that history will view him differently in light of the revelations that many officials close to him have been involved in money scandals.
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Should Indonesian ever launch a campaign to legalize drugs, they couldn't ask for a better champion to lead their movement than a judge. Perhaps even a couple of them!
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Venezuela has just gone through a long and exhausting presidential campaign. There were massive rallies, ads of all kinds, interesting last-minute developments, and turnout on election day was heavy. The incumbent president won comfortably, and the challenger gracefully accepted defeat. The winner even called the loser on the phone.
Capital punishment has never been a contentious political or emotional issue in Indonesia. Although the death penalty is rarely applied, most people in the country still support its use, particularly for terrorists, serial killers, and even drug traffickers. The government would typically add treason to the short list of criminal offenses punishable by death.
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My former colleagues in Burma are preparing a special commemorative ceremony to be held next week to honor a fallen hero, Thet Win Aung. They've asked me to write an essay about him, as they plan to publish a book about him on the sixth anniversary of his death. For several days I've been unable to complete the task.
Hugo Chávez, ever the soldier, likes to refer to elections as "battles." But after last Sunday's vote, in which Venezuelans re-elected him for another six-year term (which will give him a total of twenty years in office altogether), he might as well start referring to them as "massacres."
Reporting from Caracas, Daniel Lansberg-Rodriguez explores scenarios after this Sunday’s presidential vote in Venezuela. The main question: Will Hugo Chávez give up power if he loses?
Christian Caryl tells the story of an elementary school teacher in Sudan who faces execution because she had the courage to stand up to the regime. And Tom Malinowski of Human Rights Watch presents a gallery of similarly courageous but little-known activists from around the world.
On the scene in Tbilisi, James Kirchick reports on the surprising aftermath of Georgia's parliamentary election -- especially President Mikheil Saakashvili's remarkable acceptance of his own defeat. And Kirchick's dispatch from election day provides a vivid account of the tensions and hopes leading up to the vote.
In an excerpt from his new book, economist Justin Yifu Lin compares the experiences of transition economies and offers a few useful rules of thumb for reformers.
Christopher Stephen, on the scene in Benghazi, describes a local backlash against the militants who killed a popular U.S. ambassador.
In the run-up to Venezuela's epochal election, Juan Nagel reports on the shifting balance of forces, while Francisco Toro takes a closer look at whether Hugo Chávez has improved the life of the country's poor.
Reflecting on Aung San Suu Kyi's visit to the United States, Min Zin takes her to task for neglecting to mention the country's continuing civil war.
Endy Bayuni reports on the Indonesian Anti-Corruption Commission's effort to take on one of the country's most graft-ridden institutions: the police.
Mohamed El Dahshan investigates the absurdities of Egypt's campaign against blasphemy.
And Jackee Batanda recounts the curious tale of a run-in between U.S. diplomats and a Ugandan general.
And now for this week's recommended reads:
A paper from the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance provides an in-depth look at Venezuela's presidential election.
In a provocative op-ed, MIT scholar Brian Haggerty argues that those who argue for a "limited" intervention in Syria are likely to be proven wrong by conditions on the ground.
The International Crisis Group offers a handy backgrounder on Malaysia, where a long-anticipated general election may soon shake up the political landscape.
Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Sadanand Dhume explains why he expects little from the new anti-corruption party just launched in India.
The Jamestown Foundation's Igor Rotar worries that the explosive situation in Central Asia's restive Ferghana Valley is likely to aggravate instability throughout the region.
A new book from Democracy Lab contributor Francisco Martin-Rayo tells of his travels through the terrorist recruiting grounds of Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia.
And finally, Jadaliyya offers a withering review of The Daily Show appearance of Jordan's King Abdullah II, who, they say, is incorrectly portrayed as a reformist "constitutional monarch." You be the judge: You can find Part I of the interview here.
The Daily Show
Indonesia’s official anti-corruption agency, the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), is walking on thin ice after taking on a top police officer, one of its biggest cases to date.
Inspector General Djoko Susilo has been accused of taking massive kickbacks in the procurement of driving simulators when he headed the National Police Traffic Corps division in 2010. After defying two summonses, he showed up at the commission’s headquarters on Friday. But he is clearly not taking the corruption accusation lying down, and appears to enjoy the full backing of the police force.
On 7 October 1571, the naval forces of the Catholic countries of southern Europe fought the Ottoman Empire fleet in what is known as the "Battle of Lepanto." Against heavy odds, the Catholic forces defeated the Ottomans, denying them exclusive rights over the Mediterranean. Historians consider this a turning point in the Ottoman campaign to control the Mediterranean.
441 years to the day, opponents of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez hope to score a victory that, to many at least, seems of similar importance. This Sunday's presidential election between Chávez and challenger Henrique Capriles is crucial for the country, as any victory is bound to have lasting consequences.
The Lady continues her U.S. tour. Aung San Suu Kyi has already visited Washington, DC, and New York City, and now she's on her way to the West Coast. Last week I had the privilege of flying to the U.S. capital to see her during her stop there. It was a great honor to greet her again in person. It was 23 years since we had last seen each other.
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Transitions is the group blog of the Democracy Lab channel, a collaboration between Foreign Policy and the Legatum Institute.