Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A poll from Nigeria

I mentioned that I hadn't seen any poll results from Nigeria to back up the wide-spread reports that the presidential race was very close. Well, here's a poll. It was done in December.

Elections 'Too Close to Call' in Nigeria, Says Major Survey
Nigeria's upcoming elections are likely to be the most competitive in the country's history, with the parties running neck-and-neck and the outcome "too close to call", according to a major survey of public opinion published in Lagos on Tuesday.

The survey, carried out by Afrobarometer, the leading continent-wide researcher of African public opinion, portrays Nigerians as people who are deeply unhappy with the country's trajectory, who believe the government is performing badly, and who also distrust the electoral process.

But it nevertheless shows that they still believe elections are the best way of choosing leaders and that the vast majority say they will probably turn out to vote on February 14…

Asked about their voting intentions, 42 percent of respondents chose the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP), and 42 percent the principal challenger, the All Progressives Congress (APC).

When asked not who they would vote for, but who they expected to win, 40 percent said the PDP and 38 percent the APC. These figures are within the survey's margin of sampling error of plus or minus two percent…

Still, Nigerians are sceptical as to whether their votes will remove from office leaders who don't do what people want. Only 10 percent are confident this will happen, while 68 percent say elections do "not at all well" or "not very well" in removing unpopular leaders.

Regional political divisions are clearly shown when voting intentions are broken down by party:
  • South South: 65 percent will vote for the PDP; 20 percent for the APC
  • South East: 61 percent PDP; four percent APC
  • North Central: 45 percent PDP; 35 percent APC
  • North West: 59 percent APC; 20 percent PDP
  • South West: 46 percent APC; 19 percent PDP
  • North East: 44 percent APC; 43 percent PDP

The survey results can be downloaded from "Nigeria heads for closest election on record"

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Subversive soft power

Can materialism undermine a revolution? (Ask Chinese leaders.)

Note who the identity of the major players in this construction boom.

(My problem with this article is that it conflates an "Iranian Elite" with the middle class.)

Lavish Malls Sprouting Up to Attract Iranian Elite
The low rumble of powerful engines reverberated against the high-rises of Zaferanieh, an upmarket neighborhood, as Porsches and Mercedeses lined up to enter the multistory parking lot of a fancy new shopping mall, the Palladium, the latest addition to Tehran’s shopping scene.

Iran may be facing a dangerous economic abyss, with an empty treasury, historically low oil prices and the continuing damage of Western economic sanctions, but one indicator is going through the roof: Developers have broken ground on a record 400 shopping malls across the country, 65 in Tehran alone…

[T]he mall-building boom also reflects other factors, as construction and investment companies affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards Corps and the police have led the way.

“Under sanctions, with nowhere else to invest, building shopping malls is the only lucrative business in Iran,” said Jamshid Edalatian, an economist. “The Guards, the police and other institutions are the ones who have money, so it is logical for them to invest in what makes a profit.”

Together with banks, wealthy individuals and powerful foundations, tax-exempt organizations that are supposed to care for the poor [bonyads], Iran’s security forces are building malls with Western-sounding names such as Rose, Mega Mall and Atlas Plaza. Their bright neon letters stand in sharp contrast to the revolutionary slogans painted on murals in surrounding neighborhoods, labeling consumerism a Western illness and taboo under Iran’s rigid ideology…

“We cater to what people desire to do: spending money, buying stuff and enjoying themselves as they shop,” said the owner of the Palladium, Hassan Raftari… Mr. Raftari led a business expansion into the construction of luxury apartment buildings. During his trips abroad, he said, he would always wonder why shopping in Iran was so boring…

Malls comparable to the Palladium are mushrooming across the city… not just for the rich. Around Tehran’s southern bus terminal, one of the poorer areas of the city, three malls are under construction…

Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the state has dominated public spaces, using murals, the morals police and state media to emphasize what officials say are unchangeable revolutionary values. In private, though, Iranians have moved on, embracing satellite TV and the Internet, widening their world views and comparing their lives to those of people in Turkey, Malaysia, Europe and other popular destinations…

Mr. Edalatian, the economist and a member of the Tehran Chamber of Commerce… noted that the state prefers the shopping malls to the chaotic bazaars, as it is easier to collect value added taxes from them, currently at 8 percent.

“Try to get taxes from four million individual shops in our country,” he said. “The more centralized, the better.”…

“This mall is not only changing our shopping culture, it’s also a place where people are nice to each other. Most people you see here are smiling and not stressed out as they are elsewhere in this city,” said Mobin Cheraghi…

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Talking to the people

Televised debates between electoral candidates have been going on in the US for 50 years. The first televised debates in the UK took place in 2010. The results were not to everyone's liking. Thus there is a lot of shuffling and excuse making about arranging debates for the upcoming elections.

David Cameron is smart to duck a TV debate—but not right
Candidate onstage
BRITONS have admired America’s televised presidential debates since the first, between John F. Kennedy and a sweaty Richard Nixon, aired in 1960. But it took them half a century to adopt the practice. Though politicians often flirted with the idea, and broadcasters nagged, the more plausible of the party leaders (typically the incumbent) always vetoed it, sensing that he or she had more to lose than to gain…

Now prime minister, it is Mr Cameron’s turn to dither and bottle. On October 13th a consortium of broadcasters proposed three televised debates ahead of this May’s election… The prime minister prevaricated, then insisted that he would participate only if the Greens, like UKIP a small party that has surged in opinion polls, could take part too. Unpalatable to Labour—because the Greens could split the left-wing vote—and to broadcasters (who do not like to be pushed around) that is as close as Mr Cameron could come to refusing to take part.

On January 14th the leaders of Labour, UKIP and the Liberal Democrats all wrote to Mr Cameron urging him not to “deny the public the opportunity to see their leaders debate” out of self-interest. They encouraged the broadcasters to hold the debates regardless, leaving the prime ministerial podium empty if he continued to stall…

Mr Cameron’s foot-dragging is indeed self-interested. Voters tend to favour him as prime minister over Mr Miliband by a factor of two to one. As Philip Cowley, a political scientist at Nottingham University, has put it, the Labour leader will outperform expectations merely if he “comes on stage and doesn’t soil himself on camera”—let alone if he puts in the strong performance of which he sometimes shows himself capable…

That does not make the prime minister’s objection to excluding the Greens wrong on principle. That left-wing party now routinely polls ahead of the Lib Dems and won its first parliamentary seat four years before UKIP. Natalie Bennett, its leader, deserves a podium.

But nor does it make Mr Cameron’s stalling noble. A well-run televised debate makes people pay attention to the election: the first one in 2010 drew 10 million viewers. They are much better at teasing out politicians’ views than the tedious round of speeches, press conferences and staged visits to supporters’ houses that comprise a debate-free campaign. Britons should have the chance to see their leaders battle—as Mr Cameron argued so forcefully just five years ago.

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Monday, January 26, 2015

Profile of Muhammadu Buhari

Nigerian Voters Look to Ex-Leader Who Ruled With Iron Hand to Loosen Militants’ Grip
With Nigeria’s presidential election only weeks away, Boko Haram’s unchecked rampaging here in the country’s north is helping to propel the 72-year-old general, Muhammadu Buhari, to the forefront.

After ruling Nigeria with an iron hand [for 20 months] 30 years ago as the country’s military leader, Mr. Buhari is now a serious threat at the ballot box, analysts say, in large part because of Boko Haram’s blood-soaked successes.

“The state is collapsing and everybody is frightened,” Jibrin Ibrahim, a political scientist with the Center for Democracy and Development in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, said of Boko Haram…

Mr. Buhari’s tenure as Nigeria’s military ruler was brief: a 20-month stint in the 1980s, ended by another military coup. Yet it is remembered with trepidation by many Nigerians. His self-proclaimed “war against indiscipline” was carried to “sadistic levels, glorying in the humiliation of a people,” wrote the Nobel laureate and writer Wole Soyinka.

But Mr. Buhari’s supporters are far more interested in the instability shaking the north, urging a total overhaul of the lackluster fight against the Islamists…

“The resources meant for the military don’t go to the military; the bullets and boots don’t go to the soldiers,” said Hadiza Bala Usman, the main campaigner for the return of more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram last spring…

A retired general in the crowd of supporters… agreed, expressing anger that Boko Haram had gained the upper hand over Nigeria’s soldiers.

“The issue is lack of discipline; the commander has eaten his money,” he said, arguing that officers take money meant for soldiers, who then see little reason to obey orders.

In an interview, Mr. Buhari said that the times had changed and that he had changed with them.

“I operated as a military head of state,” he said. “Now I want to operate as a partisan politician in a multiparty setup. It’s a fundamental difference. Whatever law is on the ground, I will make sure it is respected.”

Yet it is Mr. Buhari’s long military career, not the respect for civil liberties he has proclaimed later in life, that will ultimately swing voters wary of his past, analysts say…

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Turning a blind eye to what's politically inconvenient?

The Nigerian president, running for reelection doesn't want to remind people of the failures of his government in combating Boko Haram. Will his rival bring up the issue?

[I have twice read that this presidential race is very hotly contested, but I have seen no polling data to back up that assertion.

As for the race being the hottest in Nigerian history, I seem to recall that one of the earliest elections was so close that the Supreme Court had to rule on which candidate had won.]

Blind to bloodshed
The attack [in Baga] on January 3rd may [have been] the bloodiest yet by Boko Haram, a jihadist group that has taken over swathes of north-eastern Nigeria…
Baga, Nigeria

What is clear, though, is that despite the horror, Nigeria’s rulers treat the war with indifference. President Goodluck Jonathan was quick to condemn the “monstrous” terrorist attack against Charlie Hebdo in Paris. But as The Economist went to press, he had not uttered a word about Baga. *

His lieutenants argue that he cannot speak out because details of the attack are still hazy…

But there may be more cynical motives, too. Nigeria is due to hold elections on February 14th. Talking about the siege would draw attention to the government’s failure to curb the insurgents. The issue is particularly sensitive because Mr Jonathan, a southerner, is standing against a northern former army general, Muhammadu Buhari, who is tough on security.

The race is the tightest in the history of Nigerian civil rule…

Things are likely to get worse with the approach of the elections, often a time of violence in Nigeria. Some civil-rights activists worry that already-stretched army forces will be withdrawn from the northeast—either to protect polling stations around the country, or to help stuff the ballot boxes.

* Editor’s Note: After The Economist went to press, a press release from Mr Jonathan’s office said the president had made a surprise visit to Maiduguri on January 15th, nearly a fortnight after the attack on Baga, to hail the bravery of Nigerian troops and commiserate with a group of 900 displaced residents from Baga…

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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Urban fighting in Nigeria

Most of the terrorism and warfare in Nigeria has been in rural areas and small towns — until now.

Boko Haram Attacks Major Nigerian City in a Sustained Assault
Maiduguri, the major city in Nigeria’s northeast, came under sustained attack from Boko Haram terrorists on Sunday morning…

This city of over two million people was attacked beginning late Saturday night from at least two directions by the militants from the Islamist insurgency, which effectively controls the territory surrounding the city. Loud explosions were heard in the center of the city, and small-arms fire and artillery in its suburbs…

By late Sunday morning, the attack appeared to have been repulsed by the Nigerian military. Officials said bombs dropped on insurgent positions had turned the tide of the battle here, but there were reports that a major military installation in a town to the north, Monguno, had fallen to the insurgents…

Initial reports suggested that civilian and military casualties here were substantial. Witnesses reported seeing hundreds of residents fleeing the suburbs and rushing toward the city’s center. They also reported seeing some Nigerian troops moving away from the fighting, as in numerous previous engagements with the Islamists…

The sustained attack by the Islamists on the center of Nigerian state and military power in this section of the country — the city that was their movement’s birthplace — was one more indication that they are stepping up the pace of their offensive before a critical presidential election next month.

The attack came hours after Mr. Jonathan had left Maiduguri after a campaign speech…

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Friday, January 23, 2015

Voting in a war zone?

People in Nigeria have to "go home" to vote. The reporter doesn't explain exactly what that means, but for residents of refugee camps it might mean losing the chance to vote. Will this affect the results?

Nigerians made homeless by Boko Haram seen losing vote too
Nigerians fleeing a wave of killings by the Islamist group Boko Haram have already lost loved ones, livelihoods and most of their possessions. Now they seem likely to lose their vote.

A closely fought presidential election is to be held in a month’s time and the law states people must go home if they want to participate, posing a risk to the credibility of the poll in Africa’s biggest economy.

The electoral commission says it is rushing to distribute voter ID cards to the 1.5 million people who have been displaced…

Minawao camp in Cameroon
But for many voters the idea of going back to their home constituencies, as they legally must in order to cast their ballots, is too harrowing to contemplate.

President Goodluck Jonathan faces ex-military ruler Muhammadu Buhari in the Feb. 14 election, and there are grave doubts over whether voting can happen in swathes of the northeast overrun by rebels. As they are mostly opposition strongholds, Buhari stands to lose out the most…

The independent electoral commission (INEC) hopes it can find a away around the law… Giving out ID cards in refugee camps was itself a departure from the normal rules.

Nearly half of all registered voters nationwide have yet to receive new voter identification cards, the commission said on Tuesday, raising questions about preparations for the vote with just a month to go…

To illustrate the size of the problem, in Adamawa state, five Boko Haram-controlled local authorities account for 356,680 voters…

IDPs Will Not Be Disenfranchised in February Elections Says INEC
THE Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said it was determined to ensure that Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) were not disenfranchised in the February elections...

To ensure that the IDPs exercise their franchise in the elections, INEC said it had scheduled a "crucial meeting" with stakeholders...

Stakeholders expected at the meeting... are representatives of the governments of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe as well as members and speakers of their Houses of Assembly.

Others, it said, included religious leaders, representatives of security agencies comprising, and civil society organizations...

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Delay elections in Nigeria?

Would a delay serve more than one purpose?

Security chief urges vote delay
Sambo Dasuki
Nigeria's national security adviser [Sambo Dasuki] has urged the electoral commission to delay next month's elections to allow more time for voter card distribution.

The polls are the first in Nigeria to require voters to have biometric cards.

Nigeria, wracked by a violent uprising by Islamists Boko Haram, is scheduled to hold the election on 14 February…

And he criticised "cowards" within Nigeria's armed forces for hampering the campaign against the insurgents.

"We have people who use every excuse in this world not to fight," he told an audience at the Chatham House think-tank in London, adding "there is no high-level conspiracy within the army not to end the insurgency"…

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International or local terrorism

Mostly for teacher background.

The difference doesn't matter to the delegitimization of the Nigerian government, but it does matter to policy makers figuring out how to combat terrorism.

This op-ed piece is from The Monkey Cage in the Washington Post. The author, Hilary Matfess, is a student at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), where she works on issues of governance, security and development in sub-Saharan Africa.

Boko Haram is not al-Qaeda
The international community is abuzz… expressing solidarity with victims of the Parisian terrorist attacks and acknowledging that, not only have the Chibok girls not been “brought back,” but that Boko Haram has extended its power across northeastern Nigeria in a particularly brutal manner.

Observers and pundits have caved to the temptation to draw similarities between these attacks, highlighting the global scope of the jihadistthreat and rehashing the importance of a multilateral approach to the Global War on Terror…

Abubaker Shekau
Though Abubaker Shekau — the current head of Boko Haram — has expressed solidarity with the missions of the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, partnerships between the groups have not developed…

More importantly, lumping these organizations together ignores the local conditions that give rise to their specific characteristics. Attempting to understand Boko Haram from a transnational perspective yields very little…

It’s critical to note that Boko Haram began as a largely non-violent (though anti-system) Muslim reform movement, targeting local imams and politicians that were unsympathetic to their strict interpretation of sharia law. The movement only became radicalized following the Nigerian government’s 2009 offensive, in which an estimated 700 people, including Boko Haram’s founder Mohammed Yusuf, were killed by members of the Nigerian security sector, while members of the Joint Task Force engaged in egregious human rights abuses and violations of the rule of law…

In Nigeria, the long-standing economic and political marginalization of the north has prevented the government from mounting a robust response to Boko Haram, and has allowed the insurgency to gain access to sophisticated arms through Sahelian trade routes; the abuses of government forces have given Boko Haram a platform from which to mobilize and a motivation for their ideological goals.

Treating terrorism as a monolithic, global network serves a specific political agenda, mobilizing support for well-intentioned but homogenous and ineffective counter-terrorism programs. Counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism programs that fail to acknowledge the context and characteristics of specific movements have failed and will continue to fail.

The international community owes it to the survivors of such horrific attacks to assist in the design and implementation of effective programs, recognizing that while the struggle is global, all politics are local.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Ah, crucial documents

In the USA, candidate Barack Obama was beset by a controversy over his "official" birth certificate. Now, Nigerian candidate Muhammadu Buhari is threatened with disqualification over his diplomas.

We Don't Have Copy of Buhari's WASC - Army
The Nigerian Army said yesterday it was not in possession of original copies of General Muhammadu Buhari's West Africa School Certificate (WASC) or statement of result.

It however added that Buhari's form at the point of documentation as officer indicated that the former Head of State obtained the WASC in 1961 with credits in five subjects including English Language…

Speaking in a press conference yesterday, Army spokesman Brigadier General Olajide Laleye said… "The media hype on retired Major General Muhammadu Buhari's credentials as well as the numerous requests made by individuals and corporate bodies to the Nigerian Army on this issue have necessitated that we provide the facts as contained in the retired senior officer's service record.

"Records available indicate that Major General M Buhari applied to join the military as a Form Six student of the Provincial Secondary School, Katsina on 18 Oct 1961.

"His application was duly endorsed by the Principal of the school, who also wrote a report on him and recommended him to be suitable for military commission…

'However, there is no available record to show that his process was followed in the 1960s.

"Nevertheless, the entry made on the NA Form 199A at the point of documentation after commission as an officer indicated that the former Head of State obtained the West African School Certificate (WASC) in 1961 with credits in relevant subjects: English Language, Geography, History, Health Science, Hausa and a pass in English Literature.

"Neither the original copy, Certified True Copy (CTC) nor statement of result of Major General M Buhari's WASC result is in his personal file…"

The ruling PDP has made Buhari's WASC an issue in the February 14 election in which he is President Goodluck Jonathan's main challenger…

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Rule of Ideology and Loyalty

Chinese President Xi tells local officials what he expects of them. Does he really mean rule of law? Or might he mean loyalty or ideological purity? Or does he mean that he expects them to be popular?

(Obscure Marxist reference: The explanation that "Experts said counties played a key role in connecting the grassroots with the upper echelons of the state… " sounds very much like the early industrial revolution analogy of "transmission belts" that Marx, Lenin, and Stalin referred to.)

Xi stresses role of county Party chiefs
Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday lauded the role of county level governments, however, he underscored the integral role officials played in ensuring efficiency…

Xi said county-level governments had taken on more responsibility in the implementation of reform measures, the promotion of rule of law and the enforcement of strict Party discipline. Thus, Party chiefs must acknowledge their authority and exercise self-discipline in their work.

Counties are the joints that link the higher and lower levels of the Party and the government, Xi said, adding that county-level CPC committees were the "front-line headquarters" and county Party chiefs the "front-line commanders in chief"…

Experts said counties played a key role in connecting the grassroots with the upper echelons of the state, and the seminar showed efforts were being taken to consolidate primary-level authorities for the betterment of the whole country…

Loyalty to the Party, Xi stressed, is the most important criterion for assessing county Party chiefs and key posts at this level must be filled by those committed to the Party.

County Party chiefs will be surrounded by temptation. Without loyalty to the Party to ground them, they could be distracted by offers of money, sex or power, Xi warned.

"You must remember that you are the CPC's county Party chief and you report to the CPC," Xi said.

County cadres must steer their organizations along the right political path, as they themselves must follow the Party line and uphold their responsibilities to the CPC, Xi said.

Chu Songyan, a professor with the Chinese Academy of Governance, said the seminar aimed to strengthen governance from the ground up.

"There is a Chinese saying that goes 'to run the country well, you must first start at the county'. [Which is similar to the] adage: 'A stable country comes with the stability of counties and prefectures'," said Chu.

"Whether a county is governed well is reflected by public opinion ," Chu added…

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