Category Archives: Uncategorized

2016 Electoral Calendar


The 16 world elections to watch in 2016.

Please click here for the 2013 calendar of world elections.
Please click here for the 2014 calendar of world elections.
Please click here for the 2015 calendar of world elections.

All United States elections and political events are marked in blue.

* * * * *


January 4: Marshall Islands — presidential (indirect)
January 7: Kiribati — parliamentary (2nd round)
January 16: Taiwan — presidential and parliamentary
January 17: Haiti — presidential runoff
January 17: Colima (Mexico) — gubernatorial
January 22: Vanuatu — parliamentary
January 24: Portugal — presidential (indirect)
January 20-28: Vietnam — internal Communist Party leadership elections
January 31: Central African Republic — presidential (runoff)


February 1: Iowa — presidential caucuses
February 9: New Hampshire — presidential primary
February 18: Uganda — presidential and parliamentary
February 20: Nevada — presidential caucuses (Democratic only)
February 20: South Carolina — presidential primary (Republican only)
February 21: Niger — presidential and parliamentary (first round)
February 21: Comoros — presidential
February 21: Bolivia — presidential term limits referendum
February 23: Nevada — presidential caucuses (Republican only)
February 25: Jamaica — parliamentary
February 26: Ireland — parliamentary
February 26: Iran — parliamentary and Assembly of Experts
February 27: South Carolina —
presidential primary (Democratic only)
February 28: Benin — presidential (first round)
February: Myanmar/Burma — presidential (indirect)


March 1: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia — presidential primaries
March 1: Colorado — presidential caucuses (Democratic only)
March 1: Minnesota, North Dakota, Wyoming  —
presidential caucuses (Republican only)

March 3: New Zealand — postal referendum on changing flag begins
March 4: Samoa — parliamentary
March 5: Slovakia — parliamentary
March 5: Louisiana — presidential primary
March 5: Kansas — presidential caucuses
March 5: Kentucky and Maine —
presidential caucuses (Republican only)

March 5: Nebraska — presidential caucuses (Democratic only)
March 6: Maine — presidential caucuses (Democratic only)
March 8: Michigan and Mississippi — presidential primaries
March 8: Hawaii — presidential caucuses (Republican only)
March 9: Idaho — presidential primary (Republican only)
March 13: Benin — presidential (2nd round)
March 13: Baden-Württemberg (Germany) — state elections
March 13: Rhineland-Palatinate (Germany) — state elections
March 13: Saxony-Anhalt (Germany) — state elections
March 15: Florida, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina and Ohio — presidential primaries
March 20: Niger — presidential (2nd round)
March 20: Kazakhstan — parliamentary
March 20: Laos — parliamentary
March 20: Cape Verde — parliamentary
March 20: Congo-Brazzaville — presidential
March 22: Arizona and Utah — presidential primaries
March 22: Idaho — presidential caucuses (Democratic only)
March 24: New Zealand — postal referendum on changing flag ends
March 26: Alaska, Hawaii and Washington — presidential caucuses (Democratic only)


April 2: Vietnam: presidential (indirect)
April 4: Saskatchewan (Canada) — provincial assembly
April 4: West Bengal (India) — state assembly elections begin
April 4: Assam (India) — state assembly elections begin
April 5: Wisconsin — presidential primary
April 8: Djibouti — presidential
April 9: Wyoming — presidential caucuses (Democratic only)
April 10: Peru — presidential and parliamentary
April 10: Chad — presidential
April 11: Assam (India) — state assembly elections end
April 13: South Korea — parliamentary
April 13: Syria — parliamentary
April 17: Italy — referendum on offshore drilling
April 19: Manitoba (Canada) — provincial assembly
April 19: New York — presidential primary
April 24: Serbia — parliamentary
April 24: Austria — presidential
April 26: Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island — presidential primaries
April 27: Guernsey (UK) — assembly


May 3: Indiana — presidential primary
May 5: London (UK) — mayoral and city assembly
May 5: Wales (UK) — regional parliamentary
May 5: Scotland (UK) — regional parliamentary
May 5: Northern Ireland (UK) — regional parliamentary
May 5: West Bengal (India) — state assembly elections end
May 9: Philippines — presidential, parliamentary and local
May 10: Nebraska — presidential primary (Republican only)
May 10: West Virginia — presidential primary
May 15: Dominican Republic — presidential and parliamentary
May 17: Kentucky — presidential primary (Democratic only)
May 17: Oregon — presidential primary
May 16: Kerala (India) — state assembly
May 16: Tamil Nadu (India) — state assembly elections
May 16: Pondicherry (India) — state assembly elections
May 19: West Bengal, Kerala, Assam, Tamil Nadu Pondicherry (India) — state assembly election results announced
May 20:  Laos — presidential (indirect)
May 22: Vietnam — parliamentary and people’s council
May 22: Cyprus — parliamentary
May 22: Austria — presidential (runoff)
May 22: Tajikistan — referendum on term limits
May 24: Washington — presidential primary


June 1: Somaliland (Somalia) — presidential and parliamentary
before June 2: Puducherry (India) — state assembly elections
before June 5: Assam (India) — state assembly elections
June 5: Aguascalientes, Baja California, Chihuahua, Durango, Hidalgo, Oaxaca, Puebla, Quintana Roo, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas, Tlaxcala, Veracruz and Zacatecas  (Mexico) — various gubernatorial and regional elections
June 5: Macedonia — parliamentary
June 5: Peru — presidential (second round)
June 5: Sardinia (Italy) — regional (first round)
June 6: Saint Lucia — parliamentary
June 12-13: Italy — municipal (first round)
June 7: California, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota — presidential primaries
June 7: North Dakota — presidential caucuses (Democratic only)
June 12-13: Italy — municipal elections (first round)
June 14: District of Columbia — presidential primary 
June 19: Sardinia (Italy) — regional (second round)
June 23: United Kingdom — referendum on EU membership
June 25: Iceland — president
June 26: Spain — parliamentary
June 26-27: Italy — municipal (second round)
June 29: Mongolia — parliamentary


July 2: Australia — parliamentary (double dissolution)
July 9: Nauru — parliamentary
July 10: Japan — senatorial (one-half)
July 17: Sao Tome and Principe — presidential 

July 18-21: Republican (US) — national convention

July 25-28: Democratic (US) — national convention


August 3: South Africa — municipal
August 7: Thailand — constitutional referendum
August 11: Zambia — presidential and parliamentary
August 28: Gabon — presidential
August 30: Estonia — presidential (indirect)


September 4: Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania (Germany) —
state elections
September 4: Hong Kong — legislative council
September 8-11: Seychelles — parliamentary
September 11: Belarus — parliamentary
September 11: Croatia — parliamentary
September 11: Cape Verde — presidential
September 18: Russia — Duma/parliamentary
September 18: Chechnhya (Russia) — presidential
September 18: Berlin (Germany) — local elections
September 22: Isle of Man (UK) — parliamentary
September 24: Somalia — indirect parliamentary elections begin
September 24: Labour Party (UK) — leadership race results announced
September 25: Galicia (Spain) — regional elections
September 25: Basque Country (Spain) — regional elections
September 30: Curaçao (The Netherlands) — assembly


October 1: San Marino — capitani reggenti selection
October 2: Austria — presidential revote
October 2: Colombia — referendum on FARC peace deal
October 2: Brazil — municipal (first round)
October 2: Hungary — referendum on EU migration
October 2: Capre Verde — presidential
October 6-7: Parti québécois (Canada) — leadership race
October 7: Morocco — parliamentary
October 8: Georgia — parliamentary
October 9: Lithuania — parliamentary
October 9: Haiti — presidential (first round)
October 10: Somalia — indirect parliamentary elections end
October 15: Afghanistan — parliamentary
October 15: Australian Capital Territory — regional assembly
October 16: Montenegro — parliamentary
October 29: Iceland — parliamentary
October 30: Moldova — presidential
October 30: Somalia — presidential (indirect)
October: Bulgaria — presidential
October: United Nations — secretary-general (internal)
October: Italy — constitutional reform referendum


November 6: Nicaragua — presidential and parliamentary
November 6: Bulgaria — presidential
November 7: Ghana — presidential and parliamentary
November 8: United States — presidential, House,
Senate (one-third) and various gubernatorial elections
November 11: Romania — parliamentary
November 13: Bulgaria — presidential runoff (as necessary)
November 13: San Marino — parliamentary
November 20: Galicia (Spain) — regional
November 20: Les Républicains (France) — presidential nomination
November 27: Congo — presidential and parliamentary
November: Guayana — presidential (indirect)


December 1: Gambia — presidential
December 4: Austria — presidential revote
December 4: Uzbekistan — presidential (snap)
December 7: Ghana — presidential and parliamentary
December 11: Macedonia — parliamentary
December 11: Transmistria (Moldova) — presidential
December: Venezuela — gubernatorial and regional elections
December: Cote d’Ivoire — parliamentary

The case for optimism about Western democracy

In five months, we could be living in a world where:

  • British voters have wisely rejected Brexit, and prime minister David Cameron continues the drive to reform the European Union and its institutions,
  • Donald Trump has been vanquished by an even wiser American electorate that has turned to two eminently qualified alternatives in Hillary Clinton and Gary Johnson,
  • Venezuela has (through legal methods) removed its socialist president from power, ending 18 years of chavismo,
  • Alain Juppé has defeated Nicolas Sarkozy for the center-right presidential nomination and is poised to defeat Marine Le Pen in the first round of France’s spring presidential election,
  • Matteo Renzi has won a referendum endorsing his broad course to reforming the Italian economy and political system, and
  • Angela Merkel will be well on her way to a fourth term as Germany’s chancellor, giving her a mandate to reform and repair the clear damage to the European Union.

(Though Brazil, Japan, China, India, Russia, Egypt, the Philippines and Indonesia could still be in deep trouble).

The point here isn’t to be Pollyanna. But maybe the pessimism that extremism is sweeping the United States and Europe will turn out to be wrong. There’s every chance that at the end of this awful year, we’ll all wake up to electorates that have landed on the side of reforming our institutions, not tearing them down.

Clinton clinches nomination after 24 years as national political figure

Hillary Clinton isn't the first woman to run for president in the United States, but she is the first to be nominated by a major party. (Facebook)
Hillary Clinton isn’t the first woman to run for president in the United States, but she is the first to be nominated by a major party. (Facebook)

This is a very good piece, and Hillary Clinton’s nomination is of course a milestone that means that, long after many other democratic countries in the world, the United States has, for the first time, a real chance to elect its first female president.USflag

From Victoria Woodhull in 1872 (whose running mate was Frederick Douglass) to Shirley Chisholm in 1972 to Pat Schroder in 1988 to Carol Moseley Braun in 2004, there’s a long line of credible women who have challenged for the presidency, and Clinton’s accomplishment builds upon the stepping stones that they laid down (not least of all her own run for the presidency in 2008).

But without denying this moment’s importance, what’s even more fascinating to me is that someone who has been at the center of American political life for 24 years (I’m not counting over a decade as Arkansas’s first lady), with a record, warts and all, in the first Clinton administration, eight years in the US Senate and four years at State has won a major-party nomination.

The trend, increasingly, has been rapid-fire rises to the top from people who seemingly come out of nowhere. Barack Obama. In a way, George W. Bush, too. Jimmy Carter. Bill Clinton. Enrique Peña Nieto in Mexico, Justin Trudeau in Canada, Tony Blair and David Cameron in Britain. There’s just something undeniably attractive about a ‘shiny new toy’ in electoral politics.

Whatever else, Hillary Clinton is not a shiny new toy. Continue reading Clinton clinches nomination after 24 years as national political figure

Why Trump isn’t quite an American Berlusconi

Despite similarities between former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and US businessman Donald Trump, there are also key differences to their governance approach.
Despite similarities between former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and US businessman Donald Trump, there are also key differences to their governance approach.

One of the sharpest comparisons for Americans trying to understand the resilient appeal of Donald Trump is the rise of Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi in the 1990s.Italy Flag Icon

Rising from the ashes of a widespread corruption scandal that tarred Italy’s entire political elite, Berlusconi, one of the country’s wealthiest businessmen, rose from 1994’s power vacuum to what would become nearly two decades dominating Italian politics. Though he lost power less than a year after his first election, he stormed back to power in 2001. Despite a short-lived turn in 2006 to the center-left’s Romano Prodi, Berlusconi once again returned in 2008. Forced to resign in 2011 amid a debt crisis, Berlusconi still led the Italian right to what amounts to a draw in the 2013 election.

It’s as if Italian voters just couldn’t help themselves, such was the spectacle of a showman that the Italian media dubbed ‘Il cavaliere,’ the ‘knight.’ Time and again, Berlusconi’s charms proved irresistible. It’s not out of the question that he might mount yet another comeback by the time that the 2018 elections roll around. Continue reading Why Trump isn’t quite an American Berlusconi

2015 World Elections Calendar


Here are 15 world elections to watch in 2015.

Please click here for the 2013 calendar of world elections.
Please click here for the 2014 calendar of world elections.

* * * * *


January 4: Uzbekistan — parliamentary (2nd round)
January 8: Sri Lanka — presidential
January 11: Croatia — presidential (runoff)
January 20: Zambia — presidential
January 25: Greece — parliamentary
January 25: Comoros — parliamentary (1st round)
January 31: Queensland (Australia) — state legislative


February 7: Delhi Capital Territory — legislative assembly
February 7: Slovakia — referendum on same-sex marriage
February 14: Nigeria — presidential and parliamentary
[postponed to March 28]
February 15: Hamburg (Germany) — state parliamentary
February 16: Saint Kitts and Nevis — parliamentary
February 22: Comoros — parliamentary (2nd round)
February 28: Nigeria — gubernatorial and state assembly
February 28: Tajikistan — parliamentary
February 28: Lesotho — parliamentary
February 28: Yemen — presidential and parliamentary
February: Iran — Assembly of Experts election


March 1: Estonia — parliamentary
March 1: Andorra — parliamentary
March 3: Micronesia — parliamentary
March 3: Pakistan — senatorial (indirect)
March 17: Israel — parliamentary
March 19: Tuvalu — parliamentary
March 22: Sweden — parliamentary
March 22: Gagauzia (Moldova) — gubernatorial (first round)
March 22: Andalusia (Spain) — regional parliamentary
March 22-23: Egypt — parliamentary (first phase)
March 28: New South Wales (Australia) — state legislative
March 28: Nigeria — presidential and parliamentary
March 29: Uzbekistan — presidential
March 29: Madeira (Portugal) — regional
March 29: Bolivia — gubernatorial


April 5: Gagauzia (Moldova) — gubernatorial (second round)
April 11: Nigeria — gubernatorial and state assembly
April 12: Japan — gubernatorial (several states)
April 13-15: Sudan — presidential and parliamentary
April 19: Finland — parliamentary
April 19: Northern Cyprus — presidential
April 25: Togo — presidential
April 25: Anguilla — parliamentary
April 26: Kazakhstan — presidential
April 26: Benin — parliamentary
April 26-27: Egypt — parliamentary (second phase)
April: Micronesia — presidential (indirect)


May 3: Nagorno-Karabakh — parliamentary
May 5: Alberta (Canada) — parliamentary
May 7: United Kingdom — parliamentary
May 7: Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario leadership election
May 10: Bremen (Germany) — state parliamentary
May 10: Poland — presidential
May 11: Guyana — parliamentary
May 13-15: Parti Québécois leadership election
May 22: Ireland — referendum on same-sex marriage
May 24: Ethiopia — parliamentary and regional
May 24: Poland — presidential (runoff)
May 24: Spain — municipal
May 24: Spain — 13 regional parliamentary
May 25: Suriname — parliamentary
May 26: Netherlands — senatorial
May 26: Burundi — parliamentary
May 31 – June 1: Campania, Liguria, Marche, Puglia, Tuscany, Umbria and  Veneto (Italy) — regional


June 7: Mexico — parliamentary (midterms) and gubernatorial
June 7: Turkey — parliamentary
June 14: Santa Fe (Argentina) — gubernatorial
June 18: Denmark — parliamentary
June 21: Mendoza (Argentina) — gubernatorial
June 26: Burundi — presidential (1st round)
June 26: Somaliland — presidential and parliamentary elections
June 29: Burundi — parliamentary


July 9: South Sudan — presidential and parliamentary
July 5: Buenos Aires (Argentina) — gubernatorial (1st round)
July 5: Greece — referendum
July 15: Burundi — presidential (1st round)
July 16: United Kingdom — Liberal Democrats
leadership election ends
July 19: Buenos Aires (Argentina) — gubernatorial (runoff)
July 21: Burundi — presidential [rescheduled]


August 9: Argentina — presidential primaries
August 9: Haiti — parliamentary
August 14: United Kingdom — Labour Party leadership election voting begins
August 17: Sri Lanka — parliamentary
August: Cordoba (Argentina) — gubernatorial


September 1:  Faroe Islands (Denmark) — parliamentary
September 6: Guatemala — presidential and parliamentary
September 7: Trinidad and Tobago — parliamentary
September 11: Singapore — parliamentary
September 12: United Kingdom — Labour Party leadership election results announced
September 13: Tatarstan (Russia) — presidential
September 20: Liberal Democratic Party (Japan) — leadership election
September 20: Greece — parliamentary
September 27: Catalunya (Spain) — parliamentary
September 27: Upper Austria — state parliamentary


October 3: United Arab Emirates — Federal National Council
October 4: Portugal — parliamentary
October 4: Kyrgyzstan — parliamentary
October 11: Guinea — presidential
October 11: Burkina Faso — presidential and parliamentary
October 11: Belarus — presidential
October 11: Vienna (Austria) — state parliamentary
October 12: Bihar (India) — parliamentary (1st of five rounds)
October 16: Bihar (India) — parliamentary (2nd of five rounds)
October 18: Switzerland — national council and senatorial
(1st round)
October 18: Central African Republic — presidential and parliamentary (1st round)
October 17-19: Egypt — parliamentary (first round)
October 19: Canada — parliamentary
October 25: Argentina — parliamentary and presidential (1st round)
October 25: Poland — parliamentary
October 25: Colombia — gubernatorial
October 25: Bogotá (Colombia) — mayoral
October 25: Guatemala — presidential (runoff)
October 25: Tanzania — presidential and parliamentary
October 25: Zanzibar (Tanzania) — presidential and parliamentary
October 25: Haiti — presidential
October 25: Oman — parliamentary
October 25: Côte d’Ivoire — presidential
October 25: Ukraine (including Kyev) — municipal
October 26-28: Egypt — parliamentary (second round)
October 28: Bihar (India) — parliamentary (3rd of five rounds)


November 1: Turkey — parliamentary
November 1: Bihar (India) — parliamentary (4th of five rounds)
November 1: Azerbaijan — parliamentary
November 4: Belize — parliamentary
November 5: Bihar (India) — parliamentary (5th of five rounds)
November 8: Bihar (India) — parliamentary results counted
November 8: Myanmar/Burma — parliamentary
November 8: Croatia — parliamentary
November 16: Marshall Islands — parliamentary
November 22: Central African Republic — presidential and parliamentary (2nd round)
November 22: Argentina — presidential (runoff)
November 23: Northwest Territories (Canada) — regional assembly
November 26: Gibraltar (UK) — parliamentary
November 29: Switzerland — senatorial (runoff)
November 29: Burkina Faso — presidential and parliamentary
November 29: Transnistria (Moldova) — parliamentary and local
November 30: Newfoundland and Labrador (Canada) — provincial


December 3: Denmark — EU ‘opt-out’ status referendum
December 6: France — regional elections (first round)
December 6: Venezuela — parliamentary
December 9: Saint Vincent and the Grenadines — parliamentary
December 9: Switzerland — presidential (indirect)
December 9: Indonesia — gubernatorial and municipal
December 12: Saudi Arabia — municipal
December 13: France — regional elections (second round)
December 20: Spain — parliamentary
December 20: Slovakia — same-sex marriage referendum
December 27: Haiti — presidential runoff

December 30: Central African Republic — presidential and parliamentary
December 30: Kiribati — parliamentary (first round)

Why the future of the LGBT rights fight is international — in 20 tweets


Though I wasn’t able to join The Atlantic‘s conference this week on the future of the LGBT civil rights fight, I took to Twitter earlier today to make that case that the future of the LGBT rights fights is largely international in character.

Without prejudice to the ongoing fights, legal and political, across the United States, I would argue the LGBT outlook should be much more global in 2015 — and as we look to the future and the kind of world we want to see in 2025 for both LGBT rights and human rights more generally. Continue reading Why the future of the LGBT rights fight is international — in 20 tweets

Corbyn versus Cameron: The future of PMQs in Great Britain?

For the first time since Corbynmania began earlier this summer, the Labour backbencher and leftist rebel — now favored to become the Labour Party’s next leader when all the votes in the leadership contest are counted on Saturday — directly challenged prime minister David Cameron in the House of Commons on Monday.United Kingdom Flag Icon

Ostensibly, it was just another question about the Conservative position on admitting more refugees from Syria and abroad (see video above).

But there’s some fascinating body language that could show us what the future of British parliamentary politics will look like — and very soon.

* * * * *

RELATED: Corbyn’s surprise rise in Labour leadership race highlights chasm

RELATEDThe rational case for supporting Corbyn’s Labour leadership

* * * * *

Corbyn, the MP from Islington North since 1983, has the distinction of bucking prior Labour leaders more than any other backbencher. But a surge of support for Corbyn, viewed by supporters as an earnest defender of British leftism, swelled the ranks of the Labour electorate. New members, presumably swept up by Corbyn’s charms, joined in the tens of thousands simply by paying a £3 membership fee. With the support of some of the country’s largest and most powerful unions, Corbyn quickly — and surprisingly — shot to the top of the pack against his three more moderate rivals.

Ironically, many of the 35 MPs who nominated Corbyn do not even support him; instead, they supported him to give Labour’s far left, previously an anemic force in party politics, a voice in the election.

There’s still a chance that shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper, who won plaudits last week for her strong stand on admitting more migrants to Great Britain, could win — and there’s a sense that she emerged only too late as the most ‘prime ministerial’ of the four candidates vying for the leadership. There’s still even a chance that the former frontrunner, shadow health minister Andy Burnham, could win. But oddsmakers are still betting on Corbyn to emerge victorious on Saturday. Voting opened on August 10, though many Labour voters have only recently received their ballots. Votes are tabulated on a preference basis — so if a voter’s first choice is eliminated after the first round of counting, the vote is transferred to the second choice and so on.

While Corbyn will almost certainly win the first round, there’s a chance that, as other candidates are eliminated, the anti-Corbyn vote will consolidate behind either Burnham or Cooper. The most moderate candidate, Liz Kendall, most associated with the policies of moderate former prime minister Tony Blair, is widely predicted to finish last.


Nowhere will that political earthquake create more tremors than at Westminster, where few members of the parliamentary Labour Party support Corbyn (pictured above), who may struggle to enforce the kind of party discipline he has so often bucked. Virtually no one believes that Corbyn will survive as Labour leader until the next scheduled general election in 2020 — and that it is only a matter of time before more seasoned Labourites hatch a restoration. Many senior shadow cabinet members flatly refuse to serve in a Corbyn-led opposition. Blairites (and Brownites) on Labour’s moderate wing worry that Corbyn’s 1980s-style socialism will doom the party’s chances in the 2020 election or beyond, and fear Labour could split, as it did briefly in the 1980s under former leader Michael Foot. Continue reading Corbyn versus Cameron: The future of PMQs in Great Britain?

Why the Supreme Court’s ruling is so important to marriage equality worldwide

joe2Photo credit to Joe Henchman.

With today’s breathtaking victory for marriage equality in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges, the U.S. supreme court, the United States of America joins the ranks of less than two dozen countries across five continents that recognize full equality as between opposite-sex and same-sex marriages.USflag

Generally speaking, there are three ways that countries have gone about enacting same-sex marriage. The first and, by far, the most popular route is through direct legislation, as the United Kingdom, France and many other countries have done. The second is through popular referendum — Maryland and Washington took this path within the United States in 2012 and Ireland, most recently, did so in a near-landslide victory on May 22. The third route is when constitutional courts find that the refusal to provide state-sponsored marriage benefits to a same-sex couple violates a country’s fundamental governing charter.

In that regard, the US path to universal marriage equality is unique. South Africa’s constitutional court in 2005 essentially forced the country’s parliament to enact legislation in 2006, and Brazil’s constitutional court ruled in favor of marriage equality in 2013.

* * * * *

RELATED: After Irish vote, what next for same-sex marriage in Europe?

* * * * *

The problem with the legislative path — and especially with the referendum path — is that they both set the precedent in world politics that it’s perfectly fine to leave the rights of a minority group up to the whims of everyday politics. Marriage equality supporters may love that Irish voters delivered such a strong verdict for same-sex marriage, but it subtly validates votes in places like Croatia in 2013, where voters rejected marriage equality by vote. If, in 2019, Poland decides to hold a referendum and Polish voters reject same-sex marriage, the 2015 Irish referendum will nevertheless validate the direct democracy approach — namely, that a popular vote should be able to establish or deny fundamental rights.

Instead, here’s a sampling of what Anthony Kennedy wrote in his ruling today:

Laws excluding same-sex couples from the marriage right impose stigma and injury of the kind prohibited by our basic charter….

These considerations lead to the conclusion that the right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person, and under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment couples of the same-sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty.

Not only does the ruling mean that the United States is now more progressive on LGBT rights than much of Europe and the rest of the Western world, it also sets a precedent with which constitutional courts worldwide will now have to grapple.

The decision stands for the idea, long applied to protection on the basis of race, ethnicity and gender, that there are certain principles in a liberal democracy that are ‘above’ petty political fights. Legal scholars will recognize this idea as a principle that flows back to famous footnote in a 1938 ruling, United States v. Carolene Products Company:

There may be narrower scope for operation of the presumption of constitutionality when legislation appears on its face to be within a specific prohibition of the Constitution, such as those of the first ten amendments, which are deemed equally specific when held to be embraced within the Fourteenth. . . . whether prejudice against discrete and insular minorities may be a special condition, which tends seriously to curtail the operation of those political processes ordinarily to be relied upon to protect minorities, and which may call for a correspondingly more searching judicial inquiry…

The bottom line is that constitutional courts — for example, those in Australia and Israel, Germany and Italy, or even the European Court of Human Rights, will feel significantly greater pressure as a result of today’s holding in Washington, D.C. Germany’s constitutional court, the Bundesverfassungsgericht, for example, has been nudging the country ever so closely to marriage equality in a series of rulings that have almost eliminated the difference between ‘life partnerships’ and marriage.

Estonian election results: Reform Party wins third term


Estonia’s parliamentary election proves what is becoming a nearly iron-clad thesis about Baltic politics: so long as social democratic parties in the Baltic States nurture ties with Moscow and pitch themselves to the narrow pool of ethnic Russian voters, centrist and center-right governments will continue to win elections and govern.estonia

So it was in Estonia on March 1, as it became clear that the center-right Eesti Reformierakond (Estonian Reform Party) would win its third consecutive national election, the first under its 35-year-old prime minister Taavi Rõivas (pictured above in Ukraine last year), who is expected to continue leading Estonia’s government.

* * * * *

RELATED: Russian threat dominates Estonian election campaign

* * * * *

Despite polls that showed that the center-left Eesti Keskerakond (Estonian Centre Party), led by former prime minister and Tallinn mayor Edgar Savisaar might emerge as the leading party, Reform bested the Centre Party by nearly 3%.

Nevertheless, both the Reform Party and its junior partner in government, the Sotsiaaldemokraatlik Erakond (Social Democratic Party), lost some ground — the two parties will, in aggregate, lose seven seats and six short of an absolute majority in the Riigikogu, Estonia’s 101-member unicameral parliament.

Estonia 2015 Riigikogu 2015

Luckily for Rõivas and the Reform Party, there are two new parties in the Estonian parliament, and one of them is a strong fit for a three-party coalition. The liberal Eesti Vabaerakond (Free Party), founded last September by Andres Herkel, an Estonian intellectual, could easily find common ground with Reform. Continue reading Estonian election results: Reform Party wins third term

ECB’s Draghi on raising inflation in Europe: ‘We will do exactly that.’


Italy’s Mario Draghi, the president of the European Central Bank, joined Stanley Fischer, the vice chair of the Federal Reserve, in an hour-long program at the Brookings Institution earlier today.European_Union

Draghi addressed at length both the ECB’s steps to confront deflation and the need for EU countries to enact bolder economic reforms in his remarks and in his discussion with Fischer, the former president of Israel’s central bank and a former professor at the University of Chicago who once taught Draghi.

Deflation as Europe’s chief economic threat

DSC00853Draghi stressed that he understands the biggest risk to European Union’s economic recovery is deflation. He noted that the ECB is transitioning from a more passive approach to a much more active ‘QE-style’ approach to the bank’s balance sheet — in part by moving last month to purchase private-sector bonds and asset-backed securities. Even if Draghi’s efforts still fall short of the kind of quantitative easing (e.g., outright asset purchases) that the Federal Reserve introduced to US monetary policy five years ago, Draghi committed himself to lifting the eurozone’s inflation from ‘its excessively low level’:

We will do exactly that.

It’s not exactly ‘whatever it takes,’ but it’s a sign that Draghi realizes the dangers that deflation presents, with the eurozone inflation rate falling to just 0.3%, the lowest level since the height of the eurozone’s existential sovereign debt crisis:


Draghi has been one of the leading voices for a more active ECB approach to boosting inflation to 2% within the next two years, though Germany’s powerful central bank, the Bundesbank, and its president Jens Weidmann (also a member of the ECB’s 24-person governing council), remains skeptical of full-throated quantitative easing.  Continue reading ECB’s Draghi on raising inflation in Europe: ‘We will do exactly that.’

Tsunis nomination draws scorn from Norwegians


Not only does George Tsunis not speak Norwegian, he’s never even set foot in Norway.USflagnorway

Yet, even as he stumbled through an embarrassingly poor performance at a hearing on Thursday before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Tsunis is set to become the next US ambassador to Oslo.

As US senator John McCain asked Tsunis about the ‘anti-immigration’ Framskrittspartiet (Progress Party), which is the junior member in Norway’s center-right governing coalition, the future ambassador stumbled with his answer or, as Norway’s newspapers phrased it, tråkket i salaten (trampled through the salad bowl).  

“You get some fringe elements that have a microphone and spew their hatred,” he said in the pre-appointment hearing. “And I will tell you Norway has been very quick to denounce them.”
McCain interrupted him, pointing out that as part of the coalition, the party was hardly being denounced.
“I stand corrected,”  Tsunis said after a pause.  “I would like to leave my answer at… it’s a very,very open society and the overwhelming amount of Norwegians and the overwhelming amount of people in parliament don’t feel the same way.”

Good grief.  This came after Tsunis referred to Norway’s ‘president’ — of course, there’s no such office because Norway is a constitutional monarchy.  By way of background, Tsunis is an attorney and a businessman from Long Island.  He founded Chartwell Hotels, which operates properties for InterContinental Hotels and other hotel chains.  Though he supported McCain, a Republican, in the 2008 US presidential election, he bundled nearly $1 million in contributions for US president Barack Obama, a Democrat, in the subsequent 2012 presidential election, and he personally donated $267,244 to the Democratic Party in 2012 and $278,531 in 2010.  Tsunis is an active member of the Greek-American community and the Greek Orthodox Church, which begs why anyone in the Obama administration would send him… to Norway.

McCain, not thrilled with the response, thanked Tsunis and the ‘incredibly highly qualified group of nominees.’  But perhaps McCain should leave aside the snark himself — Norwegians might also take issue with his characterization of the Progress Party solely as an anti-immigration party.  In fact, the party has its genesis in the anti-tax movement of the 1970s.  It’s certainly in favor of tougher immigration restrictions, and it’s probably Norway’s most controversial major party.  But it’s not nearly as xenophobic as some of Europe’s other parties (e.g., Marine Le Pen’s Front national in France), and it represents something greater in Norway as a party of rupture.

Other mainstream center-left and center-right parties largely support Norway’s social welfare state, just as they support the relatively fiscal conservative steps to limit spending from Norway’s oil largesse.  The Progress Party wants to break away radically from the state-heavy welfare model, and it wants to spend more of Norway’s oil fund today.

That’s why Erna Solberg, the leader of Høyre (the ‘Right,’ or more commonly, the Conservative Party) is Norway’s prime minister today instead of Progress Party leader Siv Jensen.  Solberg pulled the Conservative Party toward a more moderate policy path that’s essentially the center-right analog to the long-governing Arbeiderpartiet (Labour Party), which lost the September 2013 elections after two terms in power under former prime minister Jens Stoltenberg.

It doesn’t seem like it would be so incredibly hard for the Obama administration to bring even someone woefully uniformed about Norway’s political, cultural and economic basics up to speed — even Tsunis!  That the Obama administration chose not to do so is perhaps the most egregious oversight of all. 

The previous ambassador to Norway, Barry White, who served from 2009 to 2013, had at least some basis in international affairs as the longtime managing partner of Foley Hoag LLP, and as the chair of Lex Mundi, a global association of international, independent law firms.  His predecessor, Benson Whitney, served from 2005 to 2009 under former president George W. Bush.  A native of Saint Paul, Minnesota, Whitney came from the US state with the greatest number of Norwegian-Americans by far.  As then-president of the Minnesota Venture Capital Association, he could argue that his experience in venture capital and investments would bode well to serve as a representative to the country with the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund.

It’s not just Tsunis. The Obama administration’s nominee to serve as the ambassador to Hungary, by the way? Colleen Bradley Bell, a television producer and — you guessed it — philanthropist and top Obama campaign donor.  At a time when Hungary faces some of the most troubling accusations of democratic backsliding within the European Union, and with Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán set to win another majority under a new (troubling) electoral system in April, the United States is sending the producer of television daytime soap opera ‘The Bold and the Beautiful.’


I wrote last June that the nomination of James Costos, a Hollywood executive and Obama donor with no Spanish language skills and no apparent ties to Spain, to become the US ambassador of Spain was a prime example of why the current practice of sending wealthy donors (instead of career diplomats from the US state department) is so flawed: Continue reading Tsunis nomination draws scorn from Norwegians

Sharon’s most enduring legacy? Hezbollah


As the world remembers former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, who died today at age 85, I write this morning for The New Republic that his most enduring legacy is the emergence of Hezbollah, the Shiite Lebanese militia: LebanonISrel Flag Icon

By occupying southern Lebanon, a region that even today remains less economically developed than the rest of the country, Israel inadvertently pushed Lebanon’s Shiite population toward the radical leadership that Hezbollah embodied. Had Israel not done so, Nabih Berri, a relative moderate who’s served as the speaker of Lebanon’s parliament since 1992, might today be the dominant spokesman for the Shiite Lebanese population instead of Nasrallah, and Berri’s Amal Movement might be the dominant Shiite Lebanese political force, not Hezbollah. As Labor Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin succinctly put it in the years before his own assassination, Israel’s 1982 occupation “let the genie out of the bottle.” Israel’s invasion spawned an 18-year occupation that allowed Hezbollah to transcend its role representing the Shiite Lebanese community into a force fighting for the sovereignty of the Lebanese state, cheered by Israel’s enemies from Damascus to Tehran.

It’s not an argument that is necessarily pro-Sharon or anti-Sharon, though he was a polarizing figure in life and promises to continue to be so in death.  But I argue that Sharon, even in a coma, outlived most of the accomplishments of his premiership, and his military exploits (or crimes) will fade, leaving his decision in 1982 as Israel’s defense minister to invade Lebanon — and its direct influence on empowering Hezbollah — as the most significant, if unintentional, ‘accomplishment’ of his career.  After all, Hezbollah today remains a key player in regional politics — it is a vital actor in internal Lebanese affairs and the Syrian civil war, and it significantly affects  Palestinian relations with Israel and Iran-Israeli relations.

Photo credit to AP/Hussein Malla.

2014 Elections Calendar


Here are my 14 elections to watch in 2014.

Here are 14 more elections to watch in 2014.

Here are 14 potential game-changers for world politics in 2014.

Please click here for the 2013 calendar of world elections.

* * * * *


January 5: Bangladesh — parliamentary
January 14-15: Egypt — constitutional referendum


February 2: Costa Rica — parliamentary and presidential (1st round)
February 2: El Salvador — presidential (1st round)
February 2: Thailand — parliamentary
February 9: Switzerland — referendum
February 9: Tokyo (Japan) — gubernatorial
February 28: Orange Democratic Movement (Kenya) — internal leadership elections


March 6-7: European People’s Party — convention to determine European Commission presidential candidate
March 9: Colombia — parliamentary
March 9: El Salvador — presidential (runoff)
March 15: South Australia — state assembly
March 15: Tasmania (Australia) — state assembly
March 15: Slovakia — presidential (1st round)
March 16: Serbia — parliamentary
March 16: Crimea (Ukraine) — status referendum
March 22: Maldives — parliamentary
March 23: France — municipal (1st round)
March 23: Paris (France) — mayoral (1st round)
March 23: Osaka (Japan) — mayoral
March 29: Slovakia — presidential (runoff)
March 30: France — municipal (2nd round)
March 30: Paris (France) — mayoral (2nd round)
March 30: Thailand — senatorial
March: Antigua and Barbuda — parliamentary


April 5: Afghanistan — presidential
April 6: Hungary — parliamentary
April 6: Costa Rica — presidential (runoff)
April 6: Bogotá (Colombia) — mayoral recall election
April 7: Québec (Canada) — parliamentary
April 7: India — parliamentary (first of nine phases)
April 9: Indonesia — parliamentary
April 9: India — parliamentary (second of nine phases)
April 10: India — parliamentary (third of nine phases)
April 10: Orissa (India) — state assembly (first of two phases)
April 12: India — parliamentary (fourth of nine phases)
April 12: Sikkim (India) — state assembly
April 13: Guinea Bissau — presidential and parliamentary
April 13: Macedonia — presidential (first round)
April 17: Algeria — presidential
April 17: India — parliamentary (fifth of nine phases)
April 17: Orissa (India) — state assembly (second of two phases)
April 24: India — parliamentary (sixth of nine phases)
April 27: Macedonia — parliamentary and presidential (second round)
April 30: Iraq — parliamentary
April 30: India — parliamentary (seventh of nine phases)
April 30: Andhra Pradesh (India) — state assembly (first of two phases)


May 4: Panama — presidential and parliamentary
May 7: South Africa — parliamentary
May 7: India — parliamentary (eighth of nine phases)
May 7: Andhra Pradesh (India) — state assembly (second of two phases)
May 11: Lithuania — presidential (first round)
May 12: India — parliamentary (ninth of nine phases)
May 20: Malawi — presidential and parliamentary
May 21: South Africa — presidential (indirect)
May 22-25: European Union — parliamentary
May 25: Belgium — parliamentary
May 25: Lithuania — presidential (runoff)
May 25: Colombia — presidential (1st round)
May 25: Ukraine — presidential (1st round)
May 26-27: Egypt — presidential
May: Lebanon — presidential (indirect, ongoing)
May: South Africa — presidential (indirect)


June 1: Uruguay — presidential primaries
June 3: Syria — presidential
June 8: Kosovo — parliamentary
June 12: Ontario (Canada) — parliamentary
June 12: Antigua and Barbuda — parliamentary
June 14: Israel — presidential (indirect)
June 14: Afghanistan — presidential (runoff)
June 14: Kansallinen Kokoomus (National Coalition, Finland) —
leadership contest
June 15: Ukraine — presidential (runoff)
June 15: Colombia — presidential (runoff)
June 21: Mauritania — presidential (1st round)
June 25: Libya — parliamentary
June: Yemen — constitutional referendum/span>


July 5: Mauritania — presidential (runoff)
July 9: Indonesia — presidential
July 13: Slovenia — parliamentary
July 19-20: Partido Socialista Obrero Español (Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party) — leadership contest
July 20: Thailand — parliamentary


August 10: Turkey — presidential (first round)
August 24: Turkey — presidential (runoff)
August 24: Abkhazia (Georgia/Russia) — presidential
August 29: Sint Maarten (Netherlands) — parliamentary
August 31: Saxony (Germany) — state assembly
August 31: Macao — chief executive (indirect)


September 14: Brandeburg (Germany) — state assembly
September 14: Thuringia (Germany) — state assembly
September 14: Sweden — parliamentary
September 17: Fiji — parliamentary
September 18: Scotland (UK) — independence referendum
September 20: New Zealand — parliamentary
September 22: New Brunswick (Canada) — provincial assembly


October 4: Latvia — parliamentary
October 5: Brazil — parliamentary and presidential (1st round)
October 5: Bulgaria — parliamentary
October 12: Bolivia — presidential and parliamentary
October 12: Bosnia and Herzegovina — presidential and parliamentary
October 12: Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina — presidential and parliamentary
October 12: Republika Sprska — presidential and parliamentary
October 12: Sao Tome and Principe — parliamentary
October 15: Mozambique — presidential
October 15: Haryana (India) — state assembly
October 15: Maharashtra (India) — state assembly
October 24: Botswana — parliamentary
October 26: Uruguay — parliamentary and presidential (1st round)
October 26: Brazil — presidential (runoff)
October 26: Ukraine — parliamentary
October 26: Haiti — parliamentary
October 26: Tunisia — parliamentary
October 27: Toronto (Canada) — mayoral
October: Ghana — death penalty referendum


November 2: Romania — presidential (first round)
November 4: United States — congressional and gubernatorial
November 9: Catalunya (Spain) — independence referendum (unofficial)
November 16: Romania — presidential (runoff)
November 16: Lebanon — parliamentary
November 22: Bahrain — parliamentary (1st round)
November 23: Tunisia — presidential (1st round)
November 23: Calabria (Italy) — parliamentary
November 23: Emilia-Romagna (Italy) — parliamentary
November 25: Jammu and Kashmir (India) — state assembly (first of five phases)
November 25: Jharkhand (India) — state assembly (first of five phases)
November 27: Tonga — parliamentary
November 28: Greenland (Denmark) — parliamentary
November 29: Union pour un mouvement populaire (Union for a Popular Movement) — leadership contest
November 29: Bahrain — parliamentary (2nd round)
November 29: Namibia — presidential and parliamentary
November 29: Victoria (Australia) — state assembly
November 30: Uruguay — presidential (runoff)
November 30: Moldova — parliamentary


December 8: Dominica — parliamentary
December 10: Mauritius — parliamentary
December 14: Japan — parliamentary
December 17-18: ZANU-PF (Zimbabwe) — leadership election
December 20: Jharkhand (India) — state assembly (fifth of five phases)
December 20: Jammu and Kashmir (India) — state assembly (first of five phases)
December 21: Uzbekistan — parliamentary
December 21: Tunisia — presidential (runoff)
December: Dominica — parliamentary
December: Switzerland — presidential (indirect)

By end-of-year: Egypt — parliamentary
December: Tuvalu — parliamentary



Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Joyeux Noël, Feliz Navidad, أعيادا سعيدة


Nothing personifies quite the mission of Suffragio — to make world politics less foreign — than this photo of Bethlehem’s central square, where Christian and Arab Palestinians work, relax and worship day in and day out.

A Christmas tree adorns the square, just out of view of the Church of the Nativity, built by Constantine originally in the year AD 326, where Jesus Christ is alleged to have been born.  On the opposite side of the square lies the Mosque of Omar, a 19th century mosque named after the caliph who conquered Jerusalem in the 7th century. 

However and whatever you celebrate, here’s wishing a happy one.