Is Compulsory Voting Better?

We have depoliticized and privatized the act of voting. It needs to be reclaimed for public deliberation and debate. Voting is the fundamental act of recognition of members of our political community. In November, the mid-terms are awaiting and actually, the issue is not for whom we vote, but the act of voting itself as constitutive and symbolic of our citizenship.

Do we mean compulsory voting or compulsory turnout? The latter; that is, there should be an opportunity to abstain: positive abstention is a good thing.

Voting is a civic duty. These are not my words, but those of Winston Churchill in 1948, arguing in support of compulsory voting. There are, broadly, two different conceptions of citizenship: a passive conception, in which voting is interpreted largely as a right; a republican conception in which the right to vote is predicated on its also being a duty.

Voting is, of course, a right; but it is both a right and a duty, and if it is not a duty we cannot be sure that it will always remain a right. However, the term duty is ambiguous: I can believe it a moral duty to vote without arguing that there should be a legally enforced requirement to vote. So why should it be compulsory?

Continue reading “Is Compulsory Voting Better?”

Ukraine and The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe

East-West tensions and flawed institutional design is hampering the OSCE’s response to the crisis in Ukraine. As the only regional security organization to which all relevant interlocutors belong, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is uniquely positioned to mediate and mitigate the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. However, flaws in the organization’s institutional design and revived East-West tensions have limited the effectiveness of OSCE’s Ukrainian operations.

Designed “to ensure peace, democracy and stability” in Europe, OSCE’s 57 member states encompass a geographical area from ‘Vancouver to Vladivostok’. Tracing its origins to the detente period of the 1970s, OSCE became a fully-fledged international organization in the 1990s.

OSCE fills a niche in Europe’s security architecture. Although it incorporates traditional military security concerns, OSCE’s mandate places much greater emphasis on human security through the promotion of democracy and human rights. For example, OSCE has a specific mandate to protect national minorities, something unique amongst international organizations. Likewise, as OSCE’s response to the Ukrainian crisis demonstrates, its operations tend towards ‘softer’ measures rather than military intervention.

Continue reading “Ukraine and The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe”