Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Monday, March 30, 2015

News from Africa

Trevor Noah to replace Jon Stewart on The Daily Show
South African comedian Trevor Noah is to replace Jon Stewart on The Daily Show, the New York Times reports.

Trevor Noah
The 31-year-old made his debut as a contributor to the nightly satirical show last December…

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.










Labels:

Success as a sign of failure

Political scientist David Shambaugh of George Washington University published a paper recently that argued that the authoritarian system in China was showing signs of falling apart.

As China moves away from communist regime, cracks appear
Mao’s iron rule finds echoes in China’s current leader, President Xi Jinping, who is winding back years of liberalization by cracking down hard on dissent and ordering a wholesale reindoctrination of party officials. At the same time, new cracks are appearing in China’s economic foundation, a coincidence that is rekindling a long-standing debate about the viability of the Communist regime…

David Shambaugh cited the eagerness of wealthy Chinese to leave the country and the risks to Mr. Xi from an anti-corruption campaign that threatens powerful entrenched interests, and also argued that economic reforms will be stillborn without accompanying political change. “The endgame of Chinese communist rule has now begun, I believe, and it has progressed further than many think,” he wrote…

China has responded sharply. The state-run Global Times newspaper called Prof. Shambaugh an “alarmist” whose “vulgar” work relies on “divining” China’s future to “attract the eyeballs of Western public opinion.” But the thesis has revived hopes among those eager to see the undoing of communist China…

On the other side of the debate is the argument that China is not yet at a “breaking point.” For example, the factors that contributed to the fall of the Soviet Union and Eastern European communist regimes – strong popular opposition led by labour unions or prominent dissidents, economic collapse and too-rapid change from the top – exist, but are not seen as sufficiently potent in today’s China.

Tibetan and Muslim minorities are angry at their treatment, but ethnic groups have been heavily and, from the perspective of Beijing, effectively repressed. No counter-communist leader of any stature has emerged inside or outside China. The country’s economy is slowing, but wages are still rising (at a slowing pace) and unemployment remains low…

Chinese students, after 25 years of propaganda following the Tiananmen Square massacre, are little inclined to challenge a system they’ve been taught to love, or at least not to question. And even China’s increasingly restive workers do not appear ready to topple the system.

As the slowing economy creates factory upheavals, the number of monthly strikes and protests has risen… according to Geoffrey Crothall, a spokesman for China Labour Bulletin… But protests are “not really, by any stretch of the imagination, related to regime change,” Mr. Crothall said. “That would be several steps beyond what workers are thinking at the moment.”

Nor does the Chinese middle class appear angry with the status quo. And there seems little appetite for change from the top down in the form of the political reforms attempted by Mikhail Gorbachev, reforms that created a party backlash and preceded the eventual breakup of the Soviet Union…

In any case, Mr. Xi has a robust police state on his side, not to mention Western backing. A destabilized China is not in the world’s interest…

Mr. Xi’s personal popularity also cannot be discounted. “A great majority of people you talk to in local areas …still think the central government is this benign institution that is ultimately going to rescue them,” said Lynette Ong, a China specialist at the University of Toronto. “I don’t think those people really want a regime change.”

The Chinese leader leans on two sources of power – the network of influence built by former president and long-serving strongman Jiang Zemin and the military. Mr. Xi’s anti-graft campaign has tackled high-profile figures in both camps, raising questions over how much backlash he might provoke…

“The only viable alternative to the Chinese communist party would likely be a military coup,” Charles Burton, a former Canadian diplomat in China and associated professor at Brock University. “We could be positively nostalgic for the good old days of [Mr. Xi’s predecessor] Hu Jintao.”

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.










Labels: , ,

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Queen's speech 2015

Program your recorders or write your lesson plans for May 27.

Queen's Speech date announced
The next government will have up to 19 days to come up with a legislative programme following 7 May's general election, Downing Street has announced.

The Queen's Speech will be held on 27 May, a spokesman said.

MPs will meet a week earlier, on 18 May, to formally take their seats in the Commons and to elect a new Speaker…

The polls point to there being no overall winner on 7 May.

If that proves to be the case, as was the situation back in 2010, negotiations will take place between the parties with the aim of forming a government.

The Queen's Speech, on the day of the State Opening of Parliament, is one of the highlights of the parliamentary calendar.

It used to be held in the autumn in non-election years but it was moved to the spring by the coalition government as part of its fixed-term parliaments policy.

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.










Labels: , , ,

Friday, March 27, 2015

Just a blip on the political landscape or a sign of bigger problems?

A judicial appointment is often controversial. But whether it signifies major political problems is part of another set of questions.

Close ally to Pena Nieto sworn in on Mexico supreme court
A former prosecutor and ambassador who has been questioned about his public service record and close ties to President Enrique Pena Nieto was voted… onto Mexico's Supreme Court.

Mora
Eduardo Medina Mora took the oath of office immediately after being approved by the Senate, despite never having served as a judge, not meeting the residency requirement of two years and facing questions about his impartiality given his links to the presidency…

Critics called his appointment as Supreme Court minister one more sign that the political class is not listening to the concerns of the public as Mexico faces a credibility crisis over of corruption and conflict-of-interest scandals…

Academic and civic organizations launched a petition campaign against Medina Mora's nomination and gathered 54,000 signatures according to the petition Internet site. According to the campaign, Medina Mora's tenure as attorney general was marked by human rights violations and shoddy prosecutions against public officials with alleged ties to organized crime, almost all of whom were eventually exonerated.

He was also criticized for challenging a law in Mexico City that decriminalized abortion…

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 6th edition is available HERE.

Practice, practice, practice…










Labels: , ,

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Final note on Nigeria's election

The BBC offers final notes on Nigeria before the election.

Nigeria elections: Nation split in Jonathan-Buhari contest
In Nigerian elections, the incumbent always wins. But so far this campaign has been different from all others and this Saturday's poll is a real contest.

Not only has President Goodluck Jonathan haemorrhaged support since he comfortably won in 2011, the "change" chanting opposition has thrown its combined weight behind one candidate - former military ruler, Muhammadu Buhari…

With control over Africa's largest economy at stake - this is a country where multi-billion dollar corruption scandals come and go - the campaigns have been toxic with both the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) and opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) hurling abuse at each other…

"Shamelessly you will discover politicians, against the electoral law, distributing money," says Bawa Abdullahi Wase of the Nigeria-based Network For Justice rights group.

He says a candidate wishing to get a seat in the House of Representatives needs a minimum of $1m (£670,000) for the campaign. For a Senate seat the war chest must be even larger.

These are the most expensive elections ever held in Africa and Nigerians are left guessing how much of the campaign money has been looted from the public purse by power-hungry men and women on both sides of the political divide.

"When they get into office, instead of concentrating on offering services to the people like electricity, water, roads and education, they amass the wealth of the total budget because they know for the next election they will have to spend more than they've spent in this election," Mr Wase adds.

As well as cutting expensive deals, the main political parties have been dishing out sacks of rice to voters in an effort to influence the outcome.

"I will collect it, but I will vote for whoever I want," says Peter Ayas, standing in a tailor's shop in the commercial capital Lagos's Obalende suburb. He adds that he found the bribe an insult.

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.










Labels: , , , ,

Tied up in red tape

A Wikipedia article says that "Red tape is an idiom that refers to excessive regulation or rigid conformity to formal rules that is considered redundant or bureaucratic and hinders or prevents action or decision-making. It is usually applied to governments, corporations, and other large organizations."

Red tape holding a bundle of Confederate Civil War documents
Large, bureaucratic organizations are natural habitats for red tape, and, according to Dan Levine writing in The New York Times, China might be the best environment. (I'd hate to think that my grand children's educational opportunities might be affected by the fact that I was born in rural Florida.)

How might this affect legitimacy? authority? civil society? government?

China’s Growing Middle Class Chafes Against Red Tape
Though her Scottish father obtained a British passport for Jessica Cherry, the government regards her as Chinese, as she was born in Beijing to a Chinese mother. Because her parents did not get a mandatory birth permit, it is practically impossible for Jessica to acquire a Chinese passport and other documents that define citizenship here. That has forced her family to obtain a special “exit-entry permit” each time she leaves China.

The bureaucratic jujitsu usually takes around 50 days, said her mother, Daisy Li, a media producer, who has applied for the permit nine times. “It makes me curse, and it makes me cry,” she said.

China’s bureaucracy has long been a bewildering maze of “relevant departments,” official red-ink seals and stone-faced functionaries…

To get a license plate for a new car, for example, a resident of Beijing must win a pass in a lottery in which the odds of success are less than 1 percent… Applying for a student loan can require as many as 26 official seals on more than a dozen documents. Just starting a new job and registering for public benefits can mean amassing a small mountain of documents, including a certified background check by the police in one’s place of birth. And no, you cannot get that by mail.

As its ranks grow, China’s middle class – wired, ambitious and worldly – is increasingly unwilling to tolerate such obstacles…

For many educated city dwellers, it is red tape, more than news media censorship and heavy-handed propaganda, that serves as a grinding reminder of the Communist Party’s dominion over their lives…

Analysts say such frustrations feed public discontent at a time when the party is trying to bolster its appeal by combating corruption, promising a more reliable legal system and vowing to ease the constraints on small businesses…

Minxin Pei, an expert on Chinese politics at Claremont McKenna College in California, described the nation’s bureaucracy as a time-tested mechanism for social and political control, one that functions as “an unmovable layer insulating the top leader from popular pressure.”…

[T]he head-spinning tangle of regulations that infuriates many ordinary Chinese. At the heart of their ire is the hukou, or family registration, an onerous system akin to an internal passport that often tethers services like public education, subsidized health care and pensions to their parents’ birthplace — even if that person never lived there.

Created in the 1950s and designed to restrict the flow of rural villagers into large cities, the hukou system has become widely detested in recent years…

Young professionals often go to extremes to get a coveted hukou in cities like Beijing or Shanghai. The lucky ones find jobs with state-owned enterprises or with well-placed private companies that are granted an annual quota to hire “outsiders” who can then register their hukou under the company’s name and address.

For many Chinese, the most troubling impact of hukou restrictions affects their child’s access to education…

The hukou bureaucracy forces many migrants to choose between their child and their livelihood. As a result, about one-fifth of Chinese children, more than 61 million, live without their parents in villages, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

One recent afternoon, Li Ying, 39, sat in a fluorescent-lit Beijing government office, waiting for her number to be called so she could apply for a temporary residence permit that would allow her 6-year-old son to enroll in school.

Although Ms. Li moved to Beijing with her parents as a child in 1981, her hukou is registered in a distant town, meaning her son will be shut out of the city’s public schools without the permit.

The application process is emblematic of the bureaucratic gantlet many Chinese endure. Among the 14 required documents, Ms. Li must provide her hukou certificate, proof of residence, a diploma, a job contract, a marriage license, her husband’s identity card, his hukou, a certificate proving she has only one child and a company document detailing her work performance and tax payments…

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.

It is available HERE.









Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Obstacles to industrialization

Geoffrey York, writing in The Globe and Mail offers another good picture of how things work (don't work?) in Nigeria.

Industrialization, in the standard version of economic development, is an important step. From the industrial revolution on, that step has involved difficult and often painful adjustments. The same will probably be true for Nigeria.

One note: York writes, "Nissan was the first major automaker to assemble vehicles in Africa’s most populous country…" In fact, Peugeot began assembling cars in Nigeria in the early 1970s. York writes from his office in South Africa. He might need to visit Nigeria more often. That fact does not contradict the facts he describes about Nissan's business in Nigeria (particularly the implied obstacles created by corruption).

Steep, bumpy road ahead for Nigeria’s ‘Industrial Revolution’
Jonathan and new Nissan
Nissan was the first major automaker to assemble vehicles in Africa’s most populous country, and President Jonathan touted it as a key element in his “Industrial Revolution” policy. His dream was to diversify the oil-rich economy by creating thousands of manufacturing jobs.

But ten months later, the Japanese carmaker is unconvinced that the “revolution” is real. While its Nigerian plant has created 600 jobs by assembling hundreds of cars every month from imported components, it still faces huge obstacles: bad roads, congested ports, customs delays, severe electricity shortages and a competing “parallel” market of illicitly imported vehicles…

Jim Dando, general manager of Nissan’s Africa regional office said Nissan was fully aware of Nigeria’s chronic structural problems, so it launched its Nigerian operations last year by simply importing “semi knocked down” or dissassembled vehicles and then reassembling them at its Lagos plant. “This is baby steps,” he said.

While the carmaker hopes to move into more complex manufacturing in Nigeria eventually, this will take time. Nissan is still forced to rely on expensive diesel generators for much of its electricity in Lagos. And when its knocked-down cars arrive in container ships, it can take as long as three months to get them through the congested ports and heavily bureaucratic customs procedures, Mr. Dando said.

Last year, Nissan persuaded the Nigerian government to impose a heavy 70 per cent duty on imported cars, to protect the fledgling auto plants of Nissan and other newcomers, including Hyundai and Kia. But importers have found loopholes in the rules, creating a “parallel” market of luxury cars, usually from Dubai, which arrive at the port in nearby Benin. The cars are then brought into Nigeria as “used” cars – after having been driven for short distances in Dubai. In other cases, the importers simply bribe the customs officers to get the cars in.

At a Nigeria economic forum in Johannesburg on Wednesday, investors and analysts spoke of Nigeria’s enormous potential, but also cited its many vulnerabilities and weaknesses, including the government’s heavy reliance on oil revenue and its failure to push ahead with desperately needed infrastructure projects to improve its roads, ports, airports and electricity grid…

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 6th edition is available HERE.

This will help you prepare for the big exam.








Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

To follow up on Nigerian poverty

The taxi driver interviewed in the previous blog post has hopes for his children's futures. Tolu Daniel, a blogger on Waza, tries to explain corruption.

Nigerians Are Not Corrupt, They Are Just Hungry
Nigerian voters are not as gullible as many people think: they are mostly just hungry. And this hunger is why you'll find thousands of them as rented crowds in political rallies, because most of them are probably unemployed. Sometimes, their hunger could be as literal as the fact that so many of them live below the poverty line, and are looking for their next meal.
Political rally
Here in Nigeria, the man who is willing to spend the most amount of money during his campaign will win any election. And regardless of his likely criminal past, he will be compared to the messiah.

How else do you explain that indicted criminals, whose credentials show nothing but evidence of the amount of years with which they have looted this country, contest elections and win?…

Yes, it is true that we have been ruled by a few good men who have good credentials to back themselves up, but the truth remains that it was not their goodwill that won them the elections. It is mostly the amounts of money that they were willing to part with at the time.

Though by some sort of happenstance, these same good men always seem to suffer a kind of amnesia when they get to these posts, and do nothing to benefit their people…

In the interest of self-preservation, many have switched to the newly formed opposition party- all because of a fear that the opposition party might just win. They now claim to champion the cause of kicking out corruption, in the hope that they will get to keep whatever loot that they have stolen over the years without the fear of persecution…

Here in Nigeria corruption has several meanings, 'corruption is not stealing' and vice versa, and this definition is being peddled by those in the highest positions of authority. Pity. So when people say Nigerians are corrupt, I always beg to differ.

It's the poverty, stupid.

I am not saying that the system is corruption-free, but I want to say that the various definitions of corruption do not explain the Nigerian situation, at least not in the true sense of it. The situation of poverty and lack, the reason why you would find people sitting in the streets of rich politicians groveling for their daily bread.

The truth is that Nigerians deserve better, we deserve better than the corruption infested liars that we have as our leaders who will blame anybody else but themselves for the downward spiral of things.

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.










Labels: , , ,

Taxi driver from Abuja

A BBC reporter interviews a taxi driver in Abuja and offers insights into the lives of the non-elite. Students will have to have patience (and might have to listen to the interview more than once) to understand all that is said. It's worth the effort.

Nigeria elections: Poor families want fairer share
Tackling social injustice will be high on the agenda for voters in Nigeria as they head to the polls on Saturday for a presidential election.

This is NOT a live link. Go to the BBC site.



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.










Labels: , ,

Keep those grannies inline

Literally, in line. Some government authorities have plans to regulate public dancing, mostly done by elderly women. (another bit of civil society not controlled by the Party, yet)

China orders square dancers to walk the line
Chinese officials say they will introduce guidelines to regulate square-dancing in the country.

The dance is wildly popular with elderly Chinese women and is performed en masse at night in public squares.
However, Chinese authorities say the "over-enthusiasm of participants has dealt it a harmful blow, with disputes over noise and venues".

Fitness authorities plan to introduce 12 authorised routines and also permissible times and music volume…

The new guidelines on choreography will be put together by an expert panel.

"The unified drills [routines] will help keep the dancing on the right track where they can be performed in a socially responsible way," Wang Guangcheng, a fitness trainer and member of the panel, told China Daily

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 6th edition is available HERE.


Get it now while there's still time for real review.








Labels: , ,

Are debates too presidential?

One of the epithets British politicians toss at each other is that the other is acting "too presidential." It's a reference to the direct election of the US president and the indirect election of the British head of government. For a politician to appear to be out grubbing for votes among the grassroots is not very British. That's one of the reasons why televised debates at election time first happened in Britain 50 years after they happened in the USA. There are other reasons too.

U.S.-style TV debates are making a mess of Britain’s elections
Clad in a bright yellow chicken costume, British Prime Minister David Cameron appears on the front page of the Daily Mirror, a left-leaning British newspaper, on Friday under the headline: “Why are you such a chicken, Mr. Cameron?”

The mock photo echoes the charge that many of Cameron’s rivals have been making this week that the prime minister is running from TV debates…

American-style TV debates… were popular [in 2010], with some 22 million tuning in over the course of three debates.

But this time, the televised debates are shrouded in controversy, and it’s unclear whether they will actually happen before the general election May 7, which polls suggest is one of the closest in a generation…

The broadcasters, including the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky News, insisted on Friday that they intend to press ahead with three debates — currently scheduled for April 2, 16 and 30 — and urged Cameron to reconsider his “final offer” to appear in only one debate…

Earlier in the week, Cameron’s office said that he would take part in only one debate with at least seven party leaders, reflecting the fragmentation of the political landscape. Support for smaller parties has surged, with current polls suggesting that they could win up to 30 percent of the vote.

Under Britain’s parliamentary system, Britons don’t vote directly for the person who becomes prime minister. Before the TV debates were introduced here in 2010, critics said they were too American, too presidential, too much about the personalities of the leaders and not enough about the policies of the parties.

Cameron was no such critic. When he was in opposition, he repeatedly goaded then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown to a TV debate…

Today, Cameron, as prime minister, is receiving the same kind of criticism he once gleefully doled out in opposition…

Last fall, the broadcasters proposed a four-way debate with the leaders of the Conservatives, Labor, Liberal Democrats and UKIP. Cameron argued that it wasn’t fair to include a smaller party like UKIP, which is expected to peel votes away from his Conservative Party, if the Green Party was not included. The left-leaning Greens are likely to pull votes from Labor, which may be another reason he wanted them included…

Cameron is an astute debater, so why is he shying away from the debates this time?

Analysts say he decided there is little for him to gain… [W]ith Miliband’s personal ratings being so poor, even a modest performance from him could dispel the idea that he’s not up for the job. The race is nail-bitingly close, and it seemed Cameron was willing to endure a few days of bad headlines as long as Miliband’s unpopular image remained intact.

But with the broadcasters not budging, the gamble could backfire if voters judge him to be cowardly and cheating the electorate of three debates with their prime minister…

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.
It's available HERE.









Labels: , , , ,

Monday, March 23, 2015

This won't show up in Jonathan's campaign material

Will Buhari exploit the news that Nigeria is dependent on foreign troops to liberate its territory from Boko Haram?

Nigerian Army Noticeably Absent in Town Taken From Boko Haram
Boko Haram’s black flag is everywhere in the town of Damasak, deep in Islamist-held territory in northern Nigeria…

[P]ractically none of the residents are left in a once-thriving town of 200,000. They have either fled to the state capital, Maiduguri, or been killed by Boko Haram…

Mostly, the only sound in the hot, still air is from military vehicles, carrying soldiers from the neighboring countries of Chad and Niger as they make their way through the wreckage of the deadly five-month Islamist occupation of this Nigerian town…

Rather than a display of important regional cooperation in the battle against Boko Haram, the visit instead pointed out some of the confusion and resentment that are creating tension among neighbors. The soldiers from Chad and Niger had succeeded here, but there was not a single Nigerian soldier to be found. The force members were bewildered to find themselves as foreign liberators without any help from the Nigerians…

“We asked them [the Nigerians] to come, to receive this town from us, but they have not come,” said Second Lt. Mohammed Hassan, resting in the shade of the armored vehicle he had manned with his company…

Now Damasak, like much of northeastern Nigeria, is in a vacuum. Boko Haram has been chased away for now, but it is not clear that the Nigerian Army is ready to occupy and hold this and other towns.

“It is up to them to hold the town. Not us. Our role is offensive. Our mission is to chase the terrorists,” Lieutenant Hassan said. “But they are afraid,” he repeated angrily.

“Our biggest wish is that the Nigerian Army pulls itself together — that it takes responsibility in the towns,” said Mr. Mahamat, the Chadian foreign minister. “We are ready to disengage, right away.”

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 6th edition is available HERE.


Get it now while there's still time for real review.








Labels: , ,