Global Newsstand: Political elites don’t understand that populist victories are still democratic, and more

A roundup of global commentary for the Jan. 14, 2019 weekly magazine.

Silvia Izquierdo/AP
Supporters of Brazil's new president, Jair Bolsonaro, display a giant banner of him on his inauguration day in Brasilia, Brazil on Jan. 1. Mr. Bolsonaro is one of many recently-elected officials with populist platforms.

The National / Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Political elites don’t understand that populist victories are still democratic

“There has been an increasing vogue over the past couple of years to bemoan the unhealthy state of democracy around the world...,” writes Sholto Byrnes. “Any democracy that is not inherently majoritarian has turned into an unrepresentative oligarchy – for the people must always have the final say.... Far from there being a democratic recession, there is a crisis among much of the global political class.... They have got democracy on its head. Until they realise that it is the people who are the masters, not them, they will continue to be rejected at the ballot box, because the truth is that it is they, not democracy, who are failing.”

The New Zealand Herald / Auckland, New Zealand

Uncertainty awaits in 2019

“A new year dawns,” states an editorial. “Suddenly it feels like a clean slate awaiting events and inviting new ideas.... Not much about 2019 is predictable. The globe will get warmer but that just makes the weather less predictable. The President of the United States will be less constrained by moderating advice but will face a Democrat controlled Congress. He may be less powerful at home, more imperious abroad.... Britain will stumble to Brexit on March 29. The European Union, though, will be more concerned with internal problems such as immigration policy, the Italian economy and nationalist governments in Eastern Europe.... [It’s] more than enough to keep us busy.”

The EastAfrican / Nairobi, Kenya

E-finance potential should not be overlooked in East Africa

“The East African Community ecosystem for digital financial services has shown exponential growth over the years...,” writes Patrick Adengo. “Seeking to build on this success, governments should prioritise the creation of a resilient, inclusive and innovative digital financial services ecosystem that bolsters social development [and] a robust economy.... Kenya has already taken significant steps towards building a more inclusive digital financial services ecosystem – notably through the implementation of mobile money interoperability.... Although some of the required financial investments to build out this ecosystem are now being made, they are typically fragmented and may fail to build the type of comprehensive whole that a digital economy requires.”

The Jordan Times / Amman, Jordan

Turkey may loom large in Syria after US troop withdrawal

“The US decision to withdraw its troops from Syria should be considered from a political perspective...,” writes Amer Al Sabaileh. “It is a clear sign that the deteriorating relations between Ankara and Washington are being mended, as Turkey is replacing US troops in Syria, suggesting that Turkey has resumed its role as a close American ally in the region.... This move from the US is said to be part of a new Middle Eastern strategy for the Trump administration, which appears to be based on dismantling the Russian-Iranian-Turkish alliance.... The Trump administration has successfully ended the anti-Saudi campaign of the Turks by positioning them as a major player in shaping its policies in the region.”

The Asahi Shimbun / Tokyo

Japan’s return to whaling could present diplomatic problems

“The Japanese government’s decision to bolt from the International Whaling Commission (IWC) is a misguided move made through a questionable process...,” states an editorial. “Anti-whaling nations’ recalcitrant opposition to any form of whaling irrespective of the populations of different species is, to be sure, a deviation from the spirit of the international treaty on whaling. But Japan has traditionally been committed to pursuing solutions to disputes among countries through constructive talks.... The decision could have unwanted repercussions on Japan’s diplomacy in the future.... The government owes the public a clear and convincing explanation about why it rushed into the decision to leave the IWC despite a wide range of issues and questions that have yet to be addressed.”

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