Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Presidential poll in Mexico

A snapshot of how the candidates rank in February.

Mexican leftist extends lead in presidential race, poll shows
Mexican leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador increased his lead ahead of July’s presidential election, while the ruling party’s contender continued his downward trend, according to an opinion poll published in a local newspaper…
Obrador

Lopez Obrador, who has run twice for president, led the pack of hopefuls with 27.1 percent in February, according to the survey by pollster Mitofsky published in El Economista newspaper.

The former Mexico City mayor gained 3.5 percentage points over Mitofsky’s January poll, putting him nearly 5 percentage points ahead of his closest rival…

Former finance minister Jose Antonio Meade of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) came in third with 18.0 percent, down from 18.2 percent in January and 19.4 percent in December.

Meade’s campaign has been dogged by a backlash against PRI following a series of corruption scandals and a murder rate that surged last year to a record high.

Ricardo Anaya, former leader of the center-right National Action Party (PAN), ranked second with 22.3 percent, up from 20.4 percent in the prior survey, the poll said. Anaya resigned from the party in December to pursue the presidency in an alliance with the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD)…

Of 1,000 people surveyed in the poll, 31.4 percent said they believe Lopez Obrador will become Mexico’s next president, up from 25 percent in January. That compared with 23.4 percent who see Meade winning, and 20.7 percent that believe it will be Anaya…

The survey was conducted Feb. 9-11 and has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Maybe the Mexicans don't need the Russians to get involved in their election

It seems that many people expect their own intelligence service to interfere in the upcoming election.

Mexican presidential candidate accuses government of spying on him
A Mexican presidential candidate has accused the country’s intelligence service of surveilling his campaign – part of a pattern of alleged espionage against opponents of President Enrique Peña Nieto…

Ricardo Anaya
Ricardo Anaya… posted a tweet on Tuesday showing him confronting a person following him in a Jeep. After an awkward handshake, the driver readily identified himself as working for Cisen, the Mexican intelligence service. He said he was following Anaya “so that there’s no problem”…

The left-leaning poll-leader Andrés Manuel López Obrador has also said that he and his family have been spied upon. He has promised to disband Cisen if he wins the 1 July election.

The latest accusations come as Mexico prepares for a contentious presidential campaign. The ruling Institutional Revolutionary party has been bogged down by corruption scandals and the sedate style of its proposed candidate…

Anaya, a former congressman with the right-leaning National Action party, has placed second in most polls…

Cisen has a history of targeting political opponents. “What we were usually subject to were these strategic leaks of recorded conversations that put the person in a bad light,” said Federico Estévez, political science professor at the Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico.

The interior minister, Alfonso Navarrete, rejected the allegations, saying Cisen personnel were simply “following public activities and events occurring in the country”.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Referendum or revolution

It's difficult for outsiders to know the reality of Iranian politics. But here are some hints.

Iranian intellectuals call for referendum amid political unrest
A group of prominent Iranian intellectuals have said they have lost hope that the Islamic Republic can reform, and have called for a referendum to establish whether the ruling establishment is still backed by a majority.

A day after Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, touted the idea of holding a referendum as a means to heal Iran’s deepening political divisions, 15 figures – including some based in Iran – said leaders had failed to deliver on republican ideals…

Rouhani did not elaborate on what he was proposing to put to a vote, but he has sounded increasingly frustrated about the political stalemate…

Meanwhile, the Iranian currency has taken another dive against the dollar in recent days, adding to fears about the state of the economy.

Speaking last week, Rouhani expressed concern about what he said was the unwillingness of his hardline opponents to listen to the voices of ordinary people, particularly after a wave of unrest that began in late December.

“The previous regime, which thought that its rule would be lifelong and its monarchy eternal, lost everything because it did not listen to the voices of criticism, advice, reformers, the clergy, elders and intellectuals,” he said, referring to the late shah’s rule. “The previous regime did not listen to the voice of people’s protests and only listened to one voice, and that was the people’s revolution. For a government that only wants to hear the sound of revolution, it will be too late.”

The activists’ letter… criticises the conservative-dominated judiciary, which acts independently of Rouhani’s government. “The judiciary is reduced to the executor of the political wishes of those who hold the reins of power…

Saeed Barzin, a London-based Iranian analyst, said Rouhani’s call for a referendum was a threat to push back the economic and political meddling of an unelected faction dominated by hardliners, in particular the Revolutionary Guards.

“The undercurrent issue is how the power will be distributed after Khamenei, and in a way the power struggle has already begun,” Barzin said. “Reformists feel under threat that the current situation might lead to people losing hope in reform or becoming radical or becoming apolitical. Hardliners, on the other side, might see an opportunity here to scapegoat Rouhani and even conduct a soft coup d’état, but it’s a gamble.”…

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Monday, February 19, 2018

My snake ate it

At times the claims of Nigerian spammers who want help claiming millions of dollars in strange bank accounts are bizarre. What are we to make of the claims of a government official who claimed that a snake ate millions of Naira inside a safe.

JAMB Reacts to 'Money-Swallowing Snake' Report
The Joint Admission and Matriculation Board, JAMB, has reacted to a bizarre report trending of a snake swallowing N36 million from the vault of one of its state branches.

The board said the case was that of pure criminality and fraud on the part of one of its staff…

According to a report in Sun news online, a mystery snake was said to have sneaked into the accounts office of the Board in Makurdi and 'stolen' N36 million cash…

"A sales clerk, Philomina Chieshe, told JAMB registrar and his team that she could not account for N36 million… In the course of interrogation, Philomena denied the allegations that she stole the money but confessed that her housemaid connived with another JAMB staff… to "spiritually" (through a snake) steal the money from the vault in the account office", the report said…

The spokesperson of the board, Fabian Benjamin said… investigation was ongoing to determine the kind of punishment that will be given to the suspect(s) involved.

"There are procedures in the civil service so the whole thing is still under investigation. She was queried, she appeared before disciplinary committee, although she confessed that money was missing and a snake swallowed it….

"Of course, the management did not believe the story. She is just trying to put an excuse forward. These are things the registrar is trying to unravel to put the board on the right footing…

Apparently reacting to the bizarre report, the anti graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on its official twitter page @officialEFCC jocularly said: "an eagle(EFCC) shows no mercy for money-swallowing snake(s)."…

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Friday, February 16, 2018

Serve the people

In 1944, Mao Zedong gave a speech which became famous as a guide for "good" Communists in China. It became known as "Serve the People." President Xi echoed that famous phrase recently. Maybe he's trying to collect enough aphorisms to fill his own Little Red Book. There's a video with subtitles attached to the original Xinhua article.

"My job is to serve the people," Xi tells villagers
"My job is to serve the people," President Xi Jinping told local villagers in suburban Chengdu, capital of southwest China's Sichuan Province, on Monday.

Xi in Chengdu
Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, made the remarks when a senior resident of the Zhanqi Village said with excitement, "You are our good leader and the lucky star of the Chinese people!"

"Thank you. I am a servant of the public. My job is to serve the people," the president replied.

Xi was in the village to see their achievement in using the Internet to help sell local products. An elderly woman wanted to give a pair of her hand-made shoes to Xi as a gift, but the president smiled and insisted on paying for them…

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Thursday, February 15, 2018

Capitalism with Chinese characteristics

Forty years ago, the people in this audience would have been arrested and sentenced to reeducation camps. Now, they're being urged to do the patriotic thing: make money.

China unwavering to support private sector: vice premier
China remains unwavering in its support of the private sector and will create favorable conditions for its development, Vice Premier Wang Yang said.

Governments will continue to improve the business environment, maintain stable policy expectations, and protect the rights and interests of private companies, Wang told entrepreneurs Friday at a meeting held to solicit their opinion.

The private sector has witnessed a boom since reform and opening up began 40 years ago and has become an important part of the economy. At the end of 2017, there were 65.8 million individually owned businesses and 27.3 million private enterprises, which employed 341 million people…
Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang meets businessmen
Wang said he hoped private sector would improve risk control, help create jobs and improve incomes in poor areas, and develop an energy-saving and environmentally friendly industrial structure.

Wang is a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Child(ren) per family

In the 1960s, China's poverty and birth rate were a combination for disaster. The country already had three times as many people as the USA, but only half as much farmland. Thus, the one child per family policy. Today, growing wealth and an aging population have set the stage for a need for more people. It's a planner's nightmare.

China is in a muddle over population policy
WHEN Li Dongxia was a baby, her parents sent her to be raised by her grandparents and other family members half an hour from their home… That was not a choice but a necessity: they already had a daughter, and risked incurring a fine or losing their jobs for breaking a law that prevented many couples from having more than one child. Hidden away… and at first kept in the dark herself, Ms Li says she was just starting primary school when she found out that the kindly aunt and uncle who often visited were in fact her biological parents...

The era that produced her unconventional childhood feels like a long time ago. The policy responsible for it is gone, swapped in late 2015 for a looser regulation that permits all families to have two kids. These days the worry among policymakers is not that babies are too numerous, but that Chinese born in the 1980s and 1990s are procreating too little…

[W]omen still have less than two children on average, meaning that the population will soon begin to decline. The government predicts it will peak at a little over 1.4bn in 2030… The working-age population, defined as those between 16 and 59 years old, has been falling since 2012… An ageing population will strain the social-security system and constrict the labour market. James Liang of Peking University argues that having an older workforce could also end up making Chinese firms less innovative…

Unwinding the one-child policy was supposed to help. But figures released in January confirm that after briefly boosting birth rates, its effect is petering out…

The reason is that as China grows wealthier… the population’s desire for larger families has waned. Would-be parents frequently tell pollsters that they balk at the cost of raising children. As well as fretting about rising house prices and limited day care, many young couples know that they may eventually have to find money to support all four of their parents in old age…

One big concern is that officials may end up trying to nudge busy and ambitious women into accepting more domestic roles. Leta Hong Fincher, an author and academic, argues that state media have helped popularise the concept of “leftover women”—a pejorative term for unmarried females in their mid-20s and later—in an effort to panic educated, urban Chinese into settling down sooner than they otherwise would. She thinks such propaganda is growing more aggressive. If that is indeed the kind of solution that is gestating within the bureaucracy, the hoped-for baby boom will be stillborn.

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