Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Militarization of law enforcement

Presidents of Mexico have long tried to improve law enforcement by enlarging the role of the military in civil policing. The assumption was that military officers are less likely to be corrupt than police. But, are soldiers trained to act like police?

As Mexico debates giving the military more power, a judge asks why soldiers gunned down 22 people
As Mexican lawmakers debate expanding the role of the military in the country’s drug war, a judge has ordered a new probe into whether army commanders ordered soldiers to shoot 22 people in a 2014 incident described by human rights advocates as an extrajudicial massacre.

The federal judge, whose July 31 ruling became public this week, said the federal attorney general’s office failed to fully investigate a military order issued before the killing that instructed soldiers to “shoot down criminals in hours of darkness.”…

The judge said the attorney general's office has failed to diligently conduct an “investigation into the facts or the orders issued to military elements through the chain of command.”

In a statement, the human rights organization Centro Prodh said the ruling highlighted the ineffectiveness of Mexico’s justice system.

“The impunity… shows the structural flaws in the administration of justice in Mexico, especially when public servants are involved,” the statement said. It urged Mexico’s members of congress to vote against proposed legislation, called the Law on Internal Security, that seeks to expand the military’s presence in public security.

For a decade now, tens of thousands of Mexican soldiers and naval officers have been embedded in local communities as part of the government’s strategy to fight drug cartels, in part because military officers tend to be regarded as less corrupt than local and state police forces, some of whom collaborate with the cartels.

Human rights advocates say that instead of solidifying the presence of the armed forces in Mexican communities, lawmakers should instead focus on initiatives to strengthen and professionalize Mexico’s civilian police forces…

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Monday, August 21, 2017

Few words, no details

Nigeria's president is back, but still unwilling to share details of his absence.

President Buhari in plea for Nigerian unity
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has addressed the nation following three months of medical leave in the UK.

In a televised speech, Mr Buhari, 74, said he was "distressed" by calls for the dissolution of Nigeria, urging Nigerians to come together.

But the president failed to disclose his illness. It was his second spell of medical leave this year…

Speaking two days after his return, Mr Buhari said that comments around the dissolution of Nigeria had "crossed national red lines".

"Nigeria's unity is settled and not negotiable," he said. "We shall not allow irresponsible elements to start trouble."…

Commentary by Stephanie Hegarty, BBC News, Lagos

Nigerians were hoping to find out just what's wrong with the president - to get some clarity on the mystery illness that had him absent from his job.

But it seems the presidency intends to keep Mr Buhari's condition a secret.

They may have trouble convincing the public to believe the line they've been touting for months that the president is "hale and hearty". He was visibly thin and frail as he greeted politicians on Saturday.

He has made some sort of recovery - in his last public appearance before he left in May… he was barely able to stand…

His main opponents in Nigeria's 2015 election had claimed he had prostate cancer - which he denied.

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Sunday, August 20, 2017

Buhari returns again

The absent president is back on Nigerian soil.

Buhari Back in Nigeria After More Than 100 Days in London
Nigeria's president Muhammadu Buhari has returned to the country after more than 100 days in the United Kingdom, where he received treatment for an undisclosed ailment.

Buhari at Abuja airport
The presidential jet that brought him touched down at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja, where he was received by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, some state governors, police boss Ibrahim Idris and his chief of staff Abba Kyari…

The president is expected to speak to "Nigerians in a broadcast by 7 am on Monday, August 21, 2017," his media adviser Femi Adesina said in a statement on Saturday…

His absence in Nigeria since May 7 has birthed rounds of protests and calls for him to resign. But much like his aides, Buhari has consistently said he would only return to Nigeria on the instruction of his doctors.

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Friday, August 18, 2017

Looking for legitimate links

If government officials are so worried about China's anti-corruption drive that they won't accept bribes, what's a company that wants permits and information to do? See "Guanxi: The Chinese Cultural Concept."

Business losing out as Chinese officials strive to appear squeaky clean
Beijing is apparently starting to worry about an unintended side effect of its sweeping crackdown on graft – officials are giving the business community a wide berth.

A Communist Party journal even warned this week that when bureaucrats stay away from business because they don’t want to be targeted in the campaign, the result is just as damaging as corruption.

“[This attitude] has cast a shadow over normal government-business relations,” according to a commentary in the latest issue of Qiushi, or Seeking Truth...

Chinese President Xi Jinping launched a high-profile anti-corruption drive and introduced frugality measures for officials in late 2012.

Since then, the business community has complained that it has become difficult to communicate with government officials, who can now be punished for accepting gifts or attending lavish banquets…

Zhuang Deshui, deputy director of Peking University’s Clean Government Centre, said some bureaucrats were now simply unwilling to take the risk of interacting with businesspeople.

“But this means they are, to some extent, failing to meet the country’s needs when it comes to economic development,” Zhuang said…

He said this was not an ideal situation, since it was important for civil servants to have contact with the business sector so they could keep track of trends and issues.

“Without these communication channels, it’s hard for officials to address problems in the sector and it’s also hard for businesspeople to keep on top of the latest policies,” Cheung said. “There needs to be a balance so that officials can keep these channels open.”…

Still, some small business owners are happy that they no longer have to shell out for banquets. Ge Guoqiang, who owns a textile company in Zhejiang province, said the anti-corruption campaign had saved him more than 200,000 yuan (US$30,000) a year in entertaining local cadres…

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Do new laws equal rule of law?

Here are some of the Communist Party of China's announcements about "advancing the rule of law." (from Xinhua) Do the things bragged about really advance the rule of law?

Please note that actions of the CPC Central Committee as well as the National People's Congress are highlighted as advances in the rule of law.

China's comprehensive moves in advancing rule of law
The 12th National People's Congress (NPC)and its standing committee have formulated 20 laws and passed 39 decisions to revise 100 laws as of the end of June, data from the NPC showed.

These are part of the achievements China has made to comprehensively advance the rule of law…

In 2014, the central leadership decided to compile the General Provisions of the Civil Law -- a crucial first step in developing the civil code.

The law, a key move in building China into a moderately prosperous society by 2020, aims to regulate civil activities and modernize state governance…

In November 2016, the NPC Standing Committee issued the Interpretation of the Basic Law of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) in response to disagreements on the provisions of the Basic Law in Hong Kong, which had affected the implementation of the Basic Law and the "one country, two systems" principle…

Moreover, the Air Pollution Prevention and Control Law was revised in 2015, adding a new chapter on dealing with smoggy days and stipulating the establishment of a monitoring and early warning system for heavily polluted days.

The system of reeducation through labor was abolished in 2013, showing improvements and progress in judicial protection of human rights…

As wrongful convictions are a disgrace to justice, China's judicial authorities have pledged to learn from past lessons and prevent such cases.

To improve judicial justice and credibility, measures for letting judges assume lifelong responsibility for cases they handle and holding them accountable for any miscarriage of justice were outlined at the Fourth Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee.

These measures require officials to shoulder more responsibility, preventing them from making wrong judgements.

In the past five years, the CPC Central Committee has formulated or revised nearly 80 Party regulations, accounting for more than 40 percent of existing regulations.

The key to strict Party governance relies on a "key few" officials, referring to leading officials at the central, provincial and local levels…

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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A blinding example of civic culture

Daniel Knowles, The Economist's Africa correspondent offers this reflection on the importance of trust in civic culture.

A blinding lack of trust
Driving at night is difficult everywhere in the world… In Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, however, being on the roads as night feels more than just testing; it feels positively dangerous…

[H]alf of the time you cannot see the road ahead of you, because of the blinding dazzle of oncoming cars, all driving with their headlights, foglights and any other lights they might have proudly on full beam. How does any reasonable driver react to this situation? Well if the reasonable driver is anything like me, he puts his headlights on full too…
Given that everyone else is behaving badly, you’re an idiot not to. Yet if everybody could resist the urge to behave selfishly, everybody would be better off. Hence the full-beam headlights. If most Kenyan drivers dipped their lights, everybody would be able to see. But nobody does it because nobody else does…

Nobody likes paying taxes, but it feels lot more of an imposition when you know that people far richer than you aren’t bothering. So too if you’re a politician and everybody else is stealing from the national treasury: you’re an idiot if you don’t get your share. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, they even have a name for this behaviour… Article 15, a mythical part of the constitution which reads simply, “fend for yourself”.

In Britain, you trust that most people will follow the informal social laws that make society work – such as forming an orderly queue at the post office. And when everyone else is following the rules, you feel ashamed not to – not least because of social pressure…

In many African countries, it is the opposite. Pollsters show that people in Kenya have some of the lowest levels of trust in the world. According to one poll by Pew, just 25% of people agreed with the statement “most people in society are trustworthy”; in Sweden, the figure was 78%. And so the rules that make society work break down. Politicians who steal are not chastised but reelected... Shame comes from failing to get the most out of the system, instead of from being a functional part of it. And everyone is worse off – not least drivers, blinded by cars coming in the opposite direction.

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Monday, August 14, 2017

Some things don't add up

Let's see. 146 motorcycles impounded and 21 people arrested. We will now entertain your hypothesis about why the other 125 people were not arrested.

Lagos Task Force Impounds 146 Motorcycles
From The Guardian, Lagos

Operatives of the Lagos State task force yesterday impounded 146 motorcycles and arrested 21 riders at the Second Rainbow area of Mile 2.
Impounded motorcycles

Confirming the incident, chairman of the agency, Olayinka Egbeyemi, said the enforcement was carried out based on series of complaints to his office by members of the public…

He said activities of the motorcycle riders were on the increase as they terrorize members of the public both day and night by dispossessing them of their valuables such as phones, jewelries and bags…

Magistrate Lateef Owolabi of the Lagos State Mobile Court sitting at Oshodi on the same day forfeited the impounded 146 motorcycles to government and subsequently sentenced the 21 arrested riders to two weeks imprisonment with N5,000 as an option of fine to jail term.

Prosecuting counsel, Adedoyin Odukoya, disclosed that the 21 arrested riders were convicted after they all pleaded ‘guilty’ to the two-count charge levied against them.

He added that the charges are driving/riding motorcycles on restricted routes contrary to Scheduled (1) item (22) of the Lagos State Road Traffic Laws of 2012 and ‘Conducts likely to cause Breach of Peace’ contrary to Section 166 Sub. (1) (d) of Lagos State Criminal Laws of 2011.

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed. Use the search box to look for country names or concept labels attached to each entry.

Just The Facts! 2nd edition is a concise guide to concepts, terminology, and examples that will appear on May's exam.


Just The Facts! is available. Order HERE.

Amazon's customers gave this book a 5-star rating.