Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, April 24, 2014

When politicians are inconvenient, take away their power

When military leaders replace government officials it's usually called a coup (coup d'etat). What do we call it if the military leaders "suspend" some of the political officials? Can you explain why this would not be considered the rule of law?

Military Wants Three Govs Suspended
The Security Council Meeting scheduled for Wednesday would consider suspending the governors of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states, with a view to imposing total emergency rule…

According to a top ranking officer in the military, the security chiefs had indicted some top politicians and elite in the Northeast, for sabotaging the ongoing operations against the insurgents and wanted the governors and Houses of Assembly in the affected states suspended while the operations lasted.

"The politicians and elite, including the governors in those states, are working against our programme; their unguarded utterances are daring the insurgents. They seem to have known the agenda of the insurgents and they are always ready to defend them. For example, whenever these criminals attack, killing innocent people, these politicians would blame us and whenever we are able to locate their hideouts and smoke them out, they would be out accusing us of killing innocent Nigerians. This is why some of us are of the opinion that suspending them while the emergency rule lasts is the best option," the officer said…

"These politicians are making our job difficult, you don't even know on whose side they are. But from all indications, they are not supporting our operations. One of the governors the other time said the insurgents were better armed than our troops. Just this weekend, I was reading the rubbish [Governor] Nyako was saying, accusing the military of being responsible for the killings being done by those criminals.

"I don't blame Governor Nyako for saying all that rubbish. If those governors had been suspended from office, as was the practice during the Obasanjo era; most of the problems we are facing in those states are coming from the governors there. They are contributing more to the problems we are facing."…

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

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, 5th edition is SOLD OUT. A few copies are still available at Amazon.com

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Paying for the revolution

When the Islamic revolution came to Iran, many Iranians left the country. They took a lot of wealth with them, but the emigrants couldn't take property and businesses. Those were seized by the revolutionary government and prominent clerics turned them into "charitable foundations" or bonyads.

Many of the untaxed and unregulated bonyads are huge business conglomerates and still do charitable work. Many of them produce profits that support the government. Most are vital to the Iranian economy. And most line the pockets of the clerics and technocrats who run them.

At least one of them owns property in New York — or used to. Financing the Islamic revolution in Iran with rents from Manhattan.

Iran Denounces US Ruling to Sell Property
Iran has condemned a ruling issued by a U.S. federal judge approving plans to sell a 36-story Manhattan office building and other properties owned by Iran nationwide in what will be the largest terrorism-related forfeiture ever…

Manhattan Building owned by Alavi Foundation
The judge ruled last September that the Manhattan office tower, belonging to the Iran-linked Alavi Foundation, was subject to forfeiture because revenue from it was secretly funneled to a state-owned Iranian bank in violation of a U.S. trade embargo.

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

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, 5th edition is SOLD OUT. A few copies are available at Amazon.com

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

But foreigners can't vote

Gorbachev was very popular in Europe and the US, but he wasn't well liked in the USSR. Today, some Russian legislators want to investigate him for treason.

Mexico's president isn't being accused of betraying the country, but he's more popular outside of Mexico than he is in the country. What kind of crazy politics are going on? Is this the PRI's last gasp?

Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto slumps in polls despite policy wins
[F]or all the praise he has won in Washington and elsewhere in the world, Peña Nieto’s opening act is getting panned in the only place it really counts: Mexico…

Peña Nieto’s approval ratings have fallen fairly steadily since he took office in December 2012, dropping to 37 percent in one recent poll, with other surveys rating him in the mid-40s.

The biggest problem, analysts say, has been Mexico’s feeble growth…

His most widely touted move, a constitutional amendment opening Mexico’s state-controlled energy sector to private and foreign investment, was advertised as a catalyst for faster growth. But it may take years for the benefits to materialize.

According to Mexican economist Luis de la Calle, a bold legislative agenda doesn’t tend to favor short-term success…

Peña Nieto’s attempts at overhauling Mexico’s institutions have made him powerful enemies. He has challenged mega-billionaire Carlos Slim’s near- monopoly on Mexican telecom and tossed the once-feared teachers union boss, Elba Ester Gordillo, in jail on corruption charges.

Such moves won’t result in immediate, tangible benefits for ordinary Mexicans.

They have, however, made a splash in foreign capitals, where Peña Nieto has spent a lot of time trying to turn around negative perceptions of Mexico as chaotic, corrupt and dominated by drug traffickers. He has traveled to China and other Asian countries to drum up business, sought to repair strained relations with France and met frequently with President Obama, promoting his “reform” agenda at every stop.

Yet the changes that earn Peña Nieto applause at global policy forums are getting booed back home…

The most likely beneficiary would be the leftist Democratic Revolutionary Party and the breakaway party Morena, headed by former presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador… Those parties could make it tougher for Peña Nieto to get subsequent legislation approved.

And while Peña Nieto’s low-key style hasn’t made him many personal enemies, he represents a political party with a spotty past from the 72 years it controlled the Mexican government prior to Fox’s win in 2000…

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

Just The Facts! is just the thing for your review of concepts, terminology, and examples.


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


What You Need to Know, 5th edition is SOLD OUT. A few copies are available at Amazon.com


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Monday, April 21, 2014

Chinese civil society, reconsidered

Last week I posted a link to a blog on the New York Times site, Party, not civil society. Blogger Austin Ramzy presented what, to me, seemed common knowledge: anything beyond the control of the Communist Party in China would not be allowed.

This week, the editors of The Economist offer a more optimistic assessment of the state of civil society in China. However, the editorial on the topic makes clear that in China "civil society" is something very different than what is common in more open societies.

The editorial concludes: "To work properly, NGOs need their rights to be detailed, upheld and certainly enforced by law… expand the types of NGO allowed to register… [civil society groups] should be given full freedom… to raise money without official help… [and] make the disbursal of funds to NGOs more transparent…

"All these measures would help. But the most useful reforms for China’s nascent civil society are really the same things that all China needs: a stronger judiciary, more responsive people’s congresses, a more independent press. These will bring about more transparency and accountability… "

Beneath the glacier: In spite of a political clampdown, a flourishing civil society is taking hold
China has over 500,000 NGOs already registered with the state. The number comes with a big caveat. Many NGOs are quasi-official or mere shell entities attempting to get government money. Of those genuine groups that do seek to improve the common lot, nearly all carry out politically uncontentious activities. But perhaps 1.5m more are not registered…

These unregistered NGOs are growing in number and influence. They are a notable example of social forces bubbling up from below in a stubbornly top-down state. The organisations could be a way for the Communist Party to co-opt the energy and resources of civil society. They could also be a means by which that energy challenges the party’s power. And so their status has big implications…

[NGOs] engaged in any kind of political advocacy continue to be suspect. Human-rights organisations remain banned, as do most groups promoting religious, ethnic or labour rights…

Until 2012, any NGO that wanted to register—and so be legal—had to have a sponsoring official organisation, typically a government agency that worked in the area of the NGO’s interest. This ensured firm government control over all NGOs, or “social organisations”, as the party likes to call them (in Chinese, “non-government” carries a whiff of “anti-government”)…

It was a rigid regime, but it actually represented a liberalisation compared with what went before. When it seized power in 1949 the Communist Party eliminated anything that stood between the state and the individual, including churches, trade unions and independent associations of all sorts—it even tried to break traditional family bonds. In other words, what elsewhere came to be known as civil society was shut down completely in China, at least until after the death of Mao Zedong in 1976. The only groups allowed to function were state entities parading as non-state ones. They go by the Orwellian name of government-operated non-governmental organisations, GONGOs…

After the 1989 protests in Tiananmen Square, and their subsequent bloody put-down, the deal China’s leaders offered the country changed: stay out of politics and you can do almost anything else you want…

There were clear limits. The collapse of the Soviet bloc, which trade unions, churches and other groups in Poland, Czechoslovakia and elsewhere helped precipitate, reinforced the idea among Chinese rulers that NGOs had to be kept away from issues that were or could become political. Still, local NGOs with limited, mostly charitable concerns were allowed to develop in some areas…

The growth of NGOs… has not always been a smooth one… But in recent years that tight control has relaxed again, largely out of necessity. Rapid urbanisation and a more complex society mean that the party can no longer provide everything for its citizens as once it did, or claimed to. Anger over inadequate social services could put at risk the domestic stability that underpins the party’s rule. Nor does it help that the central government has pushed responsibility for health, education and other services onto local governments that are unwilling or unable to pay for them…

Behind the growth is the irrepressible rise of a new middle class. It shares the party’s desire for stability. But some members, at least, also want new ways to participate in society. Party leaders, now only vaguely constrained by Communist ideology, have a new sense that something is to be gained by co-opting such activist citizens rather than suppressing them. It may, they think, offer a way of providing some of the social support that the party can no longer supply on its own. Thus the easing of the rules, not just allowing NGOs to register without a state sponsor but actually encouraging them to do so…

It is telling, however, that these changes come at a time of increased political repression, including against those who simply call upon an overweening party to abide by China’s own (Communist-written) constitution. Since Xi Jinping became party chief in 2012, the state has cracked down on freethinkers…

The party appears to believe that it can encourage the expansion of NGOs without relaxing its political grip. Perhaps it is the Leninist chameleon changing colour again, developing a clever new brand of “consultative authoritarianism”… that leaves the realities of power unchanged and room for dissent constrained. But many who work for NGOs suggest the opposite: allowing new freedoms for civil-society groups will slowly transform the party from the inside—just the kind of “peaceful evolution” that party hardliners have always warned against…

It is not clear that the party believes in civil society. More likely it sees NGOs as a useful tool to achieve its own ends. But with politics directed from on high unable to meet social needs, and a new generation that wants more participation, some increased role for civil society is unavoidable. So a strange, unspoken pact has evolved, where both sides accept the compromise as a way of furthering their goals in the short term, while hoping future developments work in their favor…

Yet, in their way, NGOs are starting to provide a glue that can help knit society together as the state retreats, family structures change and the social fabric is stretched to the point of tearing. Today’s NGOs are backed by a new generation of Chinese who feel better off and more empowered. The party will not find it easy to slap them back down.

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

Just The Facts! is a concise guide to concepts, terminology, and examples that can help you review for May's exam.


What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools, the original version and v2.0 are available to teachers for course planning.


Friday, April 18, 2014

Ken Halla has offered links to these AP Comparative Study Aids
  • Rebecca Small's "Conceptual Terms" which my students all have learned and will review
  • Scribd's AP Comparisons. This is a great site if you want a quick review of major topics such as type of government, corruption, elections, ethnic conflict, social cleavages, and more. If you look at the right side of the page you will see summaries for each country. Russia, Iran, China (but not updated for Xi), Nigeria (Mexico and GB not there and EU is really weak)
  • Andrew Conneen's students' overview of each country (this is really good, but now two years old so Russia has some changes as does Iran).
  • Hauss's multiple choice questions from his previous edition
  • Quizlet also has some great flashcards. The best way to search them is to write "AP Comparative Name of country" into the Quizlet search engine. The top search items is usually quite good.

Just The Facts! is also a great review tool. It's like a combination of Rebecca Small's list of terms, an updated version of Scribd's topical review, and a potential source for flashcards like Quizlet's


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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Nigeria: a failed state?

It's a question that's been on the minds of many people. The editors of Leadership ("Nigeria's most influential newspaper") now make their case. Do they cover all the bases described in your textbook? (The editors are not political scientists, so forgive them if they use "state," "government," and "regime" in less than precise ways.)

Can you tell if this editorial is more than just a statement of political opposition to the government of President Jonathan? What resolution is suggested?

Our Stand: This State Has Failed
It’s about time we admitted it: Nigeria has become a failed state… About a third of the country’s land mass has been under emergency rule for the past one year… at least another third of the country including the Federal Capital Territory: mass murders, kidnapping for ransom, daylight armed robberies, breakdown of law and order, and unrestrained stealing of public funds.

Several authorities identify a failed state as one that can no longer perform its basic duties in such areas as security, power, eradication of poverty, education and job creation. Even the Nigerian constitution recognises that the reason for government’s existence is protection of life and property as well as maintenance of law and order. Events of the past few years indicate that Nigeria has since exceeded the minimum requirements for classification as a failed state.

Currently, the nation is still in grief following the massacre of over 100 people and injuring of more than 200 others by a bomb… On the night of the same Monday, Boko Haram, which has been working together with international terrorist groups al-Shabab and al-Qaeda, seized about 100 female students from a school in Chibok…

No day has passed in the past weeks without a tale of one horrendous atrocity or the other committed by the bloodthirsty hoodlums…

After each act of terror, the Nigerian president, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, has made promises that he has never fulfilled…

And so, we ask again: what is a failed state? In this same country, 6 million university graduates applied for 4, 000 job slots in the Immigration Service. Almost 800, 000 of them were invited for an interview during which 23 of them died as a result of stampedes at some centres…

Our country has, in recent years, always featured on the list of the world’s failed or failing states. In its Failed States Index 2013 released recently, for instance, The Fund for Peace (FFP) ranks the country 16th out of 178 countries. It is only a few points looking better than war-torn Somalia that is ranked first… No wonder the country performed poorly on all indicators used by the FFP: mounting demographic pressure, movement of refugees or internally displaced persons, vengeance-seeking group grievance, human flight, uneven economic development, poverty or severe economic decline, legitimacy of the state, progressive deterioration of services, violation of human rights, security apparatus, rise of factionalised elites and intervention of external actors.

As the State of Emergency imposed on the three states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa expires this Saturday, President Jonathan should not attempt to extend it, unless he wishes to extend it to a larger part of the country. The leaders of the three states have made it clear that they won’t welcome an extension. After all, the entire nation is in emergency already, as clearly shown in the war with terrorists in the north, and the failed amnesty programme in the Niger Delta leading to the militants’ resumption of hostilities; armed robbers and kidnappers rule the roost in the south-west and the south-east. No doubt, the theatre of war now covers the entire country.

The Jonathan regime has demonstrated a frightening incompetence in the handling of the state’s affairs. It is now beyond doubt that the regime is incapable of protecting the people. This government cannot even protect Nigerians from the next attack or even the following day’s attacks. Before the latest kidnap of school girls in Chibok, nobody seemed to have been looking for or even as much as discussing those kidnapped earlier. All Nigerians now live in extreme fear.

When a state has failed, it should not be left to be propped up by failed leaders and failed politicians. But nothing is unstoppable. This trajectory can still be reversed before it is too late. That is why statesmen must speak up now!

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

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, 5th edition is SOLD OUT.

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No longer an entitlement

As the economy and government benefits tighten, can the political leaders maintain their legitimacy?

To save money, Iran ends popular cash payout program
In a bid to cut spending, the Iranian government has ended a massive cash assistance program and launched a celebrity-driven campaign to convince millions of Iranians that they do not need the help.

It’s unlikely to be a popular message. As of last month, more than 90 percent of Iranians were receiving monthly direct deposits from the government of about $15 — a sum that many… depended on to buy staples whose prices have soared in recent years.

The payments were launched in 2010 by then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as part of a program to reduce state subsidies on utilities and food…

On Friday, the government of President Hassan Rouhani sent the final payment to Iranians’ bank accounts, and it is taking applications to determine how many people really need the help…

Ahmadinejad’s government originally intended to deliver the deposits only to the needy. But analysts say a combination of limited income data and political turmoil after Ahmadinejad’s disputed 2009 election led him to view the aid as an opportunity to placate a restless society…

Increasing prices and the national currency’s diminished purchasing power have been among Iranians’ core complaints for several years. If these problems are not resolved, they threaten to undermine the new government’s popularity…

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

Just The Facts! is a concise guide to the concepts, terminology, and examples that can help you review for May's exam.


What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools, the original version and v2.0 are now available to help plan review sessions and next year's teaching plans.


What You Need to Know, 5th edition is SOLD OUT


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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Bad news from Nigeria

Thinking about next year's elections in Nigeria might be wishful. If the capacity of the government to maintain law and order continues to diminish, someone(s) offering powerful remedies might win enough crucial support (i.e. military leaders) to replace the regime. (But if that happens before May 16, it won't be on the exam.)

129 Girls Abducted By Boko Haram As Abuja Death Toll Rises to 76
Barely 16 hours after a bomb explosion at a bus park in Nyanya, a suburb of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), killed scores of people and injured so many others, 129 female students were abducted on Monday night by members of the terrorist group Boko Haram from Government Girls' Secondary School, Chibok in Borno State…

The secondary school girls, who were abducted by members of Boko Haram, were among the 250 boarders at the government secondary school and were sitting for the ongoing WAEC/SSCE (their final year secondary school exams) when they were forcibly taken away from the school on Monday night…

The defence spokesman also stated that the military was still on a search-and-rescue mission trailing the terrorists. He assured Nigerians that the abductors were being tracked and cornered within the environment with the help of the locals…

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

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, 5th edition is SOLD OUT.

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Corruption? Here? In our regime? I'm shocked.

It's interesting that everyone seems to know about "moches," but that no one has been involved with such schemes.

And it's also interesting that all the accused, so far, are associated with PAN, the main rival to the ruling PRI.

Mexico congressmen charge mayors for federal funds
The mayor of the central Mexico city of Celaya thought he was having a private conversation when he told his staff that congressmen were requiring him to inflate a paving contract by 35 percent in exchange for $12.2 million in federal public works money.

Not only that, they demanded he go with the contractor of their choice.

But the conversation was recorded, leaked to the national Reforma newspaper, and its front-page story in January revealed one of the biggest corruption scandals to hit Mexico's Congress. According to mayors who have come forward in recent months, senators and congressmen routinely skim off the top of federal funds they allot to cities, money that can add up to three-quarters of the budget for local jurisdictions…

Over the decades, corruption scandals have tainted presidents, brought down mayors, seen generals jailed and led to charges against untold numbers of police. Just in the last two weeks, the Mexico City leader of the country's ruling party was accused of hiring women for sex and putting them on the party payroll, and federal officials detained Michoacan state's second-highest-ranking political leader to investigate his possible ties to the drug cartel that has terrorized the state.

But Congress has remained largely untouched until now. Mexicans have attributed that less to lawmakers' honesty than the fact that, in a country where inconvenient laws are generally ignored by powerful forces, lawmakers were not considered important enough to bribe.

Now, that perception has changed, leaving Mexicans wondering if there is any institution in the country left untouched by corruption.

Although no mayor has publicly admitted to participating in the payoffs themselves, local media citing anonymous officials with knowledge of the meetings have alleged that at least eight city leaders were solicited for bribes…

President Enrique Pena Nieto, in office for nearly a year and a half, has pledged that his administration will not tolerate the corrupt practices that took place at all levels of government in the past. The moches investigation is the first of his term to focus on elected officials, although most named in the scandal so far belong to the National Action Party, or PAN, the rival party to Pena Nieto's Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI…

Botello, the head of the Mexican association of mayors, said that four or five mayors had told her about being pressured to participate in the scheme, although she denied having been approached herself, and declined to say who had been…

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

Just The Facts! is a concise guide to concepts, terminology, and examples that can help you review for next month's exam.


What You Need to Know is a thorough review of comparative government and politics as described in the AP curriculum.


What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools, the original version and v2.0 are available for teachers


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