Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Empress Dowager Cixi, Soong Mei-ling, Jiang Qing, and now…

As Andrew Jacobs points out in his New York Times report, women close to political power in China have often been cast in roles that are complex and dangerous. And, most of them have been seen as operating behind the scenes. (We ought to expect that given the near absence of women in the top ranks of the Communist Party.)

Charge for Wife of Chinese Ex-Leader Suggests Old Tactic
Gu Kailai
In a nation that prefers the wives of political leaders to be bland adornments, Gu Kailai was positively fluorescent. Married to Bo Xilai, the Politburo member whose downfall earlier this year is still shaking the Communist Party, she reveled in her brash, ambitious ways…

But in formally charging her… with the poisoning death late last year of a British businessman, the Chinese government, almost certainly intentionally, has placed the larger-than-life Ms. Gu into a familiar Chinese framework: the conniving, bloodthirsty vixen whose hunger for money derailed her husband’s promising career.

[M]any wonder if party leaders are using her case to deflect public disgust over the kind of corruption and abuse of power that critics say was embodied by her husband. Mr. Bo, who was suspended last April from the Politburo and has not been heard from since, has so far remained in a parallel justice system reserved for the party elite. His fate was not mentioned in the brief statement announcing his wife’s trial.

“Throughout Chinese history, whenever there’s a political struggle, whenever someone has to fall, they blame the wife,” said Hung Huang, the publisher of a fashion magazine whose own mother, Mao Zedong’s former English tutor, spent two years under house arrest after she was accused of collaborating with the Gang of Four.

Chinese history is sprinkled with tales of cunning women whose outsize ambitions led them — and sometimes the men in their lives — to ruination. Jiang Qing, Mao’s wife, took much of the blame for the calamitous decade of the Cultural Revolution, a point driven home in a televised show trial that electrified the nation. And Chinese schoolchildren can readily recite the crimes of Empress Dowager Cixi, who is portrayed as a rapacious, homicidal leader whose machinations helped topple the Qing dynasty…

Bo Xilai
Susan L. Shirk, an expert on Chinese politics, said party officials might be reluctant to accuse Mr. Bo of participating in a cover-up of the murder, given his popularity among some ordinary Chinese and with an influential faction of the leadership.

“They have to handle this in a way that protects Bo Xilai’s reputation,” said Ms. Shirk, a former State Department official who teaches at the University of California, San Diego. “They don’t want all the dirty laundry of elite politics to be aired because they really don’t know the potential threat posed by Bo’s followers.”

Like her husband, Ms. Gu is the offspring of a revolutionary hero, and like many “princelings” she experienced her share of hardship during the Cultural Revolution. Forced to fend for herself after her family was imprisoned, she worked for a time as a butcher and a bricklayer, according to accounts in the state news media. In the late 1970s, though, she was among the first batch of students to be admitted to college after the death of Mao...

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

The First Edition of What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools is now available from the publisher

The Fourth Edition of What You Need to Know is available from the publisher (where shipping is always FREE).

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, July 30, 2012

Undemocratization in Russia

Editors at The Economist interpret recent actions by the Russian Duma as steps toward reestablishing a non-democratic regime.

If you can’t suppress them, squeeze them
In a flurry of hurried voting, the country’s parliament passed a series of laws—on NGOs, defamation, and the internet—meant to stiffen spines inside the regime and scare off and splinter those who are most actively opposed to it.

Duma debating Internet restrictions
Despite signs of resistance from parties once deemed loyal to the Kremlin, the Duma is still under the control of the firmly pro-Kremlin United Russia party… Mr Putin loth to see Russia become a Belarus-style pariah overnight, the Kremlin decided that, “If you can’t suppress them, squeeze them,” says Boris Makarenko of Centre for Political Technologies, a think-tank.

The legislative offensive began last month, with a law raising fines on those who attend unsanctioned demonstrations…Then came last week’s three new bills. The first would force NGOs that receive funding from abroad to submit to more rigorous financial checks and publicly declare themselves to be “foreign agents”, a term designed to discredit their work; the second would recriminalise libel… the third would create a “blacklist” of websites to be blocked, ostensibly so as to protect children from illegal or harmful content, but relying on technology that could be used against any online material the state decides to ban.

In what has become a habit, Duma deputies point abroad to justify the new laws and procedures, comparing them to America’s Foreign Agents Registration Act… Meanwhile one of the authors of the internet bill, Elena Mizulina, insists the legislation is meant only to protect children and families, and cannot be abused for political purposes.

What ultimately lies behind the Duma’s new laws is a mixture of nervousness about a political environment that is wholly unfamiliar, and a belief in the tough methods of Mr Putin’s previous stints as president. It is not certain they will be as effective as in the past…

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

The First Edition of What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools is now available from the publisher

The Fourth Edition of What You Need to Know is available from the publisher (where shipping is always FREE).

Labels: , , , , ,

Friday, July 27, 2012

Behind the scenes

As if there weren't enough things to learn about in a Constitution and established procedures, then students have to understand the informal methods of governance and politics. And they have to understand that "informal" doesn't mean casual or flexible. It means, in this case, things that are not included in the official rule of law -- like guanxi.

These informal bits include everything from the "rules" of behavior in the House of Commons or how the leadership of China's Communist Party is actually determined.

Are informal politics more important in democratic regimes, regimes that want to be seen as democratic, or non-democratic regimes? (Oh, that sounds like a rough draft of an FRQ.)

China’s Communist Elders Take Backroom Intrigue Beachside
Communist Party elders and their families are congregating [in Beidaihe] about 180 miles east of Beijing, to swim and dine and gossip — and to shape the future of the world’s most populous nation.

It is palace intrigue by the sea. In their guarded villas, current and past leaders will negotiate to try to place allies in the 25-member Politburo and its elite Standing Committee, at the top of the party hierarchy. The selections will be announced at the 18th Party Congress this fall in Beijing, heralding what is expected to be only the second orderly leadership transition in more than 60 years of Communist rule.

“This is where the factional struggles are settled and the decisions are made,” said one resident, surnamed Li, who, like others interviewed for this article, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the delicate nature of Chinese politics. “At the meetings in the fall, everyone just raises their hands.”

Beidaihe is a Chinese combination of the Jersey Shore and Martha’s Vineyard, with a pinch of red fervor:… the party elites remain hidden in their villas and on their private patches of sand…

The informal talks are expected to start late this month and run into August.. In any case, politicking is inevitable when party elders show up to escape the stifling heat and pollution of Beijing…

Mao at a Beidaihe beach
Mao… convened formal conclaves here. His successor, Deng Xiaoping, made the meetings into annual events (he also took swims, supposedly to counter rumors of his ailing health)…

There are plots and counterplots… Negotiations here will be complicated by the continuing scandal over Bo Xilai, the deposed Politburo member who was most recently party chief of Chongqing…

During the negotiations, each current Standing Committee member should, at least in theory, have considerable say in determining the successor to his particular post. But party elders behind the scenes sometimes wield more authority. Mr. Jiang, though retired and ailing last year, may carry the greatest weight next to that of Mr. Hu. The heir apparent, Vice President Xi Jinping, also plays a role.

“Consensus among these three — the former, current and incoming leaders — is extremely important,” said Zhang Xiaojin, a political scientist at Tsinghua University in Beijing….

Those debates are remote from the lives of most people in Beidaihe. Yet talk of politics flows loosely here. At a beach reserved for local officials, next to an almost-deserted patch of sand blocked off for party leaders, a retired official in swim trunks pointed to the villas across the road. He said the children of party leaders had made off with too much money through corrupt practices in state industries…

“What are they good for?” the retired official asked. “What did they inherit from their fathers? They should have inherited the solidarity of the revolution.”

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

The First Edition of What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools is now available from the publisher

The Fourth Edition of What You Need to Know is available from the publisher (where shipping is always FREE).

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Maintaining male dominance

Every year about this time, the temperatures in Tehran rise, and the morality police make extra efforts to enforce what they see as an Islamic dress code. Once in a great while, a man will be cited for an "improper" hair style, but nearly all of the efforts are directed at women. (And every year, Western media cover the story.)

And the political effects? Or the effects on civil society and rule of law?

Struggle over what to wear in Iran
Morality police confront shoppers
An annual test of wills between Iran’s morality police and women who dress in ways that are deemed unacceptable has begun in cities across the Islamic republic.

But this year, the stakes are unusually high. As Iranian leaders attempt to deflect the public’s attention away from economic woes spurred by crushing foreign sanctions, they risk alienating large segments of a society that is already deeply divided…

While the laws regarding proper cover haven’t changed, some women have grown bolder in interpreting the limits of what they can wear, creating a conflict that inevitably flares each summer as the temperatures climb.

The government’s offensive this year has been marked by the stationing of mixed-gender teams of morality police in Tehran’s main squares.

Already this summer, 53 coffee shops and 87 restaurants have been closed in Tehran for… gender-related offenses.

Such aggressive enforcement and stiff penalties have spawned resentment.

“I felt disrespected and insulted,” said 30-year-old Sahar, who was arrested for wearing sleeves that only went to her forearms…

Tehran police chief Ahmad- Reza Radan this month called support for improper hijab “part of the enemy’s soft war against us.”…

Finding urban Iranians who actually support the program to enforce hijab is increasingly difficult. Even many women who dress conservatively find the patrols distasteful…

Daring Tehran outfits
Mostafa, a 46-year-old marketing consultant, described how his 16-year-old daughter was arrested in a crowded shopping mall. “They coaxed her into the police van and told her they just wanted to talk to her,” he explained. “Once she was in the van the whole atmosphere changed and they said things that made her cry.”

After a brief time in custody, his daughter, Banafshe, was released. “Do you know what her response was to the whole episode?” he asked. “She said, ‘Dad, as soon as I finish high school I’m leaving this country forever.’”

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

The First Edition of What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools is now available from the publisher

The Fourth Edition of What You Need to Know is available from the publisher (where shipping is always FREE).

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Infrastructure building

Projects like this have been approved in the past and huge sums have been spent, but projects are not always completed. This project began in 2006, but ran out of money. Where did the money go? Lots of Nigerians would like to know. Watch for results in 2015.

Nigeria Signs U.S.$1.49 Billion Railway Deal With China
The Federal Government yesterday said it had signed a $1.49 billion contract with China Civil Engineering Construction Company (CCECC) to build a railway between Lagos and Ibadan.


The contract has a completion period of 36 months.

Briefing State House correspondents… Information Minister Labaran Maku said… "when completed, [the railroad line] would generate employment for about 5000 Nigerians. Work on the project commenced in 2006 but could not be completed because of lack of funds."…

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

The First Edition of What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools is now available from the publisher

The Fourth Edition of What You Need to Know is available from the publisher (where shipping is always FREE).

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Spend the money, now

Muhammed Bello and Onwuka Nzeshi, writing in This Day (Lagos), explain why some members of the Nigerian House of Representatives have threatened to impeach President Jonathan because his government is not spending enough money. What explains the legislators' impatience?

House Threatens to Impeach Jonathan over Budget Execution
There was uproar in the House of Representatives Thursday as lawmakers reviewed the implementation of this year’s budget, which the National Assembly passed on March 15.

President Goodluck Jonathan
The lawmakers… criticised the executive for the alleged poor and selective implementation of the budget [and] gave President Goodluck Jonathan up until September… to ensure effective implementation of the budget or face impeachment.

The House… alleged that while the economy had recorded consistent inflow of revenue even above the projections in the budget, the government had starved Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs) of funds thereby stalling the execution of various projects nationwide.

Statistics indicate that the budget has attained only 35 per cent implementation mark as at the end of June.

The debate… got to its climax when the Minority Leader, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila… called for serious sanction against the president.

“Mr. Speaker, if these constituency projects are not executed at the end of the day who suffers? I do not suffer, you do not suffer, the executive does not suffer; it is the people who put us here that suffer.

“They suffer lack of infrastructure, unemployment; they suffer what they should ordinarily have in abundance.

“I like my president but I like my people and country more. Come September, if the budget is not implemented 100 per cent, we will begin to draw up articles of impeachment against Mr. President,” he added.

His submission elicited wild applause from across the chamber, an indication that it was a position acceptable to the majority of the legislators…

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

The First Edition of What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools is now available from the publisher

The Fourth Edition of What You Need to Know is available from the publisher (where shipping is always FREE).

Labels: , , ,

Monday, July 23, 2012

New generation for reform as well

Several recent reports from China have emphasized how the power and wealth of several generations of an entrenched elite are putting a lid on political change in China.

Now, Michael Wines, writing in the New York Times, offers a glimpse of a reformist branch of that entrenched elite.

This should not be surprising since the political battles in China (within the Communist Party, of course) since 1949 have been waged between factions with differing ideas about how to create China's future. Even during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, there were factions within the Party fighting for control of the Party and the country.

As China Talks of Change, Fear Rises on the Risks
A heavyweight crowd gathered last October for a banquet in Beijing’s tallest skyscraper. The son of Mao Zedong’s immediate successor was there, as was the daughter of the country’s No. 2 military official for nearly three decades, along with the half sister of China’s president-in-waiting, and many more…

Most surprising, though, was the reason for the meeting. A small coterie of children of China’s founding elites who favor deeper political and economic change had come to debate the need for a new direction under the next generation of Communist Party leaders… Many had met the previous August, and would meet again in February.

The private gatherings are a telling indicator of how even some in the elite are worried about the course the Communist Party is charting for China’s future. And to advocates of political change, they offer hope that influential party members support the idea that tomorrow’s China should give citizens more power to choose their leaders and seek redress for grievances, two longtime complaints about the current system.

But the problem is that even as the tiny band of political reformers is attracting more influential adherents, it is splintered into factions that cannot agree on what “reform” would be, much less how to achieve it. The fundamental shifts that are crucial to their demands — a legal system beyond Communist Party control as well as elections with real rules and real choices among candidates — are seen even among the most radical as distant dreams, at best part of a second phase of reform.

Bo Xilai
In addition, the political winds are not blowing in their favor. The spectacular fall this spring of Bo Xilai, the Politburo member who openly espoused a populist philosophy at odds with elite leaders, offered an object lesson in the dangers of challenging the status quo…

Zhang Lifan
“Compare now to 1989; in ’89, the reformers had the upper hand,” said Zhang Lifan, a historian formerly associated with the government’s Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, referring to the pro-democracy student protests that enjoyed the support of a number of important party leaders but were crushed in Tiananmen Square. “Twenty years later, the reformers have grown weaker. Now there are so many vested interests that they’ll be taken out if they touch anyone else’s interests.”…

“Neither the rulers nor the ruled are happy with the current situation,” said Mr. Zhang, the historian. “The prevailing belief is that change is coming soon, but the question is how. Change is either going to come from the top leadership, or from the grass-roots level.”…

If peaceful change is to occur, Zhou Zhixing, a media executive and former official at a Communist Party research organization, and many others say, it must begin inside the Communist Party; the lesson of Tiananmen Square is that the leadership will not tolerate threats to its control. Many speak of a transformation along the lines of that in Taiwan, where authoritarian rulers peacefully gave way to direct elections in 1996, and helped spawn today’s robust democracy…

Populists want to remake the party to reflect Mao’s early vision, redistributing billions in government riches to the people… But Mao-style populism is disdained by most current leaders…

A second Communist camp wants to open the party to internal competition, abandoning the leadership’s facade of unity and letting rival factions take their ideas to the wider party for approval. Over the long run, they say, transparency will spawn competing parties under a Communist umbrella — a sort of one-party democracy. But in a China where stability is the leadership’s obsessive concern, the notion of baring divisions at the pinnacle of power seems almost farcical…

But the sheer scope of the discord leads some who call for change to wonder whether they are less a movement than a debating society — intellectuals trading theories over plates of noodles in their apartments, the second red generation trading theories over lavish hotel banquets.

“Mao used to say that ‘revolution is not a dinner party,’ ” Mr. Yang, the editor at Yanhuang Chunqiu, said sardonically. “But right now, revolution is precisely a dinner party.”

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

The First Edition of What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools is now available from the publisher

The Fourth Edition of What You Need to Know is available from the publisher (where shipping is always FREE).

Labels: , , ,

Friday, July 20, 2012

Death of the welfare state?

The austerity advocates claim that public spending is the cause of all things awful in European economies. Evidence?

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/07/the-myth-that-entitlements-destroy-a-nations-growth-busted-in-1-chart/259645/
The euro crisis is supposed to be the death knell of cradle-to-the-grave government. But the reality is the only thing the euro crisis might be the death knell of is the euro. None of Europe's biggest welfare states are in trouble.

Let's look at some data. The chart below compares average social spending with adjusted per capita GDP growth since 2000 on the vertical axis. (Note: The y-axis shows social spending as a percentage of GDP; the x-axis shows percentage growth. Data is from the OECD and IMF). See if you can make out any kind of discernible relationship here.

(click on chart for larger view)


I know this picture is worth 1,000 words, but here are four more. There is no pattern…

You don't need to sacrifice economic security for economic growth. Other countries manage both just fine. Actually, the U.S. is in better shape than most other rich countries because our demographic crunch is much less ... crunchy? Our society is still growing, if aging…


Thanks to Eric Black writing in Eric Black Ink at MinnPost for posting The Swedish problem of conservative orthodoxy .

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

The First Edition of What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools is now available from the publisher

The Fourth Edition of What You Need to Know is available from the publisher (where shipping is always FREE).

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Privatization proceeds

Privatization in China, it seems, goes beyond allowing private companies to do business. How about private charities to offer some social services.

Development of non-public medical institutions stressed
China's Ministry of Health on Wednesday urged local authorities to do more to help the development of non-public medical institutions.

By 2015, non-public medical institutions are supposed to be capable of providing 20 percent of all hospital beds as well as 20 percent of health services, according to a circular published on the ministry's website.

Local governments should coordinate public and private medical units, while guaranteeing these developments are in the public interest, said the circular.

Overseas investors and social forces such as capable enterprises, charities and insurance companies are encouraged to set up medical institutions, it added.

It also encourages qualified personnel to run private clinics in accordance with the law.

These social forces will be guided to build rehabilitation hospitals, nursing homes and medical units concerning geriatric and chronic disease treatment…

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

The First Edition of What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools is now available from the publisher

The Fourth Edition of What You Need to Know is available from the publisher (where shipping is always FREE).

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

If a tree falls in the forest...

If a protest takes place in Russia outside of Moscow and there's no reporter there to see it, is it visible?

 Journalists, like tourists, tend to stay in the biggest cities and on the main roads. That's one reason those of us who depend on news media lack some perspectives. Kathy Lally, writing for the Washington Post, got outside of Moscow and tries to explain why political dissent and protest are less common in the hinterlands.

Far from Moscow, protest is a lonely pursuit
The protest movement that erupted so vigorously in Moscow and St. Petersburg over the winter has had difficulty taking hold in provincial cities such as Ulyanovsk, where the constraints of daily life make dissent a dangerous and lonely affair.

People have plenty to protest here [Ulyanovsk, a Detroit-like city, with a faltering auto industry… and a once-thriving aviation industry that has been overwhelmed by competition.] — the steady decline of manufacturing and loss of jobs, low pay, lack of political freedom — but most grumble quietly at home. Few risk gathering in a square to demonstrate their discontent. The politically aroused who can afford it travel to Moscow to join major rallies.

Unlike in international Moscow, demonstrators here are more susceptible to reprisals because greater majorities work for government-dependent agencies…

Still, the politically aware say change is inevitable, even if very slow in coming across the vast expanse of Russia and its nine time zones…

Alexander Kruglikov, a long-time Communist, said the authorities are making a big mistake in suppressing dissent. “I have to say that the Soviet Union fell apart because there was no real opposition in the country,” he said with a wry smile. “No one was listening to individual voices.”…

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

The First Edition of What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools is now available from the publisher

The Fourth Edition of What You Need to Know is available from the publisher (where shipping is always FREE).

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Party lists can lead to this

In proportional elections, voters choose parties and parties choose candidates. Tracy Wilkinson, reporting in the Los Angeles Times, suggests that this process in Mexico leads to power for parties' elites, not representatives of the voters.

Thirty-two Senators (out of 128) and 200 deputies (out of 500) are elected to the Mexican Congress by proportional elections. The reporter implies that all legislators are elected this way, so we have to ask how well this reporter understands the Mexican electoral system. Nonetheless, the main point still seems valid: non-representative power brokers are in Congress because of the proportional elections.

The reporter also states that these people "were quietly elected to Congress in last week's vote without lifting a finger to campaign… " In fact, their campaigns were not public, but took place within the political party that chose them for Congressional seats.

Controversial figures voted into Mexico Congress
They are a handful of influential politicians, super-rich union leaders, their relatives and others who were quietly elected to Congress in last week's vote without lifting a finger to campaign…

Mexicans choose their federal senators and representatives by voting for a party and its slate of candidates, not for an individual person. Names of most candidates appear on the ballot. However, there is an elite group of candidates to whom the party leadership promises seats, whose names do not appear on the ballot…

For the parties, these candidates are useful because they inject a lot of money, in some cases, or their bids for office are a way to pay back favors. But they are individuals who have been wrapped up in controversies that might otherwise make their participation a liability…

Final results from the vote, which also elected the next president, Enrique Peña Nieto, made it possible to see who some of these questionable senators and representatives will be. They include:
  • Carlos Romero Deschamps, the super-powerful, very rich head of the union for workers in the gigantic state oil company Pemex
  • the daughter and grandson of Elba Esther Gordillo, the much-criticized "president for life" of the equally powerful teachers union
  • several people closely tied to the giant television broadcaster Televisa, which holds a virtual monopoly in Mexico and has been vigorously criticized for favorable coverage of Peña Nieto
Most, but not all, of the so-called impresentables were on the slate belonging to Peña Nieto's Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI…

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

The First Edition of What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools is now available from the publisher

The Fourth Edition of What You Need to Know is available from the publisher (where shipping is always FREE).

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, July 16, 2012

From ballot box to court

Was the presidential election legal?

Mexico election: Lopez Obrador challenges result
The runner-up in Mexico's presidential election, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, has filed a legal challenge to the result of the 1 July vote.

PRD leaders bring documents to the IFE
He said he would prove that illicit money was used to buy votes and secure the victory of centrist candidate Enrique Pena Nieto, who denies this. election: Lopez Obrador challenges result

Mr Lopez Obrador, from the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), lodged the challenge to Mexico's Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) just hours before the midnight filing deadline.

"The purchase and manipulation of millions of votes cannot give certainty to any result nor to the overall electoral process," he told reporters... 

The IFE will early next week submit the complaints and the evidence to the Federal Electoral Court. The court has until early September to address the complaints and rule on the validity of the election.

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

The First Edition of What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools is now available from the publisher

The Fourth Edition of What You Need to Know is available from the publisher (where shipping is always FREE).

Labels: , , ,

Things that work in Nigeria

News from Nigeria usually focuses on violence, corruption, and disaster. We do hear about elections that sort of work and government that tries to make things better (like banning an official Nigerian delegation to the London Olympics). But how about the National Youth Service Corps?

University graduates are required to serve a year doing "community development service" in a part of the country away from their homes. It's intended to promote civic involvement and cultural integration. It mostly works. (See the web site above for details or search for NYSC Nigeria for other accounts.)

Xan Rice, reporting in the Washington Post, has another success story from Nigeria. It's about the amnesty program for rebels in the Niger Delta who endangered the country's oil production a couple years ago.

 Nigerian rebels swap weapons for welding
This month [40] former militants will graduate from their nine-month welding course in Port Harcourt, the delta’s biggest city, joining thousands of other ex-rebels who have graduated from education or training projects in Nigeria and abroad. They are all beneficiaries of a $405 million-a-year amnesty program that has become an unlikely success story for Nigeria’s government.

When it was started by the late president Umaru Yar’Adua in June 2009, the rebels’ raids on oil installations and personnel had halved oil production from more than 2 million barrels a day to as low as 800,000 a day in January 2009, according to the government’s figures. Few local activists believed the amnesty policy would work.

Electrician trainees
But within a little more than a year, more than 26,000 “armed agitators” had handed over their weapons in exchange for a $400 monthly payment and a promise of training. The attacks lessened and then stopped. Today oil output is between 2.4 million and 2.6 million barrels a day, the government says…

Keeping the rebel leaders happy was crucial to the program’s success. It helped that President Goodluck Jonathan, who played an important role in negotiations with the militants while he was vice president, was from the delta region…

Detractors also say the program has done little to address the underlying issues that caused the militancy. Despite its oil riches, the delta remains poor, underdeveloped and polluted.

[Lawrence Pepple, technical adviser on reintegration for the Niger Delta Amnesty Program,] acknowledges the continued challenges but said the amnesty program was never supposed to be “a panacea for all the problems. . . . Our mandate was the cessation of hostilities, and it has achieved that.”

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

The First Edition of What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools is now available from the publisher

The Fourth Edition of What You Need to Know is available from the publisher (where shipping is always FREE).

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, July 13, 2012

No, to extravagant, government-sponsored travel

If a government seems unable to prevent corruption, maybe it can stop facilitating it.

Olympics 2012: Nigeria bans government delegation
Bolaji Abdullahi
Nigeria will not be sending an official government delegation to the Olympic Games in London, Sports Minister Bolaji Abdullahi has said…

The BBC's Oluwashina Okeleji in Lagos says official sporting entourages are usually huge and have come in for much criticism recently.

The officials often have little or nothing to do with the sport they are travelling to support, he says…

Our reporter says an anti-corruption investigation was launched after the 2010 football World Cup because of the exorbitant bill for officials who travelled to South Africa.

When Nigeria's football team travels, the delegation is often much larger in number than the team and it expands several times over if the Super Eagles progress in the competition, he says.

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

The First Edition of What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools is now available from the publisher

The Fourth Edition of What You Need to Know is available from the publisher (where shipping is always FREE).

Labels: , ,

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Causes and effects

Will Englund (and his editors) at the Washington Post didn't think there was adequate evidence for causal relationships between three events this week. I'm just an outsider in fly-over land, but it seems to me that Putin's speech on Monday, Arkado's decision on Tuesday, and the Duma's new law on Wednesday are connected. The article does not report on those sequentially, so the connections are played down.

Russian TV provider drops CNN, Bloomberg TV, BBC
A major Internet TV provider here has dropped CNN, Bloomberg TV and the BBC, for reasons that a company official said were “beyond its control.” [Customers reported that service was cut off on Tuesday.]

The provider, called Arkado, issued a statement Thursday afternoon alleging that the companies had not obtained proper “licenses” for broadcast in Russia…

On Wednesday, the Russian parliament passed a law that asserts a measure of government control over the Internet. Though its supporters said it was designed to fight child pornography, critics said they feared it would be used to suppress political speech…

In a speech to Russian diplomats Monday, President Vladimir Putin complained about foreign news coverage of Russia.

“Russia’s image abroad is formed not by us, and as a result it is often distorted and does not reflect the real situation in our country or Russia’s contribution to global civilization, science and culture,” he said. “Our country’s policies often suffer from a one-sided portrayal these days. Those who fire guns and launch airstrikes here or there are the good guys, while those who warn of the need for restraint and dialogue are for some reason at fault. But our fault lies in our failure to adequately explain our position. This is where we have gone wrong.”

If a decision has been made to move against the three channels here, however, it would appear to be related to Russia’s image at home, rather than abroad.

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

The First Edition of What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools is now available from the publisher

The Fourth Edition of What You Need to Know is available from the publisher (where shipping is always FREE).

Labels: , , ,

Limiting outside influence


United Russia acts to gain more control over political activity within Russia.

Russia plans to register 'foreign agent' NGOs
Russian NGOs that receive funding from abroad will have to register as "foreign agents" and undergo extra checks under a new bill that critics warn is part of a crackdown on independent activists.

The bill, backed by the ruling United Russia party, would require foreign-funded NGOs involved in political activities to tag all publications and websites with the label "foreign agent"…

A video in support of the bill says: "You have the right to know who is trying to influence your opinion. Our country must have an opposition, but if it is protecting foreign interests, you have the right to know that."…

Many of Russia's most prominent NGOs, including the corruption watchdog Transparency International, the election monitor Golos and the environmental group Greenpeace Russia, rely on foreign grants to operate in a country where the government often views them as enemies…

Supporters of the law have likened it to similar legislation in the US that requires lobbyists employed by foreign governments to reveal their financing. Critics worry that it could be applied selectively in a country lacking rule of law…

[Opponents] said finding sponsors among wealthy individuals or businesses inside Russia had become impossible since the arrest of the former Yukos chief Mikhail Khodorkovsky in 2003, which was partly seen as punishment for his funding of opposition and democracy activists.

A source inside the Kremlin said on Sunday that about 1,000 of the 230,000 NGOs operating in Russia were likely to fall under the restrictions…


Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

The First Edition of What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools is now available from the publisher

The Fourth Edition of What You Need to Know is available from the publisher (where shipping is always FREE).

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Details on efforts to prevent voter fraud in Mexico

We don't often learn about the detailed, bureaucratic work that goes into preventing voter fraud — especially in Mexico, where history suggests that corruption is common.

These details come from an experienced Mexican official who is earning a Ph.D at New York University, Marco A. Morales.

Revisiting Fraud and the 2012 Mexican Presidential Election
A bit of Mexican electoral history could provide some necessary context. Decades of one-party dominance supported by tampering with the vote created a plethora of allegories for common electoral practices…

With these precedents, it is no surprise that recent Mexican electoral history is characterized by attempts to foster trust in electoral outcomes, primarily by coping with three main forms of electoral fraud: controlling who votes, tampering with the vote count, and vote buying.

The first type of fraud – on the voter list – has been addressed through a voter registration list that is administered by an autonomous electoral authority…

The second type of fraud – in the counting of votes – has been addressed with multiple layers of scrutiny. Polling stations are manned by randomly selected citizens, whose performance can be audited in situ by party representatives and citizen observers…

The third one – vote buying – has been addressed by making it a criminal offense that is to be investigated by a Special Prosecutor. But as many have pointed out, the challenge on this specific area is considerable as evidence should show beyond doubt that the “incentive” did change the original vote intent and that these “sold” votes changed the outcome of the election…

To summarize, there were no complaints of the first type of fraud on this election. And while there were plenty of complaints of the second type of fraud, they were for the most part addressed and dispelled in the process that just ended. What lies ahead are complaints of the third type of fraud: massive vote buying.

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

The First Edition of What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools is now available from the publisher

The Fourth Edition of What You Need to Know is available from the publisher (where shipping is always FREE).

Labels: , , ,

Another woman in a high post in Nigeria

Maybe getting more women into positions of power and influence in Nigeria will improve governance.

 Senate confirms Nigeria's first female CJN
Miriam Mukhtar
Confirming the appointment of Justice Miriam Mukhtar after a screening session, Senate President David Mark said it was the hope of the Senate that the new Chief Justice would be able to "improve the public perception of the judiciary and also to ensure that there is steady dispensation of justice."

"We can only pray that Justice Mukhtar will improve on the condition in which she found the judiciary at the moment. We will work together with the judiciary and the executive arm of government to ensure that there is justice, equity, and fairness and there is progress and discipline in the country."…

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

The First Edition of What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools is now available from the publisher

The Fourth Edition of What You Need to Know is available from the publisher (where shipping is always FREE).

Labels: , , , ,

Some corruption is worse than other corruption

It may be that corruption is simply a pre-existing condition in Chinese politics. Guanxi means that wealth comes with influence and power. And if you cross the wrong people, you might be prosecuted.

China’s corruption fight tested by senior leader’s family wealth
“Corruption is a common enemy for all,” China’s official Xinhua news agency thundered back in April, in an editorial praising the Communist Party leadership for ousting one-time rising star Bo Xilai. “If the issue is left unattended, a country may implode, its ruling power will collapse, and its society left in chaos.”

Xi Jinping
So what does Xinhua write now that Bloomberg has reported that the extended family of Xi Jinping, the man set to take over as general-secretary of the Communist Party this fall, is worth hundreds of millions of dollars?…

But while the revelation that Mr. Xi’s family might make money every time the Chinese government tightens supply of rare earths metals… would seem to merit further examination, the Standing Committee of the Politburo is almost certain to turn a blind eye. The reason: nearly all the top leadership of the Communist Party have wildly successful relatives, while the senior officials themselves are paid – on paper – tiny salaries.

The Bloomberg report begins with a quote from Mr. Xi himself, in his current post as vice-president: “Rein in your spouses, children, relatives, friends and staff, and vow not to use power for personal gain,” he warned officials back in 2004. In a speech this March, he said some people were joining the Communist Party because they saw it as a ticket to wealth. “It is more difficult, yet more vital than ever to keep the party pure,” he said…

Can the Communist Party of China still promote a man who campaigned against corruption while his family accumulated hundreds of millions of dollars?

Probably. There’s likely too much at stake to alter the long-planned transition of power at this late hour. The party’s leaders proved long ago that they put “stability” ahead of all other principles…

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

The First Edition of What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools is now available from the publisher

The Fourth Edition of What You Need to Know is available from the publisher (where shipping is always FREE).

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Mexican legislature

I've found the charts from The Economist are among the most useful for teaching certain things. I've been clipping them out for students for a long time. The on-line charts are even better because they're in color.

 I've included a partial sample below, because these charts are not mine to distribute. You can certainly "clip" them out for your students. I don't know about availability to non-subscribers, but if you don't have a subscription, perhaps your library does. That way you can use that subscription to get full access to the magazine's web site.

 The PRI’s qualified comeback
THE band that struck up jolly music to greet Enrique Peña Nieto as president-elect probably had not bothered to practise any of its downbeat numbers. Mr Peña, the candidate of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), had long been the favourite and went into the election on July 1st leading by double figures in most polls. Sure enough he won, restoring to office the party that ran Mexico for seven decades until 2000. But his victory was slimmer than expected, and the PRI was denied a majority in Congress. Indeed, it appeared that the party had lost seats in the lower house. Voters are clearly not ready to hand the former ruling party free rein…
 

Which faction of the PRI will hold sway in Mr Peña’s government is uncertain. The president-elect looks and sounds like a moderniser, but plenty of old-fashioned party dinosaurs lurk around him. His best bet looks to be to try to strike a firm alliance with the PAN—if, in its chastened state, it is a willing partner. Otherwise, he risks being reduced to relying on some of his own party’s shadier governors to marshal their local congressmen—and even that might not be enough to approve reforms. Mexico has voted the PRI back to office, but not necessarily to power.

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

The First Edition of What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools is now available from the publisher

The Fourth Edition of What You Need to Know is available from the publisher (where shipping is always FREE).

Labels: , , ,

Was Marx wrong again?

Marx thought that socialism was the inevitable end point of political and cultural evolution. There's a lot of doubt about that idea. But, the idea that politics and culture is evolving toward some ultimate result is still popular. It's just that everyone seems to think that the system they're part of is closest to that final culture.

A Canadian thinker casts doubt on the Western assumption that liberal democracy is the model for the evolutionary goal.

(Of course, all that wishful thinking about a goal of evolution — cultural or biological — is based on a very non-Darwinian assumption that there is some ideal goal. Darwin was very clear about biological evolution: success went to the most adaptable creatures, not to those that were most like us. And to claim that human inventions like government and economics have some ultimately perfect form is downright Platonic.)

Russia and China, Challenges for Liberal Democracy
Liberal democracy faces a new and decisive challenge — figuring out how to deal with the “post-Communist oligarchies” of Russia and China. These regimes — authoritarian, capitalist and eagerly integrated into the global economy — are without precedent. Figuring out how to deal with them is the greatest strategic and moral question the West faces today. How we answer it will determine the shape of the 21st century, much as the struggle with Communism and fascism shaped the 20th.
Michael Ignatieff
This is the assertion Michael Ignatieff, the Canadian intellectual and former leader of the Liberal Party…
Central to Mr. Ignatieff’s argument is his insistence that [history]… isn’t marching toward any particular destination, including liberal democracy. “As late as [the 1930s], liberals still thought of their creed as being the wave of the future and thought of history as the story of liberty.” …

“It is a cliché of optimistic Western discourse on Russia and China that they must evolve toward democratic liberty,” Mr. Ignatieff argued. Sadly, though, we’re wrong: “But we should not assume there is any historical inevitability to liberal society.”…

Believing that the duo [of] “post-Communist oligarchies” are on the liberal capitalist path is comforting for the liberal capitalist companies that do business with them, too. After all, for all the kowtowing required to do business in Russia and China, the rewards are vast…

The optimistic cliché of inevitable liberal evolution is convenient and comforting. But that doesn’t make it right.

If Russia and China really are not marching inevitably toward liberal democracy, as Mr. Ignatieff argues, that is a problem not just for their repressed people, but also for us.

Mr. Ignatieff says that our attitude toward Russia and China is a question of such great import because both countries “are attempting to demonstrate a novel proposition: that economic freedoms can be severed from political and civil freedom, and that freedom is divisible.”

He is right that this is the fundamental operating proposition of Russia and China, and he is right that it poses the most serious challenge that the very idea of liberal democracy faces anywhere today.

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

The First Edition of What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools is now available from the publisher

The Fourth Edition of What You Need to Know is available from the publisher (where shipping is always FREE).

Labels: ,

Monday, July 09, 2012

Updates to What You Need to Know


If you want brief updates on major changes in the two years since What You Need to Know was published, check out the Corrections and Updates page on book's web site. 

 The main page of the web site is at http://apcomparativegov.com/



Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

The First Edition of What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools is now available from the publisher

The Fourth Edition of What You Need to Know is available from the publisher (where shipping is always FREE).

Unrest in China spreads to a city

Most of the protests and violence we know about in China takes place in rural areas far from non-Chinese reporters. However, one incident, involving migrant workers and local residents was more urban.

Riots in Guangdong Escalate, Overwhelm Shaxi
Chaos is mounting in the ongoing labor riot that began on Monday in the town of Shaxi in Zhongshan City, Guangdong Province.

On Tuesday, thousands of migrant workers swarmed into Shaxi from Guangzhou, Foshan, Jiangmen and other neighboring cities, overwhelming the local police force. Rioters are wrecking every motor vehicle they see, stopping moving cars in order to batter them. Police cars, privately owned cars and bus stops have all been destroyed. A number of shops have been broken into as well. The Zhongshan Fuhua Station was set on fire and burned for close to 24 hours. The Shaxi town hall has also been ruined…

It is reported that several protesters have died and over 100 have been injured, mostly workers. More than 100 people have been arrested…

The latest news is that armed police from Guangzhou, Zhuhai and Foshan have been sent to Shaxi to clear the streets… The People’s Liberation Army is also at the ready to “suppress the rebellion” at any time...

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

The First Edition of What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools is now available from the publisher

The Fourth Edition of What You Need to Know is available from the publisher (where shipping is always FREE).

Labels: , ,

Friday, July 06, 2012

And no direct elections because…

For many years, U.S. Senators were chosen by state legislatures. Members of Russia's Federation Council are now chosen that way, but President Putin says he wants the upper house to be more democratic. So, why not direct elections?

Russia's Putin orders reform of Parliament
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday ordered an overhaul of the upper house of Parliament in an apparent reaction to criticism that the Federation Council is little more than a vacation retreat for officials…

Putin said in an address to the Council that the reforms should make it "more democratic," maintaining that they "fully correspond to the logic of the development of our political system on the whole."…

Members of the upper house are currently elected by local legislatures. Putin's bill, which is expected to get parliamentary approval, would allow elected regional governors to appoint a member of their team to the Council with the idea that they would be accountable for the members they appoint…

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

The First Edition of What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools is now available from the publisher

The Fourth Edition of What You Need to Know is available from the publisher (where shipping is always FREE).

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, July 05, 2012

How did we get here?

The election is over, but the controversies remain. Last time Mexico elected a president, the controversies involved vote counting. This time they seem to involve subversive campaigning.

Mexican media scandal: secretive Televisa unit promoted PRI candidate
A secretive unit inside Mexico's predominant television network set up and funded a campaign for Enrique Peña Nieto… according to people familiar with the operation and documents seen by the Guardian.

The new revelations of bias within Televisa, the world's biggest Spanish-language broadcaster, challenge the company's claim to be politically impartial as well as Peña Nieto's insistence that he never had a special relationship with Televisa…

Televisa refused to comment on the specifics of the documents but denied suggestions it had favoured the PRI, saying it had done political work for all the major parties.

The documents, which consist of scanned copies of signed contracts as well as other instructions and proposals, suggest that Televisa subsidiaries and named Televisa executives took part in the project, putting their employees and knowhow to work to the benefit of Peña Nieto in the buildup to crucial 2009 midterm congressional elections…

A central part of the [plan]… according to one source, was distributing pro-PRI campaign videos through mass emailing and promotion on sites such as YouTube…

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

The First Edition of What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools is now available from the publisher

The Fourth Edition of What You Need to Know is available from the publisher (where shipping is always FREE).

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

PRI president but not a PRI legislature

Damien Cave's analysis in the New York Times, suggests that Peña Nieto's victory in Mexico might be smaller than expected, while the challenges might be greater. And, if his conclusion is correct, politics and government in Mexico will be very different than they used to be.

Narrow Victory for Mexico’s New Leader Signals Bigger Challenges Ahead
On the two most important issues of crime and the economy, many experts doubt he will be able to quickly turn things around… Voters gave Mr. Peña Nieto a narrower than expected victory over his two challengers, with 38 percent of the vote, and PRI officials also say they do not expect a majority in Congress.

Mr. Peña Neito will not just have to negotiate with opposing parties; he also faces an energized grass-roots opposition and possibly a protracted fight for legitimacy…

But in the meantime, analysts expect Mr. Peña Nieto to continue the aggressive, militaristic approach of President Felipe Calderón…

That could mean what some analysts are predicting will be a “surge” not unlike the 2007 American troop increase in Iraq…

The vote count, however, suggests that Mr. Peña Nieto could face some constraints and a difficult choice of location. He lost the two most violence-racked border states, Tamaulipas and Nuevo León, and he nearly lost Veracruz, another state where violence has recently skyrocketed. Moving a lot of soldiers into one of those states, or reassigning resources from another one, would probably anger residents who already oppose the PRI.

Mr. Hope adds that Mexico’s federalist system means Mr. Peña Nieto will probably have to pay a hefty price to state and local leaders to persuade them to introduce any new security plan, possibly with expensive programs or infrastructure…

What seems less likely are larger economic changes. Mr. Peña Nieto campaigned on a promise to double Mexico’s growth rate to 6 percent. But his specific proposals — loosening labor laws, improving the tax system and opening Pemex, the state-run oil company, to foreign investment — all look harder to achieve now without a majority of congressional seats for the PRI.

The effort to change Pemex faces an especially tough battle because a two-thirds majority is needed for the constitutional changes that would open up the industry. Even within the PRI, Mr. Peña Nieto faces significant opposition to the idea, which the company’s powerful union has also resisted change for years.

Mr. Peña Nieto, nonetheless, does not seem cowed. In his statements to supporters and reporters over the past few days, he has struck a conciliatory tone, saying that he hopes to work closely with opponents while ensuring transparency within his party. The PRI, it seems, after arguing that it is new and different, will now deal with the fact that Mexico itself has truly changed into a messy, complicated democracy in which presidents no longer control all.

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

The First Edition of What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools is now available from the publisher

The Fourth Edition of What You Need to Know is available from the publisher (where shipping is always FREE).

Labels: , , ,

USA National Day

Enjoy the fireworks

 

The First Edition of What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools is now available from the publisher

The Fourth Edition of What You Need to Know is available from the publisher (where shipping is always FREE).

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Nigerian national holiday

As we approach the U.S. national holiday on 4 July, here's a reminder of another national holiday.

Nigeria celebrates the first of October as Independence Day (from United Kingdom, 1960) as a national day and, since the return of democracy in 1999, celebrates Democracy Day on the 29th of May.

There is no work or school on Independence Day. There are special ceremonies at parade grounds that are open to the public.




Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

The First Edition of What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools is now available from the publisher

The Fourth Edition of What You Need to Know is available from the publisher (where shipping is always FREE).

Labels: ,

Monday, July 02, 2012

President Enriquie Pena Nieto

With few votes yet to count, the PRI has been elected to power once again in Mexico.

Mexico's former ruling party voted back to office
The party that ruled Mexico with a tight grip for most of the last century has sailed back into power, promising a government that will be modern, responsible and open to criticism…

[Pena Nieto] won 38 percent support, about 6 to 7 points more than his nearest rival, with 92 percent of the votes counted, and he went to work immediately to win over the two-thirds who didn't vote for him…

But his top challenger, leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, refused to concede, saying he would await a full count and legal review…

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

The First Edition of What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools is now available from the publisher

The Fourth Edition of What You Need to Know is available from the publisher (where shipping is always FREE).

Labels: , , , ,

Chinese national holiday

As we approach the U.S. national holiday on 4 July, here's a reminder of another national holiday.

October 1 is a public holiday in the People's Republic of China. The PRC was founded on October 1, 1949 with a ceremony at Tiananmen Square. It is celebrated with a variety of government-organized festivities, including fireworks and concerts. Public places, such as Tiananmen Square in Beijing, are decorated in a festive theme.

Fireworks displays are usually held in all cities, including Hong Kong, where a fireworks display to celebrate the National Day of the People's Republic of China has been held since 1997.




Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

The First Edition of What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools is now available from the publisher

The Fourth Edition of What You Need to Know is available from the publisher (where shipping is always FREE).

Labels: ,

British national holiday

As we approach the U.S. national holiday on 4 July, here's a reminder of another national holiday.

The United Kingdom does not have a recognized national day, although the Queen's Official Birthday (which is declared annually, usually falling on a Saturday in the first half of June) is sometimes considered as such.

However, the four constituent nations of the UK (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) all have National Saints' days.




Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

The First Edition of What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools is now available from the publisher

The Fourth Edition of What You Need to Know is available from the publisher (where shipping is always FREE).

Labels: ,