Time Runs Short to Secure U.S. Elections | EE Times

The 2020 presidential election could now be endangered. On March 25, President Vladimir Putin suspended Russia’s upcoming referendum on constitutional amendments, including a measure that would allow him to remain in power through 2036. The referendum was scheduled for April 22. A new date has not been set.

The pandemic provided Putin a convenient excuse. That sets a dangerous precedent for western democracies, especially ours.

Source: Time Runs Short to Secure U.S. Elections | EE Times

Kill Chain Review: HBO Documentary on Democracy Hacking | Time

The U.S. voting system is, as several interviewees in Kill Chain put it, a bipartisan concern; still, as the documentary notes, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has blocked votes on the Secure Elections Act and four similar bipartisan bills.

What’s more, the three companies that provide voting systems to the U.S. declined to be interviewed for Kill Chain; the assumption is that their products are fail-safe. If nothing else, Kill Chain demands that we ask whom we’re trusting, and why.

Source: Kill Chain Review: HBO Documentary on Democracy Hacking | Time

After a Year of Political Deadlock, Will There Be a Fourth Israeli Election?

Israelis went to the polls earlier this month for the third time in less than a year to elect a new Knesset and hopefully a new government. The unprecedented sequence of elections is a result of a combination of factors that have left Israeli politics deadlocked since last spring.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his conservative Likud party have led Israel’s government for 11 consecutive years, but three high-profile corruption cases against Netanyahu created an impetus for a new opposition party, the center-right Blue and White, to emerge in early 2019.

Its platform is constructed not around stark policy differences with Likud, but around replacing Netanyahu. Under the leadership of former military chief Benny Gantz, it established itself as the main opposition force.

Source: After a Year of Political Deadlock, Will There Be a Fourth Israeli Election?

Biden on cusp of insurmountable lead after sweeping three states | TheHill

Former Vice President Joe Biden swept the primaries in Florida, Illinois and Arizona on Tuesday, putting him on track to secure an insurmountable delegate lead in the Democratic nominating contest and virtually shutting out Sen. Bernie Sanders’s (I-Vt.) chances of a comeback.

Source: Biden on cusp of insurmountable lead after sweeping three states | TheHill

Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders Take On Coronavirus, Trump | US News

There will be no glad-handing, no bragging about the many thousands of people packing a room to see a candidate speak. Town halls are going virtual. And crisis management is no longer just a public relations specialty for disgraced corporate leaders or celebrities; it’s become a critical test over who has the temperament to lead a fearful and anxious nation.

This is the year of the Coronavirus Campaign, in which all the plans and strategies developed by political campaigns are being tossed off as candidates figure out how to address both the public health crisis and the financial fallout from it. Not only will presidential hopefuls need to convince Americans they are best to handle a still-worsening pandemic, but they’ll have to come up with ways to market those plans to voters.

Source: Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders Take On Coronavirus, Trump | America 2020 | US News

Coronavirus, campaigns, and connectivity

All the presidential candidates are of an age of acute vulnerability for the COVID-19 virus. How much longer can they work rope lines, kiss babies, and shake hands?

Schools and offices are closing while members of Congress self-quarantine. How long can a responsible campaign continue to hold huge rallies where one sneeze can multiply the spread of the virus?

When both the Biden and Sanders campaigns cancelled rallies in Michigan they gave the early warning that we need to start planning how we protect the electoral process if coronavirus becomes worse.

Source: Coronavirus, campaigns, and connectivity

How Rodrigo Duterte Is Planning to Outlive His Term

President Rodrigo Duterte is on a roll. In the Philippines, where reelection is banned, most presidents become lame ducks halfway into their six-year terms.

But four years into his presidency, Duterte remains at the top of his game, impervious to blistering criticism of his autocratic tendencies and his bloody war on drugs, which has killed at least 6,000 suspected drug users and sellers. A December poll shows his popularity at 87 percent, surpassing that of every Philippine president since competitive elections were reintroduced in the 1980s, after the 20-year reign of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

The president’s opponents hope that “Dutertismo” will fade away in 2022, when his term ends. But they should not assume that Duterte will quietly leave office like his predecessors. Buoyed by public support, Duterte is making every effort to consolidate his base, cement his legacy, and handpick a successor so he can continue to exert influence and exercise power beyond his term. If he succeeds, then Duterte’s illiberalism, anti-Westernism, and anti-elitism may endure for years to come.

Duterte has sought to expand his power by attacking the forces that he believes restrain it. On February 11, he terminated the Visiting Forces Agreement, a long-standing military pact that allows U.S. forces to train in the country. This move was widely seen as a retaliation against the United States, which had revoked a visa it had issued to his former police chief, Senator Ronald Dela Rosa. But the president has also long wanted to wean the Philippines from its dependence on the U.S. security umbrella and foreign aid; past presidents had been forced to come to heel when American officials threatened to withhold assistance in an effort to rein in corruption and human rights abuses.

Duterte has turned instead to China, believing that the Philippines’ long-term security and economic interests are best served by Beijing’s embrace. China has lent significant funds to an ambitious public works program that Duterte has initiated, and Chinese businesses and tourists bring much-needed investments and foreign exchange to the Philippines. Unlike the United States, China offers these benefits without pressing Duterte to give ground on democracy and human rights.

The Philippine president has been equally determined to muzzle his domestic critics, particularly those with the capacity to curtail his power.

Two years ago, Duterte threatened to shut ABS-CBN down. He may yet make good on that promise. For many months, the pro-Duterte House of Representatives refused to schedule hearings to renew ABS-CBN’s franchise.

In early February, the solicitor general asked the Supreme Court to void it. “If you are mean to the President, he will be meaner to you,” Duterte’s former aide Senator Christopher Go warned ABS-CBN bigwigs during a Senate hearing. “If you are nice to the President, then he will be nicer to you.”

Duterte has extended his crackdown on opponents to every corner of society. He has been particularly vicious against the Catholic Church, which has been critical of his war on drugs. Duterte has called the church “the most hypocritical institution in the entire Philippines,” accused clergy of abusing boys and coddling drug dealers, and threatened to behead a bishop who has provided sanctuary to witnesses of police abuses in the drug war.

Duterte’s demonstration of power may be thuggish, but it is also methodical. From his 21 years as mayor of the southern city of Davao, he learned that citizens respect and follow a strong leader. He is an avid reader of Nietzsche and Machiavelli and likes to quote from The Prince. He admires Marcos—so much that soon after his election, he allowed the dictator’s family to give their patriarch’s remains a hero’s burial. He’s a student of power, which means that despite his seemingly irrational fits of public rage, Duterte plays the long game.

And so Manila’s chattering classes await the president’s next Machiavellian move. Duterte has fanned rumors he will field either his daughter Sara or his former aide Senator Go in the 2022 presidential race. He has let slip that his daughter may succeed him. Some observers speculate that Duterte will run as vice president on the same ticket as his successor, thus setting himself up to continue exercising power.

The stakes are high for Duterte when his term ends: he needs a successor who will not only perpetuate his legacy but also protect him and his men from criminal charges in the Philippines or overseas. Just last December, a U.S. Senate resolution called for sanctions against Philippine civilians and uniformed officials responsible for extrajudicial killings and the jailing of an opposition senator. The International Criminal Court is reviewing charges against the president and other officials for crimes against humanity in connection with the war on drugs and may soon announce a formal investigation.

Duterte is hoping that his popularity will shield him from accountability when he is no longer president. And though he is popular now, Filipinos are fickle voters. Since the fall of Marcos in 1986, they have elected presidents who were completely different from their predecessors. Duterte’s dark charisma and Machiavellian tactics may see him through his term but not suffice to elect his chosen successor.

For now, though, those aspiring to succeed him must reckon with the fact that Duterte has tapped into something real. He peered into the depths of his country’s heart and found a willingness among many, especially within the middle and lower-middle classes, to trade rights and freedoms for safety and stability.

Duterte intuited, as he did when he became mayor of the country’s murder capital more than 30 years ago, that he could rule on the promise that citizens would be able to walk safely on the streets if they were willing to pay the price. In so doing, he has broken the already frayed consensus on individual rights.

More than three decades after “people power” chased Marcos from the presidential palace, law-and-order thinking resonates—and a post-Duterte presidency would need to address it.

Source: How Rodrigo Duterte Is Planning to Outlive His Term

On The Trail: Warren falls victim to the electability obsession | TheHill

As Democratic voters agonized over a historically large field of potential presidential candidates, virtually every one put Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in a category of her own. Whether they were fans or not, liberal or centrist, voters universally loved that Warren offered so many detailed plans and such a robust agenda.

But the one plan Warren struggled so much to articulate was the most important to voters eager to oust President Trump in November: How she could win what in their minds is the most important election of their lives.

Source: On The Trail: Warren falls victim to the electability obsession | TheHill

Trump’s character problem

The night before Super Tuesday, Joe Biden spoke fervently about the need to restore decency and dignity to the White House. To some, these words might have sounded like standard politician-speak. But a just-released Pew Research Center survey suggests that they could play an important role in the fall, perhaps even determining the outcome of the general election.

Pew finds that only 15% of Americans like the way Donald Trump conducts himself as president, while 51% dislike his conduct, and the remaining 31% express mixed feelings. Strikingly, only 31% of Republicans could bring themselves to say that they like the behavior of the man that most of them support despite, not because of, his departure from ordinary norms of conduct.

Source: Trump’s character problem

Troubling Trends for Youth in Uganda’s Democracy

Uganda’s Electoral Commission has declined to pursue an extended voter registration period aimed at first-time voters, which was requested by some members of parliament. That means that well over a million Ugandans who will have reached the age of enfranchisement when the election occurs will not be able to express their will at the ballot box.

Apparently the largest voting block in the country is not a sufficient priority for election officials.

Source: Troubling Trends for Youth in Uganda’s Democracy