Democracy Lab Weekly Brief, December 23, 2013

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Fadil Aliriza profiles Tunisian rapper Klay BBJ, the man with a unique ability to touch a society's raw nerves.

Brian Klaas explains why allegations of a power-grab by Tunisia's toppled dictator continue to haunt the country's democratic transition.

In the latest of his dispatches from the West African republic of Mali, Christian Caryl watches parliamentary elections in the legendary city of Timbuktu and reflects on the problems democracy faces there.

Elliott Prasse-Freeman argues that Burma's upcoming census will worsen ethnic conflict.

Christia Fotini and Ruben Enikolopov present the findings of an MIT study that shows why democracy-building efforts in post 9-11 Afghanistan may have had the opposite of their intended effect.

Peter Murrell worries that corruption studies rely too heavily on the honesty of those reporting the data.

James A. Robinson tracks the Democratic Republic of Congo's efforts to cure corruption.

And Anna Nemtsova examines Russian President Vladimir Putin's sudden decision to release an ex-tycoon from prison.

And now for this week's recommended reads:

In the Financial Times, Abigail Fielding-Smith presents an overview of the situation in Syria, where an end to the civil war looks less likely by the day.

In a study from the Legatum Institute's Transitions forum, Mark Dempsy explains why Libya should focus on reforming its financial sector if it hopes to build democracy.

In the National Review, George Weigel tells the story of the only Catholic university in the former Soviet Union, and why its students and faculty are now fighting to bring Ukraine into the European orbit.

The Atlantic Council compiles the most significant moments of the Arab Spring transitions in an interactive timeline.

The International Center for Transitional Justice reports on Tunisia's new transition law -- a significant achievement that will help the country address past human rights abuses.

The Transnational Institute and Burma Centrum Nederland argues that Burma's transitional government has not done enough to address the rights of the country's ethnic minorities -- and that time is running out.

The Global Organizations of Parliamentarians Against Corruption finds that perpetrators of "grand corruption" are rarely brought to justice, and suggests measures to address the problem.

Writing for Forbes, Grant Tudor, of the social entrepreneurship organization Ashoka, explains how NGOs are wielding technology to force governments to pay attention to their marginalized citizens.

Transparency International releases its annual Corruption Index, ranking countries according to perceived levels of corruption.

(The photo above shows two victims of sectarian violence in the Central African Republic.)



Democracy Lab Weekly Brief, December 16, 2013

To keep up with Democracy Lab in real time, follow us at our new Twitter handle: @FP_DemLab.

Christian Caryl voyages into Mali's Inner Niger Delta and explores the relationship between environmental protection and democracy.

Alex Hanna and Kevan Harris test the theory that social media data can predict elections.

Askold Krushelnycky tracks Kiev's anti-government protests during their most tumultuous -- and violent -- week. Anna Nemtsova sits down with Ukraine's demonstrators to ask them what they want.

Ellen Bork explains that the success of the Cambodian opposition's agenda depends on how well its leaders can play politics.

Daniel Lansberg-Rodríguez describes how women in Egypt are fighting back against all-too-common sexual violence.

Juan Nagel explains the challenges faced by Venezuela's opposition after last week's elections.

Mohamed Eljarh reports on how local leaders hold the key to ending Libya's oil crisis.

And now for this week's recommended reads:

AP reporter Rukmini Callimachi discovers six bodies in a desert grave -- victims of retaliatory violence by Mali's army after the country's recent war.

International Crisis Group questions Burma's faulty civil society legislation and its efforts to better the lawmaking process.

U.N. Women's Constitutional Database compiles the gender-based provisions in constitutions worldwide.

Writing for the New Republic, Emily Parker reveals that some Western journalists censor themselves in fear of China's government.

In the New York Review of Books, Christopher de Bellaigue argues that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's "vindictive authoritarianism" is fuelling the belief that Islam and democracy don't mix.

On Al Jazeera, Konstantin Parshin writes on how Tajikistan's citizens prefer the stability of authoritarianism to the uncertainty of change.

In the New York Times, Nick Cumming-Bruce disparages the United Nations for failing to act as violence escalates in the Central African Republic.

In the London Review of Books, Owen Bennett-Jones reviews history to explain al Qaeda's resurgence in transitioning countries.

The Diplomat's Zachary Keck argues that the United States has to get better at promoting democracy -- and suggests that focusing on capitalism would be one winning strategy.

(In the photo above, Syrian children build a snowman in a refugee camp in Lebanon, where freezing temperatures have resulted in a number of deaths.)