Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Friday, April 20, 2018

Artifact of political culture

Who knew how important the mace was?

(Check out the British version.)

Senate resumes plenary with replacement mace
The Senate has resumed plenary about an hour after thugs stole its symbol of authority, the mace.

The lawmakers appear to have secured a replacement mace which is being used for the plenary.

The theft
The thugs, who stormed the Senate chamber on Wednesday morning, are believed to have been led by a suspended lawmaker Ovie Omo-Agege…

After the thugs left, the Senate went into an executive session after which it announced it was starting plenary.

The plenary is being presided by Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu.

Sabi Abdullahi, the senate spokesperson, in a statement sent to PREMIUM TIMES said “The Senate has mandated the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Idris Kpotum Ibrahim and Director General of the State Security Services (SSS), Mallam Lawan Daura, to retrieve the mace stolen by the hoodlums within 24 hours.”

“At the moment, some House of Representives members led by Deputy Speaker. Hon. Yusuf Lasun, are in the Senate chambers in solidarity visits. The session is presently live on NTA Channel 10.

“We are determined to conclude all matters slated on the Order Paper for today, even if it means us sitting until 6 p.m.,” the spokesperson quoted Mr Ekweremadu as saying.

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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Who gets elected first?

There may be a constitutional issue facing the government and the legislature in Nigeria. [See Nigeria's constitution (search for "electoral" to learn what powers the constitution gives to the Independent National Electoral Commission.)]

Why Nigeria’s battle over the order of the 2019 elections matters
As politicians start announcing their candidacies and parties begin devising their platforms ahead of Nigeria’s 2019 general elections, a few crucial details remain in the air. Due to a political tug of war in Abuja, it is still unclear when exactly voters will go to the ballot and in what order they will be held.

Nigerian polling place
In January, Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) released its election timetable. It announced that the presidential and National Assembly polls would be held on 16 February, with the governorship and state assembly elections to take place on 2 March. But in February, Nigeria’s National Assembly – comprised of the Senate and House of Representatives – passed a bill reordering the order of the votes…

A bill was passed by the House of Representatives and Senate, both of which are controlled by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). But when it reached the desk of President Muhummadu Buhari in March, he refused to sign it into law. He warned that the act “may infringe upon the constitutionally guaranteed discretion of INEC, to organise, undertake and supervise all elections”.

The episode has sparked plenty of legal arguments on both sides. Some say that the National Assembly’s attempts to influence the running of elections are unconstitutional. Others insist they are not overstepping the letter of the law.

Either way, this saga is not over. The National Assembly can overturn the president’s veto with a two-thirds majority and lawmakers have reportedly already begun this process. A date for the fateful vote is yet to be scheduled, but many are confident of its impending success.

“We will get it. We have the two-thirds majority already,” Senator Ben Murray-Bruce told African Arguments

The politicians behind the attempt to reorder the elections say the move will advance Nigeria’s democratic system. They argue that when the presidential poll is held first, subsequent elections are treated as far less important…

By reversing the order and building up to the presidential election, proponents suggest that people will exercise more judgment in picking their lower-level representatives…

Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, chair of the civil society organisation Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), for example, points out that lawmakers did not consult the electorate when trying to amend the electoral process. “This makes this move very suspicious and looks like it’s self-serving,” she says…

Aside from possible reordering of elections itself, this affair has highlighted ongoing tensions between Nigeria’s executive and legislative branches. Buhari’s first term has been dogged by disagreements with the National Assembly…

Whether or not they agree with the ordering of the election, many Nigerians are concerned at how these decisions are being made and, possibly, forced through. Rather than strengthening democracy, some worry that the fight over this bill is undermining political processes and weakening citizens’ faith in the system. Instead of empowering Nigerian citizens a year ahead of the elections, Akiyode-Afolabi warns that this ongoing and unfinished contest “is creating uncertainty in the polity and shaking the confidence of voters”.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Population growing!

If Nigeria now has the seventh largest population and will be third largest by 2050, what country's populations will it surpass by 2050?

NPC Puts Nigerian Population at 198m, Seventh Largest in the World
The National Population Commission (NPC) has put Nigeria’s current population at 198 million people with urban population growing at an average annual growth rate of about 6.5 per cent…

Eze Duruiheoma
Chairman of NPC, Mr. Eze Duruiheoma… “Nigeria remains the most populous in Africa, the seventh globally with an estimated population of over 198 million.

“The recent World Population Prospects report predicts that by 2050, Nigeria will become the third most populated country in the world…

In terms of demographics, he noted that the class of the population mostly engaged in urbanisation and migration were young people, adolescent girls and boys, women of child bearing age and the working age population.

He said existing urbanisation trends, coupled with internally displaced persons (IDPs) in cities, pose critical challenges to securing sustainability in Nigerian urban centres, including efforts to make them smart and responsive to the human influx…

Duruiheoma said like in other developing countries, Nigerian cities host wide spread poverty, under-employment and unemployment at an average of 18.4 per cent, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) 2017 report.

The NPC boss bemoaned the insecurity in the country and inadequate and inequitable healthcare services for adolescents and women of childbearing age…

“We are committed to providing adequate healthcare services, reducing maternal mortality, rebuilding safe schools and empowering our women, ensuring no one is left behind in terms of achieving sustainable development,” he added…

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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Money and legitimacy

If a government mismanages an economy, how is its legitimacy affected?

Steep Slide in Currency Threatens Iran’s Economy
All this week panicked Iranians have gathered in throngs outside banks and other financial businesses hoping to buy dollars, as the government seeks to head off a collapse in the rial, the national currency.

But they have met with nothing but frustration, told there were no dollars or other currencies for them to buy at the official government rate…

Forex rates in Iran
Long on a downward path, the rial plunged this week, losing 35 percent of its value against the dollar and hitting what has been widely described as a record low. The government is seeking to impose an exchange rate of 42,000 to the dollar, but in Tehran’s black-market exchanges this week the going rate was 60,000…

In an effort to squelch currency speculation, the government sent riot police into the bazaars on Wednesday, where they arrested several money changers…

However, many of those changing money in the bazaars were ordinary people seeking to protect themselves against rising prices and fearful of further declines in the currency.

Others, like Mohsen Yekta, a university professor, said they needed the foreign exchange for personal business. “Every month I send some money to my daughter in Paris,” he said. “I need foreign exchange to help her out. I don’t know what to do.”

Amid rising tensions in the region, the national currency has been sliding for weeks, but it went into free fall on Saturday. The government blames unilateral United States sanctions that continue to limit bank financing, despite the 2015 nuclear agreement that lifted international banking sanctions. Market insiders say that fears are also rising that President Trump will withdraw from the nuclear agreement…

Ordinary Iranians agree with most of these explanations, but also blame the government for poor planning and bad management of the economy. They also view the black-market rate as one of the few trustworthy indicators of the country’s economic health.

Earlier this year, complaints about economic conditions and corruption exploded into a more general protest against political conditions in more than 80 cities across Iran. There are no signs so far that the current troubles are leading to unrest…

The currency slide is taking its toll on business, with many firms selling foreign products halting all sales, unable to determine prices…

While Iran has endured similar currency crises in the past, some commentators said they were not seeing light at the end of this particular tunnel. “Our economy is based on bad planning — it’s wishy-washy,” said Farshad Ghorbanpour, an analyst close to the government. “Don’t expect things to get any better.”

See also: Iran Currency Crisis Could Threaten Political Stability
 

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Monday, April 16, 2018

Cowboy candidate in Mexico

A candidate without a party might upset Mexican presidential election.

Mexico adds fifth name to presidential ballot despite fake signatures
Mexico’s electoral tribunal has included a colourful independent candidate on the ballot for this July’s presidential election, despite the fact 58% of the signatures supporting his nomination were invalidated.

Jaime Rodríguez
In a midnight ruling on Monday, the tribunal found in favour of Jaime Rodríguez, a cowboy turned state governor better known as “El Bronco”, allowing him to become the fifth candidate in the election.

Analysts said that his inclusion in the race, potentially pulls votes from the current frontrunner, Andrés Manuel López Obrador – a leftwing populist who courts the same anti-system voters as Rodríguez…

Three candidates achieved the 866,593 signatures – or 1% of the voters’ list – necessary to register. Two of them were disqualified for turning in signatures deemed fake or otherwise inadmissible.

Left off the ballot was María de Jesús Patricio, an indigenous Nahua and spokesperson for the National Indigenous Congress, who failed to reach the threshold, even though 95% of the signatures she collected were deemed valid – an irony not lost on supporters.

The contrast between Rodríguez and Patricio’s attempts to get on the ballot “is one of the clearest expressions of the inequality that exists in our country in access to the law: high requirements for all, but only the weakest are obliged to comply with it”, tweeted Andrés Lajous, an academic.

The ruling caused disquiet in Mexico, where the incumbent Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) trails by double digits – but could benefit from Rodríguez’s inclusion in the race as PRI voters are considered the least likely to opt for an independent candidate.

Mexico’s electoral tribunal acts as a final arbiter for election matters but is widely perceived as having ruled in the PRI’s favour in a series of controversial cases.

“It’s an ace up the PRI’s sleeve,” said Federico Estévez, political science professor at the Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico…

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Friday, April 13, 2018

Killing candidates in Mexico

Politics can be a deadly business in Mexico — especially for local candidates

Widespread killings of candidates cast shadow over Mexican elections
Authorities have confirmed the slayings of at least 30 candidates, according to Alfonso Navarrete, Mexico's interior secretary. Some reports indicate the toll since last year may be almost twice as high.

The killings — mostly of local candidates in provincial areas far from the Mexican capital — form a chilling backdrop to the July 1 elections, which include races for president, Congress and local posts across the country. In all, more than 3,000 offices are up for grabs, the most ever on a single day.

The slain candidates represented a range of political affiliations and movements, suggesting that the killings are more about local power grabs and gang rivalries than national conflicts among parties…

Most of the killings have garnered little attention from national news outlets, which are heavily focused on the presidential contenders, who appear daily on television…

The litany of attacks has generated profound concern here and abroad about the state of Mexican democracy.

"Mexico is suffering a risk in the legitimacy of its electoral processes," said Erubiel Tirado, a political scientist at Mexico's Iberoamerican University and an expert on violence. "The question here is: Does the Mexican state really have the capacity to protect [candidates]? I believe that it doesn't."

The increase in political slayings "is absolutely unacceptable in an electoral process," said Luis Almagro, secretary general of the Organization of American States, which plans to send a team to observe Mexico's July voting…

The attacks, the interior secretary recently told reporters, are "very focused on some regions of the country," mostly in areas where organized crime often holds an insidious grip on power and federal law enforcement is stretched thin…

Among the hardest-hit places is the state of Guerrero, where political corruption is rampant and sundry factions vie for control of drug trafficking, extortion, kidnapping and other rackets. Mobsters routinely buy off local cops and politicians. Since the beginning of 2017, more than a dozen candidates have been reported slain in Guerrero…

There were no assassinations of mayors during the 1980s and 1990s, according to Justice in Mexico, a research project at the University of San Diego. But today, being a mayor or other regional lawmaker may be among the country's most dangerous jobs.

Mexico's National Assn. of Mayors recently reported that more than 100 mayors, mayors-elect and ex-mayors had been slain since 2006…

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Thursday, April 12, 2018

UK-Ireland Good Friday Agreement

By now you know that Ireland is not part of the UK. Northern Ireland is.

You should also know that the conflict between Ireland and the UK (Northern Ireland) was long and bloody.

The first time I went to London (30 years ago), there were signs everywhere alerting people to avoid and report unaccompanied packages, since there was an IRA campaign of bombing going on. The conflict had been going on for at least a couple generations before that.

The Good Friday Agreement brought an end to the violence.

What is the Good Friday Agreement?
The Good Friday Agreement, The Belfast Agreement.

An agreement that can't even agree on its own name - the irony.

Northern Ireland has lived with this agreement for 20 years and its name (in whatever form) is never far from the tips of our politicians' tongues.

But do younger people, who have never experienced life without it, even know what it is?

"The talks that ended the Troubles... I think."

That was among the responses offered cautiously when BBC News NI asked young people - some as young as 18 - 'What is the Good Friday Agreement?'…

The Good Friday Agreement was signed on 10 April 1998 after intense negotiations between the UK government, the Irish government and Northern Ireland political parties.

Among other things, it set up a power-sharing Northern Ireland Assembly.

Other main points in the agreement were:
  • A council was to be set up to help Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland work together on matters like farming and health.
  • A council was to be set up to promote the relationship between Britain and Ireland. In pop culture terms, this would be like Liam and Noel Gallagher arranging an Oasis reunion to put their troublesome past behind them.
  • Dual British and Irish citizenship - to allow the people of Northern Ireland to hold either a British or Irish passport, or both.
However, the agreement also came with its own wave of controversy.

Part of it would see the early release of paramilitary prisoners who had been in Northern Ireland jails.

Some 428 paramilitary prisoners from both sides of the community were to walk free, 143 of them had been serving life sentences for things like murders and bombings.

A referendum (similar to Brexit, but definitely not Brexit) was held on both sides of the Irish border for the people to decide whether or not they wanted the agreement.

The result? A resounding 'Yes'.

Some 71% voted in favour of the agreement in Northern Ireland and 94% voted in favour of it in the Republic of Ireland.

After elections in June of 1998, the all-new Northern Ireland Assembly was formed.

It met for the first time on 1 July and David Trimble and Seamus Mallon were elected as first and deputy first ministers.

See also:  Good Friday Agreement - 20 years on

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