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Considering that democracy is often held up as the beacon of a truly civilized society, it’s somewhat strange that the political system is demonized. After all, politicians are often dismissed as a group of liars who will never live up to their promises, spinning tales, putting priorities at the forefront of lawmaking that have little bearing on the average citizen. Politicians, so the saying goes, aren’t to be trusted.

It’s a very strange attitude considering the fact that politicians are the very representatives of democracy. If we truly want to uphold the democratic process that we hold so dear, should we not have a better respect for the people who enter into these institutions?

The above is questionable, not helped by more than a few dodgy politicians always around making it seem like doubt is a sensible way of responding to those who seek power. However, it’s an example of one of the primary reasons given when people are asked to justify why they don’t vote. Why vote, so the line of thinking goes, when they’re all the same – and can’t be trusted anyway?

Political Apathy: Classless, Ageless, Raceless

It doesn’t matter which section of society you study, they all have the same uniting factor: they don’t vote. Turnout figures across the world are incredibly low when you consider voting is the very instrument of democracy, something we are brought up to be proud of, see fit to defend.

Looking at the cold hard facts is sometimes all you can do to see a consistent pattern. In the recent USA Presidential race, only 60% of the eligible electorate voted. Considering that was one of the most talked about Presidential races of all time, it seems surprising that 40% of voters decided to stay at home.

This isn’t just a USA problem, either. In the UK, the Brexit referendum in June of 2016 may have garnered a respectable 72% turnout, but the General Election the year before only scraped to 61%, down from a historic high of 83% for the first post-war election. The French Presidential election of 2017 looks to be on its way to a historically low turnout, while the last elections in Canada may have produced the biggest turnout in 20 years… but it was still only 68%. Sweden, with its massively-engaged populace and 85% turnout in 2014, is more the exception than the rule.

So this is a truly worldwide problem – but what are the reasons for it, aside from the aforementioned feeling that people can’t trust the politicians? By identifying the causes of the ills, anyone with an interest in increasing engagement in the voting process can begin to see how to mend the significant rifts across the world. Maybe some of these will even sound familiar to you. That’s without going as far as the Australians, who have made voting compulsory and hold elections on a weekend to make sure

1. Want To Vote; Can’t Vote

In some countries, sections of the populace may want to vote, but they can’t due to immigration status. Most developed countries require you to be a full citizen of that country to vote. Even if you have permanent leave to remain and have been living there for years, without citizenship, you can’t vote.

It seems bizarre that citizens who are required to pay tax are not allowed to have a say in how that money is spent. But as you learn about naturalization, it can be a viable route to being more grounded in a country anyone with immigrant status now calls home. If this applies to you or anyone you know, it’s as good a reason as any to look into changing your status.

2. The Feeling That “One Vote Doesn’t Matter”

This is an overriding sentiment for those who don’t vote; that their singular vote won’t make a difference. This is particularly the case if, for example, a Democrat wishes to vote in Texas – a state that, with the best will in the world, is never going to return anything but a Republican as its President. If you’re in a “safe” seat, then it feels like your vote doesn’t matter.

There is an element of truth to this, too – no single voter can make a difference. However, it’s through small increments against the incumbent that a movement is formed. A better way of putting it is that not voting is actually a vote for the sitting party/politician. Even if you just vote for protest reasons, it’s a real protest that will be noticed if you take that vote from the sitting representative.

3. Lack Of Political Engagement

For those with an interest in politics, the idea that someone isn’t politically engaged can seem strange. Given that our entire world depends on the decisions of politicians, how can people not pay attention?

Well, maybe they have better things to think about, immediate problems in their own lives. Maybe it bores them; maybe they don’t see the link between their basic life and what politicians discuss.

There is no way to force people to become more politically engaged. If you are passionate about politics, then you can try and introduce them to it, but some people just aren’t interested. There are no easy solutions here, though pressing the nature of democracy requiring a vote is a good first step.

4. Lack Of Time

Finally, lack of time. Some people don’t vote as they don’t have the time to learn all they would prefer to about a candidate. Or, they literally don’t have the time (or ability) to get to a polling station on the big day.

Changes have been made to voting in recent years that make the need for one day, one vote, a thing of the past. Early voting is now available in many countries, via forms such as postal voting. Hopefully, as these become more well known, this is one reason that can fade into history – bringing turnouts up as a result.

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Student @ Advanced Digital Sciences Center, Singapore. Travelled to 30+ countries, passion for basketball.

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India

Congress’s Electoral Enervation

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Lately, the Grand Old Party of India has been suffering from severe political lacerations. It is bleeding profusely but it still refuses to recognize and feel the pain of its grisly wounds. The Congress party is obstinately practicing political podsnappery and this is further eviscerating its relevance. Slowly and steadily, its ideological roots are being chipped away. We are witnessing a kind of dilemmatic democratic party, which is strangulating in the ever-shifting tectonic plates of Indian politics. The fresh act of defection by Jyotiraditya Scindia foregrounds the ideologically weak aura which now surrounds the Congress.

In every period of its history, a particular type of ideological encrustation surrounded the Congress and illuminated its charm among the Indian voters. This ideology rooted it firmly in a vast network of ideologies. This ideology, for the most part, has been secular and liberal and acted as a strong bulwark against a xenophobically framed anti-secular strategy. But now, this prodigious party has shrunk to a miniscule group. This cataclysmic contraction has happened primarily due to the elitist imagery to which it was tethered. Congress’s political rivals portrayed it as an inherently elitist group by harping on its corruption scandals like the Satyam Scam, Coal Scam, Chopper Scam, Adarsh Scam and Tatra Truck Scam. All this overemphasis on the financial impurity of the Congress led to the citizens believing that the Congress party is an aristocratic admixture of kleptocracy and bogus secularism.

The political dynasticism of the Congress further solidified this elitist imagery and soon, Congress became the ‘suit, boot ki Sarkar’. The usage of the aforementioned epithet successfully established the presence of the Congress party as a technocratic liberal party, accustomed to high-handed bureaucratic methods of administration. The attribute of a ‘pro-people party’ was snatched away from the Congress and it was represented as a technocratic group, largely unconnected from the material conditions of the citizens.

Apart from the political and financial palm-greasing, the Congress has also been disemboweled due to its confounding ideological quagmire. The Grand Old Party is stuck in a regal fort, where it is continuously wavering between a secular strategy and a thinly-veiled contrivance of religious pandering. It has already flip-flopped on its ideological plank by pitching Rahul Gandhi as a religious leader which actually backfired because people at once understood that he had suddenly become a synthetically Hinduized leader.

And now, it is lending its support to the Anti-CAA protests and has all of a sudden, arrived like a knight in shining armor, chaotically shouting secular slogans. Opportunistic acts like these cause severe trust deficit and the party incurs widespread odium for its electoral opportunism. So, due to the Congress’s ideological shilly-shally, its attempt to provide guidance to the Anti-CAA protests is seen as a crude act of politically hijacking the protests. To say succinctly, the Congress has been utterly passive in reacting to some major political events and has not even tried to extend its sinews to drag itself out from the quicksand of financial dissoluteness and ideological vacillation.

Due to all the above mentioned iniquitous inadequacies, Congress is withering and losing its elephantine presence on the electoral platform. This is the most appropriate time for the Congress to recognize its Achilles heel and try to overcome this deficiency. The defection of Jyotiraditya Scindia highlights the fact that now, an ideological string no longer ties any Congress member and the party needs to alter its highly feudal organizational structure which is identical to a form of royal structure, based on monarchical munificence. The Congress party can utilize the following remedial measures to perform the medical operation which is indispensable for it to regain its health.

Constitutional Struggles

It should try assiduously to interconnect itself with the common masses and change its political behavioral pattern by staging what can be called ‘constitutional struggles’. These constitutional struggles will essentially be democratic demonstrations, aiming to recover the lost sheen of the constitution. These protests should be able to blend constitutional patriotism with a Gandhian non-violent idea of struggle. In this way, the Congress party would be successful in politically fructifying its vast receptacles of historical significance and will harmonize its history as a torchbearer of freedom with the present calamitous conditions. One important reason behind the need to make Mahatma Gandhi the vanguard of Congress’s recuperation struggle is the vast space which he occupies in the collective imagination of the Indian citizens. By spotlighting Gandhi, the Congress party can easily initiate a resistance movement whose objective will be to find the Gandhian truths in this age of political prevarications and fabrications.

Change Organizational Configurations

The Congress party needs to change its organizational configurations. The sybaritic structure of dynasticism should be superseded by a bottom-up approach which is decentralized. The present organizational architecture is extremely centralistic and all the members of the Congress party are seen as the supine members of a sycophantic entourage, revolving around the singular nucleus of nobility, which has invariably been the Gandhi family. The senior members of the Congress party such as Ghulam Nabi Azad, Ahmed Patel and Manmohan Singh are depicted as the servile stooges of the Gandhi family who possess an unbreakable fidelity to the dynastic autocracy of the Congress party. The congress leadership is also currently rudderless. During the elections, it played the role of a dabbler. After Indira Gandhi, all the Gandhis (Except Sanjay Gandhi) were reluctant politicians. They were compelled because the Nehru – Gandhi name was associated with the party. All these aspects of party functioning need to be radically changed so that non-Gandhi members are not seen as mere appendages of the supposed undisputed overlord which is the Gandhi family. (3) A coherently unified ideological political programme needs to be built. The lumbering party is in a state of delirium and is unable to properly specify its political stance. It should solidly settle this predicament by choosing to continue with its former political posture as a truly secular and democratic party, committed to constitutional values. If this operation is not undertaken, the Congress will be finally consigned to the political graveyard, where it will die with its shambolic ideological structure.

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Politics

Strategic transport fleet: Achilles heel of French armed forces

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One of the first indicators of an army’s performance is its logistical capacity. When high-intensity operations are deployed, there simply are few countries which have the operational capability to transfer immense quantities of equipment, safely and quickly, across the planet. ICS (International Chartering Systems), a small French airlift company, has made meeting this military challenge its specialty.

ICS, International Chartering Services, is a small French company which specialized, in the 1980s, in a very specific type of chartering: top-size. Using close contacts to the Russian and Ukrainian worlds of aviation, CEO Christian de Jonquières obtained access to Antonov 124s, the biggest cargo jets in the world, and started the commercial venture. The arrival on the market of ICS was a game-changer. With commercial airlifts available on the market, France was not only able to extract itself from NATO’s rigid airlift-sharing plan (known as SALIS), but also greatly expanded its transport capacity, well beyond those provided by the new Airbus A400. This outstanding transport capacity was an understandable part of France’s expeditionary culture, as described by the Rand corporation, and represented the way in for ICS. Reporter Dominic Reed explains: “ICS started doing business with the French army through both channels. Both the Army and ICS got lucky by doubling their agreement capacity, because transport capacities were overstretched between 2012 and 2015, with the simultaneous withdrawal of Afghanistan and the deployment in Mali, and things had already been tight before.

ICS built its worth in reliability, by keeping a small and highly specialized workforce, able to work out all the details of such highly specific flights, and by simplifying operations to the maximum, on the client size. Flight hours were sold, including all overheads (such as maintenance, ground fees, personnel training and empty return flights), unlike SALIS flights, which sold flight hours at a far lower rate, but then added many extra costs, resulting in a fatter bottom line. Because military airlift missions are almost by nature unique, they are difficult to streamline and industrialize: every mission will come with a set of new parameters and complications. Each flight is crucial, as it conditions the military operations down the stream, and must be secured, loaded, calculated and processed through necessary authorizations, not to mention the fact that many will land in hostile environments. A task force of highly skilled, committed and specialized people was therefore necessary to provide services in line with operational requirements. With a peak workforce of 15 people in 2012, ICS was able to provide, for a fraction of the standard price, airlift capacities towards high-intensity operations, at a moment’s notice, with a successful-mission rate of a 100%.

France, as a NATO-member, already had access to strategic airlift capacities, through the SALIS contracts – run from Luxemburg and signed with Russia’s Volga-Dnepr company. However, the sizable limits were then placed on France’s sovereignty, as explained by specialist Katia Vlachos-Dengler, from the Rand corporation: “Significant barriers exist to adopting multinational, integrative solutions for the more efficient use of European lift capabilities. These barriers include, among others, divergent interests and threat perceptions among European countries; concerns about national sovereignty and dependence on other nations; institutional and organizational inertia; and problems with establishing burden sharing relationships.” The first is that NATO handles the distribution of flight hours purchased from Volga-Dnepr. Each country has credits which cannot be exceeded, within the total number which was pre-negotiated with the airlift company. Army Col. Patrik Steiger, spokesman for the French joint chiefs of staff, details the tricky situation: “It is not a total dependence, it is cooperation among allies. We are allies with the Americans, we are engaged in the Sahel region, Levant, and there is the principle of a ‘mutualization’ of available assets.” SALIS contracts being multi-year agreements, they cannot account for last-minute operational requirements. The second limit to sovereignty affects not only France, but all of NATO, and blew up in NATO’s face just months ago. Following US sanctions on Russia, Volga-Dnepr announced its unilateral decision to cease providing strategic air transport to NATO, leaving Western armies to rely on their much smaller cargo planes, such as the Airbus A400, and US C5s and C17s. This new setting excludes, as was probably Russia’s goal, many military items such as heavy armored vehicles, out of the air routes, and considerably slows military deployments. Through its specific business relationship with the Ukraine, ICS is able to save its access to Antonov 124s and preserve its clients’ access to large-scale strategic arilifts.

France, however, also placed itself in harm’s way, when members of parliament were lobbied into denouncing the side agreement with ICS, by large competitors which became fed up with the little challenger’s success. In a 2017 feud which left observers puzzled, Paris separated itself from ICS, and therefore placed itself entirely under the rule of NATO SALIS contracts, themselves at the mercy of Russia. As a resulting move, ICS has extracted itself from the French market, to sell its highly-demanded airlift capacities abroad, namely in Africa and for UN operations – also submitted to high-intensity operations and operational urgency. The scarcity of such offers is such that it explains why ICS was able to rebound immediately on the international market – France’s loss being everyone else’s gain. Namely, the UN’s mission in Sahel was quick to hire ICS for its major logistics needs, which foresee the delivery of large amounts of peace-keeping equipment. Jean-Pierre Lacroix, head of UN peacekeeping operations, recently announced that “Major equipment shortfalls, capability gaps, insufficient infrastructure and a lack of secured operational bases continue to delay its full operationalization”, before ICS was chosen to provide the necessary logistics for the operation.

Russia, the European Union, the UN, and the United States all have dedicated vectors for large-scale cargo, and the administrative structures to operate them. What NATO, and now France, lack, is a small and nimble structure able to address urgent and flexible deployment needs. That capacity did exist for France, but has now befallen the UN, to help with its African operations, leaving all NATO members within the gridlock of SALIS contracts.

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Economy

Weathering the Storm: How Political Climates Affect the Financial Markets

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There are numerous factors that can potentially have an effect on financial markets and which traders have to be aware of. They can range from extreme weather events, terror attacks, corporate announcements, all the way to the political climate of a country. In most of these scenarios, the ramifications for an economy and the subsequent reflection in the stock markets can be relatively predictable – we expect to see a drop in stock prices when a disaster hits , for example. When it comes to the political climate, however, things become a whole lot less predictable. This is due to various reasons, not least because of the inherently fickle nature of politics itself and the sometimes vast differences in the political cultures and traditions of different countries.

To get a sense of just how a country’s political climate can affect various aspects of a nation’s economy and its financial markets, we’ll take a practical recent example of the USA following President Donald Trump’s election in November 2016. It serves as an interesting case study due not only to its unexpected nature which highlighted the basic unpredictability of political climates, but because it brought about some very interesting reactions and results from businesses and the financial sector in general.

Growth Expectations

A general statement can be made to the effect that a country’s political climate and its economic environment are closely related. Investors, no matter how large their risk appetite, like to have a reasonable assurance of their money’s safety, which is why stock markets are usually the first industries to react to any political climate changes. In fact, research suggest that stock markets follow a predictable general pattern along a four-year cycle punctuated by the Presidential Elections in the USA and perhaps many other countries worldwide, with the market showing signs of increased caution as election season comes around.

Following President Trump’s unexpected victory, many organizations held the hope that the bold fiscal proposals he had talked about during the campaign – including increased spending and tax cuts – would serve to boost the country’s economy. The Federal Reserve actually went ahead and increased interest rates in anticipation of the changes, showing how even the promise of a policy change will directly be felt on the financial market.

Anticipated Regulatory Changes

When a country undergoes a significant political change of pace, it is expected that this will come with significant regulatory standards and practices. It is widely acknowledged that increased government regulation and bureaucratic interference in a country’s economy and industrial activity will usually result in a slowing down of the economy in question.

President Trump had poised to relax the regulatory framework in the country as well as consolidating the numerous bodies tasked with formulating the regulations to make it easier to do business in the country, and this came as good news to organizations and their stakeholders.

Political Stability Concerns

Political stability has a very real effect on the state of businesses within an economy, as we can all agree. While many business owners and stakeholders were encouraged by the promise of deregulation and fiscal policy reform, many were also given cause for concern when it came to the President’s apparent pattern of unexpected and inconsistent policy decisions.

His stance on immigration, promise to wall of the USA’s southern border with Mexico, and his abandonment of previous trade deals all went into fueling anxiety and a sense of uncertainty in the financial markets. This was especially felt in the case of organizations with a global business presence. These feelings decrease investor confidence and often lead to a depreciation in stock market values as the more risk-averse investors keep away.

In Conclusion

When looked at in totality, countries all over the world face the same types of political risks. We’re not talking about complete government collapses such as might occur in times of a coup, but relatively smaller yet high-impact moves and policies by governments on matters such as regulation, currency valuation, taxes, spending, minimum wage laws, labor laws, environmental regulations, and the like.The financial market of a country, being highly sensitive to such shocks, can register an impact when such actions are merely proposed, without their implementation having taken place yet. The impacts may be long or short-term, but they are definitely felt throughout the financial markets.

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