Israel/Palestine: The Politics of a Two-State Solution

  • Israel/Palestine and the Politics of a Two-State Solution
  • When Peace Fails: Lessons from Belfast for the Middle East

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Next Step in Ukraine

President Viktor Yanukovych, the ally of Vladimir Putin of Russia, signed an agreement with the opposition that provided for anmesty for the protesters, freed political opponent Yulia Tymoshenko from prison, and generally eased the way towards a genuine transition to democracy--if the Ukrainians are capable of it. At last report Yanukovych was said to be in Kharkov (Kharkiv in Ukrainian), the main city in the eastern half of the country, which is home to the Russian-speaking population. He fled his palace in Kiev (Kyiv in Ukrainian). Former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko is likely to try to return to power. But many of the protesters from Maidan square in Kiev reject her as both corrupt and autocratic. She was also closely linked to Putin.

I remember years ago a conversation with a fellow military linguist who had just returned from some time spent in Ukraine shortly after independence. He was Polish-American and a Russian linguist and told me that Ukrainian seemed to be about halfway between Polish, a western Slavic language, and Russian, an eastern Slavic language. The same thing could be said of Ukraine itself. Poland is clearly a western country that has identified its place with the West. Russia is a mixture of Asian and European influences and culture. Ukraine is somewhere in between these two (and Belarus, which is like Russia) in terms of readiness for democracy and political culture.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Polls Point to a Change in Government in India and a Stable Coalition

Two recent Indian polls point to a change in ruling coalitions in the Lok Sabha or lower house of parliament in India. A Times Now-CVoter poll projects 202 seats for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which ruled India from 1998 to 2004, and 25 additional seats for its allies in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) for a total of 227 seats in the 543 seat lower house. By contrast the now ruling United Progressive Alliance is projected to win a little over a hundred seats with its leading member, the Congress Party, winning 89 seats.  If this holds true, an NDA coalition should prove to be quite stable.

A second poll of Indian youths who are smartphone users had 72 percent stating that politicians' children should not themselves enter politics, suggesting that they will not be allowed to vote for Rahul Ganhi, the prime ministerial candidate of Congress.  According to the Economist magazine there are 120 million new voters aged 18 to 22.  These new voters and other young voters are likely to vote for the BJP, led by Narendra Modi. The Clinton administration got along well with the BJP, as did the Bush administration. But Modi may be a different matter. Modi is considered responsible for sparking an anti-Muslim riot/pogrom in his native state of Gujurat several years ago. As a result he has been barred from entering the United States. Now after the recent diplomatic spat between Washington and New Delhi over the arrest of an Indian consul official in New York who allegedly lied on paperwork about the salary of her Indian domestic servant, the United States will likely face the prospect of dealing with a new prime minister who likely will not be well disposed towards Washington. Interesting times are ahead.

Here Jonah Hill in The Diplomat points out the limitations and shortcomings of Indian political polling.