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Strategies for
Assessing the Global Response

Ted Piccone and Richard Youngs (eds)


Democracy Coalition Project

1120 19th St., N.W., 8th Floor
Washington, D.C. 20036


Fundacin para las Relaciones Internacionales y el Dilogo Exterior (FRIDE)

Goya 5 y 7 (Pasaje Comercial), Entreplanta superior
28001 Madrid

Copyright All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be

reproduced without the joint permission of the Democracy Coalition Project and the
Fundacin para las Relaciones Internacionales y el Dilogo Exterior.
To order this book contact:
Democracy Coalition Project
Ph. (+1) 202-721-5630 / Fax. (+1) 202-721-56-58
Fundacin para las Relaciones Internacionales y el Dilogo Exterior (FRIDE)
Ph. (+34) 91-524-1081 / Fax (+34) 91-522-7301 /
All DCP and FRIDE publications are available at:
Cover Design: Teresa Iniesta Orozco / Accedalia N.Y.
Strategies for Democratic Change: Assessing the Global Response
Ted Piccone and Richard Youngs, Editors
Year 2006
ISBN 0-9727299-9-2
Published in Washington, D.C., United States of America


Preface: The Global Context for Fostering

Open Democratic Societies ..............................................................5
Overview: The Diverse Challenges of
International Democracy Promotion ...............................................8
Chapter 1: Burma..........................................................................21
Chapter 2: Togo.............................................................................49
Chapter 3: Turkey .........................................................................77
Chapter 4: Ukraine .......................................................................97
Chapter 5: Venezuela ...................................................................123
Chapter 6: Yemen ........................................................................151
Chapter 7: Zimbabwe..................................................................177
Appendix: List of Contributors ...................................................203

The editors gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Open

Society Institute and Fundacion Grupo D in making this project possible.


The Global Context for Promoting

Open Democratic Societies
As the 20th century came to a close, many of us who have seen the horrors
of war and dictatorship up close were for good reason cheered by the steady
spread of open democratic societies taking hold throughout the world.
Unfortunately, just six years later, there is much reason to see the glass as
half empty rather than half full. This book, analyzing the strains and setbacks in the field of democracy promotion, helps illustrate why.
Internal forces pushing for democratic change are always the essential
driver of a societys readiness to embark on the rocky path of democracy.
But the external environment can also play a critical role. At the dawn of
the millennium, international circumstances tilted the playing field in
favor of democratization. The end of the Cold War and the pull of globalization and new technologies were breaking the logjam of old conflicts
and opening new doors to political and economic transformation.
In fact, the main threat to the democratic trend was not military domination or the east-west conflict but rather the accelerated pace of change.
The centrifugal force of globalization, and the neoliberal economic model
that accompanied it, allowed autocrats to enrich themselves and left many
developing economies behind, greatly frustrating the high expectations of
so many citizens that democracy would deliver a better life. Moreover, the
dispersal of the balance of power left the United States, already dominant
in world affairs, a wide open field for seizing the advantage. It exploited
its superpower position, at great peril to itself and others, by launching a
global war on terror that put Iraq at the new ground zero for a transformational project to spread freedom around the world.
The widening gap between Washingtons rhetoric for democracy and its
actual record on protecting human rights and the rule of law has greatly
exacerbated the situation. As a result we are facing a much more troubling
international environment for democracy, one which distorts what should
be a pro-democratization dynamic into an anti-American one. Groups


ardently working to pursue democratic change are burdened with a new

wave of attacks by authoritarian leaders who accuse them of being pawns
of a foreign plot to seize power and oil.
It is in this difficult context that the contributors of this volume
approached the task of assessing how well members of the international
community concerned with consolidating democracy have fulfilled their
commitments to work together to promote and defend democracy, a
pledge made at the first meeting of the Community of Democracies in
Warsaw in June 2000. As the seven chapters attest, some constructive steps
have been taken, not only by traditional actors like the European Union
and the United States, but more importantly by some democratic states of
the African Union and the Organization of American States. On balance,
however, democratic states have a long road to travel before they can say
they have a real strategy to back up their rhetorical commitments to support democratic transitions.
This book offers a thoughtful critique of what has been learned from
recent experience with a variety of situations where opportunities have
opened for democratic change. The authors helpfully present a number of
concrete recommendations for policy-makers to fix the diplomatic toolbox
so that reform is rewarded and, if necessary, denial of rights is punished.
These ideas can work, but the essential task remains to create the political
will to work together, through the Community of Democracies and other
multilateral venues, to tilt the playing field in favor of democratic change.
Jos Mara Figueres Olsen

Morton H. Halperin

Chief Executive Officer

Grupo D

Director of U.S. Advocacy

Open Society Institute


The Diverse Challenges of International

Democracy Promotion1
What has the international community done recently to advance democratic transition and consolidation in specific countries around the world?
And how could it do better? These are the essential questions addressed by
this review of how the community of democratic nations has pursued the
thorny challenges of promoting democratic change in seven countries
Burma, Togo, Turkey, Ukraine, Venezuela, Yemen and Zimbabwe.
A key reference point for this volume of case studies in democracy
promotion is the Warsaw Declaration adopted in June 2000 by the
Community of Democracies, a new global forum of more than 120 governments. The Warsaw Declaration commits participating governments
to uphold a core set of democratic principles and to work together to
promote and strengthen democracy.2 Since then, the international
debate over democracy promotion has intensified dramatically. The
United States under President Bush has promulgated a muscular strategy
to spread freedom while member states of the European Union and a
range of other donors and international organizations have resolved with
less fanfare to continue to encourage democratic gains made since the
1980s. Indeed, as this book is being finalized, a new United Nations
Democracy Fund and a UN Democracy Caucus have been launched,
breaking a long taboo at the world body against the d word. This growing international concern and funding for democracy assistance is leading
to a backlash from certain authoritarian regimes determined to block
external resources for domestic groups pressuring for democratic change.
Against this background, the collection of seven case studies offered here
provides an extensive range of material designed to inform a judgment on
1 Theodore J. Piccone, DCP and Richard Youngs, FRIDE.
2 See Final Warsaw Declaration: Toward a Community of Democracies, Warsaw, Poland,
June 27, 2000,; see also M.
H. Halperin and M. Galic, eds., Protecting Democracy: International Responses, Lanham:
Lexington Books, 2005.


how far the international community of democratic states is meeting its

own commitments to support democracy.
The book is the product of a joint venture between the Democracy
Coalition Project, based in Washington, and the Fundacin para las
Relaciones Internacionales y el Dilogo Exterior (FRIDE), based in
Madrid.3 Over the last five years, each organization has been deeply
involved in monitoring the democracy promotion strategies of governments and international bodies around the world.
This volume builds upon the foundation laid by an investigation carried out in 2002 by the Democracy Coalition Project entitled Defending
Democracy: A Global Survey of Foreign Policy Trends, 1992-2002.4 This survey of the foreign policies of 40 democratic governments from around the
world, all of which have pledged to defend and promote democracy,
assessed how well these governments had lived up to their commitments in
general and in relation to 16 states in particular. The study concluded that
the trend of state behavior favored the spread of democracy; as new democracies became entrenched internally they became more willing to lend support externally to the establishment of constitutional democracies as neighbors. The survey documented how the foreign policies of democratic governments were increasingly oriented toward widening the democratic circle. This new approach to statecraft was grounded in the democracy
advantage, recognized by a growing body of scholarship,5 finding that
states which function with transparency and accountability, with adequate
checks and balances on executive power, offer natural advantages. While
the impact of transition and of changes in political structures is complex,
under the right conditions democracies are less likely to spawn famine, terrorism or war.
Along with this trend, both newer and more mature democracies are
signing more rhetorical commitments at the global and regional levels to
work together to defend and promote democracy. There are also some signs
that they actually mean it. Most democratic states are speaking out against

3 In addition to the two editors, research was undertaken by analysts at the two institutions:
Ana Echage and Susanne Gratius at FRIDE; Jeff Stacey, Muthoni Kamuyu and Elizabeth
Marquez for DCP. We also benefited from the input of expert reviewers, to whom we wish
to express our gratitude (a full list can be found in the appendix). Angel Alonso Arroba of
DCP provided invaluable assistance as production coordinator.
4 R. G. Herman and T. J. Piccone, Defending Democracy: A Global Survey of Foreign Policy
Trends 1992-2002, Washington: Democracy Coalition Project, 2002.
5 See, e.g., A. Sen, Development as Freedom, New York, Alfred Knopf, 1999; M.H. Halperin,
J. Siegle and M. Weinstein, The Democracy Advantage: How Democracies Promote Prosperity
and Peace, New York: Routledge Press, 2005.


coups, for example, while democratic donors are linking development and
trade assistance to benchmarks for democratic behavior. On the other
hand, the DCP survey also concluded that democratic states routinely put
economic and security interests ahead of a desire to promote democracy
and human rights when such interests were seen to be in conflict.
This same delicate balance between genuine and purely rhetorical commitment has also been uncovered through the detailed monitoring of
European democracy strategies carried out by FRIDE. The first comprehensive assessment of European democracy promotion policies reveals that
EU member states and the European Commission have increased resources
available for political reform support; have in some cases used democracyrelated conditionality; and have revised aspects of their conceptual
approaches to democracy-building. At the same time, it highlights examples of persistent support for autocrats, institutional shortcomings and an
acknowledged need to understand better how policies play out in relation
to complex political trends in individual target states.6
This shared concern with deepening the study of concrete case studies
of democracy promotion against this rapidly changing backdrop was what
motivated DCP and FRIDE to join forces to prepare this new volume.
The books overarching aim is to assess six years after the Warsaw
Declaration and in the wake of more recent democracy commitments
from individual governments and regional bodies such as the European
Union, the African Union and the Organization of American States
how far the democratic community has fulfilled its own promise to accord
the goal of democratic change greater priority. What strategies of democracy promotion have been favored? How different have been the
approaches adopted by the various members of the Community of
Democracies? Are there clear cases of democratic states acting in a manner
inimical to democracy? In which circumstances has the international community found it easiest to influence democratic development, and in
which has it most struggled to gain traction?
Rather than taking a broad scope, the purpose here is to assess democracy promotion strategies in detail in relation to a selected number of
countries supposedly on the receiving end of international democracy
promotion efforts. By digging deeper into these dramatic stories of democratic development, we seek to draw some conclusions about the inherent
challenges democracy promoters face as they seek to influence events on

6 R. Youngs (ed), Survey of European Democracy Promotion Policies 2000-2006, Madrid:

FRIDE, 2006.



the ground. There are some notable successes, but also a string of failures
that demonstrate how difficult it can be for external actors to assist reformers working for peaceful political change.
As the seven cases illustrate, the policy dilemmas - for all the players
involved - are real and complex. Should the international community continue humanitarian aid to Burma even if it means bolstering the autocrats
in power? Should the EU continue to open the door for Turkeys accession
even when European public opinion currently appears so opposed? Should
the United States take the lead in confronting Hugo Chvez, or Great
Britain in challenging Robert Mugabe, even though it gives these elected
autocrats an excuse to rally their supporters against the hegemons of the
West? Should local civil society groups take aid from governments labeled
as enemies of the state? The tradeoffs are messy, and getting messier. With
the Bush Administrations full-bodied embrace of ending tyranny in our
time as the centerpiece of its national security strategy, the very notion of
democracy promotion has become laden with the baggage of staring down
the superpower.
The volume approaches the topic from a transatlantic perspective in
part as a reflection of the DCP-FRIDE collaboration, but also because the
main actors driving international cooperation for democracy are the
United States and the members of European Union. However, the chapters
also look closely at the role of other actors, particularly those newer to the
democracy promotion arena certain member states of the African Union,
the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Organization of
American States and the United Nations to help us draw a more comprehensive picture of the state of democracy promotion. While a critical
assessment of governmental behavior was the primary focus of the book, a
key concern was also to consider what role civil society can play in working across borders to stimulate democratic change. The analysis then led
us to make a number of specific recommendations to policymakers on
steps they can take now to address the evident shortcomings of multilateral responses to date.
The seven case studies were carefully selected to represent different
types of regime from different regions. In (arguable) order of democratic
optimism, these case studies are:
Ukraine, as a case of dramatic democratic revolution in 2004, close to
the heart of a unified and free Europe;
Turkey, as a case of less dramatic, protracted and still incomplete
democratization, intricately intertwined with the prospect of
European Union accession;



Yemen, as a case where some limited democratic gains have slowly

stagnated and even been reversed, albeit with a continued formal governmental commitment to reform;
Venezuela, as a case of gradual democratic reversal, in which a
slide into soft authoritarianism has occurred with apparent electoral
Togo, as a case where a new democratic opportunity in 2005 was
interrupted by a military coup turned back through concerted international pressure;
Zimbabwe, as a case of increasingly despotic strongman rule that
has turned up pressure on a vibrant democratic opposition;
Burma, as a case of militarized authoritarian stasis, that has so far
resisted any meaningful opening of political space.
In short, the case studies chosen allow us to investigate the nature and
efficacy of external actors democracy promotion policies in relation to a
range of circumstances: in countries moving in both democratic and antidemocratic directions; in countries subject to both incremental change and
dramatic rupture; and in countries both (geographically, strategically, economically, socially) close to and more distant from key Western powers.
Each of the seven states selected has been subject to an array of international tools and mechanisms designed to support democratic transition
and consolidation, from funding of civic nongovernmental organizations
and election monitoring to more punitive measures like economic sanctions and visa bans. It is not our goal to evaluate in any mechanistic sense
whether these international efforts have succeeded or failed in their intended result; to do so would presume that a cause and effect relationship could
be measured as in a scientific laboratory. That is most definitely not the
case when complex national historical processes are at work that would
require years of in-country presence and expertise to understand.
Moreover, it should be well-understood that democratic change, to be successful, must be led and owned by the body politic in each particular society, and not by external forces: this study of international actors is categorically not designed to imply that either the possible or rightful role of such
external forces is primary. Indeed we begin each chapter with a description
of the domestic actors leading or blocking democratic change and secondarily turn to the role of international actors.
Rather, we hope to evaluate whether those governmental actors that
claim to care about the democratic evolution of other countries have actually behaved in a way that favors democracy over the status quo. Given the



policy options before them, have democratic states, alone and together,
condemned fraudulent elections or accepted the results, or both? Have
they assisted democratic reformers through financial aid and training, or
focused their aid on other priorities? Have they seriously used the incentives of economic and trade packages to encourage democratic reforms or
let governments off the hook?
To assist comparison, the research carried out for this book was structured around a common investigative framework for each case study. A set
of questions was drawn up to guide research on each of the seven countries,
at the level of both secondary source research and the collecting of primary
source material, in particular through interviews with policy-makers, analysts and civil society representatives. The views expressed by the different
authors were not necessarily fully shared by the entire research team or
indeed the editors; but each case study was crucially made to conform to
the same structure, comprising:
a Background overview of recent political events in the
country concerned;
a detailed factual account of the International Response to
these changing events;
a more analytical section Assessing the International
and a final section of Recommendations for future policies.

Country Synopses
Burma: For over 15 years, a variety of efforts has been made to force the
military junta to accept the results of elections they lost to a party led by
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. Nonetheless, the regime
appears more isolated and entrenched than ever. More recently, however,
a new dynamic is unfolding in which Burmas ASEAN neighbors are collaborating to demand a transition to democratic rule. In addition, the
United States, the United Kingdom and other countries are pushing for
action by the United Nations Security Council. To break the stalemate, a
concerted strategy is needed to authorize the UN Secretary General and his
envoy to serve as a credible intermediary between the opposition and the
junta that would lead to a power-sharing agreement and the eventual
departure of the military from the scene, even if it means offering some
tangible incentives. A tighter international sanctions regime, tolerated by
China and coupled with this kind of top-level intervention, would build
on ASEANs new-found voice and help spur the kind of collective action
needed to find a negotiated transition package.



Togo: The stalled democratic transition in Togo presents a promising

example of the influence the international community can have in reversing a military coup while simultaneously offering a lesson in its abject
failure to change the fundamental balance of power on the ground. A
rare window of opportunity to move Togo toward democracy opened in
2005 when the long-ruling dictator died suddenly of a heart attack.
Taking a page from some bad Cold War script, the military seized power
and declared the rulers son as president. In one of the early tests of
African governments commitment to reject such unconstitutional
maneuvers, Togos neighbors, supported by Europe and the United States,
roundly condemned the power grab and demanded new elections, only
to watch the ruling elite manipulate these elections to its advantage. It is
not too late, however, for the international community to construct a
long-term strategy for the democratization of Togo through support for
the establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission, consistent
assistance to civil society, repatriation of refugees, and security sector and
constitutional reforms.
Turkey: The carrot of EU membership has undeniably provided a key
external impulse to Turkeys democratization. Recognizing progress made
in particular under the (nominally) Islamist-oriented government elected
in 2002, the EU agreed to open entry talks with Turkey in October 2005.
At the same time, more nuanced lessons emerge from the Turkish example.
Democracy promotion itself rarely seemed the primary goal of EU conditionality, while the USs policy consisted mainly of pushing European governments to admit Turkey largely regardless of whether democracy entry
standards had been met. Concerns remain on the part of some Western
governments over how far further democratization might undermine some
of the basic tenets of a pro-Western Kemalist state, and in particular the
role of Turkeys army. And, of course, just as Turkey has made such significant democratic progress, doubts have been raised more openly in some
quarters in the European Union about whether the country should even be
allowed to join the EU club regardless of how much progress it makes to
consolidate democracy. The EU needs to send more positive signals and
offer concrete rewards to Turkey as it moves down the long road towards
possible accession.
Ukraine: Ukraine represents one of the most successful cases of international democracy promotion, with the US and European states having provided support for the Orange Revolution in 2004 and thereby helping to
ensure a democratic outcome to initially rigged elections. At the same



time, international policies were subject to significant limitations both

before and after December 2004. External actors intervened decisively only
when a clear tipping point in democracys favor had already been reached
within Ukraine. While the EU acted as a factor broadly shaping Ukrainian
pro-democracy identities, the concrete incentives offered by the European
Union prior to the Orange Revolution were not generous, and have not
been meaningfully upgraded since the action plan negotiated with autocratic President Kuchma in 2004. Until very late in the day, states such as
France and Germany were reluctant to intervene to back democracy for
fear of upsetting relations with Russia. The EU role, played in particular by
the Polish and Lithuanian presidents, focused on mediating a negotiated
solution that ensured the prospect of continued influence for the Russianbacked losers of the 2004 elections. The US role was felt more in active
support for civil society organizations leading up to the revolutionary
moment. The limitations to international backing express themselves in
the depth of Ukraines post-transition travails, symbolized by the resurgence of the anti-Orange Revolution camp in March 2006s legislative elections. The international community needs urgently to step up its political
reform assistance in Ukraine, while the EU should creatively design an
enhanced policy framework short of membership, as long as some member
states are opposed the notion of Ukraine joining the EU.
Venezuela: Since the election of Colonel Hugo Chvez in 1998,
Venezuelas corrupt and dysfunctional democracy has given way to a form
of military-dominated semi-authoritarianism. Problematically for the
international community, Chvez has dismantled democratic checks and
balances but has also gained several relatively genuine electoral mandates in
recent years. The strategy of the US in particular initially focused on the
issue of democratic elections and supported Venezuelas democratic opposition but has grown more openly hostile towards Chvez. A failed coup
attempt against Chvez in 2002, tacitly supported by the US, demonstrated the limits to this approach, with Chvez subsequently succeeding in
using the electoral route to consolidate his power. More recently, an
increasingly prominent role has been taken on by the Organization of
American States and the Carter Center, focused rather on mediating
between the government and opposition. At the same time, Spanish policy has shifted dramatically away from confrontation towards engagement
with Chvez. The international community needs to work more assiduously in tempering the polarization between chavistas and anti-chavistas, as a
precursor to reversing the undermining of democratic rights.



Yemen: Formal democratic reforms implemented in the early and mid1990s ensured Yemen a reputation as one of the most notably reformist
of Arab states. However, international support for such democratic
potential was limited and undercut by other strategic considerations.
Indeed, the international community of democratic states has been relatively inactive as Yemens reform commitments have remained at the
rhetorical level. Intensified international attention has been paid to
Yemen as a result of post-September 11, 2001 counter-terrorist concerns.
This attention has revitalized some European and US political reform initiatives in Yemen, but has also imbued the perspective on democracy promotion with a strongly short-term security slant. On the verge of failed
state status, non-democratizing and desperately poor Yemen provides a
salutary lesson to the international community of how an apparently
encouraging case of formal reform commitment can slide into an acutely
worrisome situation. Western states should take advantage of possible
entry points to provide assistance on governance reforms, while ensuring
that security co-operation with the Yemeni government does not undercut the prospects for democratization.
Zimbabwe: This once promising southern African state is mired in economic and political ruin thanks to the policies of Robert Mugabe, a former
hero of the independence movement now building a legacy of autocracy
and despair for his country. While Europe and the United States have
complained about Mugabes behavior, they have failed to win over
Zimbabwes African neighbors, a division which Mugabe has effectively
exploited. With the opposition under threat and internally divided, there
is little hope at present that the international community, even if it were to
get its act together, could move the 81-year old Mugabe out of power. His
reign will come to an end at a time of his choosing. Nonetheless, given the
financial crisis, much more could be done to put pressure on Mugabe to
ease restrictions placed on independent media and civil society. In addition, democracy promoters must turn their attention to a post-Mugabe era
by working closely with democracy and human rights advocates in and
outside of Zimbabwe to prepare themselves for a transition scenario.

General Conclusions and Recommendations

While each of the cases is unique and therefore is accompanied with its
own policy prescriptions, a set of general conclusions and recommendations can also be extracted from the volume. A number of reflections and
questions of strategy emerge that could usefully inform debate amongst the



international community of democratic states and all those concerned with

advancing democracy:
1. International democracy promoters must always follow the lead of
domestic reformers when shaping strategies for democratic change. While
this is a rather obvious observation, it must be stated repeatedly in light of
the mistakes made by the United States, United Kingdom and their allies
in Iraq. There are plenty of other examples, in this volume and elsewhere,
that underscore how vital this prescription remains. The phenomenon of
rapid globalization has sharpened the appeal of nationalism as a force to
counteract the imposition real and perceived of external demands on
domestic actors. Autocrats are effectively using arguments couched in the
language of democracy and the mechanics of electoral legitimacy to
reassert the doctrine of non-intervention in sovereign affairs. As a result,
external actors genuinely committed to helping local democrats exercise
their fundamental rights must step very carefully when setting a democracy assistance policy. At times, a more outspoken approach should be
taken to protect local reformers; at other times a quiet strategy of dialogue
and mediation may be more effective. In the end, the signals for if and
how to help must come from domestic actors genuinely committed to a
peaceful transition.
2. Democracy promoters are under increasing attack from leaders
throughout the former Soviet Union, in parts of Africa and elsewhere. To
ensure continued support for reform, a grand coalition led by democratic
reformers in transitional states and supported by democracy promoters in
more consolidated countries is needed to develop international norms for
democracy assistance. The starting point for such a discussion should be
the Warsaw Declaration which sets forth a clear statement in favor of international cooperation to support democracy. The Community of
Democracies should host a forum for discussion and elaboration of norms
and principles that would improve the international environment for democratic change.
3. Sanctions and other punitive tools are a mixed bag and should rarely
be employed in isolation. In some cases, as in a more vulnerable country
like Togo, economic sanctions or the threat of them can influence the
direction of events, but only if economically important states take a coordinated approach. In general, however, experience shows that governments will try to protect their own economic interests first and will rarely
coordinate an effective enforcement scheme. Targeted sanctions like visa
bans and asset freezes that seek to punish the transgressors are increasingly
being utilized as the next best option; while their effectiveness requires fur-



ther study, at least they offer an appropriate tool to deny certain privileges
to specific offenders without harming their victims.
4. Coordination of democracy assistance among relevant actors both
within and among governments remains highly underdeveloped. This is a
consistent theme in all the chapters and deserves more attention. The primary locus of activity should be in the country of concern, where
embassies can coordinate action in real time, as in the case of Ukraine.
What is lacking is a counterpart mechanism in capitals that would facilitate greater collaboration. The European Union by its nature is ahead of
other multilateral organizations in this regard. Other regional organizations concerned with democracy promotion need to develop in-house
expertise and other tools both to respond to and prevent crises or backsliding in democratic governance. Where no regional organization is relevant,
as in Asia or the Middle East, the Community of Democracies should step
in to provide guidance and support to countries which have chosen the
democratic path. As for policymaking within governments, much more
work needs to be done to convene regular inter-agency meetings with all
relevant agencies, including defense, finance and law enforcement departments, to ensure a unified approach.
5. The timeliness of international responses can be a critical factor in
tipping the balance in favor of democratic reformers. Democracy promoters should engage, therefore, on two levels: first, with an eye to the longterm work of patiently helping to build the values and infrastructure of
democracy, and second on the shorter timeframe needed to react when a
window of opportunity opens for historic change, e.g., the sudden death
of a leader, flawed elections, or the eruption of street protests. In order for
the latter to function effectively, the infrastructure for the former must be
in place, i.e., democratic states need to have a cadre of experienced professionals and technocrats available to seize the opportunities with discretion,
speed and skill.
6. In most cases of political stalemate and inertia, the international
community can play a useful role as a third party guarantor of dialogue and
negotiation among competing factions. Often this is best done quietly,
though there may be occasions that demand more overt efforts. The international community, including seasoned experts in conflict prevention and
mediation, needs to take more initiative to offer political actors a forum for
democratic dialogue before fighting erupts.
7. Key importance in many cases lies in moving away from a primary
focus on direct US and European efforts towards a greater engagement of
regional actors. The case studies offered here demonstrate the potential



that exists for Latin American states to play a more influential role in relation to Venezuela, ASEAN states in relation to Burma, southern African
states in relation to Zimbabwe and West African states in relation to Togo.
Some changes have been forthcoming in such regional actors erstwhile
stances of non-intervention, although significant caution remains on their
part. It is unlikely that without efforts to strengthen such regional action,
Western governments will themselves have significant impact in many
challenging cases of democratic shortfalls. Efforts at this level remain an
under-developed dimension of international democracy promotion and
should receive greater attention within multilateral bodies, such as the
Community of Democracies.
8. International reactions have often been strong in times of dramatic
change, and useful support has often been provided where political developments have clearly begun to move in a democratic direction. Responses
have been less effective to incremental reversals in democratic rights, or in
relation to the vexed question of carving out credible strategies where
(semi-) authoritarian leaders are able to gain (even flawed) electoral legitimacy as a base for their subsequent dismantling of democratic checks and
balances. The election of Hamas in the Palestinian elections is just one of
many examples that point to the urgent need for greater vigilance of antidemocratic actions of nominally legitimate rulers. The international community of democracies needs to be more alive to such cases to complement
the traditional focus on dramatic points of rupture or media-targeted
instances of egregious human rights abuses.
9. The international communitys response to post-transition challenges remains less than impressive. The cases studied here of Ukraine and
Turkey, in particular, suggest that the much-repeated warning that international actors should not scale down their efforts once formal transition has
or has largely taken place is one that still needs to be fully heeded. A
tendency persists to mark down as success stories cases where challenges
to democratic quality remain acute, and even sometimes more difficult to
address in the fractured domestic political landscapes that commonly beset
the aftermath of democratic transition. At such junctures, intensified
efforts are urgently required at just the moment when some international
actors begin moving their focus away from democracy support. The fact
that so many countries can labor for many years after transition without
approaching the consolidation of stable and high quality democracy calls
for this salutary lesson to be incorporated more systematically into international democracy promotion planning.



10. Much more could be done to link development assistance to standards of democratic accountability and transparency in the receiving country. The trend is, finally, moving in the right direction, as evidenced by the
increasing demands from the multilateral development banks for progress
against corruption and other good governance benchmarks. The
Millennium Challenge Account promulgated by the current US administration is another positive example of the way in which development aid
can be used as an incentive to mobilize support for improvements in rule
of law, civil society consultation and political reforms. A global approach
along these lines would be the logical next step to engender support for a
grand bargain in which development assistance is dramatically increased in
exchange for tangible progress on democratic governance.
11. While debates amongst the international community of democratic governments have rightly focused on the macro-level questions of diplomacy and political dialogue, the case studies here reveal that much remains
to be done in fine-tuning democracy assistance projects at the micro-level.
While these are rarely the subject of high-profile attention, the shortcomings of existing on-the-ground support can undermine the efficacy of overall international democracy promotion efforts. The cases offered here highlight a number of such weaknesses in democracy assistance aid projects:
their limited funding levels; the fact that they often come on stream too
late in the day to impact on finely balanced domestic political dynamics;
their overly technical nature in many contexts; and their failure to embrace
a broad range of actors that include those groups with strongest local legitimacy. More rigorous debate is warranted on these questions within multilateral bodies.
The case studies that follow offer a range of recommendations related
to each of the seven individual countries. The general observations suggested here represent cross-cutting concerns pertinent to the broad design of
democracy promotion strategies. As the international debate for and
against democracy promotion intensifies, this volume seeks to contribute
to and inform the elaboration of policies better able to give substance to
the founding spirit of the Community of Democracies.


Chapter 1

Crippled for years by a military junta that refuses to accept the results of
elections won by Aung San Suu Kyis National League for Democracy
(NLD) in 1990, Burma represents one of the worlds most difficult democracy promotion challenges. After years of international condemnation,
sanctions, and ineffectual special envoys, hardliners remain in control,
leaving the international community searching for new options for effecting a genuine transition to democracy. Suu Kyi remains an international
icon of the freedom movement, even as her ability diminishes to wrest
Burma free of the juntas increasingly desperate maneuvers to stay in control. This chapter charts the extensive array of measures adopted by the
international community against the Burmese regime since 1990, and
argues that a new approach should be adopted by the community of democratic nations. This should build on the momentum of the 2005 HavelTutu Report,2 and tackle the controversial issue of a transitional powersharing arrangement as a realistic way out of the current stalemate.

After a 1962 military coup, economic and political conditions in Burma
steadily deteriorated until March 16, 1988, when students led protests in
the capital city of Rangoon. These began as a small riot in a tea shop, but
soon metastasized into a full-blown protest against the status quo. The
government responded with force, killing dozens and inadvertently sparking sustained protests throughout the spring. The calls for regime change
culminated in a massive uprising on August 8, with the movement finding
1 Principal author, Dr. Jeffrey Stacey, Political Science Department, Tulane University.
2 Threat to the Peace: A Call for the UN Security Council to Act in Burma, September 20,
2005. Commissioned by Vaclav Havel and Bishop Desmond Tutu; prepared by DLA Piper
Rudnick Gray Cary LLP (hereafter Threat to the Peace). Jared Genser, the reports coordinator, argues that recent UN Security Council activity regarding Burma has opened up a new
window of opportunity absent for 15 years. J. Genser, Burmas Road to Peace, Far Eastern
Economic Review, December 2005, p. 2.



a leader in Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of former nationalist leader
General Aung San. Suu Kyi became famous after speaking to a rally of
nearly half a million democracy supporters at Shwedagon Pagoda in
Rangoon on August 26.
On September 18, a military junta deposed General Ne Wins Burmese
Socialist Program party and established the State Law and Order
Restoration Council (SLORC). The SLORC declared martial law and
used the armed forces to impose control throughout the country, a process
which left 3,000 dead and caused 10,000 to flee into the hills of the border with Thailand. This coup merely replaced one set of military officers
with another.3
The SLORC would bring a number of changes to Burma, including
opening up the resource-rich country to foreign direct investment (FDI)
and altering the name of the country to Myanmar.4 However, the new
junta remained as oppressive as its predecessor, and committed a number
of human rights abuses including torture, forced labor, abuse of women,
enforced disappearances, and summary execution. Seeking to quell the
possibility of further uprisings, the army placed Suu Kyi under house arrest
on July 20, 1989.
In response to growing international pressure and believing it would
win, in May 1990 the SLORC held national parliamentary elections.
Although Suu Kyi herself was unable to participate in the elections, her
National League for Democracy (NLD) party won 392 of the 485 seats up
for election. The SLORC, however, refused to call the parliament into session and jailed several activists, including many of those elected to parliament. Some elected members of parliament fled the country, establishing
a government in exile that continues to work for restoration of democracy
in Burma.
Suu Kyi won international acclaim in 1991 when she was awarded the
Nobel Peace Prize, an event that raised her profile as a leading champion
for democracy and human rights and helped provide a substantial boost to
the legitimacy not only of her leadership of the Burmese opposition, but
also to the cause for which she has labored incessantly since the mid 1980s.
The SLORC has remained intransigent in their view that Suu Kyi and her
party lack legitimacy.

3 D. Steinberg, Burma: The State of Myanmar, Georgetown University Press: Washington,

2002, p. 1.
4 The regimes opening up to FDI was not immediate, as Japan at the time was providing half
of all economic support for the regime.



In January 1993 the SLORC established a National Convention to

draft a new constitution and plan new elections. The 700-member body,
including 120 elected members of parliament and chaired by a fifteenmember military commission, was divided into eight groups based on
background and occupation. Each group was chaired by a military officer.
The body met at intervals during the year and by September had produced
a constitution giving power to the military. The constitution was approved
by six of the eight subgroups; members of parliament and the representatives of political parties rejected the document. The National Convention
continued to meet, serving as a quasi-legislative body, locked under the
firm control of the military government.
In 1995 Suu Kyi was released from house arrest with certain restrictions
on her movement and the activities of the NLD. The government made it
clear that were she to leave the country she would not be allowed to reenter. Many NLD members were forced to withdraw from the party and
NLD offices were closed. In March 1996 the National Convention was
adjourned following the withdrawal of the NLD in protest of the undemocratic proceedings.
Throughout the 1990s the regime focused intently on brokering ceasefire accords with nearly 30 ethnic groups. Signatories to the ceasefire have
been allowed to keep their weapons and some of their territorial control
and business activities, although renewed ethnic tensions may suggest that
this alleged achievement of the regime is unraveling.5 The military government views this development as an indicator of its ability to be reasonable and statesmanlike, and also something that has fed its self-professed
savior of the nation status.
The junta, now known as the State Peace and Development Council
(SPDC), once again placed Suu Kyi under arrest in September 2000 after
she traveled outside Rangoon, in violation of government-imposed travel
restrictions. From October 2000 until 2002, Suu Kyi conducted something of a dialogue with the SPDC, which often consisted of little more
than the regime calling her in and lecturing her. In conjunction with pressure from the international community, however, this process led to Suu
Kyis release from house arrest in May, 2002. At the same time the regime
released several hundred political prisoners and re-opened 90 of the 400

5 More recently, the Mon state ethnic group has pulled out from the National Convention
talks and the regime arrested Hkun Htun Oo and other Shan leaders on February 9, 2005.
Fighting flared again in April 2006 between the military and the Karen ethnic group.



closed NLD offices. Suu Kyi was also granted permission to travel around
the country.
The tenuous understanding between Suu Kyi and the SPDC ended in
May 2003 when a group of government-sponsored paramilitaries attacked
her caravan of supporters outside the northern village of Depayin. In the
bloodiest confrontation in the country since 1988 what has come to be
known as Black Friday scores of Suu Kyis supporters were injured and
over one hundred killed (most estimates range between 75 and 150).
While Suu Kyi herself managed to escape the massacre, she was detained
and imprisoned at Insein prison. Many NLD offices were forcibly closed
that day, and over 100 democracy activists were arrested. Universities, colleges, and schools were also closed to prevent protest. Although the
regime released Suu Kyi from prison for medical reasons, she remains
under house arrest.
In August 2003 General Khin Nyunt, formerly in charge of Burmas
intelligence community, became the prime minister, with the official title
of Secretary One. Khin Nyunt was widely seen as a quasi-moderate within the regime, a soft hardliner, and in the eyes of the international community, someone with whom better relations could be conducted. In producing a new regime plan, Khin Nyunt promised to hold a National
Convention in 2004 to draft a new constitution as part of a road map for
constitutional and political reform. In May 2004 the NLD decided to
boycott the convention due to the SPDCs refusal to release Suu Kyi. The
convention continued without the NLD but debate was severely restricted
and the ruling junta demanded a continued leadership role for the military
in any constitution.
In October 2004 Khin Nyunt was removed from office in a power play
by a rival faction led by junta leader General Than Shwe. He was then
replaced by Lieutenant General Soe Win, part of the younger generation
of hardliners, who was involved in the May 2003 attack on Suu Kyi. Khin
Nyunt had been viewed as a threat, especially once he expanded the powers of military intelligence and shifted control of cross-border trade from
regional military commanders to a group of border security agents that he
controlled. Than Shwe sided with the regional military commanders and
succeeded in consolidating his power. In order to ensure that there would
be no repercussions from Khin Nyunts supporters, the military intelligence organization that he commanded was also dismantled.
Despite removing Khin Nyunt from office, the SPDC claims to be continuing to pursue his road map. After suspending the National
Convention in March 2005, the junta announced plans to reconvene the



body in October; by spring 2006 this had still not occurred. Additionally
the SPDC continues to organize public rallies for junta-sponsored groups
such as the War Veterans, the Fire Brigade, and the Union Solidarity and
Development Association (USDA) - each of which regularly denounces the
internal and external destructionists and praises the juntas policies.
In perhaps its most bizarre and foreboding move yet, in November
2005 the SPDC surprised the world and its Southeast Asian neighbors by
announcing the relocation of Burmas capital from Rangoon to Pyinmana,
a small, remote underdeveloped town nearly 400 miles to the north.
Apparently, the move was based in part on the astrological inclinations of
the top generals, while some speculated that it was part of the regimes
attempt to inoculate itself from an American invasion as well as to keep a
lid on future ethnic rebellions. The SPDC ended 2005 by announcing it
was extending the terms of Suu Kyis house arrest for another year.
With civil society quiescent if barely extant, ethnic groups almost coopted (via the recent ceasefires and their participation in the National
Convention), and NLD members constantly harassed and imprisoned (if
not killed or run out of the country), a hollowing out of Burmese society
has been achieved by the regime.6 The military is effectively the only game
in town. With ongoing violence, increased drug trafficking, the spreading
of disease, and growing numbers of internally displaced persons and
refugees, Burma represents an acute case of authoritarian stasis.

The International Response

The international responses to Burmas ongoing political crisis have varied
considerably.7 The United States (US), Canada, Japan, the European
Union (EU), and the United Nations Secretary General have declared
three aims: the release of Suu Kyi, the return of refugees to their homes,
and meaningful steps toward democratic rule in Burma. The aims of the
Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) are similar, but this
bodys time horizon is longer and preferred pace of change slower. China,
India, and Thailand share a desire broadly to maintain the status quo, and

6 D. Steinberg, Civil Society and Legitimacy: the Basis for National Reconciliation in
Burma/Myanmar, mimeo, October 10, 2004, p. 6.
7 This narrative section detailing the various international responses draws liberally from four
sources, in addition to news reports: Myanmar: The Military Regimes View of the
World International Crisis Group, Asia Report No. 28, Brussels, December 7, 2001; Threat
to the Peace, op. cit.; Burma Briefing: Issues and Concerns, Volume 1, Altsean Burma,
November 2004; and Ready Aim Sanction, Special Report, Altsean Burma, November



to ensure that if some sort of transition is to take place it be gradual so as

not to invite external intervention or send additional refugees across their
borders. The responses of these various actors can be ranked from the most
intense response to the most meager: from the US to ASEAN to the UN
and finally to China, India and Thailand as the weakest.

Reactions to the Coup and Denial of Election Victory

In the wake of the 1988 coup, the US imposed graduated sanctions on
Burma, suspending all economic aid with the exception of humanitarian
aid and withdrawing trade preferences. The US also initiated a full-fledged
arms embargo and decertified Burma as a cooperating state in efforts
against narcotics, thereby denying the country anti-narcotics assistance.
Furthermore, the US adopted a policy of opposing multilateral aid and
loans, using its influence to block any assistance to Burma from international institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and
World Bank. Japan also quickly suspended development aid and economic cooperation until Burma attains liberty and democracy. It furthermore instituted a comprehensive arms embargo. However, Japan was also
the first government officially to recognize the regime in February 1989,
coupling this move with a resumption of aid disbursement on a case-bycase basis (although no new aid programs were created).8
The international community reacted negatively to the SLORCs repudiation of the 1990 elections. The US failed to confirm two nominated
ambassadors, in effect downgrading its diplomatic representation from
Ambassador to Charge d Affaires, and Congress passed the US Customs
Trade Act of 1990 requiring the imposition of economic sanctions if specific conditions on human rights and narcotics suppression were not met.
A year later the US denied the renewal of a bilateral textile agreement and
in 1993 suspended munitions export licenses under the Arms Export
Control Act. In 1994 the US placed Burma on a list of outlaw states,
which mandated that US funding for any UN agency be automatically
reduced if the agency were to conduct programs in Burma; despite this the
UN in fact continues to fund programs inside Burma.
The EU likewise imposed an arms embargo in 1990, and the year after
instituted a range of measures, which included: the suspension of defense

8 Japan was the only country to officially recognize the SPDC, though in part because it was a
way out of a diplomatic hard place viz. at the Japanese emperors funeral not recognizing
the new regime would have placed the SPDC next to the PLO in the seating arrangements
(other countries did not need to re-recognize the regime).



cooperation, the expulsion of junta military personnel from its member

states, a visa ban against top regime officials related to important governmental functions and their families, the suspension of high-level bilateral
government visits to Burma, and the suspension of all non-humanitarian
bilateral and multilateral aid. Japan also (re-)suspended aid in 1991 and
furthermore created a set of guidelines known as Fundamental Principles
of ODA, which tied its foreign policy more broadly to conditions relating
to weapons procurement, military spending, democratic governance, and
economic and environmental issues. After Suu Kyis release from house
arrest in 1995 Japan responded by re-establishing foreign aid on a case-bycase basis. The year before it had provided new humanitarian aid to Burma
as a reward for what Tokyo viewed as the regimes progress in the form of
its meeting personally with Suu Kyi.
When the National Convention was adjourned in 1996 following the
NLDs withdrawal to protest the undemocratic nature of the proceedings,
the US Congress responded by blocking all assistance to Burma, with the
exceptions of relief and anti-narcotics aid, and by suspending entry to its
territory of any persons who formulate, implement, or benefit from policies that were impeding the transition to democracy in Burma. In 1997
President Clinton signed an executive order banning new investment in
Burma; this measure, however, allowed pre-1997 investment to continue
and even increase.9 Washington also suspended all forms of non-humanitarian bilateral assistance.
In 1996 the EU agreed on a Common Position on Burma. This formalized the arms embargo, expulsion of Burmese military personnel from
EU capitals, and suspension of economic aid; widened the visa ban on
Burmese officials; imposed a freeze on the funds of those affected by the
visa ban; added an export ban on any equipment that might be used for
internal repression; and suspended high-level governmental visits to
Burma. Two years later the visa ban was extended to prohibit entry and
transit visas to senior officials and to extend the ban to include the
tourism administration. In addition to its Common Position the EU
removed its General System of Preference trade privileges from Burma,
citing forced labor practices, and made a statement that tourist visits to
Burma were now seen as inappropriate. Apparently offsetting these punitive measures, a year later the EU stated a desire to establish meaningful
dialogue with the SPDC.

9 Executive Order 13047 Prohibiting New Investment in Burma, May 20, 1997.



Contrary to these efforts to isolate the regime, ASEAN moved in 1997

to invite Burma to join the organization, most likely in an attempt to curb
Chinas influence over its neighbor, but in no small part also to rebuff US
meddling in the region. The decision also reflected more traditional considerations. Burma was already a major trading partner with ASEAN,
offered a bevy of energy-rich resources, had potential for outsourcing labor,
and was gaining an upper hand on secessionist movements and violence.
After inviting Burma to join, ASEAN governments defended the SPDC in
international forums, thus failing to live up to their professed commitment
to deal with Burma once it is in the family.
The UN first took concerted action in 1998 when the General
Assembly empowered the Secretary General to appoint a UN Special
Envoy.10 After the SPDC once again placed Suu Kyi under arrest in
September 2000, the UN sent a new Special Envoy, Malaysian diplomat
Tan Sri Razali Ismail, to promote dialogue between the SPDC and the
opposition.11 Prior to this the UN member states had staked out a position vis--vis Burma, having annually adopted resolutions in the General
Assembly and Human Rights Commission for fourteen years that called
not only for the release of Suu Kyi but also for a cessation of SPDC repression and a tripartite dialogue between the government, the NLD, and
ethnic group leaders. In 2005 the Human Rights Commission also
appointed a Special Rapporteur on Burma.12
Over the course of twelve trips to Burma, Razali brokered secret talks
between the SPDC and Suu Kyi that led to the release of a number of
political prisoners and a modicum of increased freedom for the NLD
although it would take two years until Suu Kyi was released. However, the
ascendance of hardliners in the junta and the Depayin Massacre proved a
major setback for Razali. In March 2004 the SPDC banned him from
entering Burma. This and other inactions led the Secretary General to pro-

10 UN mediation efforts began with the appointment in 1998 of Special Envoy Alvaro De
Soto. De Sotos mission, however, proved stillborn when a U.S. newspapers disclosure of
his efforts prompted a considerable backlash from the SLORC. De Sotos plan was to
trade aid to Burma through the World Bank for dialog with the NLD, release of political
prisoners, and access for the Red Cross.
11 The basis was a UN General Assembly resolution that authorized the Secretary General to
appoint a second Special Envoy. UN General Assembly, Situation of Human Rights in
Myanmar, A/RES/59/263, December 23, 2004.
12 UN Economic and Social Council, Commission on Human Rights (61st Session, Agenda
Item 9), Question of the Violation of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in Any
Part of the World Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar, E/CN.4/2005/L, April 29,



nounce that there were serious doubts as to whether the UN would be able
to play a productive role and facilitate the reconciliation consistently called
for in various UN resolutions. Razali resigned in January 2006.
Under continued pressure from the international community, Suu Kyi
was released from house arrest in May 2002. Several international delegations visited Burma in the aftermath, including Professor Paulo Sergio
Pinheiro, the UN Commission on Human Rights Special Rapporteur on
Myanmar, and the International Labor Organization (ILO) High Level
Team. Pinheiro has achieved little in the way of dialogue (though perhaps
minimal success in the area of access for the Red Cross) and his saga in
broad terms mirrors Razalis in its result. Than Shwe refused to meet with
Pinheiro on a number of his trips, and on a visit during April 2003
Pinheiro left promptly after finding listening devices while he was interviewing prisoners at Insein prison. The SPDC imposed an active ban
against further visits in November 2003. Pinheiros report concluded
human rights had deteriorated even further and called for reduced restrictions on political parties and early prisoner release.
International pressure on Burma continued with the EU extending its
existing sanctions to target more people linked to the economic and political activities of the SPDC. The EU responded to Suu Kyis re-arrest by
publishing the list of 153 persons affected by its visa ban, freezing the assets
held abroad by those on the list, and banning the export of equipment
from the EU that could be used for internal repression or terrorism. Other
countries, such as Thailand, called for greater efforts to support the SPDC
if it were to begin to move toward reconciliation with the NLD.
The International Labor Organization (ILO) has adopted a vigorously
critical stance against the regime. ILO efforts to eliminate the SPDCs
forced labor practices including through various restrictions on business
activities have achieved a modicum of success. In late 2000 the SPDC
made public a stiffer ban of forced labor in response to threatened sanctions from the ILO, specifically a boycott by international trade unions
(beyond the official review Burma had been placed under). Two years
later, the regime permitted an ILO Liaison Officer to begin working in
Rangoon and steadily thereafter marginal additional progress has been
achieved, notably just ahead of ILO Governing Body meetings. The ILO
again threatened action against Burma when the regime sentenced three
people to death in early 2004 for seeking contacts with the ILO, succeeding in having one sentence commuted to life imprisonment and three-year
sentences imposed for the other two individuals.



Black Friday
The event that spurred the most negative international response was Black
Friday in May 2003. The harshest reaction came from the US, which
passed the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act after the SPDC refused
to engage in talks with the opposition and once again imprisoned Suu Kyi.
The act placed an import ban on Burmese products, froze all assets of the
SPDC and senior SPDC officials, expanded the visa ban on SPDC officials, prohibited any remittances to Burma, and pledged support for
democracy activists. Later the law was changed to allow educational materials and works of art to be taken into Burma.
The EU called for the immediate release of Suu Kyi, the prosecution of
those responsible for the attacks, and further reconciliatory dialogue, and
urged the UN and ASEAN to continue to exert influence on the situation.
Moreover, it moved to extend the scope of the visa ban and asset freeze,
strengthen enforcement of the arms embargo, reiterate the suspension of
non-humanitarian aid, suspend development programs, and withdraw all
military personnel of EU member states. Japan, which prior to 2003 had
been moderately engaged with the SPDC and had been providing significant amounts of aid, toughened its rhetorical opposition to the holding of
political detainees and placed a moratorium on new bilateral aid (except
for humanitarian projects), although existing aid projects were continued.
In the only country-specific statement of its kind, the Community of
Democracies Convening Group called for Suu Kyis immediate release after
the Depayin Masacre and appealed to the military authorities to re-establish democracy.13 This followed earlier efforts to give Burma a special place
on the Community of Democracies agenda at the latters Warsaw and
Seoul meetings when foreign ministers heard a direct videotaped appeal
from Suu Kyi to use your freedom to defend ours.14
ASEAN, which rarely criticizes its members internal affairs and has no
democracy mandate, issued a sharp rebuke of Suu Kyis detainment and
13 Declaration of the Convening Group of the Community of Democracies on the Situation
in Burma, June 17, 2003, available at
14 In her videotaped appeal presented in Warsaw, she said: We would like to urge the peoples of the free world to work harder towards bringing true democratic progress everywhere. We would like to see action, rather than words. There have been many words supporting democracy, and we are duly grateful for them, because we do not underestimate
the power of words. But words need to be backed up by action by action that is united
and that is focused on essentials. Only by such action will we be able to realize our democratic aspirations. Available at



called for the latters release during its annual meeting. Additionally the
nine foreign ministers in attendance at the meeting informed their
Burmese counterpart Win Aung that they wanted Suu Kyi released as soon
as possible. In the lead up to the October 2003 ASEAN summit, Thai
Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai and Indonesian Special Envoy Ali
Alatas visited Burma for talks with the junta to press for the release of Suu
Kyi. These two parties were concerned that the upcoming summit would
be overshadowed by Burmas domestic issues. In June 2004 Malaysian parliamentarians also formed a committee of members of parliament to press
for democracy in Burma (Malaysia had been the prime sponsor of Burmas
entry into ASEAN). The committee was composed of both government
and opposition members, including several individuals close to Prime
Minister Abdullah Badawi. Announced less than a week after Khin
Nyunts visit to Malaysia, the committee urged Burma to hold free and fair
elections and release all political prisoners.
Burmas first official participation in an Asia-European summit
(ASEM) was scheduled for October 2004. Prior to this meeting some EU
leaders, and particularly Tony Blair, threatened to boycott the summit if
Burma sent a representative. EU foreign ministers agreed to Burmas participation at a level below head of state/government; they further agreed
that additional sanctions against Burma would be put into effect if the
SPDC failed to release Suu Kyi and open the National Convention to
NLD participation in advance of the ASEM meeting. When this did not
take place, Blair sent a deputy in protest, and French President Jacques
Chirac, while in general opposed to further sanctions, did not attend a
welcoming ceremony for the Burmese representative. In late October, the
EU Council revised the Common Position to extend the visa ban to all
those in the Burmese military holding the position of brigadier general or
higher and prohibiting EU companies from investing in Burmese stateowned enterprises.
Although not as influential as events under UN and ASEAN auspices,
the decision of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria
to cancel an $87 million program in Burma was a notable measure. The
August 2005 decision, made without engaging the regime in discussion or
negotiation, was a direct response to the SPDCs new restrictions on travel and the import of medical supplies (direct pressure from the US also
played a prominent role). Although members of the democracy promotion NGO community were supportive of this move, diplomats in
Rangoon and humanitarian NGOs opposed it, arguing that they continue
to be able to operate usefully and independently of the government.



The UN decided to search for replacement funds for fighting the three
diseases, and in December the EU decided to quadruple its humanitarian
assistance to Burma (to roughly $10 million). This aid was to target primary health care and malaria control, as well as water and sanitation services in the central dry zone of Burma. Officially, the EUs humanitarian
arm ECHO (European Commission Humanitarian Aid Office) claimed
that the decision was unrelated to the Global Funds contrary decision to
cancel funding; however, this claim was widely disbelieved. ECHO
opened an office in Rangoon better to assess needs and monitor projects.
Burma was scheduled to assume the rotating chair of ASEAN in 2006.
The EU and US promised to boycott the ASEAN summit if Burma did
not make efforts to transition to democracy and release Suu Kyi. Fearing
a Western boycott, and concerned about worsening relations with the EU
and US, many member nations of ASEAN, including Singapore, Malaysia,
Indonesia and the Philippines, expressed discomfort over Burma taking the
organizations chair. Burma bowed to pressure from these nations and
relinquished the chair in July 2005. The alphabetically rotating chair then
passed to the Philippines, although ASEAN released a statement saying
that once Burma was ready to take up its turn as ASEAN chair, it would
be allowed to do so.
It was unclear how relinquishing the ASEAN chair affected the SPDC.
On one level, SPDC officials argued that the United States and EU had
played right into our hands, by giving them the option of deferring the
ASEAN chair instead of releasing Suu Kyi. Additionally, turning down the
chair prevented the SPDC from having to confront the foreign press who
would be covering ASEAN meetings. Conversely, there was evidence that
the regime was looking forward to the high profile role so as to garner
greater regional and international respect; government investment had
already commenced to prepare for the summit, including a considerable
amount of work at the capitals airport.
The final months of 2005 witnessed ASEAN adopting an even more
critical posture. Ahead of the 2005 summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysian
Prime Minister Abdullah publicly called for an ASEAN delegation to visit
Burma, while Philippine President Arroyo made similar suggestions.
ASEANs chairman, Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid, expressed a
need to visit Suu Kyi and see direct evidence of reform in Rangoon, while
Malaysian cabinet minister Nazri Aziz compared the SPDC to the Hitler
and Stalin regimes. In addition, a group of parliamentarians in the
ASEAN Parliamentary Caucus called for ASEAN to expel Burma if its



human rights situation had not improved after a year, further demanding
the Secretary General to report back regularly to ASEAN members.
Although the December 2005 summit itself did not include Burma
on its formal agenda, the gathered heads of government discussed the
countrys situation for an hour over an informal dinner on the eve of the
summit. What resulted came as a surprise to some: demands that the
SPDC begin taking real steps toward democracy, fully implement its road
map, and release Suu Kyi and all other political prisoners. Various leaders spoke candidly to Prime Minister Soe Win of the SPDC. Indeed,
Burma acted with surprising alacrity by inviting ASEANs chair,
Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid, to visit Rangoon, leaving open
the possibility of a meeting with Suu Kyi. Syed Hamid was quoted by
Reuters as saying The road map must have not only the road; there must
be some signs along the way. There must be a timeline that they must
work on. Three months later, Syed Hamid arrived in Rangoon and met
with junta officials but was denied a visit with Suu Kyi and left a day earlier than scheduled.15 He was scheduled to brief ASEAN foreign ministers on his findings during their April 2006 summit in Bali. At the East
Asian summit immediately following the ASEAN summit, a Korean foreign ministry official said Korea told Burma directly that good relations
depended on further democratization.16 And Kofi Annan announced
afterward that the UN welcomed the invitation to Rangoon and that he
would personally be in touch with Syed Hamid.
Burmas other neighbors China, India and Thailand have consistently operated as enablers of the regime. China is the SPDCs staunchest
ally, although at times it has encouraged reforms. China supplies the
regime with arms, conducts significant trade with Burma, and protects it
in international forums, while maintaining a substantial on-the-ground
diplomatic presence in the country. Thailand also has regional interests in
Burma, particularly in quelling unrest and other problems across the
sprawling border the two states share. Thailand has supplied the SPDC
with substantial trade and aid, while tightening its border against displaced
persons and refusing to interfere in the regimes internal affairs. India has
recently embraced the SPDC to protect its regional interests in Burma, not

15 Hamid noted that Burmas neighbors can only continue to defend the regime internationally if they can report back that there is progress towards reform. BBC News, Malaysian
FM Cuts Off Burma Trip, March 24, 2006.
16 Korea has provided some $120 million in aid since President Kim Dae Jung reinitiated
Korean aid to Burma.



least for border security reasons, naval interests, and a growing sense of
competition with Chinese influence in the region. India has supplied substantial trade and aid to the regime, including arms, and despite being the
worlds largest democracy, has not been supportive of the pro-democracy
movement in Burma.
Numerous individuals and groups, frustrated by the inefficacy of disparate efforts to influence the SPDCs behavior, have been calling on the
UN, and particularly the Security Council, to take more concerted action.
Support for specific action in the Security Council has come not only from
the NLD and the Burmese government in exile, but also from various parliamentarians from around the world and several Nobel laureates.
Momentum since 2005 has in particular coalesced around the Havel-Tutu
report, Threat to the Peace, which in turn has galvanized even greater
support at government (US, EU, Australia) and UN levels. The HavelTutu report asserts that Burma clearly meets the threat to international
peace and security criterion for Security Council action.17
Further suggesting that the tide appears to have begun turning against
Burma at the UN, in December 2005 the US delegation lined up the necessary nine votes, and in fact even a tenth, in favor of placing Burma on
the Security Councils agenda. US Ambassador Bolton opted to wait to
push for formally placing Burma on the agenda in deference to Chinese
and Russian willingness to accept a proposal for the Security Council to
hear an informal report on Burma behind closed doors. The briefing took
place, with the Secretary General present, on December 16, 2005.
By early 2006 all eyes were on ASEAN and the UN. At the UN there
is wide expectation that the US will push for a formal Security Council
debate on Burma by mid-2006. If this were to succeed without sustaining
a veto from one of the permanent members, the ground would be laid for
a Security Council resolution; overcoming Chinese and Russian opposition
is the key in this regard. Momentum at the UN positively affected
ASEANs recent movement on Burma, including the March 2006 ASEAN
delegation visit to Rangoon. A positive development in either of these
supranational bodies will likely have a similarly positive effect on the other.
In sum, the international community has undertaken a wide range of
activities in recent years in response to the political crisis in Burma, particularly in the wake of an intensified internal crackdown in 2003. The US
has taken the lead, with Canada and the EU also active in adopting criti-

17 See Chapter 7 of the UN Charter.



cal measures. Japan has been somewhat less active and critical. Most significant has been ASEANs recent, if cautious, move beyond its traditional
staunchly non-interventionist approach. The willingness of several states
to take the Burma issue to the UN Security Council is also noteworthy.
However, much like the special envoys to the SPDC, such efforts still need
much further development before they have any prospect of putting significant pressure on the Burmese regime.

Assessing the International Response

The international response to the stalled democratization process in Burma
is best described as mixed. The intentions of key members of the international community of democratic states to press for change have firmed up,
but the measures so far adopted have been ineffective in terms of outcomes. Key democracies like the US, Canada, and the EU have taken the
very actions that Suu Kyi and the NLD have called for. Indeed, Suu Kyi
specifically made a plea for international sanctions against Burma so as to
provide the NLD something to bargain with in its negotiations with the
regime. It would thus appear that by supporting the Burmese oppositions
wishes the international community has bolstered the position of Suu Kyi
and the NLD, and given them a substantial international platform whose
legitimacy was cemented when Suu Kyi won the Nobel Peace Prize in
1991. Even though SPDC leaders have continually viewed Suu Kyi with
disdain and bereft of domestic legitimacy, they have refrained from what
could have been even worse attacks against her, because of both her fathers
legacy and the immense importance the international community has
placed on her well-being.
In 1988 the international community, with the reactions of Japan,
Canada, and the US at the forefront, began to take action over the crisis in
Burma. Over the course of the next fifteen years these states gradually
ratcheted up pressure on the regime, never directly in sync but certainly
with a shared sense of the strong need to take a meaningful stand against
the juntas oppression. The specific intention of these early efforts was to
apply enough pressure on the regime, using symbolism and particularly
sanctions, to persuade the junta to release Suu Kyi and implement the
results of the 1990 elections. The fact that in the early 2000s the juntas
top leaders engaged in secret talks with Suu Kyi seemed to confirm that
this approach was having some modest desired effect. While not all important governments around the world took this stand, and while those that
did can be faulted for often reacting slowly, from the standpoint of intent
the international community has been fairly successful in living up to its



commitments to work together to promote and strengthen democracy, as

set forth in the Warsaw Declaration.
From the perspective of efficacy, however, the picture of the international communitys response is dismal. Events inside Burma have not
transpired as intended by those who have sought to come to Burmas aid.
If anything the SPDC has tightened repression partly in response to western sanctions. Suu Kyi remains under house arrest; NLD members are
harassed, in hiding, or in prison; the legitimacy of the 1990 elections has
lost its practical utility; the best hope for a positive role by the SPDC
former Prime Minister Khin Nyunt was removed by the hard line junta
leader Than Shwe; and the National Convention has atrophied and is no
longer even scheduled to be convened. In terms of efficacy the quality of
response, to date, has been poor.
In evaluating the international response, one must take into account
the particular mindset of the current regime. The SPDC appears dug into
its position of power as deeply as ever.18 Indeed, one can safely conclude
that the SPDC has actively and successfully thwarted external efforts to
pressure it into negotiating with the opposition, let alone voluntarily giving up power.19 In the eyes of Than Shwe and his contemporaries, Suu Kyi
and the NLD are almost completely lacking in legitimacy. All indications
are the SPDC intends to keep her bottled up for the foreseeable future.
The SPDC generals in fact view themselves as Myanmars wholly legitimate leaders, evidenced inter alia by a penchant for snubbing outsiders
whenever they see fit.20 Believing quite literally that the country will disintegrate without them is perhaps their greatest motivation for holding
onto power. This self-image of the regime is staunch enough that the generals and their families and associates are not even as traditionally corrupt
as one might expect. Further complicating the international response is
that the ruling junta is unique among the worlds remaining undemocratic governments in its collective lack of education. Unlike Cuba,

18 Sanctions or Engagement, op. cit., p. 7.

19 [S]anctions freeze a situation that does not appear to contain the seeds of its own resolution. The military, despite its many policy failures, has stayed in power since 1962, and
there are no indications that external pressure has changed its will or capacity to do so for
the foreseeable future. On the contrary, sanctions so long as they are not universally
applied confirm the suspicion of strongly nationalist leaders that the West aims to dominate and exploit Myanmar, and strengthen their resolve to resist. Sanctions or
Engagement, op. cit., p. ii.
20 Sanctions or Engagement, op. cit., pp. 10-11; Regimes View of the World, op. cit.,
pp. 4-8.



Zimbabwe, and North Korea whose educated leaders have deftly played
their weak hands against the international community Than Shwe and
his cadre have merely grade school educations. Being ill informed to this
degree is precisely what makes the regime not only unfathomable but also
unpredictable. It is thus incumbent on the international community to
find a way to relate to the regime on its level.
While the international democracy community is fairly united and
efforts related to bringing Burma before the UN Security Council have
been extensive, building up significant diplomatic momentum in the
process, prospects for the success of traditional pressure approaches look
bleak. Even if the regimes critics, for instance, were to gain all they seek
in the UN forum - including a strong resolution, unanimity on the
Security Council, punitive sanctions, and an active diplomatic role for the
Secretary General - it is unlikely that this would suffice to kick-start a transition to democracy in Burma. Indeed, it would seem that current efforts
by the active members of the international community are on something
of a road to nowhere.
On this level it would appear that efforts of local reformers, Suu Kyi
and the NLD have been somewhat hindered by the international communitys response. US influence has waned.21 In response to the 2003 tightening of sanctions, Than Shwe and his cadre have turned away from the
West and concentrated on promoting ties and friendship with China and
others in the region. In essence Americas punitive measures have backfired, engendering nearly the diametrically opposite effect of what was
intended. Even among lower-ranked, more pragmatic officers there has
been a revival of the bunker mentality that sees Burmas interests being best
looked after by going it alone. The EU, Canada, and Japan are being tarred
with the same brush, partly because each too has broken links or strengthened sanctions since 2003, and partly because they are viewed as allies of
the US. Relations with Japan have also cooled, significant in light of
Japans erstwhile closeness to the Ne Win regime and talk of its special
relationship with the SLORC.
Despite the antipathy elicited by sanctions, the SPDC has not entirely
closed the door to external influence. In fact, its leaders harbor a deepseated wish to be accepted as equals by the developed countries.22 It is the
current regime that has taken steps toward opening up Burma, particular21 Myanmar: Sanctions, Engagement or Another Way Forward? International Crisis
Group, Asian Report No. 78, April 26, 2004, p. 8.
22 Regimes View of the World, op. cit., p. 12.



ly the economic sector; the SPDC is keen to attract foreign investment,

including Western technology and capital. Thus, although the regime is
among the most resistant to external pressure anywhere in the world and
fairly autarkic in mindset, it does indeed yearn for respect from its Western
counterparts especially the U.S. even while it insists on conducting its
affairs in its own way, thinking nothing of snubbing outsiders if necessary.
Intensified moves and some progress towards getting Burma on to the
UN Security Council agenda could prove significant. An earlier small
wave of momentum had ebbed due to the collapse of the NLD-SPDC dialogue brokered by UN Special Envoy Razali. Prior to late 2005 the UN
was feckless; moreover, it too has been unable to escape being tarred with
the anti-American brush, which has harmed the prospects of its activities.23
Nonetheless, the SPDC at least has kept its door open to the UN.24 The
fact that China in particular did not oppose the UN Secretariats informal
report on Burma to the Security Council represents something of a small
breakthrough. The US delegation will have to monitor the situation over
time to assess whether China would veto a formal agenda move, but there
is at least the possibility that Beijing is concerned enough about the problems Burma is causing across its border to join the emerging consensus on
defining the regime as a threat to international peace and security, as
required for Security Council action.25 With Ambassador Bolton planning
to push for a formal Security Council debate by mid-2006, the desire to
deflect possible vetoes by either China or Russia has been the immediate
matter of concern.
While China, India, Malaysia, and Thailand would appear to have the
most leverage over the SPDC, it is unrealistic to expect much if any assistance in terms of sanctions or proactive diplomacy from these governments. China may shift position to a limited degree, but any sort of significant public censure is unlikely. Thailand has attempted to elicit change
from the regime, but the generals have been indifferent to Thai threats and
leverage is limited due to Bangkoks economic interests and its need for
junta cooperation on controlling drugs, illegal immigrants, and refugees in
the border region. Malaysia has been important from the mid 1990s, as
former Prime Minister Mahathir was a great champion of Burma. Since

23 Threat to the Peace, op. cit., p. 67.

24 Sanctions or Engagement, op. cit., p. 8.
25 Regimes View of the World, op. cit., p. 23. China sells arms to Burma and extracts an
immense amount of cheap natural resources from it, but it also is suffering from increased
HIV rates, a growing drug trade, and possibly SARS whose sources are all Burmese.



his departure Malaysias dissatisfaction with Rangoon has grown, and it has
been pivotal along with Indonesia in altering ASEANs approach to
Burma. India would seem most pliable to alter its cooperative stance with
the regime; indeed, India operates a two-track approach of officially cooperating with the SPDC at the government level while allowing Indian
groups and individuals to criticize the regime. India is highly concerned
about an alliance between Burma and China, which mitigates prospects for
change; however, India is a close American ally and could respond to
strong US pressure.
The key to external action, however, still resides among Burmas fellow
members of ASEAN. ASEAN states exerted significant influence to deny
Burma its role as ASEAN rotating chair in 2006, while pressing Burma to
show progress in resolving the domestic deadlock ahead of assuming the
organizations chair. ASEAN evidently was embarrassed by Burmas inaction and how its addition to ASEAN, rather than bolstering the regional
body, has instead engendered alienation from the West. ASEAN governments unexpectedly strong stance against the SPDC at their December
2005 summit in Malaysia bodes well. The fear was that ASEAN would
revert to upholding its long-cherished non-interference principle after the
Burma chair episode; on the contrary, ASEAN has moved further along the
spectrum toward greater interference. That host country Malaysia individually, and in concert with its peers, has taken such a strong public stand
against the SPDC is significant - a sharp U-turn from the days when former Prime Minister Mahathir championed the SPDC at every turn.
According to the ASEAN Secretary General, Ong Keng Yong, and
Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah, the additional pressure applied to
Burma came directly from US and EU pressure on ASEAN, though certainly informal movement against Burma on the UN Security Council
also played a role. In regional terms, evidence also points to ASEAN displeasure with the junta not having consulted its neighbors ahead of the
move to Pyinmana and the announcement of additional detention time
for Suu Kyi. ASEAN appears to have learned from the defunct Bangkok
process, 26 for having lowered its expectations of the SPDC it is now having greater success by telling Rangoon in less equivocal terms that it must
deliver. Even this influence has only been modest, however, and evi26 The Bangkok Process was the ASEAN diplomatic attempt to influence Rangoon in the
early 2000s. Initiated and led by Thailand Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the mission was a traditional ASEAN attempt to deal with a problem in the ASEAN way, i.e.
through quiet internal diplomacy. The mission came to nothing, however, when the
SPDC sent Thaksin away essentially empty-handed.



denced simply in the SPDCs more defensive regional position. Overall,

no international efforts have prevented the military regime from entrenching itself further in power and stifling internal dissent.
In sum, no coordinated international diplomatic initiative has emerged
among the various actors. Collective diplomacy through the UN has
barely coalesced. The UN General Assembly and UN Commission on
Human Rights have been content to pass resolution after resolution, with
little to show for it. The ineffectual UN Special Envoy and Special
Rapporteur have floundered with marginal support from the Secretary
Generals office or members of the Security Council. Direct engagement
of the SPDC by China, India, Thailand, Japan, and Australia has amounted to lip service from both sides. The SPDC has become quite accomplished at interacting with the international community on its own terms.
Thus, a significant change in the international communitys approach
toward Burma is called for.

A more comprehensive approach by the international community composed of carrots and sticks is needed to help facilitate a long-awaited democratic transition in Burma. The fact that sanctions have failed does not
mean that pressure on the Burmese regime is inappropriate. Sanctions
need to be made smarter and counterbalanced by a series of more prominent incentives.27 As one analyst notes, removing sanctions and increasing engagement will not return the NLD to power, shared or otherwise.28 An effective strategy will need to come from an increased
ASEAN role, probably to a greater extent than American and European
measures. At the same time, it is contended here that qualitatively different approaches should be considered as a means of breaking Burmas political deadlock. In particular a transitional power-sharing arrangement with
some incentives for regime officials to step down, combined with innovative forms of transitional justice, could produce the necessary stimulus to
unblock political change.

27 As argued by the International Crisis Group: [i]n the absence of any external pressure at
all for change, it is highly unlikely that any change at all will occur The international
community should take whatever opportunity is presented to encourage whatever progress
is possible. That means developing a new policy approachcontaining elements of the
present sanctions approach of the West and engagement policy of the region, but more
productive than either. Sanctions or Engagement, op. cit., p. 37.
28 A. McCarty, Burma/Myanmar: Reconciliation without Capitulation,, March 31, 2004, p. 4.



The mechanism of delayed or alternative justice needs to be explored

in exchange for sharing power and/or stepping aside while a democratic
election is held.29 Some governments, diplomats, NGOs, activists and
the Burmese government in exile are likely to oppose any option short of
full prosecution of the juntas crimes and a restoration of the 1990 elections. But the crux of the present imbroglio in Burma is that the longawaited transition to democracy is not happening, and no option already
on the table is capable of effecting the scale of change desired. A catalyst
is needed, something to kick start a transition process that is not at present under consideration. Assuming the regime could be persuaded to
engage in a serious negotiation, it must be convinced that it will get
something in return for yielding power; if they are not assured of receiving anything commensurate, then they will happily remain on the
authoritarian path. In addition, the opposition needs to fix what political scientists refer to as a commitment problem, i.e. the NLD is not able
in the eyes of the junta credibly to commit to treating them fairly
even though Suu Kyi is on record stating that she would even consider
sharing power with the regime. 30
Only the international community can solve this commitment problem, acting as an honest broker with the express purpose of doing what has
to be done to bring about long delayed democratization to Burma. In this
regard, the US, in addition to the potentially decisive roles that could be
played by ASEAN and the UN, actually has the potential to make a difference. Rarely discussed is the extent to which elements inside the SPDC
fear US military action against them in light of Washingtons preemptive
defense doctrine and behavior in the region. This fear of a military invasion actually gives the US considerable leverage over Burma (about which
the Bush Administration has shown limited awareness).
In sum, the assumptions outlined above that the regime is not entirely close-minded about its life after power, that the opposition lacks credibility in the regimes eyes, and that those external actors which the regime
has some regard for (or fears) have a certain if limited degree of leverage
over future outcomes underpin the following set of recommendations.

29 In 1988 when Suu Kyi stated that there would be no trials for junta members, the effect
on them was the opposite of what the NLD intended: instead of being reassured, the
regime took issue with the topic being mooted. There is growing consensus in the NGO
community that prosecution is not viable, as well as a view that further efforts are needed
to assure the regime that the offer from the NLD is credible.
30 M. A. Nalepa, The Problem of Credible Commitments in Transitions to Democracy,
unpublished mimeo, November 30, 2005; J. D. Fearon, Comments on the Ex Ante/Ex
Post Problem in Transitional Justice, unpublished mimeo, October 15, 2005.



Tighten multilateral sanctions against the regime.

The UN Security Council should endorse a unified package of sanctions
starting with a comprehensive arms embargo, visa ban and assets freeze, to
be followed as necessary by other measures such as bans on imports, remittances, investment, bilateral and multilateral aid. Australia, Canada,
Japan, and the EU should go further by adopting copies of US sanctions
and by persuading China, Thailand and India to begin adopting sanctions.
This approach requires engaging China and Russia sufficiently to prevent
exercise of their vetoes.
The SPDC needs to have a direct interest in negotiating to give up
power; ahead of offering new carrots, the international communitys sticks
need to be stronger. A multilateral sanctions package will increase external pressure and make the status quo more costly for the regime, thereby
adding to existing incentives (which at present are insufficient) to convince the regime to negotiate. A concerted attempt must be made to discern the threshold level of pain for the regime and then tailor a still
smarter set of multilateral sanctions intended to target the regime in the
most effective way.
Sanctions to date have missed their target.31 The primary problem is
that although the first wave of US sanctions directly resulted in shutting
down numerous export firms and factories in Burma (primarily in the garment industry), these have gradually made a significant comeback due to
growing business opportunities with Chinese, Taiwanese, and Indian companies. With abundant natural resources and a cheap labor force, Burmas
neighbors have ample incentives to undercut Western sanctions. The
Burmese companies doing increased business are mostly operated by or
tied to the military and thus the SPDC. Therefore, although sanctions do
harm smaller non-military businesses, the West must find ways to persuade
regional governments to rein in their Burma-speculating companies in
order to stem the SPDCs successful attempts to insulate itself from
Western sanctions. Also, the Burmese government in exile could let it be
known that upon transition in Burma, it will review contracts that the
SPDC has negotiated with companies, Asian or Western.

31 David Steinberg contends that capitulation to sanctions by the SPDC is tantamount to

expecting its unconditional surrender. D. Steinberg, Myanmar: The Roots of Economic
Malaise, in K. Y. Hlaing, R. H. Taylor, and T. M. Maung Than, eds., Myanmar: Beyond
Politics to Societal Imperatives, Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2005, p.
111; Sanctions of Engagement, op. cit., p. 19.



Authorize the UN Secretary General to engage the SPDC in

new negotiations.
As part of a UN Security Council resolution covering sanctions, the
Secretary General should be given a broad, flexible negotiating mandate
beyond the limited mandate that the UN Special Envoy has been working under. The SG in turn should name a new, higher level envoy someone seen as close to him and preferably a retired American general
while becoming involved in the negotiations himself at the outset and
wherever needed.
The active and personal involvement of the UN Secretary General far
beyond the status quo is necessary in order to solve the oppositions commitment problem.32 The Secretary General is superior to an ASEAN head
of state/government because a true third party representing the wider international community is necessary to gain enough trust to broker a successful deal, for at present the regime has little reason to believe Suu Kyi and
the NLD will not renege on a deal ex post. Indeed, 2006 is Kofi Annans
final year in office thereby heightening the prospect that he might take on
such a challenge.
The December 2005 unanimous Security Council vote to receive an
informal briefing on the security situation in Burma bodes well, and it
appears there are votes to go further and place Burma on the Security
Councils formal agenda. The fact that Russia and particularly China did
not stand in the way is promising for the US-led effort to bring about UN
pressure on the SPDC. Indeed, the SPDC has vehemently opposed UN
action of any kind, indicating that the UN retains at least a modicum of
influence. Razali may have failed, but prospects that Kofi Annan and a
new higher-level envoy will be given a hearing from the regime are higher
now than at any other time in recent years.33
The naming of a retired U.S. general (such as Anthony Zinni or Wesley
Clark) as the new envoy could potentially be a masterstroke. The SPDC
is under-educated and prone to misperception; for example they seem genuinely to believe that the US may soon attack Burma militarily.34 A regime
32 Sanctions or Engagement, op. cit., p. v.
33 Comments from the Secretary General indicate that he is taking a serious personal interest
in building greater diplomatic momentum, e.g., his strong direct support for ASEANs initiatives after the 2005 East Asia summit.
34 Recent high-level cooperation between the US and Thai militaries have accentuated this
fear, particularly the annual joint military exercises known as Cobra Gold; for example,
Burma will respond next year with its own Operation Hawk, though it has not elaborated on any details.



that understands little other than force and fear is likely to take a retired
US general in this role more seriously, particularly one that with UN backing tells Than Shwe and his cadre that there is a way out. Moreover, the
SPDC is obsessed with prestige, very much wanting to be taken seriously
by the West instead of just sanctioned unendingly. An American general
sitting down with them would offer something previous UN envoys have
been unable to: the very prestige they crave. One not very well known
indicator that such a move could prove effective is that the SPDC has privately reached out to Washington and London on several occasions, only
to be spurned.35 Another option would be a four-member contact group
(UN, US, ASEAN, EU) led by the UN envoy.

Organize roundtable talks between the regime and the opposition to promote power-sharing.
The UN envoy should broker roundtable talks between the SPDC and the
broadly defined opposition movement, including not only the NLD but
also representatives from different ethnic groups. The Polish example in
this regard offers a standard to work from. The SPDC is simply not going
to relinquish power without playing a role in what transpires thereafter and
equally not without at least being a part of any transitional government
that would rule until the results of fresh elections are implemented. Suu
Kyi and the NLD are on record as offering to govern jointly with the
SPDC, and the UN would offer third-party credibility for this commitment. Ongoing talks, taking cues from similar sort of talks in Northern
Ireland, would also offer an opportunity for the regime over time to move
beyond its present view of the NLD as thoroughly lacking in legitimacy.
Any governance solution in Burma will not be achievable without a significant role for the many and varied ethnic groups inside the country.
Already NCUB and other ethnic leaders participate in the SPDCs
National Convention talks, and interestingly the regime takes them more
seriously than the NLD - wishing to highlight non-NLD leadership in
society and due most of all to the numerous and successful ceasefire negotiations the regime has brokered with the main ethnic groups. A peaceful
and prosperous future Burma is more likely with a government that allows
for ethnic groups to achieve their interests alongside the Burmans.36
35 The regime has consistently lobbied Washington policy-makers, from hiring public relations firms to burnish its image to hosting senators and others on visits to Rangoon. In
particular, the SPDC has pressed aggressively for US resumption of anti-narcotics aid.
36 Sanctions or Engagement, op. cit., p. 13.



In conjunction with power-sharing talks, the Secretary General and his

envoy should find a backchannel, such as an ASEAN government, to offer
the SPDCs top generals (and their immediate family members) certain
incentives to step down. A package deal, for example, involving limiting
prosecution and/or a comfortable life in exile would also allow these individuals to play a prominent role in the transition.
The practical aim here is to get the transition started, which simply will
not happen if the junta fears unlimited prosecutions or immediate displacement from power. It must be coaxed to hand over the reins of power
and credibly promised life after power. Nor should the aim be an equivalent to the de-Baathification policy imposed in Iraq, for the military plays
an unmistakably prominent role in Burmese society, representing what
David Steinberg has called a state within a state. Without the military,
society will suffer if such a void were created.37 One viable way to pursue
a power-sharing transition is to try the Indonesian method, namely
through a 25 per cent retention of the regimes generals both in the leadership ranks of the armed forces and seats in parliament.
If a transition were put in motion, eventually there would have to be
a vetting of the next layer of military officials. A transitional government
or some sort of High Commissioner would need to put a lustration system into place, that would offer qualified amnesty for lower-level officials who will be needed to help run the country, and who may have collaborated previously not out of support for the regime but out of necessity of some kind.

Set up a truth and reconciliation commission as part of a

transition package that includes new elections.
This truth commission should be incentive-based, as opposed to adopting
the approach of examining the secret police and military records (which
may be partially destroyed in the transition) and either trying exofficials/collaborators or preventing them from holding office due to the
content of the records. Extensive academic research demonstrates that evidence-based approaches falter in two key areas: false convictions and false
acquittals. A superior track record is offered by incentive-based approaches such as seen in South Africa. Not only does this approach bode better

37 Amnesty and golden parachutes may be the only possibility of overcoming the predilection
of every Burmese regime since independence for the militarys retention of veto power over
critical aspects of the state. D. Steinberg, Myanmar: The Roots of Eco Sanctions or
Engagement, op. cit., p. 24.



in terms of reconciliation, but also in gaining the full cooperation of

regime remnants and a comprehensive record of its past dealings.
This commission should have the power to limit prosecutions and/or
reduce sentences for former regime members or supporters who fully cooperate with the commission. This would involve offering these incentives
for anyone who makes a full confession of past misdeeds with prosecutions
for anyone who lies or is not fully forthcoming. Evidence of previous truth
commissions shows a remarkably high participation rate of former regime
members, with need for only a handful of prosecutions to send an effective
signal to others waiting to testify. Local gacaca courts in Rwanda, which
have the power to commute or reduce sentences, are another example of
how effective such an incentive-based approach can be. This type of truth
commission combined with a battery of economic forms of alternative justice offers the best hope for some type of longer-term reconciliation.
Because a new status quo along the lines of these recommendations is
likely to be perceived as unfair to the victims of the current regime, the
opposition and the populace in general need to receive some form of
delayed or alternative justice. This can take place in the form of the return
of refugees, restitution of property, monetary compensation to victims,
extension of citizenship rights, new rights and protection for minorities,
and in particular a truth and reconciliation commission (including prosecution of former regime members who are not forthcoming during such a
commissions proceedings). The importance of alternative justice for the
Burmese people cannot be overestimated. If incentives for the most prominent members of the SPDC are necessary to kick-start a transition, then
some tangible justice for the long-suffering citizenry of Burma is essential.

Obtain the support of ASEAN and China for the

above measures.
The UN and the West should engage ASEAN to use the leverage it has
over the SPDC, which is not considerable but greater certainly than that
of India or Australia.38 ASEAN as a collective regional voice has greater
potential than any other external actor for helping persuade the regime that
leaving power is in its best interests. Chinas involvement in coaxing the
junta to give way is as obvious as it is important; while it retains more leverage over the regime than ASEAN, a thriving democracy may not be in its
interests, despite the problems China is experiencing in its border areas

38 Sanctions or Engagement, op. cit., p. 24.



with Burma. However, it is likely that China will begin to push the SPDC
to get its act together, not only due to bilateral problems but also to a
desire China may have to avoid being isolated in the UN.
The flurry of activity running up to and surrounding the December
2005 ASEAN summit may be a harbinger, as ASEAN parliamentarians
continued to pressure their governments to oppose Burma, and the leaders
took several key steps at the summit to place further pressure on the SPDC
(with episodic evidence that the regime will substantively respond). A
thorough diplomatic and sanctions phalanx is achievable if China and
ASEAN in particular are persuaded to back the UNs approach; gaining
Indian and Australian assistance would further augment such an endeavor.
The above recommendations are intended to be realistically achievable,
for the stakes are high; they stem from carefully weighing what it would
take for the international community to help initiate a democratic transition inside Burma that to date has been lacking. Given how firmly the
regime is entrenched in power, it would appear that some creative
approaches are called for. With an absence of effective internal pressure on
the authoritarian Burmese junta, perhaps no nation state around the world
is riper for a stepped-up role from the international community. The welfare of the Burmese people depends on it.


Chapter 2

The stalled democratic transition in Togo presents a promising example of
the influence the international community can have in reversing a military
coup, while simultaneously offering a lesson in its abject failure to change
underlying power balances. In February 2005, after years of a militarybacked autocracy led by President Gnassingbe Eyadema and supported
by France the dictator collapsed of a heart attack, affording the frustrated political opposition a rare chance to change the status quo. Instead, the
military unconstitutionally seized power and placed Eyademas son, Faure
Gnassingbe, in the presidential palace. The international community,
notably led by African regional organizations, rejected the coup and
demanded a transition in accordance with Togos constitution. While the
diplomatic intervention worked to force new elections, the rules of the
game were slanted already in favor of the ruling elite and Gnassingbe was
allowed to secure the presidency through flawed elections. The international community failed to hold Togo accountable to international standards that safeguard democratic governance, particularly during pivotal
periods prior and subsequent to the April 2005 presidential elections.
Peace in Togo remains fragile and political competition marred by the
legacy of military influence and ethnic divisions. The international community can now do much more to ensure that the positive steps it took to
reverse the coup are translated into a longer-term strategy to help Togo
make the transition towards a multiparty democratic system. These measures should include: a truth and reconciliation commission supported by
African institutions and religious leaders; support for repatriation of
refugees; major security sector reforms to put the military under democratic civilian control; support to Togolese civil society; and pressure to carry
out important constitutional reforms.

1 Principal author, Muthoni Kamuyu, Research Fellow, Democracy Coalition Project.



In 1967 Lieutenant Colonel Gnassingbe Eyadema seized control of government. Eyadema immediately abolished political parties and established
himself as the sole political power in Togo. For 38 years, Eyadema appointed members of his ethnic group the Kabye to key posts in the military,
economic institutions and the civil service and effectively used his influence over the military to stave off any serious opposition to his regime.
Furthermore, Togos favorable economic position, rewarded with loans and
debt relief from the international financial institutions, allowed him to
consolidate power by regularly increasing the salaries of the military and
civil service.2 Meanwhile, civil society was unable to organize itself and
remained significantly underdeveloped and compromised by its lack of
political neutrality.3
In 1990, Benins successful national conference and transition to
democracy sparked a wave of similar political transition processes throughout Francophone Africa, including Togo. Twenty years into Eyademas dictatorial rule, overt challenges to his regime, including protests and a general strike, led to the establishment of a sovereign national conference in
Togo in 1991. However, this failed to usher in a democratic transition.
Despite harassment from the government, the Togolese national conference drafted an interim constitution calling for a one-year transitional
regime with Joseph Koku Koffigoh as prime minister and limiting
Eyademas powers as president. However, the transitional government was
short lived as the army reacted against the transitional legislatures vote to
dissolve the ruling Rally of Togolese People (RPT) party in November
1991. The army staged a siege, captured Prime Minister Koffigoh and
brought him to the Presidential palace. The government was temporarily
dissolved. Eyademas call for peace led to the eventual release of Koffigoh.
He was re-appointed prime minister of a second transitional government
in January 1992.
After Eyademas government and the opposition agreed to a new constitution in the fall of 1992, the army invaded the legislative chambers and
held the legislature hostage for 24 hours. In retaliation, the opposition
declared a general strike that shut down Lom for nine months. In January

2 J. Seely, State Bargaining Power and Transition to Democracy in Benin and Togo, Paper
No. 397 presented at the Midwest Political Science Association Meeting, 2000, pp. 17-18.
3 West African Civil Society Forum (WACSOF), Togo Presidential Elections, West African
Civil Society Forum Elections Observation Report 2005, pp. 10.



1993, Eyadema declared the transition had come to an end and re-appointed Koffigoh as prime minister. This action led to a series of public demonstrations and reprisals by the army during which over 300,000 Togolese
fled to Benin, Ghana and the interior of Togo.
Eyademas decision to hold presidential elections on August 25, 1993
came as a result of French and Beninese political pressure, which is detailed
in the following section. Concerns regarding electoral fraud, however, led
the opposition to boycott the elections and Eyadema was re-elected with
90 percent of the vote. In 1994, opposition parties won a majority of seats
in parliament, in generally free and fair legislative elections. Even though
the Action Committee for Renewal (CAR) party led by Yawovi Agboyibo
had won more seats, Eyadema named Edem Kodjo, a former member of
the Eyadema government and head of the Togolese Union for Democracy
(TUD) a smaller opposition party as prime minister. Consequently,
Agboyibos CAR pulled out of the coalition government, forcing Kodjo
and the TUD to ally with Eyademas RPT.
The RPT continued to gain strength in the parliament, causing Kodjo
to resign in 1996 and leaving Eyadema once again in full control of the
government. Presidential and legislative elections in 1998 and 1999 were
fraudulent. Subsequent elections were delayed as the opposition refused to
participate due to a high probability of electoral fraud. Meanwhile
Agboyibo leader of CAR remained imprisoned for an alleged 2001
libeling of the prime minister. Although Eyadema freed Agboyibo in
March 2002, the political impasse continued. Eyadema then replaced the
electoral commission (CENI) with seven magistrates, who were selected to
oversee the elections that had been re-scheduled for October 2002. In
protest to this action, the opposition boycotted the elections. Eyademas
RPT easily won control of the parliament, which subsequently amended
the constitution and allowed Eyadema to run for unlimited terms.
Moreover, Eyadema began preparations to ensure that his son, Faure
Gnassingbe, would succeed him. In 2002, two constitutional amendments
were passed: the first one prevented people who lived in Togo for less than
twelve consecutive months from running as presidential candidates; and
the second lowered the minimum presidential age requirement from 40 to
35. The purpose of the first amendment was to bar Gilchrist Olympio,
leader of the Union of Forces for Change (UFC) party, who lived in France
in exile, from running for president. The second amendment sought to
pave the way to transfer power to Faure Gnassingbe. Eyadema ran for reelection in June 2003, and won 57 percent of the vote. The opposition
made accusations of fraud, but their charges could not be verified as inter-



national bodies opted against sending election monitors because they did
not want their presence to legitimize the elections.
Events took a dramatic turn when President Eyadema died unexpectedly of heart failure on February 5, 2005. According to Article 65 of the
Togolese Constitution, the speaker of the National Assembly temporarily
assumes the presidency upon the death of the president and new presidential elections are to be held within 60 days of the presidents death. Upon
Eyademas passing, however, the army sealed Togos borders, thereby preventing Fambare Ouattara Natchaba speaker of the National Assembly
and a member of the small Tchokossi ethnic group who happened to be on
an official trip to Belgium at the time from returning to Lom to assume
the presidency. Instead, on February 6, the army appointed Eyademas son,
Faure Gnassingbe, as president of Togo, and the parliament controlled by
the governing party immediately altered the Constitution to allow
Gnassingbe to serve out the remainder of his fathers term (that is, until
2008). National and international condemnation forced Gnassingbe to
turn over the presidency on February 26 to Abass Bonfoh, his hand-picked
speaker of the National Assembly. Gnassingbes decision to relinquish the
presidency to Bonfoh marked yet another constitutional contravention, as
the presidency should have been assumed by the previous speaker of the
National Assembly, Fambare Ouattara Natchaba.
The obvious task before the Togolese government at this time was to
hold presidential elections. The date for the elections became a contentious
issue because of the lack of clarity of Article 65. Togos Constitution states
that if the President dies, the electoral body must be convened within 60
days to choose a new leader.4 The interpretation of this clause caused confusion between RPT and the political opposition. Both sides could not
agree whether the clause stated elections had to be held in 60 days or
whether they were supposed to be announced within 60 days from when
the presidency was vacated. At the urging of the Economic Community of
West African States (ECOWAS), it was decided that the count for the 60
days would begin after the date Mr. Bonfoh assumed the presidency.
On March 3, 2005, Bonfoh announced that new presidential elections
would be held on April 24, 2005, within the 60 days mandated by Article
65 of the Constitution. Sensing the possibility of fraud in an election to
be arranged in such a short span of time, and with little opportunity to
mobilize its forces for a fair campaign, the opposition quickly but unsuc4 West African leaders to aid new Togo rulers, Afrol News, March 1 2005, /15817.



cessfully urged the postponement of the election. In addition, the opposition faced the challenge of building a united front against RPT. This was
because Gilchrist Olympio decided to run regardless of the fact the constitution barred him from doing so.5 To improve their chances of winning,
opposition forces decided to rally behind Emmanuel Bob-Akitani, vice
president of Gilchrist Olympios UFC, who had run against Eyadema in
2003. Faure Gnassingbe announced that he would compete in the election
as the RPT candidate.
While the candidates campaigned, the government launched a tenday initiative to update voter registration logs. Over 450,000 new voters
were registered, 100,000 names were stricken from the record and two
million voters received new identification cards.6 Three and a half million voters were registered for the April 24 elections, which were held at
5,300 polling stations across the country. The opposition, however,
reported cases in which their supporters did not receive identity cards and
were therefore not able to register. Further accusations were made that
the only people allowed to register were voters who were not of age to
vote in the 2003 elections.
As a result of these accusations, demonstrations broke out in the capital on April 6, with protesters blaming France, ECOWAS and the entire
international community for ignoring issues of electoral fraud. The protestors and the opposition also demanded more time to allow for voter
registration and identity card distribution and continued their call for the
postponement of the elections. The protests spread to the interior of the
country and, on April 8, police opened fire on a demonstration in
Tabligbo, killing one person and injuring others. ECOWAS attempted
to hold peace talks to curtail the violence; however, the opposition
refused to participate, claiming the meeting would be futile unless the
election was postponed.
Two days prior to the elections Minister of the Interior Francois Boko
predicted civil war. Anticipating significant violence he then took refuge in
the German Embassy. On election day, in the pro-Gnassingbe north, voter
turnout was over 90 percent, while in the opposition south it was as low as
5 In the words of Leopold Gninivi, the leader of the Democratic Convention of the African
People party (CDPA), an opposition party, Gilchrist announcing his candidacy worried
us. Togo: ECOWAS says no elections before 24 April, Olympio plans to stand, UN
Integrated Regional Information Network, March 3, 2005,
6 Togo: Police shoot dead opposition protestor, UN Integrated Regional Information
Network, July 14, 2005,; WACSOF, op. cit. p. 9 .



44 percent. Many irregularities were reported during the elections, including: intimidation of voters, attempts to stuff ballot-boxes in precincts
where opposition monitors were not granted access, violent seizure of
uncounted ballots in Lom by armed soldiers and an absence of monitors
during the vote counting and collation process.7 Faure Gnassingbe was
announced winner of the election on April 26, 2005, with 60.22 percent
of the vote; Bob-Akitani received 38.19 percent.
In an effort to discourage electoral violence, regional governments led
by Nigerias President Olusegun Obasanjo pressured Gnassingbe to meet
with opposition leader Gilchrist Olympio, which led to an agreement to
form a government of national unity.8 (Bob Akitani did not attend the
meeting because of a sudden decline in his health.) The gesture, however,
did not ease tensions in Togo. Opposition protests erupted to condemn
the outcome of the election. Protests degenerated into violence as
Gnassingbes supporters bussed in from the north clashed with opposition forces. As the violence spread, attacks on nationals from France,
Lebanon, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger began. Some of these attacks led
to the death of Malian, Nigerian, and Burkinabe nationals.
The Togolese League of Human Rights (TLHR) estimated there were
800 fatalities caused by the violence between March 28 and May 5, 2005.
There were also reports that 4,345 people were injured. Official numbers
from a commission appointed by Gnassingbe suggested that 100 people
had been killed and 2,000 injured. As many as 40,000 people (mostly after
the elections) fled the violence, crossing the Togolese borders into Benin
and Ghana. Despite the violence, Gnassingbe declared his intention to
form a government of national unity. This proposal was promptly rejected by Olympio, who countered with a demand for new elections by 2007.
On May 19, 2005, two weeks after Gnassingbes inauguration, the
main opposition parties including Olympio met with Gnassingbe in
Abuja, Nigeria to discuss a government of national unity. The opposition
set forth the following three conditions before it would agree to participate:
the government must cease harassment of opposition supporters, allow the
safe return of those who had fled the country and compensate the victims
of violence; open a full investigation into allegations of electoral fraud; and
agree to a dialogue facilitated by the international community to shape
the transitional power-sharing arrangement.
7 WACSOF, op. cit., p. 12.
8 Togo: Talks on forming government of national unity end in failure, UN Integrated
Regional Information Network, July 14, 2005,



No agreement was reached in Abuja. Gnassingbe ended all hopes for a

government of national unity on June 21, 2005, when he presented his
government. Of the 30 appointed cabinet members, five had served in the
previous government. He appointed Edem Kodjo, who had served briefly
as prime minister under his father, as head of government. A majority of
the key security appointments went to RPT members including the
appointment of his brother, Kpatcha Gnassingbe, as minister of defense.
Some improvement seemed to take place when Gnassingbe and
Olympio met in Rome on July 22, 2005, at the request of the Catholic
community of SantEgidio. During this meeting, they agreed to condemn
and stop the ongoing political violence, release political prisoners arrested
during the election and cooperate for the return of the nearly 60,000
refugees that had fled the violence.
Life in Togo has returned to relative calm as a result of Gnassingbes and
opposition leaders joint condemnation of violence. Approximately 1,000
Togolese nationals returned to Togo, largely due to individual decisions
rather than any specific action to encourage their return on the part of the
Togolese government or the opposition.9 An amnesty is being mulled for
those allegedly responsible for violence that occurred after opposition
protests against the April 24 election.10 According to a September 1 statement issued by Togos foreign minister, President Gnassingbe called for the
release of all people implicated in the electoral violence.11 In addition, the
government has appointed a National Commission of Enquiry to investigate human rights violations associated with the elections. In August
2005, the head of the commission, former Prime Minister Joseph Kokou
Koffigoh, stated that its work could begin but findings are not expected
before September 2006.12
In October 2005, President Gnassingbe stated his intentions to hold
legislative elections as soon as conditions acceptable to all parties were
achieved. Skepticism runs high on this issue, particularly within media circles. Francis Pedro Amouzou, president of the Media Observatory (a privately run media watchdog), asks, Who will go out and vote after what

9 Togo: President pledges quick parliamentary polls, but is the country ready, UN
Integrated Regional Information Network, October 25, 2005,
10 Ibid.
11 Global News Wire Latin America, Africa, Asia News Wire September 1, 2005.
12 Commission d enquete: rapport en Septembre,August 29, 2005,



we lived through, unless the dispute over the election is settled?13 As the
constitution stipulates that the parliament cannot be dissolved until its full
term is completed, in 2007, an earlier timetable might prove impossible.
On February 2, 2006, the government announced its decision to hold
a national dialogue in Ougadougou.14 The governments decision roused
the opposition and Togolese civil society in and outside of Togo and
prompted communiqus that referred to the framework as a guide for further dialogue. The communiqus also indicate a deficit in public confidence for the process primarily because no facilitator has been identified to
mediate the dialogue. The government has stated that its decision for not
appointing a facilitator is based on the failure of the Lom Framework and
the Ouagadougou Accord, which were both brokered by international
facilitators. 15 To ease tensions surrounding the dialogue the Community of
SantEgidio held discussions with the government and some opposition
parties.16 The opposition parties involved pulled out of the discussions
because they were not sufficiently inclusive of all of Togos political stakeholders, and demanded a dialogue that includes the EU, the Catholic
Community of SantEgidio, the UN, and the AU.17 In April, however the
dialogue resumed in Lome.18
Reforms to Togos broadcasting and press code to reduce penalties for
slander and defamation and protect freedom of expression were adopted in
October 200519 and have been well-received by advocacy groups as an

13 Togo: President pledges quick parliamentary polls, but is the country ready, UN
Integrated Regional Information Network, October 25, 2005,
14 Rendez-vous a Ouaga, February 2, 2006,
15 Communique relative a la reprise du dialogue inter Togolais, February 15, 2006,; and
J. Viana, Communique de la D.T. F. Relatif au dialogue inter Togolaise: Dialogue au Togo
la Proposition de la DTF, February 18, 2006,
16 Le dialogue parallele de SantEgidio qui complique la crise togolaise, March 8, 2006,
17 Communique de presse sur le dialogue national et la mediation SantEgidio, March 8,
18 Le president du Parlement invite a la reprise du dialogue politique, April 11, 2006,; and Dialogue: lheure dune nouvelle generation dhommes
politques, XINHUA, April 26, 2006, ; and Togo : outward calm belies continuing problems ,, April 26, 2006,; and Dialogue: possibilite de former un nouveau gouvernement et dappeler a la reprise de la cooperation Togo,
April 26, 2006,
19 II souffl un vent de libert sur le Togo, August 26, 2005,



example to be followed.20 There is also tangible evidence that civil society

in Togo is maturing. A new political party named National Democratic
Alliance (NDA) was recently established by former RPT members, who
were critical of the ruling party. One of the partys main goals is to reduce
the influence of ethnic divisions in Togo.21
While there are signs of progress, there are also signs to the contrary. As
recently as October 24, 2005, Jean-Baptiste Dzilan, a journalist and member of the TLHR, was brutally attacked. The media in Togo fear that this
is an intimidation tactic meant to obstruct freedom of expression and compromise the independence of the media. On March 26 Togo hosted a
media conference with over 100 representatives of African and French
media in attendance. The conference discussed how the media in Togo
could be strengthened.22 With regard to reconciliation, Gnassingbes
promises to begin a truth and reconciliation process have yet to come to
fruition. However, steps have been taken to narrow the divide between the
RPT and the opposition by decreeing a revision of Togolese history. The
revision aims to correct misrepresentations of prominent Togolese political
leaders, such as the late Sylvanus Olympio. The recent celebration of Togos
Independence Day (proper) in 38 years is also another example of
President Gnassingbes attempt to reconcile the country.23 Prior to this, the
national day of celebration commemorated Eyademas coup against
Sylvanus Olympio. Gnassingbe is also undertaking steps to reform the
judiciary. The media indicates that his attempts at reconciliation have
been received poorly because they are seen as insensitive to the political
mood of the country and inadequately addressing the grievances associated with the elections.24 Moderate reforms have still occurred within the
parameters set by the profound distortion of the democratic process after
Eyedamas death.

20 Presse new look au Togo, August 25, 2005,

21 Togo: President pledges quick parliamentary polls, but is the country ready,,
October 25, 2005,
22 Minister wants Togo media to undertake a self critique, March 29, 2006,; and Lome to host international meeting on Togo press,
March 26, 2006,
23 L opposant Gilchrist Olympio de retour au pays pour feter lindependence Togo, April
26, 2006, http:/
24 Le Togo, loin d tre sur la voie de lapaisement, January 10, 2006,



The International Response

The international responses to the interruptions in Togos rocky transition
to democracy over the last 16 years have varied considerably, ranging from
a post-colonial concern for stability over democracy to a more coordinated
and, at times, intense effort to move Togo down the democratic path.

1990-2005: Punitive Measures and Political Dialogue

In June 1990, after years of French official support to the Eyadema regime,
President Francois Mitterand re-oriented his countrys Africa policy to
make democratization a condition for French aid.25 Frances position as
Togos main bilateral aid donor and trade partner forced Eyadema at least
on the surface to comply. Consequently, Togos political system began to
open and established its first transitional government in 1991. However,
despite its new policy, France did not intervene to stabilize Togos transition during the 1991-1992 military reprisals or the kidnapping of Prime
Minister Koffigoh.26
In 1993, the situation began to change when France and Germany
organized a dialogue between the Togolese government and the opposition
in an effort to reinitiate Togos political transition.27 At this time Germany
suspended its aid to Togo. Prior to this Togo had received 630 million euro
in German aid between 1960 and 1991.28 When the French-GermanTogolese dialogue faltered, Benin stepped in and attempted to re-start the
democratic process. Benin and France convinced Eyadema to sign the
Ouagadougou Agreement, which called for a reorganization of the electoral commission (CENI), international observers for the 1993 elections
and a security role for non-Togolese military during the elections.
Nonetheless, the opposition boycotted the 1993 presidential elections out
of fear of electoral fraud.
Punitive responses from the EU and the United States followed,
notably the suspension of economic aid. France suspended civilian aid but
continued supplying military aid. The suspension of French aid was a

25 J. Seely, op. cit, p. 30; Quoted in P. Robinson, The National Conference Phenomenon in
Francophone Africa, in Comparative Studies in Society and History, July 1994, p. 589.
26 J. Seely, op. cit, p. 34.
27 J. Walker, The Relationship Between Africa and the European Union: Sanctioning Politics
and the Politics of Sanctions: The EU, France and Development Aid in Togo, London
School of Economics, 2003, p. 5.
28 Relations between Togo and Germany,



short-term and temporary measure, as it resumed on September 28,

1994.29 The US, however, went further by closing its USAID office in
Lom, administering local development programs from Accra, Ghana vis-vis its West African Regional Program (WARP).
The European Union observer team for the 1998 presidential elections
declared the elections fraudulent, leading France to suspend both civilian
and military aid to Togo. As documented in an Amnesty International
report, the 1998 presidential elections exposed how rampant human rights
violations were in Togo. Nonetheless, in 1999, French President Jacques
Chirac joined the Togolese government in declaring that the Amnesty
International report was not credible.30
Before the 1999 legislative elections, history repeated itself when the
opposition boycotted the elections, fearing an inequitable election outcome. In this instance, the EU, France, Germany, and La Francophonie
responded by pressuring President Eyadema, the RPT and the opposition
to sign the Lom Agreement. The agreement stipulated that Eyadema
would not attempt to alter the Constitution to allow him to seek an additional term as president; called for negotiation of the legal status of opposition leaders; and addressed the rights and duties of political parties and
the media, the safe return of refugees, the security of all citizens and compensation for victims of political violence. After the Lom Agreement was
signed, in July 1999 France resumed aid to Togo.31
Prior to Eyademas death, his son Gnassingbe led a Togolese delegation
to engage the EU on resuming its cooperation with Togo. The EU-Togo
Agreement, signed on April 14, 2004, committed Togo to 22 pre-conditions for EU aid and full cooperation. These required the Togo government to make a full commitment to democracy and the holding of new
elections. The EU stated that Togo would not receive a promised 40 million euro aid package until these engagements are fulfilled. The EUs
position is based on the 1999 Cotonou Agreement with African
Caribbean Pacific (ACP) states. Articles 8, 9 and 10 of that agreement
explicitly state that development aid to ACP countries will be used to
promote human rights, open systems of governance, protection of individual freedoms and transparent governance. Article 96 of the agreement

29 J. Walker, op. cit., p. 6.

30 French President Dismisses Amnesty Report, BBC, July 23, 1999,
31 J. Walker, op. cit. p. 6; Ambassade de France au Togo, La Politique de la France au Togo,



states that the EU may suspend aid if any ACP member state fails to promote democratic principles.32
The 22 engagements set forth in the EU-Togo Agreement require the
Togolese government to democratize its political system, which includes:
establishing a national dialogue with civil society and opposition parties;
releasing political prisoners held on the basis of their opposition to the government; guaranteeing all political parties equal access to the media and
public funds; committing to the holding of parliamentary elections in
accordance with the Lom Framework; reforming the electoral code; establishing an internal Commission on Human Rights; reforming the judiciary to ensure its independence; bringing the broadcasting and press code
up to international standards; ensuring that military and security forces
receive training on human rights protection; and guaranteeing justice in
the form of prosecution of known human rights violators.
Complementing the EUs decision to engage Togo, in 2003, France
reaffirmed its commitment to promoting democracy. It provided 1 million
euros in aid under the Fonds de Solidarite Prioritaire (Priority Solidarity
Fund), a poverty reduction initiative aimed at promoting socio-economic
development and consolidating democracy.33 On November 14, 2004, the
EU expressed some satisfaction with the actions taken by the Togolese government and announced that it would partially resume aid to Togo. This
decision came as a result of the release of around 500 political prisoners
and steps taken to reform the broadcasting and press code. Despite these
steps, the EU expressed its overall concern regarding the slow progress
made on human rights. In sum, in the years prior to 2005, the EU had on
several occasions adopted punitive measures against Togo, several times
partially resumed co-operation, and defined a detailed plan of democratic
reform as a pre-condition to full EU-Togo partnership.

Responses to the 2005 Coup

Gnassingbes unconstitutional succession to the presidency upon his
fathers death prompted international condemnation. On February 9,
2005, just three days after the military-led coup, ECOWAS issued a communiqu deploring the situation in Togo and demanding that the Togolese
authorities attend a meeting with the ECOWAS Chairperson and

32 Cotonou Agreement, June 23, 2000,
33 Fonds de solidarit prioritaire,



President of Niger, Mamadou Tandja, within 24 hours. If the Togolese

government refused to comply, ECOWAS threatened to impose sanctions.
The United States also issued two statements, one condemning the
appointment of Faure Gnassingbe as president and one in support of an
ECOWAS and African Union (AU) resolution to the constitutional crisis.
Gnassingbe did not respond to this international pressure or to internal
pressure from domestic protests against his appointment, which resulted in
the death of six civil society activists and hundreds of injuries.
ECOWAS moved ahead by imposing sanctions on Togo on February
19, 2005. ECOWAS sanctions included a travel ban against Togolese leaders, a recall of all West African ambassadors and the suspension of military
and civilian links with Togo. The US issued a statement in support of the
ECOWAS sanctions, noting that the US government did not recognize
Gnassingbes appointment as legitimate and calling for him to step down
immediately. La Francophonie also imposed sanctions on Togo by suspending its membership to the organization. On February 21, the
Togolese Parliament responded by repealing the constitutional amendment
that had allowed Gnassingbe to complete his fathers presidential term, but
stopped short of calling for Gnassingbe to step down.
The African Union added its voice to those demanding Gnassingbes
resignation on February 25, by reaffirming the ECOWAS sanctions and
suspending Togos participation in the Union. The prohibition of Togos
participation in the AU is justified by Article 4 of the AU Act (2000) and
Article 7(g) of the Protocol Establishing the AU Peace and Security
Council (2002). Both articles condemn unconstitutional transfers of
power and allow the AU to impose sanctions deemed appropriate on any
member state where this occurs.
International efforts on the part of ECOWAS, La Francophonie, the
AU, EU and US succeeded in pressuring Gnassingbe to relinquish the
presidency on February 26, 2005; however, instead of handing power to
the constitutionally-designated successor, the parliament selected Abass
Bonfoh, whom Gnassingbe had appointed speaker during his brief reign,
as the interim president. Despite this questionable maneuver, both
ECOWAS and the AU lifted their respective sanctions.
The opposition was not alone in noting irregularities and calling for a
delay of the elections scheduled for April 24. The United States issued a
statement noting the reports of incomplete voter registration and uneven
distribution of voter cards. Ambeyi Ligabo, special rapporteur of the UN
Commission on Human Rights for Political Freedom of Opinion and
Expression, and Philip Alston, the special rapporteur on Extrajudicial,



Summary or Arbitrary Executions, released a joint statement of concern on

human rights violations and irregularities during the organization of the
elections. The EU called on the government to ensure a fair vote, noting
that the process and outcome of the elections would influence further aid
decisions. Even Togos interior minister, Francois Boko, publicly raised his
concerns about a possible civil war and called for the postponement of elections. This stance led to his dismissal from government.
Key democracy promotion organizations in the United States generally
aligned with US policy remained engaged in Togos political developments
in 2005. Their actions went beyond the US governments rhetoric supporting ECOWAS and AU sanctions and voiced concern regarding the
potential for fraudulent elections. For instance, the National Democratic
Institute (NDI), the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the
International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) undertook a joint
pre-election assessment of Togo prior to the April 24 elections.34 Their
findings, released on April 7, 2005, highlighted numerous deficiencies in
the electoral code, including a serious imbalance in the electoral commission (CENI) related to the under-representation of the opposition and civil
society.35 The teams emphasized that the lack of public confidence in the
judiciary could obstruct free and fair elections and that there was a significant risk of state-led violence. The premise of the latter argument was
based on the ambiguous role assigned to 3,500 members of the Togolese
security forces deployed prior to the elections. The team recommended
inter alia an extension of the electoral timetable, a revision of voter registry
and creation of a mechanism to address electoral grievances and reconcile
electoral disputes.
The April 24 elections were monitored by 150 ECOWAS observers,
one German observer and a number of local opposition observers. The EU
declined to send election monitors claiming that there was not enough
time to organize such a mission. France and ECOWAS both certified the
elections as basically free and fair, while noting some irregularities that they
claimed did not affect the outcome.
Following the elections, various attempts were made to facilitate reconciliation. The UN Secretary-General Representative in West Africa Ahmed
Ould Abdallah, President Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso, President

34 All three organizations are funded by US congressional appropriations or receive grants

from US agencies.
35 IFES, NDI, IRI, Togo Assessment Mission Releases Findings, April 17, 2005, p. 1;
WACSOF op. cit., p. 8.



Mathieu Kerekou of Benin and President Omar Bongo of Gabon were all
involved in facilitating the meeting between Olympio and Gnassingbe that
took place in Abuja, on May 19, 2005, to discuss a government of national unity. Shortly after the Abuja meeting, the AU Peace and Security
Council met in Addis Ababa and decided to send a special envoy to Togo
to facilitate dialogue between the government and the opposition.
On May 27, 2005, the African Union Commission appointed
Kenneth Kaunda, former president of Zambia, as special envoy of the
African Union to Togo, and gave him a mandate to facilitate dialogue
between the Togolese political parties. Mame Madior Boye, former prime
minister of Senegal, was appointed head of the AU Observer Mission and
charged with the mandate of assessing the political, social, security and
humanitarian developments, as well as the human rights situation.
However, the envoys never reached Togo as AU Chairman and Nigerian
President Obasanjo repudiated their appointment, claiming Alpha Oumar
Konare, Chairperson of the AU Commission, did not consult with him
on this issue.36
Between 1999 and 2002, the UN leadership had been critical of the
Eyadema regime, particularly with regard to the two constitutional amendments designed to protect the government. UN Secretary-General Kofi
Annan issued several strong statements condemning these amendments for
failing to create a climate for political consensus or fair elections.37 In
2005, Annan issued similarly strong statements condemning the unconstitutional succession of power by Faure Gnassingbe.38 In addition, the UN
Secretariat supported the Abuja dialogue between President Gnassingbe
and the opposition in an effort to stem electoral violence.
In addition to facilitating dialogue, a delegation from the UN Office of
the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) was sent to Togo,
in June 2005, to investigate human rights abuses associated with the 2005
presidential elections. The eleven-day mission also received a mandate to
make recommendations for national reconciliation and repatriation of
refugees. The OHCHR mission concluded that between 400 and 500 people died during the period in question and found evidence of other gross

36 Panapress, Abuja, July 9, 2005,
37 J. Hule, Annan Criticises Amendments to Togos Electoral Law, Financial Times
Information Panafrican News Agency Daily Newswire, February 14, 2002.
38 New Electoral Code Draws National, International Criticism,, February 14,



human rights violations. On the subject of post-election violence,

OHCHR found that the opposition, military, police and RPT all participated in actions to incite the violence. The OHCHR emphasized, however, that Togos military forces, in particular the Red and Green Berets, were
especially violent toward civilian populations when compared to members
of the opposition. The UN report also confirmed that approximately
2,500 soldiers were equipped by the state with weapons to support the
RPT and repress demonstrators in the south. These soldiers were placed
under the command of Major Kouloum and received 20,000 CFA francs
from the state. There is evidence that the organization of this militia took
place at both the national and regional levels.39
On July 11, 2005, an EU team from the European Commissions
Development Directorate consulted with local representatives from
France, the UK and Germany along with civil society organizations, representatives from the media, members of the ruling RPT and the opposition.
These consultations highlighted areas that needed to be addressed to allow
the media to function independently during elections. These areas included reporting and publishing on political leaders and institutions, freedom
of political expression and state/military interference in the media. On
October 20, 2005, Togos new broadcasting and press code went into
effect, meeting EU conditionalities and international standards.
Between September and October 2005, the European Commission
(EC) began to place significant pressure on the Togolese government to
create a new body of electoral laws that would facilitate free and equitable
legislative elections. Commission president, Jos Manuel Barroso also
urged the Togolese government to establish a timetable with a fixed date
for legislative elections a call in fact dating back to 2002 when the EU
stated that democratic elections in Togo should abide by the governmentopposition pact signed in 1999. A key European concern was the governments placing of its supporters in the CENI.
In response to the EUs request for electoral reform, President
Gnassingbe established a commission including opposition parties and
civil society organizations to review Togos electoral laws.40 In support of
the Togolese governments action, the EU committed 8 million euros to
carry out a census, with the aim of implementing reforms in justice,

39 UN Togo Report, August 2005.

40 EU Wants New Parliamentary election in Togo, Ghanaian Chronicle Copyright AllAfrica,
Inc., September 17, 2004.



human rights and legislative elections. This commitment came with a

strongly worded statement by the EU pledging that it would strictly monitor progress in Togo over the next 24 months. The EU also stated that
further commitments for aid in the area of electoral reform are contingent
upon the Togolese governments fully complying with the EUs call for legislative elections.41

Assessing the International Response

On the surface, the international community of democratic states evolving response to political developments in Togo suggests a surprising degree
of coherence and assertiveness. In contrast to the dramatic gap between
Africa and the West on democracy promotion in Zimbabwe, the Togolese
case reveals a convergence of goals and tactics, at least in response to a military coup. Fearful of yet another West African civil war, key international actors found common ground in their desire to defuse the immediate
crisis. Nevertheless, a comprehensive African-EU-US strategy to consolidate Togos fledgling transition remains elusive. The EU deserves credit for
working diligently to press the government to dismantle the existing political deadlock, implement the Lom Framework, reform Togos Electoral
Code, enable the independence of the judiciary and the media, protect
human rights and ensure that political opposition and civil society organizations can promote their political interests. Yet, given Togos relative lack
of influence and power on the world stage and its vulnerability to outside
pressure, more could have been accomplished.
To the extent that West Africa is one of the continents most coupprone sub-regions, the fact that ECOWAS, the AU, EU and US attempted and helped reverse Gnassingbes coup represents a significant success.
The principal international actors that responded in this case implemented a balanced mixture of sanctions, mediation and rhetoric that proved sufficient to reverse the coup. Generally speaking, these actors, who are members of the Community of Democracies, fulfilled their commitment to
discourage and resist the threat to democracy posed by the overthrow of
constitutionally-elected governments, as outlined by the Warsaw
Declaration, as well as similar commitments made by ECOWAS, AU and
EU member states. The international community failed, however, to
demand respect for democratic laws and practices in the subsequent elections, thus allowing Gnassingbe to assume power through manipulated

41 Ibid.



elections. In its failure vigorously to oppose this action, the international

community lost the opportunity to shift Togos political course away from
the legacy of autocracy.
The US response to the 2005 coup did not go further than a strong
condemnation of Gnassingbes actions and support for ECOWAS and AU
sanctions. US-funded non-governmental organizations (NGOs), including NDI, IRI and IFES, identified institutional weaknesses that could have
affected the outcome of the April 2005 elections. However, these recommendations lacked the necessary financial, logistical and human resources
that would have allowed them to make any meaningful change on the
ground. In fairness, their presence was not welcomed by the Togolese government; consequently, their actions were significantly frustrated. Current
US policy appears to have adopted a wait and see approach. In terms of
democracy promotion, USAID supports a small grant program designed to
support short-term activities in the area of human rights and democracy
promotion through the Democracy and Human Rights Fund (DHRF).42
The United States does not maintain the same degree of influence that the
EU or France enjoy in Togo. However, in light of the high priority
Washington places on democracy promotion, its response to the ongoing
political turmoil in Togo has been disappointing.
The African response to the political crisis in Togo demonstrates both
change and continuity. Most African states ignored Eyademas control over
Togo for most of the 38 years he ruled. Ironically, Togo, along with
Nigeria under the late dictator Sani Abacha, assumed the lead in establishing the Economic Communitys Cease Fire Monitoring Group (ECOMOG). In 1990, ECOMOG intervened in Liberias civil war to restore
order and create conditions conducive to free and fair elections; and in
1991, the organization intervened in Sierra Leones civil war to reverse the
coup that toppled the Tejan Kabbah regime. However, during the ten
years of ECOMOG interventions in other countries, Eyadema stole successive elections, by amending consecutively the constitution to secure his
regime and by using the military to intimidate civil society. ECOWAS
inaction in this context can be understood as a demonstration of its concern for peace and security over democratic legitimacy, or, more cynically,
as a clear case of the old boys club protecting the status quo.
On the other hand, the immediate steps taken by ECOWAS and AU
leaders to reverse Gnassingbes succession in 2005 signal real progress in




Africas record of democracy promotion. The sanctions enforced by

ECOWAS on Togo, the AUs decision to prevent Togo from participating
in AU activities and AU support for ECOWAS sanctions had the intended effect of reversing Gnassingbes coup. In doing so, African leaders
upheld their commitment to preserve constitutionally-elected governments in the region in accordance with the AU Act, the New Partnership
for African Development, the ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and
Good Governance and the 1999 Protocol establishing the ECOWAS
Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution,
Peacekeeping and Security.
Principally motivated by concerns for regional peace and security,
African leaders (some democratically elected, others not) in particular,
Presidents Tandja of Niger, Obasanjo of Nigeria, Compaore of Burkina
Faso, Kerekou of Benin, Bongo of Gabon and ECOWAS Executive
Secretary Mohammed Ibn Chambas were instrumental in enforcing
sanctions on Togo and/or facilitating talks that curbed electoral violence
in Togo.
In Togos case, the AUs actions were commendable, as it employed
strong rhetoric as a measure to promote a united front against Gnassingbes
presidency. The AU implemented this instrument with Burkina Faso and
Libya in February 2005, when it advised both member states not to pursue foreign policies that went against the AUs official stance towards
Gnassingbes coup.43 Through this action, the AU sought to reaffirm a
united position against unconstitutional succession of power. In this
instance, the Union was successful in achieving its objective.
Nevertheless, the AU committed a serious mistake when Nigerian
President Obasanjo, the then acting AU chairperson, recalled the AU
Observer Mission and its special envoy to Togo, which had been sent to
facilitate government-opposition talks. In doing so, Obasanjo lost a critical opportunity to influence a process that could have eventually led to the
formation of a government of national unity. The AUs decision to deploy
both an envoy and an observer mission was an appropriate and well-suited
measure in terms of managing the political deadlock between the RPT,
UFC and other opposition members. The recall of these deployments,
allegedly on grounds of poor internal coordination and political disputes
amongst AU leadership, but more likely due to Nigerias assertion of its tra-

43 AU Reiterates Support for West African Efforts to End Togo Crisis, Voice of America,
February 25, 2005.



ditional hegemony over its neighbors, was a serious misstep. To some

Togolese the AU is seen as having picked sides, some have the opinion
that Obasanjo is pro-Gnassingbe while Konare is against Gnassingbe.44
Upholding the Togolese Constitutions integrity put ECOWAS in a
precarious situation. Along with the rest of the international community,
ECOWAS was acutely aware of the possibility of fraudulent elections.
Togolese citizens hoped ECOWAS would place pressure on Togo to suspend elections and thereby allow time for the opposition to mobilize an
effective campaign; however, ECOWAS did not have a legal basis for arguing against complying with Article 65 of the Togolese Constitution, which
without precise clarity requires elections to be held within 60 days of a
presidents death or resignation. In terms of coherence, ECOWAS could
not, on the one hand, demand respect for constitutional integrity in Togo
and, on the other, call for the suspension of the constitutionally-stipulated
electoral timetable.
Obviously, by not allowing adequate time for the preparation of campaigns and elections, Article 65 was designed to marginalize political opposition. Although it was aware of the underlying aim of Article 65, ECOWAS still endorsed the April 2005 elections, despite the blatant irregularities
that took place. Its endorsement came after its partial observation and
monitoring of the polls. ECOWAS observers did not observe the entire
collation process in Lom, voter lists or ballot counting. This inaction raises serious questions about the sub-regions commitment to a genuine democratic process in Togo. ECOWAS presence during the elections was
intended to ensure that they were administered freely and fairly. In terms
of aim and efficacy, ECOWAS failed considerably on both counts. In the
words of a leading West African civil society group, ECOWAS endorsement of Togos elections has damaged the organizations image, particularly its involvement in supporting fledging democracies.45
The ECOWAS Supplementary Protocol on Democracy and Good
Governance calls upon ECOWAS member states to engage civil society
in electoral matters.46 A similar provision is made in Section 3 Article 15
of Togos Electoral Code. Regardless of either of these provisions, harassment of Togolese opposition observers was allowed, thereby calling into
question their efficacy as monitors. On the sub-regional level, 26 repre-

44 Personal correspondence, interview with anonymous source.

45 WACSOF, op. cit., p. 13.
46 Article 8, ECOWAS Supplementary Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance.



sentatives of the West African Civil Society Forum were denied access to
the polls as observers.47 This action clearly contravenes international standards in electoral conduct. Nonetheless, the US, EU, UN, AU and
ECOWAS stood aside and allowed the breach to occur, thereby missing
an opportunity to use financial leverage or influence to make the electoral
process equitable. The overall quality of response from the international
community was poor in this instance and clearly was inconsistent with
democratic principles.
The EUs efforts to use the incentive of a 40 million euro aid package
to condition the implementation of reforms in the area of justice, human
rights and elections48 has had a mixed effect. For example, recent EU,
French, German and British consultations with relevant Togolese parties
regarding the broadcasting and press code have contributed towards making some tangible progress in terms of consolidating democracy. EU aid
conditionalities have proved successful in coaxing the Togolese government
to move the country towards a democratic path. The EUs role in promoting democracy serves as an example of how important a large, financiallycapable, third party intervener can be to promoting democracy.
Aid conditionalities have often given regimes that are determined to
protect the status quo the opportunity to appease donor community
demands and ensure economic aid continues to flow, while simultaneously protecting themselves locally. President Gnassingbes tendencies in this
regard are demonstrated by the composition of his cabinet and the
National Commission of Enquiry, as well as the governments inadequate
response to the UN OHCHRs report. The impact of EU aid conditionalities on these issues remains an open question.
French national policy in Togo paints a similarly mixed picture. French
participation in brokering the Ouagadogou Accord and the Lom
Framework Agreement was appropriate in terms of its efforts to open
Togos political system and move the country towards democracy. Yet these
agreements ultimately failed, mainly because of internal factors associated
with Eyademas stronghold on the military, which was supported by
France. Frances lack of intervention in Togos first transitional government, its brief and soft suspensions of economic and military aid, denial of
human rights violations in Togo during the 1998 presidential elections and

47 WACSOF, op. cit., pp. 5 and 11.

48 Togo to Receive 8M Euros from EU for Parliamentary Polls, Census, BBC Monitoring
International Reports Global Newswire-Asia Africa Intelligence Wire, September 28, 2005.



legitimization of the 2005 Togolese presidential elections were all factors

that worked against democracy. All of these factors lead one to conclude
that French interests are more in line with supporting the status quo rather
than supporting Togos transition to democracy.
Between 1994 and 2005, EU attempts to influence Togos democratization process focused heavily on elections. During the past five years, the
EU made demands for elections to be administered in accordance with the
conditions stipulated in the Lom Framework. When presidential elections were announced in 2005, the EU was aware that the political climate
in Togo was not conducive to free and fair proceedings. Regardless of this
the EU continued to engage Togo on aid resumption within the framework
outlined by the 22 EU engagements agreed to by Togo. The EU then
denounced the 2005 election process. Some member states admonished
France for sanctioning the elections. This decision by the EU sent mixed
signals and raised doubts about its intentions.
Aside from statements in support of the AU and ECOWAS efforts to
reverse the February 2005 coup, the international community did not
work together to resolve the political crisis that broke out after the April
2005 elections. Instead the EU, Germany, the UK and, to some degree,
France have relied almost solely on economic aid conditionalities to
prompt change in Togo. Furthermore, EU policies in Togo demonstrate
some level of imbalance, insofar as there is an overwhelming emphasis on
elections instead of efforts aimed at enhancing civil society capabilities and
de-politicizing the military. Finally, EU policies have not fully engaged relevant sub-regional actors that could assist in furthering democracy in Togo.

The EU, as the leading international actor in democracy promotion in
Togo, is placing considerable emphasis on legislative elections, electoral
reform and power sharing as a means to promote more equitable and open
systems of governance. It makes sense that these issues are at the forefront
of the EUs agenda as a means to resolve the longstanding political deadlock. It is important, however, that the EU and other like-minded actors
remain keenly aware that elections are not the only measure of democracy.
While elections generally signal the genesis of democratic change, in a case
like Togo, it is imperative to approach future elections cautiously given
Togos 38-year history of repression and manipulated elections.
Furthermore, it is evident that the democratic legitimacy of the current
Togolese regime remains fragile. Complicating matters further, a war



infrastructure exists in Togo that is demonstrated by deep antagonistic

political divisions between the north and south, which often have played
out violently. Another round of elections void of proper safeguards and a
level playing field could have disastrous effects.
Aside from elections, meaningful political development in Togo is contingent on establishing greater civilian checks on military power, building
confidence among different sectors and more broadly creating symmetry
between governance and security. This view takes three factors into
account. First, the military under Eyadema was used to repress competitors for political power. Second, the security forces engaged in gross
human rights violations against civilians opposed to the outcome of the
2005 presidential elections. Third, elections in Togo have been used to
build a faade of democracy, resulting in an even more pronounced mistrust of public institutions.
The August 2005 UN OHCHRs report urges Togolese authorities to
collaborate with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
(UNHCR) to repatriate refugees created by the 2005 electoral violence. At
present, approximately 40,000 Togolese nationals reside along the Togolese
borders with Benin and Ghana. Considering the desperate environs of
refugee camps and the mounting frustrations of Togolese nationals with
their government, the refugee explosion across the region, if not handled
promptly, presents the potential for border conflicts that could escalate to
even more violent conflict. Violence has already occurred along the
Togolese-Beninese border.49
Immediately repatriating Togolese nationals would not serve the goal of
building a secure democracy in Togo. Togolese nationals did not flee their
country because of war or a humanitarian crisis. They fled because they
faced death, torture and harassment from the military due to their opposition to the electoral process. Essentially, they fled because of a lack of confidence in the states ability to guarantee their political and human security. These background considerations condition the following set of policy
recommendations that the international community of democratic states
should adopt to reconcile opposing forces and thereby restore confidence
in the democratic process in Togo.

49 Les refugies desertent le camp d Agame apres de violents heurts avec villageois, February
17, 2006, IRIN, Cotonou, Benin,



Encourage Gnassingbe to establish a truth

and reconciliation commission.
The AU should encourage Gnassingbe to establish a truth and reconciliation commission in consultation with civil society, members of the opposition and the RPT and a timeline should be adopted for its implementation. Such a commission should consist of politically-neutral academics
and members of Togos and West Africas religious community experienced
in justice and reconciliation. It should guarantee compensation for all
Togo nationals unduly forced into exile as well as those who suffered economic or psychological hardship at the hands of the Eyadema regime,
whether in or outside of Togo. Compensation, however, should be contingent on legal proof of economic or psychological hardship. It is reasonable
to assume that the Togolese judiciary would not garner sufficient public
confidence to allow it to be effective in administering a reconciliation
process.50 A truth commission comprised of the proposed mix of actors
would help de-politicize the reconciliation process and set the conditions
that could encourage the return of Togo nationals.
The AU should approach the UN, and African and non-African human
rights organizations about establishing an international follow-up committee consisting of reputable and neutral Togolese civil society organizations,
representatives of WACSOF and the West African Network for
Peacebuilding (WANEP), the United States and the European Union. The
committee should be mandated to monitor Togos progress on the issue of
reconciliation. Such an international follow-up committee could serve as
a forum through which confidence could be instilled into the reconciliation process. A step like this is necessary largely because the political institutions upon which the government and EU are attempting to build
democracy remain fragile. In taking the lead, the AU should be extremely cognizant of displaying a united front on the issue of reconciling Togo.
The rift that erupted between then AU Chairman Obasanjo and the present AU Commission Chairperson Konare depleted a level of trust Togolese
had in the organization.

50 International Commission of Jurists, Togo Attacks on Justice 2002, Center of

Independence of Judges & Lawyers series, August 27, 2002,



The EU and UN should designate funds to

compensate Togolese refugees.
A fund should be established to compensate refugees of the 2005 electoral
violence for the psychological and economic hardships they endured during their exile. Such a refugee fund would help alleviate economic, health,
food and shelter needs of the repatriated community. A partnership
between the European Union, United Nations and politically neutral
NGOs on the ground should be established to oversee the disbursement of
monies designated for the refugee fund.
If and when Togo nationals decide to return to Togo, international
agencies and Togos donor community should ensure that compensation
for their loss is in place. The call for an EU-UN-NGO partnership to
establish a refugee fund would address the level of mistrust towards the
Togolese government among its nationals. A similar argument can be
made regarding Togolese civil society organizations, most of which have
been used by the government as back door patronage networks. The
minority that remains independent could face serious military-led repression if involved in repatriation activities. Making use of politically neutral
civil society organizations such as religious organizations would be appropriate given the nature of Togos political climate and the integrity and
trust these groups have among ordinary citizens. This status places them
in the most favorable position to administer monies to returnees in a transparent manner.

The EU and the US should pressure France to

condition its military cooperation agreements
with Togo on a broad range of democratic practices.
The European Union and United States could work with France on a package of technical military assistance that would feature the issue of subordinating the military to the civilian state. Programs administered by the US
Department of Defenses Africa Center for Strategic Studies could help
Togo build civilian leadership capacity in managing the military sector.
Emphasis should be placed on a clear division of labor between Togos civilian and military security forces, particularly on issues related to elections
and public demonstrations.
The international communitys interest in assisting Togo with security
sector reform would be a preventive measure. Togo is situated in a highly
politically-charged region that continues to face security challenges from
Nigerian oil politics, the fragile transitions of Liberia, Sierra Leone and



Guinea-Bissau, and the ongoing civil strife in Cote dIvoire. It is foreseeable that rising frustrations will continue to fester, which could lead to a
civil war in Togo. The lack of attention paid to rising frustrations during
the 1990s in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea-Bissau created some of the
most gruesome wars ever witnessed in the modern era. Togo presents an
opportunity to prevent a potential repeat of history.
Given the militarys position in Togo under Eyadema, it is likely that
the military will continue to expect similar support from President
Gnassingbe. Military grievances ranging from ethnic marginalization to
compensation, which have played out destructively in surrounding states
like Liberia and Sierra Leone, have not occurred in Togo largely due to an
intricate system of patronage between the state and the military.
Consequently, the military has become closely associated with Togolese
political institutions to the point where the boundaries between the two
are extremely blurred. This state of affairs has given the military the upper
hand, making it difficult to mount sufficient leverage to begin the process
of security reform. Until demarcations between political and military
institutions in Togo are clearly defined, democracy will not take root in any
meaningful way.
French involvement in its former African colonies has been motivated
by the desire to promote French cultural, military and financial presence as
a means to access natural resources. Considering that Togo receives considerable French military assistance, it would be safe to assume that the
issue of security sector reform in Togo could encounter French resistance.
After all, security sector reform would alter an economic and political policy that has served French interests well since Togos independence. The
involvement of a mixture of European governments and US organizations
could potentially dilute French opposition to security sector reform in
Togo. An added benefit of such pressure could cause France to re-think its
military cooperation policies throughout Francophone Africa. It is a wellknown fact that French military aid has been used to prop up dictators,
some of whom have created significant instability, war, and civil strife.

The EU should partner with WACSOF

to strengthen Togolese civil society.
Assistance to civil society should focus on civic education, particularly the
importance of an independent civil society for governance and capacitybuilding on electoral issues. A preliminary study to determine the profile
and capacity of respective civil society organizations should be undertaken
prior to capacity building.



One of the primary goals of the international community has been the
resolution of the political deadlock between the RPT, UFC and other
opposition parties. The approaches undertaken by the international community, specifically the EU and France, have focused more on political parties and less on civil society. The presence of political parties is vital for
ensuring accountability in governance but equally vital is a unified depoliticized civil society. If the intent is to narrow political divisions in Togo
and foster an environment conducive to building democracy, the international community should invest resources aimed at addressing the weak
position of civil society in Togo.
In such a highly politically-charged environment like Togo, WACSOFs
position as a sub-regional NGO could serve as a neutralizing force for what
might be a volatile process of de-politicizing Togolese civil society.
Furthermore, WACSOFs familiarity with Togolese civil society and the
fact that the organization consists of some of West Africas most prominent
civil society leaders would work to the benefit of an EU-WACSOF partnership in terms of identifying reputable civil society organizations to take
the lead in building Togolese civil societys capacity.

Push for constitutional and electoral

reforms to prevent further conflict.
The AU, ECOWAS, EU, UN, France and the US should engage the
Togolese government diplomatically and urge it to revise Article 65 and the
law precluding Togolese nationals in exile from running as presidential
candidates. The international community should engage Togolese activists
and former members of the government living in exile on electoral reform
issues. The Catholic Community of SantEgidio should be involved as a
mediator and facilitator on this issue.
Generally, African leaders have resisted democratic transfers of power
by manipulating instruments of the state to secure their regimes. President
Gnassingbe already did this by circumventing the constitutional rules on
succession to the presidency. It is no longer acceptable for African governments and the international community to continue along the road of not
enforcing fully international standards regarding democracy in African
states. Democratic erosion and decay do not emerge spontaneously; they
have clear warning signs that are detectable years in advance. One could
argue that President Gnassingbes infringement of the Togo Constitution is
one of those warning signs. The time between this past presidential election and the next one presents an opportunity for the African and broader
international community to prevent a future crisis, rather than having to



react to one later on. The most logical issue to address during this period
is Article 65 of the Togolese Constitution and the law preventing members
of the opposition and other Togolese nationals living in exile from running
as presidential candidates.
Under Eyadema, Togo was willing to live in isolation for twelve years.
An unprecedented opportunity has presented itself in the partial willingness of his son, President Gnassingbe, to respond to the international community. Recently, the international community employed a variety of
diplomatic tools to bring democratic change to Togo; however, it has faltered. It behooves the international community to reassess the approaches
it has chosen thus far to push Togo towards full democratization. The EU,
Africas democratic governments and other like-minded actors should be
mindful that assisting Togo in its democratic journey requires an unshakable commitment to reverse the asymmetry between governance and security, specifically with regard to political institutions and the military. A
commitment of this kind requires a shift in priorities, with less of a focus
on elections, more of a focus on security reform and civil society capacitybuilding, and a long-term commitment to a democratic Togo.


Chapter 3

Turkey is commonly exhibited as an inspiring example of how a powerful
external incentive, such as the prospect of membership to the European
Union (EU), can play a major role in propelling democratic change. Few
would doubt that the EU has played a significant causal role in Turkeys
process of incremental democratization. In particular, since Recep Tayyip
Erdogans Justice and Development Party (AKP) won power in 2002,
Turkey has inched towards democratic consolidation. The acceleration
and deepening of democratic reform occurred as the EU took a number of
steps that opened up and then rendered apparently more imminent the
prospect of Turkey joining the European club. Relative to the other cases
studied in this volume, Turkey is a case in which a qualitatively different
democracy promotion tool has been available: the carrot of admission to
the EU club of democracies, far more meaningful for and intrusive of
domestic politics than any other regional organization. On balance, this is
a case where the international community has firmly upheld its commitment, expressed for example in the inaugural Warsaw Declaration of the
Community of Democracies, to support democratic governance.
While the EU-Turkey relationship has been widely analyzed, such
assessments have adhered overwhelmingly to a single-track argument:
namely, that Turkeys reform process cannot be separated from the evolution of EU policy, and that the achievement of EU membership remains
crucial to the continuing momentum of Turkeys democratic deepening.
While largely in agreement with this standard assertion, this chapter offers
some variance to the assessment. Approaching the subject primarily from
a democracy promotion perspective rather than as a more general EU foreign policy project leads to some notable conclusions: democracy promotion per se has not in an obvious sense been the primary goal of European
efforts; ambivalence has pervaded the United States efforts to deepen dem-

1 Principal author, Richard Youngs, Coordinator of Democratization Program, FRIDE.



ocratic quality in Turkey; and it remains unclear how far external influences have actually embedded a democracy-deepening dynamic in Turkey.
Turkey is not quite as straightforward a case of democracy promotion success as might appear to be the case, and thus provides a mixed set of
insights for the international community of democracies.

The reform process undertaken by Turkish governments during the last
decade is of undeniable significance. The extent of change has taken
Turkey into the category of an essentially democratic state, albeit one still
short of full consolidation. The reach of democratic reform has entailed
an important shift in the political culture and institutional structure of the
country. Likewise, in the economic sphere, Turkey has made fundamental progress and can be regarded as a functioning market economy,
although with the firm need to maintain recent economic stabilization
and reform achievements.
During the 1990s, democratization efforts in Turkey suffered from
short-lived coalition governments, weak political leadership, a severe financial crisis, a strong influence of the military in politics and a heightened
security environment that was aggravated by the struggle against the
Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), as well as an uneasiness over an Islamic
resurgence in Turkish politics. While some reforms were implemented,
there were few signs of any profound change of political perspectives within the Kemalist elite. Changes were introduced to address basic human
rights issues, but without fundamental reform of military-dominated
power structures or to Turkeys state-centric strategic culture.
In 1997, the Turkish military eased out of power the Islamist-oriented
government of Necmettin Erbakan; the Constitutional Court then
banned the Islamist Refah party. The undramatic and gradualist manner
in which the military reasserted its control was widely dubbed Turkeys
post-modern coup. In the wake of this coup, the right-wing, antireform MHP (Nationalist Action Party) gained strength, winning a place
in a new coalition government. In 1999, a new government led by Blent
Ecevit more openly acknowledged existing democratic shortfalls. The
Ecevit government enacted two important constitutional reform packages,
changed numerous laws and regulations and revised the Civil Code that
dated back to the military government in 1928. Changes brought about
by over 30 constitutional amendments included the abolition of the death
penalty; the removal of military officers as judges in the State Security
Courts; the first steps towards widening broadcasting rights and education



in languages other than Turkish; a slightly reduced role of the militarydominated National Security Council; some improvements regarding
freedom of thought and expression; an expansion of the rights of religious
minorities; and a lifting of emergency statutes in parts of the southeast
region of the country.
Reforms were carried out at a faster pace and attained broader coverage when the moderate Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP)
came to power in late 2002. Until then, Turkish political life had been
dominated by mostly unstable coalition governments, sometimes holding
power for as little as three months. In the November 3, 2002 general
elections, the AKP won a landslide victory and acquired an absolute parliamentary majority, receiving more than one-third of all votes cast and
363 of 550 parliamentary seats. A change in the constitution resulted in
the election of Recep Tayyip Erdogan previously banned from politics
to parliament, a prerequisite for his becoming prime minister on March
14, 2003. Its absolute majority in parliament allowed the AKP quickly
to pass through parliament laws, regulations and a series of political
reform packages.
After 2001, nine major reform packages introduced vital changes to the
constitution and a swathe of laws and regulations. In May 2003, a Reform
Monitoring Group was established involving officials and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), which introduced a system of sanctions for
those in the bureaucracy, security services and judiciary who continued to
block reforms.2 It was widely argued that reform had been sufficient to
change Turkeys underlying political culture and challenge many issues that
had until recently been taboo.3
Important legal changes adopted by the Erdogan government, in June
2003, provided for international observers at elections; authorized media
broadcasts in Kurdish; lightened restrictions on the right to peaceful assembly; scrapped the heavily criticized anti-terror law; and repealed an article
that allowed leniency for honor killings. Most significantly, the AKP government pushed through measures to reduce the political role of the military: many of the National Security Councils (NSC) executive functions
were downgraded to merely advisory input; the number of civilian seats on
the NSC was increased to nine, against the five held by military officers;

2 Financial Times, May 8, 2003.

3 B. Gurkan, Turkeys push for reform: moving beyond rhetoric, Turkey in Focus, June



parliamentary scrutiny over the military budget was strengthened, and was
used in 2004 to reduce defense expenditure; and military representation in
a number of civilian bodies was reduced. An eighth reform package, in
2004, also enhanced the independence of key media outlets.
Despite Turkeys remarkable progress in adapting legislation to
European standards, deficiencies in the implementation of legislation have
been and continue to be a major challenge. Moreover, substantial legal
shortcomings remain, especially in relation to safeguarding fundamental
freedoms and human rights, particularly freedom of expression, womens
rights, religious freedoms, trade union rights, cultural rights and the further strengthening of protection against torture and ill-treatment.4
Nevertheless, even after eight successive harmonization packages, the
Turkish military retained significant powers and influence. The armed
forces continued to enjoy a formal, constitutionally mandated role to protect the secularism of the state. The Supreme Military Council remained
exempt from judicial review, with the army resisting more strongly the
prospect of subordination to civilian courts because of the AKPs hold on
power. The civilian defense ministry still did not exercise the same primacy over security policy as in fully democratic states, with meetings of the
NSC attracting intense media coverage and debate as crucial determinants
of policy. In addition, a large proportion of economic contracts still originated with the military.
The eruption of Kurd-related violence, in June 2004, emphasized the
limitations of democratic reform. Violent attacks carried out by the PKKsuccessor, the Kurdistans Peoples Congress (or Kongra-Gel) were met
with clampdowns by the army. Incidents of such violence increased
throughout 2005 and were, it was alleged, met with increasing human
rights abuses on the part of security forces. Notwithstanding the influence
of a more democracy-oriented new leadership from the armed forces, the
latter still sought to limit the pace and reach of reforms. In the middle of
2004, the army helped ensure that government proposals purporting to
give graduates of religious schools equal status in access to universities
were dropped.5 A new penal code adopted in June 2005, strengthening
penalties against honor killings and torture, also prescribed prison sen-

4 Commission of the European Communities, Communication from the Commission: 2005

Enlargement Strategy Paper, November 9, 2005.
5 For details on these limits to military reform, see S. Aydin and E. Fuat Keyman, European
Integration and the Transformation of Turkish Democracy, CEPS EU-Turkey Working Papers
no. 2, 2004, pp. 20-21.



tences for journalists deemed to have insulted the nation or to have

harmed national interests. Low level disputes between the AKP and army
increased in early 2006, when controversy also erupted over the governments decision to name as new central back governor an Islamist banker
opposed to the notion of interest.
In short, reform had been significant and far-reaching, but required
extending if Turkey were to consolidate a high quality democratic process.
Turkey had transited from post-modern coup to what might be termed a
post-modern democratic transition piloted by an uneasy mix of the AKP
and reformist elements of the Kemalist elite. In little under a decade, and
galvanized by the pivotal opportunity afforded by the 2002 elections, a
transition had unfolded that was more Mexico-style protracted incrementalism than Ukraine-style rupture. The question remained, however,
whether such logic would persist in taking Turkey smoothly towards full
democratic consolidation.

The International Response

European influence has been apparent in each step of Turkeys reform
process, both in setting the general parameters for the countrys increasingly democratic identity and in conditioning very specific constitutional
changes, in particular after the pivotal December 1999 decision to grant
Turkey the status of candidate for EU entry.

Setting a Democracy Agenda

Over four decades ago, the then European Community signed an association agreement with Ankara in 1963. After the military coup in 1980,
European states suspended aid and broke off dialogue. Turkey applied for
EC membership again in 1987, but was once again rebuffed. Conversely,
Turkey was admitted into the European Court of Human Rights, which
gradually made an impact at the level of individual human rights petitions.
While European aid was of limited magnitude into the 1990s, Turkey
became the third largest recipient of US aid. With EU membership still
seeming out of reach at this stage, Ankaras orientation was more towards
Washington than to Brussels. The United States was more sympathetic
than European governments were towards the Turkish governments hardline campaign against the PKK.
While democratic rights continued to worsen, the EU negotiated a customs union with Turkey, which entered into force at the end of 1995.
Arms sales also increased. For a time, the European Parliament blocked the
customs union, but eventually approved it, citing modest changes to



Turkish human rights legislation. Although the EU continued at this stage

to reject Turkeys accession aspirations, strategic considerations led Brussels
to build closer relations with the military-dominated regime. The area of
funding that increased fastest after 1995 was aid for military training, while
democracy assistance remained negligible and projects were often diluted at the behest of Turkish official pressure. These relations sent a mixed
message to Turkish reformers.
Crisis erupted at the Luxembourg European Council in 1997 when the
European Union granted candidate status to ten eastern European applicants, but not Turkey. The EU insisted that this decision constituted a
punitive response to the militarys actions against the Erbakan government.
Amidst Turkish protestations at being held to harsher standards than eastern European countries, the Luxembourg decision initially appeared to
have a counter-productive impact on reform in Turkey. Ankara suspended political dialogue with the EU and further restricted the scope of many
governance aid projects. The rise of the right-wing, anti-reform MHP,
after 1998, was widely attributed to the EU rejection.
Indeed, European policies soon changed course. Turkey was allocated
an increased share of European Commission aid under the so-called
MEDA program (the EUs aid budget that covered partner states in the
Barcelona Process).6 In fact, a number of European governments strengthened their bilateral relations with Turkey after the Luxembourg meeting,
including Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom. The Quintet was
formed, bringing together the largest European states with Turkey, to discuss the strengthening of relations. These various steps seemed directly to
confuse the notion of EU policy being concerned with responding critically to the 1997 coup.
Such steps also presaged the decision to reverse after only two years
the Luxembourg rebuff and accept Turkey as a candidate at the Helsinki
European Council meeting of December 1999. This decision was facilitated by what appeared to be the increasingly evident defeat of the PKK;
the ejection from government in Germany of the Christian Democratic
Union (CDU), broadly hostile to Turkish membership; and a softening of
Greek positions in the wake of the earthquakes that struck both Greece and
Turkey in 1999.

6 The Barcelona process being the initiative created in 1995 to manage economic, political
and cultural relations between the EU and the states of the southern Mediterranean, including Turkey, Israel, Malta, Cyprus and eight Arab partners.



The US had also moved to strengthen ties, partly in compensation for

the Luxembourg decision, and signed a new Trade and Investment
Framework Agreement with Turkey. Indeed, Turkey only accepted the
Helsinki deal after President Clinton made a personal call to plead with
Prime Minister Ecevit, who was initially angered by conditions relating to
Cyprus and disputed islands in the Aegean.
Linked to the Helsinki decision, the European Parliament unblocked
aid programs, specifically tying the release of funds to Turkeys agreement to
accept reinitiated civil society and democracy projects.7 A new Accession
Partnership document outlined the detailed steps by which EU cooperation
would help move Turkey towards fulfillment of the Copenhagen criteria.
Annual Commission aid allocations to Turkey by now were doubled, to just
below 200 million euros.8 The European Investment Bank made available
an additional 6.4 billion euros in loans. In April 2000, the first EU-Turkey
association council in three years was held.
The EU volte-face was widely linked to the stirrings of genuine reform
in Turkey at the time both the effect of incipient internal change and
cause of its acceleration. Most directly, the Helsinki decision opened the
way to Turkeys introduction of National Adaptation Plans, designed
specifically around its new pre-accession agreement with the EU. The dialogue between European and Turkish business representatives, which had
been regularized under the customs union agreement, was widely linked to
the latters new and crucial pro-reform advocacy. A key factor was the concomitant role played by Western states through the International Monetary
Fund (IMF). In response to Turkeys rapidly deepening financial crisis,
particularly Germany and the US pushed to obtain a generous IMF rescue
package. While the IMF focus was on economic rather than political
reforms, it was the economic crisis that brought down the government and
culminated in the AKPs assumption of power.

In Helsinkis Wake: The EU Accession Process Stalls

Few doubted that the new prospect of EU membership stood as a key reference point in the AKPs apparently firm commitment to democratization. But exactly how did the international community respond to the
breakthrough reform opportunity offered by the 2002 elections?
Notwithstanding the widely celebrated success of EU influence, at and

7 Agence Europe, December 3, 1999, p.10.

8 Agence Europe, April 10-11, 2000, p.12.



beyond this crucial juncture, international interventions to prompt full

democratic consolidation were often equivocal.
The EU had accepted Turkeys candidature, but had not committed
proactively to facilitating Turkeys adhesion within a specified timeframe.
After acrimonious debate, the European Council meeting in Copenhagen,
in December 2002, failed to offer Turkey a firm date for the opening of
entry negotiations. The UK had pressed for such a date to be offered and
within a short time period; however, its attempt to set a date was frustrated by France, Germany and the European Commission. The Turkish government once again railed at European double standards, evidenced by the
opening of entry talks with Bulgaria and Romania, both still short of democratic consolidation. While insisting that such discrimination was prejudicial to the process of democratic reform, in practice it once again reacted to disappointment by introducing a further raft of reforms.
Turkey was awarded an extra 250 million euros of EU aid for accession
preparations, especially on political reform, for 2003-2004. By 2003,
Turkey was the second highest recipient (after Serbia and Montenegro) of
Commission aid anywhere in the world.9 A Pre-Accession Strategy was
agreed in May 2003, with more specific conditionality that linked the
release of specific parcels of aid to stipulated reforms. Under this strategy,
cooperation was to be given an accession orientation for the first time.
At this juncture, the Commission recognized it made what was its first
meaningful move to elaborate a significant program of democracy and governance assistance in Turkey. Aid allocations would increase to 300 million euros for 2005 and then to 500 million euros in 2006, with democracy and institution-building initiatives debuting as identified priorities for
aid expenditure.
In practice, most political aid consisted of twinning schemes between
European and Turkish ministries and public administration bodies.10
Funding from the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights
(EIDHR) was small scale and diplomats acknowledged frequently
adjusted in response to official authorities sensitivities. Turkish authorities
continued to impose restrictions on members of the European Parliament
(MEPs) visiting Kurdish prisoners and activists.11 Moreover, other than

9 Commisson of the European Communities, EU Donor Atlas, Brussels, European

Commission, 2004, p. 27.
10 Commission for the European Communities, Pre-Accession Strategy for Turkey, Brussels,
European Commission, 2003,
11 Agence Europe, February 23, 2000, p. 8; and April 15, 2000, p. 5.



Commission aid, only Germany (of national donors) offered a significant

aid allocation of 118 million dollars for 2001. No other European donor
offered more than 20 million dollars annually.12
Moreover, democracy-related cooperation on the ground was increasingly overshadowed at this stage by perceptions of growing European hostility to Turkish membership. Opposition came from the Austrian government; the German CDU and many voices within the rival Social
Democratic party (SPD); members of the Dutch government; and
President Chiracs center-right UMP (Union for the Presidential Majority),
as well as leaders of the French Socialist party. A number of European
Commissioners also began to voice strong concerns, particularly in relation
to what was claimed to be a potential 20 billion euro a year cost to the EU
taxpayer for Turkish entry. For many such voices, privileged partnership
was advocated as a maximum EU offer to Turkey. While formally supporting Turkeys candidature himself, Chirac agreed to submit to referendum
all future enlargements, after the entry of Romania and Bulgaria. With
opinion polls revealing that as much as 90 percent of the French population was hostile to Turkish accession, this was widely interpreted as a de
facto block.13
Against this internal EU background, further delay in the accession
process was greeted with increasing suspicion in Turkey. EU statements
and Commission reports routinely asserted significant further effortsare
still required of Turkey in the area of democratization. Member states
appeared increasingly keen to push a decision on opening accession negotiations into the hands of the bureaucrats at the Commission to shield
themselves from domestic concerns, if and when these talks opened, and
from Turkish opprobrium, if and when they were further postponed.
US policy increasingly became embroiled in and conditioned by Iraqrelated considerations. When the Turkish Parliament rejected a US request
to deploy troops on Turkish territory, prominent Bush administration
neo-con Paul Wolfowitz infamously lambasted the political-military elite
for not quashing the legislature. This exercise in parliamentary democracy was especially independent-minded as Turkey was seeking at this point
to negotiate a further IMF support package.14 From a US standpoint, the

12 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development

Assistance Committee figures,
13 Financial Times, September 10, 2004.
14 M. Belge, The Turkish Refusal, Open Democracy, May 21, 2005.



Iraq conflict appeared to exacerbate Turkeys reorientation towards Europe

and, to some extent, away from the United States. Not only did Turkey
stay out of the war against Iraq; its subsequent support for US initiatives
in the region, from the Greater Middle East Initiative to counter-proliferation efforts in Iran, at best, was half-hearted.15
The AKP government did eventually convince the parliament to agree
at least to US overflights. The European reaction to this decision served to
sow further transatlantic tension. France, Germany and Belgium refused
to back Ankaras request for a NATO commitment to defend Turkey in the
event of a spill over of conflict in northern Iraq. Rumors abounded that
France and other European governments had warned Turkish officials that
if Turkey carried through on its offer to deploy troops in post-invasion
Iraq, the countrys membership prospects would be harmed. By 2004, the
prospect of Turkish accession giving the EU a border with Iraq compounded the security risk of proceeding with Turkeys application. A if not, the
major plank of US policy was the indirect approach to deepening Turkish
democracy, of pressing the EU to proceed more firmly and rapidly with
accession negotiations. At the EU-US summit of June 2004, President
Bush declared that Turkey was ready for EU membership, and implicitly
criticized European prevarication. This had predictably counter-productive effects amongst most member states.
In October 2004, the European Commission recommended that accession negotiations be opened. The familiar range of concerns was raised in
relation to the need for further reforms, but it was argued that Ankara had
moved far enough to merit formal entry talks.16 Debate at this point was
dominated by the proposed law to make adultery a justiciable offence;
directly in response to EU complaints, the Erdogan government dropped
this legislation. At their December 2004 summit, European leaders accepted the Commissions recommendation and agreed that entry negotiations
would begin in October 2005. Curiously, the mood accompanying this
hugely significant step forward was far from celebratory. The Turkish reaction was soured by a number of qualifying factors to the agreement: the
further ten-month delay; a provision for negotiations to be suspended by a
qualified majority vote among member states; and EU insistence that there
could be permanent safeguards against the free movement of Turkish citi-

15 S. Cagaptay, Where goes the U.S.-Turkish relationship? Middle East Quarterly, Fall 2004.
16 Commission of the European Communities, 2004 Regular Report on Turkeys Progress
towards Accession, October 6, 2004, Brussels, COM(2004)656.



zens and against Turkey receiving its full entitlement of cohesion and agricultural funds. The summit saw the UK, Italy and Belgium lining up
against France, Austria and Denmark, the latter group pushing most
strongly for safeguards and qualifications. Given the additional conditions
appended to the deal with Turkey, after December 2004, it was no longer
convincing for the EU to argue that it was merely holding Turkey to the
same benchmarks as previous applicants.
As 2005 progressed, it was the EUs own internal crisis that exercised a
major impact on policy towards Turkey. The rejection of the EU draft constitutional treaty in France and the Netherlands was widely attributed, in
part, to popular opposition to Turkish accession. In the summer of 2005,
a Eurobarometer poll showed that a clear majority of EU citizens opposed
Turkish entry. A poll commissioned by the German Marshall Fund
revealed that only 22 percent of Europeans favored Turkeys accession.17
The impact of terrorist attacks on European soil (in Madrid and London)
and in Istanbul, and the growing debates about immigration and integration, were seen by many as factors contributing to the strong public mood
against Turkish accession.
As the moment of decision on accession negotiations approached, the
focus on democracy was also increasingly overshadowed by issues related to
Cyprus. Greece had threatened to block eastern European states accession
to the EU if the Greek part of the island were not also admitted, apparently in contradiction to the long-held EU line that only a united Cyprus
should be accepted into the Union. Once the divided island was admitted
to the EU in 2004, tensions inevitably increased. Ankara pressed for
explicit clarification that its obligation to extend the 1963 association
agreement and 1995 customs union to new entrants, including Cyprus,
did not amount to formal recognition of Greek Cyprus as a sovereign state.
Additional spin-offs from differences over Cyprus raised further obstacles.
Turkey fretted that it would be obliged to open its ports and airports to
Cypriot craft as a result of the opening of accession negotiations; and that
it would no longer be able to prevent a Greek Cypriot application to join
NATO. The former question was eventually solved through a rendezvous clause, providing for the issue to be revisited one year after talks
opened. On the latter issue, it once again took senior-level US intervention, this time to dissuade the Greek Cypriot government from seeking to
use the changed situation to its advantage in relation to NATO.

17 Reported in Financial Times, September 7, 2005.



Crucially, by this point, the Turkish response to these vicissitudes of EU

policy had become more complex and varied. The reforms introduced
during 2005, and in particular the new penal code, owed much to the
opening of entry talks appearing more tantalizingly imminent. Some
detected, however, a dissipation of the overall reform momentum. One
senior EU diplomat lamented that, Turkey no longer believes in the EU
process.18 The head of the EU delegation in Ankara revealed that, In our
discussions with the Turkish authorities, we see that somehow there is not
the dynamic approach which we saw before December, and complained
of increasing human rights abuses on the part of security forces and a rising anti-Europeanism within sectors of the Turkish population.19
The AKP governments tone began to change, dovetailing with a widespread judgment that European hostility to Turkish accession was rising to
the surface as the moment of truth approached. Erdogan began more
forcefully to couch the reformist logic in terms of democratic consolidation
being desirable despite, not because of the EU. He proposed a list of
Ankara criteria to supersede the Copenhagen criteria, in order to stress
the preeminence of the domestic dynamic.
A combination of factors thus complicated talks leading up to the
October 3 deadline for entry talks to commence. Cyprus-related issues
expended much negotiating capital. The more politicized domestic
European context found expression in Austrias last minute stand against
opening talks; a position that was dropped only after a commitment was
made to open talks with Croatia, Austrias long-standing Balkan client
state. The resumption of PKK violence compounded concerns in a number of European chancellories.
Finally, however, in the early hours on October 3, 2005, in culmination
of a 40-year campaign, the EU and Turkey officially opened membership
negotiations for a future Turkish accession to the Union. The adopted
negotiating framework placed upon Turkey a set of robust and rigorous
obligations, subject to intensive EU monitoring. The agreement named
2014 as the earliest possible date for Turkeys membership, and also stated
explicitly that, negotiations are an open-ended process, the outcome of
which cannot be guaranteed beforehand.20 On November 9, 2005, the
European Commission released a revised accession partnership document
18 Quoted in The Economist, June 4, 2005, p. 31.
19 Turkish Daily News, March 3, 2005.
20 European Commission, Negotiating Framework for Turkey, October 3, 2005, enlargement.



that identified short- and medium-term priority areas in which Turkey

would be required to make progress, including democracy and the rule of
law, human rights and the protection of minorities, regional issues and
international obligations, as well as a set of economic reforms.21 For the
first time, conditions and commitments, at this stage, were introduced in
relation to political party independence and corruption.
Much of the rhetoric surrounding these apparently historic moves
seemed designed almost deliberately to undercut their import. President
Chiracs line, that negotiations dont mean entry, became cited routinely.
The French Parliament simultaneously stepped up its demands that Turkey
formally recognize the attacks carried out against Armenians between 1915
and 1923 as genocide. Ankara complained that this amounted to the EU
once again introducing additional conditions to keep Turkey at bay. It was
now frequently pointed out that accession negotiations would provide
more than 70 occasions for the use of the veto, and for Cyprus, Austria,
Germany or other skeptics to use ostensibly technocratic issues as means of
obfuscation. Angela Merkels investiture as German chancellor in
November 2005 brought an opponent of Turkish entry to the top-table of
European decision-making. Indeed, paradoxically, as entry talks opened
and Turkey attained this long coveted step forward in its relations with the
EU, the mood and prospects for eventual Turkish membership had perhaps
never seemed so bleak. Within a short space of time, France and Austria
were already threatening to block a chapter of the negotiations covering
educational and scientific cooperation by linking this to the issue of
Kurdish rights the British and Spanish governments were firmest in arguing that such moves represented unacceptable delaying tactics.

Assessing the International Response

Relative to the other cases analyzed in this volume, Turkey clearly represents one of the more successful cases of international influence over
democratization. This has indeed become the standard mantra. The EU is
widely seen to have made a significant impact on Turkeys steady progress
towards democratic consolidation. Few would question the assumption
that the carrot of EU membership has provided a key external impulse to
the process of political reform witnessed in Turkey, in particular under the
AKP government elected in 2002. This account testifies to the extent to
21 Commission of the European Communities, On the Principles, Priorities, and Conditions
contained in the Accession Partnership with Turkey, November 9, 2005,



which concrete, incremental advances in this reform process can be linked

very directly and temporally to the main qualitative step-changes in EU
policy. The Helsinki decision to grant Turkey candidate status unleashed
a particularly potent reform incentive, as was evident in the positions and
revised self-definition of the moderate Islamists who assumed power in
Turkey in 2002. The opening of accession negotiations, on October 3,
2005, provided both recognition and reward for the reform efforts undertaken by the Turkish government, while also acting as a showcase incentive for other would-be reformers. Turkish reformers have pursued EU
accession in part for economic and security reasons, but perhaps most
notably as a means of underpinning democratic reform.
However, the preceding analysis suggests that it is legitimate to look
beyond this somewhat evident, incontestable and much-repeated judgment, and to signal a number of rather more subtle or second-order observations that qualify the standard mantra. Six such points are pertinent to
broader democracy promotion debates.
First, while the instrument of EU accession has, over successive enlargements, proved to be a potent democracy-embedding and -enabling instrument, it is a tool that in Turkey the EU has wielded almost in spite of itself.
This is a key lesson to emerge from the detailed account of European policies towards Turkey: if the reward of entry into the EU succeeded in pushing Turkey towards democratic consolidation, it did so with many in
Europe at times almost appearing to hope that it would fail to do so. It is
difficult to rebut completely the suggestion that the EU incrementally
tightened democracy-related conditions less in the hope of their achievement than as the equivalent of a prohibitively expensive club membership
fee. Be careful what you wish for might be an apt aphorism for the EUs
democracy promotion strategy in Turkey.
Second, and related to this, beyond the membership carrot, much of
EU policy was not about democratization in Turkey. Indeed, it appeared
to be increasingly less about this declared objective. Rather, it was about
Cyprus; it was about Europes identity and internal coherence; it was
about getting Turkey in versus keeping Turkey out. However, it was
not solely, or even primarily perhaps, about calibrating a response specifically to the ebb and flow of democratic reform in Turkey. Indeed, some
analysts observed a widening rupture between those genuinely concerned
with Turkish democracy and those focused on European identity.22 While

22 T. Diez and B. Rumelili, Open the Door, World Today 60, no. 8, issue 9, 2003, p. 35.



Ankara looked towards Europe for affirmation of its reforms, European

leaders considered Turkish membership in terms of assets and liabilities.
Contrary to common assumptions, support for democracy was not coeval
with support for accession, nor its absence with the denial of accession.
Third, such caveats apply in even greater dosage to the policy of
the United States. US strategy was more about pressing the EU to incorporate Turkey as quickly as possible as a strategically useful instrument
for US foreign policy in the region than it was about crafting democratic change. While Turkeys entry into the EU remained part of US longterm security interests, it was not clear Washington had fully accepted that
Turkish membership would mean that Turkey would look more to
Brussels and less to Washington.23
Arguably, in its impatience to see Turkey accepted into the EU, the
United States along with the UK and several of Turkeys other most
ardent supporters amongst EU member states has been overly-accepting
of a limited form of democracy in Turkey. It might be asked whether this
reflected merely a tactical desire, better to push for democratic deepening
with Turkey safely locked-into accession negotiations; or, whether it
expressed an actual preference for a form of bounded democracy, sufficient to improve basic rights and moderate Islam, without undermining
the military-guaranteed stability of the Kemalist state.
A fourth doubt is whether the EU conditionality machine has sufficed to render the momentum of Turkish reform irreversible. At the time
of this writing, the probability appears extremely high that the EU may not
carry through on its promise to grant Turkey membership. One conclusion from the above account might be that this is of little significance. The
Turkish case might be cited to argue that far greater pro-democracy influence is derived from the prospect rather than the reality of EU membership.
This requires some qualification to the standard assertion that enlargement
has been and remains the EUs most powerful foreign policy tool: the evolution of Turkish politics might suggest that it is not so much enlargement
per se that influences, but the EUs ability to convince states on its periphery that membership is at least a reasonable possibility.
However, while there might be some truth in this contention, it is still
possible that events will prove more accurate exactly the opposite conclusion: namely, that EU and Turkish politics have become so deeply and

23 Carlucci and S. Larrabee, Revitalizing U.S.-Turkey Relations, Washington Times, June 8,




inextricably entwined, that withdrawal of the membership carrot could

still undermine the prospects of comprehensive democratic consolidation.
This leads to a fifth point, that the Turkey case raises the potential danger of democratic progress being overly determined by international actors.
The design of Turkish reform priorities around increasingly detailed and
demanding European stipulations has engendered concerns over the
strength of local ownership of such reforms. On several occasions, the
Turkish administration has dropped legislative proposals making clear that
they have done so only upon EU insistence and without believing in the
decision. Indeed, unlike previous accession candidates, Turkey has been
obliged not merely to promise but also to deliver specific reforms at each
stage in its path towards accession negotiations, having the entire rhythm
of its democratization processes match that of its relations with the EU.24
One result is that, while EU conditionality has prodded Turkey along
the path of reform, the overall process of political change and rapprochement with the EU still means very different things to different constituencies within Turkey, as domestic responses have reflected quite distinctive
interpretations of future prospects. The military gradually accepted reform
and a diminution of its own role as it saw the EU as offering protection of
the Kemalist state against the rise of Islam. The moderate Islamists of the
AKP moved towards supporting EU accession in their calculation that
European democratic norms would provide protection against the military.
It is still possible that the tensions inherent in this situation could surface
and complicate the deepening and consolidation of democratic reform.
Even as entry talks commenced at the end of 2005, many in Brussels
opined that Turkey might still eventually decide that the loss of national
sovereignty and degree of EU intrusion was simply too great, and that
Ankara rather than the EU would be enlargements spoiler.
A sixth and final observation is that Turkey demonstrates a success of
strategic inducement more than the conveyance of democratic norms
through in situ democracy-related assistance. The latter strand of policy
remained surprisingly limited, behind the big set-piece debates on
Turkish EU membership. The European Commission commenced a significant program of political reform assistance only after 2001, and funded projects oriented overwhelmingly to state institutions. US and
European governments bilateral programs were meager. There was little
synchronicity between the two levels of policy, despite Turkey represent-

24 F. Hakura, Europe and Turkey: The End of the Beginning, Open Democracy,
October 5, 2005.



ing an ideal and perhaps unique opportunity to correct the often-witnessed macro-micro divide in Western democracy policies (a term capturing the disconnect between political-level diplomacy and the elaboration of democracy aid projects).
Recognition of these lessons is important not only for future steps in
Western democracy efforts in Turkey, but also as Turkeys role in the wider
region attracts greater attention. The West appears keen to begin using
Turkey as a model to convince skeptics of the feasibility of Arab democratization. Care is warranted here. Many Turks are wary of being portrayed
as an Islamic model, which they fear will strengthen the role of Islam in
Turkey and weaken Turkeys ties to the West. Moreover, Turkeys potential as a model for Middle East reform is limited by its image in the
region, which for many Arabs is tarnished by the countrys imperial past,
its non-Arab profile and its strong ties to Israel. This will be a future lesson to bear in mind with regard to this apparently successful case of
democracy promotion.

To a greater extent than the other case studies examined in this volume, in
Turkey the broad parameters of democracy strategy are already established,
with the detailed negotiations over EU entry conditions now underway.
Turkey has been granted the reward of accession talks its government,
political elite and many Turkish citizens craved for so long. It is consequently locked into a formal, bureaucratic process that will determine in
very precise ways a range of institutional and governance reforms. This
does not mean, however, that important additional steps are not required
in both European and, the so-far limited, US policies. Intensive debate preceded the decision to open EU entry talks in October 2005, but Turkey has
since largely disappeared from the front pages of the international media.
However, far from a less engaged posture now being warranted, intensified
efforts are required in a number of areas if Turkeys reform process is not to
risk reversal. The EU and other members of the international community
of democratic states should consider the following recommendations:

Clarify a democracy route-map to accession.

The EU needs to strike a fine balance in its democracy promotion strategy now that accession negotiations have formally opened. On the one
hand, it would risk harming the process of democratic consolidation in
Turkey by introducing additional politically-related entry criteria and starting to ratchet-up political conditionality in a way that would be interpret-



ed as a disingenuous rouse to delay Turkish membership. On the other

hand, the EU should resist the temptation to focus only on the technocratic chapters of entry talks, in the judgment that Turkey has already
achieved a sufficient degree of democracy to combine political openness
with Western-oriented stability. A clear democracy road-map could usefully clarify remaining issues of concern, and be phrased in such a way as
to guard against any further hurdle-raising as talks progress.

Offer incremental benefits associated

with EU membership.
The EU should seek to front-load the ceding to Turkey of some of the de
facto benefits of integration during what will potentially be a decade-long
negotiation process. It should also seek to de-link complications relating
to the Cyprus issue from its democracy-deepening concerns in Turkey.
These steps could help reassure Turks, unnerved by internal EU wranglings
and the apparent growing hostility to Turkish membership during 2005.

Increase technical support for reform,

clarifying European and US roles.
Democracy assistance should be stepped up and broadened beyond support
for state-led legislative approximation. Political reform support needs to
be rebalanced away from a hitherto stress on top-down, formal institutional dynamics. It is in this area that greater coordination is merited between
the US and European donors. Cooperation at this level, indeed, would be
more helpful than US calls in the future for the EU to hurry up and stop
prevaricating on concluding entry negotiations. Past evidence suggests
that this type of US approach would be perceived as unacceptable interference by Europeans and thus would be counter-productive.

Make the case for accession.

The EU should commence work to prepare the ground for eventual admission of Turkey as well as assess what the impact would be if the membership promise is not fulfilled. Debate on this question should be encouraged now by commissioning research, public opinion polling, educational
exchanges, friendship committees and public diplomacy campaigns. The
temptation should be resisted of focusing on detailed and more prosaic
aspects of entry negotiations in the hope of parking the more existential
question that relates to the EUs future identity and limit.



Devise an alternative to accession, capable

of preventing democratic reversals.
Following the abovementioned sentiment, the EU should begin to consider the feasibility of a Plan B. European diplomats have long made a
virtue of the fact that no such second preference was being deliberated
actively in any detail. A number of political developments within Europe
and in particular the French rejection of the EU constitutional treaty and
the change of government in Germany make this attitude look like head
in the sand recklessness. If factors extraneous to the promotion of democracy have widened the odds on Turkeys accession to the EU, then creative
plans will be required to salvage from the resulting wreckage of
European-Turkish relations the aim of and prospects for assisting democratic consolidation.


Chapter 4

The evocative images of the Orange Revolution that unfolded on the
streets of Kiev at the end of 2004 suggested a successful case of democracy
promotion. Within the context of this volume, Ukraine indeed offers a
range of positive lessons for international democracy strategies. It appeared
to be a case where low-level civil society and governance support did spill
over into democratic transition; where Western governments mobilized
effectively and unequivocally in democracys favor at the crucial point of
election-related crisis; where support for democracy eventually trumped a
geostrategic indulgence of Russia; and where notable coordination
occurred between different international actors. This chapter argues, however, that the strategies pursued by the European Union (EU) and United
States were far from being models of proactive and extensive democracy
promotion. Serious doubts are warranted over the extent to which the
international community maximized its potential influence in Ukraine
both before and after the 2004 Orange Revolution. With Ukraines parliamentary elections in March 2006 handing a plurality of votes to antiOrange, pro-Russian forces, Ukraine is a case that underscores the importance of responding expeditiously and in significant fashion to breakthrough transition opportunities.

Unlike in other central and eastern European states, independent statehood in 1991 did not lead to democratization in Ukraine. When Leonid
Kuchma was elected president in 1994, he promised political and economic reforms. In practice, the ensuing years witnessed a gradual embedding
of acute presidentialism. Parliamentary elections in 1998 saw some degree
of political competition but no direct challenge to Kuchma. Presidential
elections the following year were marred by vote rigging, state manipula-

1 Principal author, Richard Youngs, Coordinator of Democratization Program, FRIDE.



tion of the media and pressure on state employees to campaign for

Kuchma. Debate at this stage was still dominated by the issue of independent statehood, with Kuchmas democratic abuses taking a lower profile. Fraud was widespread in the April 2000 referendum, which sanctioned an increase in presidential powers. Scandal erupted in 2000 over
tapes in which Kuchma admitted to high-level involvement in corruption
and in the murder of prominent critical journalist Georgi Gongadze. In
2001, the reformist prime minister, Viktor Yushchenko, was removed by
Kuchma, following pressure from business oligarchs.
By this stage, Ukraine represented a clear case of backsliding into elective authoritarianism. In the 2002 parliamentary elections, Yushchenkos
Our Ukraine bloc emerged as a strong opposition force, while broader
social protest also emerged against Kuchma. Seeking to placate this unrest,
Kuchma eventually agreed to a reform package that slightly diluted his own
powers; however, this was not passed by the parliament. One difficulty was
that Kuchmas stand on relations with Russia succeeded in peeling off the
Communist Party (KPU), a prominent source of opposition since the early
1990s, from the emerging Ukraine without Kuchma movement.2
Overall, Kuchmas ten-year tenure in office witnessed a limited opening of
political space, but not meaningful democratic reform; in some aspects
political freedom narrowed from 2000 to 2001.
The first round of the 2004 presidential elections took place on
October 31. In the November 21 run-off between Viktor Yushchenko and
Kuchma placeman, Viktor Yanukovich, the latter was proclaimed victor.
Half a million protesters took to the streets. The Committee of Ukrainian
Voters, a civil society group that had monitored the polls, provided vital
exposure of official manipulation. After the Supreme Court nullified the
result on December 3, the run-off was held again on December 26. Victor
Yushchenko was declared the winner. Key here was the new unity
behind Yushchenko amongst the long-divided opposition, both at the
political level and between different civil society groups. Of central importance was the new alliance between Yushchenko and the charismatic
reformer Julia Tymoshenko. Crucially, the stalled reform package, increasing parliamentary vis--vis presidential powers, was at this stage adopted as
a compromise measure by Orange leaders this package now serving not
as originally intended to contain Kuchma, but rather his democratically
elected successor.

2 T. Kuzio, The Oppositions Road to Success, Journal of Democracy 16, no. 2, 2005, p. 120.



One expert observed that Ukraine suggested a different conclusion

from the argument that semi-autocratic regimes tend to stabilize and render full-blown reform less likely; in Ukraine, the fact that formally democratic constitutional provisions existed had ultimately been harnessed successfully by civil society protestors.3 In particular, after the 2002 parliamentary elections, a snowball effect took hold: with opposition growing,
the regime needed to resort to increasingly extreme tactics, which engendered further opposition. As the 2004 elections approached, the security
forces began to splinter, journalists began to resist regime orders and sectors of the business class concerned over the continuing sanctity of property rights threw their weight behind the protestors. The Orange
Revolution reflected a conflated yearning for both democracy and greater
de facto independence from Russia.
After the 2004 elections, progress towards democratic consolidation
was halting. One local judgment was that in some ways the process of
reform actually slowed after December 2004, with Orange leaders having
failed to devise a post-election strategy.4 The need to reduce the influence
of oligarchs, whose power was a continuing obstacle to deepening democracy, remained a critical challenge. One expert argued that the new government maintained a populist stance and revolutionary discourse that
militated against a broad strategy of democratic consolidation.5 Concerns
also arose that Yushchenko moved towards forming a new party of power
from his supporters within government, rather than one embracing the
wider Our Ukraine movement the limited degree of party institutionalization echoing events after Kuchma assumed power in 1994.6 An event
called to assess the Orange Revolution, by the National Democratic
Institute (NDI) in October 2005, singled out the paucity of judicial
reform as an additional concern.7 A prominent Ukrainian civil society
organization complained that, since the 2004 elections, nothing had been
done in terms of political reform.

3 M. McFaul, Transitions from Postcommunism, Journal of Democracy 16, no. 3, 2005, p.

4 International Centre for Policy Studies, Political Commentary, no. 27, September 2005, p. 4.
5 A. Aslund, The end of the Orange Revolution, September 14, 2005, http://
6 M. Resende and H. Kraetzchmar, Parties of Power as Roadblocks to Democracy: The Cases
of Ukraine and Egypt, CEPS Policy Brief no. 81, August 2005.
7 A. Aslund, op. cit.



After months of public in-fighting related to re-privatization plans,8

Yushchenko removed his government in September 2005. Political reform
had been subordinated to the re-privatization issue, while economic
reforms were also delayed. Ironically, economic growth was strong amidst
the political turmoil of 2004, but dipped dramatically during 2005. Some
observers suggested that the change of government created further division
that threatened to slow reforms and that, with Julia Tymoshenko no longer
prime minister, it might be more difficult for the government to win battles against Kuchma supporters in parliament. Others argued, conversely,
that the change of government could be helpful in moving Ukraine
towards a model where the principal opposition was, in the form of the
Tymoshenko bloc, also pro-Orange Revolution. Some observers argued
that Yushchenko appeared increasingly hampered by the deal cut with
Kuchma supporters in December 2004, and that he would now be forced
to build an unwieldy coalition possibly with Yanukovich after the key parliamentary elections due in March 2006.9
Indeed, Yushchenko was widely criticized, including by civil society
organizations prominent in the Orange Revolution, for agreeing with
Yanukovich to consider an amnesty for those found guilty of fraud during
the 2004 elections. Article 10 of the new electoral law was interpreted as
sanctioning restrictions of media coverage of the March 2006 poll
(although it was later slightly modified). Concerns arose over conditions
surrounding the preparation of local elections in March 2006. The government did take steps to remove Ukraines top prosecutor and a number
of corrupt regional governors. However, a common view was that the
September crisis had further weakened, not strengthened Yushchenko,
who looked increasingly unable to control the countrys fractious domestic
politics. At the end of October 2005, the national budget was approved
with the support of Communists and the regions, and against the
Tymoshenko bloc in parliament. Tensions persisted over the re-privatization issue, with the new prime minister, Yuriy Yekhanurov, keen not to
continue this process after the sale of the Kryvorizhstal steel mill in
October, which secured six times the original bid. These debates culminated in parliament agreeing to a vote of no confidence against the government in January 2006.

8 A debate over how far the government should reverse and redo privatizations fraudulently
executed by the Kuchma regime crippled the governing coalition and ultimately led to its
9 S. Wagstyl and T. Warner, Off Colour: a Regions Democratic Dreams depends on Righting
the Orange Revolution, Financial Times, October 24, 2005, p. 11.



The eventual results of the March 2006 parliamentary elections held

mixed implications. The elections were free and fair, democratic procedure
upheld and vibrant open debate engaged in by both supports and opponents of the Orange Revolution. The result was not as bad for the proOrange parties as had originally been feared. Viktor Yanukovichs Regions
of Ukraine party won a 32 per cent plurality, but the second-, third-, and
fourth-place finishes of the original Orange coalition (Julia Tymoshenkos
bloc, Yushchenkos bloc, and the Socialist Party, respectively) ensured that
a pro-Orange majority was maintained in the parliament. However, strong
dissatisfaction had been expressed with the government, deep divisions
persisted within Ukraines population over the countrys rightful international orientation, and difficult negotiations were awaited over the formation of a government coalition.
In short, by the spring of 2006 Ukraines democratic course appeared
firmly set, but the euphoria of the Orange Revolution had given way to
more sobering difficulties in achieving democratic reform and consolidation. The results of the March 2006 parliamentary elections suggested that
the parliamentary and party system needed to catch up with the changes
witnessed within civil society and the media in 2004.

The International Response

Ukraine represents a case where it did appear that the international community of democratic states intervened in an unequivocal way at a crucial
moment of political decision in democracys favor, upholding the 2000
Warsaw Declaration commitment to support adherence to democratic
principles around the world. It remains instructive, however, to assess in
detail exactly what this same international community had done to prepare
the ground for democratic change prior to the dramatic events of the
Orange Revolution; and also to examine its strategies aimed at assisting
democratic consolidation after December 2004.

Preparing the Revolution?

After Ukraine gained independence, the European Union established itself
as the principal Western actor, signing a Partnership and Cooperation
Agreement (PCA) with Ukraine in 1994. The PCAs standard reference to
democratic norms was injected with a more specific commitment to
encourage political reform through the EUs Common Strategy on
Ukraine, adopted in 1999. (At this point Ukraine was the subject of one
of only three such Common Strategies, the latter representing one of the
main diplomatic instruments available to the EUs putative common for-



eign and security policy). This Common Strategy committed the EU to

supporting the emergence of a stable, open and pluralistic democracy. It
opined that Ukraine has taken important steps in nation-building and
towards consolidating its democracy, but also made reference to the critique by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe
(OSCE) of the conditions surrounding the 1999 presidential elections.10
The EU emerged as Ukraines largest aid donor. Between 1991 and
1999, total EU aid to Ukraine amounted to 4 billion euros, 1.5 billion of
which came from the European Commission. A number of political
reform projects were funded under the EUs TACIS aid program (the main
instrument of financial assistance for central and eastern Europe), such as
journalists training and legal reform. A legislative approximation scoreboard was established, enshrining a structured program of cooperation
designed to adapt a vast range of Ukrainian legislation to EU norms and
standards. A Ukraine-Europe Policy Advice Center was set up to help
advance this aim. European states supported Yushchenkos appointment as
prime minister, in view of his apparent commitment to EU-linked economic reform. In 2002, Ukraine adopted a formal national program of
approximation with EU legislation.
The limitations to EU strategy also became apparent, however. The
PCA offered only limited trade preferences for Ukraine,11 while the latter
negotiated free trade agreements with governments from the
Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). The EU complained about
Ukraines slow progress on economic cooperation and selective implementation of PCA commitments. Russia remained Ukraines largest trading
partner, until EU enlargement occurred in May 2004. Democracy assistance was dwarfed by other categories of aid: nearly one quarter of EU aid
went to the issue of nuclear safety, particularly for closing down the
Chernobyl power station. Most prominently, a membership prospect was
not offered to Ukraine at the crucial meeting of the European Council in
Helsinki in December 1999 (when other states candidatures were agreed).
Throughout the latter half of the 1990s, member states complained of
being reined back in their desire to offer Kuchma deeper economic partnership by a European Commission that was more insistent on awaiting
the implementation of economic reform in Ukraine.

10 European Council Common Strategy of December 11, 1999 on Ukraine, 1999/877/CFSP,

Official Journal of the European Communities L331, no. 1, December 23, 1999.
11 Through Most Favored Nation (MFN) status and the Generalized System of Preferences



Under a new strategic partnership with Ukraine, the United States

gradually established a relatively standard range of political aid initiatives.
In 1999, the US named Ukraine one of four priority states for democracy
promotion efforts. USAID programs increased in number and range as the
1990s progressed and after 2000 included a rule of law program; a Civic
Oversight of Elections in Ukraine (COEU) program; transparency in
media ownership, with the aim of tempering the power of Ukraines oligarchs; the strengthening of local media; support for the Ukraine Citizen
Action Network program, focused on enhancing advocacy strategies; support for Ukrainian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) through the
Eurasia Foundation; and a Community Partnerships for Local
Government Training and Education Project (CPP).12 NDI and the
International Republican Institute (IRI) came to benefit from approximately 1 million dollars annually for work on strengthening the regulatory framework for political parties and, in conjunction with Freedom
House, on training party cadres in poll monitoring skills. At the geostrategic level the United States was the prime advocate of the Distinctive
Partnership between NATO and Ukraine that was agreed in 1997, and of
Ukraines participation in NATOs Partnership for Peace program.
Considerable Western forbearance was in evidence towards Kuchmas
semi-authoritarianism. EU documents and statements routinely suggested
that Ukraine was making progress towards democratic consolidation, when
events on the ground did not in any obvious sense confirm such optimism.
Kuchma was seen by both the US and European governments as having
usefully steered Ukraine away from Russia and towards a European orientation, while still providing a useful bridge to Moscow.13
Western criticism intensified after 2000 as Kuchma was perceived to be
both veering back towards Russia and more unequivocally stalling on longpromised political reforms. The formation, in 2003, of the Common
Economic Space, which included Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and
Kazakhstan, was particularly indicative of the former trend. By 2001, EU
declarations became more critical, expressing profound concerns over the
tightening of political space and the intimidation of journalists, while suggesting that progress on economic and political reform was a prerequisite
for a deeper relationship with the EU.14 A number of recommendations
12 See USAID Programs in Ukraine,
13 P. Kubicek, The European Union and Ukraine: Real partners or Relationship of
Convenience, in P. Kubicek (ed.), The European Union and Democratization, London:
Routledge, 2003, p. 155.
14 Quotes from the European Council and Chris Patten, respectively; P. Kubicek, op. cit., p.



were forthcoming from the Council of Europe, enjoining Kuchma to

implement reforms, especially to lighten media repression. The Georgyi
Gongadze murder was the event that did most to engender new concern
amongst international actors. For one European embassy, the 2002 elections were the key turning point: the oppositions showing in this poll
henceforth made it make sense to push harder, with the 2004 presidential election for the first time moving into view as a realistic focal point for
diplomatic pressure.
Despite the deteriorating conditions within Ukraine, European sanctions were not imposed. Debate took place within the Council of Europe
over the possibility of suspending Ukraines membership to this body, but
this option did not win widespread support. The Polish government
warned against isolating Kuchma, citing the case of Belarus as a failure of
ostracism. EU officials admitted that no consideration was given to reducing aid on democratic grounds.15 Indeed, Commission aid increased over
this period, from 118 million euros in 1998, to 153 million in 2001 and
230 million in 2002, in addition to new European Investment Bank loans.
Ukraine was brought into a number of EU peace-keeping and crisis management missions. No explicit support or backing was given to the
Ukraine without Kuchma movement, even as this began to mobilize
political opposition through a number of protests that took place in 2002.
High level exchanges did, however, dry up: only Gerhard Schrder met
with Kuchma in 2003, and European diplomats claimed that, by early
2004, contacts at the most senior level had reduced to almost zero.
Most EU governments judged that their new concerns over Ukraines
political development merited enhanced engagement. Between 2002 and
2004, Ukraine was one of the biggest recipients of funds from the
European Initiative on Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR). The
country was allocated 5.3 million euros from this program, mainly for
human rights monitoring and training through the Council of Europe;
work on improving prison conditions; a campaign against the use of torture; and projects aimed at widening access to the judicial system. The
European Commissions 2004-2006 National Indicative Program for
Ukraine allocated 10 million euros for civil society, media and democracy and a further 15 million euros for legal and administrative reform, all
of which came out of a total budget of 212 million euros. This aid program identified as funding priorities small grassroots NGOs that would

15 P. Kubicek, op. cit., p. 163.



indirectlyenhance the functioning of democracy and support trade

unions to gain strength and independence.16 The EUs legislative approximation approach produced results, with Ukraine adopting new criminal
and civil legal codes, as well as yearly Adaptation Action Plans, within
whose scope new laws were screened for conformity with EU legislation.17
In 2002, the United Kingdom and Sweden first proposed offering
Ukraine a broader set of relations, through what became the EUs new
Neighborhood Policy (ENP). Indeed, the ENP was seen by its proponents
as a way of dealing specifically with the Ukraine problem.18 At the bilateral level, in 2002, a Lithuanian-Ukrainian strategic partnership was
signed, while Poland pressed for the EU to change its Russia first policy
to a Ukraine first policy. It was reported that Poland worked hard at
pushing Germany into agreeing to offer Ukraine a deeper range of engagement, with some success by the autumn of 2004.19 Germany was,
nonetheless, still one of the states most cautious about a more focused policy aimed at pushing political reform issues in Ukraine.20 The imposition
of new visa requirements for Ukrainians to visit eastern European neighbors after the May 2004 EU enlargement caused Ukrainians to feel they
were being increasingly left behind and excluded from a common
European space and identity.
Outside Commission aid, European funding was still relatively limited:
overall levels of technical assistance for 2001 were 210 million euros from
the United States, 179 million from the Commission, 15 million from the
UK, 11 million from the Netherlands, 9 million from Germany and 3.4
million from Sweden.21 By 2004, Ukraines top three donors were the US,
Canada and Germany. Germanys TRANSFORM program, which
worked with governmental authorities, agreed its last raft of projects in
2004. Overall, German aid focused overwhelmingly on small business
16 Commission of the European Communities, Ukraine 2004-2006, pp.14-15 and Annex 1.
17 For an overview, see R. Petrov, Recent Developments in the Adaptation of Ukrainian
Legislation to EU Law, European Foreign Affairs Review, no. 8, 2003.
18 K. Smith, The outsiders: the European Neighbourhood Policy, International Affairs 81,
no. 4, 2005, p. 768.
19 G. Gromadzki, R. Lopata and K. Raik, Friends of Family? Finnish, Lithuanian and Polish
perspectives on the EUs policy towards Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova, FIIA Report 12,
2005, pp. 31-32.
20 M. Emerson et al., The Reluctant Debutante the EU as a Promoter of Democracy in its
Neighbourhood, in M. Emerson (ed.) Democratisation in the European Neighbourhood,
Brussels: Centre for European Policy Studies, 2005, p. 18.
21 Survey carried out by Kiev-based International Centre for Policy Studies, reproduced in
Policy Studies 18, November 2002, p. 7.



development, energy cooperation and agricultural reform. The German

Stiftungen did not, in one officials words, meddle in politicsas much as
the Americans. Aid officials asserted that on-the-ground funding was
hampered by the high-level politics of the Berlin-Moscow relationship.
The UK Department for International Development (DfID) allocated 6-11 million pounds annually from the early 1990s, and from 20012002 ran a Democratizing Ukraine project and supported a Media
Reform Center. Overall priorities focused on public administration
reform, pro-poor strategies, private sector development, strengthening
the voice of vulnerable groups, and community based organizations in
two regions (Donbass and Lviv), priorities that were judged by one official not to be concerned with democracy per se.22 Some detected a link
between the shortcomings of democracy funding and the absence of an
EU membership prospect: one local assessment lamented that EU local
governance projects had been ineffective because these were carried out in
an ad hoc fashion and not linked to a systematic EU pre-accession program, as in Poland.23
The Commissions Neighborhood Policy Country Report on Ukraine,
adopted in May 2004, warned that given the irregularities witnessed in the
2002 elections, the EU would monitor the 2004 poll more closely
although it still asserted that Ukraine was making a progressive transition
to democracy.24 The EU concluded negotiations with the Kuchma government for a Neighborhood Action Plan (a complement to the PCA,
designed to enable the ENP to deepen relations with individual states on
the EUs new borders). EU officials insisted that this Action Plan was then
held back and its implementation was made conditional on the holding of
free elections in December 2004. The case of Ukraine differed in this sense
from that of Egypt: in the latter case, no link was made between an EU
Neighborhood Action Plan and the distinctly unfree elections that
returned Hosni Mubarak to power in September 2005. Indeed, the EUs
Action Plan with Ukraine alluded to the priority of Ensuring the democratic conduct of presidential (2004) and parliamentary (2006) elections in
Ukraine in accordance with OSCE standards.25

22 UK Department for International Development, Ukraine Country Profile: DfID Ukraine

Country Strategy Paper 2001-2005.
23 International Centre for Policy Studies, Political Commentary , no. 27, September 2005, p. 8.
24 Commission of the European Communities, European Neighbourhood Policy Country
Report Ukraine, SEC (2004) 566, pp. 6 and 9.
25 Proposed EU-Ukraine Action Plan, p. 2.



The alleged threat that the Action Plan would be withheld was not,
however, a publicly stated policy in the run-up to the December 2004 elections. Pre-election intimidation constant media attacks on Yushchenko,
his apparent poisoning, threats made to students that they would lose their
accommodation if they voted for Yushchenko26 did not elicit specific
punitive reaction from international actors. Rather, at this juncture, comment centered on the infamous suggestion by European Commission
President Romano Prodi that Ukraine had as much chance of joining the
EU as New Zealand. It was reported there was much discontent amongst
Yushchenkos supporters and liberal reformers that the EU had let them
down.27 One diplomat acknowledged that several EU member states
remained cautious to be seen supporting reformists for Russia-handling
reasons. Officials admitted that it was the pace of domestically-driven
events that obliged them soon to stake out less equivocal positions.
US strategy was widely seen as more sensitive than EU policy to
Kuchmas broad strategic maneuvering. US concerns intensified over the
paucity of democratic reform. The Gongazde murder was said by the
administration to have had a particularly detrimental impact on USUkraine relations.28 The blocking of Radio Liberty broadcasts, in February
2004, also attracted critical US attention. The USAID rule of law project
was withdrawn due to deteriorating political conditions. However, it was
Kuchmas sale of weapons to Saddam Hussein that senior US officials
deemed most influential in taking relations to a nadir.29 It was argued that
the US saw the potential of political change in Ukraine at this stage much
more than did European governments in terms of such reform helping to
weaken Russia.30 It was similarly asserted that the US used its influence
mainly to advance its own geostrategic objectives, rather than help Ukraine
move closer to the EU.31 Overall funding to Ukraine from the US
Freedom Support Act declined after 2001, while the share of funds
accounted for by democracy assistance increased from one-fifth to one-

26 For an overview, see A. Karatnycky, Ukraines Orange Revolution, Foreign Affairs 84, no.
2, 2005.
27 K. Barysch and C. Grant, Ukraine should not be part of a great game, Open Democracy,
December 7, 2004.
28 Testimony of Steven Pifer, Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasion Affairs
before the House International Relations Committee, May 12, 2004, p. 3.
29 Ibid., p. 3.
30 K. Barysch and C. Grant, op. cit.
31 K. Wolczuk, Ukraines European Choice, CER Policy Brief, 2004, p. 4.



third.32 Frustration with Ukraines political atrophy had led many policymakers in Washington to propose cutting back funding more radically,
until lobby groups mobilized to press for a continued commitment to
democracy funding. On one occasion seating arrangements at a NATO
summit had to be changed to move President Bush away from Kuchma.
At this point, US relations with Kuchma were described as being in a
holding pattern.33 US trade sanctions were imposed, but in relation to
technical intellectual property rights concerns, not on democratic grounds.
Reflecting such geopolitical primacy, Kuchma bought crucial breathing
space with Washington when he agreed to send troops to Iraq as part of
coalition forces in 2003, which was widely seen as lessening incipient US
criticism. Including military aid, Ukraine remained in this period the
third or fourth largest recipient of US external assistance. In the run up to
the December 2004 elections, Yushchenko promised that as president he
would bring troops home from Iraq; in reality, Kuchma had himself
already committed to a phased scaling down by the time of the election,
thereby lessening this as a point of difference in Washingtons eyes. A key
aim for the US was to use NATO leverage to push Kuchma (unsuccessfully) to include benchmarks on civilian control of the military in Ukraines
NATO action plan. Like the EU, the US declined proactively to back the
Our Ukraine opposition movement. One assessment was that throughout
the post-independence period the priority focus at the geostrategic level
was not on democratization but rather on de-nuclearization.34

Fading Orange: Revolution and Beyond

As political turmoil erupted in the run up to the 2004 elections, a notable
development within EU policy was the prominent role adopted by Poland
and Lithuania. These two states pressed for a more positive signal to be
given towards Ukraines potential membership in the EU and for a tougher
line towards Russian influence in Ukraine. In the autumn of 2004,
Lithuania took the lead in initiating Council discussions on offering
stronger relations with Ukraine; subsequently, it was backed by six other
new central and eastern European member states, the Nordic countries and

32 Pifer, op. cit., p. 5.

33 Daniel Fried, Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, Testimony before the
House International Relations Committee, July 27, 2005, p. 5.
34 Hryhoriy Nemyria, The Orange Revolution: Explaining the Unexpected in M. Emerson
(ed.), Democratisation in the European Neighbourhood, Brussels: Centre for European Policy
Studies, 2005, p. 54.



Austria.35 This group of member states met frequently on an ad hoc basis

immediately prior to the elections.
In the midst of Ukraines brewing crisis, reports from insiders in
Brussels indicated that EU foreign policy representative, Javier Solana, was
initially reluctant to get involved. Amidst uncertainty over who should be
assuming leadership on the European side, a recurring refrain amongst
diplomats in Kiev soon became, Where is Solana? The EU team that was
eventually assembled assigned key roles to Solana, Aleksander Kwasniewski
and Valdas Adamkus, the Polish and Lithuanian presidents, respectively.
There was general agreement that it was Kwasniewski who served as the
really crucial interlocutor, based on a long-standing mutual confidence
with Kuchma. Solanas line was we do not meddle, or take sides, we want
the reform process to continue and deepen language that was echoed
closely in US policy statements. Poles complained of German resistance,
even at this stage, to the idea of the EU intervening against Russias overt
backing for Yanukovich; Berlin, they argued, even claimed disingenuously
and after the event that the Orange Revolution was a success story for
German foreign policy.
Meanwhile, the United States provided 11 million dollars of electoral
assistance, and injected a further 1.5 million dollars to train 100,000 election commissioners in the six months prior to the election. Voter education and public information programs were stepped up to significant levels, and implemented through NGOs, such as the Committee of the Voters
of Ukraine. NDI-IRI training was non-partisan with poll watching
training offered to Yanukovich supporters although it was recognized as
being a leveling of the playing field that would be of relatively greater
value to the opposition. No direct external backing was given to protestors
such support came rather from Ukrainian businessmen, in what became
dubbed the battle of the millionaires against the billionaires although
it was again realized that equalizing logistical conditions would implicitly support the democrats cause. EU diplomats reported that European
support was less substantial on these directly political issues of reporting
fraud and facilitating the creation of civil society networks, although a
number of embassies such as the British and Swedish did join the US
in funding exit polls.
In pushing for more muscular intervention at this stage, a familiar
difference emerged between northern and southern EU member states,

35 Emerson et al., op. cit., p. 17.



while Germany claimed that it was most useful in focusing on mediating

with the Russians behind the scenes. Interviews uncovered that the
French government was particularly ambivalent and tardy in backing protestors claims that the second round results were fraudulent.36 With the
largest number of international monitors ever assembled for a single election, all donors pointed to good coordination through the OSCE. The
latter coordinated both funding and public statements on electoral technicalities, while different donors chaired working groups on the various
aspects of election preparations under the umbrella of the OSCE.
Japanese officials were widely acknowledged to have played a key role in
developing such coordination.
While seen to have played an important role, the approach of the EU
team sought not so much to mobilize democracy activists as to mediate a
solution. This pacted exit was based on Yushchenko agreeing (through
the stalled reform package) to cede some presidential powers to the parliament in order to placate Kuchmas allies who would thus retain influence.
Ironically, this package had been pressed by Kuchma, prior to the autumn
of 2004, precisely as a means of mitigating the effect of his supporters possibly losing the presidency. In February 2004, the package had been criticized by the EU and the United States on these grounds, and in this sense
its acceptance by the international community (albeit in a slightly diluted
form), in December, suggested a change of position aimed at avoiding
abrupt, destabilizing political change. The most tangible backing for
democracy activists came not from Western official initiatives, but through
links between the student group, Pora, prominent in the protests, and its
Serbian counterpart, Otpor.37 It also subsequently emerged that millions
of dollars had been forthcoming from anti-Putin, exiled Russian oligarchs,
such as Boris Berezovsky.
Despite the critical alternation in power in Kiev, there was no big
injection of European funding in 2005; the increase in US funding was
more generous and swifter, but not massive. After the elections, the US
formulated a New Century Agenda for the American-Ukrainian Strategic
Partnership. An injection of an extra 60 million dollars of US funding
was agreed. This took total 2005 US aid to Ukraine to 174 million dollars, 46 million of which was allocated for democracy programs; this com-

36 A. Guillemoles, Mme la Neige etait Orange: La rvolution ukrainienne, Paris: les Petits
Matins, 2005, pp. 75-77.
37 T. Kuzio, The Oppositions Road to Success, Journal of Democracy 16, no. 2, 2005, p.



pared to a 2004 allocation of 143 million dollars, 34 million of which

went to democracy support.38 The largest share of the 60 million dollar
supplement still went to work on Chernobyl. This was judged to represent
a window of relatively generous funding before amounts would likely
reduce, especially as of 2007. Plans were introduced to restart the aborted rule of law project, while the training of election commissioners started in the run up to the March 2006 parliamentary elections. US priorities included a proclaimed focus on eastern Ukraine, an area traditionally
closer to Moscow, while the EU was apparently still more focused on central state machinery.39 US officials talked of targeting the specificity of
the East in a way that had not previously been done. An NDI priority
was to safeguard the coalition between Yushchenko and Tymoshenko supporters, who were increasingly reluctant even to sit in the same room as
each other. The US was slow to remove trade restrictions, a measure
pushed by the State Department on political grounds, but subject to a
lengthy technocratic process.
In the aftermath of the Orange Revolution, Ukrainian government
officials routinely referred to rapprochement with the EU as the key
anchor needed for Ukraines new democracy. Yushchenko quickly introduced a new law to adjust 500 laws to EU norms. Poland, Hungary,
Slovakia and Lithuania advocated the offer of membership immediately
after December 2004, as a means of locking in democratic gains. A
European Parliament vote in January also won a large majority for offering Ukraine a membership prospect. In a speech to the European
Parliament, on February 23, 2005, President Yushchenko indicated an
intention to apply for EU membership in early 2006, and a goal of commencing negotiations in 2007. Javier Solana appeared to give hope, suggesting that Ukraines relationship with the EU will depend on the quality of Ukraines relationship with democracy.40
The official EU response was not positive, however. Germany, Spain,
France and the Netherlands were the states most resistant to offering a

38 International Centre for Policy Studies, Political Commentary, no. 26, August 2005, p. 10.
39 Daniel Fried, Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, Testimony before the
House International Relations Committee, July 27, 2005, p. 5.
40 Cited in R. Shepherd, Ukraine and the Euro-Atlantic Community: A Strategic Dialogue,
in J. Forbig and R. Shepherd (eds), Ukraine after the Orange Revolution: Strengthening
European and Transatlantic Commitments, Washington: German Marshall Fund, 2005, p.



membership prospect.41 Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn stressed the

need to make the ENP more attractive in order to discourage Ukraine from
applying for membership, arguing that, Yushchenko is wise that he has
not sent an application to Brussels.42 The often repeated standard line
became, the door is neither closed nor open. Against the pleas of some
member states for a renegotiated Action Plan circumventing the limitations derived from the prevailing text having been concluded with Kuchma
the Commission insisted that the EU continue to base its strategy around
the existing Action Plan, rather than entertaining further delay. EU strategy was based rather on an Action Plan plus policy. In February 2005,
the outstanding Action Plan negotiated with Kuchma was finalized and
supplemented with an additional ten point plan offering, inter alia,
enhanced or accelerated cooperation on foreign and security policy, free
trade preparation (through a free trade agreement (FTA) feasibility study),
access to the World Trade Organization (WTO), visa facilitation, private
sector development and energy policy the idea being to take certain areas
out of the Action Plan for speedier progress. These ten points also pronounced that, Efforts in the field of democracy and the rule of law will be
an immediate imperative and further targeted assistance including support
for strengthening of civil society is envisaged.43
The new Ukrainian government remained unenthused by the
European Neighborhood Policy. The government line was expressed as,
We are not neighbors, we are part of Europe! We want a pre-accession
partnership, not a substitute for this. Ukraines key demand was that
when the PCA expired in 2008, Ukraine should be offered a replacement
that at least mentioned the prospect of membership. But no debate on this
issue took place among EU member states. One European diplomat
attested to an uneasy silence on the EU question. The positions adopted by Ukraines advocates amongst member states was that the government
should focus on making progress under the PCA and Action Plan so that
it would be more credible in asking for a membership prospect in 2008.
Apparently unsure how to upgrade its offer to Ukraine while refraining
from accepting the latter as a candidate for accession, by late 2005, EU

41 Stefan Batory Foundation, Will the Orange Revolution bear fruit? EU-Ukraine relations in
2005 and the beginning of 2006, Warsaw: Stefan Batory Foundation, 2005, p. 13.
42 Olli Rehn, intervention at the Finnish Institute for International Affairs, October 21,
43 European Commission, The EUs relations with Ukraine, September 12, 2005,



officials were talking of moving policy to a basis of Action Plan plus,

plus. It remained unclear what this meant. Moreover, diplomats
acknowledged that debate on Ukraine was hampered by the impasse on the
EU budget and delays to agreeing the new financial perspectives for 200713. Unlike those signed with Arab states, the EU-Ukraine Action Plan did
not incorporate a democracy and human rights sub-committee; rather,
democracy and the rule of law were presented as cutting across the four
sub-committees that were established (covering trade, financial issues,
energy, justice and home affairs). The rejection of the EU Constitutional
Treaty in France and the Netherlands, and intensified debate over Turkeys
possible accession to the EU, conditioned European deliberations on policy towards Ukraine.
While the question of EU membership predominated, at the same
time, new reform projects were funded by Western donors. Plans were
announced to increase TACIS funds from 70 million euros in 2004 to 88
million in 2005, and to 100 million in 2006. This compared poorly to the
proposed 125 million euro injection into Georgia after the Rose
Revolution. Most technical assistance still focused on legislative approximation. Twinning (whereby EU officials would work side-by-side with
Ukrainian officials in Kiev) and technical expert exchanges were seen as
particularly relevant to the EUs approach to reform at this stage.
Commission officials in Kiev opined that the relatively small-scale EIDHR
funds had been most useful in supporting grassroots organizations in the
immediate aftermath of the Orange Revolution. The main priority for EU
support in 2005 was identified as social policy reform, through targeted
protection for vulnerable social groups; again, tackling social disparities
was seen as the area in which assistance could most usefully be provided to
enhance the sustainability of political reform. However, EU officials
admitted to having little systematic idea of the impact of EU initiatives and
projects, one official acknowledging, We have not yet reached cruising
speed in terms of monitoring implementation.
By early 2006, the vast majority of new initiatives agreed under the
Action Plan as a response to the Orange Revolution were, EU officials
admitted, only just beginning to come on line. European preparatory support for the March 2006 elections was channeled largely through the
OSCE, in particular for the elaboration of electronic voter lists. No significant increase in European funding levels was immediately forthcoming.
In July 2005, Germany agreed to a 20 million euro allocation for the coming year, increased from 14 million for 2004-2005. A small 800,000 euro
injection came from the British Embassy, to boost capacity in policy-mak-



ing related to EU approximation. DfID funding for 2005 actually

declined slightly to 6.5 million pounds less than 1 million of which went
to political reform projects; notwithstanding the Orange Revolution, and
causing some tension with the Foreign Office, DfID planned to withdraw
funding from middle-income Ukraine in 2008. Given the importance of
the East-West question in Ukraine for the strategic stability of the whole
region, the paucity of effort directed at this issue was striking. One disappointed recipient NGO raged that European support was so bureaucratized that not even a revolution changes anything.
The prospect of NATO membership came to be seen as increasingly
valuable and important. Hinting at international influence extending
beyond the EU, Ukraines new foreign minister alluded to the governments aim as compliance with Euro-Atlantic standards.44 President
Bush was mildly encouraging on Ukraines NATO aspirations when he
met Yushchenko on April 4, 2005. The new Ukrainian government
agreed to retain some involvement in military training in Iraq in order to
placate the United States, with this NATO dimension in mind. It was
regularly pointed out that central and eastern European candidates had
ultimately joined NATO before they acceded to the European Union.
Throughout 2005, however, a significant number of EU states remained
more cautious than Washington on the prospect of Ukrainian NATO
membership: in part, fearful of Russias reaction; and, in part, keen to
retain a primary role for the EU. Poland commenced work at a bilateral
level on security sector reform, keen to help prepare the Ukrainian army
to meet NATOs political standards.
Russias influence continued to be significant. Yushchenko was surprisingly, to many observers positive towards the CIS.45 This continued
to breed caution in EU policies, and especially French and German positions. Rather than being seen purely as an opportunity to spread democracy eastwards, the Orange Revolution was seen in terms of a new problem
in managing relations with Russia; the US stance was slightly less circumspect. In 2005, Ukraine agreed on terms for a new pipeline to transport
gas from Iran to the EU; while European governments gave enthusiastic
backing to this, the US was ambivalent.
After the removal of the government in September 2005, Javier Solana
called Yushchenko to insist that reforms must continue and that the crisis

44 B. Tarasyuk, Preface, in J. Forbig and R. Shepherd, op. cit., p. 7.

45 International Centre for Policy Studies, Political Commentary, no. 27, September 2005, p. 7.



must be resolved in pro-reform direction. Officials alluded to a powerful

political signal being sent to this effect. Clear differences emerged on this
question. The UK explicitly welcomed the change of government, having
made known a concern that investors were being discouraged by the
prospect of re-privatizations. The Germans, in contrast, saw Tymoshenkos
removal as a serious setback, slowing down reform and forcing
Yushchenko into making a deal with his archrival Yanukovich.
Moreover, focus was also placed on the limited extent of economic
reform which pushed back the prospect of Ukraine joining the WTO.
The US was seen as pressing slightly harder on this issue than the EU,
and as being less understanding of such delays.46 The EU also, however,
complained about Ukraine stalling on its economic reform commitments
under the PCA. Ukraine, for its part, complained about the delay in it
being granted market economy status by the EU, when Russia had been
granted this in 2002; this was cited as a major failure to reward the
Orange Revolution. At the December 1, 2005 EU-Ukraine summit, the
EU finally granted market economy status to Ukraine, thereby improving access to European markets for a range of Ukrainian goods.
Agreement was also reached on a new border control program along the
frontier with the separatist region of Transdniestra in Moldova. The
Commission floated the possibility of a New Enhanced Agreement to
replace the PCA in 2008. Economically, however, early 2006 was dominated by a 50 per cent hike in the price of Russian gas supplies to
Ukraine, an example of the increasing use of oil diplomacy by Moscow
to reassert its hegemony in the region.
The March 2006 elections were viewed as a key test by Western states;
consequently, pressure was exerted for these to be free and fair. The priority for the US and European governments was to push for a strengthened
provision in the electoral law for domestic monitors, which was granted.
The Committee for the Voters of Ukraine (CVU) complained, however,
that international actors were not focusing sufficiently on preparations for
the (simultaneous) local elections, which was where fraud was likely to
occur. The EU promised that the conduct of these polls will be key to
determining whether we can take the next steps to deepening our relationship.47 The importance was stressed of Ukraine strengthening checks and

46 International Centre for Policy Studies, Political Commentary, no. 26, August 2005, p. 8.
47 Statement by External Relations Commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Commission
Press Release IP/06/255, March 2, 2006.



balances between governmental institutions. However, with discussions

ongoing over the political priorities of Ukraines Neighborhood Action
Plan, the nature of such potential rewards was not specified.

Assessing the International Response

Ukraine has been widely presented as a successful case of international
democracy promotion. Influential EU foreign policy advisor, Robert
Cooper, was moved to assert that the EU had in effect done regime
change in Ukraine. While the international community congratulated
itself after the Orange Revolution, its strategies were in practice less than
exemplary, both before and after December 2004.
In the years prior to the Orange Revolution the argument was commonly forwarded that Europe could have little pro-democratic influence if
the prospect of EU membership was not offered. The standard line was
that ambiguity [was] not working.48 The events of December 2004 suggested that, ultimately, the absence of a firm membership offer did not prevent EU democracy-related entry criteria from playing a positive role.
Indeed, arguably it was the fact that membership had not been offered that
planted the concern amongst many Ukrainians that the country was being
excluded from the expanded reach of European institutions. In particular,
the fear of isolation was a motivating factor behind the role played by
members of the business sector in the Orange Revolution. In these
respects, some similarity could be detected with pre-1999 Turkey. The
very existence of the Copenhagen criteria sufficed to frame a pro-democratic debate in Ukraine.
As of the end of the 1990s, Western states began to tire of Leonid
Kuchmas failure to deliver on his promises to implement political reforms.
It still needed the horrendous murder of a prominent journalist to distil
concerns and trigger a gradual change in policies. The very fact that
Kuchma did not stand for a third term in 2004 might be attributed, at least
in part, to the drip effect of constant Western intimation from this point
that relations depended on democratic progress. Tougher criticism from
both the US and EU was not matched by concrete responses to small-scale
reversals in democratic freedom. However, the Kuchma camp certainly
reached the judgment that such a dramatic step as failing to respect the
term limits stipulated formally in the constitution would have risked serious consequences in relations with Western democracies. This dynamic

48 K. Smith, The Outsides: the European Neighbourhood Policy, International Affairs 81,
no. 4, p. 773.



contrasted with the situation in Arab states, such as Tunisia, where

President Bin Ali changed the constitution to run for a fourth term in the
(largely correct) judgment that such a move would provoke little reaction
from the European Union.
Democratization and the relationship with Russia became entwined;
that is, political reform was conflated by reformers as a means of challenging Russian support for oligarchs and anti-reformers. On this aspect,
reformists perspectives were most clearly at odds with the caution evident
in European chancellories.
One widely accepted view was that the international role was not primary, but that Kuchmas cordial, but strained relations with the West may
have pushed him at the margin to do the right thing and relinquish the
succession.49 As one European diplomat observed, The international
community was not the driving force, but helped create the conditions
for transition, when change was already afoot. Moreover, another argued
that international actors did not play a causal role, but provided an
international framework for a democratic exit to the crisis, which made
that solution less susceptible to internal challenge after 2004. The degree
of Western pressure and funding certainly did not appear sufficient to corroborate the Russian claim that the Orange Revolution was orchestrated
principally by outside forces.
European policy was predicated on an apparent assumption that a gradual forward momentum of reform existed and was to be encouraged
through political reform work that took the form of predominantly technical rather than political assistance. In this sense, while European initiatives were useful, the EU was arguably blinded to reversals at a higher political level by Ukraines cooperation at the level of legislative approximation. US democracy assistance was also relatively small scale, eschewed
significant direct support for democracy movements and was over-shadowed by geostrategic vicissitudes linked to Ukraines policies towards Iraq.
In general, Ukraine was a case in which differences in EU and US strategies were apparent: the US emphasized civil society, local government and
election-specific funding, which many European officials derided as unduly short term.
The division of labor between European and US influence was different from that witnessed in many countries. EU primacy lay in the structuring of a general debate over and espousal of democratic norms; when

49 M. McFaul, Transitions, op. cit., p. 16.



political change began to accelerate, US primacy rested in the support it

offered civil society organizations to enhance democratic preparedness in
Ukraines crisis moment. If Europe played a role diplomatically in the
Orange Revolution, it was the US presence on the ground that made itself
most strongly felt during the revolutionary drama itself. While European
governments were widely seen as the primary mediators in Ukraine, this
was a case where US aid funding was of comparable magnitude, unlike in
most other states in the EUs Neighborhood and in sub-Saharan Africa.
Examining the evolution of EU funding in isolation, one would struggle
to intuit that a revolution had occurred in December 2004.
When presented with the dramatic crisis, in the autumn of 2004,
which could be resolved in either a pro- or anti-democratic direction,
Western states clearly chose democracy. Their policy had been less clear
cut in the preceding years; Ukrainian reformers lamented the in their
judgment ambivalent backing they had attracted from the international
community prior to this crisis point. A question that might be asked is
whether greater resolution from the international community could have
helped trigger a transition well before the end of 2004; the unsuccessful
protests of 2002 certainly did not garner the kind of international attention as in 2004. Even when conditionality was invoked, in relation to the
EU Action Plan, it occurred very late in the day and not in an entirely convincing fashion. If Western governments gave events a shove, it was only
when the regime was already profoundly off balance.
The EU supported Yushchenkos acceptance of the compromise deal
in December 2004, in which the soon-to-be president acquiesced to a
weakened presidency. European and particularly Polish diplomacy in
this sense helped avert what could have become a violent and protracted
struggle between different sectors of a deeply divided society. While the
reform package could be presented as a boost to democratic checks and
balances, after the Orange Revolution it threatened to weaken
Yushchenkos power to push through reforms. One Ukrainian activist
complained that the pacted solution pressed on Yushchenko by the EU
gave too much away to opponents of the Orange Revolution. At the
moment of transition, the international community could have been significantly more active in helping Orange leaders look beyond the
December elections their failure to do so contributed to the loss of
direction, and in-fighting that predominated throughout 2005. At this
point, the international communitys stronger desire was for a smooth,
rather than complete, democratic transition.
Ukraine might be cited as a case of external civil society, economic
governance and rule of law support spilling over into democratic transi-



tion. If the carving out of at least a semi-autonomous political space did

suffice ultimately to unleash the Orange Revolution, then international
civil society and governance projects from the mid-1990s may have
helped, in a modest way, prepare the ground for democratic breakthrough. It might be posited, for instance, that a decade of low profile
media training contributed to the crucial switch in journalistic practices
in the autumn of 2004. However, the dramatic events of December 2004
also raised many challenges. At the time of democratic breakthrough, for
example, democratic values appeared weakly embedded at different levels
within the state, as well as more generally within the east and south of the
country. This revealed limits to the extent to which the international
community could, prior to 2004, be said adequately to have helped lay
the foundations for sustainable democratic consolidation. The quick
rebound favoring Yanukovich in the 2006 elections further confirms this
view. It also suggested that too much focus was placed during 2005 on
supporting Yushchenko as opposed to broadening Ukraines democratic constituency. This was seen in the nature of all Western states reform
initiatives, although it was a bias of which the EU was more guilty than
the United States.
After the Orange Revolution, comments from many senior EU officials
and ministers appeared to be more about deflating Ukrainian ambition
than seducing the country into incremental reform. Some Ukrainian officials suggested that the result of this was that rapprochement with NATO
provided a more tangible incentive. Yet, European governance standards
remained the most potent reference point for reforming state-level governance. Whole swathes of Ukrainian legislation were designed as per EU
norms, and this undoubtedly constituted a major source of EU influence.
This had not had any obvious causal impact on democratic transition. It
did, however, provide a broad framework of governance, useful in underpinning formal democratic transition after 2004; it gave the EU a source
of wider political purchase; and it locked Ukraine into a European governance area, which solidified the countrys European orientation, even as
the prospect of membership receded.

Ukraine provides lessons for the design of external actors policies prior to
democratic revolutions, when semi-autocrats previously willing to implement some reforms seek desperately to cling to power by reversing the
reform momentum. Ukraine does not represent a complete success story in
this sense, and the efficacy of the international communitys policies could
have been far greater before the autumn of 2004. At the same time, the



democracy promotion challenges in Ukraine are by no means over. The

results of the March 2006 parliamentary elections demonstrate the magnitude of the consolidation challenges that remain. Clearly, several major
over-arching strategic decisions need to be taken in relation to Ukraine. Is
the EU willing eventually to put a membership offer on the table? Is
NATO prepared to offer Ukraine membership to its club? Is Ukraines
democratic consolidation enough of a priority for Western governments to
risk rocking the boat with Russia? Such defining questions are obviously
subject more to decisions of basic political will than detailed policy-design
recommendations. However, a number of lower-order suggestions might
also prove relevant for improving international strategies towards postOrange Revolution Ukraine:

Use the Incentive of Possible EU Accession.

Creative thinking is needed in terms of what the EU can offer that is
beyond the current neither yes nor no line on accession, but that is still
short of a firm commitment to membership at least while the latter is
judged politically undesirable or unfeasible by some member states. The
EU needs to change the growing perception within Ukraine that the country in de facto terms already has been excluded from any future enlargement. One possibility would be a reformulated partnership that signaled
that the issue of Ukrainian accession would at least enter the picture in the
longer-term, but would be conditional on a number of shorter-term
reforms.50 This need not bind the EU, but would help underwrite still
fragile democratic change in Ukraine. It is to the EUs profound discredit
that Ukraines current Neighborhood Action Plan offers nothing substantively important beyond the range of cooperation that was already agreed
with President Kuchma. The EU should shift from repeating that the
door is neither closed nor open to emphasizing more that a door does at
least exist, with the potential to be opened.

Increase Political Reform Funding.

Enthusiastic Western support for the Orange Revolution has not translated into a massive post-2004 injection of funds, and many donors are
looking to scale down support to Ukraine after a modest boost to political reform work in the immediate wake of democratic transition.

50 H. Nemyria, Ukraine and the European Union: A Fresh Start? in Forbig and Shepherd,
op. cit, p. 39.



Experience suggests that this relative neglect is overly optimistic of how

far Ukraine has progressed towards fully consolidated democracy. A
range of standard challenges persist in post-Orange revolution Ukraine
the weakness of local government, the need for coalition-building, governance reforms where technical assistance, advice and capacity-building
are urgently needed.

Strengthen Donor Coordination.

Coordination between donors in the run up to last years elections was
good and could usefully serve as a model for other cases. Coordination was
less extensive prior to the electoral period, and has not been carried
through to the post-election period an obvious correction warranted by
Ukraines persistent political challenges. The perception exists in Ukraine
that not all European states are pulling in the same direction, and that the
United States has lost interest since the 2004 elections. More systematic
coordination on current challenges would help counter such criticisms.

Identify a Broader Range of Reform Partners in Ukraine.

In the wake of the Orange Revolution, the international community
needs to broaden the range of its democracy support programs and focus
in particular on the challenges emanating from the eastern part of
Ukraine. The current focus remains unduly centered on Kiev-based
NGOs. A lack of attention to the conditions surrounding local elections
was an unwarranted oversight. The international community needs to
redress not just quantitative but also qualitative limits to its democracy
support in Ukraine, and move away from a perspective that remains
unduly Orange-oriented.

Shift Away from an Overly Technical Focus.

The Ukraine case suggests that the international community requires a
deeper understanding of the relationship between technical assistance and
democracy promotion. The overwhelming EU focus on legislative
approximation contributed to structural parameters largely conducive to
governance reform. However, the lesson from Ukraine is also that such an
approach can easily divert attention away from deteriorating conditions at
the political level, in both pre- and post-transition contexts. It is at such a
level, with growing fissures within the reformist coalition, that the types of
initiatives and support offered by the international community in other
countries and regions of the world look increasingly necessary in Ukraine.


Chapter 5

Once a democracy promoter itself,2 Venezuela has now become a new target for international democracy promotion efforts. Until 1998, when
Hugo Chvez Fras first won the presidential elections, Latin Americas
most important oil exporter had been seen as a relatively stable representative democracy and welfare state. Today, Venezuela is an example of a
reverse transition away from liberal democracy, albeit one undertaken by
electoral means. Under Chvez, Venezuela has become one of the most
prominent cases of political change towards leftist semi-authoritarianism.
This chapter outlines the limited success of international responses to this
decline in democratic quality. During the first stage of the Chvez government (1999-2002), some international actors concentrated their efforts on
supporting the opposition movement; after 2002, external actors engagement focused on the use of multilateral instruments to promote dialogue
and elections. While neither approach has succeeded in avoiding
Venezuelas drift away from representative democracy, it is argued here that
the latter strategy could facilitate stronger, more effective efforts to reduce
polarization between the government and anti-Chavistas.

President Hugo Chvez represents a return to politics in uniform,
though achieved through elections rather than a military coup. The
Chvez military-civil political project is based on the triad of strongman,
plus army, plus people.3 This shift has taken place in a context of what

1 Principal author, Susanne Gratius, Senior Researcher, FRIDE.

2 Under President Rmulo Betancourt (1959-1964), Venezuela did not establish diplomatic
relations with authoritarian regimes. The Betancourt Doctrine was abandoned in the
3 M. Kornblith, The Referendum in Venezuela: Elections versus Democracy, Journal of
Democracy, January 2005, p. 136.



could even be considered an excessive number of electoral processes. No

other government in the history of Venezuela, or even Latin America, has
been confirmed as many times by the voters as President Chvez. Despite
serious doubts concerning the transparency and high abstention rates of
recent elections, the opposition has not been able to present a credible
alternative to President Chvez and his self-styled Bolivarian revolution.
The political dilemma in Venezuela derives not from the presidents
lack of electoral legitimacy, but his drive to dominate democratic institutions. A gradual transition to semi-authoritarian rule by selective repression
is unfolding, marked by the approval of semi-authoritarian restrictive laws,
the concentration of power in the hands of the president and the increasing militarization of policy.4 Chvez has succeeded in using nominally
democratic institutions to consolidate his personal leadership by weakening or eliminating checks on his power and discriminating against his
political adversaries. As a result, extreme polarization between the government and opposition has taken root often characterized by violent confrontation.5 These competing sectors have split fundamentally on a range
of policy issues: the oil industry (nationalization versus privatization);
poverty alleviation (empowerment versus exclusion); and the political system (representative versus popular democracy). Since Chvezs election to
the presidency in 1998, Venezuela has become a profoundly divided country in political and social terms: For the first time since 1958, politics
were perceived as a zero-sum game in which the poor and the privileged
had conflicting interests.6
Chvez benefited from the failures of the previously bipolar political
system, dominated by a political elite that had lost credibility. This has
contributed to a persistent weakness of political parties (including
Chvezs own Movimiento Quinta Repblica) of which many have
remained anchored in the past and unable to reach Venezuelas poor, further strengthening the presidents position. Nearly all democratic institutions have been dominated by Chvez loyalists, while the oppositions
presence has waned.

4 Since the October 2004 elections, nine of Venezuelas 23 states are governed by retired officers; the military participates in Chvezs cabinet and coordinates several development projects.
5 See S. Ellner and D. Hellinger (eds), Venezuelan Politics in the Chvez Era: Class,
Polarization & Conflict, Boulder/London: Lynne Rienner, 2003, p. 215ff.
6 Ibid., p. 20.



For four decades (1958-1998), Venezuela then the worlds fifth largest
oil exporter stood out as one of the regions more stable varieties of representative democracy with a strong bureaucratic welfare state. Political
power alternated through democratic elections between the two main
political parties (Accin Democrtica (AD) and Comit de Organizacin
Poltica Electoral Independiente (COPEI)), which produced a corporatistclientelist system based on the distribution of oil profits between loyal
party followers, trade unions and business organizations. This pact, based
on the so-called Punto Fijo political party agreement, excluded the communists and the military. The corporatist system began to weaken when
oil revenues were reduced and the burden of debt services restricted the
continuity of clientelist policies. Social exclusion and poverty were the
consequences of the severe crisis that culminated in the violent 1989
Caracazo riots.
The eroding of the Punto Fijo agreement opened the way for the
empowerment of former Lieutenant Colonel Hugo Chvez. In this sense,
Chvez was not the cause, but the consequence of the crisis of Venezuelas
liberal democracy. Chvez entered politics by non-democratic means,
attempting to wrest power through two (failed) military coups in 1992.
After spending two years in jail, Chvez was freed by then President Rafael
Caldera. Despite the attempted coups, Chvez was permitted to stand as
a presidential candidate and won power in December 1998, through a fair
and transparent process.
In short, the gradual decline of representative, clientelist and elitist
democracy prepared the ground for Chvezs self-made Bolivarian
Revolution supported, at least in its initial stages, by the masses of poor
urban and rural citizens (poverty affects nearly 70 percent of the
Venezuelan population). Chvezs time in office can be divided into two
main periods: first, the construction of the Bolivarian state between
1999 and 2002; and second, a concentration of power and a Chvez
Revolution after 2002. A failed military coup against Chvez, in April
2002, was the most important factor in strengthening the presidents hold
on power. The holding of the recall referendum in 2004 modestly reduced
the polarization between chavistas and anti-chavistas. Both stages of chavismo have been highly influenced by changes in the price of oil,7 the main
source of state revenue and public employment.

7 Oil accounts for 80 percent of export earnings and more than half of state revenues.



In 1999, Chvez began a process to reform the basic edifice of the

Venezuelan state.8 Based on political ideas of the national hero El
Libertador Simn Bolvar (1783-1830), a Bolivarian constitution was prepared and, subsequently, approved in a popular referendum by 72 percent
of the citizens. The Constitution introduced a six-year presidential term
and the possibility of immediate re-election, substituted the two-chamber
Parliament for a one-chamber National Assembly and created a Moral
Council, an Electoral Council and paramilitary Bolivarian circles.
The Bolivarian Constitution was the main plank in a gradual process of
conquering political power that involved the taking over of democratic
institutions by those loyal to Chvez. Supported by the Bolivarian circles,
low- and middle-ranking military personnel, his own party (the
Movimiento Quinta Repblica (MVR)), and the poor, Chvez began to
gain political control over the 167-seat National Assembly (by elections),
the Supreme Court (by appointment), the Electoral Council (by agreement), the state-owned oil firm PDVSA (by replacing personnel) and the
media. Only in the last case did the opposition mount some degree of successful resistance. In 2001, political parties, trade unions and business
organizations created the Coordinadora Democrtica (CD) as the main
forum for Chvez opponents. They attempted both democratic means
(strikes and political protests) and non-democratic tactics (the coup
attempt) to remove the president from office.
On April 9, 2002, in the midst of a general strike, anti-Chvez demonstrators marched to the presidential palace and exchanged gunfire with
Chvez supporters, leaving several dead. Following this development,
members of the military arrested Chvez on the grounds that he had
ordered the military to open fire on an unarmed demonstration. The
coup leaders circulated the rumor that Chvez had resigned, when in fact
he had not, and declared Pedro Carmona, head of Fedecamaras, the leading business association and one of the strike organizers, as president.
Carmona immediately dissolved the National Assembly, all the constituent bodies and the Supreme Court, and dismissed the governors and
elected mayors. He then declared the 1999 Constitution null and void
and nullified 49 laws Chvez had passed in order to increase state control
in many sectors. Two days later, pro-Chvez groups launched large-scale

8 According to an article written by Chvez in the mid-1990s, his Bolivarian project implies a
holistic reconstruction of the state and the political system based on legitimacy and sovereignty. See H. Chvez, Pacto de Punto Fijo: el fin, Rebelin, Caracas, December 13,



demonstrations in which hundreds of thousands of people occupied roads

and squares throughout the country. Middle-ranking members of the
military still loyal to Chvez, influenced both by the fresh demonstrations
and the international response, mobilized and decided to reverse the coup.
Carmona was forced to resign. Chvez was flown back to Caracas and
returned to the presidential palace in a strengthened position vis--vis a
de-legitimized opposition.
Parallel to Chvezs moral victory after the oppositions attempt to
depose him by military means, oil prices began to rise and finally culminated in the 2004-2005 bonanza. Politically strengthened by the failed
coup, the rise of oil prices in world markets gave the president and his followers a new economic base to consolidate power. At the political level,
the coup attempt contributed to both political polarization and the concentration of power by the government, which kicked off the second distinctive phase of Chvezs tenure in office.
In the aftermath of the coup, the opposition organized two lengthy
general strikes that paralyzed the country and provoked a nine percent
decline in its gross domestic product (GDP) during 2002-2003. Despite
suffering this severe economic setback, Chvez once again emerged the
clear winner of the political struggle with the opposition. When the second general strike ended in February 2003, the government fired 18,000
of PDVSAs 30,000 employees and placed a Chvez supporter (Al
Rodrguez, who later became foreign minister) at the head of the company. It is argued that PDVSA has been transformed from an energy company to a de facto political party.9 Chavistas also were able to increase
control over the judicial and electoral system by securing a majority in the
Supreme Court and the Electoral Council.
The opposition reacted with a proposal to organize a recall referendum on Chvezs presidency as permitted by the new Bolivarian
Constitution. This relatively novel mechanism allows citizens to recall all
political mandates after the mid-point of their term if 20 percent of voters
sign a petition requesting such a process. At the beginning of 2003, the
opposition had a serious chance of winning a referendum to recall Chvez;
however, the government blocked and delayed the process for more than a
year. After 18 months of judicial struggle10 and two national pacts signed

9 El Pas, Madrid, December 8, 2005.

10 For a detailed analysis of the recall process, see the chapter on Venezuela in T. Piccone (ed.)
Regime Change by the Book: Constitutional Tools to Preserve Democracy, Washington:
Democracy Coalition Project, 2005, pp. 28-43.



in 2003 by the government and opposition,11 the recall referendum finally

was held on August 15, 2004. The outcome was not what was expected.
Chvez won with a clear majority of 59 percent, thereby massively
strengthening his electoral legitimacy. Nevertheless, the presidents victory
was overshadowed by two charges of manipulation: first, the government
did not allow an opposition request to audit all electoral machines; and second, in the months following the referendum many people who had signed
petitions supporting the recall process were discriminated against by the
state bureaucracy.
Backed by the recall process, the president continued his strategy of
gaining control over democratic institutions. The first step was to increase
power at the local level. During the regional elections, held on October
31, 2004, chavistas won control of 22 of the 24 local governments. The
second step was to counteract the mass media dominated by the opposition: in December 2004, the National Assembly passed new media legislation that restricted freedom of speech. In the third step, the government
continued to intimidate representatives of the opposition. The most obvious example of political repression was the (still outstanding) public trial
against several members of the non-governmental organization (NGO)
Smate, accused by Chvez of acting as a political party openly supported
by the United States. The principal goal of Smate, in fact better organized than opposition parties, was to collect and verify the signatures for the
Chvez recall referendum.12
Chvez also strengthened his power in Parliament. Legislative elections, held on December 4, 2005, were won by parties loyal to Chvez,
with 88.6 percent of the votes. Nonetheless, as a result of an opposition
boycott (AD, COPEI, Proyecto Venezuela and Primero Justicia13 opted not
to participate), coupled with political apathy,14 the abstention rate reached
a historic record of 75 percent. This undermined the democratic legitimacy of the National Assembly, which was created in 1999 by Chvez and is
dominated now by his followers (who held 114 of 167 seats). The elec-

11 Declaration against Violence, for Peace and Democracy, February 18, 2003; and May 29,
12 The role of Smate in the domestic political game is somewhat ambivalent. Although it
sees itself as an NGO or as a consultancy dedicated to improving democratic conditions,
according to local observers Smate is also perceived as a (non-registered) opposition party.
13 This followed a large internal debate that threatened to divide the party.
14 Nearly 50 percent of the Venezuelan voters are qualified as ni ni , neither for Chvez nor
for the opposition.



tions produced a government majority strong enough to raise the possibility of amending the 1999 Constitution in order to allow Chvez to run
again for the presidency in 2012.
Once he had consolidated his power at home and was backed by high
oil revenues (GDP increased by 17.3 percent in 2004), Chvez gradually
began to implement his policy of twenty-first century socialism, both in
and outside of the country. Based on a close alliance with Cuba the two
countries signed an agreement to exchange Venezuelan oil for Cuban doctors and teachers the government created several social missions
(misiones) in the poor areas of Venezuela in order to alleviate poverty15 and
to win votes and support for the president. According to local observers,
the missions supposedly a proposal made by Fidel Castro were one of
the main reasons for Chvezs victory in the recall referendum. In order
to promote the political empowerment of the poor, the government also
began to create local committees to organize infrastructure (water, land,
housing) in the barrios.16 On the economic front, Chvez implemented
agrarian reforms that included expropriations and land occupation, limited and conditioned foreign investment in the oil sector17 and threatened
to suspend several contracts with international oil firms (particularly the
US company, Exxon). Furthermore, following the Smate case, the government proposed a new law that would restrict external funding of
national NGOs.
Abroad, Chvez promoted his anti-imperialist integration project,
ALBA (Bolivarian Alternative for America), announced full Mercosur
membership, launched the regional oil-initiative Petrosur, created the alternative television channel Telesur, signed several weapons deals (with Russia
and Spain) and openly supported leftist movements or parties in Latin
America, particularly in Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, Nicaragua and Mexico.
Oil was the main instrument for Hugo Chvezs regional power ambitions:
Venezuela offered preferential oil conditions to the Caribbean states,
including Cuba; agreed with Argentina and Brazil to create the new oil

15 The most successful of the thirteen missions have been Barrio Adentro, with the presence
of Cuban doctors in poor areas of Venezuela, and Mercal, aimed at the creation of statesupported popular markets. All of the missions are criticized strongly because of state
bureaucracy and control, lack of transparency (the missions for the most part are managed
by former military personnel and ministry officials) and high levels of inefficiency.
16 Local empowerment is beginning to conflict with Chvezs idea of power concentration.
17 Foreign investors must engage in joint ventures with PDVSA, which has a majority of at
least 51 percent. Furthermore, foreign companies have to invest part of their profits in a
social fund created by the government.



company Petrosur; and made a pact with the Andean countries to establish
Petroandino, a common energy market. Oil-based strategic alliances with
Russia, China and Iran were also pursued.

International Responses

From 1998 to the Failed Military Coup

Although the Clinton administration initially established dialogue with the
Chvez government, US policy towards Venezuela wavered between
engagement and support to the opposition. After George W. Bush
assumed the presidency, however, US policy aligned itself toward isolation
and regime change. In the period leading up to the April 2002 coup
attempt, the US openly and actively supported the opposition movement,
including its violent political street protests. Following a bottom-up
approach (largely devoid of bilateral dialogue with Chvez), the US offered
financial and diplomatic support to Chvezs opponents within Venezuelan
civil society. While Venezuela has never been an official aid recipient of the
United States except for funds for ad hoc electoral monitoring from
1998 onwards, NGOs and organizations opposed to Chvez did receive
US funds. With an annual budget between $1-2 million, the National
Endowment for Democracy (NED) supported opposition political parties
as well as civil society organizations such as Smate and media entities.
Overall, however, Venezuela was not a large beneficiary of US democracy
assistance. As the fourth largest oil supplier to the United States,18 the
application of sanctions against Venezuela also looked improbable.
As a strong ally of the opposition, the United States was a key external
player in the coup attempt against Chvez. The Bush administration, at
the least, sympathized with the attempted coup. Washington immediately
recognized the transition government of Pedro Carmona and exclusively
blamed the resigned Chvez for the violence.19 The tone and high number of official statements on Venezuela at that time twelve in only one
week was an important indicator of the supportive role played by the
United States during the failed coup.20

18 Sixty percent of Venezuelan oil exports go to the United States, which purchases between
12 14 percent of its oil imports from the Andean country.
19 See statement by P. T. Reeker, deputy spokesman, Venezuela, Change of Government,
April 12, 2002.
20 Press Releases Archive of the US Embassy in Venezuela, 2002.



Relations were particularly tense between the Venezuelan government

and then US Ambassador Charles S. Shapiro, a former coordinator for
Cuban Affairs. Shapiro was appointed ambassador on February 25, 2002
but was replaced ahead of schedule in August 2004 by career diplomat
William Brownfield. Beyond conspiracy theories and close contacts
between US officials and the opposition,21 no proof has emerged of direct
US involvement in the coup attempt.22
The European Unions (EU) role was conspicuously low-key. As one of
the worlds main oil exporters, Venezuela had not been an aid recipient
until the humanitarian catastrophe caused by the floods at the end of 1999,
when 30,000 people died. During the entire decade prior to Chvezs presidency, the European Commission financed projects totaling less than
67,000 euros. After 1999, funds increased and the country received
approximately 50 million euros a year from the European Commission for
economic cooperation and to compensate natural disasters. While the EU
emerged as the largest donor with funding coming mainly from Spain,
the European Commission, Germany and France development assistance
still accounted for less than 0.1 percent of Venezuelas gross national product (GNP), undermining the leverage of external economic and development assistance as democracy promotion instruments. Although the EU
was Venezuelas main investor and donor, it did not formulate a common
policy towards Venezuela.
Venezuelan civil society organizations were not offered funding from
the Commission-managed European Initiative for Democracy and Human
Rights (EIDHR), which in Latin America focused mainly on Guatemala
and Mexico. Two main arguments explained the relative absence of political interest: first, the treatment of Venezuela as a member state of the
Andean Community, and as such a beneficiary of several agreements with
the EU including the special drugs regime within the EUs General System
of Preferences for trade; and second, according to a representative of the
Commission, the fact that Hugo Chvez had been democratically elected
and confirmed by a popular consultation was seen as making it extremely
difficult for the EU to engage critically against the government.
Except for a bilateral summit between EU foreign policy representative,
Javier Solana, and Hugo Chvez in October 2001, Venezuela has not been

21 According to the British newspaper, The Observer, Otto Reich, Elliot Abrams and John
Negroponte had been closely linked to the golpistas. The Observer, London, April 21, 2002.
22 See M. Sullivan, Venezuela: Political Conditions and U.S. Policy, CRS Report for the
Congress (updated April 1, 2005), Washington, D.C., p. 8.



prominent on the EUs political agenda for Latin America. Despite the
countrys increasing political problems, the European Union still treats
Venezuela as part of the group-to-group, EU-Andean Community dialogue, which focuses mainly on non-political issues such as integration,
drugs control, development aid and trade. Apart from the individual relations maintained by its member states, the EU has not established any
channel for bilateral dialogue with Venezuela and even development cooperation is mainly part of the Commissions package for the Andean
Community. Although the European Commission has a country strategy
paper for Venezuela, the focus of this strategy is on economic and social policy. Political problems, such as violations of human rights, civilian insecurity, prison conditions or the role of the military in politics are mentioned,
but not addressed in any concrete way by political reform aid projects.23
Despite limited economic interests (Venezuela accounts for only 0.3
percent of EU exports, and the EU for less than 10 percent of Venezuelan
exports),24 EU member states have insisted on maintaining positive relations
with Chvez. EU governments, particularly those of Germany, France and
Spain, have received the Venezuelan president on several occasions. Due to
the engagement of British, French, Spanish and other European oil companies in Venezuela from 2000 on, European foreign investment has become
even more significant relative to US investment flows.
Before Chvez came to power and during the first years of his presidency, Germany Venezuelas main trading partner in Europe was the most
active EU member state in Venezuelan politics and the only one really
engaged in democracy promotion. Its activities have been channeled by
the main German political foundations, which have been important actors
in Venezuelan domestic policy. Particularly before 1999, and for at least
two decades, German political foundations worked in Venezuelan politics
and could be said to have been complicit in the deterioration of the democratic system. Before the rise of Hugo Chvez, the social democratic
Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES) established a strong alliance with the
trade unions and the AD (the traditional social democratic party), while
the Christian Democratic-oriented Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS)
maintained close ties with the conservative COPEI and the business organization Fedecmaras. After 1998, the FES decided not to work so closely

23 Commission of the European Communities, Venezuela: Country Strategy Paper, Brussels,

pp. 6-7.
24 Ibid., p. 10.



with a political party, but to increase engagement with government officials

and civil society networks. The KAS supported the opposition movement
particularly the best-organized political party, Primero Justicia25 and
also established closer ties with the Catholic Church, which opposed the
Chvez regime.26
Aside from the activities of its political foundations, Germanys relations with Venezuela have remained weak. In economic terms, Germany
is only its fifth most important trading partner within the EU and foreign
investment flows are very low; moreover, political relations with the
Venezuelan government are normal, although also low. According to officials, German engagement in Venezuela, since 1998, has been limited for
two reasons: the lack of geopolitical and economic interests and Germanys
relations with the United States. The German governments reaction to the
failed April 2002 military coup was cautious and in line with the neutral
EU approach.
The United Kingdom also maintained a non-position with regard to
the failed military coup and has not developed close relations with the
Chvez government. Trade and investment (the UK is Venezuelas fifth top
foreign investor) have been the main topics in bilateral relations. UK government officials, in bilateral consultations with the Chvez administration, have raised concern over human rights.27 Apart from the environmental and drugs focus of British official development assistance (ODA)
to Venezuela, its embassy in Caracas has funded several human rights projects (with resources between 60-70,000 pounds a year), focused on participation and access to justice, improving conditions in prisons, integration
of refugees, as well as capacity-building on human rights for NGOs and
the Venezuelan police. According to government representatives, due to
political restrictions imposed by the government, human rights projects
(and particularly police training) have only been undertaken at the local
level and have had little visibility. The British attitude towards the Chvez
government could best be qualified as a distant but professional relationship, with a limited impact on democracy promotion.

25 Primero Justicia is a new conservative political party, made up of young professionals; it

lacks national reach and has a very limited presence in poor areas.
26 In January 2006, the Venezuelan government entered into a national dialogue with members of the Catholic Church.
27 See Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Human Rights Annual Report 2005, FCO, London,
p. 224.



France adopted a much clearer position against the coup attempt and
can be considered a clear supporter of Hugo Chvez. In an official statement, the French government immediately condemned the failed coup.
According to a French government official, the electoral processes under
Chvez were acceptable and reflected the sociological reality of the country. Close French-Venezuelan relations are based on common political
interests and personal ties. Indeed, the French government has shared in
some of Chvezs challenge to US dominance. The political alliance with
Chvez is also linked to the personal interest of Prime Minister
Dominique de Villepin, who studied at the Lycee Francais in Caracas.
The French government has received the Venezuelan president on six
occasions. Bilateral cooperation has been particularly strong in oil, transport, medicine and social projects; moreover, close political and aid relations have mirrored growing economic interests. After the United States,
and due to the presence of Total, France has become the second largest foreign investor in Venezuela.
In terms of domestic political debate, it was in Spain where Chvezs
election had the greatest impact. Similar to Spains relations with Cuba,
Venezuela has been used more as a platform for internal Spanish party
struggles rather than for foreign policy objectives. Within the EU, Spain
was the only country to recognize the interim government of Pedro
Carmona. Under the 1996-2004 premiership of Jos Mara Aznar, Spain
openly expressed its support for the opposition and distanced itself from
the Chvez government.28 Although the Venezuelan president made an
official visit to Spain in February 2000, and Jos Mara Aznar signed a
bilateral trade accord in Caracas in July 1999, political relations between
the two governments were tense and reached their most critical moment
during the coup attempt.
For the first time ever, on April 12, 2002, Spain issued a common
statement with the United States, clearly in favor of the oppositions coup
attempt. According to press reports, the US-Spanish statement was based
on a previous pact between Aznar and Bush. The then Mexican Foreign
Minister Jorge Castaeda explained that the Spanish and US ambassadors
in Venezuela tried to convince several European and Latin American governments to join the declaration. Furthermore, Castaeda affirmed that
one day after the military coup failed, on April 13, 2002, US and Spanish
Ambassadors Charles Shapiro and Manuel Viturro, respectively, met with
28 In a recent interview in Quito, Ecuador, Jos Mara Aznar considered Chvez a huge risk
for democracy in the Americas. El Nuevo Herald, Miami, November 23, 2005.



Pedro Carmona.29 Although there is no proof of a direct involvement of

the then Spanish government in the coup attempt, the removal of Chvez
from power was a major objective of Spanish policy towards Venezuela
under Aznar, based on a broader alliance with the United States.
Notwithstanding this policy, Spain was Venezuelas main European
donor, with projects focused on basic infrastructure, health, education,
environment, good governance (assistance in public administration) and
conflict prevention.
In response to the coup, the Organization of American States (OAS)
condemned the alteration of the constitutional order and called for the
normalization of the democratic institutional framework in Venezuela
within the context of the Inter-American Democratic Charter. Leaders of
the 17-nation Rio Group, which happened to be meeting in Costa Rica at
the time, also immediately condemned the coup, demonstrating the
importance of regional organizations in the Venezuelan conflict. It was
also the Rio Group that urged then OAS Secretary General Csar Gaviria
to address the crisis in Venezuela.30 At the request of the Venezuelan government, the OAS agreed to facilitate a rapprochement with opposition
groups.31 Concerned by the excessive polarization in Venezuela, on April
19, 2002, the OAS offered its support for an open national dialogue without exclusion.32 Despite taking up residence in Caracas to broker talks
between the government and opposition, Gavirias mission was hobbled
from the start. Given bilateral tensions with Colombia Pedro Carmonas
exile in Bogot and Venezuelas relations with the guerilla Chvez saw
Gaviria as an interlocutor of the CD (the main forum of the opposition).33

Multilateral Efforts to Support the Recall Referendum

After the failed military coup, the US government adopted a modestly
revised strategy. In a White House Report on April 16, 2002, the Bush
administration made it explicitly clear to the opposition that in the future

29 Dossier, El Pas, Madrid, November 29, 2004.

30 A. Cooper & T. Legler, A Tale of Two Mesas: The OAS Defense of Democracy in Peru
and Venezuela, non-published conference paper, ISA Annual Convention, Montreal,
March 2004.
31 According to OAS Resolution 821, August 14, 2002.
32 Asamblea General de la OEA renueva llamada a la reconciliacin en Venezuela,. OAS
Press Releases, April 19, 2002.
33 For the role of Csar Gaviria and tensions with Chvez, see Cooper and Legler, op. cit., pp.



it would not support a coup.34 After 2002, the Bush- administration

chose a two-track policy towards Venezuela by bilaterally supporting the
opposition and multilaterally joining OAS efforts for national reconciliation and a referendum on Chvez. The replacement of the US ambassador in Venezuela contributed to reducing the degree of conflict between
the two states.
Despite the shift in Washingtons policy from an openly aggressive attitude towards a more moderate course, relations with the Chvez government remained tense and bilateral contacts were limited to the technical
level. According to US officials, for economic and strategic reasons the US
government was interested in establishing a better relationship; however,
President Chvez has continued to use the United States as an external
enemy to bolster domestic support. Assistant Secretary of State Thomas
Shannon has argued that the United States is not trying to isolate
Venezuela. From his perspective, conflict is the result of the Chvez government seeking to boost domestic support by projecting an image of permanent conflict with the United States.35
Once Chvez was restored to power after the aborted coup, the US
increased its engagement with civil society, but avoided direct party financing. Such continued US engagement in Venezuela with NGOs and civil
society organizations opposed to Chvez caused renewed conflict with the
Chvez government. Smate received a 53,400 dollar grant from NED in
addition to minor funds from the US embassy, USAID and the German
Konrad Adenauer Foundation. NED claimed that it [did] not, in
Venezuela, or elsewhere, fund groups based on their support for or opposition to the government. Several months before the recall referendum
took place, the Venezuelan government officially asked NED to stop its
activities, which senior Venezuelan government officials argued represented an interference in domestic affairs.36 Several representatives of Smate
were threatened with jail for having received external funds.37 US officials
sent a strong note of protest to Chvez against the Smate trial, which was
postponed several times and by early 2006 was still pending. Tensions
heightened when Smates director, Mara Corina Machado (a possible

34 White House Report: Venezuela, April 16, 2002.

35 El Pas, Madrid, February 3, 2006.
36 Statement by Jorge Valero, a Venezuelan Ambassador to the OAS, Washington, D.C., April
30, 2004.
37 According to Article 132 of the Venezuelan Penal Law (conspiracin para destruir la forma
republicana de gobierno de la nacin), recently reformed under Chvez.



presidential candidate), was received in May 2005 by President Bush;

Chvez has never been invited to the White House.
The US has continued to support a number of civil society groups,
through increased funds for democracy promotion forthcoming from different agencies, including the US embassy in Caracas.38 Since August
2002, Venezuela has been part of USAIDs Transitions Initiatives,
focused in this case on the strengthening of local NGOs, although with a
budget of only $5 million. Another $350,000 was spent on conflict resolution and other projects supported by the US embassy in Venezuela.
Other projects carried out by the National Democratic Institute (NDI)
and the International Republican Institute (IRI) in Venezuela are focused
on election monitoring and capacity-building of party leaders. In a statement on November 17, 2005, US Assistant Secretary of State Thomas
Shannon criticized the increasing and unchecked concentration of power
in the executive and announced increased support for civil society.
On the other hand, since regime change by military means failed in
April 2002, the US has begun to support multilateral efforts for national
reconciliation and an electoral solution to the political crisis. Although
bilateral relations remained tense39 Condoleezza Rice has called Chvez
a negative force in Latin America and Chvez accuses the Bush administration of harboring plans to kill him or invade Venezuela40 the US has
opted for a multilateral approach towards the country. Backed by Brazil
(and despite the initial opposition of Chvez), the United States joined
the Group of Friends of the OAS Secretary General for Venezuela and
participated, along with Brazil and Spain, actively in mediation efforts
between the government and opposition. Nearly all State Department
declarations during the 2003-2005 period back the OAS and Carter
Center engagement in Venezuela.
In the aftermath of the coup, the OAS and the Carter Center became
the most active external actors in the Venezuelan political conflict. In June
2002, following a visit by former US President Jimmy Carter to Venezuela,
the two organizations, supported by technical assistance from the United
Nations Development Program (UNDP), were asked by the Chvez gov-

38 See Press Release of the US State Department, Washington, D.C., July 24, 2002.
39 US government officials openly criticize the concentration of power, arms purchases and its
alliance with Cuba; meanwhile Chvez threatened to cut oil supplies to the United States
several times.
40 With this argument, the chavistas began to buy arms and create a popular defense system
similar to that of Cuba.



ernment to monitor national dialogue with the opposition. Political leadership within the Tripartite Working Group (the involvement of three
institutions was a requirement imposed by Chvez) was personally
assumed by the OAS Secretary General Gaviria.
In a joint statement on September 13, 2002, the Tripartite Group
(OAS, UNDP and the Carter Center) stated that they understood that
Venezuelas problems can and should be solved by Venezuelans within the
framework of the Constitution and the law. During their first mission to
Venezuela, government officials and opposition representatives signed a
Declaration of Principles for Peace and Democracy in Venezuela, setting
the ground for negotiations between the parties under the international
umbrella of the Tripartite Mission. Direct negotiations between the government and opposition started on November 8, 2002; however, the
process was soon interrupted by the general strike that began on December
2 and ended at the beginning of February 2003.
In the middle of the general strike, Brazilian President Lula da Silva
decided to create the Group of Friends of the OAS Secretary General for
Venezuela and to mediate in the internal crisis. On an initial visit to
Venezuela, the six countries (Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Portugal, Spain and the
United States) sought to achieve conciliation between the parties, end the
strike and get the parties to return to negotiations. When the Tripartite
Group also intervened, the opposition finally ended the general strike and
returned to dialogue with the government. Under the umbrella of the
Tripartite Group, in February 2003, the parties signed a first pact on peaceful conflict resolution. At the end of May, in a second agreement, government and opposition decided to convoke a recall referendum on Chvez,
if the opposition were able to mobilize the necessary support (20 percent
of registered voters).
In close cooperation, OAS and Carter Center engagement focused on
the recall process and its three different stages: collection of signatures, verification and confirmation of the results.41 Indeed, the OAS-Carter
Center-UNDP tripartite mission was the most important external intervention in the process that led to the celebration of the referendum on
August 15, 2004, which initially had been rejected by the Chvez government. OAS, UNDP and Carter Center efforts were strongly backed by the
six nations included in the Group of Friends. In particular, coordination
between Brazil and the United States, and the pressure they exerted on

41 See T. Piccone, op.cit., 2005; and M. Kornblith, op. cit., pp. 124-138.



their respective allies the Chvez government and the opposition was
essential in securing the national pact.
Although the outcome of the referendum reinforced Chvezs position,
the celebration of the popular consultation itself met the demands of the
opposition for a chance to unseat Chvez. However, the results of the referendum, as well as the fairness and transparency of the process, were questioned by the opposition. A second audit carried out by the OAS and the
Carter Center confirmed Chvezs clear victory,42 despite continuing
doubts expressed within Venezuela over technical procedures.
The Group of Friends President Lula da Silvas first foreign policy initiative was immediately recognized by the Chvez government as a neutral partner. The Group advocated a peaceful, democratic, constitutional
and electoral outcome of the political crisis. Despite differences between
Brazil and Chile, on the one hand, and the US and Spain, on the other, the
consensus-building process within the group was a helpful exercise in
reaching a negotiated solution to the political polarization and an agreement between the different external actors. The support of the six states in
the Group also strengthened the credibility of OAS and Carter Center
activities in Venezuela.43 After the celebration of the referendum, the Carter
Center closed its office in Caracas. Nonetheless, in its final report on the
recall referendum, the Carter Center affirmed that the consultation
reflected the divisions in the country and that it alone could not solve
the underlying differences within society.44 The Carter Centers engagement has been criticized by part of the opposition for working too closely
with the Chvez government.
The UNDP commenced a range of activities in Venezuela in 2002,
immediately after the failed military coup. According to a UNDP representative, the polarization between government and opposition was the
cause of high levels of political violence. Before the mediation process, the
regional UNDP office carried out a series of interviews with different
actors in Venezuela (opposition, church, government, NGOs), and concluded that the polarization process was the main obstacle to the countrys

42 Organization of American States, Misin de observacin electoral de la OEA al referendo

revocatorio presidencial en Venezuela del 15 de agosto, Washington, D.C., September 21,
43 The Carter Center, El Centro Carter y el proceso de construccin de paz en Venezuela
junio-febrero 2005, Atlanta, 2005.
44 The Carter Center, Observing the Venezuelan Presidential Recall Referendum:.
Comprehensive Report, Atlanta, February 2005.



governability. During the mediation process led by the Tripartite Working

Group, UNDP engagement in Venezuela was limited to technical support
and capacity-building measures (of media representatives and others).
Although officials concede that conditions for dialogue in Venezuela are
worse than before, UNDP mediation efforts and political projects in
Venezuela ended with the recall referendum in August 2004.
While the UNDP and Carter Center engagement ended with the referendum, the OAS sent observers to the Venezuelan parliamentary elections on December 4, 2005, which were also monitored by the EU. In
its preliminary report on these electoral proceedings, the OAS stressed the
need for confidence-building measures and a new democratic consensus in Venezuela.45
Although the EU did not pay significant attention to the coup attempt,
after 2002 it did begin to address the conflict in Venezuela and, in a first
statement on October 9, 2002,46 stressed its concern for the highly polarized political situation in Venezuela. Eight subsequent European Council
declarations focused on the importance of peaceful conflict resolution
within the framework of a national dialogue. Until monitoring parliamentary elections in December 2005, the EU had limited its political role to
passive support for OAS and Carter Center engagement.
Since April 2002, the focus of EU policy has been the permanent call
for elections and electoral monitoring. Despite this, the EU decided not
to send an observation mission for the recall referendum. According to a
Commission official, this was due to technical and political obstacles
imposed by the Chvez government, which insisted on a reduction in the
number of observers, a narrower mandate and shorter mission. While such
difficulties persisted, one year later the EU decided to accept the invitation
of the National Electoral Council (CNE) and send observers to the parliamentary elections. The mission was financed with 2.8 million euros from
the EIDHR. Before the elections took place, External Relations
Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner opined that the elections would
offer an important opportunity with regard to democratic principles, tolerance and dialogue.47

45 Organization of American States, Observaciones preliminares de la OEA sobre las elecciones parlamentarias en Venezuela, (press release), Washington, D.C., December 6, 2005.
46 European Union, Declaration by the Presidency, on behalf of the European Union, on the
situation in Venezuela, Brussels, December 9, 2002.
47 European Commission, Unin Europea despliega Misin de Observacin Electoral en
Venezuela para las elecciones legislativas, (press statement,) Brussels, November 15, 2005.



The result was, at the least, ambivalent. On the one hand, the presence
of 160 EU observers (40 of them long-term) headed by a Portuguese member of the European Parliament (MEP), Jos Albino Silva Peneda, strengthened transparency and fairness of the electoral procedures. On the other
hand, the extremely low participation rate and the oppositions withdrawal, reduced the legitimacy of the parliamentary elections. Although the
chavistas tried to use the presence of EU observers to improve their international image, the mission criticized both the opposition and the government in its report.48 Surprised by the withdrawal of opposition parties
four days before elections,49 the EU stated that the elections did not contribute to reducing divisions in Venezuelan society and thus, represented a
lost opportunity. The EU mission also, however, criticized the composition of the CNE, which gave a favorable advantage to the government.
According to EU officials, the elections had a negative impact on both sets
of political actors: it was suggested that they were a huge failure for the
government and a suicide for the opposition. According to official statements, the mission was successful in contributing to an increase in the
acceptance and visibility of EU engagement in Venezuela. However, the
criticism of the conditions surrounding the elections implicitly acknowledged the limited impact of the EUs own electoral observation.
Aside from two small projects of 1.2 million euros in the framework of
the multi-annual human rights program in the Andean Community,50 the
EU has not financed long-term initiatives on human rights and democracy in Venezuela. According to European officials, in the framework of its
social cohesion policy towards Latin America, the EU has been interested
in supporting Chvezs missions in poor areas. However, the Chvez government has been reluctant to accept foreign assistance, including aid from
the European Commission.
After the failed military coup, Spain continued to be a key player in EU
policy towards Venezuela. Similar to the shifts in its relations with Cuba,
Venezuela has been used as an instrument for domestic battles between the
two main political parties, the conservative Popular Party (PP) and the

48 European Union, Misin de Observacin eletoral de la UE en Venezuela, Elecciones

Parlamentarias 2005, (Preliminary Statement) Caracas, December 6, 2005.
49 Just a few days before and following an agreement on the withdrawal of fingerprinting
machines, in a meeting with the European Commission, opposition leaders affirmed their
participation in legislative elections.
50 For further details see European Commission Delegation in Venezuela, La Unin Europea y
Venezuela, Caracas, November 2005.



social democratic Socialist Party (PSOE). This was evident after March
2004, when then Prime Minister Aznars PP lost elections to PSOE. While
Aznar had encouraged opposition forces in Venezuela particularly
Smate, Fedecmaras and COPEI new PSOE Prime Minister Jos Luis
Rodrguez Zapatero built stronger relations with the chavistas rather than
with the opposition parties (although for historic reasons, the PSOE had
closer relations with the AD). This change of policy under the Rodrguez
Zapatero government had a strong impact on relations between Spain and
the United States.
After March 2004, there were several reciprocated visits between
Spanish and Venezuelan ministers and a series of bilateral agreements were
signed. Additionally, Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos caused
controversy when he accused the Aznar government of having directly
supported the 2002 golpistas. In part, the Spanish policy of rapprochement to the Venezuelan government reflects the conviction that it is easier to monitor respect for human rights and democracy through an open
dialogue with Chvez rather than by isolating his government. In this
sense, the Spanish approach towards Venezuela is part of a foreign policy
based on dialogue and multilateralism, which is favored by the Rodrguez
Zapatero government. However, the current Spanish policy towards
Venezuela probably has more to do with the bitter polarization between
the PSOE and PP than with foreign policy positions per se. Rodrguez
Zapatero used his privileged position with the chavistas to mediate primarily in regard to the tense relations between Colombia and Venezuela, and
not on the democratic shortcomings within Venezuela. In March 2005,
the Spanish and Brazilian governments organized a special summit in
Venezuela with Presidents Chvez and Uribe to improve relations between
the neighboring states.
The most controversial issue for Spain, in this case, at home and abroad
was a weapons deal with Venezuela. Negotiations for this deal began in
March and were concluded on November 28, 2005, when Spanish Defense
Minister Jos Bono traveled to Caracas and signed an agreement with
Hugo Chvez for the sale of twelve transport aircraft and eight coastal
patrol ships worth over 1.3 million euros.51 US Ambassador to Spain
Eduardo Aguirre had warned the Spanish government not to sign the deal
because the sale could be a destabilizing factor in the region.52 The agree-

51 This will provide relief to the declining Spanish naval industry.

52 U.S. Hopes Spain-Venezuela Plate Deal will Stall, Reuters, November 23, 2005.



ment was strongly criticized by the US government and by the Spanish

opposition. As over 50 percent of Spains military components originate in
the US, the sale required a US export license; and in January 2006, the
Bush administration denied this license.
Even if, as then Spanish Defense Minister Jos Bono declared, the
agreement had no impact on the Colombian-Venezuelan conflict (Chvez
has been accused of supporting guerrilla groups in Colombia), the military
deal proved that the current Spanish government appears to give priority
to national economic interests over security concerns and democracy promotion. Nonetheless, the weapons deal responded more to economic
domestic pressures than to a deliberate foreign policy strategy. This controversial issue contributed to accentuating the differences between Spain
and the United States regarding Hugo Chvez, who is accepted as a legitimate partner for dialogue by the former and rejected as an authoritarian
leader by the latter.

Assessing the International Response

In general terms, Venezuela is an example of a limited multilateral engagement in a country governed by a democratically-elected, semi-authoritarian leader. External engagement has been seriously constrained by international conditions. High international oil prices have given Chvez a broad
financial margin to reconstruct the country at his own convenience and to
buy support in Latin America and abroad. In this context, the impact of
external democracy promotion has been clearly limited.
International responses to the political crisis in Venezuela can be divided into periods before and after the failed military coup against Chvez.
While the United States was the main protagonist until 2002, the second
period of the Chvez government has been unequivocally dominated by
joint multilateral efforts led by the OAS and the Carter Center.
International engagement in Venezuela proved the relevance of impartial regional and non-governmental actors in conflict resolution and the
limited impact of individual (US) or collective (EU) actors. The unilateral US strategy to promote regime change by strengthening the opposition
failed in April 2002, when Chvez was able to resist the attempt to remove
him from power by military means. The post-2002 multilateral negotiations (which included the United States) have been limited in their tangible impact on democratic rights, but more successful when taking into
account the two national pacts reached in 2003.
The most encouraging steps have been secured in relation to national
reconciliation through dialogue, as a means of mitigating political polariza-



tion between the government and opposition. This has been the principal
focus of the OAS, Carter Center and UNDP, which have established themselves as neutral, external mediators in the conflict. Unlike national actors,
neither the OAS nor the Carter Center needs to defend economic or other
interests in Venezuela.
It could be argued that the international communitys primary focus on
tempering polarization has trumped any concern with democracy per se;
despite the 2003 national pacts, democratic space in Venezuela has continued to narrow. However, it could be countered that promoting consensus
and strengthening moderates on both sides is an essential step towards creating conditions that are more favorable to an eventual and smooth emergence of high quality democracy. After all, US and Spanish overt support
for the opposition failed to bring about democratic change in Venezuela,
and indeed has probably been prejudicial to democratic dynamics. The
agreement between the government and opposition to solve the crisis in a
peaceful manner by holding the recall referendum was a significant step
forward; it is very likely that Venezuela could have descended into civil war
without the engagement of multilateral organizations and the Group of
Although criticized by sectors of the opposition as non-impartial actors,
the Carter Center and the OAS assumed an important role as neutral
mediators in the political conflict. It should also be pointed out that, in
Latin America, Venezuela is one of the prime examples of multilateral
democracy promotion backed by the most important national states
(Brazil, Spain and the United States) and regional organizations (OAS and
Rio Group). In particular, the shift in US policy towards a multilateral
approach, after the coup attempt, paved the way for a peaceful solution to
the conflict.
Aside from Spain, which used Venezuela as a platform for domestic
rather than foreign policy, the EU has not been an important political
actor. One reason for this is that development assistance plays a minor role
in Venezuela and European democracy efforts generally derive their influence from aid resources. Furthermore, the EUs minor role can be attributed to the fact that Venezuela has no prominent bilateral relationship with
the EU, but is treated in the framework of relations with the Andean
Community, which is focused on sub-regional integration. However, the
EU can indeed be considered an impartial although passive player, while
the US acted more as a spoiler by taking the side of the opposition and
avoiding dialogue with Chvez.



The general impact of external intervention in the Venezuelan crisis

could be characterized as a failed strategy of elections promotion. In their
assumption that relatively free elections would defeat Chvez, international actors underestimated the staying power and national and regional popularity of this folkloric phenomenon.53 Furthermore, international
actors overestimated the capacity of the (weak and divided) opposition to
generate a credible political alternative to Chvez.
The emphasis on an electoral route to democracy was a failure: no
other Latin American state has celebrated as many electoral processes as
Venezuela has under Chvez (eight since 1998), though democratic checks
and balances were incrementally dismantled. All elections, including the
August 15, 2004 referendum and the legislative elections in December
2005, have confirmed Chvezs power and contributed to increasing his
democratic legitimacy as president. The focus placed on elections by external democracy promotion efforts has backfired, having reaffirmed popular
support for Chvez.
Chvezs consolidation of power and his cloak of electoral legitimacy
are the reasons why no further efforts have been made by the international community to strengthen democracy in Venezuela. However, his powerful position over the opposition does not imply a peaceful coexistence.
The more likely scenario is of ongoing extra-parliamentary conflict and the
further entrenchment of the presidents personal authoritarian leadership
within nominally democratic institutions.
As in the case of Cuba, recent differences between Spain and the United
States towards Venezuela have been a significant factor in undermining the
effectiveness of international democracy promotion efforts. Bilateral consultations between Spain and the United States on Venezuela (with regard
to objectives, instruments and possible outcomes) would appear crucial in
this respect. The visit of Thomas Shannon to Spain, in February 2006, was
the first positive step in this regard.
Rather than an absence of elections, the main political problems in
Venezuela after the recall process relate to the lack of checks and balances, the concentration of power, authoritarian practices, political polarization and the weakness of the opposition. The roots of the current political struggle are found in the previous failure of an elitist democracy, corruption and social exclusion. In order to avoid future violence, Venezuela

53 See M. Falcoff, The Chvez Challenge. Venezuelas Leader is a Regional Nuisance, American
Enterprise Institute, Washington, August 29, 2005.



needs a new political pact between all political and social actors, including
the military. In this sense, the approach of the OAS and the Carter Center
to mediate between the government and opposition and promote dialogue
and capacity-building for peaceful conflict resolution in Venezuela, has
been more appropriate than EU and US policy. Thus, the EU and the US,
in particular, should change the focus of their engagement in Venezuela.
Although the EU has been more focused on national reconciliation and the
US on democratic deficits, the policies of both partners towards Chvezs
government have been aimed at the holding of elections and the strengthening of the opposition movement.

The principal argument of this chapter is that the international community should redirect democracy promotion strategies in Venezuela from an
electoral to a bilateral and multilateral dialogue approach. The main lesson to draw from the August 2004 referendum is that electoral promotion
is no longer a viable strategy for a democratic (re)transition in Venezuela.
As one expert points out, for Chvez, elections are instruments to be used
at the service of a personality cult and it is a bitter irony that elections
have served so often and so well to promote the ambitions of a group and
a political project that opposes democracy.54 The international community (and particularly the United States) should accept the fact that political
opposition in Venezuela is weak and lacks legitimacy. Recognizing that
Venezuelas problems derive less from electoral conditions than they do
from political polarization and an increasingly seized and militarized
state, the international community needs to change the focus of its democracy promotion strategies. The following recommendations are outlined
for international actors in this regard.

Strengthen Multilateral Approaches to Support

Political Dialogue.
The international community should accept the current power constellation and shift its policy towards the promotion of a regular, national political dialogue.55 This should be done through multilateral organizations like
the Tripartite Working Group. Such a policy, following the recommendations of the Carter Center and the Organization of American States, would

54 M. Kornblith, 2005, op. cit., p. 136.

55 See also M. Sullivan, op. cit., p. 6.



include a long-term approach towards the construction of a new democratic and social consensus between all political parties and organized civil society. A long-term engagement for consensus-building will be necessary to
overcome mutual mistrust and increase confidence between both political
groups and their followers in order to stop ongoing democratic decline in
Venezuela and to foster national reconciliation. Such engagement would
require strong (diplomatic and financial) efforts by the international community for confidence-building, peaceful conflict resolution, institutionbuilding measures and new formulas for power-sharing.
Aside from its own bilateral relations with Venezuela, the EU should
be a more active political partner in these multilateral fora. As an important third party actor, the EU as a whole, and not only Spain should
join the OAS and other multilateral efforts in promoting a permanent,
national dialogue in Venezuela. EU officials themselves lament the lack
of an active EU role in multilateral initiatives, particularly within the
framework of the OAS. Political engagement by the EU in Venezuela
would also increase the visibility of European activities more generally in
Latin America, an aspiration recently expressed by the European
Commission. The United States should continue to prioritize its engagement through multilateral organizations and, particularly, the OAS. In
Latin America, multilateral efforts for democracy promotion have generally proved to be more successful than unilateral pressure or overt support
for opposition forces.
These various multilateral initiatives should lead to further efforts to
promote regular channels of dialogue between the government and opposition. There is a need for deepened consensus between political parties
and other organizations opposed to Chvez, on the one hand, and the government, on the other. At the same time, actors such as the Carter Center
and the OAS need to demonstrate that their (correct) focus on tempering
political polarization is translated into a strategy capable of meaningful
democratic gains, and does not unwittingly appease or give further succor
to semi-authoritarianism.

Encourage US Dialogue with the Chvez Government.

Further developing its recent shift towards a dialogue-oriented approach,
the Bush administration should abandon its aggressive stance towards
Chvez and make unilateral efforts to open a political dialogue with the
Venezuelan government. Recent meetings between US and Venezuelan
government officials appear to be an effort to tone down the rhetoric,
although Chvez continues to maximize opportunities to provoke a fight,



as seen by his recent threat to expel US Ambassador Brownfield. As one

observer notes in relation to Chvez, Pursuing him as a threat that needs
to be exorcized is exactly what he wants.56 The United States should avoid
allowing itself to be used for domestic legitimation of authoritarianism and
should adopt a lower profile. A political dialogue with Chvez would also
contribute to reduce tensions between the United States and Latin
American countries, thereby facilitating a common approach by the OAS.

Increase Development Assistance.

Despite being a major oil exporter, Venezuela suffers a 70 percent poverty rate. Such under-development has not helped create the conditions for
a deepening of democratic standards. The international community
should increase development assistance for Venezuela, in recognition that
improved social justice and greater equality could remove much of the
appeal of Chvezs brand of semi-authoritarianism (even if in the short
term it appeared that such assistance served to shore up the regime.) Aid
projects should include a focus on more political forms of assistance that
aim at specific reforms to institutions and the state bureaucracy, political
parties, the CNE, Supreme Court and police. Venezuelas under-representation in donors democracy aid portfolios is hard to justify and
should be corrected.

Explore Using the Inter-American Democratic Charter.

The Inter-American Democratic Charter should be used to exert diplomatic pressure on Chvez to reverse authoritarian practices. Of course, as
national sovereignty remains the guiding principle of the OAS , it will be
extremely difficult to reach an inter-American consensus on how to deal
with Venezuela. Indeed many experts may see use of the Charter as unrealistic in the short term. However, if the Charter remains a hollow vessel
in the face of a clear case of de-democratization, the OASs credibility
will suffer gravely. Latin American states like Chile, Brazil and Mexico
should take the lead in forging a consensus to strengthen the Charter with
an eye toward developing additional tools for facilitating democratic
reforms in Venezuela.

56 M. Falcoff, The Chvez Revolution: A Historic and Hemispheric Perspective, Cuba

Research Institute/Inter-American Dialogue, Cuba, Venezuela and the Americas: A Changing
Landscape, (working paper), Washington, D.C., December 2005, p. 13.



Condition Membership in EU-Mercosur

Association Agreement Talks.
In the case of the EU, the forthcoming integration of Venezuela into
Mercosur in a context of ongoing negotiations for an association agreement between Mercosur and the European Union should be used to
apply diplomatic pressure on the Venezuelan government to respect democratic norms. Brazil, playing a leading role in Mercosur and in the Group
of Friends, could be an important ally for the EU in this regard. Once
Venezuela is integrated as a full member of Mercosur, EU officials fear that
this will create even more confusion in EU relations with Venezuela.
However, it will also present the possibility of exerting some degree of
political conditionality, through the EUs democracy clause, as association
agreement talks proceed.

Strengthen EU-Venezuela Political Dialogue.

The European Union should open bilateral, political dialogue with the
Chvez government. The EU, in this regard, should fundamentally
change its approach towards dealing with Venezuela (currently done in the
context of Andean integration); this standard EU focus on regional integration projects has not been helpful in the case of protecting Venezuelan
democracy. The Andean Community is more of a concept than a reality,
since Bolivia, Peru and Venezuela are already associated members of
Mercosur and part of the South American Community of Nations, created in 2004. Moreover, the Andean Community houses some of the most
fragile democracies in Latin America. The EU requires a more political
and country-to-country approach. The European Commission is aware of
these problems. According to its recent Communication on Latin
America,57 the profile of political dialogue with the members of the
Andean Community is set to change and will eventually include a bilateral dialogue with Venezuela.
For the international community, Venezuela is a challenging case.
There is no easy solution to the phenomenon of electoral semi-authoritarianism. Difficult to classify, the Chvez regime is a rather unique and
complex phenomenon58 requiring a combination of measures that would
take into account country specific political conditions. From the outside,

57 Commission of the European Communities, A stronger partnership between the European

Union and Latin America, Com (2005, 636, final), Brussels, December 8, 2005.
58 S. Ellner and D. Hellinger, op. cit., p. 226.



the only viable strategy in Venezuela seems to be the promotion of regular contacts with, as well as between, the main political and social actors
of the country. After the December 2005 parliamentary elections, the
government may be more inclined to a consensus-building policy with
other political and social actors. It will be difficult for Chvez to promote
his model of participatory democracy, having won the elections with a
minority support of less than 25 percent of Venezuelan citizens. This
might encourage national dialogue on the main national themes, following a suggestion made by Foreign Minister Al Rodrguez. The recently
started dialogue between the government and the Catholic Church (traditionally opposed to Chvez), as well as closer contacts with the countrys
main business organization, Fedecmaras, are hopeful signs for a necessary
process of national reconciliation. The international community should
support these efforts and try to extend the governments agenda to the
political level.


Chapter 6

Yemen provides a cautionary tale on how to handle a breakthrough
moment in transitional democracies. A little more than a decade ago the
country was portrayed as one of the brightest hopes for democratic reform
in the Arab world. After the north and south unified at the beginning of
the 1990s, Yemen enjoyed many of democracys formal trappings, including multi-party elections and a relatively open civil society. Responding to
this apparent breakthrough, the West gradually increased its aid allocations. Western support for democracy, however, was modest and did not
prevent a steady deterioration in Yemens political liberalization. A particular challenge in this case related to articulating a successful democracybuilding strategy in the context of pervasive poverty. In the aftermath of
the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, some Western donors transitioned from providing poverty reduction and economic aid to a priority
focus on security cooperation. A raft of new Western reform initiatives
accompanied this heightened attention; however, it was essentially concerned more with stabilization than democratization. This chapter argues
that the European Union (EU) and the United States failed to provide sufficient support for Yemen during its initial attempts at democracy; when
they did intensify their political reform strategies after 9/11, such efforts
were slanted towards security considerations and could be characterized as
too little, too late. In the case of the US, counter-terrorism efforts took
primacy, while the EU and some of its member states sought to avert the
countrys descent into failed state status.

When the (northern) Yemen Arab Republic and the (southern) Peoples
Democratic Republic of Yemen joined to form the Republic of Yemen in
1990, the newly unified state held a constitutional referendum in which

1 Principal author, Ana Echage, Researcher, FRIDE.



voters approved a collective presidency, an elected parliament and elected

local councils.2 In a carefully crafted power-sharing arrangement, Ali
Abdullah Saleh, who had been president of the Yemen Arab Republic
since 1978, became president and Ali Salim al-Bayad, who had been president of Peoples Democratic Republic of Yemen, occupied the post of
vice president.
Unification had been an issue since the 1970s, with both Yemeni
republics laying claim to the entire territory. When unification finally took
place in 1990, the new state was forged from two very different political
systems, and democracy was strategically adopted as a means of avoiding
domination by either side.3 The Yemen Arab Republic in the north had
been established in 1962, when an Egyptian-backed coup deposed the
Imamate rule. Continuous internal divisions between republicans and royalists eventually allowed the army to take power in a coup, in 1974, and
for a junior officer, Ali Abdullah Saleh, to become president in 1978. In
contrast, the south had been under the influence of the British, who occupied the port of Aden and exercised minimal supervision over the rest of
the territory until the National Liberation Front forced them to withdraw
in 1967. The Peoples Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY) was established in 1970 and was ruled by a socialist party with important backing
from the Soviet Union and China. Increasing power struggles between factions within the Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP) and the end of development
aid from the eastern bloc after 1989 led to the souths de facto bankruptcy.
When unification took place, the PDRY was essentially forced to accept
the norths terms: Saleh as president and a political and economic system
closer to that of the north.
In the period after unification, significant political reforms were
implemented, including the legalization of opposition political parties,
creation of an independent electoral commission, extension of full political rights to women and a loosening of restrictions on the press. This
process of reform culminated in multi-party parliamentary elections in
1993. By this stage, civil society had started to develop and the number
of political parties had grown to approximately twenty.4 The 1993 elec-

2 International Crisis Group, Yemen: Coping with Terrorism and Violence in a Fragile State,
ICG Middle East Report no. 8, January 8, 2003, p. 4.
3 J. Schwedler, Yemens Aborted Opening, Journal of Democracy, vol. 13, no. 4, October
2002, p. 48.
4 J. Schwedler, op. cit., p. 49.



tions gave the norths General Popular Congress (GPC) nearly 40 percent
of parliamentary seats, with the remaining share divided between the
souths YSP and the Islamist Yemeni Assembly for Reform or Islah (a
coalition of tribal and Islamist groups seen as allied to the north). Islah,
having won more seats than YSP, was brought in as a junior coalition
partner and given several cabinet portfolios, despite a previously agreed
YSP-GPC power-sharing agreement, which stipulated that regardless of
electoral results they would form a coalition government. Aggravating
matters further, Islah was seen as close to the GPC elite, as it was formed
by many long-time supporters of Saleh. The chair of Islah, Sheikh
Abdallah al-Ahmar, also heads the Hashid tribal confederation, of which
Salehs Sanhan tribe is a member. The YSP complained that the transitional agreement was not being honored, while the GPC accused the YSP
of plotting the secession of the south.5
Hostilities between the north and south culminated in a three-month
civil war in 1994, which concluded with the defeat of the souths army, as
well as the fragmentation and exile of its leadership. The GPC and Islah
divided up cabinet positions and parliament re-elected Saleh as president;
in a demise of power-sharing, the YSP was excluded from the new governing coalition.6 Since then, discriminatory state policies towards the south
have been a threat to the countrys stability (the south complains that it
produces 60 percent of the national income but receives fewer benefits
than the northern governorates). Thereafter, the GPC moved gradually to
consolidate its control over the executive branch and restrict pluralism.7
Islahs participation in government contributed to increased conservatism.
The Islamist party managed to change the wording of the constitution to
have Islamic law defined as the sole rather than principal source of law.8
In 1995, Islah held nine ministerial positions, which represented the peak
of its influence.
Parliamentary elections in 1997 were marred by irregularities and boycotted by the YSP. The GPC won 60 percent of the seats in parliament.
Dominating all branches of government, the GPC was in a position to sup-

5 Ibid.
6 International Crisis Group, Yemen: Coping with Terrorism and Violence in a Fragile State,
ICG Middle East Report no. 8, op cit., p. 5.
7 F. Burgat, Yemen: Between the Sanaa Declaration and the Old Formula of Arab Politics,
Arab Reform Bulletin, vol. 2, Issue 3, March 2004.
8 J. Schwedler, op. cit., p. 50.



press future competition and further embed its dominance. In 1999, the
first presidential elections gave Saleh an overwhelming victory, with a
reported 96 percent of the vote. He faced no genuine opposition candidate, only a GPC placeman. No other candidate managed to win the support of the 31 members of parliament needed to be eligible to run in the
elections. The only real opposition candidate from the YSP was thus
not permitted to run as the YSP had no representation in parliament.
Indeed, increasingly it was recognized that the main de facto constraint on
the regime came simply from the lack of economic and military resources
needed to exercise full authority and control of state territory.9 Despite
Salehs coalition-building skills, tribal conflicts over declining resources and
benefits from development projects led to constant skirmishes. In general,
the government receives allegiance from the people in exchange for material benefits or government posts and public patronage is used to reinforce
negotiated consensus. The tribes closely connected to the president tend
to be over-represented in the army and security forces and, since unification, the post of prime minister has traditionally gone to someone from the
oil-rich, southern Hadramawt governorate.
Saleh continued to consolidate power through a 2001 constitutional
referendum which extended parliamentary terms from four to six years and
presidential terms from five to seven. The president was also granted new
powers to dissolve parliament, while the presidentially-appointed consultative council almost doubled in size and was given the power to vote jointly with parliament on any legislative matter of the presidents choosing.10
Despite the close relationship between its leadership and President Saleh,
Islah has been highly critical of these constitutional amendments and has
opposed the government openly on this issue since then.
Parliamentary elections in 2003 continued to show irregularities. The
GPC maintained an advantage through its chairing of national and local
election commissions; privileged access to public media, transportation,
jobs and services; and pro-government publicity paid for with state
resources.11 Opposition parties, including Islah and the YSP, joined forces
and agreed not to challenge one another directly in these elections. The
electoral outcome gave the GPC 225 seats, Islah 46 and the YSP only seven.

9 F. Burgat, op. cit.

10 European Parliament, Directorate General for Research, Note on the Political and
Economic Situation in Yemen, European Parliament, April 17, 2002, p. 1.
11 S. Carapico, How Yemens Ruling Party Secured an Electoral Landslide, Middle East
Report Online, May 16, 2003.



Since 2004, the government has shown increasingly less tolerance

towards dissent. Journalists have been arrested: the government jailed
prominent journalist, Abdel Karim al-Khaiwani, editor of the weekly
opposition newspaper, Al-Shoura, and closed several newspapers in 2004.12
A rebellion in the Saada region was put down violently. Since June 2004,
government forces along with tribal groups paid by the government
have waged battle with an organization called the Believing Youth, led by
cleric and former member of parliament, Hussein Badreddin al-Hawthi.
Security forces have continued arbitrarily to arrest, detain and torture, and
the government has invariably failed to hold members of the security forces
accountable for abuses.13
In July 2005, President Saleh announced that he would not run for reelection in 2006; however, skeptics noted that he had made a similar
announcement prior to the 1999 elections. Two days after Salehs
announcement, riots broke out when the government removed subsidies on
fuel, returning to the terms of its 1995 agreement with the International
Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank. Thirty-six people were killed and
almost 400 wounded. On the second day of the riots, Saleh announced an
8 10 percent salary increase for civil servants. Although some saw the
increase as the first sign of the president setting up his return to politics,14
the opposition admitted the measure was necessary. Some speculated that
the regime might be losing its grip on the country and that this economic
crisis might finally help trigger political change.
At the end of November, a coalition of six opposition parties Islah,
YSP, Union Nasserite Party, Al Haq, Popular Forces Union Party and
Nationalist Baath Party presented a program for comprehensive national reform that called for a parliamentary system to replace the current presidential regime and restrictions on executive powers. The initiative also
called for constitutional amendments that would limit parliamentarians
terms to four years and the presidents term to five years. It demanded a
decrease in the presidents authority and the total separation of the three
branches of government, highlighting the need to isolate the judiciary from
executive manipulation. Additionally, the initiative pointed out the need
to separate the army from both the executive branch and partisan influ-

12 Freedom House, Yemen Country Report, Freedom in the World, 2005, p. 705.
13 US Department of State, Supporting Human Rights and Democracy: The U.S. Record 2004
2005, Washington, US Department of State, March 28, 2005.
14 G. D. Johnsen, Salihs Road to Reelection, Middle East Report Online, January 13, 2006.



ence. It also demanded improvements in the electoral system and a change

to the electoral law so that a system of proportional representation would
replace current individual candidate elections. Additionally there are
claims that the Supreme Commission for Elections and Referendas
(SCER) decree 110 of 2005 has unfairly given the GPC over-representation in election committees. After unsuccessfully and repeatedly requesting that the SCER annul its decision, Islah filed a lawsuit against the
Commission.15 While some are hopeful that the platform signaled the formation of a coalition for the 2006 elections, others stress the fact that differences among parties in the past have been too great for such coordination to work. As of early 2006, it seemed likely that a common strategy
would be attempted in the local elections in order to achieve a greater balance of power, but that this would be harder to achieve for the presidential
elections, considering Islahs web of GPC-linked interests.
The state press reacted negatively to the initiative; however, the GPC
does appear to have accepted some of its suggestions, for instance, those
related to combating corruption. The Seventh General Peoples Congress
Assembly was held in December 2005, and despite the announcement of
a reform package, the opposition remains skeptical. In an entirely predictable act of political theatrics, the party requested that the president
reconsider his decision not to run in the elections scheduled for
September 2006. A final decision on this question was to be taken at an
assembly convened for this purpose in the spring of 2006, further hampering opposition strategies. The conferences recommendations included: the formation of an independent national authority to fight corruption and the drafting of anti-corruption legislation (at the end of
December the cabinet approved a law to regulate anti-corruption mechanisms, requiring the establishment of a Supreme Commission to Combat
Corruption, which will be relatively independent and will focus on fighting corruption within government departments); implementation of the
Judicial Sector Reform and Development Strategy (it was subsequently
announced that the period for completion of this reform would be
reduced from ten to four years); the establishment of a 15 percent
womens quota in a range of political and state bodies; amendments to the
local administration law to empower local councils to prepare budgets and
execute development plans; and an expansion of legislative power by
reconsidering the structure of the consultative council.




Critics argue that no significant reform will be forthcoming until the

regime is changed and that even if Saleh wanted to step down there are too
many other vested interests that want him to remain in power. As of early
2006, legal political parties, a formal and free press and civil society organizations coexisted in Yemen with what by then had become an increasingly dominant party state apparatus and autocratic control of political
power. Concern has been expressed about a continuing strong identification of state structures with the ruling party as evidenced anecdotally by
the fact that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs provided a plane and accomodation for foreign ambassadors to attend the GPC congress in Aden.
Problems within the judiciary have hampered all efforts at genuine
democratization. A low rate of cases filed in courts indicates a lack of
legal awareness: only 127 cases were registered in 2005. Sources have
told the Yemen Observer newspaper that the governments allocated
budget for the judicial sector for the year 2006 has been reduced by 25
percent.16 As for media, the draft press and publications law, a revision of
the 1990 law, which was initiated in 2004, is due for approval by the parliament. It was originally drafted without consultation with journalists,
of whom many consider it even more restrictive. The law allows for the
prosecution of journalists under the penal code, which sanctions prison
terms for libeling the president and allows courts to sentence journalists
to death. The Shoura Council submitted the draft of the new press law
at the beginning of December 2005 to the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate
to get feedback from journalists before submission to parliament for discussion and approval.17
Overall, the Yemeni populace has increasingly lamented the prevalence
of what has been coined locally as decorative democracy.18 Genuine
political competition has diminished gradually since the initial opening of
political space after unification. Political parties are weak; politics are
monopolized by the GPC, which has steadily increased its share of parliamentary seats; harassment of journalists has intensified; corruption has
become increasingly endemic; Saleh has become the longest reigning Arab
leader, after Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in Libya; the judicial system is
largely inoperative; parliament is supine; and local councils lack resources

18 ARD, Inc., Democracy and Governance Assessment of Yemen. Final Report,
Washington: USAID, 2004, p II.



to fulfill their mandates. While Yemens civil society has become one of the
freest in the Arab world, in practice it remains beholden to patronage networks and competing family, clan and tribal structures. Moreover, Yemen
has a poverty rate of 40 percent and is the only Arab state with Least
Developed Country (LDC) status; such persistent poverty hinders Yemeni
citizens political participation.

The International Response

International Engagement with an Arab Reformer

The unification of Yemen offered the international community a rare
opportunity to respond proactively to the prospect of a formal democratization process in an Arab state. However, Yemens potential breakthrough
moment coincided with its opposition to the use of force against Iraq during the 1990-1991 Gulf War. This opposition trumped any democracyrelated overtures and led to a reduction in international aid flows, which
had catastrophic economic effects for the country. The Gulf states suspended 200 million dollars in aid and expelled Yemeni workers from their
territories, which in turn resulted in the loss of remittances (Saudi Arabia
alone expelled 700,000 workers from its borders). Immediately after the
war, the United States cut annual aid from 20.5 million to 2.9 million dollars.19 It also cancelled all military cooperation, non-humanitarian assistance and the Peace Corps program.
Foreign assistance was slow to return and when it did, was restricted for
the most part to basic development aid. Democracy support amounted to
little more than the monitoring of legislative elections and rhetorical support for the incipient democracy. Otherwise, most aid was devoted to
development and health issues, by the US; and trade and economic assistance, by the EU. A handful of US projects provided parliamentary and
judicial training, but on a very small scale. Even though USAID supported international and domestic electoral observation, the US seemed more
concerned with the prospect of Yemens new electoral politics spilling over
into neighboring Saudi Arabia. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for
Near Eastern Affairs David Mack declared in Sanaa two weeks after the
1993 parliamentary elections, I dont think you should look on what you
do here as a model for anyone else to follow. He also suggested that the

19 International Crisis Group, Yemen: Coping with Terrorism and Violence in a Fragile State,
ICG Middle East Report N. 8, op. cit., p. 57.



US was looking for an improvement in Yemens relations with its neighbors

as the primary factor that would make it more realistic to improve YemenUS relations. 20
The EUs 1984 Cooperation Agreement with northern Yemen was
extended to cover the newly unified Yemen in 1995. In 1997, this agreement was replaced by an expanded framework cooperation agreement, covering commercial, development, economic, environmental, cultural and
scientific cooperation. The EUs stated priority in Yemen was defined as
the eradication of poverty and human development, in particular food
security, health and education.21 Democracy assistance was not mentioned as a funding priority, although the first article of the agreement stated that its provisions would be based on respect of democratic principles
and fundamental human rights.22 During the 1990s, the European
Commission committed more than 150 million euros to Yemen, of which
60 million were allocated to economic and development projects and 74
million to food aid. The overall amount represented 20 percent of the total
international assistance to Yemen. Annual amounts of EU aid increased
towards the end of the 1990s, as political conditions worsened.23
Both the United States and European Union played modest roles in
relation to the 1997 elections: the EU did so through support for female
candidates and USAID via support for the Supreme Elections Council and
political parties. The Joint International Observer Group in Yemen
included 85 observers from the United Kingdom, Denmark, the European
Commission, European Parliament, Finland, France, Germany, Indonesia,
Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland and Russia; the National
Democratic Institute (NDI) also sent 34 personnel. Despite irregularities,
the international community judged that these elections had been, on balance reasonably free and fair. As noted above, notwithstanding formal
competition between a number of parties, in practical terms the electoral
process continued under the control of the GPC; and, in this context, the

20 G. C. Gambill, Explaining the Arab Democracy Deficit, Part II: American Policy,
Middle East Intelligence Bulletin, vol. 5, nos. 8-9, August-September 2003.
21 European Commission Council Communication, Strengthening the EUs Partnership
with the Arab World, Brussels, December 2003.
22 Official Journal of the European Communities, Cooperation between the European
Community and the Republic of Yemen, November 1997.
23 European Parliament, Note on the Political and Economic Situation in Yemen, op. cit.,
p. 10.



lack of serious Western criticism appeared to facilitate the start of a descent

into increasing authoritarianism.
The frequency of visits to Yemen by US officials increased as of 1998,
after a number of years of limited official contact. In 1999, Deputy
Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Near East Affairs Roland Neumann
visited Yemen, reportedly in the wake of Yemeni uneasiness over the USBritish strikes against Iraq at the end of 1998. Neumann expressed the
United States interest in using Aden Harbor as a re-fuelling stop. Saleh
launched a new effort to deepen relations with the US and US diplomats
committed to broadening cooperation with Yemen. In February 2000,
President Saleh was the first Arab head of state to visit the European
Commission, signaling a new effort to strengthen political and economic
cooperation with the EU. That same year a Friends of Yemen group was
formed in the European Parliament.
In 1998, a US military cooperation program commenced in Yemen,
following the kidnapping of tourists by the Abden-Abyan Islamic Army.
US officers provided anti-terrorism training to Yemeni security forces,
including the Yemeni Special Forces, which had been placed under the
command of Salehs son after the Abyan kidnappings. The US Defense
Department also initiated a de-mining program, which, by the end of
2002, had provided 9.3 million dollars in funding.24
During this period, other active donors included the IMF, World Bank,
US (through NDI), Germany and the Netherlands. In 1995, the Yemeni
government agreed with the World Bank and IMF to implement a macroeconomic stability and structural adjustment program. Accordingly,
World Bank assistance increased, with annual commitments rising to 120
million dollars, up from an average annual commitment of 48 million dollars during the previous decade. Following popular unrest due to a structural adjustment-linked increase in diesel prices, the IMF suspended lending temporarily in 1999. The World Banks focus touched on governance
issues, with programs supporting civil service reform, public financial management, reform of the procurement system, decentralization and anti-corruption. The United Nations contributed approximately 10 percent of
Yemens overseas development assistance (ODA), amounting to 30 million
dollars in 1999. The United National Development Program (UNDP)

24 U.S. Department of State, U.S. Humanitarian Mine Action in the Middle East: A SixYear Progress Report, report released by the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs,
Washington: US Department of State, December 6, 2002.



funded a modest number of programs on elections, human rights and

decentralization. Germany and the Netherlands were the largest European
government aid providers, with annual allocations between 25-35 million
euros each; both of these state actors included governance as a formal priority and cross-cutting issue within their development programs in Yemen.
The National Democratic Institute became active in Yemen after it was
invited to monitor the 1993 elections. In 1997, NDI established a full
time office in the country and increased its work on party training,
strengthening of the parliament and election monitoring. In 1999, NDI
organized a major international conference titled Emerging Democracies
Forum: A Political Leaders Summit with the purpose of documenting the
governments commitment to democracy. This event was the first in a
series of international conferences on democracy held in Yemen because of
the countrys ostensibly democratic credentials; however, no concrete follow-up or commitment followed.
In sum, despite many formal commitments during the 1990s to support
governance reform, in practice, little democracy assistance was forthcoming, other than support for elections. Overall, Yemeni reformers expressed
disappointment at the extent of international backing and, in particular, the
paucity of support for links with other emerging democracies.25

Post-9/11: Security Cooperation and Political Reform?

Security cooperation between the Yemeni government and the US grew
closer after the terrorist attack on the USS Cole in Aden Harbor in 2000.
After an initial Yemeni reluctance to cooperate, military cooperation
resumed and expanded exponentially after 2002, with counter-terrorism
initiatives accounting for the largest share of new US resources. Military
aid increased from 125,000 dollars in 2000 to almost 15 million dollars
in 2004. Additional, special support was made available through US military assistance for frontline states in the war on terrorism.26 US
Special Forces arrived, along with seaport and airport security specialists,
who helped install surveillance systems at airports and border crossings.
Press reports suggested that the United States and Yemen had set up a
counter-terrorism center and that 3,000 US-trained Yemeni troops were

25 M. Miklaucic, Yemen Political Reform Assessment, Center for Democracy and

Governance, US Agency for International Development, October/November 1998.
26 International Crisis Group, Yemen: Coping with Terrorism and Violence in a Fragile
State, ICG Middle East Report no. 8, op. cit., p. 8.



deployed in rural areas to pursue militants. The US also began to assist

Yemen in setting up a coast guard to prevent terrorist infiltration. Despite
the importance to the Yemeni government of keeping the US presence
low-key, a November 2002 incident with an unpiloted US drone, controlled remotely by the CIA,27 revealed the US role in taking direct security action in Yemen.28
Confirming this shift in approach, Philo Dibble, acting Assistant
Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, asserted that after 9/11, counter-terrorism cooperation had become the cornerstone of US-Yemeni relations.29 USAID described Yemen as an important ally in the war on terrorism and suggested that development assistance in Yemen was aimed at
supporting the United States governments foreign policy objectives in the
war on terrorism. When USAID opened an office in Yemen in 2003, it
stated that this office would provide a development assistance component
to the war on terrorism.30 Even the geographical choice of the five governorates in which USAID would work Amran, Saada, Al-Jawaf, Marib
and Shabwa was based on the consideration that these were the most fertile breeding grounds for terrorism. One US development aid worker
argued that even if the overriding objective was counter-terrorism, the
selected governorates were in desperate need of development aid anyway.
Meanwhile, thousands of terrorist suspects were arrested or detained in
part, Yemeni officials insisted, due to US pressure. Yemens own prime
minister complained of the United States excessive security-related
demands in the framework of the war on terrorism. In the autumn of
2003, Amnesty International released a damning report on human rights
violations carried out by security forces and the serious setbacks to human
and political rights suffered in Yemen after 9/11.31 Despite such reports,
during a visit to Yemen in August 2004, US Under Secretary of State for

27 This situation refers to one in which a CIA-operated, unmanned aircraft fired a missile at a
car killing an al Qaeda suspect allegedly traveling with four members of the Aden-Abyan
Islamic Army and an American citizen.
28 International Crisis Group, Yemen: Coping with Terrorism and Violence in a Fragile
State, ICG Middle East Report no. 8, op. cit., p. 25.
29 Dibble also testified to Congress that health, education and agricultural assistance had
increased as well. Philo Dibble, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern
Affairs, hearing before the Committee on International Relations House of Representatives
One Hundred Eighth Congress, second session, August 19, 2004.
30 U.S. Agency for International Development, Press Release, May 2, 2003.
31 Amnesty International, The Rule of Law Sidelined in the Name of Security, Amnesty
International, September 23, 2003.



Political and Military Affairs Lincoln Bloomfield announced the lifting of

the 14-year old embargo on weapons exports to Yemen.32
US assessments of the Yemeni governments commitment to political
reform have been generous, apparently to an extreme. According to
Ambassador Edmund Hull, a counter-terrorism specialist appointed as US
ambassador in 2001, Yemen is a regional leader in reform and we want to
be part of the process.33 Similar praise emerged from October 2003 talks
in Yemen led by US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs
William Burns. The US embassy described the 2003 elections as Yemens
freest and most transparent yet. Less than a month later, Robert Muller,
director of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, held talks with Saleh in
Yemen (in his third visit since 9/11) in which he expressed US support for
Yemen in its war against terrorism.
In June 2004, Saleh, who had already made official visits to the US in
1990 and 2001, was invited to attend the G-8 Sea Island Summit to share
and report on Yemens democratic reform experiences.34 In January
2005, the US House of Representatives issued a resolution congratulating
President Saleh for his commitment to political reforms and citing Yemen
as a model for democratization in the Arab world. Later that month,
President Bush praised Saleh for his efforts in fighting terrorism and in the
fields of democracy and economic development. Domestic forces that challenged the governments track record on democracy have been viewed by
the United States as security threats. US policy has exhibited particular
concern over independent tribal leaders in remote areas leaders who
many analysts have suggested need to be included more fully in, rather
than ostracized further from a process of political change.
At the same time, during 2004 and 2005 some increased US criticism
was forthcoming. Since 2004, National Security Council officials insisted
that their concerns over the lack of progress on democracy and human
rights deepened and henceforth were raised more forcefully in Yemen, both
at the ministerial level and with officials in the Ministry of Human Rights.
Moreover, the State Departments annual reports have become more critical of human rights violations. The Yemeni government responded angrily in 2005, accusing the US of double standards and alluding to conditions

32 /ansub/Daily/Day/040902/2004090216.html
33 European Parliament, Note on the Political and Economic Situation in Yemen, op. cit.,
p. 6.
34 US State Department, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, Background Note: Yemen,
Washington: US State Department, September 2004.



in the Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib prisons. Ambassador Thomas

Krajeski caused controversy in October 2005 when he lamented how
progress towards democracy appeared to have stalled. The Yemeni government retorted angrily that, Democracy in Yemen is a matter that concerns
the Yemeni people alone.35 During his last visit to the US, in November
2005, Saleh reportedly received his strongest admonishment to date.
In 2004, the US increased its projects to strengthen democratic institutions, decentralize authority and provide electoral system support, usually
through other organizations such as UNDP. The Middle East Partnership
Initiative (MEPI) the Bush Administrations Arab reform program
funded projects in legislative strengthening, electoral assistance and civic
education. In 2004, the International Visitors Programs brought 22 nongovernmental organization (NGO) activists, government officials and
other leaders to the United States for training. In 2005, USAID continued to collaborate in programs on decentralization, electoral and legislative
support. Due to limited Economic Support Fund (ESF) resources, additional funds for democracy and governance have been leveraged by MEPI.
The budget from ESF funds for 2005 was 15 million dollars; the 2006
budget, however, failed to earmark ESF funds for Yemen, leaving the country with the prospect of a paltry 8 million dollar allocation. Despite interest in expanding the program into the areas of judicial reform and NGO
support, no expansion in democracy and governance funds is expected
before 2007. In a highly significant move, at the end of 2005, Yemens
qualification for the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA), President
Bushs signature foreign aid initiative, was suspended. Its suspension was
based on the worsening of Yemens position on eight policy indicators, four
of which it now failed: corruption, regulatory quality, trade policy and fiscal policy. Consequently, Yemen was denied access to 30 million dollars in
funds (a review set for April 2006 could reverse the suspension if improvement is judged to have occurred).
In the economic sphere, the US has provided training to the customs
authority and technical assistance to help with accession to the World
Trade Organization (WTO); a bilateral investment treaty is also under discussion. United States institution-building support in the five remote tribal governorates initially presented as projects related to stabilization in
the fight against terror has been defended recently, after criticism, as an
attempt to benefit the citizens in those remote regions. Some US officials

35 Middle East International (London), October 28, 2005.



have now denied the link to the fight against terror.36 Training on human
rights standards and civilian control of the military has been included
within International Military Education and Training assistance and the
Defense Departments Counter-Terrorism Fellowships.
After the US decision on the Millennium Challenge Account, the
World Bank announced that it was reducing its aid to Yemen by 34 percent because of the worsening of the regimes performance indicators. The
World Banks three-year envelope, based on 2004 indicators, has decreased
from 410 million dollars for 2003-2005 to 280 million dollars for 20062008. The World Bank indicators, widely used by the donor community,
include, among other things, institutional and reform performance, portfolio performance and a governance discount factor. The World Bank criticized in harsh terms the governments performance in implementing
agreed reforms and explained that the reduction was due to a failure on the
part of the government to meet minimum standards of transparency, efficiency and improvement of the investment environment and its deficiency in fighting corruption.
From the EUs perspective, given the absence of major trade and economic interests, the reasons for seeking to enhance engagement in Yemen
are of a security nature, with the overarching rationale being to prevent
Yemen from becoming a failed state37. In response to the 2003 elections,
the EU commended Yemens government for continuing the process of
democratization. Bilateral relations were strengthened in 2003 with the
decision to launch a political dialogue at the Yemeni governments request.
The EU argued that this political dialogue was the main instrument used
to approach political reform issues. An initial meeting took place in July
2004, and was reported to have focused significantly on democratization.
At the second EU-Yemen Political Dialogue Meeting, held on September
21, 2005 in Brussels, the EU suggested that further forward momentum
was shown by the publication of the governments first annual human
rights report (covering 2004). At the same time, some important points of
concern were raised, including human rights issues, the death penalty,
prison conditions, the judicial system, upcoming elections and independent election observers and press freedoms. It has been agreed recently that
quarterly meetings will be held in Yemen, as well as bi-annual meetings
with President Saleh.

36 Yemen Times, November 22, 2005.

37 Yemen is already included in the scope of the UKs Fragile State Initiative.



European diplomats believed the reform focus was reinforced through

the EU Strategic Partnership with the Mediterranean and the Middle East,
adopted in 2003. In January 2004, a European Commission delegation
office was opened in Sanaa. An EU funded conference the InterGovernmental Regional Conference on Democracy, Human Rights and
the Role of the International Criminal Court also took place that same
month, with the EU citing the mere holding of the conference and the
subsequent final declaration as examples of the Yemeni governments
progress towards full-fledged democracy. Subsequently, there has been
some disappointment about the lack of follow-up on the part of the
Yemeni government after the two political dialogue meetings. The British
ambassador suggested that EU support came from Yemens willingness to
discuss sensitive topics related to political reform and human rights to a
greater extent than other Arab countries.38
In contrast to the United States, the EU as a collective body considered
that its limited available resources did not allow for specific intervention in
the area of counter-terrorism cooperation. Counter-terrorism has been
carried out more at the bilateral level by EU member states, especially by
the UK and French governments. France has developed active cooperation
with Yemen in the field of security.39 In February 2005, France and Yemen
signed a new military and security cooperation agreement, whereby France
would provide equipment and human resources for joint patrols in the Red
Sea. The United Kingdom, together with Italy, has offered increased support for the Yemeni coastguard.
The EUs 2002-2006 Country Strategy Paper for Yemen highlighted
food security, poverty reduction, good governance, democracy and respect
for human rights and strengthening economic institutions as major sectors
available for EU funding. The EUs 2002-2004 aid budget for Yemen
amounted to 61-70 million euros. Support for food security has been by
far the largest category of assistance, although this sector has been beset by
problems of limited absorptive capacity. The democracy promotion aspect
of the program has amounted primarily to providing support for the
organization of the 2003 parliamentary elections through a project carried
out by the UNDP to support the Supreme Commission for Elections
(SCE). Nevertheless, it is significant that good governance, democracy and

38 Yemen Observer, October 15, 2005.




respect for human rights were formally included as funding priorities for
the first time in the 2002-2006 strategy. A separate NGO support program managed by the European Commission committed 5.3 million euros
between 2002 and 2005.
The Commissions 2005-2006 aid program reduced the priority areas
to two: poverty reduction and strengthening pluralism and civil society.
The number of projects was reduced and the budget allocation was 27 million euros, the reduction justified in terms of a lack of absorptive capacity.
Under the proposed 2007-2013 budget, tentative yearly allocations to
Yemen have been set at 1520 million euros a year. The EU strategy highlighted as signs of progress the establishment of a Ministry of Human
Rights and Yemens ratification of the Rome Statute of the International
Criminal Court. A commitment was made to increase support for presidential and local elections in 2006. For 2005-2006, 500,000 euros were
allocated from the European Initiative on Democracy and Human Rights
(EIDHR), with a focus on training for the internal security forces.
In terms of bilateral European aid, Germany and the Netherlands have
continued to be the largest donors. Both states have preferred to fund
projects in cooperation with the government of Yemen rather than through
independent channels. For example, since 2003, Germany has been
involved in the establishment of the anti-corruption commission within
the presidential office and in providing technical assistance to the governmental Central Organization for Control and Auditing (COCA). The
Netherlands has chosen to channel its human rights program through the
Ministry of Human Rights. The 2005 budget for the German development agency (GTZ) was 9.5 million euros, double what it was in 1990; for
2006, a slight decrease to 8 million euros was planned, linked to the new
Christian Democratic Union (CDU) governments efforts to cut spending.
The Dutch government set a budget ceiling of 20.7 million euros in 2004,
and in 2005 allocated 1 million euros to governance issues.
The UKs Department for International Development (DfID) has
recently broadened its program in Yemen with commitments in 2005 of
6 million pounds (8.5 million euros) and a projected 10 million pounds
(14.6 million euros) for 2006, including 3 million pounds (4.4 million
euros) for the first phase of a project on security and judicial reform and
1 million pounds (1.5 million euros) to the Supreme Election and
Referendum Commission. Through the UK Foreign Office, an additional 2 million pounds (3 million euros) were forthcoming, in 2005, for
eleven projects ranging from professional training for women to journalist and district court training. The increased funding can be attributed to



concern over Yemens status as a fragile state and fear of it destabilizing

the region. Funds are expected to address the root causes of conflict
and terrorism.
Likewise, Frances concern over political and strategic considerations
seems to have driven its recent increased commitment to Yemen. In 2002,
France included Yemen in its Zone de Solidarit Prioritaire. Previously, the
aid budget had been between 1-4 million euros a year; by 2005, this had
increased to 8 million euros, with a projected total of 14 million euros for
2006. Frances main focus is on rural development, education, culture and
heritage; however, it now also has a program on Democratic Governance
and Security with a budget of 2.7 million euros, which focuses on audit
and public finance, judicial reform, decentralization and security. In recent
years, Italy has also increased its contributions to Yemen, with a focus on
health and the environment. For its part, UNDP has launched a decentralization program with funding of about 1.5 million dollars, a human
rights program with the Ministry of Human Rights and an electoral support program. Yemen is one of the eight countries selected for the
Millennium Project, with additional funding aimed at helping progress
towards the Millennium Development Goals.
While funding to Yemen increased after 9/11 and Western governments
still formally adhere to the line that they see the Saleh government as committed to reform, more recently some donors have become exasperated
with the lack of genuine reform and in a number of cases have begun
reducing funding levels. This appears to have provoked a reaction on the
part of the government. The government has been anxious to be seen making changes so that the publication of World Bank indicators, in April
2006, is favorable enough to reverse aid reductions. The Yemeni government has recently taken the initiative of approaching the donor community to ask for advice on how to improve its performance in order to recover
lost funds. As a result of this dialogue with donors the government drew
up a new reform action plan that it presented to the donor community in
December 2005. Despite vagueness in terms of timing, this plan outlines
concrete commitments, starting with the creation of four working groups
to address issues of political participation, rule of law, anti-corruption and
economic governance, respectively. These groups will identify jointly
twelve specific achievables, which the government must attain by the end
of 2006. The Aid Harmonization and Alignment unit of the Ministry of
Planning, created in August 2005, has assumed this initiative and is engaging donors proactively.



Assessing the International Response

After making an at least formal advance in political freedom, Yemen has
slowly regressed to liberalized autocracy. The formal trappings of democracy have been increasingly rendered meaningless by state-managed control
and selective repression.40 Analysts lamented that a window of opportunity had opened, but then gradually closed.41 Against this backdrop, the
international community persisted in seeing the opening of that reform
opportunity, yet was reluctant to acknowledge its subsequent closing. Only
recently have some donors begun to react to the lack of genuine progress.
The Saleh regime has derived a considerable measure of legitimacy from
the perception that Yemen is in the midst of a transition to democracy.
This is a picture that the regime continues to paint and bolster through
repeated allusions to how recently unification and democratization began
and to the voluntary nature of its reform process. As Saleh stated, We
have adopted political reforms at an early stage, even before the vision of
the US [in spreading democracy] evolved.42 One cabinet member argued
that national unity and democracy were embarked upon at the same time
as a common project without any external impulse, but rather due to
domestic political will. The government claims that it is too early to pass
judgment on its transition to democracy, given the lack of institutions in
place when the process of reform began. A further claim is that economic
stagnation has been a major stumbling block that has hampered genuine
efforts at reform.
The international democracy promotion community seems to have
been taken in and perhaps knowingly so by superficial reform commitments. The recent change in rhetoric by US officials and the suspension of MCA eligibility do not necessarily signal a reversal or drastic
change in Washingtons policy towards Yemen. It could be suggested that
the international community has referred consistently to the Yemeni governments alleged commitment to reform as a means of entrapping it within its own reformist discourse. If this was indeed the strategy, Yemen is a
case that suggests the limits to which regimes can be thus entrapped.
Indeed, a period of genuine political opening seemed, subsequently, to

40 D. Brumberg, Liberalization versus Democracy, Understanding Arab Political Reform,

Washington: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Working Paper 37, May 2003.
41 I. Glosemeyer, How Democratic is Yemen? Arab Reform Bulletin, vol. 3, issue 2, March



buy time for its increasingly recalcitrant government. As such a pattern

of events is not uncommon in new democracies, Yemen offers the international community a lesson in the perils of complacency and of the overoptimism that is often attached to reform breakthroughs. Alternatively,
the international community could more critically be judged to have been
disingenuous in its stated desire to encourage democracy in Yemen when
its primary goal was stability all along. This preoccupation with security
apart from democracy was captured in the words of J. Scott Carpenter, US
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State: You have a poor country thats
important to us strategically because we dont want to see it become a
failed state. Yemens right at this point where it could go either way. Its
a race against time.43
In any case, in absolute terms, the scale of diplomatic engagement,
political and economic interest, and political reform assistance has been
limited, regardless of the slowly increasing presence and interest of donors.
For both US and European governments, Yemen might have been declared
a priority opportunity to assist an incipient political opening in the Arab
world, but the resources and commitment commensurate with the challenge of Yemeni democratization were not provided. As one measure,
development assistance per capita for Yemen remains at 13 dollars as
opposed to the 85 dollars received by African countries (2003 figures).44
With the possible exception of MCA eligibility, Yemen has neither suffered meaningful punitive actions for its democratic regression, nor benefited from significant financial reward for being one of the first Middle
Eastern states to espouse a reformist rhetoric. The scale of overall US aid
to Yemen has been meager, in comparison to the amounts allocated to
other non-democratic Arab states such as Egypt and Algeria. This paucity
is all the more inapposite given the fact that Yemen is the only Arab state
poor enough to qualify for LDC status. Donors are few in number, and
their allocations to Yemen are limited. Increased attention has been witnessed as some Western governments have sought to prevent Yemen from
becoming a failed state. However, persistent deficiencies in aid levels have
weakened the influence of foreign donors; if it were not for the premium
Saleh puts on Yemens image, in general, and his own, in particular, the

43 Quoted in D. Finkel, US Ideals Meet Reality in Yemen, Washington Post, December 18,
44 United Nations Development Program, 2005 Human Development Report, UNDP,



international communitys leverage would have been even more negligible.

Paradoxically, Yemen is relatively donor dependent in specific sectors such
as water, but this has merely obliged donors to prioritize short-term chronic emergencies.
To some extent, the international communitys focus on democracy
promotion in Yemen has intensified since 2001-2002. It is clear that this
heightened concern with Yemen derives from security preoccupations.
This has bred many elements of Western policy undeniably inimical to fostering a dispersal of political power in Yemen. The obvious observation is
that the emphasis on security cooperation has helped entrench an increasingly undemocratic government, allowing it to consolidate power by
shielding its authoritarianism behind a cover of anti-terrorist cooperation.
At the same time, however, it has brought the countrys political shortcomings into sharper focus. More nuanced and critical statements have
increasingly been heard from donors who for years showered Yemens government with praise for its supposed commitment to political reform.
There are indications that the international community is no longer as
willing to accept Salehs argument that he is the great hope for democratization in the Arab world. This change in official discourse might make
Saleh realize that cooperation on security does not mean the US, in particular, will turn a blind eye to human rights violations and democratic failings. The US has reined back from presenting development aid as part of
its counter-terrorism efforts. This indeed demonstrates that the tendency
to counterpoise democracy with security is not always and entirely satisfactory. The increased security focus in Yemen has injected urgency into
democracy promotion efforts. What remains uncertain is whether political
reform initiatives introduced since 9/11 are merely palliative, contradicted
and ultimately undermined by direct instrumental security cooperation
with the Yemeni regime. Saleh has certainly retained the perception that
he can garner international support by a combination of hollow shell
democracy commitments and enhanced counter-terrorist cooperation with
the West. It might be that his recent angry reactions to US criticism reflect
some weakening of this self-assurance.
Democracy assistance has been channeled through the government or
relegated to some civil society support and electoral monitoring. A greater
focus on political reform has been achieved recently with the leveraging of
MEPI funds. Even with the marked increase in democracy support with
programs aimed at supporting parliament and decentralization, amounts
committed to political reform and democratization are dwarfed by the
amounts devoted to military cooperation. Yemen provides a useful



reminder of how donors can fund political reform programs over a sustained period of time that do not merely fail to deepen democracy but in
fact proceed against a background of democratic deterioration at the political level. Both the US and EU have chosen to carry out relatively peripheral reform activities that have not addressed the heart of the problem of
decreasing contestation and increasing repression.
In contrast to the US focus on security, the EU has traditionally devoted more of its efforts to development aid, advocating poverty reduction as
a top priority. However, this focus has achieved no better results in the
field of political reform. European policies have been predicated on the
acceptance of the Yemeni governments stated will to democratize. Even
when democracy-related concerns have been raised, blame has rarely been
attached to the government; frequently, complaints are couched in statements like, the government is encouraging reconciliation but an active
opposition, inside and outside of Yemen, and harassment by security forces
are making this problem more difficult.45 This has been shown to be inadequate as an international response to Yemens plight.

It remains to be seen whether donors intensification of the focus on political reform has arrived too late for Yemen, more than a decade on from the
end of its civil war. While a 9/11 effect has attenuated the neglect of the
international community, it has not completely corrected it. Attention
seems to have been redirected from other parts of the Arab world towards
Yemen, but the degree of commitment is still insufficient. The presidential election in September 2006 will prove a genuine test of both Yemens
and the international communitys genuine commitment to democracy.
More effective international actions, as detailed in the recommendations
that follow, will be required at this pivotal moment if the Community of
Democracies is not to bear silent witness to a further atrophy of Yemens
one-time democratic potential.

Increase coordination among donors and

with the government.
As in other countries, better coordination is needed to mitigate overlap and
ascertain what areas of reform are not being addressed by the internation-

45 European Commission, EU Commission Country Strategy Paper (2002-2006), Brussels:

European Commission.



al community of democratic states. This would require the drawing up of

a comprehensive reform and development plan and would allow each
donor to adopt leadership of the issues that most concern them. For example, the United States has already signaled that it gives priority to the issue
of press freedoms and Washington probably has more leverage on this issue
than any other donor. Conversely, the UNDP could lead on decentralization, with the expertise of Dutch and German development agencies.
NDI could continue its focus on political parties and elections, while the
United Kingdom, the Netherlands and UNDP intensify their ongoing
work on judicial reform. All donors have expressed the importance they
attribute to anti-corruption measures and this seems to have finally triggered some concrete responses from the Yemeni government. It has been
suggested that, due to tribal and military issues, the presidents position is
not as stable as it was and that he needs allies. Donors should seize this
opportunity and, knowing the importance that Saleh attributes to his
image, they should engage in a more coordinated effort to maximize the
opportunity of the current juncture. The office of Aid Harmonization and
Alignment and its recent initiatives could be the perfect vehicle through
which to engage reformists in such a concerted international effort. One
problem is that as long as the US insists on subordinating its development
and reform work to counter-terrorism objectives, other donors are reluctant to be seen cooperating with it. To facilitate broader harmonization
between donors, the US should separate its security and democracy/developmental work entirely.
With the recent reductions in foreign aid having triggered a response,
the path ahead should now rest on dialogue and concerted efforts at
reform. Outside of an integral program of reform convened with the
government there is room for strengthening reform movements, helping
develop civil society, and most importantly, extending education. The
United Kingdom, France and the EU could coordinate their civil society
support programs in an effort to cover the myriad of existing NGOs and
find viable partners throughout the country, not just in urban areas. This
strategy would further serve to counter accusations on the part of the government that donors, uninterested in getting involved in details, are supporting organizations that are overly-politicized, ineffective and/or one
man shows.
To coordinate their work, donors will have to be willing to give up
some ownership of their projects, which many still appear unwilling to do.
The British classification of Yemen as a fragile state has provided a focal
point for other donors strategies. Overall, there is a need to show donor



commitment to the cause of Yemeni reform, and this would include greater
aid allocations. In 2003, Yemen received 243 million dollars in ODA, representing 2.2 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP), a huge decrease
from the 8.4 percent received in 1990. Additional interest in Yemen
should not be limited to election times or to the latest democracy and governance conference organized in Sanaa.

Expand international support in the run up to

local and presidential elections.
In the run up to local and presidential elections, it is important to heed the
oppositions calls for fair party representation in election committees. The
UNDP already has a support program for the elections that is working
both at the policy level (supporting the SCER) and the technical capacitybuilding level. USAID and the Netherlands contribute to this program. It
would be important for the EU to sponsor an observer mission for the elections. Currently, the choice seems to be between sending a mission to
Qatar or Yemen, when it could be argued that Yemens case is more imperative. Election observers should be deployed well before the elections in
order to avoid some of the past irregularities.
In relation to the elections, it would be beneficial to support the oppositions calls to reform the electoral law; for instance, having a system of
proportional representation replace the current system of single party districts in which candidates are elected with only a plurality of the votes. The
current system allows the GPC to secure more representation in parliament
than the percentage of votes received. Linked to this reform of representation is the need for redistricting to avoid distortions that have benefited the
ruling party.

Strengthen judicial reform support.

The international community should endorse the Judicial Sector Reform
and Development Strategy put forth by the government. In addition, support is needed for efforts to enhance the independence of the judiciary. For
example, the international community should insist that the president be
removed from his post as head of the Supreme Judicial Council. The
importance of a functioning and independent judiciary and respect for the
rule of law generally can be sold to the government as vital to economic
reform and much needed foreign direct investment.



In bilateral talks with the Yemeni government, oppose the

deterioration of press freedoms and the unacceptable terms of
the new press law.
The authorities have increasingly clamped down on media activity. There
have been several cases of defamation lawsuits and legal harassment of the
opposition and independent newspapers. Journalists have also been
attacked and threatened for investigating corruption and not adequately
consulted on a draft press law, which allows harsh criminal penalties for
libeling the president. Donors could use a two-pronged approach that
would, on the one hand, criticize unacceptable political actions and, on the
other, provide training programs for journalists to help develop a more
professional media.

Criticize the Yemeni government for spending excessively on

security, while not allocating enough funds to development
projects or other priorities.
Defense and security spending, which already take up a large portion of
public funding, is increased in the 2006 budget by more than 50 percent.
Military expenditure for 2005 was four times the amount spent on healthcare. This again relates back to the US emphasis on security cooperation,
which allows the government to justify its military expenditures and its
attempts at ensuring control throughout the country.

Assist economic reform.

Yemens economy presents huge underlying challenges. The rate of economic growth is hardly above the population rate, which is an unsustainable situation. The year 2005 was positive because of higher oil prices, but
long-term challenges remain unaddressed: population growth, oil dependence (oil represents 70 percent of revenues), water depletion and human
development. Political reform is less likely without international support
to provide a firmer economic basis for democratization.

Emphasize the importance of creating an independent committee to fight corruption.

The Central Organization for Control and Auditing was created to control
corruption; however, it is answerable to the president. It monitors government revenues, spending, procurement and performance. A truly independent unit is needed. All donors claim to be tired of the endemic corruption that hampers other efforts. The GPC announced its intention to



create a new body after its conference, but the extent of the independence
of this body is not clear. This is a point where pressure is necessary from
the international community to ensure current plans for change take a
democratic path.

Support decentralization and capacity building in

local government.
In 2001, the National Democratic Institute analyzed the decentralization
law. Its findings suggested that no real authority was given to the local
authorities. In each district, some local council members are elected, while
the executive organs are filled with appointed, ministerial representatives.
UNDP has a pilot program in 28 councils that could be a model for all of
the total 333 councils. UNDPs donors should insist that more authority
be given to the local councils, which should all be elected and have budgetary authority. Furthermore, governors should also be elected not
appointed. These measures would help foster a culture of democracy at the
local level.

The EU should show greater commitment to what it preaches

in the area of democracy.
The EU should upgrade its commitment to Yemen in terms of the number of personnel covering the country and its overall country presence.
There has been a slow build up of activity since the EU opened its office
in 2004, but a significant leap forward in terms of commitment is needed.
The fact that the EU is still debating whether to send an electoral observer mission to Yemen is illustrative of the lack of importance attached to the
countys reform. Without such practical upgrading, commitments to back
democracy will continue to ring hollow.


Chapter 7

Zimbabwe, like the case of Burma, presents one of the most dramatic
examples of an intransigent ruler determined to fend off increasingly persistent international demands for democratic reforms. Even as all political,
economic and social indicators point toward potential ruin of what was
once one of southern Africas more promising post-colonial states, Robert
Mugabe continues tightening the screws on the political opposition and
thwarting international efforts to force him to transition out of power.
Cloaking himself as the liberator of Zimbabwe from the heavy hand of
neo-colonial rule, Mugabe has outmaneuvered both domestic and foreign
critics who remain divided and weak. Regardless of when or how the 81year old autocrat departs the scene, Zimbabwe will face a long uphill climb
toward consolidating democracy and repairing the economic damage
wrought by their erstwhile leader. The international community, if it is
serious about democracy promotion, should prepare the way now by
ensuring a post-Mugabe democratic Zimbabwe has the resources and priority it needs to succeed.

Zimbabwe, a country with extensive natural resources and an agricultural
sector that once exported large quantities of corn, tobacco and cotton,
faces a severe crisis due to politically-motivated mismanagement of the
economy.2 Zimbabwes economy, with one of the worlds highest inflation

1 Principal author Elizabeth Marquez, Research Fellow, Democracy Coalition Project.

2 Much of the information summarized in this section was drawn from Background Note:
Zimbabwe prepared by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of African Affairs, January
3 Zimbabwes annual inflation rate for February surged to 782 percent, up 168.8 percentage
points from January, according to figures released by the Central Statistical Office. UK
Telegraph, March 10, 2006,



rates at over 700 per cent,3 collapsed at an alarming 5 per cent in 2004
and is headed toward a major humanitarian crisis if the government is
unable to find the funds necessary to import adequate supplies of food,
fuel and power. Overseeing this precipitous decline stands President
Robert Mugabe, one of Africas independence heroes turned autocrat.
Mugabe, a former rebel leader of the Zimbabwe African National Union
(ZANU), came to power in February 1980 in the first post-independence
elections in the former white-controlled British colony then known as
Rhodesia.4 While these elections were found by the British government
and the United Nations to be free and fair,5 ZANU had promised to return
to war if it did not win the election.6
Mugabe promised early on to lead the nation in a process of reconciliation and reconstruction by integrating the armed forces, reestablishing
social services and education in rural areas, resettling an estimated one million refugees and displaced persons who had fled during the guerilla uprisings, and redistributing land. To this end, Mugabes first cabinet was comprised of members of his own ZANU party, the rival Zimbabwe African
Peoples Union (ZAPU) party, including Mugabes personal rival Joshua
Nkomo, and independent white members of parliament and senators.7
Tensions between the two factions worsened, however, leading to widespread violence and human rights abuses by the army with as many as
20,000 civilian deaths. During this time, Nkomo and his followers denied
connections with the dissidents and, out of desperation for the violence to
stop, negotiated an eventual merger of ZANU and ZAPU in 1989.
The 1990 elections, which saw voter turnout decline to 54 per cent,
resulted in an overwhelming victory for the newly merged ZANU party
which won 117 of 120 seats. International observers declared balloting fair
but noted that the campaign itself was neither free nor fair.8 Not satisfied
with a de facto one-party state, Mugabe proposed single party rule in
September 1990, but his gambit was strongly opposed by members of his

4 Independence was granted on April 18, 1980 and Rhodesia became Zimbabwe, named after
the Great Zimbabwe ruins, built between 1100 AD and 1400 AD by the ancestors of the
modern day Shona.
5 Ozias Tungwarara, Deputy Director, Africa Governance Monitoring and Advocacy Project,
personal correspondence, January 18, 2006.
6 J. Chikuhwa, A Crisis of Governance: Zimbabwe, New York: Algora Publishing, 2004, pp. 91.
7 Under the original Zimbabwean Constitution the legislature was divided into two bodies
a 120-seat House of Assembly and a 40-seat Senate. The Senate was abolished when the
Constitution expired in 1990. At that time a single legislative body, the National Assembly,
was created. The Senate was re-established in 2005.
8 U.S. Department of State, Bureau of African Affairs, op. cit.



own party and the proposition was taken off the table shortly after it was
proposed.9 Constitutional amendments in 1991 would strengthen government control restoring corporal and capital punishment, and denying
judicial recourse in cases of compulsory purchase of land by the government. Mugabe also maintained control of the media, the security forces,
and a large parastatal sector. Formal political opposition to Mugabe was
limited after the 1990 elections; however, discontent was growing due to
widespread corruption, nepotism and economic mismanagement. After a
series of student and labor union protests against the government in the
mid-1990s, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), a new opposition party, was formed in 1999 in response to worsening economic and
human rights conditions.
The first serious contest for the opposition came in February 2000
when a referendum was held on a draft constitution that would permit
Mugabe to seek two additional terms in office, grant government officials
immunity from prosecution, and authorize government seizure of whiteowned land.10 The constitutional referendum was soundly defeated, largely due to grassroots campaigning efforts by the MDC, heavily supported
by white farmers. Less than two weeks after the electoral defeat, the government responded by sanctioning violent expulsion of white farmers
from their land by an informal organization of war veterans, many of
whom were too young to have participated in the war for independence.
While Mugabe denied responsibility for the occupation and resulting violence, he publicly supported both the land invasion and violence, having
already threatened violence against farmers who refused to give up their
land. It is widely acknowledged that Mugabe and ZANU-PF artificially
created this crisis to make land reform a more pressing issue in the
months preceding the 2000 parliamentary election. In April 2000 the
parliament amended the constitution stating that white farmers could
seek compensation for seized land from the former colonial power, and

9 Mugabe: Freedom Fighter Turned Autocrat, BBC News, May 10, 2000,
10 Land tenure had long been a contentious issue in Zimbabwean politics. During the
minority white government, approximately 6,700 white farmers owned over 40% of the
land in Zimbabwe. Under the Lancaster Agreement land reform was to have taken place
on a willing seller-willing buyer basis. However, despite goals to resettle 75,000 families
within five years of independence, less than 40,000 were resettled by 1988. Mugabe and
ZANU-PF continued to stall on promises of sweeping land reform well into the 1990s
while using financial support for land reform from the World Bank and UK to award land
to party elites. Chikuhwa, op. cit., pp. 246-249.



in mid-May a law was passed allowing for more farm seizures without
compensation.11 These efforts were only partially successful as the MDC
experienced a significant victory in the June 2000 parliamentary elections.
Despite electoral irregularities, localized violence, and government intimidation of opposition supporters, the MDC gained 57 of the 150 seats in
the National Assembly.12
ZANU-PF, however, maintained a majority of the seats in parliament
and used its power to push through legislation aimed at limiting further
opportunities for MDC victory. In 2001, for example, parliament passed
the Broadcasting Service Act.13 The act made the state-run Zimbabwe
Broadcasting Corporation in effect the only legal electronic broadcaster in
Zimbabwe.14 Parliament also broadened the Miscellaneous Offences Act,15
originally introduced under white rule in 1964, to allow police to make
arrests at their discretion for almost any perceived offense.16 In addition,
the Public Order and Security Act was enacted, which made it illegal to
criticize the president, publish a false statement that could endanger the
nations economy or security or threaten public trust in the government,
and hold a public gathering without giving authorities a four-day warning.
It also allowed police strictly to regulate public gatherings as well as stop
meetings that they judged a danger to public order.17
It was in this highly restrictive context that presidential elections were
held in March 2002. In addition to the laws cited above, the regulatory
environment was in constant flux as new legislation governing the administration of the elections was being introduced and contested in court right

11 Chikuhwa, op. cit., pp. 249-250.

12 Of the 150 seats in the National Assembly, only 120 of these are elected by popular vote.
The rest are either appointed by Mugabe or are selected in a process highly influenced by
13 Zimbabwe State of the Media Report, Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), 2005.
14 The Act created restrictive criteria on funding, licensing fees and ownership of media outlets that are nearly impossible to meet including a ban on foreign investment and funding of the broadcasting sector. Media Institute of Southern Africa, op. cit.
15 Parliament of Zimbabwe, Miscellaneous Offenses Act,
16 The law covers riotous or indecent conduct; threatening, abusive or insulting language or
action; and using any means that could interfere with the ordinary comfort, convenience,
peace or quiet of the public or which are likely adversely to affect the safety of the public
or does any act which is likely to lead to a breach of the peace or to create a nuisance or
obstruction see Human Rights Watch, Some of Zimbabwes National Laws: Key
Concerns, March 2005,
17 Ibid.



up to the elections.18 For example, until nine days before the election it
was illegal for any civic organization to conduct voter education, leaving
the government-appointed Electoral Supervisory Commission (ESC) in
control.19 Additionally, the voter registration process disenfranchised many
voters, as was evidenced in the large number of voters turned away at the
polls. This partially stemmed from confusion in the registration process
when the rolls were re-opened for supplementary registration after the
original closing date, a move that was not publicized well enough to allow
all parties to inform their supporters.20 Furthermore, campaigning by the
opposition MDC was made difficult by the Public Order and Security Act
which made it nearly impossible for the opposition to hold political meetings, while ZANU-PF campaigning was largely unaffected. Access to
state-run media was also limited for the MDC in spite of guidelines set by
the Broadcasting Services Act, and coverage was heavily biased towards the
ZANU-PF.21 Of greatest concern, politically-motivated violence took
place throughout the country, including murder and torture perpetrated
mainly by youth and war veterans groups thought to be sanctioned by
ZANU-PF against MDC party members, supporters, and those suspected
of being opponents of the ruling party. Police and party leaders did little
to deny claims of violence.22
There were many complaints of unfair activity on the polling days as
well. The majority of election monitors and supervisors selected by the
ESC were civil servants, with a large number coming from the army and
police forces. In contrast, many local and international observers had difficulty receiving credentials. The Zimbabwe Election Support Network
reported that only 400 of its observers were credentialed, less than onehundredth of the list they had submitted in advance of the election.23
Additionally, many observers from the European Union, including those
from Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany, Finland, and the UK, were not

18 Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN), Press Statement Post-election

Assessment, March 12, 2002,
19 Crisis in Zimbabwe Committee, Press Statement on Election Results, March 13, 2002,
20 K. Vollan, Presidential Elections in Zimbabwe 2002, Norwegian Electoral Observer Mission,
March 20, 2002. pp. 5-6.
21 Ibid., pp. 6-8.
22 SADC Parliamentary Forum Observer Mission, Statement on the Zimbabwe Elections,
March 12, 2002,
23 Zimbabwe Election Support Network, op. cit.



allowed into the country.24 Information regarding polling station locations was not well publicized and in many urban areas the number of
polling stations decreased nearly 50 per cent from the 2000 election.
Notably, many of these decreases took place in MDC strongholds, particularly in the capital city of Harare. The lack of a suitable number of
polling stations significantly slowed down the voting process, leading to
an extension of the election period. However, thousands of citizens were
still unable to vote, even after waiting in line for three days. Meanwhile,
the number of rural polling stations increased and mobile polling stations,
which are difficult to monitor and observe, were deployed. In regards to
the rural vote, some questions have been raised concerning the validity of
the officially reported numbers of registered voters and of voter turnout as
these numbers failed to match reports issued by observers.25 In the end,
Mugabe easily defeated the MDC challenger Morgan Tsvangirai by a 56
to 42 per cent margin. The MDC issued a court challenge to Mugabes
victory that has yet to be adjudicated.
Immediately after the elections, the ZANU-PF-controlled parliament
passed the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, creating a
government-appointed Media and Information Commission (MIC). The
MIC was entrusted with regulating the media, including accrediting journalists and publishers. Under this act, foreign journalists who were not
working for specified time frames with the permission of the MIC were
banned from the country, foreigners with permanent resident status were
prohibited from working without the permission of the MIC, and
Zimbabwean journalists and publishers were forced to register with the
MIC.26 The government then used this law to attack the Daily News, the
only independent print newspaper in Zimbabwe, which had attempted to
challenge the law in the court system. The paper was shut down in 2003
by order of the Supreme Court, after its presses had been bombed and several of its executives, editors, and reporters had been detained by the government.27 In addition to the media restrictions, widespread violence and
intimidation were reported during the by-elections in 2002 and 2003.
Furthermore, MDC leaders Morgan Tsvangirai, Welshman Ncube, and

24 H. Sanomat, Finnish election monitors not let in to Zimbabwe yet, February 13, 2002,
25 Zimbabwe Election Support Network, op. cit.
26 Human Rights Watch, op. cit.
27 M. Glaser, Zimbabwes Daily News Fights Closure with Online Publication, Online
Journalism Review, October 22, 2003,



Renson Gasela were accused of treason in 2003, allegedly having sought to

topple the Mugabe government through the organization of protests in
June 2003. Charges against Ncube and Gasela were eventually dropped,
and Tsvangirai was found not guilty in October 2004.
Parliamentary elections held in the spring of 2005 offered an opportunity for the opposition MDC, and the international community, to hold
Mugabe accountable to his pledge to abide by the Southern African
Development Community (SADC) Principles and Guidelines Governing
Democratic Elections. 28 On the surface it appeared that the government
had made a number of changes that would lead to a more legitimate
process - the creation of a new electoral commission, the establishment of
an electoral court, one-day voting, the use of translucent ballot boxes, and
counting votes at polling stations immediately after closing instead of
transporting ballot boxes to a central counting location. The decision to
enact these specific portions of the SADC Principles and Guidelines, however, was seen by many as a carefully calculated effort to further limit
democracy. The electoral commission and court were appointed by
Mugabe; polling stations were doubled to allow for one-day voting, making monitoring difficult; and translucent ballot boxes intimidated voters
who thought the secret nature of their ballot would be compromised.
The opposition was once again limited in its ability to campaign by the
Public Order and Security Act, which required the opposition party to register for a meeting permit four days in advance and to allow police representatives to attend meetings. Furthermore, while special election programming aired on public broadcasting allowed the opposition an opportunity to present its case, other programming such as news and current
affairs programs strongly favored ZANU-PF. While reported cases of violence subsided, intimidation and threats of violence resulted in a coercive
atmosphere. Particularly in rural areas, traditional leaders suggested that it
would be possible to know which candidate voters selected and that those
not voting for ZANU-PF would face reprisals. Additionally, the vote tally
was called into question, as many election observers were not allowed to
witness the counting and detailed election results by polling station up to
the constituency level were not made publicly available. Finally, similar to
the 2002 election, control over voter education was vested in the
Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, issues with voting rolls and therefore

28 Full text of the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections can be
found at



large rejection rates persisted, and problems with the credentialing of

observers remained an issue.29
ZANU-PF increased its parliamentary majority in 2005, gaining 16
seats for a total of 78 elected seats. The MDCs total seats decreased from
57 to 41. Interestingly, the number of total votes lost by the MDC from
the 2000 election, 120,000, corresponded directly with the number of
votes lost in Harare and Bulawayo, traditional strongholds that underwent
a re-allocation of seats in accordance with voter rolls - rolls which largely
underrepresented the number of voters in those districts.30 While many
states and organizations were excluded from observing the polls, reports
from foreign diplomats who were able to observe elections (including those
from the EU and US) suggest that the elections were not free and fair.31
Shortly after the election, Mugabes government launched Operation
Murambatsvina (Restore Order), a crackdown on illegally built shantytowns and informal markets in the capital city of Harare, supposedly in an
effort to remove criminal elements in these areas. The MDC claimed that
the demolitions were targeted against the urban poor the MDCs primary base of support as a reprisal for the MDC winning almost all of
the urban seats in the 2005 elections. They also claim that the government would like to see the homeless return to rural areas where they are
easier to control. Others argue that ZANU-PF is engaging in this action
in an effort to target the war veterans who have built illegal settlements
on farms seized from white owners. It is also possible that this operation
is an effort to maintain stability in the urban centers, as many of the targeted areas were previously sites of anti-government riots.32 The UN estimated that the effort left 570,000 homeless, 98,000 jobless and directly or
indirectly impacted over 2.4 million people. By December 2005,
Operation Garikai/Hlalani-Kuhle, a corresponding government reconstruction initiative, had only constructed 5,000 homes since it was initiated in July 2005.33

29 K. Vollan, op. cit., pp. 1-2, 12-16.

30 Ibid., pp. 18.
31 Ibid., p. 1; Sokwanele Civil Action Support Group, Mauritius Watch Summary, March
30, 2005,
32 What lies behind the Zimbabwe demolitions? BBC News, July 26, 2005,
33 Update Report No. 5 Zimbabwe, Security Council Report, December 19,



In November 2005 the first elections for Zimbabwes re-constituted

Senate were held. The elections provoked a damaging split that had been
broiling between rival factions of the MDC one led by MDC president
Tsvangirai and the other by the MDC secretary general, Welshman
Ncube. Tsvangirais supporters favor a strategy of mass action to prompt
change while Ncubes followers favor a judicial approach or a negotiated
settlement. Prior to the senatorial elections, 33 members of the MDC
national council urged the party to participate in the election, while 31
favored a boycott. This resulted in the party filing to compete in the elections in the Matabeleland provinces while fielding no candidates in the
Mashonaland districts. Overall, voter turnout was very low at 19.48 per
cent.34 ZANU-PF won 43 of the 50 elected seats with the MDC taking
the remaining seven. The Senate has a total of 66 seats, and of the nonelected 16, Mugabe appointed six members while ten were awarded to traditional chiefs.35
Looking ahead, the octogenarian Mugabe has declared that he will not
stand for re-election in 2008. While it is impossible to tell if he will abide
by this decision, it is clear that ZANU-PF is thinking about its future in a
post-Mugabe Zimbabwe. Leaders are jockeying for power and many of the
factions within the party fall on ethnic lines.36 Thus, for ZANU-PF itself,
maintaining control of Zimbabwe after Mugabe steps down is a significant
goal. The most immediate goal of what remains of the MDC is to participate in a legitimate, free, and fair election, and win that election. The
MDC believes that it has the support of the majority of Zimbabweans but
that the current system does not allow for the exercise of that support.
Determining its future as a party has become the most crucial goal for the
MDC in the wake of the 2005 elections. The party is fractured on many
lines ranging from ideology to strategic goals and ethnic identity to leadership preferences.
In sum, Mugabe has manipulated legal tools and the mechanics of electoral democracy, backed up with violence perpetrated by his allies, to seize
near total control of the country. In effect, Mugabe has created the one-

34 Results of the 2005 Senate Elections and Gutu North Parliamentary By-election,
Zimbabwe Election Support Network, 2005.
35 Zimbabwe: A Year in Brief 2005, UN Integrated Regional Information Network, January
12, 2006,
36 B. Unendoro, Tribal Rivalry May Split ZANU-PF, Institute for War and Peace
Reporting, March 21, 2005,



party state he sought to impose when he consolidated power over his

ZAPU rivals in 1990.

The International Response

International responses to the ongoing political crisis in Zimbabwe generally have varied in relation to the geographic region of the actor. As the
MDC gained strength, particularly after its success in the 2000 parliamentary elections was reversed by the fraudulent 2002 presidential elections,
international actors such as the European Union (EU), the United States
and the Commonwealth have become more involved in seeking to hold the
Zimbabwean government accountable to basic democratic norms.
Mugabe, on the other hand, has marshaled his own allies in the fight for
legitimacy, mainly from the region, but also China. The actions of various
UN committees regarding Zimbabwe have reflected African more than
Western policy interests. This section provides an overview of action taken
in response to the 2002 and 2005 elections, as well as Operation
Murambatsvina and related human rights abuses.

The 2002 Elections

International observers, including delegations from the Commonwealth
states and Norway, declared the 2002 elections to be unfair citing the preelection environment as well as significant fraud and rigging of the ballot.37
The EU, prompted by the UK, decided even before the elections were held
to impose sanctions in accordance with Article 96 of the ACP-EC
Partnership agreement.38 The EU decided to freeze the assets of and institute a visa ban on government and ZANU-PF officials and to prohibit
export of arms and dual-use items that could be used for internal repression. Additionally, the EU suspended all aid to Zimbabwe except that
which was determined to have a direct benefit to the citizens of Zimbabwe
a suspension of 127 million euros under the European Development

37 K. Vollan, op.cit.; Africa damaged by Mugabe poll, CNN, March 15, 2002,; U.S. Agency for
International Development, Elections and Political Processes: Success Stories, March 17,
38 This agreement states that one of the objectives of relations between the EU and the
African, Caribbean, and Pacific countries is promoting institutional reforms and development, strengthening the institutions necessary for the consolidation of democracy, good
governance and for efficient and competitive market economies; and building capacity for
development and partnership. Article 20, Cotonou Agreement.



Fund. These measures were extended in February of 2003, 2004, and

2005.39 Nonetheless, some European states continued to deal with
Mugabe. For example, France welcomed him in 2003 for the FrancoAfrican Summit, and for good measure, granted Mugabe a one-on-one
audience with President Jacques Chirac.40
The United States, following a similar course as the EU, adopted sanctions in the form of a ban on current and new defense related exports.41 In
March 2003 the US also issued a travel ban on 76 Zimbabwean government officials and froze the assets of said individuals to complement EU
action.42 Other states following the EU and US bans include New
Zealand, which has adopted a visa ban list covering 142 people, as well as
Canada, Australia, and Norway, which have adopted policies identical to
the EU position.43
The Commonwealth, an association of 53 states affiliated historically
with the British crown, also took action against the Mugabe regime after
the March elections. The association suspended Zimbabwe from membership based on the findings of its observer delegation that the election had
been neither free nor fair and, therefore, a violation of fundamental principles of the Harare Declaration (ironically proclaimed in Zimbabwe in
1991).44 The final decision to oust Zimbabwe was made by a troika of
Commonwealth leaders: South African President Thabo Mbeki, Nigerian
President Olusegun Obasanjo, and Australian Prime Minister John
Howard. The original suspension lasted twelve months, with a six-month

39 European Union, EU Relations with Zimbabwe, June 23, 2005,
40 Chirac, Mugabe Hold Private Meeting, The Age, February 21, 2003,
41 U.S. Department of State, Suspension of Munitions Exports to Zimbabwe, April 17,
42 U.S. Department of State, Bureau of African Affairs, op. cit.
43 European Union EU Relations with Zimbabwe,June 23,2005,
44 Article 4 of the Commonwealths Harare Declaration states: We believe in the liberty of
the individual under the law, in equal rights for all citizens regardless of gender, race,
colour, creed or political belief, and in the individuals inalienable right to participate by
means of free and democratic political processes in framing the society in which he or she
lives. Available at



review process established.45 At the close of the one-year suspension, the

organization decided that insufficient progress had been made by the
Mugabe government; it chose to extend the suspension for an additional
nine months, until the end of 2003. Mbeki and Obasanjo lobbied against
extension of the suspension, but Commonwealth Secretary General Don
McKinnon of New Zealand stated that his conversations with other
Commonwealth members had suggested broad support for the extension.46
In December 2003 the Commonwealth voted once more to extend the
suspension of Zimbabwe upon the recommendation of a committee consisting of Australia, Canada, Jamaica, India, Mozambique and South
Africa. However, many African countries, led by South Africa, supported
re-admission for Zimbabwe.47 Shortly after this decision, Zimbabwe withdrew from the Commonwealth.48
South Africa, which has borne the brunt of the humanitarian crisis as
the recipient of hundreds of thousands of Zimbabwean refugees, at times
has supported dialogue between the MDC and Mugabe, leading to constitutional reform and new elections; at other times its inaction and even
defense of Mugabe appears to be driven more out of a desire for regional
stability than an overarching commitment to democracy. While South
Africa initially endorsed the 2002 elections as being free and fair in a statement made by Vice President Jacob Zuma, the government backed away
from that initial position and joined the Commonwealth troika that recommended Zimbabwes suspension from the organization. South Africa then
began efforts to encourage a government of national unity in Zimbabwe
but was ultimately rebuffed, despite the economic leverage it held over its
neighbor as a major source of power and fuel. 49 Nonetheless, when the oneyear suspension from the Commonwealth was set to expire in 2003, South
Africa lobbied in favor of Zimbabwes return to the Commonwealth.50
45 Commonwealth Secretariat, Meeting of Commonwealth Chairpersons Committee on
Zimbabwe, March 19, 2002,
46 B. Phillips, Zimbabwe ban extended, BBC News, March 16, 2003,
47 Zimbabwes Commonwealth Suspension Extended, The Independent, December 8, 2003,
48 Zimbabwe Quits Commonwealth, BBC News, December 8, 2003,
49 Africa damaged by Mugabe poll, CNN, March 15, 2002,
50 Zimbabwes Commonwealth Suspension Extended, The Independent, December 8, 2003.



The Organization of African Unity (OAU) was much less involved in

addressing the case of Zimbabwe than in other crises in the region, such as
Togo, Madagascar, Sudan or Mauritania. The limp reaction to the 2002
election is not surprising given that even the heads of state who were its
members called the old Organization for African Unity a dictators club.51
The OAU, like many African groups and heads of state including the
South African ministerial delegation, the Southern African Development
Community (representing the regions governments, not parliaments), former President of Kenya Daniel arap Moi, former President of Tanzania
Benjamin Mkapa, President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, President
Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, and President Samuel Nujoma of Namibia,
claimed that the elections did indeed reflect the will of the citizens of
Zimbabwe. The President of Senegal, Abdoulaye Wade, issued the lone
African voice of dissent, stating, From what I know, these elections do not
conform to the norms that I would expect for elections.52
The SADC Parliamentary Forum (SADCPF) made a rhetorical
response to Zimbabwe, but has engaged in little concrete action. The
group of southern African parliamentarians sent a seventy-person observer
mission to Zimbabwe to monitor the 2002 elections and concluded that
the elections failed to comply with the standards and norms set by the
SADCPF. Most noteworthy was the SADCPFs willingness to disagree
with reports from other regional organizations, such as the OAU.

2005 Elections and Land Reform

International actors pressured the MDC to participate in the 2005 parliamentary elections, arguing the party was able to moderate ZANU-PF policy in the parliamentary process.53 While many states and organizations
were excluded from observing the polls, such as the Commonwealth, the
UK, EU, US, Australia and Japan, reports from foreign diplomats who
were able to observe elections (including those from the EU and US) suggest that the elections were neither free nor fair.54 No further unilateral

51 M. Wines, Tough on Togo, Letting Zimbabwe Slide, The New York Times, April 10,
52 Africa damaged by Mugabe poll. CNN, March 15, 2002,
53 M. Ibenzi, Highlights of 2005, The Zimbabwean,
54 K. Vollan op.cit.; see also Sokwanele Civil Action Support Group, Mauritius Watch
Summary, March 2005,



action, other than renewal of current measures, was taken by Western and
Commonwealth actors in the wake of the 2005 elections. However, the
Zimbabwean press has stated that US and UK influence was crucial in a
March 2006 decision by the IMF to continue the suspension of
Zimbabwes voting rights and access to the general resources of the Fund.55
The suspension was enacted due to arrears in Zimbabwes payments to the
IMF since 2001. While the IMF had considered a compulsory expulsion
of Zimbabwe, its payment in full of obligations owed to the General
Resources Account led the Managing Director to withdraw his request for
expulsion. Zimbabwe continues to owe US$119 million to the Poverty
Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF)-Exogenous Shocks Facility (ESF)
Trust Fund.56
Amid growing pressure from the G8, President Mbeki called for
reforms in Zimbabwe including in areas of freedom of the press, freedom
of assembly, and rule of law in response to the elections.57 Mbeki also
hinted that future economic aid to Zimbabwe, including a loan offer
from South Africa to assist in addressing Zimbabwes current economic
slump, could depend on Mugabes willingness to pursue reform, including working with the MDC to draft a new constitution and hold new
elections. In 2005 alone, Zimbabwe required nearly $1 billion in aid to
fund imports of food, fuel and electricity, and to pay off debt owed to the
International Monetary Fund in order to prevent expulsion from the
IMF. With China declining to provide a $500 million loan that Mugabe
requested in August 2005, Mugabe may eventually be forced to meet
Mbekis demands. However, as of this writing, Zimbabwe was still refusing South Africas loan offer.58
Unlike the OAU, which was the primary regional organization
responding to the 2002 election, the African Union (AU) was created with
a set of goals that include the promotion of democratic principles and
55 M. Huni, Zimbabwe: U.S., UK block IMF Funds, The Herald, March 10, 2006.; IMF Executive Board Upholds Sanctions
Against Zimbabwe, IMF Press Release 06/45, March 8, 2006,
56 IMF Executive Board Upholds Sanctions Against Zimbabwe, IMF Press Release 06/45,
March 8, 2006.
57 In the lead up to the 2005 G8 Summit in Scotland Tony Blair was under pressure from
Members of Parliament to urge action from Mbeki. Hoey Insists Mbeki barred from G8,
The Zimbabwean, June 24, 2005,
58 Zimbabwes Commonwealth Suspension Extended, The Independent, December 8,



institutions, popular participation and good governance.59 Nonetheless,

the AUs ten-member observer mission fell short of declaring the 2005
elections not free or fair retreating instead to describing them as technically competent and transparent and reflecting the will of the people,
although it did note some irregularities such as the number of people being
turned away from the polls.60 Additionally, the ongoing crisis within the
country was not placed on the agenda during the July 2005 AU summit.
However, the African Commission on Human Rights and Peoples Rights,
an AU body, adopted a resolution condemning Zimbabwes human rights
practices in December of 2005. This was the first time that a high-level
African body had spoken out on the issue. AU heads of state, however,
failed to take up the issue at a meeting held in late January 2006.61
Notably, the SADC Parliamentary Forum was not invited to observe
the 2005 parliamentary elections, likely due to its condemnation of the
2002 election. SADC governments, on the other hand, have yet to condemn Zimbabwe despite the fact that Zimbabwe signed on to the SADC
Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections in 2004 and
failed to implement several key elements in advance of the 2005 elections.
Like the African Union, the United Nations as a whole has been largely inactive in the Zimbabwe case until recently when the Secretariat has
become more engaged. For example, debate was adjourned without a vote
on a draft resolution regarding the human rights situation in Zimbabwe
submitted to the Third Committee of the 59th General Assembly in
advance of the 2005 elections. Sponsors of the resolution included the
United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, the US, and a host of EU members such as France and Germany. The move to adjourn was supported by
many African states. Speaking in favor of adjournment, the South African
representative criticized the EU and the double standards witnessed in the
tabling of country-specific draft resolutions in the Third Committee,
which constituted a direct affront to the integrity of the African political
leadership. Similar resolutions brought for debate by the EU have failed
to pass on three previous occasions.62

59 AU Charter, Article 3(g), available at

60 Post-Election Zimbabwe: Whats Next? International Crisis Group, June 7, 2005.
61 Zimbabwe: AU Slams Human Rights Record, UN Integrated Regional Information
Network, January 3, 2006,
62 UN Security Council Resolution GA/SHC/3811 mandated by the EU, - 213k.



The UN Secretariat became more active in the wake of the housing crisis caused by Mugabes Operation Murambatsvina. The report submitted by the Secretary Generals Special Envoy Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka
condemned the operation, noting that it was implemented in an indiscriminate and unjustified manner, with indifference to human suffering.63
The report also stated that the international community should encourage the government to prosecute all those who orchestrated this catastrophe and those who may have caused criminal negligence leading to alleged
deaths, while implicating the entire government as responsible.64 This
report opened up an avenue for continued pressure by Western nations,
including Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, to
push for action by the Security Council. The UNSC held an official private meeting in July 2005, despite the disagreement of some UNSC members about whether the issue fell within the scope of the UNSC. The body
was briefed by Special Envoy Kajumulo Tibaijuka who presented her findings and recommendations and answered questions. The United Nations
is also participating in the construction of shelters for those left homeless
by the operation.65 UN Under-Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs, Jan
Egeland, traveled to Zimbabwe in December to negotiate the construction
of housing for those left homeless by the operation.66 Additionally, Kofi
Annan announced plans to travel to Zimbabwe in spring 2006 to survey
the situation personally.67
For years leading up to the current land crisis, the United Kingdom had
been the most prominent advocate for protecting the rights of minority
white landowners. The UK provided nearly 50 million pounds as well as
technical assistance during the 1980s and 1990s to support land reform
efforts. After most of this funding had been spent, proposals were issued
for a new round of funding, resulting in a 1998 Land Conference in
Harare. At this point the British government stated that it would be glad
to support further land reform efforts provided that they met agreed upon
criteria including, transparency, respect for the rule of law, poverty reduction, affordability and consistency with Zimbabwes wider economic inter-


UN condemns Zimbabwe slum blitz, BBC News, July 22, 2005,
Security Council Report, op. cit.
Kofi Annan due in Zimbabwe in March, Mail and Guardian Online, January 6, 2006.



ests.68 Progress continued to this goal until 2000 when bilateral relations
soured due to Mugabes land reform efforts government-backed, violent expulsion of white farmers from their land.69
Currently, the British government is signaling a willingness to normalize relations with Zimbabwe. Recently appointed British Ambassador, Dr.
Andrew Pocock has stated, the commitment of the British government to
the people of Zimbabwe is profound, but before we build bridges, we
need to do a lot of work to lay the foundation.70 Many of those bridges
to improving bilateral relations will rely on Zimbabwes response to international concerns, which the UK has played a leading role in shaping.
According to a spokesperson for the British government in Harare, these
include the issues raised by the UN report on Operation Murambatsvina
and adherence to the principles agreed to at the 1998 Land Conference.71

Assessing the International Response

Robert Mugabes Zimbabwe has effectively divided the international community and left its citizens little hope for external help as they struggle to
cope with the exhausting challenges of surviving the crisis. Zimbabwes
continued refusal to heed calls for political reform from the international
community, including neighboring South Africa, is leading the country to
an abyss as economic conditions deteriorate and a humanitarian crisis
slowly unfolds. Mugabes desire to secure financial support without
accepting reforms has sent him to China, a long-time ally with no democracy promotion agenda. Furthermore, the strong nation-wide grassroots
campaign that led to the defeat of Mugabes constitutional referendum in
2000 no longer exists in Zimbabwe and currently there is no opposition
party that can viably contest national elections.
The rhetoric of the African nationalist independence struggle has characterized the differences between Western and African actors in approaching the democratic crisis in Zimbabwe. This, however, is only part of a
larger trend of a division between African leaders and the West on the issue

68 Foreign & Commonwealth Office. Zimbabwe: UK Approach to Land Reform.
69 Zimbabwe: Laying Foundation First Step in Building Bridges: UK Envoy, The Herald,
March 24, 2006,
70 Ibid.
71 UK Sets Terms for Building Bridges, Financial Gazette, April 5, 2006,



of democracy, even though many African nations and regional organizations have made commitments to the promotion of democracy.
Zimbabwe, and until recently South Africa, have spoken out against
Western actors trying to impose their will on African peoples, and even
democratically-oriented groups have criticized the West for failing to
understand the needs of African democracy.
While the West pushes for liberal democratic reforms, some African
leaders claim the need for a different style of democracy, one shaped to
conform to cultural tradition and the needs of a developing economy. This
split is not a new development, but results from years of distrust and
resentment, mostly due to negative colonial experiences under oppressive
white democracies. Thus, when Western governments, NGOs and international organizations provide funding, training, and support for democracy-building activities based on an American/European model, African
governments balk, while those who do accept aid, often opposition parties,
are portrayed as tools of oppressive neo-colonial powers. Although the
negative experience that many African countries had under colonialism
cannot be discounted, African leaders such as Mugabe regularly employ the
rhetoric of African democracy to defend their de facto elected dictatorships. Additionally, many African leaders avoid calling attention to
Zimbabwes crisis out of fear that their own governments - many of which
are quasi-democratic at best - will be scrutinized more carefully by domestic and international actors alike.
Despite its stated commitments to democracy, the AU seems content to
watch the action from the sidelines most likely out of deference to Mugabe,
who is the last remaining leader from the days of African nationalist struggles. Similarly, respect for national sovereignty and deference to Africas
wish to take care of its own problems has hindered action by the UN
General Assembly.
Western responses to the crisis in Zimbabwe, while well-intentioned,
have been generally ineffective in promoting democratization. Western
sanctions have not appeared to influence Mugabe and his ZANU-PF
party in any visible way; nor has it brought Mugabe and the ZANU-PF
any closer to abandoning their anti-democratic practices. Conversely,
Mugabe and his allies have used the sanctions to their advantage by characterizing Western actors as imperialists with designs of continuing to
exert their influence over Africa. Similarly, Mugabe has twisted Western
support for democratic reform into backing for the MDC in the eyes of
his supporters, suggesting that a vote for the opposition is a vote for a
return to colonialism. Perhaps the only positive result of Western action



is that the Zimbabwean crisis has received international attention, which

has in turn lowered economic investment. In the 1990s foreign direct
investment hovered at $300-500 million, but has fallen to approximately
$10 million.72 While this is generally detrimental to the people of
Zimbabwe, economic leverage ultimately may provide inroads for successful international intervention.
The main problem with the limited sanctions currently employed by
the EU, New Zealand, Canada, and the US is that they do little to impede
Mugabes ability to rule the country; nor do they significantly impact his
personal standing. Unless the sanctions move Mugabe and the ZANU-PF
closer to relinquishing power and accepting democratization, they cannot
be characterized as effective. The problem lies largely in the fact that successful sanctions, such as those against South Africa in the 1980s, were
accepted by most countries in the world, and were more extensive and
restrictive. In contrast, sanctions on Zimbabwe are limited and only
adhered to by a small portion of the worlds countries. Arms are widely
available on the black market and through legal sales from countries that
have not imposed arms embargoes. Post-Soviet Russia remains one of the
largest suppliers of small arms worldwide and has supplied Zimbabwe
when other countries have refused. Personal assets are easily rebuilt in a
country with a large state-owned sector and rampant corruption. While
investment from the West has fallen, Zimbabwe has turned east and begun
dealing with China and Malaysia in the agricultural, mineral, and hydroelectricity sectors. Finally, visa bans do not legally apply to official trips,
allowing Mugabe and others on the visa ban list to travel on official business to those countries that have adopted sanctions.
Far from hindering Mugabe, Western measures may have weakened
and divided the opposition while helping to legitimize him. Due to
Mugabes equating of Western democracy promotion with oppressive colonial rule and the clear relation between democracy assistance and support
for the MDC, Mugabe and the ruling party have effectively linked external support for democracy and the MDC with support for oppressive colonial rule. Elections have not helped. Despite the foreknowledge of serious
flaws that compromise their fairness, the oppositions participation added
legitimacy to an illegitimate process and to Mugabes regime. Moreover it
provoked a crisis within the MDC regarding how to approach the election,
with portions of the party arguing for a boycott. While it did manage to

72 U.S. Department of State, Bureau of African Affairs, op. cit.



provide candidates for the parliamentary election, the MDC began campaigning late in the game, making the already difficult campaign even
more problematic. The party finally did split on the issue of providing
candidates for the 2005 Senate elections and only fielded candidates in the
Matabeleland provinces. There is no evidence to suggest that this rift will
be easily overcome and it is possible that the MDC could split into multiple parties. This development could present serious difficulties for further
democratization efforts, as the MDC was the only viable opposition party
in Zimbabwe.
African responses have fared little better, although it is perhaps too early
to judge the effectiveness of South Africas recent attempt to tie offers of
financial assistance to political reform. Mugabe still refuses to agree to
South African terms of political and economic reform in exchange for
financial assistance. With South Africa traditionally being a strong supporter of Zimbabwe and the Mugabe regime, it is possible that Mugabe
suspects that South Africa will lift its reform requirements if economic collapse leads to an even more severe humanitarian crisis. It is also possible
that Mugabe expects that recent attempts at engaging China may produce
more fruitful results in the future and will not require democratic reforms.
Regardless of Mugabes assumptions, it is clear that his refusal to accept the
conditions attached to South African aid could have an impact on his ability to rule. Without access to the food, fuel, and power that foreign aid
would supply, Mugabes ability to govern Zimbabwe may decline due to his
inability to provide spoils for his supporters.
The UN and AU have been much more active in the wake of Operation
Murambatsvina, but the exact impact of their actions remains questionable. It is clear that the report of the Special Envoy to Zimbabwe gave
Western nations more leverage to bring the discussion of the human rights
crisis to the UN Security Council; however, opposition by China and
Russia will hinder any meaningful action there. The results of Kofi
Annans planned visit, or pressure by African nations, may influence China
and Russia to abstain, but that remains to be seen. The result of the AUs
winter 2006 meeting was disappointing to the international democracy
promotion community and the continued refusal of the AU ministerial
body to address the crisis in Zimbabwe remains of great concern - both in
regards to the bodys continued failure to live up to its democratic commitments and the increased legitimacy that its action would lend to worldwide democracy promotion efforts in Zimbabwe.
Healing the divide between Africa and the West is crucial for any effective multilateral democracy promotion policy in Zimbabwe. While South



Africa has now adopted an attitude towards Zimbabwe that is more

reform-oriented, the divide between the two regions remains strong, as evidenced by AU and UN inaction until recently. This is not to suggest that
the West must drop its sanctions or that the African community adopt
them. Rather, the two groups must begin to work together to coordinate
a more unified approach in order to support greater democratization in
Zimbabwe. The first step would be to achieve support for the goal of
democratization in Zimbabwe among the AU member states, and if not
endorsement of stronger collective action, then at least not outright contempt for Western policies. The second step is for all actors to agree on a
set of carrots and sticks to encourage reform. This is already happening to
a certain extent with South Africa, the promise of aid being held out as a
reward for democratic reform. However the stick must be stronger, and if
this method is to work, it is imperative that other parties, such as China,
not further complicate the situation by providing aid and assistance that
would allow Mugabe and ZANU PF to stay in power.

The first step for the international democracy promotion community is
better to articulate the goal that it is pursuing. Currently different actors
seem to be pursuing a range of different, sometimes competing, aims
which results in less effective action than a united front. These include
Mugabes abdication of the presidency, a new constitution written in collaboration with the MDC, reform of the electoral process, repeal of the
Public Order and Security Act, holding of a free and fair election, and even
an MDC-controlled government. The actions taken by the international
community should be informed by a single goal: building a genuinely
democratic opposition capable of challenging ZANU-PF, and creating a
dialogue between ZANU-PF and the opposition, with the intention that it
will lead to the creation of a new constitution and free and fair elections.
Policies adopted and actions undertaken by the international democracy
promotion community should all have a clear connection to the pursuit of
this goal. Additionally, governments and multinational bodies working
toward this aim should coordinate their activities at all possible levels to
increase the effectiveness of their policies and programs.
The international community must become committed to constant
vigilance and consistent action in Zimbabwe. This means that government
and nongovernmental actors should monitor progress and setbacks in the
field and that governments should be prepared to act in the event that
undemocratic laws, such as the Public Order and Security Act, are passed



or strengthened (as they have when election results are declared fraudulent). Similarly, any democratic opening must be seized upon. This is an
important lesson from recent experience when the international community failed to engage in serious action during the 2000-2002 period until
after the moment had begun to pass. Governments, NGOs, and multinational bodies should be prepared to offer technical assistance well in
advance of elections, whether it be to help facilitate the implementation of
pro-democracy policies or to assist in civic education, legislative training
and development, formation of professional political parties, voter registration, independent media development, training of local election monitors
and ensuring a free and fair campaigning environment. Should the goal of
constitutional transition be achieved, the international community must
play a role in that transition as well, serving as a third-party guarantor that
power-sharing agreements are respected and that the new government
comes to power via a process that is free, fair, and non-violent. This will
require both a commitment on the part of governments and the political
will of their citizens to support continued involvement in Zimbabwe.
In considering more specific recommendations, any effective policy
solution must bear in mind the political and economic landscape of
Zimbabwe. Mugabes poor relations with the West suggest that he is
unlikely to respond to incentives to change that come from Western governments led by unholy men. For such incentives to work, Mugabe
would have to completely change his own domestic image and would risk
seeming weak when faced with the might of a former colonial power. This
shift is unlikely, as it would equate him with the opposition MDC party,
which Mugabe and ZANU-PF characterize as puppets controlled by
Western imperial powers. Thus, change in Zimbabwe requires a widespread, unified African response, led by South Africa and other African
democracies, including demands for reform and offers of incentives. With
the MDC crippled, perhaps permanently, a strong, democratic party must
emerge to compete with ZANU-PF for a transition to democracy to occur.
This will require engagement of Zimbabweans at the grassroots level and
in exile, something which has been made extremely difficult with restrictions on free speech, press and assembly. The international community
must be prepared to enact measures that can circumvent Zimbabwes antidemocratic practices, such as providing external space and support for
party building. Finally, policy solutions must take into account and be prepared to take advantage of the current economic crisis in Zimbabwe.
Given Mugabes desperate need for external aid, further targeted sanctions



could be used to induce Mugabe to loosen some of the restrictions that

make organizing a viable opposition nearly impossible.

Pressure African states and organizations

to support a joint approach.
Lobbying by the G8 seems to have worked to some degree in getting South
Africa to join calls for political reform. Such lobbying needs to be applied
in other African states and organizations, particularly SADC and the AU.
Incentives to adopt a harder line with regards to Zimbabwe, particularly in
terms of limiting support for the current government, would have to be
decided on a case-by-case basis. In pursuing this approach it is crucial that
Western governments remain consistent and not offer significant aid to
other non-democratic governments.
The need to close the gap between the Western and developing worlds
on the appropriate form of democracy promotion falls largely on Western
actors African leaders concerned with their own image and maintaining
power are unlikely to take the first step towards meaningful dialogue.

Link financial and material aid to reform.

Given Zimbabwes current financial and economic situation, linking financial aid to domestic political reform is crucial. South Africa has already
begun to move in this direction, and other states and organizations must
follow. In particular, should Zimbabwe once again become eligible for
IMF funds, the organization should impose governance reform conditionality on any loan disbursement in accordance with the IMF Executive
Boards Guidance Note concerning the Role of the IMF in Governance
Issues.73 While the international community cannot allow a humanitarian
crisis to take place in Zimbabwe, all essential humanitarian aid should
bypass the government entirely and be distributed directly through the
supporting organization. Precedent for this move in Zimbabwe exists in
the current UN effort to build housing for the urban poor who have been
displaced by Mugabes Operation Murambatsvina.

73 While the Guidance Note states that the IMFs judgments should not be influenced by
the nature of a political regime of a country, nor should it interfere in domestic or foreign
politics of any member, the IMF does support the use of conditionality when governance
issues have a direct macroeconomic impact. There is little argument that Mugabes corrupt
economic policies have had a substantial impact on Zimbabwes macroeconomic stability.
Full text of the IMF Guidance Note can be found at



Linking financial aid to reform would serve as an incentive for Mugabe

and ZANU-PF to engage in democratic reform to the extent that they are
concerned about the well-being of their citizens or, more likely, require
such aid to maintain the support of their own party members. Without
such conditions, the only incentives to pursue democratic reform would
be a benevolent willingness to share power, which both Mugabe and
ZANU-PF seem to lack, or a desire to gain legitimacy in the pro-democracy international community, which is unlikely given Mugabes attempts
to establish relations with undemocratic states like China.

Offer support and training to opposition

parties in Zimbabwe.
With the split experienced by MDC there is no opposition in Zimbabwe
capable of legitimately contesting ZANU-PF for power, even in free and
fair elections. Democratic opposition must be rebuilt at the grassroots
level, a task that will not be easy in a country with severe restrictions on
freedom of speech, press and assembly. Any group which hopes to contest an election will require a great deal of support including, but not limited to, training in grassroots organizing, creation of a political agenda
and message, acquisition of infrastructure that can more easily avoid
detection by the government (i.e., radio transmissions, internet communication where feasible, text messaging), and financing. The international community can offer all of these to help jumpstart the creation of an
opposition movement.
The international community should also look to promote action outside of Zimbabwe that can assist the formation of a Zimbabwean opposition. As Mugabe and ZANU-PF have stripped away all rights in
Zimbabwe that would allow any opposition party to form, those hoping to
create an alternative to ZANU-PF will likely need the support of neighboring countries where they can operate with some flexibility. The international democracy promotion community can pressure neighboring states
to assist with these efforts, including allowing trainings and political meetings to be hosted on their soil, hosting internet sites that would be blocked
in Zimbabwe, and broadcasting radio news programs from external transmitters with enough power to reach Zimbabwe. The international community can be instrumental although not primary in these pursuits by
providing funding and technical know-how as well as assisting in negotiations with neighboring governments.



Focus on the importance of civil society action.

Increased action and perhaps more importantly increased visibility of
Africas democracy promotion and human rights community is necessary
to keep African states and regional actors focused on Zimbabwe. While
African democracy promotion and human rights groups no doubt have an
interest in the future of Zimbabwe, their message seems to be ignored by
their home governments and multinational organizations or they are otherwise preoccupied with problems closer to home. African civil society
groups can more legitimately speak for democratic change or partner with
their Zimbabwean counterparts than Western groups. Increased visibility
of civil society demands, particularly through widely accessed media networks, will be crucial for the success of this strategy.
When considering the actions of international actors, the primary focus
tends towards states and multinational bodies. However, civil society has
an important role to play as well, as seen by their effective campaign to
deny Sudan its turn as chair of the AU. South African critics of Thabo
Mbekis policies towards Zimbabwe were crucial in pushing for his shift of
position, and civil society influence will likely be extremely important in
getting other heads of state to act. To this end the creation of a sub-regional civil society mechanism, much like the West Africa Civil Society Forum,
could help further the efforts of civil society in southern Africa and
Zimbabwe by providing a sub-regional advocacy and coordinating body
which would consult with member civil society organizations on governance issues. Such a body would be a clear target for foreign aid and technical assistance. Additionally, any sub-regional civil society organization
should promote the role of election monitoring as a civil society activity taking responsibility for election monitoring out of the hands of government officials who may overlook questionable practices in accordance with
their own self-interest.

Expand existing sanctions on Zimbabwe to include imports,

exports and the financial sector.
As the US, UK, and Germany combined represent 30 per cent of
Zimbabwes total trade, a more effective sanctions regime would have the
effect of further crippling the Zimbabwean economy.74 These sanctions can
be modeled after those currently being used by the US on Burma, includ-

74 U.S. Department of State, Bureau of African Affairs, op. cit.



ing but not limited to a ban on exported goods and financial services, on
imports, and on investment in Zimbabwe. While attempts to ensure that
this would not cause a humanitarian crisis would be necessary, weakening
the Zimbabwean economy would remove some of the power that Mugabe
wields vis--vis the parastatal sector which dominates the economy, limiting
his powers of patronage. It would also strengthen the offers of aid for
reform, such as that being offered by South Africa. The difficulty of this
approach is the growing importance of China in Africa as evidenced by its
relationship with the Sudanese government through its oil purchases and its
stated interest in Zimbabwes chrome and platinum deposits.75
A sanctions regime that could more easily by-pass the Chinese would
be an even stricter round of targeted sanctions aimed at party elites, instead
of just government officials, and the families and known associates of elites
and party members. This could include limiting where wives of ZANUPF elites could travel to shop or children of government officials could
attend schools. Countries that currently have a sanctions regime in place
should also seek to end Zimbabwean individuals investment in firms
under their jurisdiction and any business activities between firms under
their jurisdiction and the ruling elite of Zimbabwe.

Pressure the UN General Assembly to support action

by the Secretariat.
While specific Western states and organizations are no longer welcome in
Zimbabwe, the UN was invited to send election observers to the 2005 parliamentary elections. The UN should offer its expertise to Zimbabwe, and
the UN Democracy Caucus should be prepared to support a General
Assembly or Security Council resolution for a major electoral assistance
mission with an eye to elections in 2008. Additionally, those countries
committed to democracy should not cease in pushing for consideration of
the Zimbabwean crisis in all relevant committees and should work to
engage their African counterparts in addressing the crisis.
As the UN Secretariat has been more successful in engaging in substantive action, the democracy promotion community should offer all possible
support to the initiatives of the Secretariat that could increase the opportunity for democratization in Zimbabwe. Furthermore, member states and
democracy-promotion NGOs associated with the UN should press the
Secretariat to address more directly the human rights abuses and anti-democratic practices perpetrated by ZANU-PF.

75 Report Puts Pressure on Zimbabwe, BBC News, July 22, 2005,



List of Expert Reviewers*

Our work depended a great deal on the willingness of noted experts in
democratization, foreign policy and politics to devote time to reviewing
and critiquing our research and analysis. With sincere gratitude we
acknowledge the following individuals.

Principal author: Dr. Jeffrey Stacey, Tulane University.
Maureen Aung-Thwin, Director, Burma Project/Southeast Asia
Initiative, Open Society Institute, United States.
Dr. David I. Steinberg, Director, Asian Studies, School of Foreign Service
Georgetown University, United States.
Dr. Thaung Htun, Representative for UN Affairs of the National
Coalition Government of the Union of Burma.
John Bradshaw, Director, Freedom Investment Project, Open Society
Institute, United States.

Principal author: Muthoni Kamuyu, Democracy Coalition Project.
Dany Komla Ayida, Reagan Fascell Fellow, National Endowment for
Democracy, United States.
Pascal Kambale, Advocacy Director, Africa Governance Monitoring and
Advocacy Project (AFRIMAP), Open Society Institute, United States.
Grant Godfrey, Senior Program Officer, Central and West Africa,
National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, United States.

Principal author: Richard Youngs, Fundacin para las Relaciones
Internacionales y el Dilogo Exterior.
Senem Aydin, Fellow, Centre for European Policy Studies, Belgium.


Principal author: Richard Youngs, Fundacin para las Relaciones
Internacionales y el Dilogo Exterior.
Michael Emerson, Senior Research Fellow, Centre for European Policy
Studies, Belgium.
Andre Gerrits, Department of European Studies, Amsterdam University,

Principal author: Susanne Gratius, Fundacin para las Relaciones
Internacionales y el Dilogo Exterior.
Christian Freres, Instituto Complutense de Estudios Internacionales,
Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain.

Principal author: Ana Echage, Fundacin para las Relaciones
Internacionales y el Dilogo Exterior.
Gerd Nonneman, Department of Politics and International Relations,
Lancaster University, United Kingdom.
Robert Springborg, Director, London Middle East Institute, School of
Oriental and African Studies, United Kingdom.
Sheila Carapico, Department of Political Science, Richmond University,
United States.

Principal author: Elizabeth Marquez, Democracy Coalition Project.
Akwe Amosu, Senior Policy Analyst for Africa, Open Society Institute,
United States.
Ozias Tungwarara, Deputy Director, Africa Governance Monitoring and
Advocacy Project (AFRIMAP), Open Society Institute, South Africa.
Thandi Henson, Coordinator, African Women in Developing Countries,
South Africa.

* Affiliation for identification purposes only.