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A Pertinent Insight into the Last 30 Years of Politics – RKK ICDS

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I am part of a generation who can recollect the 1990s only through a few personal childhood memories.

Long summers in the countryside, nighties sewn by my mother, the ground floor of the Tallinn department store at Christmas and the bookshop on Pärnu maantee where one could inspect a volume only if one asked the shopkeeper for it from the shelf.

Memories of the 2000s are more detailed and colourful. I was in primary school. Mobile phones began to spread and everyone could order a ringtone to match their favourite song from the back of a magazine. The first computers appeared in homes and after school we went to visit classmates whose parents had bought one and allowed us to use it. The events of 9/11 entered my mind through a youth programme on TV that started just as I came home from school and heated something to eat on the stove.

The first memory that comes to mind of the 2007 Bronze Soldier unrest is of a helicopter buzzing in the sky all night long. I was home alone and tried to calm my mother over the phone, as she had gone on a work trip for two days, explaining that everything was calm in Kadriorg and I would go to school the next day, if it was open.

Eiki Berg. Vähem on parem. Varrak, 2019. 254 pp.

I’m recollecting these memories to underline the thought that my generation was not politically active during the 1990s and 2000s. Our political awakening occurred sometime in the early 2010s.

For me, NATO and the European Union weren’t choices for which to strive or to oppose. For me, Estonian membership in these organisations has been a fact. Thus, I can sympathise with those who endeavoured to make Estonia’s accession happen but I don’t share their knowledge of what it means to be outside these organisations.

Eiki Berg’s collection of articles, Vähem on parem (Less is More), provides an insight into these events and the last 30 years of Estonian politics. I’m part of the first generation who has to learn about the events that happened in the 1990s and 2000s and can’t discuss matters that have now become the norm based on their personal experiences. That is why this collection is relevant—it explores the dilemmas and choices Estonia faced in those years.

To seasoned observers, Eiki Berg’s book must be a nostalgic trip down memory lane and a reminder of their journey. Sometimes it doesn’t hurt to look back and recall the choices and dilemmas with which we have been confronted. After all, the decisions taken don’t erase the opposing party or their viewpoints. Sometimes looking back helps us to understand better the present day and consider our next steps.

I’d also like to touch upon a subject Eiki Berg mentions in several articles—the multi-speed EU. The idea is as follows: member states that wish to cooperate in a certain field can do so and move forward with the integration process, while countries that don’t want to cooperate on that matter can stand aside but won’t hinder the activities of members who are open to collaboration. This methodology gave rise, for example, to the Schengen area, the eurozone and Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), part of the EU’s security and defence policy.

The multi-speed integration of Europe is a hot topic in Brussels and the capitals of member states. It doesn’t exactly reach the front pages of newspapers but it is still actively discussed by researchers and practitioners. I’d like to point out one aspect Berg doesn’t mention in his articles: a multi-speed Europe is a technical solution to political problems. Member states don’t cooperate because they aren’t able to agree on a golden mean, since their wishes and restrictions differ. Take, for example, fighting climate change. Let’s say that Germany, Croatia, Portugal and Finland want to cooperate more closely in resolving climate issues than the 28 member states together. If these four countries start to collaborate, does that solve the climate change-related challenge Europe must face? No, because while the aforementioned quartet diligently follow their climate policies, the other 24 member states continue with their old ways.

Fighting climate change is a collective undertaking, just like several other challenges Europe must tackle, where size matters and borders don’t. If the EU wants to be at the forefront of combating the climate crisis, it is only possible if all member states are able to reduce the volume of European emissions as a result of changing their collective behaviour. The activities of my make-believe quartet are good and commendable, but don’t solve the problem as such. Thus, a multi-speed Europe is the appropriate choice if the purpose is to demonstrate a European cooperation of sorts, but it doesn’t offer solutions to issues and, rather than increasing efficiency, it may lead to a “diffused union”, in Erki Berg’s apt wording. This means that everyone would carry on with their business independently without a strong centre.

One must therefore inevitably ask: what is the purpose of the EU and European integration? Is it to carry out superficial cooperation or to be a competitive and relevant organisation?

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Who is Andrew Wilkinson? 'An unusual person to be in politics' says former BC Liberal colleague – CTV News Vancouver

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VANCOUVER —
Former cabinet colleague Bill Bennett warns anyone verbally sparring with B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson to be prepared.

“It’s easy to fall into a trap when you’re arguing with Andrew,” Bennett said in an interview. “Without knowing it you end up in a dead-end canyon, wondering how the heck you’re going to get out of it. He’s a very logical person and he won’t say anything more than he has to say.”

The B.C. election is Wilkinson’s first as party leader, and part of his challenge is that his predecessor was Christy Clark, whose magnetic personality was a draw, Bennett said.

“He’s an unusual person to be in politics and he’s probably an unusual person to be running for premier of the province,” said Bennett, who co-chaired Wilkinson’s leadership campaign after Clark resigned in 2017 following the Liberals’ defeat after 16 years in power.

But Bennett said there’s substance to Wilkinson, 63, who attended Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar and worked as a doctor in three small B.C. communities for about three years in the 1980s before becoming a lawyer.

“He’s not charismatic. He’s not Christy, he’s not Ralph Klein,” Bennett said, referring to a former premier of Alberta.

“He’s not colourful, but he’s very smart. And he’s got a good heart. He cares about people, I can tell you that.”

Bennett, who represented the riding of Kootenay East for 16 years and left politics in 2017, said Wilkinson got into politics “for the right reasons,” not for a “popularity contest.”

Where flair sometimes fails him, fairness and a solid argument are among Wilkinson’s best qualities, Bennett said, adding the avid birder who grew up hunting with his father has learned to “measure his words.”

That’s after some of Wilkinson’s words have fallen flat.

In one instance this year he apologized for his choice of words after characterizing an NDP throne speech proposal to give five paid work days to people leaving domestic violence as pay for people in a “tough marriage” during a radio interview.

In a tweet shortly afterwards, Wilkinson said he used the “wrong choice of words and I got it wrong. Victims of domestic violence need their voices heard and our unwavering support, and I want everyone to know they have that with me.”

Wilkinson, who represents the riding of Vancouver-Quilchena on the city’s west side, was criticized by the housing minister as being “out of touch” for saying in a budget speech last year that being a renter can be “a wacky time of life, but it can be really enjoyable.”

He later clarified his remarks, saying on Twitter that as a renter for 15 years and working a low-paying job he knows what “it feels like to worry about making ends meet each month. I know what it feels like to dream of a better situation, more choice and freedom in life.”

He said in an interview that his main interest in becoming leader was to improve the lives of people through policies that spur the economy, including the creation of more daycare spaces and services for those who are addicted to illicit substances in a province where over 5,800 people have fatally overdosed since a public health emergency was declared in 2016.

“We’ve said for two years now that we need to have a pathway to get people off drugs,” Wilkinson said. “As someone who trained in medicine, I have some ideas about that and I’ll be rolling them out in the next week or so.”

Wilkinson, who was born in Brisbane, Australia, said he had “very humble beginnings” in Kamloops, B.C., where his family immigrated in 1962 after his father accepted a job with the federal Agriculture Department as a scientist working on cattle parasites.

“I grew up delivering newspapers as a kid and pumping gas in high school. And I paid my entire way through university with my own funds so I’ve worked hard to get where I did and I’ve been fortunate enough to have a successful life. And I hope to bring those set of skills to this job.”

Wilkinson was elected in 2013 and became technology minister and then minister of advanced education two years later before serving for a short time as attorney general prior to the 2017 election.

He cycles or runs daily and kayaks in the summer while cross-country and downhill skiing in the winter. He has been married since 1993 to Barbara Grantham and the couple has three grown children in their 20s.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 26, 2020.

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Large-Scale Political Unrest Is Unlikely, But Not Impossible – The Atlantic

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Protesters during the Bulldozer Revolution in Belgrade in 2000.Braca Nadezdic / Newsmakers / Getty

When a reporter recently asked Donald Trump if he would accept a peaceful transition of power, the president wouldn’t commit. “We’ll see what happens,” he said. In an apparent reference to mail-in ballots, he went on, “We’ll want to have—get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very—we’ll have a very peaceful—there won’t be a transfer, frankly. There’ll be a continuation.” His comments seemed to confirm the worst fears of Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans who have warned for months that he might act illegally to hold on to power.

For Trumpian commentators, Democrats and the president’s other critics are only raising these concerns because they want to orchestrate a coup of their own. In a recent essay, “The Coming Coup?,” the former Trump-administration official Michael Anton warns his readers that Democrats are laying the groundwork for the “unlawful and illegitimate removal of President Trump from office.” Their tactic, he says, is to condition the public into thinking that Trump will try to steal the election so that if he wins, they can cry foul. They will then, Anton predicts, organize “a ‘color revolution,’ the exact same playbook the American deep state runs in other countries whose leadership they don’t like and is currently running in Belarus. Oust a leader—even an elected one—through agitation and call it ‘democracy.’” Anton advises Trump to prepare now to determine who will be loyal in the days after the election so that he can prevail.

Anton’s warning of a color revolution has gone viral on the Trumpian right. But his analysis rests on a fundamental misunderstanding of the concept. I’ve been looking at the history of color revolutions to see if conditions are actually ripe for one in the U.S.

The term color revolution was coined in the early aughts to describe four political revolutions in post-Communist Europe and Central Asia, in which repressive regimes tried to hold on to power after losing an election: in Serbia (the Bulldozer Revolution, named after a protester who used a bulldozer to storm the Parliament building), Georgia (the Rose Revolution, for the flowers that protesters held during demonstrations), Ukraine (Orange, the color identified with the opposition party), and Kyrgyzstan (Tulip, the national flower). Each case involved an election in which the regime committed fraud and was found out by a combination of impartial external election observers, exit polls, and a sophisticated voting-tabulation system. After the announcement of the fraudulent results, students led enormous popular protests, demanding either new elections or a ratification of the results.

The color revolutions deeply unnerved autocrats, particularly in Russia and China, who believed the West had orchestrated them. The uprisings came from within the countries, although Western nongovernmental organizations played a supporting role over time, particularly by shedding light on nondemocratic practices and helping the students organize. Alexander Cooley, the director of the Harriman Institute at Columbia University, who has studied color revolutions, told me that, contrary to conventional wisdom, the U.S. government was relatively detached and ambiguous about the protests in some of these cases. In Georgia, for example, it initially did not rush to back Mikheil Saakashvili over the incumbent, Eduard Shevardnadze; while in Kyrgyzstan, it worried about the implications for an American military base there.  

By 2005, Moscow and Beijing were actively redefining the term, shifting from indigenous protests against fraudulent elections to exclusively mean externally imposed regime change. Over the next 10 years, color revolution was used to describe many mass protests against autocratic regimes: the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon in 2005, the Green Movement in Iran in 2009, the Arab Spring in 2010–12, the Snow Revolution in Russia in 2011–12, and more Orange protests in Ukraine in 2013–14. The Snow Revolution, pushing against Vladimir Putin’s rotation back into the presidency, exacerbated his paranoia about color revolutions.

Protesters try to break into Parliament during the Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan. (Yoray Liberman / Getty)

While the protesters—students, NGOs, political opposition—learned tactics from one another, so too did the autocrats. Over the years, the leaders developed countermeasures. They denied visas to student leaders from abroad, set up their own pro-regime election monitors, banned NGOs that were advocating for democracy, and rigged elections by using intermediate measures, such as disqualifying candidates before election day.

The United States is not an autocracy, but Trump has embraced this paranoia. As Cooley noted, fears of unrest are borrowed from the Russian hymnbook: “Fear of the street protests, never spontaneous, never motivated by a sense of injustice, activists always paid, always a nefarious agenda—it is straight from the Kremlin’s talking points.” Accusing an opponent of what he is accusing you of—in this case, stealing the election—is a tactic Putin routinely uses to muddy the waters.  

Other than this paranoia, are the conditions in place for an actual color revolution in the United States? In every respect except one extreme scenario—which, astonishingly, Trump has cultivated—the answer is no.  

The 2016 election showed that foreign interference, even rising to the level of collusion with a foreign power, will not prevent the winner from being inaugurated, nor will it topple a president during his term. It may undermine the president’s legitimacy and the country’s confidence in the democratic process, but it won’t spark a color revolution. The 2000 contest proved that disputed elections can be resolved through the courts. Even if tensions are much greater now, it is extremely unlikely that the majority of Joe Biden’s voters will try to overturn a Supreme Court decision through direct action, even if Trump’s nominee to the court is in place. If Biden refuses to concede, which he has shown no signs of doing even though some Democrats have talked about it, his decision will not prevent Trump from being re-inaugurated if he is declared the winner. If the president refuses to leave the White House despite having lost, the legal and political system will take its course and power will transfer to Biden, albeit after an atrocious transition.

The original color revolutions occurred when the perception of clear and massive electoral fraud was widespread and protesters were angry about having democratic rights taken away. The demonstrations were directed at illegitimate regimes with a history of rigged elections, endemic corruption, and repression of political opponents. Trump is the most antidemocratic president in America’s history, but his administration so far does not meet the standard of the regimes affected by color revolutions. The U.S. still has an electoral process and a legal system.

However, one extreme scenario could push the United States toward a color revolution. If Trump actually tries to prevent large numbers of mail-in ballots from being counted by confiscating them, he could irreparably damage the electoral process and prevent the courts from being able to fairly adjudicate it. After all, what are the courts to do if the confiscated ballots have been destroyed or compromised (for instance, if the boxes were opened)? In this scenario, Trump would declare victory on Election Night if he is ahead in votes cast that day, and he would order Attorney General Bill Barr or Chad Wolf, the man Trump claims runs the Department of Homeland Security, to physically stop the count the next day. The president would then pressure Republican state legislatures to ratify his preferred result. This scenario is similar to what my Atlantic colleague Barton Gellman chillingly outlines in his new cover story.  

Daniel Nexon, a political scientist at Georgetown University, told me that in the post-Communist unrest, independent election monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe played a crucial role in demonstrating fraud. External monitors have a more limited role in U.S. elections—they are present but in small numbers and few people pay attention to them. Trump, however, doesn’t control the polling stations. Shenanigans in particular districts could go under the radar for a while, but mass fraud—such as the federal confiscation of mail-in ballots—would likely occur in public view. Many Americans, perhaps millions of them, would feel that they had to take to the streets.

Protesters would want the U.S. to count every vote, as demonstrators did in earlier color revolutions, but that simply may not be possible if the ballots are confiscated and compromised. Nexon said that in most of the post-Communist cases, some mechanism existed for a revote, but U.S. law has no allowance for that. Therefore, if the worst case happens and Trump actively interferes in the count, the protests would likely focus on state legislatures and governors asked to ratify results before the count was complete, and on the Supreme Court, which may be asked to adjudicate.

Dodging a color revolution or large-scale political unrest is simple—Trump should not illegally interfere with the election count. If he gives such an order, his officials should not follow it. If they do, Republican members of Congress should oppose it and the courts should quickly intervene to stop him.

To prevent Anton’s theory from gaining further traction among Republicans, Democrats must be careful not to play into the Trumpist narrative that they are looking to delegitimize the president. They must stop suggesting that he can win only by cheating. As for citizens, we can vote early, preferably in person.

The U.S. election should be beyond reproach, but the political reality is making that unlikely. However, a Rubicon is in place that separates instability after the election from a color revolution. Ultimately, Trump and Trump alone will make the decision whether or not to cross it.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.

Thomas Wright is a contributing writer at The Atlantic, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and the author of All Measures Short of War: The Contest for the 21st Century and the Future of American Power.

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Africa in the news: Zambia’s debt, Kenya’s parliament and trade, and politics in the Horn of Africa – Brookings Institution

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Zambia asks to defer its debt payments

On Tuesday, September 22, Zambia’s government announced that it was running out of cash to service its debt, and asked holders of its three eurobonds, worth a total of $3 billion, to defer interest payments worth almost $120 million until April. The deferment makes Zambia the first African country to default on its debt since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The government placed blame for the default on a combination of declining revenues—partially driven by decreases in the price of copper, a natural resource that makes up 70 percent of Zambia’s export earnings—and increasing unbudgeted costs caused by the pandemic. As a result of the default, Fitch Ratings downgraded Zambia’s credit rating to “C” from “CC.”

Zambia is not the only African country to face COVID-induced difficulties with debt. Twenty-nine African countries have already participated in the G-20’s Debt Service Suspension Initiative, enacted in April to allow low-income countries to concentrate their resources on fighting the pandemic. For more on this topic, see “The unfinished agenda of financing Africa’s COVID-19 response.”

Parliamentary and trade updates in Kenya

On Monday, September 21, Kenya’s chief justice David Maraga advised President Uhuru Kenyatta to dissolve the country’s parliament, stating that parliament had failed to meet a constitutional provision that stipulates that one-third of seats be occupied by women. Currently, women hold 22 percent of seats in the Kenya’s lower house of parliament and 31 percent in the upper house. In a letter to Kenyatta, Maraga wrote that parliament had “blatantly failed, refused, and/or neglected” to implement the gender rule. However, on Thursday, High Court judge Weldon Korir granted temporary orders stopping the move to dissolve parliament, stating that it raised “substantial questions of law” and ordering a hearing on the issue.

Meanwhile, the United States has stipulated that Kenya support Israel’s political and commercial interests as a condition for a U.S.-Kenya bilateral trade deal currently under negotiation. U.S. objectives include for Kenya to commit to “discourage politically motivated actions to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel” and for the elimination of politically-motivated nontariff barriers on trade from Israel. Lobby groups in Nairobi, Kenya, including the East African Tax and Governance Network and the East African Trade Network, have argued that the inclusion of a third party in the negotiation agenda could make the agreement risky and undercut Kenya’s reputation.

In Kenya news, the country introduced its first licensed investment fund for citizens living overseas. The fund, managed by the African Diaspora Asset Managers investment firm, is expected to provide a safe and regulated means for Kenyans living overseas to invest in development projects across the country. The Kenyan diaspora sent an estimated $3 billion in remittances to Kenya last year, and remittances in the first half of 2020 exceeded those sent in the first half of 2019 despite volatility due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Political updates in Somalia and Ethiopia

On Wednesday, September 23, Somalia’s parliament unanimously confirmed Mohamed Hussein Roble as the country’s new prime minister. Earlier this year, the parliament removed now-former Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire from the position in a no-confidence vote, citing his inability to prepare for democratic elections and manage the unstable security situation posed by al-Shabaab militants. Roble, who previously worked at the International Labor Organization, was appointed as Somalia announced its plan for the upcoming elections.

Notably, in recent months, Somalia has been in talks to revise its electoral system, with initial moves to reform the system to one-person, one-vote as opposed to its current clan-based voting system. The proposed reforms for universal suffrage will not be enacted, however, as the authorities confirmed that the upcoming legislative election will see electoral delegates vote in the members of parliament, who will then elect the president in early 2021, a format similar to that of elections in recent years. Importantly, the upcoming elections will include double the number of delegates of previous ones. Meanwhile, attacks by al-Shabaab (and responding U.S.-led airstrikes) continue, which experts predict will only increase as the election moves closer as al-Shabaab seeks to exploit the fragility of governance institutions and thwart the election.

Meanwhile, Ethiopia continues to face domestic unrest. Spurred by the death of pop star and activist Hachalu Hundessa of the Oromo ethnic group earlier this summer, internet shutdowns, protests, and reactive violence have continued in recent months, leading to the deaths of hundreds. Already, about 2,000 people have been charged in the related violence, including prominent opposition figure Jawar Mohammed, who was charged with terrorism-related offenses, telecom fraud, and other crimes relating to the violence that erupted in July.

In Ethiopian economic news, in an effort to block illegal trade, illicit financial flows, and cash hoarding, the government announced a new set of bank notes earlier this month. Importantly, Ethiopians must replace their old notes in just three months. According to Quartz Africa, local banks have been calling for such a move in recent years, as over 113 billion Ethiopian birr circulates outside of the formal banking system, which creates liquidity problems for the banks.

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