Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Jonathan to run again

This announcement only surprised those who thought that developments in Nigeria looked so bad for the incumbent that he wouldn't have a chance. Developments are bad, but that's only a part of Nigerian politics.

Nigeria's Goodluck Jonathan to run again in elections
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has confirmed he will run again in February's elections, his office has said.

Until now he had refused to confirm his candidacy for re-election as president.

The announcement comes as he faces mounting criticism over his handling of the Boko Haram insurgency and its abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls…

The opposition All Progressives Congress will not select its candidate until early December. The former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari is considered the favourite to lead the opposition challenge for the top job in Africa's largest economy…

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What next for Nigeria?

When I began learning about Nigeria in the early '60s, there seemed to be great optimism for the new country. That optimism disappeared in civil war and military government. I sensed a lot of hope in the academic and journalistic arenas with the launch of the second republic. The hopes were dashed as Nigeria spiraled down to the Abacha years.

Even the newest republic and the government's survival of the death of a president hasn't brought back the old optimism. Maybe I just don't want to be disappointed again.

However, the current politics, economics, and civil strife in Nigeria makes me fear for the future. The editors at The Economist share my trepidations.

A nation divided: Africa’s lodestar nation has weathered Ebola, but an extremist takeover has exposed the flaw at its heart
In recent months the extreme Islamist group has taken over swathes of north-east Nigeria…

The group routinely slaughters unbelievers as well as Muslims, establishing its writ through fear…

On October 17th senior government officials claimed to have agreed a ceasefire with the group, and to have extracted a promise that more than 200 schoolgirls abducted earlier this year in the town of Chibok would be released. But the girls have not been freed…

Boko Haram, which started out by assassinating provincial officials from the backs of motorbikes, has become an able fighting force. It conducts complex military maneuvers…

The Islamists have looted military garrisons across the region, and now have tanks, armoured personnel carriers, anti-tank weapons and artillery. Boko Haram claims to have downed a Nigerian fighter jet…

Recent recruitment has often been by force, though not much coercion is needed. “What else can the kids do with their lives?” asks a mother in Gombe. Youngsters have few options…

The insurgency has driven about a million people from their homes and may have killed 13,000 in the past five years…

Agriculture has collapsed in parts of the north-east… Public schools have been closed for half a year…

That is one side of a strangely bifurcated country. A very different Nigeria exists a day’s drive away. While the north is imploding, the south is booming…

Though oil is the country’s main export earner, natural resources make up only 14% of GDP. Factories are now running at about 53% of capacity, up from 46% last year…

Much is due to government reforms. Investment in the electricity sector is starting to turn on the lights…

And yet, while much of the economy in the south-west is coming to life, politics in the north-east is dying…

The government has racked up some successes. On October 20th Nigeria was declared free of Ebola… Yet state failure is evident when it comes to security. Kidnappings for ransom are rife: celebrities and clergymen are plucked off the street in daylight. Hundreds of people are killed every year in land disputes. Thieves siphon off as much as a fifth of the country’s oil output in the Niger delta. Piracy is common.

Such rampant criminality continues to infect politics. Gangsters aid politicians by intimidating opponents. In return elected officials share out funds plundered from state coffers…

The president belittled the problem in May when he said corruption was not the same thing as stealing… Nigeria’s federal parliament has for years refused to approve an oil-industry bill that would boost investment in oilfields and hence production. But members prefer to keep things as they are: many of them do well from local cartels’ handouts…

Inequality is also starkly regional (see map). If they were independent countries, some of Nigeria’s northern states would rank bottom globally in terms of development…

Extrajudicial killings account for thousands of deaths in the north. Revenge is a common reason for commando raids. Abuse in detention centres is routine…

In the field the army lacks the equipment and morale to give chase…

Hapless at chasing insurgents, the army is nonetheless skilled at extracting bribes…

The soldiers are only following the example of their generals, many of whom retire as millionaires…

Government officials insist that Nigeria does not face an existential crisis but rather struggles to communicate its successes abroad… [See "Making things look better" and "Rebranding Nigeria"]

Nobody can predict when Nigeria might tip over into chaos. But that day seems to be coming closer.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Bookmark or print this BBC article now

Assuming that Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei survives until you are teaching about Iran, this article will be an excellent supplement to your textbook. Create a lesson plan around it? Use it for lecture notes? Assign it?

Who will be Iran's next Supreme Leader?
The Supreme Leader is by far the most powerful man in Iran.

He is commander-in-chief of the armed forces and appoints the heads of the judiciary and the state broadcaster, as well as half of the members of the Guardian Council - the powerful body which vets candidates for presidential and parliamentary elections…

No substantial political change can happen in Iran unless it gets a green light from the Supreme Leader…

The Assembly of Experts, a council of 82 elected clerics, [is] charged with electing, supervising and even disqualifying the Supreme Leader…
Assembly of Experts meeting

Iran could have a very different future depending on which faction in the Assembly of Experts gains the upper hand in choosing the next leader…

Over past decade conservatives have gained more seats in the Assembly of Experts because all candidates are vetted by the Guardian Council, whose most influential members are chosen directly and indirectly by the Supreme Leader…

Although the Assembly of Experts has the formal role of selecting the new leader, there will be intense behind the scenes lobbying to influence their decision.

Key players are likely to be the powerful Revolutionary Guards, and the office of the current Supreme Leader.

Another important group will be the supporters of whoever holds the presidency when a new leader is chosen…

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Tentacles of corruption

I have to remind myself that the speculations or journalists are not legally admissible bits of evidence.

Missing Mexico students: Guerrero state governor to resign
The governor of Mexico's southern Guerrero state - where 43 students went missing after clashing with police last month - has said he is standing down.

Angel Aguirre said he hoped the move would create "a more favourable political climate to bring about the solution to the crisis"…

Mexico's Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam on Thursday said there appeared to be deep ties across the southern state between politicians, the police and drug gangs.

He said arrest warrants had been issued for Iguala Mayor Jose Luis Abarca, his wife, and the town's police chief. They are suspected of ordering the police to hand over the students to local gangsters.

All three suspects have gone missing…

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Monday, October 27, 2014

Taxes imposed by the EU

Please note that this levy is not being proposed by the Council that represents the member states or by the European Parliament that represents citizens. Talk about democratic deficit.

European Union Orders Britain to Pay Extra $2.7 Billion
A demand from the European Union for an extra payment worth $2.7 billion would not be welcome news for any European leader…

The request for 1.7 billion pounds came after a recalculation of data showed that the British economy performed better in recent years than previously thought, suggesting that its payments into the European Union budget should rise according to the bloc’s formula for contributions. The payment would come in addition to Britain’s annual payment of about $13.8 billion to the union’s treasury…

The revision took place after the European Commission, the executive arm of the bloc, reviewed the economic performance of all member states since 1995 and revised its statistics to take into account elements such as the underground economy.

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Friday, October 24, 2014

Not guilty until arrested

Keep in mind that the Chinese criminal law system is much more an inquisitorial system than an adversarial one. A person doesn't go on trial until those in power are convinced of the accused's guilt. And, remember, those in power are not always those with legal authority.

Is this rule of law with Chinese characteristics?

Presumed Guilty in China’s War on Corruption, Targets Suffer Abuses
China is in the midst of a scorching campaign against government corruption, one that has netted more than 50 high-ranking officials and tens of thousands of workaday bureaucrats as part of President Xi Jinping’s effort to restore public confidence in the ruling Communist Party. In the first half of this year, prosecutors opened more than 6,000 investigations of party officials, according to government statistics released in July…

But admirers of Mr. Xi’s antigraft blitz largely overlook a key paradox of the campaign, critics say: Waged in the name of law and accountability, the war on corruption often operates beyond the law in a secretive realm of party-run agencies…

In more than a dozen interviews, legal scholars and lawyers who have represented fallen officials said defending them was especially difficult, even by the standards of a judicial system tightly controlled by the party.

The biggest challenge, they say, begins the moment an accused official disappears into the custody of party investigators for a monthslong period during which interrogators seek to extract confessions, sometimes through torture.

Known as shuanggui, it is a secretive, extralegal process that leaves detainees cut off from lawyers, associates and relatives…

Guilty verdicts are rarely in doubt. Of the 8,110 officials who received court verdicts on bribery and graft charges in the first half of this year, 99.8 percent were convicted…

Even as they cheer Mr. Xi’s anticorruption campaign, defense lawyers and advocates of legal reform are raising red flags about the lack of due process for those accused of official wrongdoing. They say without systemic change — chiefly a depoliticized, independent judiciary — the party’s twin goals of rooting out corruption and winning back public trust will ultimately founder.

This week, when hundreds of members of the party’s influential Central Committee meet in the nation’s capital, they will undoubtedly endorse the main item on Mr. Xi’s agenda, “governing the country according to law.”

But most analysts agree that any reform proposals are likely to be incremental, and several lawyers expressed pessimism that party leaders would relinquish the power to engineer the outcome of cases that they believe might threaten their authority or the financial fortunes of kin and cronies…

For all its zealousness, and the growing roster of the fallen, the party’s campaign against graft operates under its own set of mysterious rules.

Given the endemic corruption among Chinese officials and the opacity of the legal system, it remains unclear whether those targeted by party investigators are the most corrupt, or just the ones unlucky enough to have chosen the wrong side in an unseen factional battle…

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Rule of law with Chinese characteristics

You'd think that Chinese press secretaries had been studying the list of concepts for the Comparative Gov Pol course. They keep talking about rule of law, transparency, power, and independent judiciary.

Two things to keep in mind: rule of law in the Chinese political culture might not be the same thing as rule of law in other political cultures or textbooks. And, rule of law in commercial (business) law might not extend to criminal or civil liberties law.

CPC "rule of law" meeting key to reform, fairness
Seeking greater social fairness and justice is high on the agenda in China as the central committee of the ruling party is set to discuss rule of law issues.

Arrangements to promote rule of law are expected to be unveiled at the fourth plenary session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China in Beijing…

The key meeting is held at a historic juncture when the Party and the nation are working to deepen reforms in such fields as the economy and administration with the goal of building an "all-round well-off society" by 2020.

It also takes place at a time when Chinese citizens are expecting more fairness and justice…

In 1997, the Party decided to make "rule of law" a basic strategy and "building a socialist country under the rule of law" an important goal for socialist modernization.

Significant progress has since been made in the legal sector. In 2010, the country announced it had established a socialist system of laws. Greater judicial transparency is seen as a result of reforms.

Yet the implementation of laws is not ideal. In the minds of some grassroots leading officials, power is above the law. Government intervention in judicial cases still exists in some areas…

The current Party leadership is trying to give a more important role to the market with a series of economic and administrative reforms, in a bid to improve the quality and efficiency of economic growth…

With the meeting, a wider consensus will be reached and more reforms can be expected for rule of law in China.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

What would George Orwell say?

When the news gets tough, the tough take control. No, that's not quite it.

Russia’s Putin signs law extending Kremlin’s grip over media
In a move that will significantly constrict Russia’s fast-shrinking space for independent reporting, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday signed into law a measure that will curtail foreign ownership of media outlets in his country.

The decision extends the Kremlin’s control over some of Russia’s most prominent independent publications…

The move comes as Russia’s powerful state-run media has labored round-the-clock to glorify Putin and denigrate groups perceived to be the nation’s enemies…

Even though Putin long ago consolidated his control over television and many print news outlets, there had been independent options for the smaller set of Russians who sought alternative voices for news, and the Internet was a particularly unregulated space. But over the past year, one news source after another has been blocked, closed or editorially redirected…

The law deals the sharpest blow to Russia’s most prominent independent daily newspaper, Vedomosti, which aspires to Western standards of journalism.

Vedomosti is co-owned by a tri-national consortium — Dow Jones, the Financial Times Group and Sanoma, a Finnish media company — and focuses on business reporting, a sensitive topic given Russia’s tanking economy and dim prospects for the future. The newspaper has chronicled the troubles of Russia’s most powerful companies as the economy has slowed and Western sanctions have taken hold…

For the Kremlin, “in general it’s easier to have controlled media than non-controlled media,” said Elizaveta Osetinskaya, a former editor of Forbes Russia who is now the editor in chief at the RBC Group, a business-focused media consortium owned by Russian tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov. It also seeks to report independent news and was the first national news outlet to report in August about the funerals of Russian soldiers who died fighting in eastern Ukraine.

“Right now society doesn’t think it needs free media,” Osetinskaya said…

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