Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Political spying in Mexico

Another bit of political culture in Mexico. How vital is spying to the PRI's power?

Government Spying Allegations in Mexico Spur Calls for Inquiry
After reports this week that sophisticated government-owned surveillance software was used to spy on some of Mexico’s most prominent journalists and activists, victims and others have demanded an independent inquiry into the allegations.

The calls came in response to an article by The New York Times and to a parallel report by several Mexican and international organizations, both of which found that the Israeli-made spyware, which was sold to the Mexican government on the strict condition that it be used only against terrorists and criminal groups, was deployed against some of the government’s most outspoken critics.

The software, called Pegasus, can infiltrate a smartphone and allow spies to monitor all activity on it, including calls, texts and emails…

Those calling for an investigation say the only way a truly independent inquiry can be guaranteed is to bring in an international team of experts…

A spokesman for the Peña Nieto administration [said] “For the government of the republic, the respect of privacy and the protection of personal data of all individuals are inherent values of our liberty, democracy and rule of law,”

Still, the findings provoked broad outrage, with many laying responsibility — if not for the spying itself, then at least to initiate a thorough inquiry — on the shoulders of the administration.

“This new, chilling evidence confirms that Mexican journalists and human rights defenders are a target of illegal practices designed to interfere and hinder their work,” Erika Guevara-Rosas, the Americas director at Amnesty International, said in a statement. The findings “show a clear pattern of illegal use of technology in an attempt to control any criticism against those in power.”…

The findings this week “only add to the idea that, rather than protecting the press, the Mexican government views it as a dissident group or even as an enemy,” Guillermo Osorno, a founder of Horizontal.mx, a digital magazine…

But the reaction was also mitigated somewhat by a certain cynicism in a country where wiretapping has been a time-honored tradition in politics, and allegations of spying by the government against its critics are not new…

But many commentators have been underwhelmed by the administration’s early response, which struck some as highly defensive and a reaffirmation of the widely held view that the government is more interested in preserving its authority than in enforcing the rule of law…

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Unitary system China continues on the path to a truly unitary regime.

Xi urges efforts to boost integrated military and civilian development
Xi
Chinese President Xi Jinping Tuesday underscored centralized and unified leadership to boost integrated military and civilian development.

Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, made the remarks at the first plenary meeting of the central commission for integrated military and civilian development, which he heads.

Upgraded as a national strategy, integrated military and civilian development is a major achievement of China's long-term coordinated development of economic and national defense construction, Xi said.

It is also a major decision concerning national development and overall security, and a major measure to deal with complicated security threats and gain national strategic advantages, Xi said…

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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Limitations on state capacity

When officials and military officers collect salaries for non-existent workers and soldiers, that's one kind of corruption. Stealing and selling food meant for starving people is another kind. The authorities in Nigeria don't seem to be able to do much about either kind of theft.

'Half' Nigeria food aid for Boko Haram victims not delivered
Up to half the food aid meant for people who have fled Nigeria's Islamist insurgency has reportedly not been delivered, the government says.

Food aid in Nigeria
It described it as a "diversion of relief materials", which correspondents say is a euphemism for theft.

A statement from the acting president's office added that security was being beefed up to protect the deliveries.

As a result of Boko Haram violence some 8.5 million Nigerians in the north-east need life-saving aid, officials say.

Poor rains have exacerbated a problem caused by fighting with Boko Haram Islamist militants, which has forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes…

The statement from acting President Yemi Osinbajo said aid going missing had "dogged food delivery" and then cited reports saying that more than 50 lorries out of every 100 sent to the north-east never reach their destination.

It does not say what has happened to the diverted food, but in May two Nigerian officials were jailed for selling food aid.

Last week, Nigeria apologised to Saudi Arabia after 200 tonnes of dates the kingdom sent as a Ramadan gift were found on sale in local markets.

Mr Osinbajo said that the latest consignment of aid which is making its way to the north-east is being protected by more than a thousand soldiers.

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Monday, June 19, 2017

Generation gap in Russia

It's probably overly simple, but there does appear to be a generation gap in Russian politics. Is it similar to the one in the UK?

Aleksei Navalny’s protesters are a force to be reckoned with
AT TWO O’CLOCK on the afternoon of June 12th, Elizaveta Chukicheva, a 16-year-old technical-college student, stood in the middle of Tverskaya Street in central Moscow next to a large reproduction of an idol from Russia’s pagan antiquity. Ms Chukicheva held a sign on which she had written the words “I love Russia”, and wore a T-shirt bearing the image of Aleksei Navalny, a Russian opposition leader. Against her parents’ advice, she had answered Mr Navalny’s call to attend a rally on Russia’s national holiday against corruption, and for his campaign for the presidential election in 2018. “My parents told me that we can’t change anything and that there are no prospects for us in this country,” she said. “But I don’t want to leave Russia, and I believe that we can change things.” It was her first political action ever, and she was nervous.

A few hours earlier, Mr Navalny had been arrested outside his apartment block for organising an “unsanctioned” rally. Moscow authorities had approved a gathering at a different location, but then sabotaged it…

There, the Kremlin had blocked off traffic for a pedestrian festival celebrating “Russia’s Victorious Past” (hence the pagan idol). The street was occupied with historical reconstructions of Russian military triumphs…

As Mr Navalny’s supporters, many of them young enough to have lived their entire lives under Vladimir Putin, entered the street, they found themselves surrounded by reconstructionists dressed in medieval body armour, 19th-century tsarist gowns and Stalin-era military and secret-police uniforms. The protesters chanted “Russia without Putin!” and “We are the power here!”…

As surreal as the scene was, it also encapsulated the current political confrontation in Russia. Vladimir Putin’s backwards-looking regime, which legitimises itself by restoring the symbols of Russia’s imperial past, is being challenged by a new generation of Russians who feel that their future has been hijacked by the corruption, hypocrisy and lies of the ruling elite…

The symbol of the protests was a rubber duck, a reference to a documentary video Mr Navalny released in March that accuses Dmitry Medvedev, the prime minister, of corruption. (The video depicts Mr Medvedev’s immense estate, allegedly donated to him by an oligarch, which includes a house for a pet duck.)…

A few years ago, such a video might have generated laughter. Now, it produces outrage. “We’re different from our parents’ generation in that we have no future,” said one of the young protesters…

The protests were held in some 170 cities across Russia, gathering a total of about 150,000 people, according to organisers. (An earlier round of protests on March 26th drew perhaps 100,000 people in about 90 cities.) About half of the protesters are aged between 18 and 29…

One reason for the unrest is economic. Russian real incomes have fallen by 13% over the past two and a half years… Retail consumption has shrunk by 15%. Investment has been falling for three years, reaching a cumulative decline of 12%…

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


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Friday, June 16, 2017

Inflation as a threat to Nigeria's regime and government

Many younger Americans might be wondering, "What's inflation?" A visit to Nigeria would answer that question.

Food Inflationary Trend Persists As Inflation Eased to 16.25 Percent in May
The National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, reported, yesterday, that annual inflation rate dropped by 0.99 per cent to 16.25 per cent in May 2017 from 17.24 per cent recorded in April.

This represents the fourth consecutive decline in the rate of inflation since January 2017…

The report shows that pressure points still exist despite the general slowdown in inflation on year-on-year terms, stemming from higher agro commodity prices as a result of higher global food prices, increasing exports…

Analysts at WSTC Financial Services Limited, said: "The downward trend in the general price level has further reinforced our outlook on inflation in the current year…

"Additionally, we believe the Central Bank of Nigeria's, CBN, inflation target of 10 -11 per cent at the end of 2017, is largely optimistic, particularly considering mounting pressure on food inflation…

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

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


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Friday, June 09, 2017

Instant academic analysis

Two political scientists from the UK's University of Birmingham offer these informed observations on the UK election. The authors are Professor David Cutts and Associate Professor Tim Haughton.

Five things we just learned from the U.K. elections
Theresa May’s election gamble failed. Enticed by large leads in opinion polls, the British prime minister called an early election with the expectation of increasing the Conservative Party’s slim majority in Parliament. But the Conservatives lost seats, leaving no party with a majority…

[W]e suggest there are five takeaway lessons of the election:

  1. Two-party tribalism has returned...  [The] public responded, casting more than 80 percent of votes nationwide for the two main parties — for the first time in nearly 40 years… Helped in part by the mechanics of the “first past the post” electoral system, third parties were squeezed in key Labour-Conservative battlegrounds...
  2. Britain is more polarized than ever...  Labour entrenched its support in the urban and more cosmopolitan cities while the Conservatives stockpiled votes in the more rural areas of England… Labour’s ability to retain and win seats in university towns, for instance, owed much to the mobilization of young and more educated people…
  3. UKIP voters did not just migrate to the Conservatives.
  4. The Conservatives should have done better at the polls… polls universally showed that voters overwhelmingly preferred her over Jeremy Corbyn for prime minister — and found Conservatives far more credible on the economy than Labour…
  5. Mobilization efforts online and offline may have paid off… Labour put great emphasis on online campaigning and mobilizing younger voters. Social media studies during the campaign suggested that Labour’s online activism was at an unprecedented scale in a British general election…

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Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Political parties of Nigeria

News reports announce the formation of a new political party in Nigeria. The new leaders are some of the "big men" in Nigerian politics. There are many parties registered in Nigeria, but politics and government are dominated by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and party it defeated in 2015, the People's Democratic Party (PDP). (Keep those abbreviations in mind as you read this article.)

New Party, APDA, Unveiled to Sack APC
A new political party, Advanced Peoples Democratic Alliance, APDA, promoted by some kingpins of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, was unveiled, yesterday, in Abuja…

The party was birthed with the promise of projecting an egalitarian democracy, internal democracy in its activities and ultimately sacking the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.

Among the PDP bigwigs spotted at the unveiling, yesterday, was broadcast mogul, Chief Raymond Dokpesi… However, many PDP bigwigs previously linked with the party stayed away from the launch and were believed to have monitored the event…

Speaking yesterday, [Chief Dan Nwanyanwu; former national chairman of Republican Party] said the party was formed to give Nigeria a truly progressive party in the face of what he claimed was the dominance of reactionary persons in some self-styled progressive parties…

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