The assassination of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri on February 14 sparked mass protests in Beirut against the Syrian-backed Lebanese government and the presence of Syrian troops in Lebanon. The demonstrations prompted the resignation of Prime Minister Omar Karami and his cabinet on February 28. Below are excerpts from a February 18 statement by the Lebanese opposition, declaring a “Nonviolent Intifada of Independence and Democracy.” The statement was translated from the Arabic by Reema Radwan.
In response to the policy of crime and terror by the Lebanese and Syrian regimes, the Lebanese opposition declares the outbreak of the Nonviolent Intifada of Independence and Democracy, and calls for the following steps:
First: A decisive demand for an international investigative committee under UN auspices to expose the planners and perpetrators of the assassination crime and to bring them to trial according to the statement issued by the Security Council and according to what the family of Hariri asks.
Second: The removal of the illegitimate [Lebanese] regime and the establishment of a transitional government, as a supreme national need which will defend the Lebanese people and ensure the immediate and full withdrawal of the Syrian army from Lebanon and also pave the way for free, clean parliamentary elections. . . .
Fourth: That the Lebanese communities in all countries in the diaspora support the Intifada of Independence by all means, political and material, and also by means of activity and demonstrations in front of the embassies and headquarters of international and legal organizations.
Fifth: That the Arab people and Arab states bear their responsibilities toward Lebanon and its people in appreciation for the sacrifices of the Lebanese people for the sake of Arab causes.
Sixth: That the international community, which is represented by the UN according to its charter, protect the captive Lebanese nation that is threatened with organized state terrorism, to which it is continually being exposed. [End Page 178]
Seventh: The sending of thanks to the Lebanese, Arab, and international mass media for continuously keeping up with the Intifada of Independence and covering the struggles of the Lebanese people who support freedom.
Ukraine’s turbulent presidential election came to a close on December 26, when opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko defeated Viktor Yanukovych, President Leonid Kuchma’s handpicked successor, in a court-ordered rerun of the November 21 second round (see the articles by Taras Kuzio and Lucan A. Way on pp. 117–45 of this issue). The following are excerpts from the speech that Yushchenko delivered on Kyiv’s Independence Square after being sworn in as president on January 23:
We have lifted the burden of the past from our shoulders. Nobody can order us how to live and whom to elect anymore. I have become the president of Ukraine by the will of the Ukrainian people. . . .
Two months ago millions of people came to this square, to the squares and streets all over Ukraine. Our brothers and sisters, parents and children, friends and neighbors were standing day and night in the cold. Ukraine was devouring every word sounded here. The heart of Ukraine was beating here. Free people of the whole world, our compatriots dispersed in distant lands, were standing shoulder to shoulder with us. On Independence Square Ukrainians have risen as a modern Ukrainian nation. Stubborn resistance has stirred up our souls. All of us feel we are citizens. Our decency, generosity, and kindness have awakened. Armed with faith and will the people won a glorious victory. This is a victory of freedom over tyranny, law over lawlessness, and the future over the past. Each Ukrainian citizen has become the winner. We succeeded in holding a fair election on 26 December. We have freely chosen to go forward. . . .
We, the Ukrainian citizens, have become a single Ukrainian nation. Nobody can separate us with languages, religion, and political views. We have a single Ukrainian fate. We have a single national pride. We are proud of being Ukrainians! We have already taken an irrevocable step to democracy. Only democracy guards the most valuable things for every person—family and children, peace and order, work, and well-being. Only in a democratic state are the highest values human dignity, freedom, equality, and solidarity. Only in a democratic Ukraine may the bright palette of languages, cultures, and views become the country’s wealth. I pledge that every child will be able to learn the language of one’s parents. Everyone will be able to pray in one’s church. Everyone will be guaranteed the right to freedom of expression. We will listen to each other because there will be freedom of speech and an independent press. Everybody will be equal before the law. Independent courts will defend the rights of each person. I [End Page 179] regard Ukraine as a state ruled by the law. We will establish democratic government—honest, professional, and patriotic. . . .
Our way to the future is the way followed by a united Europe. We are people of the same civilization sharing the same values. History, economic prospects, and the interests of people give a clear answer as to where we should look for our fate. Our place is in the European Union. My goal is Ukraine in a united Europe. Ukraine has a historic chance to discover its potential in Europe. Our national strategy is to to move toward our goal boldly, directly, and persistently. European standards will become a norm of our social life, economy, and politics. Every step to Europe opens up new opportunities for millions of Ukrainians.
Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of the Democrat Party became Indonesia’s first popularly elected president after winning a runoff on 20 September 2004 (see the article by Muhammad Qodari on pp. 73–87 of this issue). Below are excerpts from his October 20 inaugural address:
Today, we have, remarkably, passed one of the most important tests of our history. First, our nation has successfully undertaken national elections in a democratic, fair, orderly, and peaceful manner. This year’s elections were, by all means, the most ambitious, most difficult, and most complicated electoral marathon in the world, and yet, we successfully orchestrated them. Indeed, we are all proud of our General Elections Commission, which managed to undertake this difficult task independently, professionally and responsibly. Second, as we have just witnessed in today’s solemn ceremony, our nation has accomplished the process of power transfer constitutionally, democratically, orderly, and peacefully. Thank God, our nation is now more mature in democracy, and able to build a more mature political culture.
With such a great success, not only are we successful in taking this step as a big democracy, but we have also become a model for the world’s democracies. Our great nation has undertaken two elections since reformasi: in 1999 and in 2004. In the democratic transition of any country, the second election is normally regarded as the critical one, the litmus test for the maturity of democracy. With the formidable success of our elections this year, we have indeed taken one step forward in realizing the modernization of Indonesian politics. And, through our legislative election this year, we are one step ahead in achieving political regeneration in Indonesia, as we can clearly witness through the new and fresh faces in our honorable Assembly. Thank God, the 2004 elections are now over. It is time for us to walk together, toward our future. We have passed our moment of competition; now it is time for unity. Our days of words and promises are over, as it is time to do real deeds and works. It is our time to unite in creation. . . . [End Page 180]
A consolidated democracy that is continually developing will provide us with solid ground for the life of our nationhood and statecraft. Within such a democratic life, we can manage to successfully implement our national agenda, including the accomplishment of various agendas of reform.
After winning 67 percent of the vote on January 9, Mahmoud Abbas was sworn in as president of the Palestinian National Authority on January 15. International observers considered the election free and fair. Below are excerpts from Abbas’s inaugural speech:
As I address you today, I am full of pride over the Palestinian people’s exceptional democratic achievement. Our people have stood in the face of the occupation to say—first and foremost to ourselves but also to the whole world—that no matter how great the challenges may be, we will not give up on our national project . . . that no matter how many obstacles may stand in our way, we will not be deterred from advancing our democratic process. The winner in these elections is the great Palestinian people, who have created this democratic epic and who will safeguard it. . . .
This is an historic day in our national process, and I say to all our people who voted: You have kept the flame of democracy alive, and all my thanks and gratitude go to you. . . . To all the other candidates, I say: We highly appreciate your efforts in making the democratic process a success. You have my pledge to encourage and guarantee the active role of all of our political forces and strands, and to protect the freedom of expression in accordance with the law. . . .
This year is the year of Palestinian elections—presidential, legislative, and municipal elections. Let us muster our national efforts to further extend the election process to civil organizations, trade unions, and political forces and factions so as to rejuvenate our domestic political life. . . .
I believe that we all agree that the first step towards building our society lies in establishing the rule of law. Only then will our people enjoy safety and security; only then will we be able to truly develop our institutions of governance and our political system; and only then will we achieve development and economic prosperity and make progress in social, cultural, and other fields. The rule of law is embodied in one authority and one legal weapon in the hands of this authority, within the framework of political pluralism and the peaceful periodic transfer of authority. We all have the right to differ, and we all have the right to present our case to the people through the ballot box, but no one has the right to by-pass the will of the people or to take the law into their own hands in the service of their own agenda. Let law and democracy remain the only method of dealing with all aspects of our domestic concerns. [End Page 181]
Following the death of President Gnassingbé Eyadéma on February 5, Togo’s military leaders appointed as head of state his son Fauré Gnassingbé. According to the constitution, Eyadéma should have been succeeded by parliamentary speaker Fambaré Natchaba, who was out of the country at the time and later was prevented from returning to Togo. Pressured by the African Union and other members of the international community, Gnassingbé stepped down on February 25; presidential elections are scheduled to be held in April. Excerpted below is a collective statement by Togolese civil society organizations released in response to Gnassingbé’s unconstitutional appointment. This was translated from the French by Phil Costopoulos.
The signatories of the present declaration are greatly perturbed by the turn that events have taken, for the fact of the late president’s death had barely been made public before we witnessed a coup d’état taking place before our eyes in Togo. With the incumbent’s demise, there is no vacancy in the post of president, for under the Constitution the president of the National Assembly immediately becomes the president of the Togolese Republic. Given this fact, it is the case that by barring the return to the country of National Assembly president Fambaré Natchaba —who by law had become the president of Togo—the armed forces have engineered a coup d’état.
Civil society is all the more disturbed to see the makers of this coup attempting to legalize their attack upon democracy by acts which are as illegal as they are illegitimate, thereby once again plunging Togo into disarray and ridicule. All the actions of 5, 6, and 7 February 2005 committed by the chiefs of the Togolese Popular Rally (RPT), certain elements of its armed wing, and the Togolese armed forces are illegal, unconstitutional, and in violation of elementary principles of law and right:
As Article 1 of its Constitution proclaims, the Togolese state is a republic and allows for no accession to power except by way of election, and not heredity. The army is only one administrative body of the state among others, and as such possesses no competence whatsoever to say who shall succeed the president if he should die while in office. . . .
It is shocking that the Constitutional Court—the very guardian of constitutionalism—should have taken part in this disgusting mascarade. The Court should face the most rigorous condemnation.
In view of these facts, civil society asks: That the Togolese armed forces learn respect for their constitutional status as an apolitical body and confine themselves henceforth to their military mission of defending the Republic’s territorial integrity while standing apart from any and all political discussions and decisions and serving the cause of democracy in a manner conformable with Articles 147 and 149 of the Constitution.
That the people of Togo mobilize themselves in order to take back their [End Page 182] liberty under the rubric of Article 150 of their Constitution, which states that “in the event of a coup d’état or any forcible takeover of the state whatsoever . . . all Togolese will disobey illegitimate pretenders to authority and organize to stop them, thereby asserting the most sacred of rights and fulfilling the most urgent of duties.”
Let us therefore mobilize ourselves, people of Togo, for we may expect liberation only at our own hands. Let us organize ourselves for civil disobedience should the Gnassingbé faction refuse to restore the people to their rights. “Let whatever tyrants come that may, thy heart yearns for liberty.”
On February 1, King Gyanendra dismissed Nepal’s democratically elected government and assumed direct power. Below are excerpts from an appeal to the international community issued by 25 Nepalese human rights organizations on February 5:
We, the members of the Nepalese human rights community, express our serious concern regarding the King’s February 1, 2005 announcement of forming a government under his chairmanship, declaring a “state of emergency,” and virtually handing over the country’s governance to the Royal Nepal Army. The King’s invocation of Article 27-C to usurp all state power is a fraud on the Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal. We, the Nepalese people, now live under an illegal military rule headed by the King.
As you are aware, almost all the rights guaranteed by the Nepalese Constitution and those enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and other international instruments that Nepal is a party to have been suspended. Complete press censorship has been imposed. All means of communication, including telephones, Internet, and cable TV access to international news media, have been severed. All this has been done to create complete terror and panic among the ordinary people.
The King’s actions violate international practices and legal standards for human rights even under the conditions of a legitimate “state of emergency.” We are deeply concerned by the growing number of political prisoners and the increasing insecurity of human rights defenders, journalists, and lawyers. The current surveillance, monitoring, and harassment of human rights organizations and activists, including obstacles set in place to interrupt the work of the National Human Rights Commission, as well as the harassment of journalists, is unacceptable.
During this critical time, we, the Nepalese human rights defenders, urge the international community to take . . . immediate measures to ensure the protection of the fundamental human rights of the citizens and the safety of political activists, human rights defenders, journalists, and lawyers, and to stop ongoing atrocities by the security forces. . . . [End Page 183]
We strongly urge your immediate intervention in order to restore democracy and protect the rights of all Nepalese citizens. We believe that this is a legitimate obligation of the international community under the charter of the United Nations.
In the December 12 presidential runoff, Traian Băsescu defeated Adrian Năstase of the ruling Social Democratic Party (see the article by Peter Gross and Vladimir Tismaneanu on pp. 146–162 of this issue). Excerpts from Băsescu’s December 20 inaugural address appear below. The speech was translated from the Romanian by Monica Florescu.
I assure you that the following five years of my presidential mandate will be years in which Romania will become a different country. It will be a functioning state that will be founded upon the rule of law, a country which will achieve its objectives through the work of its people. . . . I assure you that I will cooperate with all state institutions in the fight against corruption and poverty, which have been decimating our society and political system for years. Corruption brings about poverty—the two are interrelated. Today, corruption at the top puts our country’s national security at risk. . . .
One of my fundamental priorities as president will be to eliminate political control of public institutions. I will not accept any interference of the political system in public institutions, as these institutions should function in accordance with the constitution and the rule of law. State institutions must be depoliticized immediately and be brought to the service of citizens. . . .
I will be a devoted defender of freedom of the press, which, in the last four years, has experienced a significant step back due to unprecedented constraints and political pressures placed upon the Romanian media. Stealing the freedom of the press is the first step toward stealing the freedom of citizens. Democratic victories cannot exist in the absence of a free press, freedom of speech, or freedom of expression. I also want to assure you that under my watch, civil society will receive my full support. Romania needs a civil society that will promote every citizen’s rights. . . .
It is very clear now, after negotiations for integration [with the EU] have been concluded, that the real fight for integration will take place within Romania. We must meet all of the obligations that the Romanian government has undertaken during the negotiation process. The hard fight for integration into the EU has to be won here at home. . . .
We all have a very important mission ahead of us. If politicians fail to explain to citizens the costs of the integration process, the entire process will fail. We need solidarity during the integration process so that every citizen will accept the costs associated with it. Romanian citizens have to be in solidarity with the integration process so that they can reap the benefits of integration in the European Union.