Emmanuel Macron, ¿heredero de Napoleón III?

Intento de ambos de recolocar a Francia en el centro geoestratégico de Europa, con oposición de Alemania

El sobrino de Napoleón Bonaparte y el actual presidente de la República Francesa no son vidas completamente paralelas, pero entre ambos existen algunas similitudes realmente sugerentes. Es frecuente afirmar que los presidentes franceses reviven algo del empaque añorado de la monarquía decapitada; en el caso de Macron hay probablemente mucho de eso, pero también la asunción de unos imperativos geopolíticos ya evidenciados en el Segundo Imperio.

Napoleón III con uniforme en un retrato de 1850, y Macron en su mensaje televisado de Nochevieja de 2019

ARTÍCULO José Manuel Fábregas

El hecho de que Emmanuel Macron decidiera que la cumbre del G7 se celebrara en la ciudad vascofrancesa de Biarritz en agosto de 2019 hizo que se produjera un acercamiento simbólico con la figura de Napoleón III. El emperador, y sobrino de Napoleón Bonaparte, transformó el antiguo pueblo pesquero en un núcleo vacacional cosmopolita donde se reunían aristócratas europeos y miembros de las altas esferas políticas a escala internacional. Por su parte, Macron volvió a situar a Biarritz como el escenario de las grandes discusiones políticas mundiales.

Así confluyen dos personalidades que, con el atractivo de haber sido los más jóvenes jefes de Estado del país, comparten dos aspectos fundamentales en su forma de entender la política francesa. Primero, la influencia que ha tenido en ambos su infancia a la hora de desarrollar una forma personalista de entender la jefatura del Estado. Y, segundo, cómo los dos han intentado recolocar a Francia en el centro geoestratégico de Europa y han sido obstaculizados por Alemania. 

Cuál es el papel que debe tener el jefe del Estado

Dado que nació siendo quinto en el orden sucesorio de Napoleón I, el joven Luis Napoleón Bonaparte nunca previó que llegaría a convertirse en heredero de la casa imperial en 1832. Según cuenta su biógrafo Paul Guériot, su madre, Hortensia de Beauharnais, le inculcó desde pequeño la idea de que estaba destinado a reconstruir el ya acabado Imperio Napoleónico. La insistencia de su madre por que tuviera una perfecta formación intelectual y militar transformaron a Luis Napoleón –que recibió educación del jacobino, y seguidor de la figura de Robespierre, Philippe Le Bas– en una persona solitaria, tímida y megalómana obsesionada por restaurar la Francia Napoleónica[1].

La revolución de febrero de 1848, según Jacob Talmon, era inevitable “aunque fue, sin embargo, un accidente”[2]. El historiador israelí explica que los levantamientos en varios lugares de Europa fueron una reacción directa a la reordenación territorial del Congreso de Viena (1815). En este contexto de descontento o desilusión por el sistema de la Restauración, la figura de Luis Napoleón Bonaparte pudo haberse beneficiado de la imagen de revolucionario romántico que le habían asignado los periódicos y escritos de opinión de la época. Tras unos fallidos intentos de golpe de estado en Estrasburgo (1836) y en Bolonia (1840), el futuro emperador pasó un breve periodo de tiempo en prisión. Esto fue un aspecto determinante en la construcción del personaje de héroe romántico que tanta admiración despertó en una sociedad amante de las novelas de Alejandro Dumas[3]. La explotación de esta personalidad mediante un gran aparato propagandístico le permitió ganar holgadamente las elecciones de diciembre de 1848. Así, también podría decirse que el establecimiento del Segundo Imperio –ratificado por un plebiscito popular en noviembre de 1852– fue el siguiente paso en su principal proyecto político: el renacimiento de la Francia Napoleónica.

Por su parte, el actual presidente de la República Francesa también experimentó una infancia sobreprotectora que forjó, al igual que el último emperador de Francia, una personalidad solitaria y una forma individualista de entender la política. Anne Fulda subraya en su biografía de Emmanuel Macron que, al nacer un año después de la muerte de su hermana mayor y tras un complicado parto, su nacimiento fue considerado como un milagro. Esto pudo haber fomentado, junto con una educación competitiva en la que sobresalió como “niño prodigio”, su auto convencimiento de estar destinado a gobernar el país[4]. Sin embargo, su elección como jefe de Estado no fue fruto de una estrategia a largo plazo, sino más bien, como la de Luis Napoleón, de un movimiento táctico. La imagen renovadora que Macron ofrecía fue aprovechada de manera inteligente en unos comicios en los que se enfrentaba a rivales que presentaban ciertas debilidades comunicativas, como aquellos con un perfil bajo como François Fillon (republicano) y Benoît Hamon (socialista), u otros con tonos más extremistas como Marine Le Pen (Frente Nacional) y Jean-Luc Mélenchon (Francia Insumisa).

En 2015, siendo todavía ministro de Economía, Emmanuel Macron hizo una interesante reflexión para el semanario Le 1 sobre cuál era el rol del presidente en Francia. Entendía que los ciudadanos franceses sentían una carencia tras la caída de la monarquía que habían intentado llenar mediante el fortalecimiento de la figura del presidente. Este excesivo peso del personalismo en la forma de entender la política de Macron también se ha demostrado recientemente en el relevo de Édouard Philippe como primer ministro. Debido a que la popularidad de este había crecido en el último año al mostrarse más carismático y calmado en contrapunto con la sobreactuación y el abusivo protagonismo del presidente, Macron escogió como su sustituto a Jean Castex, con un perfil más tecnócrata que no ensombrezca al presidente de cara a su reelección.

Qué papel debe jugar Francia en Europa

Este firme compromiso de ambos dirigentes por darle una mayor importancia y visibilidad al cargo de jefe del Estado trasciende las fronteras del país galo. Napoleón III y Emmanuel Macron también comparten el deseo de situar a Francia en el centro del equilibrio europeo.

Habiendo ganado las elecciones con un discurso en contra del orden heredado del Congreso de Viena, Napoleón III tenía su propio proyecto europeo basado en la libre integración o separación de las distintas identidades nacionales del viejo continente. Un claro ejemplo de ello fue la Guerra de Crimea (1854-1856). Temiendo que el decadente Imperio Otomano acabase siendo vasallo de Rusia, el emperador defendió, junto al Reino Unido y al Reino de Cerdeña, su independencia de los otomanos en un conflicto que separaría a Rusia de las demás potencias occidentales temporalmente[5]. El tratado de París (1856) no solo finalizaría la guerra, sino que también motivaría a Napoleón III a iniciar una política intervencionista en Europa.

El sueño imperial de Napoleón III le obligó a desarrollar una activa política exterior centrada en la ampliación de las fronteras francesas y el reordenamiento del continente teniendo en cuenta dos valores principales: el nacionalismo y el liberalismo. Sin embargo, comenta con acierto Henry Kissinger que su labor diplomática fue hasta tal punto confusa que “Francia no obtuvo nada”[6]. Al apoyar la unificación de Italia a costa de la pérdida de territorio del Imperio Austríaco, Napoleón favoreció involuntariamente la creación de Alemania. Estos hechos debilitaron fuertemente la influencia geoestratégica de Francia de cara a ese nuevo orden europeo al que aspiraba. En cambio, fueron las inteligentes tácticas diplomáticas de Bismarck las que realmente acabarían con el sistema de Viena, acelerando la caída del Segundo Imperio francés en la batalla de Sedán (1870).

Junto a esto, Emmanuel Macron se presenta como el salvador de la Unión Europea en un contexto marcado por el auge de movimientos populistas y euroescépticos. No obstante, sus ambiciosos proyectos de reformas se han topado con la reticencia de Angela Merkel.

En una reciente entrevista para The Economist, Emmanuel Macron señaló que la OTAN estaba en “muerte cerebral” y que Europa se encontraba “al borde del precipicio” al depender de Estados Unidos y no contar con una independencia en términos de defensa. Macron opta por una mayor integración de la Unión Europea en el ámbito estratégico, llegando a proponer incluso un único ejército paneuropeo. A modo de respuesta, la canciller alemana Angela Merkel le objetó que en este momento Europa no tiene capacidad para defenderse por sí sola y que, consecuentemente, depende de la Alianza Atlántica. Además, Macron también ha desafiado el aparente acuerdo entre los países de la Unión respecto a la incorporación de nuevos miembros y la relación con Rusia. El veto del presidente francés a una posible incorporación de Albania y Macedonia del Norte, alegando que no cumplían las cláusulas de la UE sobre corrupción, ha llegado a ser calificado como un “error histórico” al dejar el futuro de los países balcánicos a merced de Rusia y China. Esta posición no la comparte respecto a Rusia, con la cual está dispuesto a destensar las relaciones diplomáticas e incluso sugiere una mayor integración del país en Europa.

En definitiva, Emmanuel Macron y Napoleón III comparten una visión excesivamente egocéntrica. La sobreexposición de determinadas características personales en asuntos de Estado y la desmedida pretensión de liderazgo en Europa son dos aspectos comunes a estos dos jóvenes líderes. Pese a que la historiografía ya ha juzgado los errores que precipitaron a Luis Napoleón al exilio, todavía queda por saber si Macron está o no condenado a repetir la historia de su antecesor.

 

[1] Guériot, P. (1944). Napoleón III. Madrid: Ediciones Técnicas.

[2] Talmón, J.L. (1960). Mesianismo político. La etapa romántica. Ciudad de México: Ed. Aguilar.

[3] Guériot, P. (1944). Napoleón III. Madrid: Ediciones Técnicas.

[4] Fulda, A. (2017). Emmanuel Macron, el presidente que ha sorprendido a Europa. Madrid: Ediciones Península.

[5] Milza, P. (2004). Napoleón III. París: Éditions Perrin.

[6] Kissinger, Henry (1994). Diplomacia (Primera Edición). Barcelona: Ediciones B.

 

Las fuerzas aérea y naval de EEUU articulan su estrategia para el Ártico

Preparan proyectar “poder de combate creíble” en la nueva era de “competición estratégica”

Si el Ártico fue un importante escenario en la Guerra Fría, en la nueva tensión geopolítica su progresivo deshielo incluso acentúa sus características estratégicas. El Departamento de Defensa de Estados Unidos adecuó en 2019 su estrategia para el Ártico a los nuevos planteamientos de rivalidad con Rusia y China, y luego su concreción ha correspondido a las fuerzas más involucradas en esa región: en 2020 la Fuerza Aérea presentó su propio documento y en este 2021 lo ha hecho la Armada, implicando también al Cuerpo de Marines y la Guardia Costera. Las directrices buscan garantizar la proyección de “poder de combate creíble”.

La tripulación del submarino USS Connecticut en los ejercicios ICEX 2020 [US Navy]

ARTÍCULO Pablo Sanz

El Ártico es importante por la riqueza natural aún por explotar que contiene su subsuelo (el 22% de los depósitos de hidrocarburo del mundo, que por lo que afecta al petróleo serían 90.000 millones de barriles) y por su posición estratégica en el globo: ahí confluyen las dos grandes masas continentales de Eurasia y América. La apertura de nuevas rutas marítimas gracias al progresivo deshielo no solo supone una ventaja comercial, sino además capacita actuar militarmente con mayor rapidez sobre ese y sobre otros escenarios.

Son muchos los países interesados en promover la cooperación y multilateralismo en la región, y así se hace desde el Consejo Ártico; no obstante, el complejo entorno de seguridad del Círculo Polar Ártico ha llevado a las principales potencias a fijar estrategias para defender sus respectivos intereses. En el caso de Estados Unidos, el Departamento de Defensa actualizó en junio de 2019 la estrategia para el Ártico que había elaborado tres años antes, con el fin de adecuarla al nuevo planteamiento surgido con la Estrategia de Seguridad Nacional (NSS) de 2017 y trasladado a la Estrategia de Defensa Nacional (NDS) de 2018, documentos que dejan atrás la era del combate contra el terrorismo internacional y elevan a “rivalidad” la relación con China y Rusia, en una nueva situación geopolítica de “competición estratégica”.

La estrategia del Pentágono para el Ártico luego ha sido concretada por la Fuerza Aérea en un informe propio, presentado en julio de 2020, y después por la Armada, en enero de 2021. Con las mismas líneas generales, esos enfoques marco apuntan a tres objetivos:

1) Como “nación ártica”, por su soberanía sobre Alaska, Estados Unidos debe garantizar la seguridad en su territorio e impedir que desde posiciones polares pueda amenazarse otras partes del país.

2) Estados Unidos pretende establecer y liderar alianzas y acuerdos en el Ártico conforme al derecho internacional para mantener una situación de estabilidad en la zona.

3) Estados Unidos se compromete a preservar la libre navegación y el libre sobrevuelo en el Círculo Polar Ártico, limitando al mismo tiempo injerencias rusas y chinas contrarias a esa general libertad de acceso y tránsito.

Para conseguir estos objetivos, el Pentágono ha definido tres mecanismos de actuación:

i) Potenciar la concienciación sobre la importancia de la zona: la capacidad del Departamento de Defensa para detectar amenazas en el Ártico es un requisito previo para disuadir o responder a actividades de competidores estratégicos en la región.

ii) Mejorar y promover operaciones en el Ártico: el Departamento de Defensa mejorará la capacidad de actuación de sus fuerzas para operar en el Ártico mediante ejercicios y despliegues regulares en la región, tanto de forma independiente como junto con aliados. Algunos ejercicios se realizarán dentro del contexto de la OTAN mientras que otros serán bilaterales o multilaterales.

iii) Fortalecer el orden basado en las reglas que rigen el Ártico:  el Departamento de Defensa seguirá trabajando junto con aliados de Estados Unidos para mantener y fortalecer el régimen de libertad de navegación y de sobrevuelo. Esto ayudará a disuadir la realización de actos agresivos en la zona.

A partir de la nueva NDS el Departamento de Defensa establece que las Fuerzas Armadas estadounidenses deben estar en condiciones de resolver el principal problema detectado –la erosión del margen competitivo contra China y Rusia–, siendo capaces de “detener y, en caso necesario, derrotar la agresión de una gran potencia”. Para ello debe desarrollar una fuerza “más letal, resiliente, ágil y preparada”, que en la región del Ártico debe alcanzar un “creíble poder disuasorio”.

La doctrina militar estadounidense advierte que el carácter de “colchón estratégico” que venía teniendo el Ártico “se está erosionando”, convirtiéndose “en una vía de amenaza para el territorio nacional debido a los avances de las grandes potencias competidoras”. Además, “acoge puntos de lanzamiento críticos para la proyección global de poder y recursos naturales cada vez más accesibles”. No obstante, advierte que “la posibilidad inmediata de conflicto es baja”.

Así, pues, dentro del contexto de la implementación de la estrategia de defensa nacional, el Pentágono proclama que continuará preparando sus unidades con el fin de garantizar que el Ártico sea una región segura y estable en la que se salvaguarden los intereses nacionales de Estados Unidos, la seguridad regional y el trabajo conjunto de las naciones implicadas para abordar los problemas comunes.

Los documentos de la Fuerza Aérea y de la Armada estadounidenses describen medidas de apoyo para garantizar la capacidad de disuadir acciones hostiles en el Ártico por parte del resto de competidores regionales en la zona, al tiempo que priorizan un enfoque cooperativo y continuo que preserve las reglas por las cuales se rige el Ártico.

Aire y mar

Debido a que la corriente del Golfo de México se dirige a la vertiente europea del Ártico, la vertiente norteamericana sufre unas condiciones ambientales aún más duras, con menos infraestructuras marítimas y vías terrestres. Eso hace que el peso de la Fuerza Aérea en la defensa de este espacio sea claramente mayor, aportando el 80% de los recursos que el Pentágono dedica a la región.

Su actuación se asienta sobre diversas localizaciones. Seis de ellas se encuentran en Alaska: las grandes bases aéreas de Elmendorf-Richardson y Eielson; las instalaciones de aviso temprano de misiles de Clear y el radar de misiles de defensa de Eareckson, y otros puntos para coordinación, entrenamiento y escuela de supervivencia. Otras dos están en Groenlandia: el campo Raven de entrenamiento para aviones LC-130 y el recinto de Thule para aviso temprano de misiles. En Canadá, dispone de un sistema de una cincuentena de radares compartido por el NORAD (Mando Norteamericano de Defensa Aérea).

La Fuerza Aérea se propone mejorar esas capacidades, así como las de comando, control, comunicaciones, inteligencia, vigilancia y reconocimiento (C3ISR). También se ha fijado el objetivo de aumentar las condiciones para el repostaje de combustible. Una vez se complete el despliegue de los F-35 en Eielson, Alaska acogerá más cazas avanzados que cualquier otra localización del mundo.

Por su parte, la Armada estadounidense hace girar su posicionamiento en torno al concepto de “Ártico Azul”, expresando gráficamente así la progresiva homologación con el conjunto de océanos del planeta lo que históricamente ha sido un casquete blanco infranqueable. La Armada contempla el aumento de su presencia, tanto con buques tripulados como con nuevas embarcaciones no tripuladas. En su documento estratégico, advierte que la investigación en nuevas capacidades “puede no quedar completamente realizada e integrada en la fuerza naval al menos en una década”.

La mayor presencia naval en la región se materializará también mediante el aumento de operaciones que ya realizan rutinariamente en el Ártico la Segunda y la Sexta Flotas y mediante la sincronización con el Cuerpo de Marines y la Guardia Costera que está basada en Alaska. Para asegurar ese incremento operacional, la Armada llevará a cabo una mejora de las instalaciones para el atraque y asistencia de sus buques.

El documento de la Armada, que no concreta preparativos específicos, tampoco incluye los planes anunciados por la Guardia Costera de contar con una nueva flota de rompehielos. En la actualidad existen solo dos en servicios y la previsión es construir tres buques medios y tres pesados para 2029.

Con todo ello, Washington intenta hacer frente al acelerado esfuerzo que están llevando a cabo sus más directos competidores. En julio de 2020 el Departamento de Estado alertó sobre el creciente interés en el Ártico por parte de Rusia y China, a quienes acusó de protagonizar una competición “cada vez más agresiva” y lamentó que aquellos países que desean “paz, libertad y democracia”, incluido Estados Unidos, han sido unos “ingenuos”.

Rusia y China

Rusia nación con mayor masa de tierra y población dentro del Círculo Polar Ártico, región de la que Rusia obtiene el 25% de su PIB. Ningún otro país tiene tanta presencia militar permanente por encima del paralelo 66; tampoco otra nación cuenta con tantos barcos rompehielos, fluya flota Moscú quiere aumentar con catorce nuevos buques, uno de ellos de propulsión nucleaar.

Rusia formó su comando estratégico conjunto de la Flota del Norte en diciembre de 2014. “Desde entonces, Rusia ha fortalecido gradualmente su presencia creando nuevas unidades para el Ártico, reformando vieja infraestructura y aeródromos y estableciendo nuevas bases militares a lo largo de la costa. Hay también un esfuerzo concertado para establecer una red de sistemas de misiles de defensa aérea y costera, radares de aviso temprano, centros de rescate y variedad de sensores”, según constata el informe estratégico para el Ártico del Departamento de Defensa norteamericano. Estados Unidos también advierte que Rusia intenta regular el tráfico marítimo en la Ruta Norte con maneras que pueden exceder la autoridad que le permite el derecho internacional.

China, por otro lado, sin ser una nación ártica (Mohe, su ciudad más al norte está a la misma latitud de Filadelfia o Dublín) quiere ser un actor importante en la región. Es un país observador del Consejo Ártico y reivindica un estatus de “nación próxima al Ártico” que Washington no reconoce. En 2018 elaboró el primer libro blanco sobre su política para el Ártico y ha integrado esa área en su iniciativa de la nueva Ruta de la Seda.

Las actividades diplomáticas, económicas y científicas de China en el Ártico han crecido exponencialmente durante los últimos años. De momento su presencia operacional es limitada: cuenta con un rompehielos de capacidad polar de fabricación ucraniana (el Xuelong; recientemente ha construido el Xuelong 2), que ha navegado por aguas árticas en operaciones que China describe como expediciones de investigación.

La apertura de rutas marítimas árticas interesa a China, pues podría acortar los tiempos de envíos comerciales a Europa y reducir su dependencia de los flujos que atraviesan el estrecho de Malaca, un punto especialmente vulnerable.

Últimamente, China ha estado participando en crecientes actividades diplomáticas con los países nórdicos y cuenta con estaciones de investigación en Islandia y Noruega; además, explota recursos mineros en Groenlandia. Esto pone de manifiesto el creciente interés de Pekín por consolidar su presencia en la zona ártica a pesar de su lejanía respecto a la región.

Su gran capacidad financiera, además, lleva a que Rusia cuente con China para desarrollar proyectos energéticos y de infraestructura en la región, como es el caso de una instalación para gas natural licuado en Yamal. Según Frédéric Laserre, experto en geopolítica del Ártico de la Universidad de Laval, Rusia no tiene otra elección que aceptar capital chino para construir y desarrollar las infraestructuras necesarias para explotar los recursos debido a las sanciones económicas occidentales.

Belgium missed the opportunity of the Leopold II controversy

Cartoon depicting Belgian King Leopold II (in the middle) at the Berlin Conference of 1884, by engraver F. Maréchal

COMMENTARY Cameron Buckingham

The highwaters of the controversy about Belgium's colonial past in Africa, that dominated news at some point in 2020, have receded without Belgian grand institutions taking significant steps to redress the bad reputation. Belgian King Leopold II ordered horrible atrocities throughout the African continent but with the heaviest effect on the Democratic Republic of Congo. The genocide of over six million and slave labour of the Congolese people led by the late Belgian king resulted in immense wealth and can be directly linked to the success of Belgium in the modern-day. In the same way, it can be directly linked to the underdevelopment and continued struggle of the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

Currently, there has been an international movement to address the racial problems that plague the modern world. Regardless of the organization or political ideology, it is imperative to acknowledge these problems which stem directly from the unjust colonization, occupation, abuse, and slave trade throughout history. By actively not making any acknowledgment towards this issue, Belgium takes an ignorant stance which not only greatly affects its relations with central African countries, but an international stage speaks to its passive stance on Racism.

In 2019, a working group of experts from the United Nations issued a statement, composed of 74 key points of improvement the country should undertake, to the media with their conclusions of the effects of the colonial past within the country. The Working Group specifically condemned the Belgian government for their lack of engagement with the African minority in their population, as well as their lack of representation in federal institutions and media. The Working Group called on Belgian to improve their education resources so that they accurately portray what truly happened in Africa during colonial and Imperial times. Most importantly they urged Belgium to work on the recognition and social invisibility of people of African Descent, to make a clear and public apology to the African States and adopt a plan of action to confront racism within their country.

Domestic decolonisation

Within the country, the biggest reforms and measures to confront racism are taking place in the capital city of Brussels. One of the biggest changes is the Royal Museum for Central Africa: the museum has taken strides to remove elements of colonialism on display. However, the overall paternalistic attitude of the museum strains the relationship between Belgium and central African countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi. In light of recent events, A statue of Leopold II has been removed by the Antwerp museum after it was set on fire by protestors. There have been many statues defaced by protestors all over Belgium, all calling for his image to be removed from public space as seen in this article Statue of Leopold II, Belgian King Who Brutalized Congo, Is Removed in Antwerp. Simultaneously the government of Brussels has also made attempts to change the names of public spaces or infrastructure that have ties to colonization Most notably seen in a road tunnel,  Belgium seeks new name for road tunnel as it takes on colonial past. Brussels has also launched a project to decolonize public space within the city, this was in direct reaction to the BLM movement. This is the most significant action the Belgian state has taken in an attempt to reshape its public history. From road tunnels to parks, the city is making an effort to change. All of these are very pertinent changes as Brussels is the capital city and hopefully, the rest of the nation follows suit. It is equally important to note the work being carried out by the government institution, Inter-Federal Centre of Equal Opportunities (UNIA), which is a public institution that fights discrimination and works to promote equal opportunities for African descendants in Belgium, has acted tremendously to improve the life of African descendants in Belgium

Despite these advancements, many flaws must be addressed. The Royal Museum of Central Africa chooses certain displays to take down but maintains that history must be preserved. The problem with this is not the artifacts themselves, rather the information and context that turns their public history into a glorification of colonialism. The same can be said for the textbooks and educational resources propagated by the state. The history told in these state resources surrounding the Congolese genocide and the colonisation of Africa do not accurately portray the events and continues a passive ignorant mindset towards this part of their history. It furthers a paternalistic take on history that paints the Belgian leaders as people who were benevolent and brought civilization; When in reality they were brutal oppressors to native populations who exploited and abused central Africa in the name of wealth. While progress is being made, it is not nearly enough considering the global progress and the scale of impact Belgium's colonisation continues to have domestically and internationally.

African reparations

Countries such as Congo and Burundi still have effects today of the violence and loss from the Congolese genocide over a century ago. Their overall underdevelopment and indicators such as HDI, CPI, and GDP can be directly linked to the causes of Belgian colonization. Burundi has asked for $43 billion in reparations, while the Belgian government has yet to offer anything. Other African countries have sought reparations but Belgium has yet to pay any. This is significant because the lack of response and acknowledgment shown by the Belgian government especially during this racially charged period in time points to a blind spot of ignorance of the state. The farthest they have gone to show any sort of repatriation is by returning the tooth of an important political figure in Congo, this information can be accessed here: Belgium to return tooth of assassinated Congolese leader Patrice Lumumba to family | DW | 10.09.2020. This is dismal because it fails to acknowledge the ongoing effects of their colonists' period which paints horribly for their public history in the diplomatic sphere. The Belgian government has an opportunity to better utilize public history for the good of their image, as well as their growth as a country and relations with others however by not taking actions they are hurting themselves. Not only have the economies of these post-colony countries not been able to fully develop, the success of the Belgium economy that is rooted in colonisation creates a twisted paradox for these countries; Their resources and suffering were exploited by an Imperial power who continues to reap the benefits while they are left impoverished and impacted. In this sense, the exploitation of central Africa by Belgium continues today.

Conclusions and recommendations.

Belgium is missing the opportunity to take advantage of such a racially charged time to condemn their past behaviour, acknowledge their impact on Africa, and offer their support to countries they devastated. Belgium should uplift itself by creating a new public history, one that condemns their past. After 11 weeks of social media observation, the Belgium Ministry of Foreign affairs has not posted any content related to racial awareness or their former African colonies. One of the greatest tools today is social media, instead of only posting the glories of their country they should bring awareness to their past, on the biggest platform possible. However, it is not enough to bring light to this issue on social media. It is important to work with other governments, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, to amend and take necessary actions. Belgium needs to consider economic treaties with central Africa that would not only benefit both countries but make reparations for the African states. The goal of Belgian actions should be not only to acknowledge their colonial past but to actively make reparations and accurately acknowledge their atrocities and the impact they have had on central Africa, as well as the impact it's had on Belgian success as a country.

While Belgium ignores their colonial past, surrounding countries such as the Netherlands condemn and continue to actively work against racial cleavages in society. France, in a similar manner, continues to denounce the actions taken by Napoleon Bonaparte and even uses their history to emphasize their strengths not only in times of racial equality but also during coronavirus. With this in mind, it is time for Belgium to step up and meet or exceed the awareness of their neighbours and take actions to address their history and use it as a tool to improve.

Exploring Democratization and political reconstruction

South Africa and Rwanda move in a wide spectrum between democracy and non-democracy: they have been labelled respectively a flawed democracy and an authoritarian regime. They are in a liminal political status, with some comparable political parameters.

A rally organized by the African National Congress during the 2019 general elections campaign [ANC]

ESSAY Pablo Arbuniés

Introduction

In 1994 both South Africa and Rwanda embarked on a journey of political change that to this day seems unfinished. The first saw the end of apartheid and the beginning of a transition to non-racial democracy, while the latter saw the end of a civil conflict that sparked a genocide.

Both countries faced fundamental changes of a political and social nature at the same time in two very different ways. South Africa faced such change from the perspective of democracy, while Rwanda saw the collapse of a radical ethnic regime under Habyalimana after the civil war in 1994.

Understanding that countries move in a wide spectrum between democracy and non-democracy, that is, that they often are in a liminal political status, is the very basis to study these processes. Comparing these countries that experienced monumental political change at the same time can be useful to understand how societies can be rebuilt after a dark period. Depending on how the transition started, either through force as is the case in Rwanda or via political consensus or constitutional change as in South Africa, the path that the country will follow can vary greatly. It is also worth exploring how a post-conflict consensus can be the basis of a renewed system. Of key interest is how long such dispensation go uncontested and how stable it can sustain the project.  

The case of South Africa and Rwanda

South Africa is classified by some as a Flawed Democracy[1], meaning that there are free and fair elections but there are factors that prevent it from arriving at a full democratic rule. In 1990, the government re-established multi-party politics. Then, the 1992 referendum approved universal suffrage, including black people in the democratic process, and the 1994 general elections were the first democratic and universal vote in the history of the country. The African National Congress (ANC) came to power and has won all the following elections.

The ANC—and similarly, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF)—has a sense of exceptionalism, a belief that it has an extraordinary mandate to finish the revolution that only it can fulfil[2]. However, recent elections have shown a decrease in popular support for the ANC. Yet the fact that, over time, the ruling party during a transition process eventually loses free elections is a sign of a consolidated democracy[3].

Rwanda on the other hand is deemed an authoritarian regime by the EIU[4]. In the aftermath of the civil war and the genocide, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) positioned itself as a guarantor of security, consolidating control over all sectors of society. This provision of security and stability in the wake of a conflict, accompanied by an authoritarian use of power, can be referred to as the authoritarian social contract, prioritising security over democracy and fundamental rights, but with a sufficiently transparent and accountable government.

This article will proceed to explore a few indicators like transitional justice, legal framework and institutions, separation of power and rule of law, transparency and accountability plus civil society to test whether South Africa and Rwanda have attained democratic transition through building sustainable political institutions.

Transitional justice

The South African Constitution highlights the importance of healing the consequences of apartheid and establishing a society based on human rights, democracy and social justice. Thus, in 1995 the Government established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), tasked with uncovering past injustices and establishing the truth about the apartheid.

The TRC was composed of three committees: Human rights violations, Reparation and Rehabilitation and Amnesty. Their ultimate goal was to restore the dignity and encourage the spirit of forgiveness between the victims and the perpetrators.

However, in terms of accountability, the TRC has fallen short. The offer of “amnesty for the truth” as well as the de facto back door amnesty provided by the National Prosecuting Authority’s Prosecution Policy have meant effective immunity for apartheid-era perpetrators even if they did not apply for amnesty nor helped the TRC. Even after the “back door” was declared unconstitutional in 2008, none of the cases affected has returned to the courts.[5]

In Rwanda, the priority after the civil war and genocide was also rebuilding social peace. Civil war crimes and genocide were treated differently from each other in transitional justice, partly due to the reluctance of the RPF to judge its crimes as a belligerent actor in the civil war, and also because of the prioritising of genocide prosecution.[6]

Rwanda’s main challenge for transitional justice was the vast number of people that took part in the genocide. Despite other countries facing similar problems and opting for amnesties or selective prosecution, Rwanda chose the way of accountability through criminal trials. To achieve this, the government had to create community courts (Gacaca) to make accountability possible for low-level genocide suspects.

This choice of criminal prosecution was defended by the RPF as a measure to end impunity culture that led to the genocide. However, the massive prosecutions have ended up overwhelming the system and hindering the rule of law.

Legal framework and institutions

Constitution

In its transition to democracy, South Africa chose to completely re-write its constitution. The 1996 Constitution was promulgated by Nelson Mandela and entered into force in 1997, in place of the 1993 interim constitution. The interim constitution set the bases for the final one, including universal adult suffrage, the prohibition of discrimination, multi-party democracy, separation of powers, etc.

However, the biggest achievement of the South African transition is how the institutions in charge of the elections have been built on consensus and with the guarantee of non-interference by the ruling party, making the Electoral Commission a body publicly perceived to be neutral and impartial.[7]

Rwanda held a referendum in 2003 to approve a new constitution, after a deep public consultation process. A new constitution was approved, prohibiting ethnic politics along with other forms of discrimination. This clause has been widely used by the government to maintain a one-party system by illegalising opposition parties and attacking any form of political dissent under the façade of preventing another genocide[8]. In 2015 term limits were abolished by referendum, allowing president Kagame to run for a third 7-year term.

Separation of powers and rule of law

In terms of separation of powers and checks and balances, South Africa ranks above the average of its region according to the world justice and rule of law index. Its overall score in the Rule of Law Index is of 0.59, making it the 45th country out of 128.  The lowest rated indicators for the country are absence of corruption at 0.48 and criminal justice at 0.53. In terms of fundamental rights, all indicators are above average and above the upper-middle threshold except for no discrimination, valued al 0.54.

Constraints on government powers are measured at 0.63, and all indicators are above average and above the “upper-middle” threshold. Legislative and judiciary checks and balances are valued at 0.58 and 0.67 respectively, meaning that there is an effective separation of powers. However, and despite the absence of corruption ranking above average, in the legislative power is below the upper-middle threshold and valued at a worrying 0.23, and in the executive branch it is also below said threshold at 0.4. Corruption in the executive and the legislative powers can be explained as a consequence of the political dominance of the ANC and its firm grab onto power, and it should eventually fade away when a new party reaches power.

On the other hand, Rwanda is a fascinating case, since it presents a very low score on the democratic index[9] but an overall decent rule of law index.[10] In other words, Rwanda’s government might not be democratic, but it does play by the rules, hence reinforcing the idea of an authoritarian social contract that is indeed being fulfilled by the government. In fact, despite being an authoritarian country, Rwanda’s rule of law index is higher than South Africa’s, and the second highest in Sub-Saharan Africa, only bettered by Namibia (one of the best-ranked democracies in the region).

To further prove the point of the authoritarian social contract, looking at the different indicators of the Rule of Law Index, one can notice that its lowest-rated indicators are the fundamental rights ones (0.51, ranking 81st in the world) and it’s the best indicator is order and security (0.84, ranking 22nd in the world) with a perfect score in absence of civil conflict (1.00).

Limits to governmental power by the legislative and judiciary powers are worth mentioning too. In the case of legislative checks and balances, the country ranks below the Sub-Saharan average, partly due to the predominance of RPF parliamentarians dominating the legislature. Hence they provide little checks on the executive. On the other hand, Judiciary checks and sanctions for official misconduct are above the Sub-Saharan average, showing a surprising level of judiciary independence for a country deemed as authoritarian.

Transparency and accountability

Transparency indicators show South Africa leading the regional chart, well above the Sub-Saharan average and also above the upper-middle threshold, which means that the government can be considered transparent enough. In the other hand, persistent levels of corruption in the executive and legislative power, as well as in the police and military (ranked above regional average but below the upper-middle threshold) show worrying signs that could obstruct the accountability of those holding power. Indeed, sanctions for official misconduct are the weaker link in constraints on government power, showing a limited action taken against corruption, but still ranking above the Sub-Saharan average.

In Rwanda, judiciary independence and sanctions for official misconduct are also above average for the region, showing an acceptable degree of accountability in the exercise of power that yet again can be surprising in an authoritarian country.

In terms of transparency, Rwanda ranks above the Sub-Saharan average in all indicators: publicized laws and government data (0.60), right to information (0.61), civic participation (0.53) and complaint mechanisms (0.60). Corruption indicators are above regional average as well with corruption in the legislative power being the worst of the lot despite still being better than that of its neighbouring counterparts.

 

Civil society

The ANC has, in a similar fashion to the RPF, tried to become a gatekeeping power, attempting to draw the limits of what is acceptable opposition or an acceptable discourse. This allows the parties to monopolize the social cohesion discourse by presenting themselves as the only legitimate actor to tackle the issue.

In South Africa, the ANC accuses the opposition parties of trying to bring back apartheid; for instance, it claims that the Democratic Alliance aims to return to a minority rule system. Thus, the party presents itself as the only one that can prevent the Boers from returning to power. A state of constant alert is promoted by the ANC, not only within national politics and against civil society actors, but also claiming that foreign agendas are seeking a regime change in the country and trying to turn the people against their leaders.[11]

In Rwanda, the government took advantage of the post-conflict situation to limit public participation in the political sphere. Those opposed to the government are marginalised and their discourse is rejected as genocide-promoting or supportive of ethnical divisions. This is key for the government to retain popular support, as any dissenting voice will be delegitimized and presented as a call to go back to the worst moments of Rwanda’s history, and thus publicly rejected. As for dealing with foreign civil society actors, Kagame tends to delegitimize them by associating any dissenting foreign opinion with colonialism.[12] This overall helps the RPF sustain their rhetoric of the Rwandicity of the people as the only way of keeping social peace and cohesion.

This discourse that attempts to create national unity as well as within the parties, has a constant “rally around the flag” effect, silencing dissenting opinions and deterring potential civil society actors, in fear of being singled out as apartheid or genocide promoters. This results in a weakened civil society often deterred from criticising the government in fear of being marginalised and portrayed as either a colonialist or a promoter of ethnic division and genocide. Dissenting voices are turned into enemies of the nation and used for an “us versus them” political discourse.

Despite this, non-governmental checks on the exercise of power in South Africa are valued at 0.71, well above the Sub-Saharan average as well as the upper-middle threshold. Freedom of expression has the same score and again y both above the regional average and nearly reaching the higher threshold.

Overall, South Africa has a robust civil society that plays a key role in creating and sustaining political culture, tackling the gaps between national and local politics, as well as holding public officials accountable and checking their use of power. This can be seen in the outing of former presidents Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma through consistent mobilisations and lawsuits.[13]

For Rwanda, as expected in an authoritarian country, civil society is not a key actor. Non-governmental checks to the use of power are low (0.45), and likely limited by an also low freedom of expression indicator (0.45).

Conclusions

Treating democracy and non-democracy as a dichotomy instead of the two sides of a wide spectrum would not allow us to look at how different variables are key to understanding national politics. Instead, it is crucial to understand that many countries occupy a liminal space between democracy and non-democracy without necessarily moving towards either. Therefore, it is in that space that they should be analysed in order to be fully understood. That being said, South Africa and Rwanda both occupy very different liminal spaces, with the first being much closer to full democracy than the former.

The civil society indicators, as well as the role of transitional justice, show a very clear difference between South Africa and Rwanda, which is rooted in the legitimation of the power of the ruling party, as well as in the background of their political changes. The RPF came to power by winning the civil war and used transitional justice to whitewash its image as no RPF member has been investigated for alleged war crimes[14]. Thus, the lack of accountability and the militaristic nature of the transition can be seen as factors that discourage citizen participation in politics. On the other hand, South Africa had an easier task with transitional justice, but the result cannot be considered perfect or ideal, and many criticise the South African model of transitional justice for being too superficial and symbolic and not providing the needed social healing. Also, South Africa’s transition is built on political consensus instead of the outcome of a civil war, and that spirit of consensus can be seen in the much bigger role of civil society nowadays. The ability of civil society actors to hold political ones to a high enough standard is key in rebuilding a country.

The transparency indicators show that both countries have open and transparent governments, with Rwanda scoring better than South Africa in the publicized laws & government data as well as the right to information indicators, which can be surprising due to the authoritarian nature of the Rwandan government.

Although both countries seem to be in very different positions, they share a political discourse based on party exceptionalism and rejection of dissenting voices as encouragers of genocide or apartheid. The fear of ethnic conflict is the very basis of the traces of an authoritarian social contract that still prevails in the South African and Rwandan politics.

In terms of institutional transformation, South Africa shows how important it is to build trustworthy institutions, with the best example being the Electoral Commission. Also, political trust in pacific transitions of power after an election is a sign of a consolidated democracy and shows the success of South Africa.

The level of transparency of the Rwandan government, added to its success in the accountability and security aspects and the high civil and criminal justice indicators (all above regional average) show how an authoritarian country can effectively deal with a post-conflict situation without abandoning its non-democratic model. Rwanda is a fascinating example of a successfully fulfilled authoritarian social contract in which civil liberties are given up in exchange for a peaceful and stable environment in which the country can heal economically as the quite positive GDP per capita projections show.[15]

[2] Beresford, A. Liberation movements and stalled democratic transitions: reproducing power in Rwanda and South Africa through productive liminality https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13510347.2018.1461209 

[3] Huntington, S. P. (1991). The third wave: Democratization in the late 20th century.

[5] International Center for Transitional Justice, South Africa https://www.ictj.org/our-work/regions-and-countries/south-africa

[6] Waldorf, L, Transitional Justice and DDR: The Case of Rwanda, International Center for Transitional Justice https://www.ictj.org/sites/default/files/ICTJ-DDR-Rwanda-CaseStudy-2009-English.pdf

[7] Ahere, J. R. (2020). Africa's dalliance with democracy, but whose democracy? In N. Sempijja, & K. Molope, Africa rising? Navigating the nexus between rhetoric and emerging reality (pp. 37-54). Pamplona: Eunsa.

[8] Roth, K. The power of horror in Rwanda,  https://www.hrw.org/news/2009/04/11/power-horror-rwanda

[11] Beresford, A. Liberation movements and stalled democratic transitions: reproducing power in Rwanda and South Africa through productive liminality https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13510347.2018.1461209

[12] Beresford, A. Liberation movements and stalled democratic transitions: reproducing power in Rwanda and South Africa through productive liminality https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13510347.2018.1461209 

[13] Gumede, W. How civil society has strengthened South Africa’s democracy https://www.corruptionwatch.org.za/civil-society-strengthened-democracy-south-africa/#toggle-id-1

[14] Waldorf, L, Transitional Justice and DDR: The Case of Rwanda, International Center for Transitional Justice https://www.ictj.org/sites/default/files/ICTJ-DDR-Rwanda-CaseStudy-2009-English.pdf

[15] IMF. "Rwanda: Gross domestic product (GDP) per capita in current prices from 1985 to 2025 (in U.S. dollars)." Chart. October 12, 2020. Statista. Accessed January 25, 2021. https://www.statista.com/statistics/452130/gross-domestic-product-gdp-per-capita-in-rwanda/

Exploring Democratization and political reconstruction: The case of South Africa and Rwanda

A rally organized by the African National Congress during the 2019 general elections campaign [ANC]

ESSAY Pablo Arbuniés

Introduction

In 1994 both South Africa and Rwanda embarked on a journey of political change that to this day seems unfinished. The first saw the end of apartheid and the beginning of a transition to non-racial democracy, while the latter saw the end of a civil conflict that sparked a genocide.

Both countries faced fundamental changes of a political and social nature at the same time in two very different ways. South Africa faced such change from the perspective of democracy, while Rwanda saw the collapse of a radical ethnic regime under Habyalimana after the civil war in 1994.

Understanding that countries move in a wide spectrum between democracy and non-democracy, that is, that they often are in a liminal political status, is the very basis to study these processes. Comparing these countries that experienced monumental political change at the same time can be useful to understand how societies can be rebuilt after a dark period. Depending on how the transition started, either through force as is the case in Rwanda or via political consensus or constitutional change as in South Africa, the path that the country will follow can vary greatly. It is also worth exploring how a post-conflict consensus can be the basis of a renewed system. Of key interest is how long such dispensation go uncontested and how stable it can sustain the project.  

The case of South Africa and Rwanda

South Africa is classified by some as a Flawed Democracy[1], meaning that there are free and fair elections but there are factors that prevent it from arriving at a full democratic rule. In 1990, the government re-established multi-party politics. Then, the 1992 referendum approved universal suffrage, including black people in the democratic process, and the 1994 general elections were the first democratic and universal vote in the history of the country. The African National Congress (ANC) came to power and has won all the following elections.

The ANC—and similarly, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF)—has a sense of exceptionalism, a belief that it has an extraordinary mandate to finish the revolution that only it can fulfil[2]. However, recent elections have shown a decrease in popular support for the ANC. Yet the fact that, over time, the ruling party during a transition process eventually loses free elections is a sign of a consolidated democracy[3].

Rwanda on the other hand is deemed an authoritarian regime by the EIU[4]. In the aftermath of the civil war and the genocide, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) positioned itself as a guarantor of security, consolidating control over all sectors of society. This provision of security and stability in the wake of a conflict, accompanied by an authoritarian use of power, can be referred to as the authoritarian social contract, prioritising security over democracy and fundamental rights, but with a sufficiently transparent and accountable government.

This article will proceed to explore a few indicators like transitional justice, legal framework and institutions, separation of power and rule of law, transparency and accountability plus civil society to test whether South Africa and Rwanda have attained democratic transition through building sustainable political institutions.

Transitional justice

The South African Constitution highlights the importance of healing the consequences of apartheid and establishing a society based on human rights, democracy and social justice. Thus, in 1995 the Government established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), tasked with uncovering past injustices and establishing the truth about the apartheid.

The TRC was composed of three committees: Human rights violations, Reparation and Rehabilitation and Amnesty. Their ultimate goal was to restore the dignity and encourage the spirit of forgiveness between the victims and the perpetrators.

However, in terms of accountability, the TRC has fallen short. The offer of “amnesty for the truth” as well as the de facto back door amnesty provided by the National Prosecuting Authority’s Prosecution Policy have meant effective immunity for apartheid-era perpetrators even if they did not apply for amnesty nor helped the TRC. Even after the “back door” was declared unconstitutional in 2008, none of the cases affected has returned to the courts.[5]

In Rwanda, the priority after the civil war and genocide was also rebuilding social peace. Civil war crimes and genocide were treated differently from each other in transitional justice, partly due to the reluctance of the RPF to judge its crimes as a belligerent actor in the civil war, and also because of the prioritising of genocide prosecution.[6]

Rwanda’s main challenge for transitional justice was the vast number of people that took part in the genocide. Despite other countries facing similar problems and opting for amnesties or selective prosecution, Rwanda chose the way of accountability through criminal trials. To achieve this, the government had to create community courts (Gacaca) to make accountability possible for low-level genocide suspects.

This choice of criminal prosecution was defended by the RPF as a measure to end impunity culture that led to the genocide. However, the massive prosecutions have ended up overwhelming the system and hindering the rule of law.

Legal framework and institutions

Constitution

In its transition to democracy, South Africa chose to completely re-write its constitution. The 1996 Constitution was promulgated by Nelson Mandela and entered into force in 1997, in place of the 1993 interim constitution. The interim constitution set the bases for the final one, including universal adult suffrage, the prohibition of discrimination, multi-party democracy, separation of powers, etc.

However, the biggest achievement of the South African transition is how the institutions in charge of the elections have been built on consensus and with the guarantee of non-interference by the ruling party, making the Electoral Commission a body publicly perceived to be neutral and impartial.[7]

Rwanda held a referendum in 2003 to approve a new constitution, after a deep public consultation process. A new constitution was approved, prohibiting ethnic politics along with other forms of discrimination. This clause has been widely used by the government to maintain a one-party system by illegalising opposition parties and attacking any form of political dissent under the façade of preventing another genocide[8]. In 2015 term limits were abolished by referendum, allowing president Kagame to run for a third 7-year term.

Separation of powers and rule of law

In terms of separation of powers and checks and balances, South Africa ranks above the average of its region according to the world justice and rule of law index. Its overall score in the Rule of Law Index is of 0.59, making it the 45th country out of 128.  The lowest rated indicators for the country are absence of corruption at 0.48 and criminal justice at 0.53. In terms of fundamental rights, all indicators are above average and above the upper-middle threshold except for no discrimination, valued al 0.54.

Constraints on government powers are measured at 0.63, and all indicators are above average and above the “upper-middle” threshold. Legislative and judiciary checks and balances are valued at 0.58 and 0.67 respectively, meaning that there is an effective separation of powers. However, and despite the absence of corruption ranking above average, in the legislative power is below the upper-middle threshold and valued at a worrying 0.23, and in the executive branch it is also below said threshold at 0.4. Corruption in the executive and the legislative powers can be explained as a consequence of the political dominance of the ANC and its firm grab onto power, and it should eventually fade away when a new party reaches power.

On the other hand, Rwanda is a fascinating case, since it presents a very low score on the democratic index[9] but an overall decent rule of law index.[10] In other words, Rwanda’s government might not be democratic, but it does play by the rules, hence reinforcing the idea of an authoritarian social contract that is indeed being fulfilled by the government. In fact, despite being an authoritarian country, Rwanda’s rule of law index is higher than South Africa’s, and the second highest in Sub-Saharan Africa, only bettered by Namibia (one of the best-ranked democracies in the region).

To further prove the point of the authoritarian social contract, looking at the different indicators of the Rule of Law Index, one can notice that its lowest-rated indicators are the fundamental rights ones (0.51, ranking 81st in the world) and it’s the best indicator is order and security (0.84, ranking 22nd in the world) with a perfect score in absence of civil conflict (1.00).

Limits to governmental power by the legislative and judiciary powers are worth mentioning too. In the case of legislative checks and balances, the country ranks below the Sub-Saharan average, partly due to the predominance of RPF parliamentarians dominating the legislature. Hence they provide little checks on the executive. On the other hand, Judiciary checks and sanctions for official misconduct are above the Sub-Saharan average, showing a surprising level of judiciary independence for a country deemed as authoritarian.

Transparency and accountability

Transparency indicators show South Africa leading the regional chart, well above the Sub-Saharan average and also above the upper-middle threshold, which means that the government can be considered transparent enough. In the other hand, persistent levels of corruption in the executive and legislative power, as well as in the police and military (ranked above regional average but below the upper-middle threshold) show worrying signs that could obstruct the accountability of those holding power. Indeed, sanctions for official misconduct are the weaker link in constraints on government power, showing a limited action taken against corruption, but still ranking above the Sub-Saharan average.

In Rwanda, judiciary independence and sanctions for official misconduct are also above average for the region, showing an acceptable degree of accountability in the exercise of power that yet again can be surprising in an authoritarian country.

In terms of transparency, Rwanda ranks above the Sub-Saharan average in all indicators: publicized laws and government data (0.60), right to information (0.61), civic participation (0.53) and complaint mechanisms (0.60). Corruption indicators are above regional average as well with corruption in the legislative power being the worst of the lot despite still being better than that of its neighbouring counterparts.

 

Civil society

The ANC has, in a similar fashion to the RPF, tried to become a gatekeeping power, attempting to draw the limits of what is acceptable opposition or an acceptable discourse. This allows the parties to monopolize the social cohesion discourse by presenting themselves as the only legitimate actor to tackle the issue.

In South Africa, the ANC accuses the opposition parties of trying to bring back apartheid; for instance, it claims that the Democratic Alliance aims to return to a minority rule system. Thus, the party presents itself as the only one that can prevent the Boers from returning to power. A state of constant alert is promoted by the ANC, not only within national politics and against civil society actors, but also claiming that foreign agendas are seeking a regime change in the country and trying to turn the people against their leaders.[11]

In Rwanda, the government took advantage of the post-conflict situation to limit public participation in the political sphere. Those opposed to the government are marginalised and their discourse is rejected as genocide-promoting or supportive of ethnical divisions. This is key for the government to retain popular support, as any dissenting voice will be delegitimized and presented as a call to go back to the worst moments of Rwanda’s history, and thus publicly rejected. As for dealing with foreign civil society actors, Kagame tends to delegitimize them by associating any dissenting foreign opinion with colonialism.[12] This overall helps the RPF sustain their rhetoric of the Rwandicity of the people as the only way of keeping social peace and cohesion.

This discourse that attempts to create national unity as well as within the parties, has a constant “rally around the flag” effect, silencing dissenting opinions and deterring potential civil society actors, in fear of being singled out as apartheid or genocide promoters. This results in a weakened civil society often deterred from criticising the government in fear of being marginalised and portrayed as either a colonialist or a promoter of ethnic division and genocide. Dissenting voices are turned into enemies of the nation and used for an “us versus them” political discourse.

Despite this, non-governmental checks on the exercise of power in South Africa are valued at 0.71, well above the Sub-Saharan average as well as the upper-middle threshold. Freedom of expression has the same score and again y both above the regional average and nearly reaching the higher threshold.

Overall, South Africa has a robust civil society that plays a key role in creating and sustaining political culture, tackling the gaps between national and local politics, as well as holding public officials accountable and checking their use of power. This can be seen in the outing of former presidents Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma through consistent mobilisations and lawsuits.[13]

For Rwanda, as expected in an authoritarian country, civil society is not a key actor. Non-governmental checks to the use of power are low (0.45), and likely limited by an also low freedom of expression indicator (0.45).

Conclusions

Treating democracy and non-democracy as a dichotomy instead of the two sides of a wide spectrum would not allow us to look at how different variables are key to understanding national politics. Instead, it is crucial to understand that many countries occupy a liminal space between democracy and non-democracy without necessarily moving towards either. Therefore, it is in that space that they should be analysed in order to be fully understood. That being said, South Africa and Rwanda both occupy very different liminal spaces, with the first being much closer to full democracy than the former.

The civil society indicators, as well as the role of transitional justice, show a very clear difference between South Africa and Rwanda, which is rooted in the legitimation of the power of the ruling party, as well as in the background of their political changes. The RPF came to power by winning the civil war and used transitional justice to whitewash its image as no RPF member has been investigated for alleged war crimes[14]. Thus, the lack of accountability and the militaristic nature of the transition can be seen as factors that discourage citizen participation in politics. On the other hand, South Africa had an easier task with transitional justice, but the result cannot be considered perfect or ideal, and many criticise the South African model of transitional justice for being too superficial and symbolic and not providing the needed social healing. Also, South Africa’s transition is built on political consensus instead of the outcome of a civil war, and that spirit of consensus can be seen in the much bigger role of civil society nowadays. The ability of civil society actors to hold political ones to a high enough standard is key in rebuilding a country.

The transparency indicators show that both countries have open and transparent governments, with Rwanda scoring better than South Africa in the publicized laws & government data as well as the right to information indicators, which can be surprising due to the authoritarian nature of the Rwandan government.

Although both countries seem to be in very different positions, they share a political discourse based on party exceptionalism and rejection of dissenting voices as encouragers of genocide or apartheid. The fear of ethnic conflict is the very basis of the traces of an authoritarian social contract that still prevails in the South African and Rwandan politics.

In terms of institutional transformation, South Africa shows how important it is to build trustworthy institutions, with the best example being the Electoral Commission. Also, political trust in pacific transitions of power after an election is a sign of a consolidated democracy and shows the success of South Africa.

The level of transparency of the Rwandan government, added to its success in the accountability and security aspects and the high civil and criminal justice indicators (all above regional average) show how an authoritarian country can effectively deal with a post-conflict situation without abandoning its non-democratic model. Rwanda is a fascinating example of a successfully fulfilled authoritarian social contract in which civil liberties are given up in exchange for a peaceful and stable environment in which the country can heal economically as the quite positive GDP per capita projections show.[15]


[2] Beresford, A. Liberation movements and stalled democratic transitions: reproducing power in Rwanda and South Africa through productive liminality https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13510347.2018.1461209 

[3] Huntington, S. P. (1991). The third wave: Democratization in the late 20th century.

[5] International Center for Transitional Justice, South Africa https://www.ictj.org/our-work/regions-and-countries/south-africa

[6] Waldorf, L, Transitional Justice and DDR: The Case of Rwanda, International Center for Transitional Justice https://www.ictj.org/sites/default/files/ICTJ-DDR-Rwanda-CaseStudy-2009-English.pdf

[7] Ahere, J. R. (2020). Africa's dalliance with democracy, but whose democracy? In N. Sempijja, & K. Molope, Africa rising? Navigating the nexus between rhetoric and emerging reality (pp. 37-54). Pamplona: Eunsa.

[8] Roth, K. The power of horror in Rwanda,  https://www.hrw.org/news/2009/04/11/power-horror-rwanda

[11] Beresford, A. Liberation movements and stalled democratic transitions: reproducing power in Rwanda and South Africa through productive liminality https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13510347.2018.1461209

[12] Beresford, A. Liberation movements and stalled democratic transitions: reproducing power in Rwanda and South Africa through productive liminality https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13510347.2018.1461209 

[13] Gumede, W. How civil society has strengthened South Africa’s democracy https://www.corruptionwatch.org.za/civil-society-strengthened-democracy-south-africa/#toggle-id-1

[14] Waldorf, L, Transitional Justice and DDR: The Case of Rwanda, International Center for Transitional Justice https://www.ictj.org/sites/default/files/ICTJ-DDR-Rwanda-CaseStudy-2009-English.pdf

[15] IMF. "Rwanda: Gross domestic product (GDP) per capita in current prices from 1985 to 2025 (in U.S. dollars)." Chart. October 12, 2020. Statista. Accessed January 25, 2021. https://www.statista.com/statistics/452130/gross-domestic-product-gdp-per-capita-in-rwanda/

Portugal: Presidential elections in the middle of the Covid crisis

The low voter turnout did not lead to questioning the reelection of Rebelo de Sousa, but it helped the far-right candidate to get a distant third place

President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa during a statement to the nation, in January 2021 [Portuguese Presidency]

ANALYSIS Elena López-Dóriga

Last Sunday 24th of January of 2021 Portugal held presidential elections despite of the country being in lockdown due to the advance of the Covid-19 pandemic. The President of the Republic Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa was re-elected, winning another five-year term after a campaign fought amid one of the world’s worst outbreaks of coronavirus. The re-elected president won with a majority of 60.7% of the votes, therefore, with no need to go for a second round. It was already certain that he was going to win this election as he was already known as the favorite candidate in the polls. Nevertheless, the triggering questions for this election relied in how much the turnout could be affected due to the critic situation of coronavirus that Portugal was facing in the middle of a lockdown, and how much relevance was the new far-right wing party Chega was going to achieve, as it had been attaining a lot of popularity since its creation in the last April 2019. The elections were marked indeed by the historic absence of almost 61% (the electoral turnout was 39.24% of the registered voters), and the third position in the ranking of André Ventura, the leader of Chega.

Historical background of the political system

Portugal had the longest lasting authoritarian regime in Western Europe in the 20th century, between 1926 until 1974; it was led by Antonio de Oliveira Salazar in a historical period known as “Estado Novo”. Autarchy and tradition had limits, as Portugal managed to join the NATO in 1949 and the EFTA in 1960, allowing economic growth for the country and the development of social policies that benefited the citizens. However, after the nearly fifty years of authoritarian rule and compared to other European countries, Portugal was still much more rural and its population much more likely to be illiterate or to have only a few years of schooling. After the Revolution of April 25th also known as the “Carnation Revolution”, which overthrew the regime leaded by Salazar’s successor Marcelo Caetano, there was a transition towards a parliamentary democracy based on a new constitution.

The political and economic instability in the first years following the revolution was high since the democratic transition was done through a revolutionary rupture made led by the Movement of the Armed Forces (MFA). However, the MFA kept the promise to leave the government after one year, and the first Constituent Assembly elections were held the 25 of April of 1975, exactly one year after the Revolution. The Portuguese semi-presidential regime was defined as a system of government in which the president of the Republic, appointed by means of direct popular vote in a competitive election. The impacted choice of electoral system was the proportional representation system, which aimed to reflect the full distribution of voter’s preferences as closely as possible. Voters were grouped in “distritos” and the number of votes is fairly proportional to the population in each district. The National Assembly was composed by 250 members initially, but it was reduced to 230 seats in 1989.

An economic background

In 1960 Portugal joined the EFTA as a liberal state with a social model, and finally entered the European Union in the year 1986 as well as Spain. It thought that the Economic and Monetary Union would ensure peace among the Europeans, acceleration of the economic development and improve the levels of social justice. Portugal’s policy makers eagerly endorsed the European integration process, and it became an economic policy priority to be in the group of early euro adopters.

While Portugal experienced rapid economic growth in the years that preceded the launch of the euro (between 1995 and 2000), the country’s macroeconomic performance since the introduction of the euro was not as high as expected. Nonetheless, the country registered strong progress in a number of social-economic indicators. Between 2009 and 2016 Portugal experienced a severe economic crisis characterized by falling GDP, high unemployment, rising government debt and high bond yields. This was caused by a combination of the global recession, lack of competitiveness and limitations of being in the Euro. In May 2011, due to increasingly untenable interest rates on its bonds, Portugal necessitated a bailout, and accepted a package of 78 billion euros from the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, known colloquially as the Troika, in return of addressing its financial unsustainability. Between 2010 and 2020 Portugal experienced a boom in tourism that made the industry one of the biggest contributors to the national economy and the largest employer, with almost 1 million direct and indirect jobs according to the World Travel & Tourism Council.

The result of the elections

In order to understand the Portuguese political scene, we need to make a distinction between the right-wing parties and the left-wing parties. On the one hand, there are the right-wing parties Chega and CDS-PP (People’s Party), in the center-right there is the Social Democratic Party (PPD/PSD), in the center-left the Socialist Party (PS), and the Left Bloc (BE) and the PCP (Portuguese Communist Party) on the left.

The 2021 presidential elections were won by Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, former leader of the Social Democratic Party (PPD/PSD), with a majority of 60.7% of the votes. The PSD was founded on the year 1974 and has remained one of the main political parties of the country, either staying in government or in the opposition. Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa joined the party the same year of its creation and became a member of the National Assembly. In 2016 he won the presidential elections in the first round with 52% of the votes, succeeding Anival Cavaco Silva, member of the Social Democratic Party as well. This time, in his victory speech, the president renewed his commitment to the Portuguese, saying he was going to be a president that “respects pluralism and difference, a President who never gives up on social justice”. Nevertheless, the question for these elections was not who was going to be in first place, as the polls were already announcing that Marcelo would be reelected by majority according to CESOP (Centro de Estudos e Sondagens da Universidade Católica Portuguesa), the question was actually who was going to win the second and the third position, the Socialist Party or the new far right-wing party of Chega.

The second position was finally won by Ana Gomes from the Socialist Party (PS), with 12,97% of the votes. The main difference between PSD and PS lies in the fact that PSD seeks to preserve costumes and liberalize the economy, whereas the PS would like to liberalize the costumes and be more conservative with the economy. The PS was created in 1973 and managed to take two of its leaders to the country’s presidency, between 1986 until 2006. The Socialist Party started to make a difference when they chose to act on topics classified as “fracturing” such as de facto unions, abortion, same-sex marriage (which was approved in the year 2009), gender quota systems and euthanasia.

When it comes to how the healthcare system should be managed, the PSD explains in its program that it defends a health sector with more private initiative, referring to this model as a “freedom of choice” one. The PS, instead, defends that it is essential to focus on the centrality of the National Healthcare Services to “look at the careers of health professionals, so they don’t continue to be pushed to the private sector or to emigration”.

The pandemic of the coronavirus has been an important issue discussed during the campaign. Even though in the United States postal voting gained a relevant dimension this year because of the pandemic, in Portugal none of this was possible, because according to paragraph 3, article 121 of the Constitution of the Republic, in the election for the president of the Republic the right to vote must be exercised in person in the national territory. Ana Gomes criticized the impossibility of postal voting for many Portuguese emigrants: “It is unworthy that our emigrants, most of them, could not vote because postal voting or electronic voting had not been regulated. This is an indignity, and the responsibility rests with President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa”, she said. She also claimed that it was a mistake for the elections to be scheduled so late taking into account the advance of the pandemic and not allowing all the measures to be ensured in order to guarantee an opportunity for all people to vote and avoid a high abstention: in fact, these elections were the ones with the highest abstention in Portugal’s history, with almost 61%.

The rise of the far right-wing party Chega 

Many European countries have witnessed the rise of extreme right-wing parties over the last few years, which have gained significant votes and sometimes threatened the position of traditional parties. In Portugal, however, far right-wing had failed to gain electoral support until recently, when the political party of Chega was created in 2009. Chega literally means in Portuguese “Enough!” and the leader running the party is André Ventura, an ex-TV commentator on football and true crime legal shows. Polls were certain about the fact that he was going to be in close competition for second place in the election, and indeed he was very close as he attained 11.9% of the votes.

Ventura took advantage of the intense torrent of media attention surrounding him and his party which helped the party grow exponentially in popularity. Ventura’s tactics and topics of interest were prototypical right-wing; they have even been considered populist by many because of the charismatic leader giving empowered speeches about the Portuguese identity referring to his party as “the voice of the people” and confronting this group against “the system”. Among his most controversial claims during the campaign was his repeated quote “I will not be the president of all Portuguese”, but only of the good or decent Portuguese (“Portugueses de bem”). Amid those he excludes from that definition are, most preeminently, criminals and people who live on state subsidies. He claimed that there are two groups of people in Portugal, the ones that work and the ones that barely work but live at the expense of those that do work and pay taxes. That is why he referred to himself as “a president without fear of the system” that aims to change radically. His agenda was heavily focused on criminality (and support to the police) and the alleged misuse of public money and corruption.

Like Donald Trump in the US or the political party Vox in Spain, the Chega leader has used the social network of Twitter to explain or reinforce some of his most controversial political positions. As a characteristic of many extreme right-wing parties, Chega is anti-immigration and often explicitly targets the ‘gypsies’, known in Portugal as ‘ciganos’, as an ethnic minority that lives at the expense of the state subsidies. In the speech André Ventura gave just when the results of the elections were known, he admitted that the objective of reaching the second position was not achieved but he said that it was a historic night in which a party declared anti-system broke with the spectrum of the traditional right with around half a million votes; he warned the winner party of PSD that Chega was going to be a “fundamental part” of the Portuguese politics.

Elections in the worst moment of the pandemic

In the week before the election, Portugal reported the highest daily averages in the world for new coronavirus cases and deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, according to data collected by the John Hopkins University. Despite of the country being in lockdown due to the high incidence of Covid-19 and the critic situation of the hospitals, in the last week, the country registered more than 80,000 new cases of coronavirus, which turned Portugal into the country with more cases at an international level (10,3 million people). This numbers were very striking for Portugal, as this third wave of coronavirus was hitting harder than the first one in March 2020, where the country managed to control the pandemic and never witnessed the collapse of hospitals that happened in Spain or Italy. In his victory speech, the re-elected president vowed to make the fight against Covid-19 his top priority. The situation got so critic to the point that Germany’s military agreed to send medical staff and equipment to Portugal, where space in hospital intensive care units was running out after the surge in coronavirus infections.

Coronavirus marked this 2021 presidential elections and the pandemic was probably the reason why Portugal had the lowest level of electoral turnout ever, as people from risk groups did not want to risk leaving home and other were required to stay at home in quarantine. Other reasons for the 60.76% abstention was a possible lack of interest in politics and a lower voting by the Portuguese living abroad.

The presidency of Portugal in the Council of the EU

The Council of the European Union is the institution that represents the governments of the EU; its presidency rotates among the EU member states every six months. This year, from January to June, it is Portugal national government’s turn to preside the Council, succeeding Germany and preceding Slovenia. Therefore, Portugal’s current prime minister and head of government Antonio Costa took over the baton, the symbol of the EU Council Presidency. He belongs to the Socialist Party, but the recent re-election of the Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa as a head of state will not affect the main priorities for the Portuguese presidency: the economic and social recovery based on the engines of the climate and digital transitions, drivers for growth and more and better jobs, the development of the European Union Social Pillar and the reinforcement of the strategic autonomy. Besides, Antonio Costa was elected in the year 2015 and has already been working with Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa as a president since its first election in 2016. Costa congratulated him on the victory “with the best wishes for the continuity of the presidential term… in fruitful institutional cooperation”.

In the previous six months of German Presidency, the Covid-19 pandemic was the central challenge, and Angela Merkel concluded in her final speech that Europe was committed to the fight against the virus by promoting, procuring and distributing vaccines. She gave the word to Antonio Costa, who remarked what will be the motto of the Portuguese presidency: “Time to deliver: a fair, green and digital recovery”.

 

El caos electoral propio eclipsó el intento de injerencia de Irán contra Trump

Hackers iraníes falsificaron correos preelectorales de los Proud Boys, pero la actuación postelectoral real de este y otros grupos resultó más disruptiva

Si en las elecciones presidenciales de Estados Unidos de 2016 las operaciones de injerencia extranjera fueron protagonizadas por Rusia, en las de 2020 la atención estuvo en los hackers iraníes, por la novedad que suponían en un campo de operaciones donde igualmente actuaban rusos y chinos, cada cual persiguiendo sus intereses. En concreto, Teherán deseaba una derrota de Donald Trump para que su sucesor demócrata revirtiera el duro régimen de sanciones impuesto contra el régimen iraní. Pero esas actuaciones en el ciberespacio por parte de Irán, Rusia y China fueron poco eficaces debido a la mayor alerta de las agencias de seguridad e inteligencia norteamericanas. Al final esos intentos exteriores de desprestigiar la democracia estadounidense y de minar la confianza de los votantes en su sistema electoral se quedaron pequeños frente al daño causado por el propio caos interno.

Asalto al Capitolio, en Washington, el 6 de enero de 2021 [TapTheForwardAssist]

ARTÍCULO /  María Victoria Andarcia

Rusia siempre estuvo en el ojo de la seguridad estadounidense durante el año electoral de 2020, después de que quedara constatada su injerencia en las elecciones presidenciales de cuatro años antes. No obstante, aunque la principal preocupación siguió siendo Rusia y también se temía una ampliación de las operaciones de China, Irán se llevó los titulares de algunos avisos lanzados por las autoridades norteamericanas, probablemente por la facilidad con que pudieron atribuir a actores iraníes diversas actuaciones. A pesar de ese múltiple frente, el desarrollo de las votaciones no arrojó ninguna evidencia de que las campañas de desinformación extranjeras hubieran tenido efectividad. La rápida identificación de los agentes implicados y la reacción ofensiva por parte de los servicios de seguridad e inteligencia estadounidenses pudieron prevenir que se llegara a la situación de 2016. Como ha señalado el Atlantic Council, esta vez “la desinformación doméstica eclipsó la acción foránea”.

Dadas las directas consecuencias que la llegada de Joe Biden a la Casa Blanca puede suponer en la política de Washington hacia Irán, este artículo presta más atención a los intentos iraníes por afectar al desarrollo de las elecciones de Estados Unidos. La incidencia de las operaciones iraníes fue mínima y tuvieron un perfil menor que las desarrolladas por Rusia en 2016 (país que a su vez tuvo menos implicación que en esas anteriores elecciones).

Operaciones iraníes

En mayo y junio de 2020 se registraron unos primeros movimientos en cuentas de Microsoft, como más adelante revelaría la propia compañía. Un grupo iraní llamado Phosphorus había logrado tener éxito en acceder a cuentas de empleados de la Casa Blanca y del equipo de campaña para la reelección de Trump. Fueron unas señales iniciales de que Teherán estaba montando algún tipo de operación cibernética.

A comienzos de agosto, el director del Centro de Contrainteligencia y Seguridad Nacional, William Evanina, apuntaba a Teherán –también a Moscú y Pekín– de usar desinformación en internet para “influir en los votantes, desencadenar desorden y minar la confianza” ciudadana en el sistema. En relación a Irán afirmaba: “Evaluamos que Irán busca socavar las instituciones democráticas estadounidenses y el presidente Trump, y dividir al país ante las elecciones de 2020”. Añadía que los esfuerzos iraníes se centraban en la difusión de desinformación en las redes sociales, donde hacía circular contenido contra Estados Unidos. Evanina atribuía como motivación de estas acciones la percepción iraní “de que la reelección del presidente Trump resultaría en una continuación de la presión de Estados Unidos sobre Irán en un esfuerzo por fomentar un cambio de régimen”.

A raíz del debate entre Trump y Biden televisado el 29 de septiembre, Twitter eliminó 130 cuentas que “parecían originarse en Irán” y cuyo contenido, que había puesto en conocimiento del Buró Federal de Investigaciones (FBI), pretendía influir en la opinión pública durante el debate presidencial. La compañía solo ofreció cuatro ejemplos. Dos de las cuentas eran proclives a Trump: en una el usuario era @jackQanon (en referencia al grupo conspiratorio QAnon) y la otra expresaba apoyo a Proud Boys, una organización de extrema derecha con vínculos supremacistas a la que Trump había pedido “quedar en guardia y mantenerse alerta”. Las otras dos cuentas habían expresado mensajes pro Biden.

A mediados de octubre, el director de Inteligencia Nacional, John Ratcliffe, se refirió en rueda de prensa a la actuación cibernética de Irán y Rusia como una amenaza al proceso electoral. Según manifestó Ratcliffe, la operación iraní consistió primordialmente en una serie de correos electrónicos en los que se hacía creer que eran enviados por el grupo Proud Boys. Dichos correos contenían amenazas de fuerza física para quienes no votaran por Trump, y tenían como finalidad instigar violencia y dañar la imagen de este último, asociando su campaña con grupos radicales y con esfuerzos para intimidar a votantes. Curiosamente luego los Proud Boys adquirirían un gran protagonismo por ellos mismos en las concentraciones postelectorales en Washington y la toma del Capitolio.

Si bien el portavoz del Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores de Irán, Said Jatibzadeh, negó estas acusaciones recalcando que “para Irán es indiferente quien gana las elecciones de Estados Unidos”, las autoridades norteamericanas insistieron en su versión y la Oficina de Control de Activos Extranjeros del Departamento del Tesoro de Estados Unidos (OFAC) sancionó a cinco entidades iraníes por haber intentado socavar las elecciones presidenciales. Según el comunicado de la OFAC, el Cuerpo de la Guardia Revolucionaria Islámica y la Fuerza Quds usaron los medios iraníes como plataformas para esparcir propaganda y desinformación a la población estadounidense.

De acuerdo con la OFAC, la empresa iraní de comunicación audiovisual Bayan Gostar, habitual colaboradora de la Guardia Revolucionaria, había “planeado influir en las elecciones explotando los problemas sociales dentro de los Estados Unidos, incluida la pandemia de COVID-19, y denigrando a las figuras políticas estadounidenses”. La Unión de Radio y Tevisión Islámica de Irán (IRTVU), que la OFAC considera un brazo de propaganda de la Guardia Revolucionaria, y la Unión Internacional de Medios Virtuales “ayudaron a Bayan Gostar en sus esfuerzos por llegar a la audiencia estadounidense”. Estos medios “amplificaron narrativas falsas en inglés y publicaron artículos de propaganda despectivos y otro contenido dirigido a Estados Unidos con la intención de sembrar la discordia entre la audiencia estadounidense”.

Actuación postelectoral

Estados Unidos asegura que la injerencia iraní no se limitó a las elecciones, que se celebraron el 3 de noviembre (con un nivel de voto por adelantado y por correo sin precedentes), sino que siguió después en las semanas siguientes, intentando aprovechar el desconcierto existente por el cuestionamiento del resultado electoral mantenido por la Administración Trump. Días antes de Navidad, el FBI y la Agencia de Seguridad de Infraestructura y Ciberseguridad del Departamento de Seguridad (CISA) dieron a conocer que presuntamente Irán estaba detrás de una página web y de varias cuentas de redes sociales dirigidas a provocar más violencia contra varios funcionarios estadounidense. La página web titulada “Enemies of the People” contenía fotografías e información personal tanto de funcionarios como de personal del sector privado que tenían relación con el proceso de recuento y autentificación de los votos emitidos en las elecciones, en ocasiones enfrentados a las denuncias de fraude mantenidas por Trump y sus seguidores.

La actuación atribuida a Irán puede interpretarse como un modo de vengar el ataque aéreo con drones ordenado por Washington para asesinar en Irak a Qasem Soleimani, jefe de la Fuerza Qurds, por cuya muerte el 3 de enero de 2020 Teherán había jurado represalias. Pero sobre todo revela un esfuerzo continuo por parte de Irán de aliviar los efectos de la política de “máxima presión” de Estados Unidos impulsada por Trump. Dada la intención expresada por Biden durante la campaña electoral de cambiar la política exterior estadounidense hacia la República Islámica, ésta tendría la oportunidad de recibir un trato más laxo por parte de Estado Unidos si Trump perdía las elecciones presidenciales. Biden había indicado que si llegaba al poder cambiaría la política hacia Irán, posiblemente volviendo al acuerdo nuclear firmado en 2015 con la condición de que Irán respetara los límites de su programa nuclear acordados entonces. El Plan Conjunto de Acción Comprensiva (JCPOA, por sus siglas en inglés) fue considerado un hito en la política exterior del entonces presidente Barack Obama, pero luego la Administración Trump decidió no respetarlo por considerar que habían quedado fuera asuntos como el desarrollo de misiles de Irán y su injerencia militar en otros países de la región.

Pocos días antes de la toma de posesión del nuevo mandatario americano, el presidente iraní,  Hasán Rohaní, instó a Biden a levantar las sanciones impuestas a la República Islámica y volver al acuerdo nuclear de 2015. Irán espera que la Administración Biden tome los primeros pasos para compensar por las acciones del gobierno anterior y así avanzar hacia un posible entendimiento entre ambas naciones. La decisión de volver al acuerdo no se tomará de forma inmediata ya que Biden hereda un país dividido y tardará un tiempo revertir las políticas de Trump. Con las elecciones presidenciales iraníes acercándose en junio de este año, el gobierno de Biden gana tiempo para intentar una reformulación nada fácil, pues el contexto de Oriente Medio ha cambiado sustancialmente en estos últimos cinco años.

Korea: A history of uniqueness and different paths

 

[Michael J. Seth, A Concise History of Modern Korea. From the Late Nineteenth Century to the Present (Plymouth, UK: Rowman & Littlefield, 2019), Volume 2, 356 pages]

REVIEWJimena Villacorta 

Normally, when thinking about the Korean Peninsula, we emphasize on the divided region it is now, and how the Korean War (1950-1053) had a great impact on the two independent territories we have today, North and South Korea. We forget that it once was a culturally and ethnically homogenous nation, that because of its law, couldn’t even trade with outsiders until the Treaty of Kanghwa in 1876 which marked a turning point in Korean history as it ended isolation and allowed the Japanese insertion in the territory which had great effects on its economic and political order.

Michael J. Seth narrates the fascinating history of Korea from the end of the 19th century to the present. In this edition he updates his previous work, published originally ten years before, and he presents it as a “volume 2”, because his latest years of research have produced a “volume 1”, titled A Concise History of Premodern Korea, which follows Korea's history from Antiquity through the nineteenth century.

From falling under Japanese imperialism and expansionism to its division after the Second World War, this book explores the economic, political and social issues that modern Korea has faced in the last decades. The author provides its readers a great resource for those seeking a general, yet detailed, history of this currently divided nation in eight chapters. The first two chapters focus on what happened before the Korean War and on how neighbors and other actors. Russia had great influence in the region until its defeat in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905). Consequently, Korea became a colony of Japan until the Allied Forces victory during the Second World War. Japanese rule is described as harsh and detrimental for Koreans as they intended to force their own culture and system in the territory. Although, in despite of its aggressiveness, the Japanese contributed to Korea’s industrialization. Countries like China and the United States were also major players. From 1885 to 1894, China had a strong presence in the peninsula as the Chinese didn’t want other powers to take over the territory.

The rest of the book emphasizes on the war and the consequences it had, tracing the different course both countries took becoming contrasting societies with different political and economic systems. The reason for the great differences between the two Koreas is the difference in governments and influences they had after the war, a war that stopped because of a ceasefire, as to date they haven’t signed a peace treaty. Even if South Korea was under Syngman Rhee’s authoritarian and corrupt regime tight after the Korean War, it soon became democratized and the country began to quickly advance in matter of technology and human development leaving North Korea out in the open under a totalitarian dictatorship lead by Kim Jong-un. However, after the separation of the two zones, Kim II-sung was the founder of the North in 1948 and his family dynasty has ruled the country since then. During this period, South Korea has had six republics, one revolution, two coups d'état, the transition to democratic elections and nineteen presidencies. In terms of economics, they went from having a very similar GDP at the beginning of the 1970s to very different outcomes. While South Korea has progressed rapidly, becoming one of the world’s leading industrial producers, North Korea became stagnant due to its rigid state system. South Korea also has a high level of technological infrastructure. Moreover, North Korea became a nuclear power, which has been in its agenda since the division. But as he explores the technical differences of both states, the author fails to elaborate in historical debates and controversies regarding both regions, but he emphasizes on the fact that after sixty years of division, there are still no signs or reunification. 

Without a doubt, it is interesting to learn about Korea’s past colonial occupation and its division, but what I believe is the most captivating is to understand how North Korea and South Korea have evolved as two independent very different states because of the uniqueness and complexity of its history, while still sharing a strong sense of nationalism. As the author says, “No modern nation ever developed a more isolated and totalitarian society than North Korea, nor such an all-embracing family cult. No society moved more swiftly from extreme poverty to prosperity and from authoritarianism to democracy than South Korea.”

A new era of propaganda: Russian use of its national history

Narratives from the Kremlin, the Duma and nationalist media embellish Russia's history in an open culture warfare against the West

Russian media and politicians, influenced by a nationalist ideology, often use Russian history, particularly from the Soviet time, to create a national consciousness and praise themselves for their contributions to world affairs. This often results in manipulation and in a rising hostility between Russia and other countries, especially in Eastern Europe.

A colored version of the picture taken in Berlin by the Red Army photographer Yevgueni Jaldei days before the Nazi's capitulation

ARTICLE José Javier Ramírez

Media bias. Russia is in theory a democracy, with the current president Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin having been elected through several general elections. His government, nonetheless, has been accused of restricting freedom of opinion. Russia is ranked 149 out of 179 countriesin the Press Freedom Index, so it is no surprise that main Russian media (Pravda, RT, Sputnik News, ITAR-TASS, …) are strong supporters of the government’s version of history. They have been emphasizing on Russia’s glorious military history, notoriously since 2015 when they tried to counter international rejection of the Russian invasion of Crimea appealing to the spirit of the 70th World War II anniversary. On the other side, social networks are not often used: Putin lacks a Twitter account, and the Kremlin accounts’ posts are not especially significant nor controversial.

Putin’s ideology, often called Putinism, involves a domination of the public sphere by former security and military staff, which has led to almost all media pursuing to justify all Russian external aggressions, and presenting Western countries, traditionally opposed to these policies, as hypocritical and Russophobic. Out of the remarkable exceptions to these pro-government public sphere, we might mention Moscow Today newspaper (whose ideology is rather independent, in no way an actual opposition), and the leader of the Communist faction, Gennady Andreyevich Zyuganov, who was labelled Putin several times as a dictator, without too much success among the electorate.

Early period. Russian media take pride in having an enormously long history, to the extent of having claimed that one of its cities, Derbent, played a key role in several civilizations for two thousand years. However, the first millennium of such a long history often goes unmentioned, due to the lack of sources, and even when the role of the Mongolian Golden Horde is often called into question, perhaps in order to avoid recognizing that there was a time where Russians were subjected to foreign domination. In fact, Yuri Petrov, director of RAS Russian History Institute, has refused to accept that the Mongolian conquest was a colonization, arguing that it was a process of mixing with the Slavic and Mongolian elites.

Such arguments do not prevent TASS, Russian state’s official media, from having recognized the battle of Kulikovo (1380) as the beginning of Russian state history, since this was the time where all Russian states came together to gain independence. Similarly, Communist leader Zyuganov stated that Russia is to be thanked for having protected Europe from the Golden Horde’s invasion. In other words, Russian media have a contradictory position about the nation’s beginning: on one hand, they deny having been conquered by the Mongolian, or prefer not to mention such a topic; on the other, they widely celebrate the defeat of the Golden Horde as a symbol of their freedom and power. Similar contradictions are quite common in such an official history, dominated by nationalist bias.

Czarism. Unlike what might be thought, Russian Czars are held in relative high esteem. Orthodox Church has canonized Nicolas II as a martyr for the “patience and resignation” with which he accepted his execution, while public polls carried by TASS argued that most Russians perceive his execution as barbaric and unnecessary. Pravda has even argued that there has been a manipulation of the last Czar’s story both by Communists and the West (mutual accusations of manipulation between Russian and Western media are quite common): according to Pyotr Multatuli, a historian interviewed by Pravda, the last Czar was someone with fatherly love towards its citizens, and he just happened to be betrayed by conspirators, who killed him to justify their legitimacy.

But this nostalgic remembrance is not exclusive solely to the last Czar, there are actually multiple complimentary references to several monarchs: Peter the Great was credited by Putin for introducing honesty and justice as the state agencies principles; Catherine the Great for being a pioneer in experimentation with vaccines, and she was even the first monarch to have been vaccinated; Alexander III created a peaceful and strong Russia… Pravda, one of the most pro-monarchy newspapers, has even argued that Czars were actually more responsible and answerable to society than the USA politicians, or that Napoleon’s invasion was not actually defeated by General Winter, but by Alexander I’s strategy. The appreciation for the former monarchy might be due to the disappointment with the Soviet era, or in some way promoted by Putin, who since the Crimean crisis inaugurated several statues to honor Princes and Czars, without recognizing their tyranny. This can be understood as a way of presenting himself as a national hero, whose decisions must be obeyed even if they are undemocratic.

USSR. The Soviet Union is the most quoted period in the Russian media, both due to their proximity, and because it is often compared to today’s government. Perceptions about this period are quite different and to some extent contradictory. Zyuganov, the Communist leader, praises the Soviet government, considering it even more democratic that Putin’s government, and has advocated for a re-Stalinisation of Russia. Nonetheless, that is not the vision shared neither by Putin nor by most media.

Generally speaking, Russian media do not support Communist national policy (President Putin himself once took it as “inappropriate” being called neo-Stalinist). There is a recognition of Soviet crimes while, at the same time, they are accepted as something that simply happened, and to what not too much attention should be drawn. Stalin particularly is the most controversial character and a case of “doublethink”: President Putin has attended some events to honor Stalin’s victims, while at the same time sponsored textbooks that label him as an effective leader. The result, shown in several polls, is that there is a growing indifference towards Stalin’s legacy.

However, the approach is quite different when we talk about the USSR foreign policy, which is considered completely positive. The media praise the Russian bravery in defeating Nazi Germany, and doing it almost alone, and for liberating Eastern Europe. This praise has even been shown in the present: Russian anti-Covid vaccine has been given the name of “Sputnik V”, subtly linking Soviet former military technology and advancement to the saving of today’s world (the name of the first artificial satellite was already used for the news website and broadcaster Sputnik News). Moreover, Putin himself wrote an essay on the World War II where he argued that all European countries had their piece of fault (even Poland, whose occupation he justifies as politically compulsory) and that criticism of Russia's attitude is just a strategy of Western propaganda to avoid accepting its own responsibilities for the war.

This last point is particularly important in Russian media, who constantly criticize Western for portraying Russia and the Soviet Union as villains. According to RT, for instance, Norway should be much more thankful to Russia for its help, or Germany for Russia’s promotion of its unification. The reason for this ingratitude is often pointed to the United States and its imperialism, because it has always feared Russia’s strength and independence, according to Sputnik, and has tried to destroy it by all means. The accusations to the US vary among the Russian media, from Pravda’s accusation of the 1917 Revolution having been sponsored by Wall Street to destabilize Russia, to RT’s complaint that the US took advantage of Boris Yeltsin’s pro-Western policies to impose severe economic measures that ruined Russian economy and the citizens’ well-being (Pravda is particularly virulent towards the West).

What the European neighbours think. As in most countries, politicians in Russia use their national history mostly to magnify the reputation of the nation among the domestic public opinion and among international audiences, frequently emphasizing more the positive aspects than the negative ones. What distinguishes Russian media is the influence the Government has on them, which results in a remarkable history manipulation. Such manipulation has arrived to create some sort of doublethink: some events that glorify Russia (Czars’ achievements, Communist military success, etc.) are frequently quoted and mentioned while, at the same time, the dark side of these same events (Czars’ tyranny, Stalin’s repression, etc.) is ignored or rejected.

Manipulated Russian history is often incompatible with (manipulated or not) Western history, which has led to mutual accusations of hypocrisy and fake news that have severely undermined the relations between Russia and its Western neighbours (particularly Poland, whom Russia insists to blame to some extent for the World War II and to demand gratitude for the liberation provided by Russia). If Russia wants to strengthen its relationships, it must stop idealizing its national history and try to compare it with the Western version, particularly in topics referring to Communism and the 20th century. Only this way might tensions be eased, and there will be a possibility of fostering cooperation.

A separated chapter on this historical reconciliation should be worked with Russia's neighbours in Eastern Europe. Most of them shifted from Nazi occupation to Communist states, and now they are still consolidating its democracies. Eastern Europe societies have mixed feelings of love and rejection towards Russia, what they don't buy any more is the story of the Red Army as a force of liberation.

El dilema Indo-Pacífico de la ASEAN

Fortificación china en pequeñas islas disputadas [imágenes satelitales del CSIS]

JOURNALFernando Delage

[Documento de 8 páginas. Descargar en PDF]

INTRODUCCIÓN

La idea del “Indo-Pacífico” ha irrumpido con fuerza en la discusión sobre las relaciones internacionales en Asia. Desde hace algo más de una década, distintos gobiernos han recurrido al término como marco de referencia en el que formulan su política exterior hacia la región. Si el entonces primer ministro japonés Shinzo Abe comenzó a popularizar la expresión en 2007, Australia la asumió formalmente en su Libro Blanco de Defensa de 2013; año en el que también el gobierno indio recurrió al concepto para definir el entorno regional. Como secretaria de Estado de Estados Unidos, Hillary Clinton utilizó igualmente el término en 2010, aunque fue a partir de finales de 2017, bajo la administración Trump, cuando se convirtió en la denominación oficial de la región empleada por Washington.

Aunque relacionadas entre sí, “Indo-Pacífico” tiene dos diferentes connotaciones. Representa, por un lado, una reconceptualización geográfica de Asia; un reajuste del mapa del continente como consecuencia de la creciente interacción entre ambos océanos y del ascenso simultáneo de China e India. La idea aparece vinculada, por otra parte, a una estrategia diseñada como respuesta al ascenso de China, cuyo instrumento más visible es el Diálogo Cuadrilateral de Seguridad (QUAD), un grupo informal integrado por Estados Unidos, Japón, India y Australia. Éste es el motivo de que Pekín desconfíe del término y prefiera seguir utilizando “Asia-Pacífico” para describir su vecindad, aunque sus acciones también respondan a esta nueva perspectiva: como ha señalado el analista australiano Rory Medcalf, la Ruta Marítima de la Seda no es sino “el Indo-Pacífico con características chinas”.

El protagonismo de las grandes potencias en el origen y uso de la expresión parece haber relegado el papel de la ASEAN y sus Estados miembros. Pese a su menor peso económico y militar, no carecen sin embargo de relevancia. Además de estar ubicada en la intersección de los dos océanos —el sureste asiático constituye, de hecho, el centro del Indo-Pacífico—, las disputas en torno al mar de China Meridional sitúan a la subregión en medio de la rivalidad entre China y Estados Unidos. Mientras la primera extiende su influencia a través de su diplomacia económica a la vez que inquieta a los Estados vecinos por sus reclamaciones marítimas, la administración Trump optó por oponerse de manera directa a ese mayor poder económico y militar chino. La ASEAN no quiere verse atrapada en la confrontación entre Washington y Pekín, ni tampoco marginada en la reconfiguración en curso de la estructura regional. Sus Estados miembros quieren beneficiarse de las oportunidades para su desarrollo que les proporciona China, pero también quieren contar con un apoyo externo que actúe como contrapeso estratégico de la República Popular. Aunque estas circunstancias explican sus reservas sobre un concepto que pone en riesgo su cohesión e identidad como organización, la ASEAN terminó adoptando en 2019 su propia “Perspectiva sobre el Indo-Pacífico”, un documento oficial que revela sus esfuerzos por mantener su independencia.