June 3rd, 2014
10:56 AM ET

Abdullah: Corruption poses threat to Afghan stability

Fareed speaks with Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah about corruption, ties with Pakistan, and whether his government would talk with the Taliban if he was elected president. Watch the video for the full exchange, or watch the first part of the interview here.

The question many people have about Afghanistan is about the corruption. There’s a sense that it is sort of out of control. We're talking about bagfuls of cash – millions and tens of millions of dollars – all this international aid that has been provided. Do you have any specific idea about how to deal with this, how to tackle it?

The first thing which is necessary is the recognition of the threat which corruption is posing to the stability in the country and to the wellbeing of the Afghan people.

It’s a serious challenge. It will be a serious challenge. And the first thing which is required is the political will. The political will will be there to deal with it, zero tolerance of corruption [at] the highest level. That is something that the people should feel, the people should sense, the people should see it from the first day of our government. And then, of course, there are certain other issues. There are legislative issues in that regard. There is the issue of law enforcement, rule of law.

As a whole, we think that it’s a priority, and it will be a priority for the future government of Afghanistan and it has to be dealt with in outright manner. Corruption is not just the issue of international assistances. Within the system, nepotism and certain other aspects of this, part of it is due to the problem of drugs, narcotics, in the country. Part of it is the absence of rule of law.

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Topics: Afghanistan • Elections • GPS Show
June 3rd, 2014
10:48 AM ET

Abdullah: Bilateral security agreement needs to be signed

Fareed speaks with Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah about U.S. troop levels and whether he would sign the bilateral security agreement. Watch the video for the full exchange, or watch the second part of the interview here.

Let me ask you first the question that I think many Americans are wondering about, which is will you sign the agreement that will have American troops stay on in Afghanistan in some number, for training and such? As you know, President Karzai has been unwilling to sign the agreement that would allow American troops to stay.

Of course. My position in regards to the bilateral security agreement with the United States has been that we need continued support, in military and security terms, from the United States and the international community. And that's the framework – a bilateral security agreement, or BSA, is the framework for that, for the continuation of military security cooperation in assessing the Afghan security forces and training of the Afghan security forces, as well as dealing with the threats which are around.

So my position in regards to the BSA has been positive. And it has to be signed. And it will be one of the priorities of the future government of Afghanistan.

Do you have a view as to how many American troops should remain? As you know, there's a big debate within the United States. Some people want it to be as low as 5,000 or even lower. Some say, no, you need about 20,000. Do you have a number?

I don't have a number. That's a technical, military question. But at the same time, the aim or the mission as [it’s] defined, it requires a few thousand...the presence of a few thousand American troops, not as a minimum such as 3,000 to 5,000 American troops, but certainly more than that. But I am not in any position to give you a number.

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Topics: Afghanistan • Elections • GPS Show
Freeland: Mood in Ukraine determined, optimistic
June 1st, 2014
12:08 AM ET

Freeland: Mood in Ukraine determined, optimistic

GPS Digital Producer Jason Miks speaks with Chrystia Freeland, a member of the Canadian parliament and former top editor at the Financial Times and Reuters, about recent developments in Ukraine.Watch Freeland on “Fareed Zakaria GPS,” this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN.

You’ve just returned from Ukraine. Did you get a sense that people there feel the likelihood of outright conflict with Russia has receded and that the country can move forward?

Yes and no. The election on Sunday was a very significant and very positive step. It was significant because you had very strong turnout, and the country decisively choosing a president who for the first time since Ukraine became an independent state had support from across the country. People really understood that this effort to build a democracy was imperiled, so they needed to have a new president with a strong mandate.

So that’s the good news. And I think you already see the positive consequence of that with the Ukrainian state acting more decisively. Having said that, I was also in the Donbass region, where the fighting is going on now. And I was astonished by the extent to which state authority had just melted away.

There wasn’t a lot of fighting while I was there, but it’s a very contested area, and it’s not clear what is going to happen there. It’s not clear if the government is going to be able to restore Ukrainian political order, partly because I think the Ukrainian government will hold back from doing anything that would lead to high civilian casualties – the morality of their new state is very important to them.

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Topics: Elections • Ukraine
Why EU election results are no surprise
May 26th, 2014
06:17 PM ET

Why EU election results are no surprise

By Bruce Stokes, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Bruce Stokes is director of global economic attitudes at the Pew Research Center. The views expressed are his own.

Europe’s voters have spoken – and what they had to say has shaken capitals across the continent as far right and some far left parties made significant gains in elections to the European parliament.

The results did not come as a complete surprise – there was widespread apprehension in Brussels ahead of the polls over the public’s mood and its implications for both the future direction of Europe and for national politics. Recent public opinion surveys had indicated disgruntlement among electorates in the wake of years of economic stress, with growing antagonism toward immigration and minorities.

Ironically, this electoral backlash came despite a slight rebound in positive economic sentiment in the region, and despite some polling indicating somewhat more favorable views toward the European Union as an institution. Yet even before the results were in, in an election that French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has described as an earthquake, a Pew Research Center survey had revealed a widespread perception among the public that the EU was out of touch, intrusive, inefficient and unwilling to listen.

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India's election: What's at stake?
April 7th, 2014
09:45 AM ET

India's election: What's at stake?

By Aakanksha Tangri

As Indians begin heading to the polls in the largest election in history, GPS intern Aakanksha Tangri explains what’s at stake, who the key players are, and what the election means for ties with the United States.

It will be the world’s biggest exercise in democracy. As India heads to the polls from Monday, some 814 million people will be eligible to vote in a general election that will be broken down into nine phases at over 900,000 polling stations across the country. Indeed, the final votes won’t be cast until May 12, before they are all counted on May 16.

The election pits the ruling Indian National Congress’s Rahul Gandhi against Narendra Modi, the candidate of the main opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party. But despite the storied history of his family name, Gandhi is widely seen as the underdog against the current chief minister of Gujarat.

The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) coalition government, led by the Indian National Congress, swept to power in 2004 under the leadership of Sonia Gandhi, who surprised many by declining to take up the post of prime minister, instead calling on respected former Finance Minister Manmohan Singh to take the helm of government. But despite putting together a comfortable majority in a second consecutive election victory in 2009, a stalling economy, numerous corruption scandals and a perceived lack of direction left many Indians craving a change this time around.

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Topics: Elections • India
September 21st, 2013
03:52 PM ET

Will Merkel practice what she preaches?

By Global Public Square staff

Imagine if we had national elections this week. There would be no shortage of big debates over: the deficit, taxes, Obamacare, the size of government... you name the big topic, and our two parties will have a big disagreement.

Contrast that with another major country which actually is at the polls Sunday. The hot topics there are: whether or not to have one day of the week set aside for vegetarianism ... whether or not mothers should pick subsidized childcare over keeping their kids at home ... or get this one: whether or not foreign motorists should pay tolls. Seriously? Where in the world is this wondrous country with no real problems?

Well, it's one of the world's largest economies, and Europe’s largest: Germany.

Part of the reason why Germans are debating mundane issues is because, unlike in the rest of Europe or indeed much of the world, the overall picture is quite rosy.

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Topics: Elections • Germany • What in the World?
Is Abe ready for Japanese expectations?
July 19th, 2013
06:40 AM ET

Is Abe ready for Japanese expectations?

By Bruce Stokes, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Bruce Stokes is director of the global economic attitudes project at the Pew Research Center. The views expressed are his own.

Japanese voters head to the polls on Sunday to elect half of the members of the House of Councillors, the upper house of Japan’s Diet, the national legislature. The ballot is shaping up as a referendum on the seven-month tenure of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government.

Abe is riding high in the polls, and pre-election public opinion surveys show the ruling Liberal Democratic Party prevailing in the upper house vote. Victory will enable the prime minister to pursue his domestic economic reform agenda, dubbed Abenomics, which entails monetary and fiscal stimulus and regulatory reform to improve Japan’s competitiveness.

But an LDP victory would also bring high expectations. After more than two decades of economic turmoil and political transition in Japan, the public’s mood is on the upswing. Satisfaction with Japan’s direction is at its highest level since the Pew Research Center began regular surveys of the country in 2002. Economic sentiment in Japan, for example, has improved 20 percentage points in just the last year, while optimism about the nation’s economic trajectory over the next 12 months is second only to that found in the United States among publics in advanced economies. This may help explain why about seven-in-ten Japanese have a favorable opinion of Abe.

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Topics: Elections • Japan
Can Rouhani really change Iran's foreign policy?
June 18th, 2013
10:52 AM ET

Can Rouhani really change Iran's foreign policy?

"Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

Fareed speaks with CNN about the election of Hassan Rouhani as Iranian president, how he compares with outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and who really holds power in the country.

Beyond the rhetoric, how different are these two as far as their actual beliefs and approach to the nuclear program that Iran has launched?

They’re quite different. They're different in tone – you can see that. They're also different in that Ahmadinejad was a layperson, whereas Rouhani comes out of the clerical establishment. It makes him probably more capable of navigating.

The problem, however, is there's a deep structural contradiction within the Iranian system. The president doesn’t have much power on these core foreign policy and national security issues. Those are held by the supreme leader. Remember, the last two presidents of Iran have, by the end of their terms, fallen afoul of the supreme leader completely. Mohammad Khatami did start out as a reformist. He's now under a form of house arrest.

Ahmadinejad started out in some ways as an opponent of the clerical system. He's discredited. The supreme leader doesn't like him. So the real question is will the supreme leader look at the results? And now you have 20 years of polling where the Iranian people are basically saying, we want conciliation, we want reconciliation with the West, we want to join the modern world.

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Jalili a shoe-in for Iranian president? Not so fast
June 13th, 2013
10:39 AM ET

Jalili a shoe-in for Iranian president? Not so fast

By Yasmin Alem, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Yasmin Alem is an analyst on Iranian elections and domestic politics and author of Duality by Design: the Iranian Electoral System. The views expressed are her own.

Much of the Western media might already have crowned Saeed Jalili the likely winner of Iran’s presidential election on June 14. But his presumed frontrunner status isn’t necessarily based on the political realities on the ground, a close reading of the Iranian press, or the country’s opinion polls. Indeed, Western commentators may well be putting the cart before the horse as they handicap this race.

The hype surrounding Jalili’s candidacy isn’t new. Numerous reports over the past year have suggested that Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and paramilitary forces – known collectively known as the Basij – plan to endorse Jalili’s nomination. As early as last May, a number of websites in the Persian blogosphere announced their support for the candidacy of the “living martyr.”

Then, last month, Iran’s most important “voter,” Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, described his ideal candidate as someone who is “brave and fearless in the international arena and in the face of arrogant powers, and who has planning, wisdom and foresight in the domestic arena, and believes in the resistance economy.”

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Australians happy – but not with their government
June 11th, 2013
07:25 AM ET

Australians happy – but not with their government

By Bruce Stokes, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Bruce Stokes is the director of global economic attitudes for the Pew Research Center. The views expressed are his own.

With the September general election rapidly approaching, domestic polls show the government of Prime Minister Julia Gillard trailing the opposition by a growing margin, despite the fact that Australians are among the most satisfied publics in the world, according to a new Pew Research Center survey of economic sentiment in 39 countries.

A poll in The Australian newspaper earlier this month showed the opposition coalition with a 16-point lead over Gillard’s Labor Party, with regional polls suggesting heavy losses for the ruling party.

And yet, after a generation without a recession, Australians are happier with the state of their economy and their personal finances than most people in advanced, emerging or developing economies. They have relatively high hopes for Australia’s and their own economic futures. And they are among the least worried about inequality and unemployment.

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Topics: Australia • Elections
How the U.S. should respond to Iran’s election
May 24th, 2013
08:53 AM ET

How the U.S. should respond to Iran’s election

By Dwight Bashir, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Dwight Bashir is Deputy Director of Policy and Research at the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.  You can follow him @DwightBashir. The views expressed are his own.

This week, in one arbitrary swoop, Iran’s Guardian Council shrunk the list of presidential candidates for next month's election from 686 to eight eligible individuals.  It should come as no surprise that all of the serious contenders are loyalists to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Still, the decision did hold some surprises, not least the disqualification of former two-term President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

The exclusion of Rafsanjani, 78, speaks to something greater than his age. If we learned anything from the stolen June 2009 election, it was that the regime would do anything to maintain its stranglehold over the country. The last election highlighted a regime fighting for its life by invoking its repressive religious ideology to stifle a tidal wave of dissent and protest, and the banning of Rafsanjani is the first clear sign during this election cycle that Khamenei will do anything to avoid a repeat of 2009. The reality is that since then, Rafsanjani has become a greater adversary of Khamenei and a favorite of the reformist Green Movement.  To allow him to run would be tantamount to giving pro-reform Iranians a rallying icon.

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Topics: Elections • Iran • Middle East
May 10th, 2013
10:54 AM ET

What Pakistan thinks

By Richard Wike, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Richard Wike is associate director at the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project. You can follow him @RichardWike. The views expressed are his own.

Last Saturday, three people were killed and more than 30 injured when two bombs exploded near the headquarters of the Muttahida Quami Movement, or MQM, a leading political party in Karachi, Pakistan. It was yet another tragic incident in a campaign season plagued by violence that has seen dozens killed. As the country prepares for this weekend’s elections, the Taliban has significantly stepped up its attacks. And no matter which party emerges victorious from the May 11 poll, it will have to answer to a public that is increasingly worried about the threat extremism poses to the Pakistani state.

Pakistani fears about extremism had actually been on the wane over the last few years. The high mark of concern was 2009, when the Taliban gained control of the Swat Valley and neighboring areas within 100 miles of the nation’s capital Islamabad. In a spring 2009 Pew Research Center poll, 57 percent of Pakistanis described the Taliban as a very serious threat to the country. But after the Pakistani military forced a Taliban retreat, fears declined, and by 2012 a little more than a third of Pakistanis held this view.

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