South Africa’s upcoming municipal elections on August 3 have brought the country’s economic crisis to the forefront of public discussion. The ruling African National Congress (ANC) party will be striving to maintain its political foothold against the Democratic Alliance and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party as the country continues to deal with a protracted economic crisis and poor domestic service delivery. Over twenty years since the end of apartheid, South Africa is in deep economic and political trouble, according to Ann Bernstein, CEO of the Center for Development and Enterprise (CDE)—an independent research organization based in Johannesburg.

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Cooperation among European law enforcement agencies is a ‘big challenge,’ says Atlantic Council’s Fran Burwell

A spate of terrorist attacks across Europe over the past nineteen months has shaken confidence in European security, but has had divergent impacts on the popularity of the leaders of France and Germany, according to the Atlantic Council’s Fran Burwell.

While German Chancellor Angela Merkel has seen a rise in support, French President François Hollande has found his already low approval ratings dip further.

“The insecurity has…led to the revival of Mutti Merkel,” said Burwell, vice president, European Union and Special Initiatives, at the Atlantic Council. The chancellor, who is viewed by the German public as a steady pair of hands that would take care of the issues in society, earned the nickname Mutti Merkel—the mother of the German family. Merkel’s warm welcome to migrants fleeing war zones in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan temporarily diminished this admiration as she was seen as having overstepped her bounds by being too generous. Germany registered close to one million asylum seekers in 2015.

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On July 20, investigative journalist Pavel Sheremet was assassinated in Kyiv. Sheremet hosted a morning show at Radio Vesti and was a top reporter at Ukrainska Pravda. A crusading journalist and native of Minsk, Belarus, he had already been expelled from both Belarus and Russia. He was killed by a car bomb.

It would be easy to dismiss Sheremet’s murder as an outlier. Unfortunately, it’s anything but. His death is merely the most drastic example of the steady deterioration of press freedom in Ukraine in recent months.

One day before Sheremet’s murder, Maria Rydvan, the editor of Forbes Ukraine, was stabbed three times in Kyiv; she had been walking in the park of the Kyiv Polytechnic Institute. Fortunately her injuries were only minor.

On July 25, the head of Business Censor, Sergei Golovnyova, was beaten in the well-to-do Podil section of Kyiv by two men who took nothing from him.

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In the wake of an attempt by factions of the Turkish military to oust Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan from power on the night of July 15, foreign policy experts point to increasing instability and a tightening authoritarian grip as core barriers to the resumption of Turkey’s European Union accession negotiations.

“There will be no EU accession. Whatever the Europeans want to do with regard to post-coup…Europe is subject to the implicit Turkish threat to send large numbers of refugees to Europe. The Turks have Brussels over a barrel on that issue especially given the way that politics are playing themselves out within European capitals,” said Steven Cook, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

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On the eve of Ukraine’s special elections on July 17, Nadiya Savchenko walked into the crowded Stansiya Lughansk district commission offices in eastern Ukraine. She was there to campaign for Fatherland’s Iryna Verihina, who had been Luhansk’s governor for about six months before being replaced. Catching sight of Serhiy Shakhov, a candidate for Nash Krai (Our Land), arguing with the Fatherland commissioner, Savchenko demanded that he identify himself. After Shakhov identified himself as a candidate for parliament, she asked what he was doing there and why he wasn’t fighting in the east with the real men.

Savchenko is Ukraine’s most trusted politician, but this was her first real intervention into retail politics and she seemed authentically repulsed by the workings of the electoral process in Ukraine. To the delight of the television cameras and gathered journalists, Savchenko denounced the process as irrevocably flawed in a series of characteristically fiery appearances outside of the district election office. She later told me that she expected to write her own election law and that she herself was a “one term MP” with no interest in contesting a second term.

Savchenko would not be the first observer of Ukraine’s elections to conclude that the process requires a drastic dose of professionalization. Indeed, reforming Ukraine’s deeply flawed election system might be a Herculean task that can be accomplished only by a belligerent saint.

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This month, Ukraine introduced state financing of political parties in the hopes that it will create a more transparent, equal, and democratic playing field for politicians and their organizations. But the process will not be as beneficial to Ukraine’s reform efforts as it could have been.

In October 2015, the Ukrainian parliament adopted Law No. 731-19; in its initial version, this draft law introduced state financing for political parties that received more than three percent in the 2014 parliamentary elections. This particular threshold would have been to the advantage of smaller parties which did not make it into parliament two years ago; some of these, like Anatoliy Hrytsenko’s Civic Position, are built with no or only a little oligarchic financing.

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The United Kingdom’s vote to leave the European Union will have a negative impact on the European economy because it creates uncertainty and decreases business confidence for the foreseeable future, according to the International Monetary Fund’s recently updated World Economic Outlook. Beyond uncertainty, experts contend that the outcome of the June 23 vote on a so-called Brexit highlights structural issues within the Eurozone that have prevented significant growth following the 2008 financial crisis.

“There’s no doubt about the fact that this is a negative shock to growth,” Paul Sheard, executive vice president and chief economist at S&P Global, said of the British referendum. “In many ways, it’s worse for the Eurozone than it is for the United Kingdom,” he added.

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The Turkish government’s crackdown on its opponents must be seen in the context of the trauma inflicted on the country as a result of the failed coup, but it must not come at the cost of the viability of democratic institutions, according to the Atlantic Council’s Aaron Stein.

“In the West, there is this tendency to focus on the purge and how many people have lost their jobs. In Turkey, everybody is still shell-shocked about what happened on [July 15] and are picking up the pieces and trying to reconcile a very traumatic event in their history,” said Stein, a resident senior fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East.

“The concern in Turkey is that unlike France, in particular, the legacy of strong democratic institutions is just not there,” he added.

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This article is part of a series.

The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) plenary meeting in Seoul ended on June 24 without resolving India’s request to join the group. The final statement issued at the conclusion of the meeting lacked an explicit reference to India’s application to join or an outline for a future course of action. With the exceptional waiver granted by the NSG to India in 2008, membership in the group should have been a relatively straightforward decision. However, larger geopolitical factors contributed to the stalemate.

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When asked recently why he turned up in Moscow last December to help celebrate the tenth anniversary of RT, Michael Flynn rambled about wanting to deliver stern lectures to the Russians. The retired US Lt. Gen.—who now serves as foreign policy adviser to Republican nominee Donald J. Trump—was seated at a gala dinner next to Russian President Vladimir Putin. In an interview with the Kremlin's propaganda arm, Flynn was anything but downbeat about bilateral ties: "interests...are converging," he assured RT journalist Sophie Shevardnadze; it's time "to move forward" together.

One of those convergent interests between team Trump and Putin may be Ukraine. As Josh Rogin reported in the Washington Post earlier this week, Trump staffers in Cleveland succeeded in browbeating delegates to water down GOP platform language, replacing a pledge to provide "lethal defensive weapons" to the Ukrainian military for the country's self-defense with the gentler, more ambiguous suggestion of "appropriate assistance."

Ukrainians have mounting questions and concerns.

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