After more than five years of authoritarian rule, rent-seeking, and a kind of ‘gangster’ neoliberal economic policies, the strongman rule of Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte has begun to unravel as the Philippines gears up for the national elections in May 2022. Realignments of social and political forces are beginning to reconfigure the political landscape amidst the continuing Covid-19 pandemic. Progressive and traditional social forces are drawing their political lines as the mounting opposition against Duterte expands. This conversation with Joel Rocamora, a renowned author, political analyst, and progressive governance practitioner, seeks to examine the rise of Duterte’s authoritarian governance, the reconfiguration of the Philippine elite and other social classes, the political/ideological debates within the Philippine Left, and the political realignments towards the Philippine presidential elections in 2022.
In this essay, I want to address the complications stemming from the political economy of transnational solidarity networks and the power asymmetry in them, mainly through discussing the Turkish case. Neoliberal globalization and its political geography built upon colonial divisions have become the framework for cross-national solidarity as well as the recent authoritarian turn, while at the same time bringing in structural setbacks to the former. Furthermore, the recent migration “crises”, that are caused by imperialist interventions, have been met with heightened border securitization in the Global North, limiting the field for international human rights activism. This introduces a serious additional challenge to the conception and practice of transnational solidarity.
Even before the coup in Myanmar, the military was preparing to strengthen surveillance mechanism by pressuring telecommunication companies to enforce intercept spyware. Although it was not confirmed whether the Ministry of Transport and Communication under the National League for Democracy government led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was involved to some extent in the implementation of these surveillance procedure, the budget amounted to nearly 3.4 million Euro were approved in 2019-2020 financial year for the purchase of spyware products and phone hacking technology. Since the coup, Myanmar military has been exerting control over the Internet service providers and telecommunication companies. The military’s order to intensify electronic surveillance systems lead to a recent speculation that Telenor, Norwegian multinational telecommunications would sell its business in Myanmar. Eventually, Telenor picked up a blacklisted company with bad track record for selling 100% of its share in Myanmar without giving any notice to its customers. This interview shares the voice of an activist who leads the movement for digital rights and the cancelling of Telenor’s sale to M1 group for the data security of 18 million users. The identity of the activist is kept under anonymity due to security concerns.
“My decision was firm since I left my university in mid of February. My aunts are now giving me pressure to go back to my professor job. After seeing atrocities and mass killing of the junta, I no longer want to be part of the system they are ruling.”
Femicides stand out as one of the biggest social problems in Turkey today causing a widespread and pronounced public reaction. The femicide cases are frequently on the news exploited by mainstream media with graphic coverage. The names of murdered women and pleas for retribution regularly become trending topic on Twitter. The outrage against femicides is expressive of the liberalizing worldviews and gender ideology in Turkish society while also conveying the popular contention against the government’s overall authoritarian politics along with its efforts for the recomposition of patriarchy.
Life under Myanmar’s military dictatorship, which has existed in various guises since 1962, has been harsh, which is why people wish to send the military back into the barracks as soon as possible. On 8 November 2020 they chose the National League for Democracy (NLD), led by Aung San Suu Kyi, as the winning party in the country’s general election held every five years. Voter turnout was high in both Burmese-dominated areas in Central Myanmar and the other seven states representing the seven major ethnic groups: Kachin, Kayar, Kayin, Chin, Mon, Rakhine, and the Shan from the frontier areas bordering China, Thailand, Bangladesh, and India.
Even though the current crisis astonished most of us, it also came as no surprise. During the last decade, we have witnessed a densification of what Alex Demirovic calls “crises of denormalization”, i.e. crises that profoundly undermine the hegemonic neoliberal security dispositive. From the financial crisis in 2008–9, through to Europe´s so-called “migrant crisis” (in fact, a momentary collapse of Europe´s inhumane border regime), up to the climate crisis, world capitalism seems ever more prone to destroying its economic, social, and natural basis, and less and less capable of dealing with the consequences.
Turkey has been experiencing difficult times in the last several years. On the one hand, after the failed coup attempt in 2016, authoritarian politics have intensified at the hands of the AKP (Justice and Development Party) government that has been in power since 2002. On the other, the economy entered into a currency and debt crisis in 2018 and suffers under excessive current account deficits and household indebtedness. Correspondingly, social polarization and the erosion of democratic norms have been growing in tandem with financial fragility and high unemployment rates.
After 75 days of hard lockdown, the Philippines has had the longest community quarantine in the world to date. The lockdown, or enhanced community quarantine, although initially declared to last from 15 March until 15 April, has been extended twice: first for one more month up to 15 May, and then for two more weeks until 30 May. Starting in June, the country declared its intention to slowly open up again.
In the midst of the global COVID-19 response, governments around the world continue to curtail some fundamental civil rights to curb the unprecedented spread of the disease and limit its impact. As of May 2020, 84 countries have officially declared a state of emergency due to COVID-19. Others have not officially declared a state of emergency but have still suspended or restricted certain civil and political rights for temporary purposes in the name of public health; COVID-19 has prompted authoritarian tendencies amongst a variety of different types of governments—including many liberal democracies.