Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Monday, November 24, 2014

Thankfully, a break

I'm going to take a break for my favorite holiday and give thanks for everything I can think of. Sometime in the fall, most other people also take time to reflect on their own reasons for being thankful.

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Friday, November 21, 2014

The making of a party (in the UK)

Every successful political party must work within the confines of its political culture and political system. UKIP is trying to find out what that means.

Anti-E.U. Party in Britain Strives for Wider Clout
Last month the brash, populist U.K. Independence Party won its first seat in Parliament, capitalizing on resentment against immigration, disenchantment with the European Union and a general disaffection with politicians.

On Thursday, it has a good chance to pick up a second seat…

But even as it finds success, the party is being more or less disowned by its founder, Alan Sked…

Mr. Sked, who teaches at the London School of Economics and Political Science, expressed disdain for the party’s recent anti-immigration focus. He said the party he created had “grown into this hideous, racist, populist, xenophobic, Islamophobic thing.”

Nigel Farage, UKIP Leader
His successors in the leadership deny the accusations of racism and xenophobia, but his criticisms speak to the biggest question facing the party: whether it can overcome its status as an angry, fringe protest movement to become a credible threat to Britain’s three main parties…

According to Tim Bale, professor of politics at Queen Mary, University of London, dislike of the European Union stirs relatively few voters, so the party has “moved towards an anti-immigration — some would say slightly xenophobic — appeal for which there is a bigger market.”…

Mr. Sked attributes the party’s recent success to the unpopular austerity policies of Britain’s government and the fact that the centrist Liberal Democrats — once the recipient of many protest votes — govern in coalition with the Conservatives. He says the party is ideologically incoherent but acknowledges its success in presenting itself as an anti-establishment party of protest.

Mr. Bale said it had shown the “ability to morph and to pick and choose its issues.” But he said that may cease to be an advantage. “Once you start getting anywhere near Parliament or government, people start to take you more seriously, ask you harder questions and expect you to be able to answer them,” he said.

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 SIXTH edition is NOW AVAILABLE.
For holiday studying. This will help you prepare for a final and for the AP exam in May.










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










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











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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Lowlights of Nigerian politics

It happens infrequently, but when legislators get into brawls, reporters quickly publicize the events. Here is Nigeria's latest newsmaker.

Nigeria parliament shut after tear gas fired
Nigerian security forces have fired tear gas inside parliament, just before a crucial debate on security in the conflict-ridden north-east.

Reports say the police were trying to stop House of Representatives speaker Aminu Tambuwal from entering.

Mr Tambuwal defected to the opposition from the ruling PDP last month. His former colleagues have since argued he should be stripped of his speaker role…

Parliamentarians were due to debate a presidential bill seeking the extension of the state of emergency in three states hardest hit by the militant group Boko Haram.

BBC Hausa editor Mansur Liman says many opposition MPs opposed the extension of the state of emergency because they say it has failed to bring an end to the insurgency.

Witnesses said security agents attempted to block Mr Tambuwal as he arrived at parliament, and also locked out other opposition politicians.

  
Two-minute video of chaos in Abuja

Images showed suited politicians scaling the gates outside of the assembly building…

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! is a concise guide to concepts, terminology, and examples that will appear on May's exam.










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











What You Need to Know SIXTH edition is NOW AVAILABLE.
Updated and ready to help.










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Media in Wonderland

Isolation, control of reporting, and rewards for your supporters — that's what Putin gets with the new media law in Russia.

Interesting news: A clampdown on foreign-owned media is an opportunity for some oligarchs
“YOU work for a foreign state.” That is what Tatiana Lysova, the editor of Vedomosti, a respected daily business paper, says one of Vladimir Putin’s advisers told her in a meeting in the Kremlin last year. Vedomosti is jointly owned by three foreign media groups: News Corp of America, Pearson of Britain (part-owner of The Economist) and Sanoma of Finland. In the Kremlin’s reductionist and conspiratorial worldview, that practically makes the paper a branch office of the CIA and MI6.

This paranoid patriotism, intensified by Russia’s conflict with the West over Ukraine, helps to explain a law Mr Putin signed last month. It bans foreign firms and individuals from owning more than 20% of any media outlet based in the country. Vedomosti will be among its first victims…

A report by Bloomberg, an American news service, said Vedomosti may end up being bought by an affiliate of Gazprom, a state energy giant, or Yury Kovalchuk, an ally of Mr Putin. If so there would surely be fears over its ability to keep up its robust reporting…

Selling soon to a Putin friend?
Floriana Fossato, who worked in the media business in Moscow in the 2000s and now studies Russian television at University College London, wonders if the new law is ultimately rooted in a play among politically-connected insiders to control the country’s advertising market. She says those close to power think: let’s solve a political problem, but why not also make money at the same time?…

Just as the paranoid politics of war can be costly for some, it can be profitable for others. There are few areas of the Russian economy that are not vulnerable to the arguments of national security and the need to stand up to the West… A rash of closings of McDonald’s restaurants across the country, supposedly for “sanitary” reasons, is another sign of how even the most seemingly uncontroversial businesses can get caught up in the current mood…

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

Plan your holiday shopping: a few pages a day between now and the exam in May will help you remember things like the distinctions between government and regime and between nation and state.
 
Just The Facts! is a concise guide to concepts, terminology, and examples that will appear on May's exam.



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











What You Need to Know SIXTH edition is NOW AVAILABLE.
Updated and ready to help.










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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Why things won't change in Nigeria

Maja-Pearce is an Anglo-Nigerian writer, essayist and critic who was born in London and lives in Lagos, Nigeria. His op-ed for the New York Times describes why government and politics in Nigeria are unlikely to change in the near future.

The Nigerian Status Quo
The current Nigerian government is widely seen as the most corrupt since independence from Britain in 1960. Ordinarily, this would be a huge problem for President Goodluck Jonathan and his People’s Democratic Party… But things are unlikely to change…

Mr. Jonathan’s name will be on the ballot this February, when Nigerians, many of them fed up with government corruption and incompetence, go to the polls. Yet events percolating across the country that could come to a boil within the next three months might actually work to the president’s advantage…

The incompetence of Mr. Jonathan’s government is most clearly seen in its inability to rescue the 276 schoolgirls… who were kidnapped by Boko Haram insurgents… last April…

Although the extremists have been widely condemned by leading Muslim clerics and politicians, the insurgency contributes to Christian suspicions of their Muslim compatriots, and this may well play into Mr. Jonathan’s hands come election time.

But in an effort to bridge sectarian divisions and garner votes across the religious divide, the country’s leading opposition parties, one from the largely Muslim northeast, the other from the mostly Christian southwest, have joined forces with other groups to form the All Progressives Congress. In theory, this gives the opposition a fighting chance…

Unfortunately, efforts to make common cause in Nigeria are invariably sacrificed upon the altars of religion and ethnicity. The alliance’s likely presidential candidate is a Muslim northerner, Muhammadu Buhari. He also happens to be a former dictator…

Religious differences are a key factor in voting, but perhaps patronage plays a greater role, a lesson Mr. Jonathan learned in the Niger Delta, where he taught school…

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











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










What You Need to Know SIXTH edition is NOW AVAILABLE.
Updated and ready to help.










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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Comparative case study

The situations are remarkably similar. The government and politics are also similar. A research project should compare the politics of the situations, the capacities of the states, the leadership (in government and in the populist response) in each country, the political cultures, the effectiveness of political participation, and…

A Familiar Anger Begins to Boil Again in Mexico
The fate of 43 college students missing and presumed killed and burned to ashes in a mass abduction in September has bred ire and indignation in many corners of Mexico…

And social media has lit up with related hashtags, including #YaMeCansedelMiedo (“I am tired of fear”), a play on a remark by the attorney general who cut off a question at the end of an hourlong news conference on the students’ case by saying, “Ya me cansé” — “I’m tired now.” …

Mexico has seen these convulsions over sensational crimes before, with only modest changes in their wake…

“The political parties are paralyzed,” said Ernesto López Portillo, director of Insyde, a security think tank in Mexico City, who has long advocated better training and accountability for local and state police forces. “Social frustration has grown, and this is expressed peacefully for the most part, but political power has not transformed.”

Chibok abductions: Will Nigerian schoolgirls ever be freed?
Six months since militant Islamist group Boko Haram sparked global outrage by abducting more than 200 girls from Chibok town in north-eastern Nigeria, the government has still failed to secure their release. The BBC's Will Ross spoke to the parents of some of the girls about their ordeal.

In the remote farming community of Chibok, the agony is only getting worse. The parents and other relatives of the missing 219 school girls complain that they have been left to rely on a diet of rumour from the media and a long list of unfulfilled promises from the politicians…

Over the last six months, beyond the pledges to rescue them, there have been no official statements whatsoever about what has happened to the girls in captivity, just plenty of speculation…

President Goodluck Jonathan and his government have often promised that all is being done to get the girls home but not everyone believes the politicians are focused on the Chibok girls and the wider conflict in north-eastern Nigeria.

"I think the government is more concerned about politics now. We don't hear about our girls any more. We only hear about political campaigns going on. That is what they are concerned about," Mr Yahaya told the BBC…

Nigeria army 'retakes Chibok' from Boko Haram
The Nigerian army says it has recaptured the north-eastern town of Chibok, which was seized by Boko Haram militants on Thursday.

Boko Haram fighters kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls from the village in April, sparking global outrage…

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 SIXTH edition is NOW AVAILABLE.
Updated and ready to help.










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










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











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Monday, November 17, 2014

Campaign disconnect

It's almost as though Goodluck Jonathan's campaign for reelection has nothing to do with current events or the state of the nation. How can that be possible?

The Goodluck Jonathan show goes on, a day after Nigerian suicide bomb
Most politicians, in most countries, would have cancelled campaigning after the devastating suicide bombing at a school in north-eastern Nigeria on Monday. Not Goodluck Jonathan. With barely a mention of his country’s deteriorating security situation, the president launched his re-election campaign…

[A]t a huge rally in Abuja, Jonathan formally declared his intention to run in next year’s elections…

Just the day before, Nigerians were shocked – and, these days, they are not a population that shocks easily – when a suicide bomber blew himself up in a school in the northern Yobe State, killing at least 46 schoolchildren. The scale and sheer brazenness of the attack, the gratuitous violence, and the youth of his victims made this attack particularly difficult to come to terms with…

In most countries, this would prompt a time of national mourning. Leaders would cancel frivolous public appearances and political campaigning would be put on hold at least until the bodies were buried.

But this is Nigeria, and the Goodluck Jonathan Show must go on. After all, if the president were to cancel campaign stops after every gruesome incident he wouldn’t be able to campaign at all…

In fairness, Jonathan did not completely ignore the school bombing. “Clearly, this has cast a dark cloud on our nation but we will surely win the war against terror,” he said at the beginning of his speech, just before calling for a minute of silence to commemorate them…

But nor did he give the Nigeria’s ever-worsening security situation nearly enough attention. In a speech that ran to 112 paragraphs, the quote above is just about the only allusion he makes to Boko Haram.

Listening to the president, one would never guess that his country is in the midst of perhaps the greatest national crisis since the doomed secession of Biafra…

Instead, Jonathan focused on what he considers to be more important issues, such improvements to Nigeria’s highway system, a resuscitated railway line and increased access to water and electricity.

His relentlessly positive spin may have energised his supporters, but statistics aren’t necessarily on his side.

Take the economy, for instance. Yes, it has ballooned to become the largest in Africa, but that’s only thanks to a long-delayed reworking of how GDP is calculated… And when it comes to other development indicators such as health, education and welfare, the Ibrahim Index of African Governance shows that Nigeria has made negligible progress in the last four years.

Still, Jonathan remains the clear favourite heading into the February 2015 poll. A new opposition coalition, which sounded so promising when it was formed in 2013, has struggled to sustain momentum, and is hamstrung by infighting over who will be the coalition’s presidential candidate. In the absence of an effective challenger, the PDP’s national base and slick electoral machinery should easily compensate for Jonathan’s weaknesses…

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











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










What You Need to Know SIXTH edition is NOW AVAILABLE.
Updated and ready to help.










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Friday, November 14, 2014

Valuable teaching tool

A couple weeks ago, the November 1 issue of The Economist arrived and I began reading its special report on Iran. I didn't finish it and put the magazine on a pile of other reading material where it was buried.

I found it again. I'm really glad I did.

Once you get through teaching/learning about Iran's history, regime, and political culture, put your textbook aside and hand out copies of this collection of articles. (Reuse options can be reviewed here.)

A note at the end of the report says that reprints can be ordered for $7.00 a copy, but that discounts are available for classroom sets. Contact Jill Kaletha of Foster Printing Service.

The revolution is over: After decades of messianic fervour, Iran is becoming a more mature and modern country, says Oliver August
The regime may remain suspicious of the West, and drone on about seeding revolutions in oppressor countries, but the revolutionary fervour and drab conformism have gone. Iran is desperate to trade with whomever will buy its oil. Globalisation trumps puritanism even here…

Yet although revolutionary fervour has waned, Iran’s 1979 revolution itself remains a source of legitimacy for the regime. Many Iranians, or at least the ethnic Persian majority among them, continue to associate it with national liberation from foreign oppression…
Take it or leave it: Ordinary Iranians are losing interest in the mosque
Iran is the modern world’s first and only constitutional theocracy. It is also one of the least religious countries in the Middle East. Islam plays a smaller role in public life today than it did a decade ago… Whereas secular Arab leaders suppressed Islam for decades and thus created a rallying point for political grievances, in Iran the opposite happened…
Rush to the centre: Iran’s political elite maintains a delicate balance
Iran’s political system is neither a free-flowing democracy nor a monolithic dictatorship…. Public debates are fierce, but often amount to little more than shadow-boxing by an elite that makes decisions behind closed doors. What is remarkable is the size of this elite. Thousands of politicians, clerics, generals, judges, journalists, academics, businessmen and others participate in decision-making in one way or another, shaping government policy in endless and overlapping private meetings, conversations and conclaves, listening to and lobbying each other…
Goon squad: Will the conservative camp sink a nuclear deal?
At the centre of Iran’s establishment sits a shadowy organisation responsible for defending the ideals of the revolution. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is a paramilitary force rolled into an intelligence agency wrapped in a giant business conglomerate with security-related interests. It is directly controlled by the country’s supreme leader, Mr Khamenei, who is chosen by regime insiders for life and outranks the elected president…

The guards preside over a vast business empire… Many of the firms they own refuse to pay tax or open their books to government inspectors. The guards also control smuggling networks set up to bypass sanctions…
Melons for everyone: A mixture of Western sanctions and bad economic management has hit prosperity
Debate in last year’s election focused on boosting the economy. Mr Rohani won because he was seen as the candidate most likely to achieve that. Conservatives used to be anti-trade, in keeping with the autarkic and socialist sentiment of the revolution. Now even the supreme leader endorses globalised capitalism…
Shackled: The story of the world’s most elaborate sanctions regime
The sanctions regime is made up of a bewildering multitude of laws, executive orders, agency directives and UN Security Council resolutions. They affect Iranian assets held abroad, foreign aid, visas, insurance, shipping, trade and investment, currency transfers and other transactions, especially those involving the central bank in Tehran, oil sales and the energy sector generally…
Moving targets: Iran’s position in its region, increasingly influential until recently, is becoming more precarious
Iran's leaders have long had immodest ambitions in the Middle East, pining for the respect of the neighbours who once conquered and converted them and even dreaming of leading a pan-Islamic alliance, however unlikely. In recent decades they have been exporting their revolution, propelled by national pride and an urge to pass on lessons from the long road to independence, but also driven by a deep fear that they—Shia Persians facing mostly Sunni Arabs—are not so much independent as alone in a hostile region…
Prospects: We shall overcome, maybe
Millions of educated and prosperous Iranians resent being isolated from the rest of the world. Until sanctions started to emasculate trade, life had been gradually improving. Now many people have lost their jobs or seen their pay and savings eroded by inflation. The government, too, is having a difficult time. Oil revenues have dwindled and allies around the region are wobbling. Is relief in sight?…

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 SIXTH edition is NOW AVAILABLE.
Updated and ready to help.










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










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











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