Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Details on Ekiti, Nigeria

John Jenkins wrote about an article he read in Vanguard (Lagos). He commented, "It looks like a state-level constitutional crisis in Nigeria has prompted a response from the president which may itself be unconstitutional...gotta love federal systems."

The October 20 article was Ekiti: Why Obasanjo declared emergency rule

"PRESIDENT Olusegun Obasanjo, yesterday, explained why he decided to impose a state of emergency on Ekiti. He then proceeded to swear in Major-General Adetunji Olurin (rtd) as administrator of the state for six months in the first instance. The movement of the former Deputy Governor, Mrs. Biodun Olujimi, and the former Speaker who claimed to be acting Governor, Chief Friday Aderemi, was restricted by security agents. Indeed, Chief Aderemi was quizzed by security agents..."

I outlined the Ekiti case on October 16, More on the Politics of Anti-Corruption, and followed up with three comments about later articles. But none of them included what's in the Guardian article. There you'll find the text of Obasanjo's declaration of emergency rule and statements by many other politicians about the situation.

Other relevant things on this blog are

You'll find even more on Nigerian government and politics if you go to the "CompGovPol" del.icio.us page and click on the Nigeria tag.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Voting Participation and Fraud

The legitimacy of representative government depends, in part, on wide-spread voter participation and on honesty and transparency in election procedures. Sometimes efforts at increasing participation result in opportunities for vote fraud. (It should be noted, that up until now in Western democracies, neither academic research nor criminal investigations have found very much evidence of fraud that would have affected election outcomes -- even thought anecdotal evidence of voter fraud is often discussed,.)

While efforts are being made to increase participation in British elections, the investigators at Scotland Yard are busy monitoring attempts to game and cheat the system. This report from The Guardian (London) on October 23, highlights the law enforcement efforts.

This could become the basis for a comparative study if you or your students could find information on the connections between efforts to increase participation and voting irregularities in other countries. For instance, it seems that comparisons could easily be made between the cases described below and "mail in" voting in Oregon.

Parties accused over electoral fraud

"One of the country's most senior police officers has accused political parties of 'sharp practice' as he warned that postal voting has increased the scope for ballot-rigging.

"Evidence has been unearthed that political parties have involved themselves in 'questionable practices' which undermine the integrity of the postal voting system in London...

"The risk was highlighted last week when two Liberal Democrat councillors were found guilty of using proxy votes to secure a council seat in Burnley...

"Postal voting on demand was rolled out to local elections in 2003 following a series of pilots which showed it boosted turnout at the polls...

"One of the outstanding inquiries is a major investigation into alleged fraudulent activity at Tower Hamlets borough council, east London, following allegations that hundreds of postal votes were stolen from blocks of flats in the borough.

"The council saw its Labour majority cut to just one seat after the poll last May.

"Those most vulnerable to exploitation are voters whose first language is not English..."

Friday, October 27, 2006

Anti-Corruption in China a century ago

I read the blog Jottings from the Granite Studio and learned about an article from the New York Times "Week in Review" section. (Well, I was on the road for 12 hours Sunday, so I wasn't paying as much attention as I usually do.)

The article is The Chinese Go After Corruption, Corruptly by Jim Yardley.

Yardley writes, "President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao have warned that corruption threatens the credibility and legitimacy of Communist Party rule and have vowed to stamp it out. But many experts say that truly stamping out corruption would involve the type of broad political reform and a full embrace of the rule of law that the party has long resisted...

"Last year, the party committee responsible for internal discipline investigated more than 147,000 corruption cases, most handled outside the legal system...

"It is a reminder that often the Communist Party opts to address corruption outside the law."

The blogging historian then notes that the Qing Dynasty responded to widespread corruption after the "Boxer Rebellion" by creating "unprecedented political and institutional bodies, such as provincial assemblies and the New Army divisions, that then played key roles in sweeping the Qing from power in 1911."

The historian's conclusion is "The CCP are not stupid. They know that the kinds of reforms necessary to create a culture of law and accountability would inevitably weaken the party's grip on power. The question is: Are China's problems so serious as to force the CCP's hand in the near future or can the party continue with the current strategies of exhortations, purges, and institutional tinkering?"

That's a political science question.

See earlier related posts here

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Copyright Fair Use

Since 1968, I have created teaching plans and materials with little more than a rumor in the back of my mind about an exception to the copyright law called "fair use." I really learned about the complexities of copyright law a couple years ago when I wrote a collection of lesson plans for The Center for Learning.

As a responsible professional, I should have known more and thought more carefully about my use of copyrighted material. Looking back, I don't think I flagrantly violated the spirit of "fair use." (But I'm not a lawyer, I'm not even a well-informed non-lawyer. And ambiguity reigns. Every case is different. That's why there are lawyers, judges, and amendments to statutes.)

As I look back, I also don't recall any employer, professional organization, or colleague offering much more than vague warnings about copyright infringement or reassurances that a few copies for class were permitted by "fair use." Then again, I wasn't looking, even though I first copyrighted my writing in 1962 (when the process of getting a copyright was much more complex than it is now).

So, what's the deal?

The Copyright Management Center of Indiana and Purdue Universities has a pretty thorough set of information: "Copyright Quickguide!" "Fair-Use Issues," "Permissions and Information," and "Copyright Ownership."

In the "Fair-Use Issues" section, you'll find the text of "Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act." It says, in part, "...the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified in that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include—
  1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work;
  3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work..."

You will also find a useful "Checklist for Fair Use" and an informative "Classroom Handouts and Copyright" explanatory section.

In a less legalistic vein, Mary Carter's web site, Copyrights and Wrongs, offers this "...you need to know when there are legal exceptions to copying. It's easy in principle, but, as with other situations in the law, these waters can get very murky, very quickly." She follows that introduction with "When Copying is OK," a series of related explanations and examples that will help you sort out your own use of copyrighted materials.

Her introduction, "A basic, easy to understand guide to copyrights," and her conclusion "Protecting Yourself," are valuable and helpful as well.

Carter also offers some details on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. If you want to know more about that and the controversies surrounding it, do a search on Google to learn why Sony may have tried to install software at the operating system level on your computer without your knowledge or permission.

Now, you can't say that a colleague never offered you some details so you can evaluate your use of the copyright law's "fair use" exception. It is an important thing to think about. Whether you adopt a legalistic ethic or a utilitarian one or a moralistic one to guide your behavior, I think you ought to make an informed choice.

(Thanks to Cory Doctorow at BoingBoing, to Chat at GilleyMedia, and to David Glacalone at Self-Help Law ExPress for bringing this issue and all this good information to my attention.)

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Another source for global public opinion

Chip Hauss referred me to the web site for the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA). He does some research that shows up there and that connects to his academic activities and his work with Search for Common Ground USA.

The Program on International Policy Attitudes describes itself as "a joint program of the Center on Policy Attitudes and the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland, School of Public Affairs, University of Maryland." It's a great source for data on public opinion from all over the world.

For example, I found an article from February 2006 titled, Global Poll Finds Iran Viewed Negatively. It's a report on a BBC World Service poll (with details about the questionnaire and methodology) "exploring how people in 33 countries view various countries found not a single country where a majority has a positive view of Iran’s role in the world (with the exception of Iranians themselves)."

But views of Iran are only part of the results. There are graphic presentations of views of the USA, China, Russia, France, Japan, Europe, the UK, and India as well as Iran here.

It's fair to ask what effects public opinion in other countries can have on politics and policy making in a country, and we might conclude that they depend upon specific circumstances. But we could ask students to identify factors that affect the influence of others' perceptions.

The survey did not ask about the influence of Mexico and Nigeria, but people in those countries were included in the survey. (e.g. 75% of Nigerians thought Britain's influence in the world was mainly positive; 68% thought China's influence was mainly positive; 55% thought that way about Russia's influence; but only 30% had a favorable impression of Iran's influence)

It seems to me that we need to add this source to the arsenal of resources we keep in mind as we teach comparative politics.

Here are some other examples I found on the related World Public Opinion web site that might be useful within the context of your course:

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Rule of law through treaty

Rebecca Small pointed out an article in the Washington Post that I'd missed. Thank you, Rebecca.

(Aside: I rely on your help in finding things like this, so send me references to things that look useful or send your recommendations directly to the gov/pol EDG or post them at the online discussion group. We all can use each other's help.)

The rule of law may sneak into a political system in unusual ways. In this case, through an old Cold War institution. And the motivation for accepting the authority of the international court is probably the desire by the Russian power elite for closer relations with the economic powers of Western Europe, even if that means basic political reform.

Europe's Long Legal Tether on Russia -- Court of Human Rights a Powerful Check on Excesses, Abuses

"While President Vladimir Putin has been marginalizing Russia's parliament, opposition, media and human rights groups, this international court sitting 1,250 miles away in Strasbourg, France, has emerged as a powerful check on the excesses of the Russian bureaucracy and failures by the country's own investigative organs and courts to follow Russia's laws.

"The European Court enforces the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, drawn up by the Council of Europe, an international body founded in the wake of World War II to defend human rights, parliamentary democracy and the rule of law. Russia ratified the convention in 1998, agreeing to accept the court's decisions as binding...

"Following European Court decisions in recent years, Russia improved conditions in pretrial detention centers and trimmed the powers of federal or local authorities to reopen ostensibly completed cases that they have lost in domestic courts. Torture victims have been compensated, and in at least one case, police officers were jailed for abuse after the Strasbourg court took up the matter.

"'The court represents the end of impunity,' said Olga Shepeleva, a lawyer with Demos, a human rights research center in Moscow. 'There's a growing recognition that the court is a place where justice will be done. The authorities may not always be happy, but they pay attention to the results.'

"While Russia is quick to pay any compensation ordered by the court, the country has been criticized by the Council of Europe's parliamentary assembly for failing to carry out systemic and deep reforms as a result of court rulings..."

We should note, as the article later does, that "Reports by the Council of Europe's parliamentary assembly have criticized countries from Ukraine to Britain for dragging their feet on reforms."

The Council of Europe describes itself as "the continent's oldest political organisation, founded in 1949."

It says it was set up to:

  • defend human rights, parliamentary democracy and the rule of law 

  • develop continent-wide agreements to standardise member countries' social and legal practices

  • promote awareness of a European identity based on shared values and cutting across different cultures

Since the fall of the Iron Curtain, the group's web site says its main job has become:
  • acting as a political anchor and human rights watchdog for Europe's post-communist democracies

  • assisting the countries of central and eastern Europe in carrying out and consolidating political, legal and constitutional reform in parallel with economic reform

  • providing know-how in areas such as human rights, local democracy, education, culture and the environment

The Council of Europe is composed of:

  • the Committee of Ministers, composed of the 46 Foreign ministers or their Strasbourg-based deputies... which is the Organisation's decision-making body

  • the Parliamentary Assembly, grouping 630 members... from the 46 national parliaments
  • the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities

  • the 1800-strong secretariat...

The Council of Europe, then, is an international treaty organization, not a supra-natonal, constitutional membership organization like the European Union. It's decision-making is done by representatives of the member governments. Unlike the European Union, its organizations do not include any direct representation of member countries citizens. It is, however, a force for promoting rule of law in Europe.

There's a useful page on the COE web site, titled "What's what?" that helps distinguish between COE organizations and EU bodies. The definitions there should help students in keeping these two international organizations distinct in their minds.

Noblesse Oblige in Democratic Systems?

I was reading Gene Weingarten's insightful profile of Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau from the Washington Post magazine (Doonesbury's War, October 22) and came across this which might be the basis for a comparative politics writing prompt.

"Trudeau's time at Yale overlapped with George W. Bush's -- he knew him slightly and disliked him even then, largely for what he saw as a sense of smug entitlement ('all noblesse and no oblige')."

Noblesse oblige is often used when discussing British politics and political history. As a non-comparative question, you could ask your students to speculate how the British system would be different today if it lacked either "noblesse" or "oblige."

Another possible question could involve identifying the "noblesse" and "oblige" characteristics of the British state today. Or you could ask them to compare how the Thatcher and Blair governments expressed those values.

Comparative questions you could ask students might be to compare the "noblesse" characteristics of the British state with those of the Russian or Mexican state. Alternatively, you could ask them to compare how "noblesse oblige" is expressed in the British, Mexican, and/or Iranian states. I think one of the most interesting examples might be to compare the roles of "noblesse oblige" in the UK with its roles in China.

Within the context of your own curriculum, you can probably think up more and better examples. Then you could share them with us here. Just use the "Comments" link at the bottom of this entry.

See Learning to Give for historical background on Noblesse Oblige

Monday, October 23, 2006

What's the opposite of devolution?

Bill Samli reports on the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty web site that the Iranian government is reasserting the traditional centralization of Iranian regimes.

Iran: Executive Seeks To Extend Control As Local Elections Near

"Recent steps by Iran's executive branch to control who runs for the councils -- combined with previous efforts to further curb their powers -- suggest that voter participation might continue to fall despite their political significance...

"The Interior Ministry conducts all the country's elections and, in most cases, it is the 12-member Guardians Council that vets prospective candidates and has supervisory powers. But it is the legislature that has supervisory and vetting powers in the municipal-council elections...
"It became increasingly clear by late September, when the Central Committee for Monitoring Council Elections began its activities, that this firewall was crumbling. The central committee comprised five fundamentalist legislators... It selected 90 people from 27 provinces to monitor the elections, and nearly all of them were fundamentalists...

"The municipal councils already have limited powers and responsibilities. They deal with issues like construction permits, garbage collection, and roadwork. The central government is responsible for everything else -- such as education, electricity, and the provision of water.
"President Mahmud Ahmadinejad's administration tried to reduce the powers even more through a new law... [under which] the councils would be subordinate to the Interior Ministry and would require its approval before performing many of their functions.

"Councils also currently select mayors. But under the proposed law, the Interior Ministry would essentially perform that function...

"With roughly two months to go before the elections, it appears that the law has been allowed to fade into the background.

"President Ahmadinejad is doing other things that could weaken existing provincial government institutions and create new ones that are more closely connected to the executive branch. It is the presidential administration -- through the Interior Ministry -- that appoints provincial governors-general... issued a directive that linked every provincial office of the Management and Planning Organization with the provincial governor-general...

"The concept of councils at the local level was enshrined in the Iranian Constitution of 1979. But the first council elections did not take place until 20 years later. Then-President Mohammad Khatami's administration sought to decentralize the state apparatus and increase public participation in political affairs and, in general, it emphasized the significance of the councils...

"Scholar Kian Tajbakhsh [at left] asserted at the August 2006 Conference on Iranian Studies in London that the reformists viewed the councils as civil-society organizations. But he noted that reformists did not clarify their agenda, address legal ambiguities, distinguish councils' responsibilities, or even place local institutions in the broader context of an authoritarian state. Tajbakhsh said "energy" for the local councils was closely connected with the wider, national reform movement. When that movement faded, he argued, so did local councils' momentum..."

[Kian Tajbakhsh's web site]

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Unrest and Stalemate in Mexico

John Jenkins asked about the Mexican Senate's inquiry into Ulises Ruiz (at left), governor of Oaxaca.

I mentioned the ongoing protests in Oaxaca a couple times here last summer:

John was asking about this report in the Los Angeles Times, "Senators Weigh Demand to Oust Oaxaca Governor"

"A Senate committee was meeting in Mexico City to discuss whether to send a bill to remove Gov. Ulises Ruiz on the grounds that he had lost control of his state."

John asked, "If the Senate is considering actually removing the governor, not on the grounds that he rigged the elections as the protestors claim, but because he has lost control of the state. What kind of precedent are we looking at, when any massive protest means to the Senate that the state government has lost its legitimacy?"

The LA Times article certainly doesn't offer much in the way of explanation.

The Wikipedia article on Governor Ruiz, if it can be believed, says that Ruiz is a PRI governor elected in 2004, but that opponents accused him of vote fraud in his victory.

Prensa Latina offers a little help to outsiders in understanding what's going on.

Mexican Tension in Senate and Oaxaca

"The Mexican Senate, with 69 of its 128 members present Thursday, began discussing the Senate Government Committee recommendation that, despite its recognized ungovernability of Oaxaca State, it would not declare a removal of power.

"The committee decision was immediately rejected by the parties of PRD (Revolucion Democratica), Convergencia and Verde Ecologista arguing, in the words of Convergencia, that the Executive, Legislative and Judicial powers are in fact not functioning in Oaxaca.

"While they argued, a police buildup was evident outside the Legislature in anticipation of the imminent arrival of members of the Oaxaca APPO peoples assembly [Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca, a coalition of civil and political organizations according to the Wikipedia article cited above] and section 22 [union local in U.S. parlance] of the teachers union who have been striking and protesting for 150 days for the removal of Gov. Ulises Ruiz.

"Flavio Sosa, an APPO leader, said they hoped for a positive decision from the Legislature because if not, there would be major social unrest, and announced new mobilizations in the capital, including demonstrations at PAN party headquarters (governing Accion Nacional) seen as preventing the ouster of Ruiz."

The Prensa Latina, Latin American News Agency, article suggests that the PRD and its allies in the Senate favored removing Ruiz. But by themselves they are a minority in the Senate where the PAN has 52 Senators, the PRI and its allies have 39 and the PNA has one. The PRD and its allies (the Alianza por el Bien de Todos or The Alliance for the Good of All) have only 36 Senators. That puts the situation in a national partisan context.

In a more regional context, Saturday's Washington Post reports that there's a split in the APPO.

Protesters, Teachers Part Ways in Oaxaca

"Radical protesters and teachers who have taken over the city of Oaxaca appeared to be parting ways on Friday after the teachers' leaders agreed to end a strike and return to work.

"Embattled Oaxaca state Gov. Ulises Ruiz predicted that the protesters' barricades blocking highways and streets would be taken down within a week...

"Leftists who have taken over private radio stations in Oaxaca broadcast diatribes on Friday calling teachers' union leader Enrique Rueda "a traitor" and a "sellout," after Rueda said on Thursday that the strikers would return to work, even though they didn't achieve their main goal of removing Ruiz from power...

"Many leftists remain convinced the protests should continue, even though their last legal recourse -- the Senate -- voted on Thursday that there were no grounds to remove Ruiz from office...

"Protesters and teachers had vowed not to consider offers from government negotiators -- including wage raises for teachers, and federal control of the widely distrusted local police -- until Ruiz left office. They accuse him of using fraud to win his 2004 election and of sending armed thugs against protesters.

"Since late May, violence related to the strike has cost at least five lives. The federal government has been loath to intervene in the conflict, fearing more bloodshed.

"But pressure has been mounting for a rapid solution, because the dispute has scared off tourists and hurt businesses in the state, as well as keeping 1.3 million schoolchildren in Oaxaca out of classes."

With the apparent failure of the attempt to oust Ruiz, it seems that Section 22 of the teachers union is likely to focus more on local issues and on getting its members back to work.

None of that answers John's question about the precedent of considering protests that disrupt governance as the basis for removing an elected official. Now we're out of my league. I don't know anything about the Mexican constitution, law, or precedents for removing elected officials. That corresponds with my total ignorance of Spanish. In addition, my research is limited by resources and time. Now, if I had to guess, I'd say that politics dictates the result as much as law. If Ruiz represented a different party, the results of the Senate's action might have been different. (Then again, the protests might not have happened.)

One more thing. Oaxaca is a tourist destination. November through March is prime time for tourists from the north. If there's political upset, violence, and ongoing protests in the capital city, the tourist trade, local businesses, and local workers would suffer. Do the teachers and APPO want to take responsibility for that? Economics may also play a role in what may be a resolution.

All of that is a long way of saying, "Help."

John's question is a significant one. I'll add another that I can't answer, "Is Mexico, with the Oaxaca protests and the presidential election crisis, approaching political stalemate?"

Does anyone else have ideas? (Use the comment link below and help us out here.)

Friday, October 20, 2006

Controlling Civil Society in Russia

The New York Times reported on Friday the latest developments in what seems to be attempts by the Russian government to control civil society.

Kremlin Puts Foreign NGO’s on Notice

"Scores of foreign private organizations were forced to cease their operations in Russia on Thursday while the government considered whether to register them under a new law that has received sharp international criticism...

"The Justice Ministry, which is responsible for registering foreign private organizations, insisted that the suspensions were neither retaliatory nor permanent...

"But the suspensions were the latest chapter in Russia’s pressure on foreign organizations that have offices on its soil. They occurred in a climate of deepening worry about the Kremlin’s crackdown on civil society and just days before a planned visit by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice...

"Some Russian officials, including Nikolai P. Patrushev, the chief of the domestic intelligence service, have accused the groups of interfering with state affairs or even harboring spies.

"The new law, strongly backed by President Vladimir V. Putin, created extensive new filing requirements, which in some cases the organizations said had been so tedious and lengthy as to be almost impossible to fulfill. The groups have also expressed apprehension over the rules’ vagueness, which could allow any group to be audited, and perhaps closed, on a pretext..."

The Washington Post coverage emphasized the restrictions on American NGOs.

Russia Halts Activities of Many Groups From Abroad

"Russia on Thursday suspended the activities of Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the International Republican Institute and more than 90 other foreign nongovernmental organizations, saying they failed to meet the registration requirements of a controversial new law designed to bring activists here under much closer government scrutiny...

"On Thursday, officials said the suspensions resulted simply from the failure of private groups to meet the law's requirements, not from a political decision on the part of the state. The groups would be allowed to resume work once their registrations are completed, they said...

"Many nongovernmental organizations fear that the current bureaucratic tangle might be the beginning of a larger crackdown on activism that is not controlled by the Kremlin...

"Many of the suspended organizations are American...

"Activists complained, however, that the requirements of the law are so vague and cumbersome that meeting the deadline was extremely difficult...

"Other groups, however, said they found the registration office helpful..."

Related posts:

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Unitary System in the UK

Jeff Reiman who teaches at Grandview High School in Aurora, Colorado wrote

"I understand why the government [in the UK] is properly described as unitary.

"But under my reading of the Good Friday Agreement, Parliament seems to have permanently ceded such powers to the newly-created legislature for Northern Ireland. (I believe similar provisions appear in Parliament's agreements establishing regional assemblies in Scotland and Wales.) The Good Friday Agreement also provides that the people of Northern Ireland can vote to secede from the U.K. -- establishing far greater regional sovereignty than exists under the U.S. Constitution.  Doesn't this mean Parliament has now created a federal system of government?"

Well, I have read neither the Good Friday Agreement nor the Scotland Act, so I didn't have an answer beyond the textbook assertion that the system in the UK is unitary.

I started by looking at the Scottish Parliament web site. I learned there that the Scotland Act of 1998 describes two kinds of powers: devolved powers and reserved powers. The Scotland Act describes the powers reserved for Parliament in Westminster. The Scottish Parliament's web site says that devolved powers, "such as education, health and prisons" are now given to the Scottish Parliament.

That wasn't quite enough to answer Jeff's questions.

A web site called AdviceGuide.org, ("the online Citizens' Advice Bureau service that provides independent advice on your rights"), described "the constitution of the UK" as one of the powers reserved to Parliament.

The authors of that web page go on to say, "The Scottish Parliament is a devolved Parliament, which means that the UK Parliament at Westminster remains sovereign. Technically the Westminster Parliament retains the power to legislate on Scottish devolved matters. However, it has agreed not to do so, unless it has the prior consent of the Scottish Parliament."

That to me sounds like a unitary system in which the sovereign power has devolved some power (for the time being) to a legislature it created. I found support for that conclusion in an unexpected place.

As hesitant as I am to refer to Wikipedia as a source, I'm going to do so here because the two articles below popped up in my search and they seem to be accurate. The two articles I found were

There are three points in those articles I think are crucial.
  1. "The UK Parliament retains the ability to amend the terms of reference of the Scottish Parliament, and can extend or reduce the areas in which it can make laws."
  2. "For the purposes of parliamentary sovereignty, the Parliament of the United Kingdom, at Westminster continues to constitute the supreme legislature of Scotland..."
  3. devolution "differs from federalism in that the powers devolved may be temporary and ultimately reside in central government, thus the state remains, de jure, unitary."

The Northern Ireland Assembly, on its web site, says the Good Friday agreements allowed "the Northern Ireland Assembly... [to] govern Northern Ireland in respect of ‘transferred matters’, and also ‘reserved matters’ with the Secretary of State’s consent. Excepted matters remain the responsibility of the United Kingdom Parliament..."

Transferred and reserved matters sounds much like the devolved and reserved powers in the Scotland Act.

Wikipedia's article on The Northern Ireland Assembly notes, "Although the British monarch is not formally a component of the Assembly (as is the case at Westminster), all bills passed by the Assembly must receive the Royal Assent in order to become law. This is not a mere formality; if he or she believes that a bill violates the constitutional limitations on the powers of the Assembly the Secretary of State will refuse to submit the bill to the monarch for Assent..."

Once again, it sounds to me like a unitary system in which some powers are devolved, not federalism.

The Devolution in the UK page at the UK's Department of Constitutional Affairs web site make is seem that the Welsh assembly has even fewer powers than either the Scottish or Northern Ireland bodies. The authors of that page note that "The National Assembly for Wales... does not have the power to make primary legislation, but enjoys extensive executive powers and may make secondary legislation... Its responsibilities are not as wide as those of the Scottish Parliament: in particular, the UK Government retains responsibility for the police and the legal system..."

So it seems to me that none of the devolution is technically irreversible, but taking power away from local legislatures or councils wouldn't be easy without a crisis or an embarrassing failure. The UK system seems to be unitary. Sovereignty is retained in Parliament.

By the way, the Department of Constitutional Affairs web site, especially the section on constitutional reform, would be a valuable teaching tool.

Details of Chinese Political History

I read the most recent entry on Jottings From a Granite Studio, and was reminded of a lecture I prepared many years ago.

JGS is the blog of a graduate student in history who is researching Qing China, and the entry for 16 October was about the death of Wang Guangmei [at left, below], widow of former Chinese president Liu Shaoqi. Now, for those of us teaching comparative politics, not recognizing either name is probably forgivable. But I taught Chinese history before I taught comparative politics, so I recognized Liu Shaoqi.

Liu was a big name in a lecture I wrote (and revised for several years) thirty years ago. I was trying to explain to my very American students how there could be political competition in a one-party state like the PRC. The Qing historian who writes JGS identified Liu [shown at the left, below, with Mao in 1963] as "the leader of the 'pragmatists' as well as the head of the government..." That's exactly how I identified him and contrasted him to the Maoist "idealists" who advocated permanent revolution.

JGS notes that "After the failure of the Great Leap Forward, Liu Shaoqi, Deng Xiaoping, and the other grown-ups in the CCP suggested sweetly that Mao 'retire' and work on his memoirs. The new leadership worked to strengthen China's economy and proposed a series of policies not unlike those Deng Xiaoping would put forward 25 years later..."

But then, "In 1966, Mao replaced Liu with Lin Biao as Mao's heir apparent... By the end of the year, the Cultural Revolution was in full flower and chaos threatened to overwhelm China's major cities. Accused of being a traitor and a scab, Liu was placed under house arrest..."

"What I've always found fascinating about Liu is the big counter-historical 'what if?' In 1962, Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping began experimenting with many of the same policies that would characterize the first phase of the Reform Era (1978-1984). Unfortunately, the first time through, those policies would not survive the challenge by Mao, and others within the party, who felt that what Deng and Liu really wanted to do was to take China down the 'Capitalist Counter-Revolutionary Road.'"

The JGS essay is a good primer on those politics of the first 30 years of the PRC and you might want to take some notes that will help you explain something about the left-wing critics of today's economic restructuring in China.

[For more on the left wing critics of current policies, see JGS's Wang Hui and China's New New Left, posted on October 13. It refers to International Herald Tribune and New York Times articles about Wang Hui.

[ "...Wang Hui, the Tsinghua University professor and editor of Dushu... who is perhaps the most prominent of China's New (New?) Leftist intellectuals. Wang's basic argument is that while the reform era has brought some good things to China this does not mean that socialism has lost its viability or that the Left in China has abdicated its responsibility to protect people from the ravages of laissez-faire capitalism and globalization..."]

Monday, October 16, 2006

Finding Political Data

Melody Dickison wrote, "On Professor Franklin's blog, Political Arithmetik, there is a graph that shows Bush's approval ratings in all polls from 2001 to 10/2006. Do you know if there is a similar graph somewhere giving the same info for Tony Blair?"

My first thought was to look at the Angus Reid Consultants site.

Angus Reid's Global Monitor, "is a service dedicated to providing daily information on worldwide public opinion and assessing democratic processes around the world." On the web site you'll find the results of nearly 13,000 polls from all over the world.

A search of the Angus Reid site for "Tony Blair" comes up with 562 results, but only one deals with Tony Blair's approval rating. It compares the percentage of people expressing satisfaction with Blair's performance in January and March 2006.

A little more searching on Google led me to The UK Polling Report. It's a blog maintained by Anthony Wells. He includes links to many polls about British political issues.

One of them is a chart of Blair's approval rating that goes back to Jan. '05.

There's a report of party preference polls going back to 2001 (it's not Blair's popularity, but it's close).

And another that covers 1997-2001.

More on the Politics of Anti-Corruption

A little article on the BBC World News page caught my eye since I'd been paying attention to the anti-corruption campaign in Nigeria.

Missing Nigeria governor sacked

"The governor of Ekiti State in Nigeria [Ayo Fayose, at right], has been impeached after MPs found him and his deputy guilty of misconduct.

"He denies graft and is believed to have fled to another West African country to avoid possible arrest and trial...

"Nigeria's anti-corruption watchdog, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), recently accused Mr Fayose of diverting $100,000 to a personal account in the US.

"He was also accused of receiving kickbacks on a poultry project embarked upon by his state government.

"The EFCC says almost all of Nigeria's 36 state governors are corrupt.

"The investigative panel, headed by the chief judge of the state said it found evidence of corruption against the governor and recommended his sacking.

"But the governor's supporters say that he and his deputy, Mrs Biodun Olujimi, are being "persecuted" because he had fallen out with President Olusegun Obasanjo..."

I'm still surprised that this tiny of bit of Nigerian politics is accessible to those of us so far away. But, as I've found, there is enough information on the situation in Ekiti that you could use it as a case study and compare it to cases in, say, China or Russia or Mexico or Iran or the UK. How do political systems deal with corruption and how big a role do politics play in the pursuit of corrupt politicians?

Here's some of what I found using only a basic Google search for Ayo Fayose. Some of your students could do better research and assemble and process enough information to make this a case to study while other students could "create" cases from other countries for a comparative exercise.

There is a profile praising Fayose at the Online Nigeria web site. It specifically mentions the poultry development scheme the governor is accused of profiting from.

There is an article (Confusion in the Fountain of Knowledge) in the Guardian (Lagos) which provides background (in nearly tedious detail) of the political intrigue involved in this case,

This Day (Lagos) reported also reported on this situation. Nigeria: Aftermath of Impeachment Saga... Ekiti Assembly Vandalised

"The theatre of the absurd playing out in Ekiti State over moves to impeach the state governor, Mr. Ayo Fayose, and his deputy, Mrs. Abiodun Olujimi, continued yesterday as people suspected to be hoodlums invaded and vandalised the state House of Assembly...

"One man who was on guard at the assembly told THISDAY that he saw the hoodlums when they came in three different buses and a number of motor bikes...

"He disclosed further that when the hoodlums discovered that no one was around they started vandalising the frontier alluminum doors.

"Sources disclosed further that the police who shot severally into the air to disperse the hoodlums later chased them up to the Government House.

"The source said since it was forbidden to make any arrest within government house, the police had to turn back..."

In light of the anti-corruption commission's allegations that nearly all of Nigeria's governors are involved in corruption, the Vanguard (Lagos) report from two days ago seems very relevant. "36 Governors Write Obasanjo On Plateau and Ekiti"

"GOVERNORS from the 36 states of the federation have called on President Olusegun Obasanjo and the National leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to urgently intervene in what they described as the 'unconstitutional and outright intimidatory tactics' being exhibited by members of the Ekiti State House of Assembly in its bid to impeach Governor Ayo Fayose, in order not to destroy the nation's hard earned democracy.

"The governors, in a statement entitled 'Attack on Democracy' said 'we the elected governors of the thirty six states of the Federation of Nigeria view with very grave concern the ominous turn which the unfolding political drama in Ekiti State has taken...'"

The About Ekiti pages on the official Ekiti State web site would be a good source for examining local government and society.

As a footnote, the Ayo Fayose's one-page web site says, "The Man with a mission . Mr Ayo fayose is the governor of Ekiti State of Nigeria. He has come with a mission to transform Ekiti State to the most vibrant state in Nigeria.This is the season of change this is the time for the young and vibrant. Ekiti State will be great again under your leadership."

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Civil Society and Cultural Diffusion

Correspondent Marianna Dratch, on the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty web site, "interviewed" Francis Fukuyama who offered some provocative ideas that might be good as writing prompts or discussion starters.

Maybe it's unfortunate that Fukuyama's ideas can only be dealt with in such truncated forms within the context of introductory comparative politics. There just isn't time for students to learn enough about Hegel, Marx, Lenin, Weber, Huntington, Kissinger, neo-conservative ideas, the politics of policy, and numerous other things to grasp the wider implications of the ideas stated and implied in the phrases "the end of history" or "They were really Leninists... I have always been more of a Marxist..." Then again, that's the nature of introductory courses. And perhaps carefully chosen quotations can whet students' appetites for more complex considerations in the future. Maybe this is one of those quotations. It does veer into international relations and foreign policy in the last question, but that helps illustrate Fukuyama's thesis.

How would your students respond to these ideas? If you asked them to write a response to one of Fukuyama's statements, how well would they analyze a case from a country they've studied? How, for instance, might they analyze the development of civil society in China or Nigeria in light of Fukuyama's contentions? Or could a discussion of these ideas be a valuable teaching tool? Try it out and tell us what happens. (Use the comment link at the bottom of the entry.)

Fukuyama Says Ideas On Liberal Democracy 'Misunderstood'

"Professor Francis Fukuyama is best known for his idea that the world settled on liberal democracy after the ideological struggle of the Cold War. After giving a lecture... in Kyiv, he spoke... [about] how his ideas on liberal democracy have been misunderstood and misused.

"Building A Civil Society

"RFE/RL: 'The crucial question is how to build social capital. Is it possible to build up social capital from top to bottom, or from abroad?' 

"Fukuyama: 'No, I think that social capital is almost always built from the bottom up, through people working together, the way they're trained and educated and so forth. Governments can only create a framework in which people can create social capital for themselves, and so the government has to avoid being too interventionist in controlling everything. People have to be allowed freedom to associate and to work with each other. But the government has to provide the basic security stability, social order, and political order. That's also another necessary condition for social capital to arise.'

"RFE/RL: 'And what about foreign governments or foreign sponsors or international organizations trying to sponsor NGOs in certain countries?'

"Fukuyama: 'I think you have to put that into the broader context of globalization. It's simply the case that a lot of things move across international borders -- money, ideas, communication, information. So I think it's inevitable that people look to foreign models and ideas, they get funding from outside in shaping their own society. But in the end it is the people in the society that create civil society, they create social capital, they create democracy. It's not something that can really be done by any group of outsiders.'

"RFE/RL: 'You have often been criticized for cultural determinism... Ukraine has been torn between different empires and now the unity of the country is still a test that people have to face. What is your advice on this? How do you close the cultural gaps within a country?'

"Fukuyama: 'I think that cultures change over time. Right now you have a very different global condition where you have influences that don't come just from the neighborhood, they come from all over the place, from Europe, from America. I think the important thing is to remain open to those other types of ideas and models. Also the way that people get training and knowledge, that has a big effect on culture. So all of these I think will affect Ukrainian culture in the future.'

"RFE/RL: 'Professor Fukuyama, some of your critics say that your ideas about the primacy of liberal democracy created a climate suitable for the self-assured behavior of the U.S. government in world affairs. Do you feel responsible to any extent for this?'

"Fukuyama: 'Well, no. I think that the Bush administration, to the extent that they thought they were using my ideas, really misunderstood them.... They were really Leninists because they believe that they would use power to advance democracy. And I have always been more of a Marxist, in the sense that I believe that democracy comes about as a result of a long-term process of modernization that's driven by forces within each society but that you can't speed up that process from the outside. And so to the extent that they thought that 's what I was arguing, I think they misunderstood what I was saying.'"

Other Resources

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Visual Evidence

YouTube became more famous last week when it became worth more than $1 billion to Google. I was reminded that last summer, at the Saint Mary's College Summer Institute, we spent a few minutes exploring YouTube for teaching materials. The results then suggested that it might be worth the time.

Obviously, you have be judicious. At a site where nearly anyone can post nearly anything, you'll find that most videos on YouTube are irrelevant and a lot of them are inappropriate. But you might be able to find some video worth capturing that will help illustrate your teaching (or that students could use as parts of presentations).

  • You can show your students UK Conservative Party leader David Cameron's introduction to webcameron, his vlog (video blog). This introductory episode was filmed in his kitchen while he was washing up or preparing to feed to an infant and being pestered by a toddler. Amateur-looking video that is probably very professional planned to look that way. It's about a minute long.

  • Would you like your students to see what some things in Nigeria look like? Today I found a 6-minute video, See Nigeria Live. I'd guess it was made by a univesity student. The video and photograph presentation presents images of urban Nigeria and photos of many important political leaders (perhaps too briefly) with some pointed commentary on some of them. It also offers images of Nigerian currency (probably too many), Nigeria's champion soccer team, and some "photoshopped" images of cars. I can imagine using this as an introduction (asking students to identify surprising images) or a summary (asking students to identify the important people - or to speculate on why Abiola is identified as a national hero).

  • I found a 42-second video of the testy exchange about democracy between Presidents Bush and Putin at last summers G8 summit. That would be a good discussion starter for talking about the state of democracy in Russia, Iraq, and the USA.

  • I also found a well-edited, amateur tourist's video of Shanghai. It's an impressionistic look at the city that makes it seem much less exotic than my mental images of Chinese cities, and that point of view might help make Chinese politics seem less exotic.

  • Another example of making the exotic more mundane comes in a video from Tehran. It's a 3-minute visit to the Tandis Shopping Center in Tehran. From the parking ramp and its attendants, to the Versace, Polo, and Fendi shops, to the escalators and the food court, the images will make this bit of Tehran look familiar to American students. That familiarity might help them better understand the human impulses in Iranian politics.

  • Just to make sure that a westernized bit of Tehran doesn't become a new cliche, it might be good to contrast the Tandis Shopping Center video with a 30-second clip of a stroll through the bazaar in Esfahan, Iran. These scenes are probably much more familiar to most Iranians than the Tandis Shopping Center.

  • One of the reasons that the broadcast sessions of Prime Minister's Question time have value is to hear the voice of the politicians. It's easier to understand why Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair could be so successful after hearing them field questions in Commons. So, what does Vicente Fox sound like? Are there hints in his speaking voice about the reasons for his success, even if I don't understand Spanish? Here's a way to begin finding out. YouTube offered this 1-minute clip from a news broadcast that consists mostly of a speech by President Fox on the Mexican economy.

  • And since Filipe Calderon is soon to succeed President Fox, here is a link to one of Calderon's 20-second television commercials during the campaign. You can hear Calderon's voice and even without understanding Spanish, you can understand why he's asking for people's votes. (There are links to other Calderon TV spots as well.)

Good luck adding a bit of media and visuals to your textbook accounts of government and politics.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Economics and Political Change

At Project Syndicate, Jorge G. Castañeda, Mexico’s former Foreign Minister, and now Professor of Politics and Latin American Studies at New York University, argues that Mexico requires political and constitutional change because of the social and economic changes of the last decade.

Following up that article, J. Bradford DeLong, Professor of Economics at the University of California at Berkeley and former Assistant US Treasury Secretary during the Clinton administration, offers an explanation for why those political changes are not likely because the economic changes in Mexico are more apparent than real.

These speculations emphasize the connections between economic and poltiical policies. It's probably essential that your students have a handle on the basics of those connections. You might have to digest these op-ed pieces or find alternatives, but they are good at least for teacher background.

Turning the Page in Mexico

"...after ten years of uninterrupted macroeconomic stability the middle class has expanded dramatically, and reasonably priced bank credit is now available to millions who had been excluded in the past. Yet, despite these robust changes, poverty remains widespread, inequality abysmal, and social resentment is on the rise...

"In the long run, the answer undoubtedly lies in the transformation of the Mexican left, and partly also of the Mexican right...

"The right-of-center Party of National Action (PAN), the grouping of current President Vicente Fox and Calderón, needs to acquire a sincere and profound social conscience...

"Much more importantly, however... the Mexican left is nowhere near transforming itself into a modern, reformist, social-democratic party...

"Without these twin transformations of its right and left, Mexico can only keep running in place, while so many others speed forward... Mexico needs short-term solutions to its travails... electoral and legal reforms aimed at avoiding a repeat of the current protests over the presidential vote. These include establishing a second-round run-off in presidential elections...
"Mexico must devise a French-style semi-presidential system whereby a designated Prime Minister is responsible for building majorities in Congress..."

Has Neo-Liberalism Failed Mexico?

"Six years ago, I was ready to conclude that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was a major success...

"Since NAFTA, Mexican real GDP has grown at 3.6% per year, and exports have boomed...

"Today’s 100 million Mexicans have real incomes – at purchasing power parity – of roughly $10,000 per year...

"But the 3.6% rate of growth of GDP, coupled with a 2.5% per year rate of population and increase, means that Mexicans’ mean income is barely 15% above that of the pre-NAFTA days, and that the gap between their mean income and that of the US has widened. Because of rising inequality, the overwhelming majority of Mexicans live no better off than they did 15 years ago..."

Here's an opportunity to emphasize the connection between economics and political policy.

Many students will require a bit of a briefing on neo-liberal economic policies and the connections between efficiency and growth. You can refer them to Global Issues, which offers A Primer on Neoliberalism: "Neoliberalism is promoted as the mechanism to allow global trading that would see all nations prospering and developing fairly and equitably..." and Global Exchange which offers What is "Neo-Liberalism"? A Brief Definition: "'Neo' means we are talking about a new kind of liberalism...the capitalist crisis over the last 25 years, with its shrinking profit rates, inspired the corporate elite to revive economic liberalism. That's what makes it 'neo' or new. Now, with the rapid globalization of the capitalist economy, we are seeing neo-liberalism on a global scale..."

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Rise of Hu

Top level politics in China are a complex combination of symbolic and substantive actions. The actions taken at the recent session of the Party Central Committee were definitely symbolic. We'll have to wait for later reports to find out if substantive actions were also taken.

A Reuters report on the New York Times web site describes some more about Hu Jintao's rise in China.

China Party Praises Hu's Harmony Doctrine

"China's ruling Communist Party lauded President Hu Jintao's doctrine of creating a 'harmonious society' on Wednesday, underscoring his growing strength as the party announced plans for a key congress next year...

"He has summed up his agenda by calling for a 'harmonious society' that narrows inequality and eases social strains, and the meeting put his theme on a higher ideological pedestal...

"Wednesday's decision will allow Hu to nudge aside the legacy of his predecessor, Jiang Zemin, who ushered capitalists into the Communist Party. Many of Hu's colleagues in the party's inner circle are Jiang proteges, and Hu is likely to push some into retirement at the 17th Congress or before.

"Initial Chinese media reports left unclear whether the closed-door meeting had taken any decisions regarding Chen Liangyu, the powerful party boss in Shanghai..."

In case you want a reminder about Hu's "harmonious society," here is and excerpt from the People's Daily article of 27 June 2005:

Building harmonious society crucial for China's progress: Hu

"Chinese President Hu Jintao instructed the country's leading officials and Party cadres to place 'building a harmonious society' top on their work agenda, when addressing a high-level Party seminar.

"'The CPC and the central government have made it an important task to build a harmonious society, as China is facing thorny domestic issues, as well as complicated and volatile international situations,' said Hu, who is also general secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC)...

"'A harmonious society should feature democracy, the rule of law, equity, justice, sincerity, amity and vitality,' Hu said.

"Such a society will give full scope to people's talent and creativity, enable all the people to share the social wealth
brought by reform and development, and forge an ever closer relationship between the people and government. 'These things will thus result in lasting stability and unity,' Hu said.

"To meet this goal, Hu told the country's high-ranking officials to:
  • Strive for sustained, rapid and coordinated economic growth...
  • Develop socialist democracy...
  • Actively enforce the principle of rule of law...
  • Strengthen ideological and ethical buildup...
  • Maintain social equity and justice...
  • Establish a fine-tuned social management system and well handle the people's internal contradictions...
  • And to beef up environmental protection...

See the earlier post here, "Eight Glories and Eight Shames."

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Good Question

Michael Harvey wrote from his classroom in Abu Dhabi, "I am looking for some help in the difference between decentralization and devolution." I'd guess this is one of those things that came up in class discussion and that wasn't resolved to anyone's satisfaction. It's very understandable since these ideas are obviously related, but apparently not identical. (Did I get that part right?)

Here's how I see it. Add your thoughts by clicking on the comments link at the bottom of this entry.

The difficulty, in this case I think, comes from merging the concepts of devolution, decentralization, and federalism into one amorphous idea. The process of devolution needs to seen as separate from federalism (a decentralized state).

Most governments are unitary. Those of us in the USA have to learn that since we live in a federal system where, constitutionally, the national government is granted some powers, some powers are denied to government, and the rest are reserved to the states and the people. (The Tenth Amendment restates the principle: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved for the States respectively, or to the people.") In other words, the U.S. federal system is decentralized. There are many (at least 51 -- 50 states and the national government) centers of constitutional power.

In unitary governments, there is one center of power. In the UK, it's Parliament. Unitary systems are more hierarchical than decentralized systems.

I usually referred to the unitary nature of U.S. state governments to help my students understand this. Counties, cities, metropolitan authorities, and special-purpose districts are created and their powers defined by state government. A state legislature can change structure and powers of those local governments. (Politics make such changes difficult, but they're legally and constitutionally possible.)

If, in a unitary system, the government gives some power to local authorities, that's devolution. (See Hauss' definition below.)

If a state legislature passes a law expanding the powers of an airport authority or city governments, that's devolution. If the British Parliament gives municipal authorities the power to levy taxes to pay for garbage collection and fire engines, that's devolution. Similarly, if Parliament allows the election of a Scottish Parliament and gives that body taxing and administrative powers, that's devolution.

Those actions look like decentralization. They place decision making power closer to the people affected by or benefiting from the decisions, but they don't create independent centers of power. The British Parliament could dissolve municipal authorities just as a state legislature could disestablish a port authority and take the devolved powers back. Conversely, the U.S. Congress could not turn North Dakota into a Puerto Rico-like federal territory. The U.S. system is decentralized, not unitary.

So, in my mind, devolution is a form of decentralization, but devolution doesn't create a decentralized state. It merely grants legal authority to a more local government body. A decentralized state is one in which legal and political power is constitutionally divided between national and sub-national governments.

Does that help?


Hauss, in the glossary of his 5th edition, defines devolution as "The process of decentralizing power from national governments that stops short of federalism." (p. 528) The concept is cited only once in the index, in the chapter about the UK. Decentralization appears in neither the glossary nor the index. [Hauss, Comparative Politics, Domestic Responses to Global Challenges, 2006]

The AP (4th) edition of Kesselman, Krieger, and Joseph's text does not define devolution, but does define decentralization as "policies that aim to transfer some decision-making power from higher to lower levels of government, typically from the central government to subnational governments." The index does not cite devolution, but does refer readers to decentralization in China (p. I - 3). [Kesselman, Krieger, and Joseph, Introduction to Comparative Politics, 2007]

The AP Edition of Almond and Powell, on the other hand, does not cite devolution in the index (there is no glossary). Decentralization is cited nearly a dozen times in the first half of the book (mostly in the UK chapter). [Almond, Dalton, Powell, and Strom, Comparative Politics Today, 2007]

O'Neil refers extensively to devolution in chapter 7 ("Advanced Democracies") of his textbook, and defines it as "A process in which political power is 'sent down' to lower levels of state and government." (p. 301) Decentralization is not defined in the glossary, but is discussed at length in chapter 2 ("States" pp. 40-43) [O'Neil, Essentials of Comparative Politics, 2004]

Neither devolution nor decentralization appear in the index or the glossary of Lim's text. [Lim, Doing Comparative Politics, 2006]

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Familiar Name In Nigerian Politics

Ibrahim Babangida was a familiar name when I began teaching about Nigeria. He was the head of the ruling military council when I taught my first comparative course. He stayed in power and made news again when he was involved in voiding the election that Abiola apparently won in 1993. His name popped up again when he spent millions of dollars in 1999 to ensure the election of President Obasanjo. Now he wants to be president himself. Here's the latest from the BBC on the politics of IBB's aspirations, two articles from a Babangida supporter, and a news report about political maneuvering.

Nigerians divided by Babangida

"Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, the stupendously wealthy former military ruler of Nigeria, is only one of some 20 presidential aspirants in upcoming polls - but none excite half as much emotion as he does.

"His supporters are fanatical with admiration; his opponents dislike him with an equal passion..."

You can also have students read

  • an October 3 Vanguard (Lagos) article, Nigeria: Babangida's Regime - Power Analysis

    "Babangida's Regime is what 2007 symbolizes; the problem of power. A confrontation between the forces of power demanding change and the forces of power dedicated to preserve the status quo.

    "In trying to understand power in the Nigeria context so many persons have looked at it through the eyes of Machiavelli. But in as much as I respect and share the views of Niccoli Machiavelli in the acquisition of power in his most celebrated book, The Prince, I refuse to be driven to a Machiavellian cynicism with respect to power...

    "When General Babangida took over the national house, he saw the need to transform this national wide house into a national brotherhood. He came out with a well designed socio-economic restructuring which was inter-woven with political restructuring. Despite the shortcomings of this regime which have been exaggerated by some persons, his administration meant well for the average Nigerian. So many factors slowed down the realization of his dream.

    "He had a dream, a vision and a mission to accomplish unlike his predecessors. At this point the words of Henry Viscadi, comes to mind. 'To hope is not a luxury but a duty. To hope is not to dream but to turn dreams into reality. Blessed are those who dream dreams and are willing to pay the price to make it come true...'"

  • and the follow-up October 5 Vanguard (Lagos) article, Nigeria: Babangida's Regime

    "HE re-shaped and re-ordered our political landscape from a multi-party system into a two-party system. The parties were the Social Democratic Party and National Republic Convention. For the first time in the history of our politics, no ethnic group, section or region could lay claim to any of the political structures. It is imperative to mention that for the first time also in the history of this country and in Africa, an election was considered by political analysts to be free and fair. For the first time, Nigerians voted conscientiously irrespective of religion, but the election was annulled..."

  • and a September 29 Daily Sun (Lagos) article, Babangida bigger than any party, including PDP

    "Former military president, Gen Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB), has been described as an institution bigger than any political party. According to Gen Babangida’s media aide, Prince Kassim Afegbua, the retired general would win election on the platform of any Nigerian political party.

"'Babangida is more popular than any political party. He is an institution. Whichever party he presents himself, Nigerians will vote for him,' the media aide said..."

Friday, October 06, 2006


I probably should have been reading a novel I've half finished, but I was surfing the web. And I found two items that relate to our perspectives on the world. The way that we and our students look at the world is vital to how we compare political systems. Think about these things. And ask your students to think about them.

The first thing comes from the e-Journal of "The Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce."

Spreading the word

"The 'rise and rise of English' was predicted by many people. In 1780, John Quincy Adams, a founder of the United States, was quite sure about the matter: English would become 'more generally the language of the world than Latin was or French in the present age'. For him, the growth of the United States to a continent-wide power was as inevitable 'as that the Mississippi should flow to the sea'. That and the continuing world role of Great Britain would 'force their language into general use'. The French had been warned.

"A century later, Bismarck saw the shape of things to come. At the end of his life, the architect of Germany’s Second Reich opined that the most vital geopolitical reality to shape the 20th century would be 'the fact that the North Americans speak English'...

"And so, to an astonishing degree, it has turned out. Today English has become the working language of the global village. Of the four most numerous languages in the contemporary world — Chinese, Hindi, Arabic and English — the latter alone owes its position not to the number of its native speakers but to the multimillions who speak it as their second or ‘preferred adoptive’ language.

"Already the total number of people with some knowledge of English is approaching two billion, more people are learning the language in China than speaking it in North America and, in little more than a decade, there will be more English speakers in India than in the United Kingdom. Today English belongs to all who use it. The main driver of its growth is the conviction of young people on every continent that English can benefit them, opening up opportunities in a globalised economy..."

The second item comes from the AP Comparative Government and Politics web site maintained by Lou Sartor at Henry W. Grady High School in Atlanta.

One of the things he assigned for his first unit is the country profile of the USA by the BBC. If you use the U.S. as a frame of reference example in your course, this is a good (and friendly) outsider's perspective. It will go well with your textbook's chapter on the U.S. You could use it to ask students what the BBC left out or de-emphasized in comparison to what an American source would have included or emphasized.

Or you could ask students to compare the USA profile to the BBC's profile of the United Kingdom.

National Day (Oct. 1) in Beijing

From Wen Ling's photo blog, "ziboy."

Photos from the 57th anniversary of the founding of the Peoples Republic.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Terrorism in Nigeria

BBC World News has published a little primer on the violence in Nigeria's Niger Delta region. Together with information about ethic, religious, and socio-economic cleavages, it would probably be a good supplement to your textbook.

(The BBC web pages always include other links that might be valuable when you teach about things Nigerian.)

Q&A: Nigeria's oil violence

"Militant groups in Nigeria's main oil-producing region, the Niger Delta, have stepped up their attacks in the area, claiming to have killed some 20 soldiers this week alone.
  • "What do the militants want?
  • "Who are the militants?
  • "Why can't the government stop the violence?
  • "So what happens next?"

Other recent articles on events in the delta include

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

First Person Accounts

The Danwei web site (“Chinese media, advertising, and urban life.”) offers a couple interviews with people who returned to China after the establishment of the PRC. They might be good readings to use as an introduction.

The first two interviews are "Another National Day: 1949," by Sang Ye, translated by Geremie R. Barmé.

"1949, the bloody internecine strife that had wracked the Chinese nation for twenty-two long years finally came to an end. During the four-year Civil War of 1946-49 the People's Liberation Army led by the Communist Party wiped out an eight million man strong Nationalist Party army.

"On 1 October 1949, the Chinese Communist Party established a socialist nation, the People's Republic of China.

"In 1995, he was living on a pension. He had never officially 'worked for the Revolution' so it was only a small stipend. For the most part he relied on what his daughter could send him from the United States.

"'I was in London when I heard about the liberation of Shanghai. I'd gone to England from the United States ostensibly to collect material for my dissertation. That same night I told my friends that I wanted to go home, back to China, and I booked a ticket the next day. They asked what I was going to do with my things in America-and what about my degree? I'm chucking it all in, I replied...'"

There's also an article about the man who wrote China's national anthem, "Do you have an ear for music?" by Peter Mcic.

Holding Back the Flow of Information

The Iranian state, like Chinese state, faces the formidable task of controlling the flow of information into the country.

A crackdown on media access in Iran may be related to upcoming elections. That assertion is supported by an article from Asia Times Online, Ahmadinejad's domestic troubles: "A political analyst in Tehran said: 'Dissatisfaction with the administration of President Ahmadinejad is not yet widespread, but it is growing fast...'"

This from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: Iran: State Media Control Extends To Provinces, Airwaves

"Iranian government efforts to steer public perceptions through media restrictions are not limited to mainstream newspapers in the capital. Provincial publications and journalists face mounting official pressure -- especially among those dealing with minority affairs. Official provincial television broadcasts are changing, too, in a campaign that coincides with a national campaign to curb access to foreign satellite broadcasts...
"But these most recent developments could be part of an effort to direct reporting on the nuclear controversy and influence upcoming elections to the Assembly of Experts and municipal councils, scheduled for December 15.
"Press closures and official persecution of journalists occurs in the outlying provinces as well as in the capital, Tehran.
"Cases affecting minorities are a particular concern for the administration, which in the past year has seen increasing unrest in regions inhabited by ethnic Arabs, Azeris, Baluchis, Kurds, and others...

"Television has significant reach in Iran. In a recent poll, more than 90 percent of the population said it watched television the previous day -- that compared with just 30 percent who listened to radio and 31 percent who read a newspaper. More than 90 percent identified local television stations as one of their top three news sources.

"There is no private television in Iran. State television has seven channels that broadcast domestically...
"To get more entertainment and access something other than the official news, many Iranians enjoy watching satellite broadcasts -- although possession of the equipment has been illegal since the mid-1990s.
"Iran's legislature began consideration of a new bill on satellite-reception equipment in the spring. The draft would make producing, importing, or distributing such equipment illegal. It would also authorize the police and the IRGC's Basij to confiscate the equipment...
"Confiscation of dishes in Tehran got under way in August, and there were reports of confiscations in provincial cities -- including Isfahan, Rasht, Sanandaj, and Shiraz -- in July. On September 7 in the southern city of Abadan, police announced that they had confiscated more than 100 sets of satellite-receiving equipment, Fars News Agency reported."

If you're looking at this issue, you might also want to read these RFE/RL reports
and the Oct. 3 Iran Press Service article, Voices From Iran

Monday, October 02, 2006

More Details about Anti-corruption Politics in China

Someone at Harris & Moure, the law firm that sponsors the China Law Blog, asked in a comment here whether any non-Chinese companies will be implicated in the Shanghai scandals and recommended the Newsweek article on the politics of anti-corruption in China.

Someone (the same someone?) from China Law Blog wrote, "I do not know enough about the intricacies of Chinese politics to know if all of the facts and conclusions in the article are accurate, but I know enough about communist and oligarchical politics in general to know that the various scenarios are eminently plausible. 

"I recommend this article for those wanting both an excellent overview of the Shanghai scandal and for those wanting more in depth reporting on its potential repercussions."

I don't know if I know more "about the intricacies of Chinese politics," but I second the recommendation of the Newsweek article.

The Newsweek article is
Beijing Battle, The ouster of Shanghai's powerful party chief may be the first salvo in the battle for supremacy among the next generation of Chinese leaders...

"The era of strongman politics and epic ideological clashes—under Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping and, to some extent, even Jiang—is over, replaced by something more like high-stakes risk management. The main threat to the Communist Party's hold on power has shifted increasingly from party power tussles to government policy...

"'Even during Tiananmen, [tension] was still mainly within the party,' says the party editor. 'Now it's external.'...

"At the same time, a major generational shift has begun at the top levels of the regime. China's so-called fourth generation of leaders, led by Hu and Wen, will soon make way for the fifth generation—meaning party leaders in their mid-40s to mid-50s. None of the fifth generation is in the Politburo at the moment, which means Hu could elevate his chosen successor straight from a provincial post into the Standing Committee (as Deng Xiaoping did with him in 1992).

"Who is Hu's favorite? There isn't just one. In fact, he appears to be grooming many protégés from the tuan pai—the Communist Youth League network...

"In general, fifth-generation Chinese leaders are seen as savvier and more open-minded than their elders, especially on the international stage. 'These younger party leaders are modest, more practical and reluctant to argue with others,' says Mao Shoulong, a professor of public administration at Renmin University in Beijing. 'They don't try to put on airs.' Even though some, as students, were packed off to the countryside during the Cultural Revolution, they have served almost entirely in an age of economic reform. So they might not prove as instinctively hamstrung by ideological taboos...

"The Shanghai corruption crackdown provides clues on what to expect from Hu's second term... Hu aims to put together a vast social-security fund—'lifesaving money,' as China's state media call it... But Hu's economic populism doesn't mean that he's a progressive... he's not likely to take any significant steps toward true political reform... Indeed, as part of the latest CCP rectification campaign, according to the party editor, cadres are being rounded up to watch a lengthy agitprop television series documenting how the Soviet Union collapsed.

"Will Hu's powerful patronage enable his successors to venture further? In an intimate and unusually candid lunch... a senior Chinese official of the fifth generation carped that the country desperately needs 'political reform to go along with economic development...'"