Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Friday, May 06, 2016

Democratic action without democracy?

If a regime is built to frustrate the will of the people, is it possible for "subversives" to act in ways to facilitate following the will of the people?

The author is Shervin Malekzadeh, a visiting assistant professor at Swarthmore College. He is a political scientist whose research interests include the politics of identity and modern state formation. He is a regular visitor to Iran.

How Iranians’ use of an app is changing politics and civil society
In recent years, platforms such as Instagram and Facebook have become effective instruments for the mobilization of voter participation in Iranian elections… Though a crucial component in the current reformist strategy to use the vote… as part of the long march of incrementalism is hardly the stuff of revolutions. Largely unnoticed outside of Iran and lacking the dramatics of large-scale protests, Iranians’ use of their tablets and smartphones to persuade each other — and themselves — to participate in a deeply flawed electoral system nonetheless offers the best measure of citizenship and civil society in Iran today. It is the manner of their participation that we need to pay more attention to, the ad hoc mobilization of millions of families and friends in the days and weeks leading up to election day, a ground game almost always self-forming and rooted in an informal politics from below.

Over the past year these efforts have converged on a single messaging application, Telegram. Last month, Narges Bajoghli described how Telegram’s end-to-end encryption has made it possible for Iranians to engage in open dialogue about politics without fear of government surveillance…

[M]y research in Iran on social media this past February indicates that the successful mobilization of reformist and moderate factions mostly occurred across channels with little to no connection with the elections and those specifically not devoted to political discussion.

Telegram’s particular appeal and power as an instrument of political organization lies in not only its online security but also its ease of use… The app organizes conversations by discrete channels, sorted into categories reflecting the dizzying variety of ordinary life. These groups soon began to intersect: the retired schoolteachers of District 6 in Tehran, say, naturally overlapping with the fanatics of the Persepolis football club and the members of the Sistan Baluchestan mountaineering society, all of them converging on the channel dedicated to “Stage,” a live-singing competition broadcast out of London and the latest obsession of Iranian audiences around the world.

To borrow from Robert Putnam, this bridging effect — a phenomenon in which diverse groups interact and increase their shared social capital — is important among Telegram users because retail politics continues to be the coin of the realm in Iran. The decision to vote tends to be deeply personal, very often made on behalf of a friend, relative or loved one at the last possible moment… Telegram amplifies these existing traditional networks rather than replacing them… Already gathered in a safe, non-politicized, place online, it is a small step for a handful of enthusiasts to mobilize acquaintances or “weak ties” using Telegram around a particular political faction.

For Iran’s reform movement, mobilization is a non-negotiable imperative as low turnout… always favors conservatives… The opposition begins each electoral cycle already in the hole… Making matters worse, these lost votes are roughly matched — 15 percent to 20 percent — by dyed-in-the-wool regime stalwarts who always vote, and always in favor of the conservatives.

Reformists simply cannot afford to leave any voter behind…

Telegram made this difficult work of mobilization much easier… Designed to be a medium of visual as well as textual exchange, Telegram’s architecture enabled organizers to bring an infectious joyousness to what was otherwise a serious and painstaking process of getting-out-the-vote, the proverbial slow boring of politics’ hard boards made more enjoyable by memes, animated videos and funny stickers featuring the endorsements of prominent celebrities and politicians. Initially produced for distribution on channels dedicated to the campaign, these quickly spread across the spectrum as ordinary users shared content that ranged from primers on the rudiments of voting to clips espousing the ethics of small change over large, to banners mocking hardline politicians.

They spread because they were entertaining. For example, a campaign calling itself Prevention is Better than a Cure featured memes made out of the outrageous statements of hardline MPs…

Telegram also played a critical role in rallying the vote through the distribution of voting lists… Absent a proper party system, the list ensured that votes for the reform and moderate camps would not be fractured on election day, a decision that likely facilitated their sweep of Tehran.

Of course, one might ask whether an app or any other corner of social media can be popular or powerful enough to correct a system with permanent, undemocratic features. It was always the dream of the neo-Tocquevillians that associational life would foster democratic souls… faith remains that civil society and social media can act as instruments of progressive change…

[I]n Iran… social media appears to have encouraged many Iranians to live lives at least partially in the public sphere. Tocqueville’s observation that Americans “of all ages, all conditions, and all dispositions constantly form associations” applies to the Iranians, at least in their online selves…

At least part of that excitement carries over into the political realm and was put to great effect in this last set of elections. If nothing else, the vote represents an act of faith that democracy can work in a country where it does not fully exist...

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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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The Comparative Government and Politics Review Checklist.



Two pages summarizing the course requirements to help you review and study for the final and for the big exam in May. . It contains a description of comparative methods, a list of commonly used theories, a list of vital concepts, thumbnail descriptions of the AP6, and a description of the AP exam format. $2.00. Order HERE.

What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools, the original version and v2.0 are available to help curriculum planning.











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Thursday, May 05, 2016

What does this suggest about the prospects for privatization?

If Nigeria is seeking outside investment, this report won't help.

Nigeria one of world’s worst places to do business — World Bank
The World Bank Doing Business Report 2016 says Nigeria remains one of the poorest business destinations in the world, improving marginally… from its ranking last year.

Out of 189 countries surveyed, Nigeria moved from 170th position… to 169…

While Nigeria’s ranking for starting business dropped eight places from 131st position in 2015 to 139th; dealing with construction permits remained unchanged at 175th spot as last year.

Getting electricity became more difficult in 2016, as the country fell in ranking from 181st position to 182nd, while registering property improved by four places from 185th to 181st, and getting credit gets is becoming tougher with a seven place drop in ranking from 52nd ranking to 59th…

Among the 189 countries surveyed, Singapore topped the ranking as the easiest destination for doing business, followed by New Zealand, Denmark, Korea Republic and Hong Kong SA China, with United Kingdom and United States coming closely in that order…

World Bank Chief Economist and Senior Vice President, Kaushik Basu, said although modern economies cannot function without regulation, businesses cannot be brought to a standstill through poor and cumbersome regulation…

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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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Amazon's customers gave this book a 5-star rating.







The Comparative Government and Politics Review Checklist.



Two pages summarizing the course requirements to help you review and study for the final and for the big exam in May. . It contains a description of comparative methods, a list of commonly used theories, a list of vital concepts, thumbnail descriptions of the AP6, and a description of the AP exam format. $2.00. Order HERE.

What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools, the original version and v2.0 are available to help curriculum planning.











The power of a party

In China, a party seems all-powerful. In Russia and Iran, parties seem irrelevant. In the UK, the major parties seem to be nearly equal rivals. In Nigeria, parties are evolving. In Mexico, the PRI seems to retain power no matter what. How can that be?

Few Expect Mexico’s Government to Suffer at Polls, Despite Outrage Over Abductions
In a drab white tent along Reforma Avenue here, across from offices of the attorney general, a small group gathers each day to maintain the vigil for the 43.

The tent bears their black and white images: forty-three students from a teachers college, seized by the police in the city of Iguala in September 2014 and never heard from again; literal and figurative reminders of their absence.

The same street once teemed with hundreds of thousands of protesters…

Yet that rage, like the crowds themselves, has dissipated…

Public pressure has been building in recent days, as it became clear that the international panel, brought in to uncover what happened to the missing students, was unable to do so…

The panel’s final report, issued Sunday, detailed the failings of the government’s investigation…

And though it will likely define the presidency of Enrique Peña Nieto, his political party, the P.R.I., may not suffer. In past elections, the party has managed to outperform its rivals in the face of controversy, and some in and outside of government say the discontent, frustration and grief over the students will do little to dampen the party’s status as the dominant political force in the nation.

“Will that harm the P.R.I.? I’m not convinced of that,” said Pamela Starr, a professor at the University of Southern California who specializes in Mexico…

“It should hurt them, and if it was the P.R.I. against two united opposition parties, it might,” she added.

Mr. Peña Nieto’s approval ratings plummeted after the disappearances… But last year, the party managed to win the midterm elections anyway. And recent polling suggests that the party is expected to retain majority control in governors’ elections in June.

“They [the PRI leaders] know they have lost the battle for international public opinion, but they think they can win the domestic public opinion battle,” said Jorge Castañeda, a political analyst and former foreign minister. “They may be right. There may be no serious consequences domestically.”…

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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.


Just The Facts! is available. Order HERE.

Amazon's customers gave this book a 5-star rating.







The Comparative Government and Politics Review Checklist.



Two pages summarizing the course requirements to help you review and study for the final and for the big exam in May. . It contains a description of comparative methods, a list of commonly used theories, a list of vital concepts, thumbnail descriptions of the AP6, and a description of the AP exam format. $2.00. Order HERE.

What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools, the original version and v2.0 are available to help curriculum planning.











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Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Chinese political correctness

Joining the Communist Party in China is not like joining a political party in the US. If there were divisions within the Party in China, they would never show up in public the way they have recently in the two major US parties.

The return of correct thinking
ON APRIL 6th Xi Jinping, China’s president, launched yet another ideological campaign. It is named (as most such initiatives are) with a low number and a couple of nouns: “Two Studies, One Action.” The aim, says Mr Xi, is to “strengthen the Marxist stance” of Communist Party members and keep them in line with the party leadership in “ideology, politics and action.”…
Ideology has always mattered to the party’s leaders. University students endure lessons on “Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought”. Soldiers have to spend hours a week studying the party’s history and the military writings of its leaders. Applicants for party membership undergo rigorous indoctrination. Chen Xiaojie, a 25-year-old official, recalls weekly classes on party theories and having to write a 1,500-word essay every three months on the latest doctrine. “When you’re in the party, you’ll join a group at least every month to learn about the latest thing they’re promoting.” Officials take regular refresher courses at party schools.

Since Mao’s rule, when ideological training took up a considerable portion of almost everyone’s lives, leaders have given people much more time to get on with their jobs. Deng Xiaoping’s catchphrase, “It doesn’t matter if a cat is black or white so long as it catches mice,” captured a new mood of pragmatism. But the party continued to stress the importance of indoctrination…

Numbers and nouns have come thick and fast. Some have been aimed at improving the behaviour of a corrupt bureaucracy. Mr Xi’s “Eight Points” campaign launched in 2012 required party officials to eschew such things as lavish welcoming ceremonies and traffic-snarling cavalcades when they tour the country. His “Three Stricts, Three Honests” drive of 2014 was about strengthening officials’ moral rectitude. Other campaigns have been more ideological: the “Eight Musts” of 2012 stressed the importance of the party’s monopoly of power as well as of “reform and opening”…

Why, then, has Mr Xi chosen to put such stress on ideology? … Lenin has a lot to offer someone trying to establish centralised one-party rule. The campaigns, with their emphasis on discipline, also help Mr Xi in his efforts to root out corruption—a problem so pervasive when he took over that he saw it as a threat to the party’s survival… The head of his new ideology centre, Zhu Jidong, argued last year that the Soviet Union had collapsed in part because it failed to maintain ideological standards…

The party’s concerns were made clear in a document that began circulating in secret in April 2013 and was later leaked. Document Number Nine, as it is called, describes “the current state of the ideological sphere” and identifies seven challenges to it. They include Western constitutional democracy, universal values, civil society, neoliberalism and “the West’s idea of journalism”. To combat these, the communique says, party members must make ideological work “a high priority” in their daily lives…

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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.


Just The Facts! is available. Order HERE.

Amazon's customers gave this book a 5-star rating.







The Comparative Government and Politics Review Checklist.



Two pages summarizing the course requirements to help you review and study for the final and for the big exam in May. . It contains a description of comparative methods, a list of commonly used theories, a list of vital concepts, thumbnail descriptions of the AP6, and a description of the AP exam format. $2.00. Order HERE.

What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools, the original version and v2.0 are available to help curriculum planning.











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Tuesday, May 03, 2016

EU: Common Agricultural Policy

The EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is the priciest program in the EU. It seems to do much of what was promised in the EU treaties, but like most things in the EU there's a deficit of democracy. Why would the CAP be an issue in the UK in the debate over EU membership?


The common agricultural policy and EU solidarity
Giles Fraser says the EU “has become a huge and largely invisible way of redistributing wealth from the poor to the rich”… Clearly there is an element of the common agricultural policy that does do just that…

According to the eminent historian Tony Judt… “taken all in all, the EU is a good thing … from the late eighties, the budgets of the European Community and the Union nevertheless had a distinctly redistributive quality, transferring resources from wealthy regions to poorer ones and contributing to a steady reduction in the aggregate gap between rich and poor…

It’s because of this approach that poor regions like mine, the north-east of England, are net beneficiaries of EU funding despite the fact we belong to a net contributing nation. In the 80s the EU helped lift Spain, Portugal and Ireland out of relative poverty and the same process is under way today with the countries of eastern Europe. Fraser has missed the big picture – the EU is actually a socialist plot, but be careful who you tell that to…

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

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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.


Just The Facts! is available. Order HERE.

Amazon's customers gave this book a 5-star rating.







The Comparative Government and Politics Review Checklist.



Two pages summarizing the course requirements to help you review and study for the final and for the big exam in May. . It contains a description of comparative methods, a list of commonly used theories, a list of vital concepts, thumbnail descriptions of the AP6, and a description of the AP exam format. $2.00. Order HERE.

What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools, the original version and v2.0 are available to help curriculum planning.











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Monday, May 02, 2016

Whose rule? Whose law?

Here's one to puzzle over. What's missing from the description of "rule of law" in this article from The People's Daily, The Communist Party of China's official newspaper?

Rule of law crucial in cyberspace: People's Daily
A commentary in Saturday's People's Daily has defended China's regulation of online content as lawful and necessary.
People's Daily
"The Internet is not above the law. Where there is cyberspace, there is rule of law," said the article in the newspaper.

Multiple opinions can be allowed in cyberspace, but netizens must not stir up enmity, distort facts or encourage criminality, it said…

[T]he commentary warned that without rule of law, the Internet would be riddled with rumors and scams, saying these are especially harmful to young Internet users.

The People's Daily said enterprises, website operators, online stores, social platforms and search engines, as well as the Communist Party of China and the government, must shoulder their responsibilities for cyberspace management.

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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.


Just The Facts! is available. Order HERE.

Amazon's customers gave this book a 5-star rating.







The Comparative Government and Politics Review Checklist.



Two pages summarizing the course requirements to help you review and study for the final and for the big exam in May. . It contains a description of comparative methods, a list of commonly used theories, a list of vital concepts, thumbnail descriptions of the AP6, and a description of the AP exam format. $2.00. Order HERE.

What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools, the original version and v2.0 are available to help curriculum planning.











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Sunday, May 01, 2016

Women in the majlis

Will the presence of more women in parliament make a difference in Iranian politics? Sue Witmer directed me to this Christian Science Monitor article. Thank you.

Iran's new parliament has more women than clerics
Official results Saturday showed that reformist and moderate politicians allied with President Hassan Rouhani won a big victory in second round parliamentary elections.
Iranian legislators
The outcome saw them outnumber their conservative rivals… for the first time since 2004…

After the second round of elections a record 17 women will become lawmakers in the 290-seat parliament -- one more than the number of clerics, which has hit an all time low…

Although the 17 women, nearly all reformists, elected represent only nine percent of the total it is a high for the Islamic republic and almost double the nine conservative women in the outgoing chamber. The previous high for female MPs was 14.

Results show there will be 133 reformists in the new parliament, 13 shy of a majority but more than the conservatives' 125 MPs. The remaining seats went to independents and minorities…

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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.


Just The Facts! is available. Order HERE.

Amazon's customers gave this book a 5-star rating.







The Comparative Government and Politics Review Checklist.



Two pages summarizing the course requirements to help you review and study for the final and for the big exam in May. . It contains a description of comparative methods, a list of commonly used theories, a list of vital concepts, thumbnail descriptions of the AP6, and a description of the AP exam format. $2.00. Order HERE.

What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools, the original version and v2.0 are available to help curriculum planning.











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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Preliminary results from Iran

Look for headlines tomorrow or Monday with more official results.

Rowhani allies win second round of Iran elections
Reformist and moderate politicians allied with Iran's President Hassan Rowhani won most seats in second round parliamentary elections, local media reported Saturday.

Unofficial and incomplete results said that of the 68 seats being contested between 33 and 40 went to the pro-Rowhani List of Hope, with conservatives gaining 21 more MPs…

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

What You Need to Know 7th edition is ready to help.


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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.


Just The Facts! is available. Order HERE.

Amazon's customers gave this book a 5-star rating.







The Comparative Government and Politics Review Checklist.



Two pages summarizing the course requirements to help you review and study for the final and for the big exam in May. . It contains a description of comparative methods, a list of commonly used theories, a list of vital concepts, thumbnail descriptions of the AP6, and a description of the AP exam format. $2.00. Order HERE.

What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools, the original version and v2.0 are available to help curriculum planning.











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