Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Disunited islands

The UK wants out of the EU. Scotland wants a vote on independence. There's some sentiment in Northern Ireland for union with the Republic of Ireland. Now there's talk of the Shetland Islands gaining independence from Scotland. Where will this all end? (And the beginning of this course, you thought defining "United Kingdom" was complicated.)

A Lump of Rock, an Otter and a Secessionist
With gray clouds building and rain slanting in over the Atlantic, Stuart Hill pointed to a small lump of land inhabited by an otter, a few seals and a variety of seabirds.
Croft (farm) in the Shetlands
To the rest of the world, this barren, inhospitable and largely inaccessible rock off the coastline of the Shetland Islands is a part of Scotland, on the northernmost tip of Britain. To Mr. Hill, it is the sovereign state of Forvik, whose independence he proclaimed in 2008, arguing that it — along with the oil-rich Shetland Islands themselves — is legally neither part of Scotland nor Britain…

Yet, while many Shetlanders regard Mr. Hill as an eccentric, a growing number are being drawn to calls for more independence for their remote and scenic isles…

Shetlands
Even though Gary Robinson, leader of the Shetland Islands Council, opposes independence, he favors more autonomy. To that end, he is pursuing links beyond Edinburgh and London, through the Nordic Council, which includes Denmark and Norway, as well as the Faroe and Aland Islands…

Unleashed by Britain’s planned withdrawal from the European Union,… the debate underscores the forces of fragmentation threatening to turn the United Kingdom into a contradiction in terms.

Shaped by their Viking, rather than Celtic, roots, the Shetlands have a unique culture. Small Shetland ponies are a frequent sight in much of its panoramic landscape, and the red and blue houses of parts of its capital, Lerwick, look more Nordic than British…

To critics, discussion of independence for a tiny clutch of islands, while far-fetched, underscores the growing risk of the post-Brexit Balkanization of Britain.

[T]he local member of the British Parliament, Alistair Carmichael… concedes… that Shetland’s relationship with power centers can be strained.

“We have a history of having to push water uphill against Edinburgh,” he said. “From London, you get benign neglect, but you get patronized from Edinburgh.”…

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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Details from Nigeria

It seems that the major suspect in the corruption that resulted in the discovery of $43million in an apartment.

Nigeria's Buhari suspends spy chief after $43m found in Lagos
Nigeria's foreign spy chief Ayo Oke has been suspended after anti-corruption officers found more than $43m (£34m) in a flat in the main city, Lagos, the president's office has said…

Mr Oke has not yet commented.

However, unnamed intelligence officials told local media that the money was kept in the flat for covert operations…

In a statement, his office said he had also suspended his close aide, David Babachir Lawal, pending an investigation into contracts awarded to deal with the humanitarian crisis in the north-east…

A three-member panel, led by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, will investigate both cases, Mr Buhari's office added…

The panel has been ordered to report within 14 days on who authorised the release of the money to the NIA and whether any laws or security procedures had been breached, Mr Buhari's office added…

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Monday, April 24, 2017

Choosing UK candidates

No primary elections. No caucuses. Since candidates do not have to reside in the constituency from which they are elected, party big shots have a big say in who the candidates are.

General election 2017: Can parties select candidates in time?
Britain's political parties are in a race against time to get candidates in place for the snap election. They had been working on the assumption that there would not be an election until May 2020, but now have just three weeks to put names forward.

Any British, Irish or eligible Commonwealth citizen over the age of 18 - who meets the qualification criteria - can stand, provided they can scrape together a £500 deposit. The deadline for submitting an application is Wednesday, 11 May.

Here is how the parties' efforts are going:

Labour

Labour has said all of its 229 MPs will be automatically re-selected - they had until 17:00 BST on Thursday, April 20, to say whether they wanted to stand again or not…

All Labour candidates in England will be selected by members of the party's ruling National Executive Committee and regional board members.

Local Labour Party branches, who normally get to choose candidates, will not get a say "due to the exceptional snap general election circumstances"…

Labour in Scotland and Wales will shortly announce their own selection plans.

Conservatives

The Conservative Party has also changed its normal selection procedures and is short-listing candidates for target seats without inviting applications.

"Inevitably it has to be a somewhat shorter process than we usually use," says a leaked letter to would-be Tory candidates published by Conservative Home.

The party's 330 MPs will be re-selected, unless they have decided to stand down…

The Scottish National Party

All 54 of the SNP's existing MPs are expected to stand again…

The Liberal Democrats

The party selected 326 candidates last year and a further 70 or so before the snap election was announced.

It advertised for the remaining vacancies and is hoping to have candidates in all 650 seats by early next week.

All candidates are selected by local parties, in line with national party guidelines on gender balance and ethnic diversity.

UK Independence Party

A UKIP spokesman told the BBC… "Our candidate selection process will begin shortly, with candidates being adopted over the course of the next week, and we will be fielding candidates nationwide."

The Green Party of England and Wales

[A] party spokeswoman said… said local parties were currently selecting candidates…

Plaid Cymru

The party, which currently has three MPs, is selecting its candidates next week - the choice is made by local party members…

Northern Ireland parties

With talks still going on at Stormont about restoring devolved government, none of the parties is thought to have selected candidates yet for the general election.

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Don't even think about it

The Communist Party of China is reading the Chinese version of tweets. Don't say anything wrong.

China’s party officials warned not to cross ‘red lines’ while using WeChat: Disciplinary watchdog identifies eight prohibited behaviours
Disparaging party policies, sharing pornography and spreading rumours are among eight “red lines” Chinese Communist Party officials must not cross while using WeChat, a popular social media platform, the ruling party’s disciplinary watchdog has instructed.

As with many other large organisations that seek to moderate their members’ social media presence, the 88-million-member Chinese Communist Party has been attempting to control the words and acts of its officials on WeChat…

According to a notice… the other prohibited behaviours are accepting electronic “red envelopes” of money transfers, vote-rigging, leaking confidential information, opening online shops and publishing “inappropriate” statements…

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Friday, April 21, 2017

One complication of many

What takes precedence? UK sovereignty? EU treaties? historical fishing rights? the British navy?

Denmark to contest UK efforts to 'take back control' of fisheries
The British government’s plan to “take back control” of its waters after leaving the EU is about to be challenged by a claim from Denmark that its fishermen have a historical right to access to the seas around Britain dating back to the 1400s.

Officials in Copenhagen have mined the archives to build a legal case that could potentially be fought in the international court of justice in The Hague, although officials hasten to say that this is not their intention.

Denmark is seeking a Brexit deal that recognises the right of its fleet to continue to exploit a hundred shared stocks of species such as cod, herring, mackerel, plaice and sand eel…

The development suggests that leaving the EU will not reap the dividends promised by prominent leave campaigners, including the foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, who has claimed that the union’s “crazy” common fisheries policy has halved UK employment in the industry…

Denmark’s foreign affairs minister, Anders Samuelsen, told the Guardian the issue was crucial to many communities in Denmark and that they would be making their case through the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier.

“Danish fishermen have historically been fishing across the North Sea. The common fisheries policy in the EU has regulated this, based on historical rights and preserving our common stocks that don’t follow economic zones,” he said…

The Danish MEP Ole Christensen, who sits on the committee, said: “If, and I am really not hoping for this, UK and EU27 does not reach an agreement, it would be terrible for both parties.

“If we are not able to fish in UK waters and the UK cannot export their catch to the EU27, it will hurt everyone, not least the people who make their living in the sector. For the sake of everyone, we need to keep an open mind and work on getting a fair deal.” …

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Thursday, April 20, 2017

The next step in Iran

The contest for presidency of Iran is ready for the next step.

Hassan Rouhani faces tough re-election race as candidate list closes
Rouhani
Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s moderate president who is seeking re-election, faces a boisterous race after heavyweight conservative figures critical of his landmark nuclear agreement with the west put themselves up to challenge him.

Registration for candidates in Iran’s presidential elections next month ended on Saturday, with a record number of 1,636 people putting their names on the list, including 137 women. On Friday, Rouhani… register[ed] to run for a second term…

The list of presidential hopefuls has been sent to the guardian council, a powerful body of jurists and clerics, which began a five-day vetting process on Sunday. A limited number of candidates are usually allowed through…

This year, all eyes are on the council to see if it will approve Ahmadinejad…

“Rouhani is not in as strong a position as we think he is, because he delivered the JCPOA [nuclear deal]. JCPOA in Iran is not seen as a giant triumph, and for me the problem is the way Rouhani sold it,” Ali Ansari, a professor of Iranian history at the University of St Andrews said.

“He has stablised the economy, but I think he made a number of very exaggerated claims, and he is now paying the price in the popular mood. But in an open election I think people would vote for Rouhani . Rouhani is the best of a bad choice, but at the same time I don’t think he’s as clear a winner as some people in the west would like to think.”

Although women have registered, all female nominees have previously been blocked from running. Azam Talaghani, a former MP and the daughter of a prominent revolutionary ayatollah, is among the women who have put their names on the list to test whether the authorities would allow women to run.

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Separation of Communist Party of China and the functions of government?

From an outsider's perspective (and probably those of most textbook authors) there's little doubt about the locus of ultimate political power in China. So when Chinese officials argue for integrating the decision making power of the Party with the policy enacting power of the regime, those of us from far away can only wonder what they're talking about. Wang Qishan's statement at the article's end says it all, to me, an observer from far outside.

The article comes from the South China Morning Post, a generally pro-Chinese newspaper published in Hong Kong.

Why is China blurring the line between party and state
Wang Qishan
Ridding the Communist Party of corruption while leaving its absolute grip on power untouched was a daunting task, party anti-graft tsar Wang Qishan admitted two years ago.

Now, with many corrupt officials in jail, he’s spearheading an effort to combine the party and government corruption watchdogs into a super anti-graft organisation – the National Supervisory Commission.

While some have welcomed the move… it has also stoked concerns the restructuring marks the beginning of a fusing of the state and the party, making the prospect of liberal political reform even more remote.

At a meeting in February explaining the creation of the commission, Wang raised eyebrows when he said “there is no such thing as separation between the party and the government”.

“There is only a division of functions,” he said. “We must take a clear position and be straightforward on this issue.”

Late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping in 1980 laid part of the blame for problems such as stifling bureaucracy on the conflicting powers of party cadres and government officials.

The concept of the separation of party and state, later written into the top-level political report at the party’s 13th national congress in 1987, urged the party to only take part in major decisions and retreat from daily government operations.

It was part of an effort to tackle excessive concentration of power, seen by the party as the root of the political mayhem during the Mao Zedong era…

Attempts at further political reform have stalled for decades following the leadership shake-up that accompanied the crackdown on pro-democracy protests in 1989. Party committees were reinstated in government institutions…

Wang’s remark was affirmation of an ongoing trend of further mingling the party and the government…

Last year, for the first time, the party’s seven-member Politburo Standing Committee began hearing reports from the State Council (China’s cabinet), the National People’s Congress (its legislature), the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (its top political advisory body), the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, which investigates and prosecutes offenders…

American political scientist Francis Fukuyama, told an audience at the US Council on Foreign Relations he had asked Wang if he could ever envision a time when China’s courts could be independent.

“And his answer was absolutely not. It’ll never happen,” Fukuyama said. “The Communist Party must remain in control. He was not ambiguous on that point.”

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Get 'em while they're down

PM May has called for a new election in the UK. The opposition is disorganized and weak.

Theresa May to seek snap election for 8 June
UK Prime Minister Theresa May has announced plans to call a snap general election on 8 June.

She said Britain needed certainty, stability and strong leadership following the EU referendum…

There will be a vote in the House of Commons on Wednesday to approve the election plan - the prime minister needs two thirds of MPs to vote in favour to hold a vote before the next scheduled election date of 2020…

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Political standards for lawyers

China announced new standards for lawyers, the first one being "political performance."

China’s Communist Party to evaluate lawyers based on ‘political performance’
China is tightening its grip on the legal sector, with plans for a ­professional standard based to a great extent on each lawyer’s “political performance”…

Under the new system, lawyers will be classified into nine specialist areas, ranging from criminal law to intellectual property law. The system would help people seeking legal services to narrow their search, the notice said.

But lawyers would have to meet four criteria to be listed, the top one being political correctness, followed by record of “integrity”, length of experience and professional skills.

The political performance assessment includes supporting the Communist Party’s leadership and “socialist rule by law”, abiding by the constitution and law, and observing the legal profession’s ethics and discipline.

Length of service and professional abilities were the last criteria, the notice said.

Guangzhou-based lawyer Chen Jinxue said the move would not directly affect rights lawyers who relied on personal reputation rather than party allegiance to attract clients.

But the move would “marginalise and isolate lawyers who focus on human rights cases and those who seek to challenge unfair judicial practices”, he said…

Many said the rules were draconian, while others said they were designed to silence lawyers critical of the authorities. Under the amendments, law firms could have their licences revoked permanently if their lawyers pressured judicial authorities…

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Monday, April 17, 2017

Analysis of Ahmadinejad's campaign for Iran's presidency

The newspaper identifies Amanda Erickson as someone who "writes about foreign affairs for The Washington Post." Here is her analysis.

What Ahmadinejad’s run says about the state of Iranian politics
As “stunned” onlookers watched, former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad registered to run — once again — for president. In doing so, he defied the country’s supreme leader, who told him not to compete…

The former president’s surprising decision to run adds even more uncertainty to the upcoming election. It’s widely seen as a referendum on the 2015 nuclear deal…

That agreement was negotiated and signed by the current president, Hassan Rouhani, a moderate most people think will seek reelection… He had a background in nuclear negotiations, and swept into office preaching moderation and compromise…

Rouhani has also pushed the country in a more moderate direction. He has said that he believes Iranians should have freedom to worship and he tweeted a photo of a female award-winning mathematician without her headscarf…

On that front, few politicians offer a starker contrast than Ahmadinejad. As president, he frequently attacked the West. He has called the Holocaust “a myth” and “a lie.” In 2005, he banned Western music from the radio. A year later, he blocked several major websites, including YouTube, in an effort to purge the country of Western influences.

And he could be a serious contender. The high-profile politician remains popular in some corners of Iran…

But there are pitfalls, too. Ahmadinejad is despised by moderates. He’ll have to defend his poor economic record — during his two terms, the country’s economy tanked… And even some conservatives want him out of the race. According to the BBC, some of the country’s most prominent hard-liners have called Ahmadinejad’s decision “unacceptable” and say “will spell the end of his political career.”

If he runs, Rouhani is favored to win. No president has ever lost reelection in Iran, and Rouhani has the support of reformists and moderates, a fragile but essential coalition…

At the end of April, the country’s Guardian Council will vet the candidates. The council has the power to block candidates from competing, and it has kept reformists and independents out of parliamentary and presidential elections in the past. This year, though, the council might do the opposite, keeping one of the country’s most conservative politicians out of the race for president…

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Friday, April 14, 2017

Spare money in Nigeria

When you find an apartment full of cash, you have to suspect some kind of illegal activity. Or maybe someone who just doesn't trust banks.

Nigeria's EFCC 'finds $43m in Lagos flat'
More than $43m (£34m) has been seized from a flat in Nigeria's main city, Lagos, the anti-corruption agency says... 

The money was believed to be from unlawful activity, but no arrests have as yet been made, the agency added.

This is the latest in a series of raids which uncovered bundles of cash in Nigeria, Africa's biggest economy.

In March, the agency said it had found "crispy" banknotes worth $155,000 (£130,000) at the airport in northern Kaduna city.

Apart from US notes worth $43.4m, investigators found nearly £27,800 and some 23m naira ($75,000) at the four-bedroom flat in Lagos's affluent Ikoyi area…

The "neatly arranged" cash was stashed in "sealed wrappers" in wardrobes and cabinets in the seventh-floor flat, the EFCC added.

Guards told investigators that no-one lived in the flat…

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Thursday, April 13, 2017

Let's all get on the same page

Would it be a problem if some of the textbooks your students used were different from others? What if your students were spread out across the country? Does it matter if some unofficial copies of a country's constitution are not up to date?

(Some of the language in this article is confusing. I don't know whether that's caused by differing usages or by inadequate editing.)

Senate Orders Withdrawal of Nigeria Constitution From Circulation
Disturbed over the proliferation of versions and copies of the 1999 Constitution as amended in the country, the Senate has called for the immediate withdrawal of the document in circulation, with a bid to harmonizing it into one constitution that would be a uniform one.

Against this backdrop the Senate Tuesday mandated the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters to liaise with the National Judicial and the Attorney-General and other relevant agencies to withdraw the different versions of the Constitution in circulation, just as it urged the Committee to with all the other government agencies to authorize the printing and distribution of an authentic and consolidated version which should reflect the different alterations in the Constitution since 1999…

The resolution of the Senate was sequel to subsequent to motion by Senator Chukwuka Utazi, PDP, Enugu North and titled, "Harmonising the different versions and copies of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in circulation into one authentic whole."…

In his remarks, Senate President Bukola Saraki then ruled and mandated the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters to urgently liaise with relevant organs of the government in ensuring harmonization of the different versions and copies of the Constitution in circulation into one authentic whole.

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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Another hat in the ring

Is there an interest group that feels left out? Is there a "political party" behind this move? Or is this an example of an egocentric, ambitious politician?

In Surprise Move, Iran's Ahmadinejad to Run for President
Ahmadinejad
Iran's former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday stunned the country by unexpectedly filing to run in the May presidential election, contradicting a recommendation from the supreme leader to stay out of the race…

Ahmadinejad's firebrand style could prove appealing for hard-liners seeking a tough-talking candidate who can stand up to U.S. President Donald Trump. His candidacy also could expose the fissures inside Iranian politics that linger since his contested 2009 re-election, which brought massive unrest…

Asked about Ahmadinejad's decision, one Tehran-based analyst offered a blunt assessment… "It was an organized mutiny against Iran's ruling system," said Soroush Farhadian, who backs reformists.

Ahmadinejad previously served two four-year terms from 2005 to 2013…

Two of his former vice presidents have been jailed for corruption since he left office. Iran's economy suffered under heavy international sanctions during his administration…

More than 120 prospective candidates submitted their names as candidates on the first day of registration Tuesday, including six women and seven clerics. Registration remains open until Saturday.

Under Iran's electoral system, all applicants must be vetted by the Guardian Council, a clerical body that will announce a final list of candidates by April 27. The council normally does not approve dissidents or women for the formal candidate list…

The May 19 election is seen by many in Iran as a referendum on the 2015 nuclear agreement and other efforts to improve the country's sanctions-hobbled economy…

Since the deal, Iran has signed multi-billion-dollar contracts with airplane manufacturers Boeing Co. and Airbus. The benefits have yet to trickle down to the average Iranian, however, fueling some discontent.

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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Definition of core leadership

Good summary of leadership politics in China.

Xi Jinping wants officials to declare allegiance to himself
ALL politicians demand loyalty, but some politicians demand more loyalty than others. Xi Jinping, China’s president, is in the Napoleon class—Napoleon the pig, that is, who taught the creatures of George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” the slogan: “Comrade Napoleon is always right.”

Over the past few months a parade of dignitaries has professed undying allegiance to Mr Xi and the Communist Party he leads. The trigger was a party decision in October to anoint Mr Xi as the “core” of the leadership. Soon afterwards, his six colleagues in the Politburo’s Standing Committee began laying on the flattery with a trowel. In March one of the committee’s members, Yu Zhengsheng, said Mr Xi’s status as core reflected “the fundamental interests of the party and people”. Such statements remind many observers of the adulation once accorded to Mao Zedong. Given that Mr Xi and many other leaders are “princelings” (sons of the first generation of Communist leaders), they also seem like the swearing of fealty to the king by medieval courtiers.

The list of vociferously loyal subjects is long. Since the start of the year the country’s chief corruption investigators, the bosses of the state-security and cyber-security agencies and representatives of state-run media have all pledged “absolute loyalty” to Mr Xi…

[T]he subservience is being directed by the party’s highest institutions… [is evidence that] Mr Xi is directly involved. The loyalty-swearing campaign is also different from past practice. In the late 1970s Deng Xiaoping, after taking over as China’s leader, forbade personality cults and sought to build up China’s institutions, emphasising “collective” decision-making. So did his successors, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao. Mr Xi’s less diffident approach was evident soon after he came to power in November 2012…

There has been an increase in demands for obedience not only to Mr Xi himself but also to the party. In 2014 the president said loyalty to the organisation was the first requirement for national leaders. As Qiushi, the party’s main theoretical journal, put it: “There is no 99.9%. It is 100% pure and absolute loyalty and nothing less.” Such rhetoric reflects Mr Xi’s worries about the party’s authority and cohesion at a time of wrenching social and economic change.

Even more than his predecessors, Mr Xi believes that a strong party is vital. When he took over, party discipline was slack: corruption was rife and officials routinely flouted orders. As recently as November Mr Xi said that, even among senior officials, “there are those whose conviction is not strong enough and who are not loyal to the party.” He argues that the Soviet Union collapsed because its rulers lost faith in themselves. Mr Xi is determined not to let that happen in China…

Ever since the Communists took over in 1949, they have debated what kind of party they want. Mao distinguished between “reds” (good Communists) and “experts” (people who knew what they were talking about). Mao said he wanted reds. Deng put more faith in experts. Mr Xi seems to be shifting back. In January the party’s Central Organisation Department, which is in charge of personnel, told five government ministries to put “good political quality” at the top of the list of requirements for senior officials. It was much the same when Napoleon’s propagandist, Squealer, rebuked farmyard animals for praising the courage of Boxer, a cart horse. “Bravery is not enough,” said Squealer. “Loyalty and obedience are more important.”

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Monday, April 10, 2017

Politics in Iran

President Rouhani has a new rival in the race for his office.

Conservative cleric Ebrahim Raisi enters Iran's presidential race
Iran is bracing for a heated and divisive election season after a powerful conservative cleric threw himself into the presidential race to challenge the moderate incumbent, Hassan Rouhani…

Raisi
Ebrahim Raisi, who is a close ally of the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has upended the race with a surprise declaration that he would put his name on the list…

Raisi has been touted as a frontrunner to become Khamenei’s successor, a higher position than that of the president. His bid for presidency has puzzled Iranian political commentators about his intentions and what his candidacy would mean for Rouhani…

Elections are scheduled for 19 May…

A group of influential conservatives in Iran, operating under the umbrella coalition known as the Popular Front of Islamic Revolution Forces, or Jamna, held party conferences in the past weeks to shortlist their favourite nominees. Raisi received more votes than any other figure in their list of top five nominees…

Reformists, who have been sidelined in recent years, are expected to back Rouhani…

The Guardian understands that many reformists believe that they should nominate a second candidate to shadow and ultimately server as a substitute for Rouhani in case he is disqualified or otherwise drops out. Sources said Rouhani was opposed to the idea and believed more reformist candidates would increase the possibility of him being disqualified. The establishment would be reluctant to block him if there were no other reformist candidate because the system usually avoids holding elections that are lackluster.

Raisi, 56, is the custodian of Astan Quds Razavi, the wealthiest charity in the Muslim world and the organisation in charge of Iran’s holiest shrine. He had barely reached adulthood by the 1979 Islamic revolution but rose quickly through the ranks. In the summer of 1988, he was one of the four sharia judges behind the mass execution of leftists and dissidents. More recently he was Iran’s prosecutor general.

Mohammad Taghi Karroubi, an Iranian political analyst and the son of an opposition leader under house arrest, Mehdi Karroubi, said May’s elections were important because “whoever wins will undoubtedly have a role in the appointment of the next supreme leader”.
See also: Bonyads

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Friday, April 07, 2017

Teaching about cleavages

Ira Goldberg, from Detroit, posted a link to this Danish advertisement on the AP Comparative Government & Politics Teacher Page (Facebook), with the note that it "does an exceptional job of illustrating coinciding and crosscutting cleavages."

I agree and it would be great as in introduction or a a review.


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Thursday, April 06, 2017

Let the public negotiations begin

The letter invoking Article 50 was just recently signed, but the public proclamations of gains and losses (part of attempts to sway public opinion) have begun.

Up to 100,000 UK jobs at risk as Merkel and Juncker ally warns on euro clearing
The future of an estimated 100,000 jobs has been plunged into doubt after a close political ally of the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and president of the European commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, warned that a prized sector in the City of London must relocate to EU soil after Brexit.

Weber
Manfred Weber, the leader of the largest political group in the European parliament… told reporters that euro-denominated clearing could no longer be undertaken in the City when the UK leaves the EU.

“EU citizens decide on their own money,” Weber said during a press conference in Strasbourg on Tuesday. “When the UK is leaving the European Union it is not thinkable that at the end the whole euro business is managed in London. This is an external place, this is not an EU place any more. The euro business should be managed on EU soil.”

Such a development would be a huge blow to the British economy. Six months ago, the head of the London Stock Exchange, Xavier Rolet, said at least 100,000 positions could be lost if the City’s clearing houses lost their ability to process euro-denominated transactions…

London’s dominance in the sector has long been a source of contention within the EU, with the French government being particularly aggressive in attempts to get in on the trades…

Weber said… “Some of the politicians in London have not understood what leaving the European Union means. It means being alone.”

On the future of the financial services sector in the UK, and euro-denominated clearing in particular, Weber added: “Great Britain after leaving will be a third country.

“We have to find a way of working together, but we have the obvious interest that places like Amsterdam, Paris, Dublin and Frankfurt can win as they lose.”

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Wednesday, April 05, 2017

When elected officials are criminals

How can it be that so many governors in Mexico are criminals or suspected to be criminals? Is this a sign of criminality at higher levels? at lower levels? Is corruption a "normal" part of the political culture?

The sordid record of former Mexican governors: 3 in prison, 3 under investigation and 4 wanted by authorities
Earlier this week, when Mexican authorities issued an arrest warrant for the former governor of the border state of Chihuahua, he joined a long list of former governors from across the country who have run afoul of the law, usually on charges of corruption.

Some former governors are serving time in prison; some are facing criminal charges. Four are being sought by authorities. It’s quite a record for a country with just 31 states.

Here’s a guide to Mexico’s ex-governors with legal issues.

Javier Duarte, Governor of Veracruz (2010-2016), Duarte stepped down from the governor’s post Oct. 12, six weeks before the end of his six-year term. He then disappeared…

Cesar Duarte, Governor of Chihuahua (2010-2016), Duarte is wanted on corruption charges. The current governor of the border state has called him a fugitive and said it’s likely that Duarte fled across the border to El Paso, Texas. (He is no relation to fellow fugitive Javier Duarte from Veracruz.)

Eugenio Hernandez Flores, Governor of Tamaulipas (2005-2010), Hernandez is a fugitive in the eyes of U.S. law enforcement. Along with his brother-in-law, Hernandez was named in a 2015 federal indictment in Texas that accuses him of money laundering…

Tomas Yarrington Ruvalcaba, Governor of Tamaulipas (1999-2004), Hernandez’s predecessor as governor of the state bordering Texas is wanted in the U.S. on a federal racketeering indictment, which charges that he engaged in money laundering and received bribes from traffickers.

Andres Granier, Governor of Tabasco (2007-2012), He has been jailed since 2014 on corruption charges…

Luis Armando Reynoso Femat, Governor of Aguascalientes (2004-2010), He was arrested in 2015, convicted of fraud and sentenced to six years in prison.

Mario Villanueva, Governor of Quintana Roo (1993-1999), He is serving a 22-year sentence in a Mexican prison after serving 3 1/2 years in a federal lockup in the United States…

Guillermo Padres, Governor of Sonora (2009-2015), Padres turned himself in to authorities in Mexico City in November and has denied graft charges leveled against him. As governor of the state bordering Arizona, Padres served under the banner of the opposition National Action Party. He and Reynoso Femat of Aguascalientes, who also belongs to the National Action Party, are the only former governors known to be in legal trouble who were not members of President Enrique Peña Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

Rodrigo Medina, Governor of Nuevo León (2009-2015), He is under investigation for corruption.

Roberto Borge, Governor of Quintana Roo (2011-2017), He is under investigation for corruption.

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Tuesday, April 04, 2017

The complications of history

The UK is plagued by the past. It's not just a rock, naval base, and air strip on the Mediterranean, but it's a village street in the Cotswolds. What do governments have to do in order to deal with seeming distractions like this?

Yellow car owners join rally in support of 'ugly' car
Yellow car owners have rallied in support of a vehicle blamed for ruining tourists' photographs in a picturesque Cotswold village.

A convoy of 100 cars has driven through Bibury in an act of solidarity towards Vauxhall Corsa owner Peter Maddox, 84.

Mr. Maddox and his car
Mr Maddox has come under fire for parking his car outside his cottage in Arlington Row.

Tourists have complained that it "ruins" the view and, earlier this year, the vehicle was vandalized…

Bibury, near Cirencester, was once described by William Morris as "the most beautiful village in England".

The National Trust owns the 17th Century cottages of Arlington Row, which are featured on the inside cover of the British passport and are some of the most photographed dwellings in the country…
The picturesque lane


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The complications of empire

The British empire might seem to be a topic for a history textbook, but it's now a complication for Brexit.

Brexit: Gibraltar angered by Spain's EU 'veto'
Gibraltar has accused Spain of manipulating the European Council for its own political interests.
Gibraltar
A draft document on the EU's Brexit strategy said no agreement on the EU's future relationship with the UK would apply to Gibraltar without the consent of Spain, giving it a potential veto.
But Gibraltar's chief minister Fabian Picardo said this was "unacceptable".

Conservative MPs in the UK have warned that the sovereignty of the UK overseas territory is non-negotiable…

Spain has long contested Britain's 300 year-rule of Gibraltar.

Gibraltarians, who number about 30,000, rejected by 99% to 1% the idea of the UK sharing sovereignty with Spain, in a vote in 2002…

Following last June's EU referendum - in which Gibraltar voted by 96% to 4% to remain in the EU - Spain's then foreign minister suggested shared sovereignty could allow Gibraltarians to maintain some of the benefits of EU membership and enable Spain to "plant its flag" there…

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Monday, April 03, 2017

Details, details

There are thousands of details to be taken into account when the UK leaves the EU.

Brexit: UK sets out plans to replace all EU laws
Thousands of EU laws on everything from workers' rights to the environment are to be transferred into UK law as the country gears up for Brexit.

Davis
Brexit Secretary David Davis said the Great Repeal Bill would allow the UK Parliament and Welsh, Scottish and Northern Ireland administrations to scrap, amend and improve laws.

It would also end the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

But Labour warned it was being done without proper Parliamentary scrutiny…

In a statement to MPs, David Davis said the repeal bill would allow businesses to continue operating on the day after UK leaves the EU "knowing the rules have not changed overnight".

He said it would also mean that workers' rights, environmental protection and consumer rights currently enshrined in EU laws would continue as UK laws - although Parliament would be free to change them later.

The repeal bill will also "end the supremacy" of EU law in the UK, "delivering" on the result of last year's referendum, he added.

"Our laws will then be made in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast and interpreted not by judges in Luxembourg but by judges across the United Kingdom," he told MPs…

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