This Week in Global Liberty
Here are the biggest developments in the global fight for freedom, human rights, and democracy in the world this week, courtesy of Liberation Media.
2024 is shaping up to be a landmark year for democracy, with nearly 100 countries scheduled to hold elections. While some, like Russia and Iran, are expected to conduct sham elections, the overall volume of electoral activity is a positive indicator for global liberty.
Taiwan Elects Lai Ching-te
We at Liberation Media are celebrating a huge victory for global democracy this week as the Taiwanese people chose William Lai Ching-te of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) as their new president on January 13th, giving him 40 percent of the vote. Lai Ching-te perfectly summarized the importance of his victory when he said “Taiwan is telling the whole world that between democracy and authoritarianism, we choose to stand on the side of democracy”. Mr Lai went on to say that “in the face of China’s verbal and military threats, I am determined to protect Taiwan.” A whopping 70% of Taiwanese voters cast their ballots.
Chinese officials had tried to intimidate Taiwan’s voters by calling this election a choice between “war and peace, prosperity and decline”, and denouncing the DPP as separatists (Economist). China was not happy with Taiwan’s choice. Chen Binhua, a spokesman for the government’s Taiwan Affairs office, issued a statement saying the election results showed the DPP “does not represent mainstream public opinion”, and that China remains set on “national unification”.
Arevalo Sworn In as Guatemala’s President
There was more good news for liberty lovers everywhere this week as the Central American government of Guatemala swore in Bernardo Arevalo, a true democracy advocate, as president of Central America’s most populous country. According to Economist, “Guatemala’s civil society, led by the country’s large indigenous population, took to the streets in the face of attempts by a political, military, and judicial cabal known as ‘the pact of the corrupt’ to stop Mr. Arevalo from taking office” (Economist). Arevalo has pledged to address political clientelism, fight corruption, address poverty, and reinforce democratic governance.
In case you missed it, China, without even a hint of irony, hosted an international conference on democracy in early December. The conference was attended by representatives from one hundred and twenty countries. The Chinese Communist Party propaganda machine released a statement known as the “Beijing Initiative” after the conference, calling for “respect for the diversity of civilization and democratic models”, evaluating democracy “based on its practical results”, and “opposing confrontation in the name of democracy”. In other words, they asked the world to let them continue to be a brutal dictatorship committing atrocities without consequences.
Indonesia’s Troubling Alliance
Indonesian voters head to the polls on February 14th amid concerns about the backsliding of Indonesia’s democracy. Outgoing president Joko Widodo (aka Jokowi) was initially known for his pluralist approach in support of democracy, but concerns grew during the latter part of his presidency about authoritarianism as he increased control over the opposition and the media. A recent decision by the Constitutional Court to allow his son, Gibran Rakabuming Raka, to run for vice-president despite being too young has raised concerns about judicial independence. More troubling still is his recent alliance with his former opponent in the 2014 and 2019 presidential elections, Prabowo Subianto. Subianto is the former son-in-law of Suharto, who ran Indonesia with an iron fist from 1967 through 1998. Suharto’s reign was characterized by widespread corruption, political suppression, and human rights violations, which critics accuse Subianto of supporting. Jokowi’s son is now Subianto’s running mate in the 2024 elections, and they are currently favored to win.
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