Polling in Iraq and Afghanistan

Talk about asking tough questions in tough places! Matt Warshaw, Senior Research Manager at D3 Systems, and friend and colleague, responded to interview questions about the challenges associated with conducting research in Afghanistan and Iraq at World Public Opinion. Read it. I think you'll be surprised about a lot of the answers.

My favorite answer? When Matt was asked why this sort of work is worthwhile:

"It’s the third voice in the debate. It’s providing what people in those countries think about that situation. Having some knowledge of what the people in these places think themselves is a very valuable tool when enormous global decisions are going to be made about the future of a country, the direction it’s going to take, whether you’re going to have democracy, elections, invasions, sanctions, etc. These are decisions that could impact not just that country but your own society and other societies. There’s an enormous value in knowing what’s on people’s minds."

Turkey and the Dilemma of Democracy

Sargasso, a Dutch political and social blog, graciously invited me to participate in an online roundtable (in English) about Turkey's democratic future.

Each day for the next five days, participants will react to statements made by Newsweek's Fareed Zakaria, Turkish president Abdullah Gül and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the Dutch documentary called 'Turkey - the Dilemma of Democracy' to be broadcast on Dutch television on October 8th.

For today's post, a wide selection of journalists, academics, rappers and bloggers all responded to a statement Prime Minister Erdogan made in Der Spiegel back in April.

"Is Europe a home for an alliance of civilizations or is it a Christian club?"

The roundtable is part of the Dutch democracy week WijZijnDeBaas (WeAreTheBoss) and is the Dutch contribution to the International Week for Democracy. More information here.

Stop by and join in the discussion. It's pretty civilized so far!

A Paler Shade of Orange, At Oxford Business Group

I wrote a piece for Oxford Business Group on the Ukraine Elections that was posted today.

A Paler Shade of Orange

Ukraine, Volume 82

Ukrainian voters went to the polls on Sunday for the third time in three years in an effort to end the political stagnation that has plagued the country since the Orange Revolution in late 2004.

President Viktor Yushchenko called early elections in the hope of breaking the deadlock that has disillusioned many Ukrainians and deepened the divide between the Russian-leaning east (represented by Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych's Party of Regions, or "the Blue side") and the European-oriented west, led by the fractious Orange Team of President Viktor Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko.

Read more: A Paler Shade of Orange, At Oxford Business Group

Trying to Understand Why Ukraine is Such a Mess?

Via Orange Ukraine, read these two articles about that help illuminate the deep division in the country. First, a reporter from the Globe and Mail goes to Donetsk and Dnipropetrovsk, and a CSM reporter heads to Crimea.

The latter, while good, barely scratches the surface of the looming battle between Russia and Ukraine over Crimea.

Shining Light in Dark Places: Increasing Pollster Disclosure

Two weeks ago, I posted a rather glib post about fake public polls in Ukraine, arguing that from a strategic point of view or as evidence of stolen elections, they're meaningless. However, in the long run, the spate of fake pre-election polls make it that much harder to get information on what Ukrainians really think about issues facing the country. That's a problem.

Read more: Shining Light in Dark Places: Increasing Pollster Disclosure

Bogus Azerbaijani ‘Human Rights Group’ Goes to Washington

Back in July, Ken Silverstein wrote an interesting article for Harpers about the how big PR firms in Washington acquire and serve foreign governmental clients. He posed as an agent for a shadowy company that wanted to hire a firm to improve Turkmenistan's image in DC. Under the ruse, he collected proposals and price sheets from the biggest, most well-connected firms.

Although I don't think the article provided a whole lot of new information about how DC firms work ($50,000 monthly retainers! Shocker!), it was interesting to see the whole package and sit in on the pitches. It is definitely worth the read.

Recently, Silverstein was invited to a press event in Washington featuring the Association for Civil Society Development in Azerbaijan (ACSDA) by a firm called Bob Lawrence and Associates. Since Silverstein pointed out in his article that "independent press events" are among the tools used by Washington firms to improve their clients' images, he posted a follow-up on Harpers' website (you have to wonder who thought it was a good idea to invite him in the first place).

Who is ACSDA? It's an "NGO coalition" backed by the Government of Azerbaijan designed showcase Azerbaijan's vibrant civil society to outsiders who don't know any better. Bob Lawrence and Associates also coordinated President Aliyev's 2006 trip to Washington to meet with Bush, Aliyev's reward for not killing any election protesters after the 2005 election.

Read more: Bogus Azerbaijani ‘Human Rights Group’ Goes to Washington