Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Monday, April 30, 2007

Iranian politics for review

Iranian police and basiji are cracking down on improper dress, but politically the government might be in trouble.

The crack down on loose head scarves and men's ties might be the government's effort to "shore up its base."

Students should remember that the leadership of the opposition comes from an economic elite anxious to get back the political power it had under former president Khatami. The "individual freedoms" theme of their opposition to Ahmadinejad is key to winning support from the middle class, secularists, and leftists. The attacks on the government's failures to create jobs and economic growth are aimed at disaffecting Ahmadinejad's base.

These political maneuverings are not relevant to this year's AP exam, but discussing them and their implications is a way of reviewing some of the basics of Iranian politics and government.

Simon Tisdall, the Guardian (UK) correspondent in Tehran wrote an article today titled, "Inside the struggle for Iran."

"A grand coalition of anti-government forces is planning a second Iranian revolution via the ballot box to deny President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad another term in office and break the grip of what they call the 'militia state' on public life and personal freedom.

"Encouraged by recent successes in local elections, opposition factions, democracy activists, and pro-reform clerics say they will bring together progressive parties loyal to former president Mohammad Khatami with so-called pragmatic conservatives led by Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani.

"The alliance aims to exploit the president's deepening unpopularity, borne of high unemployment, rising inflation and a looming crisis over petrol prices and possible rationing to win control of the Majlis in general elections which are due within 10 months.

"Parliament last week voted to curtail Mr Ahmadinejad's term by holding presidential and parliamentary elections simultaneously next year.

"Though the move is likely to be vetoed by the hardline Guardian Council, it served notice of mounting disaffection in parliament..."

More details in Tisdall's article, Reformists prepare to take on Ahmadinejad and his militias, also in today's Guardian.

You might also want to check on the Guardian's collection of recent articles about Iran.

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Index of blog entries

I assume that most readers of this daily missive know about the topical index for this blog.

I also assume that some of you don't know about it.

If you're looking for a specific topic for review or summary or for a post-exam activity, there is a place to search.

The link is at the top of the list to the right. And this is the link to the index as well.

Almost every one of the 428 entries to the blog is cataloged there. Each one is "tagged" with a country name and a topic label.

Go to the index and click on the country or topic you're interested in, and you'll be directed to a list of blog entries "tagged" with that topic.

For instance, if you wanted to see entries related to comparative methodology, you'd be directed to this list of 12 entries that I thought were about methodology.

There are a couple dozen topics to choose from.

Good luck to all of you and you and your students prepare for the exam.


Sunday, April 29, 2007

More on the fashion police of Tehran

The fashion police in Iran have caught the attention of most of the media. Here's the latest from the BBC:

Iran's fashion police target ties

"Barbers' shops in Iran have been ordered not to serve customers who wear ties or bow ties, Iranian press says...

"In the early days of the revolution wearing a tie was seen as a symbol of western decadence...

"The latest directive is part of a campaign against westernised clothes, which has so far focused on women's headscarves and Islamic covering..."

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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Iranian civil society and Persian Jews

Michael Harvey wrote to recommend an article from the Christian Science Monitor which examines cleavages in Iran that separate Jews there from Muslims, but also the ties that bind people to the country.

It's a great opportunity, as Michael suggests, to examine not only the concept of cleavages, but also political integration, nationalism, and legitimacy. A review of important ideas and some basics about Iran.

In Ahmadinejad's Iran, Jews still find a space

"Enmity runs deep between arch-foes Iran and Israel. And that confrontation complicates the lives of Iranian Jews, who make up the largest community of Jews in the Middle East outside the Jewish state.

"Iran's Jews are buffeted by inflammatory rhetoric from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad about 'wiping Israel off the map' and denying the Holocaust, and a politically charged environment that often equates all Jews with Israel and routinely witnesses the burning of the 'enemy' flag.

"But despite what appears to be a dwindling minority under constant threat of persecution, Iranian Jews say they live in relative freedom in the Islamic Republic, remain loyal to the land of their birth, and are striving to separate politics from religion..."

See also

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Friday, April 27, 2007

Class and politics in Britain

It's good to remember that class is still an important part of British political culture.

And it's often difficult for American students to understand, since nearly all of them are convinced that social class differences in the USA are totally irrelevant and that they are all middle class.

Sarah Lyall's article in the New York Times could be a good stimulus for a discussion of the role of social class in British politics. By the way, the intro to the article reflects the powerful interest that Brits have in the personal lives of the royals.

Ask students to find out about the social class backgrounds of the last half dozen prime ministers and leaders of the loyal opposition. Then compare, for instance John Major's biography with Tony Blair's and corollate those personal histories with the men's politics. To be comparative, you could do the same thing with leaders from other multi-party countries (Mexico, Nigeria, and the USA).

Why Can’t the English Just Give Up That Class Folderol?

"We will probably never know. But the reports last week that Prince William and his girlfriend, Kate Middleton, broke up in part because of her mother’s so-called middle-class behavior, including using the word toilet for bathroom, are a vivid reminder that class issues still bubble vexingly beneath the surface of British life...

"What is significant is that even in new, egalitarian Britain, everyone seemed so mesmerized by accounts of it, so ready to believe in the return of the class war that had supposedly ended in a truce years ago...

"John Major was talking about a 'classless society' when vying for the prime ministership back in 1990. 'We are all middle-class now,' Tony Blair declared soon after becoming prime minister...

"The House of Lords is now filled... with trade unionists, self-made millionaires and political apparatchiks of both sexes appointed by the prime minister. The BBC announcers no longer read the news in dinner jackets...

"The Tory leader, David Cameron, has tried to present himself as Regular Dave, playing down his privileged, Etonian, black-tie-wearing background...

"But while overtly caring about class is itself considered déclassé, many people still do care, or at least notice...

"But Britons still readily identify themselves as members of different social classes. Most people, while professing that it does not matter to them and that it is all a bit silly, still have their own rules for what constitutes the lower class, generally defined as any class lower than one’s own...

"Few people not to the manner born get it right, at least not the first generation around. It is still gauche to be seen making the effort, to appear 'ambitious'..."

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Devolution Scottish style

And then there's devolution, this example is about Scotland. Michael Harvey read Daniel Bardsley's article in his local paper, the Gulf News, and wrote to tell us about it. It is quite good and offers you and your students information about the government and the politics of devolution in the UK.

The writing is on the wall

"There have been Scots calling for independence ever since the Act of Union merged the Scottish and English Parliaments in 1707 to create Great Britain. But now, 300 years on, it seems that the union really could be unravelling with nationalists on the verge of taking control of the Scottish Parliament...

"The Scottish Parliament, the brainchild of British Prime Minister Tony Blair's ruling centre-left Labour Party, sat for the first time in 1999. Taking control from the Westminster Parliament over issues such as education, healthcare and social services...

"When Scots go to polls on May 3 to elect their Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs), most observers expect the Scottish National Party (SNP) to come out as the biggest party. The SNP promises a referendum on Scottish independence in 2010...

"Opinion polls appear to show growing support in England for Scottish independence. For example, an ICM study late last year for The Sunday Telegraph found that 59 per cent of people in England want Scotland to become an independent nation -- compared to just 52 per cent of Scots who want independence...

"While many Scots advocate complete independence, a large body of opinion says that instead of breaking away completely, Scotland should remain a part of the United Kingdom but get more powers transferred from London..."

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Nigerian acceptance/fatalism/inability

Here is BBC reporter Patrick Jackson's analysis about why the flawed elections in Nigeria will probably not be overturned.

There are good comparative assertions in the article that students could critique with a little research on the countries they haven't studied.

Could Nigeria go Orange?

"After European Union and other monitors condemn Nigeria's landmark elections as seriously flawed, we ask if 'People Power' or outside pressure could force a re-run.

"Nigerian opposition politicians have been looking abroad for inspiration in their battle to have the presidential and state elections repeated.

"As a legal challenge was being mooted, one spokesman called for replicating the kind of revolutions seen in Ukraine and the Philippines.

"But in African states, as in many emerging democracies, it is more common for leaders accused of vote-rigging to weather the storm...

"However, African superpower Nigeria fits no easy pattern.

"In the first place, there is no obvious [Ukrainian President]Yushchenko figure for the whole of the country...

"'None of the opposition candidates can be said to command enough national support to dominate,' [Nigerian newspaper commentator Tunde Fagbenle] told the BBC News website.

"Secondly, there is little cohesion between the opposition groups.

"Thirdly, there is the absence of a Kiev or Manila to be occupied by tent cities and mass rallies.

"'The capital, Abuja, is new and not very heavily populated,' notes Richard Dowden, executive director of the Royal African Society.

"'You can't bring it to a standstill. The only place where that could be effective is Lagos and it would not have any impact on the people in Abuja.'

"Mr Fagbenle also points out that the ethnic divisions within Africa's most populous state act against any sense of collective response, as does popular cynicism about opposition politicians, many of whom were in power before 2003.

"'Yes, people do feel robbed of their vote but there is a stronger feeling of weariness that no politician is different from any other,' he says...

"With the White House calling the elections 'deeply flawed' and the EU pronouncing them 'not credible', could foreign pressure on the government produce a repeat ballot where popular pressure fails?...

"Mr Dowden also doubts there will be any sanctions, simply because it is difficult to hurt Nigeria.

"'It is not Malawi,' he says.

"'You can't take their aid away because there isn't any. It's such a huge, powerful country that there is very little leverage that either the Commonwealth or Britain could deploy against Nigeria, and Nigeria is too powerful for other Africans to criticise.'...

"[Patrick Smith editor of UK-based Africa Confidential magazine] and Richard Dowden predict a period of horse-trading between the official winners and losers.

"They are members of an elite, Mr Dowden says, who 'shout at each other quite a lot but in fact never push it to extremes... because they have too much to lose'.

"In Nigeria, he adds, 'the ordinary people don't matter and are all but completely ignored during the election - there is no reason why that voice should be heard so they don't have much leverage'..."

  1. What does "Go Orange" refer to?
  2. What does "People Power" refer to?
  3. What were the revolutions in the Ukraine and the Philippines?
  4. What role did Yushchenko play in the Ukraine? What role did Corazon Aquino play in the Philippines?
  5. What happened after the 2005 elections in Togo?
  6. What happened after the 2002 elecitons in Zimbabwe?
  7. Who are the likely candidates to be a Nigerian Yushchenko or Aquino?
  8. Why do they not fit the Yushchenko/Aquino model?
  9. Are the ethnic cleavages in Nigeria more politically potent than the cleavages in other countries?
  10. What factors deter EU and US leaders from putting pressure on the Nigerian government?
  11. Are Nigerian politics really so elitist that popular sentiment can't affect the outcome of the political battles?
  12. etc., etc.

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Electoral reform in Nigeria, now?

In Nigeria, the Domestic Election Observation Group has harshly criticized the recent elections and called them illegimate.

The Daily Trust (Abuja) printed the report of the group and its recommendations.

I'd ask my students to evaluate the group's judgments about the election (What is required for legitimacy?) and to critique the recommendations (Will they create a legitimate system?).

Nigeria: An Election Programmed to Fail - Domestic Observers

"Civil society organizations in Nigeria, under the banner of the Domestic Election Observation Group, observed the Presidential and National Assembly Elections held on Saturday, April 21, 2007. The organizations, which include the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), Labour Election Monitoring Team (LEMT), the Citizens Forum for Constitutional Reform (CFCR), the Electoral Reform Network (ERN), Muslim League for Accountability (MULAC), Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) and Alliance for Credible Elections (ACE-Nigeria) deployed approximately 50,000 trained election monitors throughout the country.

"Our monitors throughout the country noted and documented numerous lapses, massive irregularities and electoral malpractices that characterized the elections in many states. Based on the widespread and far-reaching nature of these lapses, irregularities and electoral malpractices, we have come to the conclusion that on the whole, the elections were a charade and did not meet the minimum standards required for democratic elections...

"Despite the chaotic, troubled electoral process, what unites all Nigerians and the entire international community is the very strong belief that the problems that beset Nigeria and its elections should be resolved by legal and political means..."

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Umaru Yar'Adua

Craig Timberg of the Washington Post wrote this profile of Nigeria's president-elect, Umaru Yar'Adua.

While we wait for news of further developments, this makes interesting reading. Yar'Adua might, after all, take office in May.

Nigerian Victor A Break With Past

"Nigerians are accustomed to certain things from their presidents. Most have been generals, or former generals, with big personalities and reputations for corruption. And those who haven't been installed through coups have come to power in elections so flawed they bore little relationship to popular will.

"Last weekend's presidential vote was as bad as most in Nigeria's troubled history, observers said. But the election of Umaru Yar'Adua -- a bookish and shy former chemistry teacher -- offers Nigerians a leader with a reputation for honesty and little resemblance to most of his predecessors...

"[T]hose in his northern home state of Katsina, where he has been governor for nearly eight years, say Yar'Adua's public awkwardness masks a sharp mind and a resistance to manipulation that will serve him well in a political culture legendary for blustery, bullying, corrupt politicians. Observers also say that while Obasanjo likely endorsed Yar'Adua with the hope of exerting continued influence, his successor will be nearly impossible to manipulate...

"Yar'Adua is the scion of one of Nigeria's powerful political families. His father was a minister in the first post-colonial government. His brother was deputy president in Obasanjo's military dictatorship in the late 1970s...

"More revealing has been his record as governor of Katsina, which stands almost alone among Nigeria's 36 states with major infrastructure projects carried out in the last eight years. He spent $150 million on new schools, rebuilding 23 primary schools and founding a public university. The roads in Katsina also show serious investment; many have smooth pavement, curbs, proper drainage and streetlights -- all rarities outside Abuja, the capital...

"Critics in Katsina say the major projects have all gone to politically connected contractors. Yar'Adua's circle of advisers is small, and efforts to get him to invest more in social services have not been successful, activists say. Residents of Katsina remain among Nigeria's poorest, least educated and least healthy...

"There's also not much sign that Yar'Adua has brought a cleaner approach to elections than other ruling party officials..."

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Transparency in China

If this policy is more than public relations, it will mean big changes. Is that enough reason to doubt that it's more than PR? Big changes usually come slowly. (How's that for a testable assertion? Can your students test it? Additionally, can your students identify what recent examples of government bumbling are probably related to the disclosures listed in the third paragraph of this excerpt?)

This is from the Washington Post:

China Announces Rules to Require Government Disclosures

"China on Tuesday announced far-reaching new rules for disclosure of official information that would require local governments to reveal their accounts and inform farmers about the finances of often controversial land seizures.

"The decree, which takes effect May 1, 2008, would mark a dramatic change in the way Chinese officials work if it were genuinely applied in Beijing and the hundreds of thousands of villages and towns where governments and Communist Party committees make most of their decisions in secrecy...

"The decree... listed requirements to reveal such subjects as local government plans for handling emergencies, the allocation of government expenses and the results of investigations into environmental threats, public health and tainted medicines. It also specified that local governments must reveal the terms of land seizures and the amount of compensation paid to farmers who lose their fields...

"But China's recent history has been filled with central government decrees that are not fully enforced around the country. In that light, it remained unclear whether [Premier] Wen Jiabao's decree would have the power to turn around a half-century of traditional secrecy, particularly where corrupt local officials rely on secrecy to cover collusion with businessmen and embezzlement of public funds..."

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Spring fashions in Iran

As summer temperatures rise, the police in Tehran start cracking down on "improperly dressed" women. The report is from al Jazeera.

Iran veil crackdown criticised

"Iran's latest crackdown on women who do not strictly observe rules on Islamic dress has found an unlikely critic in the head of its judiciary, press reports have said...

"Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, who is appointed by the country's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, warned police against heavy-handed actions with women found to have broken the country's dress code... 'Tough measures on social problems will backfire and have counter-productive effects... we need to act against organised crime and thugs...'

"The arrest campaign - an annual pre-summer crackdown given greater prominence this year - is aimed primarily at women whose coats are seen as too tight, trousers excessively short or hijabs (headscarves) overly loose..."


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

From Nigeria, 24 April 2007

The reports from Nigeria are disturbingly like those that accompanied the end of the first republic.

I found this paragraph in the Library of Congress Country Studies description of the collapse of that first republic:

"By the time of the 1964 general elections, the first to be conducted solely by Nigerians, the country's politics had become polarized into a competition between two opposing alliances... Each of the regional parties openly intimidated its opponents in the campaigns. When it became clear that the neutrality of the Federal Electoral Commission could not be guaranteed, calls were made for the army to supervise the elections... When elections were finally held under conditions that were not free... the NCNC was returned to power in the east and midwest, while the NPC kept control of the north and was also in a position to form a federal government on its own. The Western Region became the "theater of war"... The rescheduled regional elections late in 1965 were violent. The federal government refused to declare a state of emergency, and the military seized power on January 15, 1966. The First Republic had collapsed."

Today's report comes from the New York Times:
Governing Party Wins in Nigeria, but Many Claim Fraud

"The governing party’s candidate for president, Umaru Yar’Adua, easily won the election in Nigeria, election officials here announced Monday. But his chief rivals for the office immediately rejected the results, and international observers said that the voting, which took place amid chaos, fraud and violence, was not credible.

"The announcement sets the stage for a volatile period as Nigeria... tries to hand power for the first time from one elected civilian government to another and seal its transition to democracy.

"The violence, ballot stuffing and disarray that surrounded the voting have already marred that transition, and unrest after the announcement of Mr. Yar’Adua’s victory could scuttle it altogether...

"Max van den Berg, chief observer for the European Union mission, said at a news conference that the elections 'have fallen far short of basic international and regional standard for elections.'

"The process, he concluded, 'cannot be considered to have been credible.'

"Observers from the National Democratic Institute, a pro-democracy organization that monitors elections worldwide, concluded that, 'the 2007 polls represent a step backward in the conduct of elections in Nigeria.'...

"As election observers issued their preliminary reports on Monday on the presidential and state voting, a grim picture emerged of mass rigging, incompetence by election officials, delay and intimidation.

"European Union observers said they witnessed instances of ballot-box theft, long delays in the delivery of ballots and other materials, and a shortage of ballots for the presidential race. In half of the polling stations their teams visited, there was no privacy for voters to mark their ballots in secret. Observers also witnessed unused ballots being marked and stuffed into ballot boxes..."

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Concepts list

Here's the list of concepts and vocabulary we started from at the Oakland University STI in July 2005. It's another gem from the online discussion site. It was the beginning point for the glossary posted below.

Adapted from O'Neil, Essentials of Comparative Politics and
Wedding, The AP Comparative Government and Politics Examination: What You Need to Know

  • accountability

  • adjudicate

  • agricultural sector

  • autarchy

  • advanced democracy

  • anarchism

  • authoritarianism

  • authority

  • autocracy

  • autonomy

  • bicameral system

  • bureaucracy

  • bureaucratic authoritarianism

  • cabinet

  • capacity (strength of state)

  • capitalism

  • cartel

  • catch-all party

  • causation

  • central bank

  • Central Committee

  • central planning

  • charismatic legitimacy

  • checks and balances

  • citizenship

  • civic culture

  • civil rights

  • civil servants

  • civil service

  • civil society

  • class

  • cleavage

  • clientalism

  • collective responsibility

  • colonialism

  • command economy

  • communism

  • comparative advantage

  • comparative method

  • comparative politics

  • compromise

  • conflict

  • consensus

  • conservatism

  • constant

  • constitution

  • constitutional court

  • cooptation

  • corporatism

  • correlation

  • country

  • coup d'etat

  • crony capitalism

  • demand

  • democracy

  • democratic deficit

  • democratization

  • dependent variable

  • developed country

  • devolution

  • direct democracy

  • distributive policy

  • economic liberalization

  • electoral system

  • empire

  • ethnic conflict

  • ethnicity (ethnic identity)

  • executive

  • export-oriented industrialization

  • extractive policy

  • extractive sector

  • faction

  • failed state

  • fascism

  • federalism

  • feedback

  • foreign direct investment

  • fusion of powers

  • generalization

  • GINI index

  • glasnost

  • global warming

  • globalization

  • governance

  • government

  • grassroots

  • gross domestic product - GDP ( and gross national product - GNP)

  • head of government

  • head of state

  • human development index (HDI)

  • hyperinflation

  • identity politics

  • imperialism

  • import substitution

  • independent variable

  • indirect democracy

  • industrial sector

  • inflation

  • informal economy

  • initiative

  • inputs

  • institution

  • institutional legitimacy

  • integration

  • interdependence

  • interest aggregation

  • interest articulation

  • interest group

  • intergovernmental system

  • international

  • interventionist policy

  • iron triangle

  • judicial review

  • Keynesian economics

  • laissez-faire

  • legislature

  • legitimacy

  • less-developed country

  • liberal democracy

  • liberalism

  • market

  • marketization

  • mercantilism

  • meritocracy

  • microcredit

  • military rule

  • mixed electoral system

  • modern

  • modernization theory

  • monopoly

  • multi-member district

  • multinational corporation

  • nation

  • national conflict

  • national identity

  • nationalism

  • nationalization

  • nation-state

  • neocolonialism (neoimperialism)

  • neocorporatism

  • newly industrializing country

  • nomenklatura

  • nongovernmental organization (NGO)

  • nontariff barriers

  • oligarchy

  • one-party rule

  • parastatal

  • parliament

  • party-state

  • patrimonialism

  • patriotism

  • patron-client relationships

  • perestroika

  • personal rule

  • personality cult

  • plebiscite

  • plurality sytem (first past the post)

  • police powers

  • policy

  • politburo

  • political communication

  • political culture

  • political economy (political-economic system)

  • political ideology

  • political integration

  • political party

  • political socialization

  • politics

  • postindustrialism

  • postmodern (postmaterial)

  • prebendalism

  • presidential system

  • prime ministerial system (parliamentry system)

  • private

  • privatization

  • property

  • proportional representation

  • public

  • public assets

  • public goods

  • public function

  • public liabilities

  • purchasing-power parity

  • qualitative method

  • quantitative method

  • quasi democracy

  • radicalism

  • reaction

  • realignment

  • recruitment (political and elite)

  • redistributive policy

  • referendum

  • regime

  • regulation

  • regulatory policy

  • rent-seeking

  • republic

  • revolution

  • rule of law

  • run-off election

  • semi-presidential system (semi-prime ministerial system)

  • separation of powers

  • service sector

  • shock therapy

  • single member district

  • social change

  • social contract

  • social democracy

  • social expenditure

  • social welfare

  • social welfare legitimacy

  • social values

  • socialism

  • society

  • sovereignty

  • state

  • strong state

  • structural adjustment program

  • structure

  • suffrage

  • supply side economics

  • supranational organization

  • system

  • tariff

  • technocrat

  • totalitarianism

  • traditional legitimacy

  • unicameral system

  • unitary state

  • weak state

  • welfare state

  • win-win outcome

  • zero-sum game

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Beginning concepts glossary

Way back in the fall of '05, a number of people on the AP Government and Politics electronic discussion group (EDG) discussed the possibility of creating an EDG exclusively for comparative government and politics.

My response that November was to create the Teaching Comparative Government and Politics online discussion site.

Because the format of the discussion group required people to remember to "stop by" the site and see if there were new comments and because spammers kept trying to use the site as a base for their nefarious activities (they still do), I looked for alternatives.

The alternative was this blog, which I started writing last May.

The online discussion group will be going away after the exam this year, but there are still valuable ideas there. In the coming days, I'll be adding some of the best and most read things from the discussion site to the blog before I dismantle the discussion site.

Here's one of the really good items that is appropriate for this end of course time.

In the summer of 2005, the participants in a summer institute at Oakland University created a glossary of basic concepts for comparative government and politics. They then used those concepts to create teaching plans. The list of lesson plans is in the "Pedagogy" forum at the online discussion site.

Here's the glossary they created.

1. Accountability:

• Definition: a government’s responsibility to its people for its actions, decisions, and policy
• Usage: Citizens who stay aware of their governments’ decisions and policies are more likely to hold their governments accountable by voting in elections.
• Example: Periodic elections and a vote of no confidence are examples of accountability in the government of United Kingdom

2. Checks and Balances (limits on government):

• Definition: divided authority; restrain each other’s actions
• Usage: Elections in Britain check the power of the majority party.
• Example: Fox is having a difficult time passing his ideas because the legislative branch is of the opposing party.

3. Citizenship (subjects):

• Definition: Legal membership to a particular state (country)
• Usage: People who are born in the UK are granted natural citizenship.
• Example: In China, those who are Tibetan may not be recognized as citizens of China.

4. Civil Society/Civic Culture:

• Definition: voluntary civic and social organizations that operate within one or several nations. These organizations are normally voluntary in nature and are centered around shared values, beliefs and issues. Though not part of a formal government, civic and social organizations often work with or against government and seek to influence government decision-making.
• Usage: Is the depth, complexity, and effectiveness of civil society greater in a more democratic state such as Britain than in a less democratic state such as Iran?
• Example: China’s civil society is more tightly regulated by government than Britain’s civil society.

5. Clientalism:

• Definition: Informal policymaking relationship between patron individuals/ institutions who provide goods, services, benefits to those in less strategic or powerful positions in return for their political or economic support
• Usage: Clientelism may provide benefits for both patron and client in the short term as well as an opportunity for corruption
• Example: The PRI in Mexico provided access to job opportunities in labor unions for workers in return for their political support in the elections

6. Comparative Methods:

• Definition: Process to examine and classify systems of government through their similarities and differences, which can be approached by systems theory, case study system or the conceptual system
• Usage: Comparative methods facilitate our understanding of how governments are structured and develop policy, and how that in turn affects their international relationships
• Example: Comparison of privatization in Russia and China and its impact on political and economic structures and political policies

7. Co-optation:

• Definition: Co-optation involves a political entity in power making accommodations for possible dissidents within its domain.
• Usage: Co-optation addresses dissident’s concerns in exchange for political support.
• Example: In Mexico, student protests in the late 1960s resulted in the death of several hundred student activists. The President elected in 1970 understood the potential for future problems. Consequently, he enlisted several of the student activists as government workers, where they were able to work in projects that addressed their concerns.

8. Corporatist:

• Definition: influencing policy in which the state gives favored status to certain interest groups
• Usage: Illustrated by state leaders investing funds or sponsoring programs directed to win the support or favor of a particular group.
• Example: Mexico

9. Economic Liberalization:

• Definition: an economic policy that limits the state’s control of the economy and increases the power of the market and the private sector
• Usage: Global changes may cause a country to adopt policies that lead to economic liberalization.
• Example: Russia, UK, China

10. Elite and Populist politics and culture:

• Definition: the political behavior of elites (of various kinds) is of a different kind and usually has different results when compared to the political behavior at the grassroots level.
• Usage: Elite politics and culture in Mexico is carried out by Spanish speaking professional politicians in “smoke filled rooms;” populist politics involves voting and protest and the acceptance of gifts by people who may or may not speak Spanish.

11. Ethnicity:

• Definition: Group identifiction that typically is rooted in the belief of a common biological ancestry or homeland
• Usage: A nation -state may be composed of multiple ethnicities such as the Ibo , Yoruba, Hausa and Fulani in Nigeria
• Example: Discrimination of various ethnicities residing in the United Kingdom has been addressed by the Race Relations Act (amended in 2000) by promoting racial equality

12. Globalization:

• Definition: Globalization refers to the increasing cross border connections throughout the world. Countries share economic, political, and cultural relationships.
• Usage: Technology such as the internet and cable networks help to increase globalization.
• Example: An example of globalization in respect to economic policy is apparent in actions taken by the World Trade Organization such as advocacy for free trade.

13. Government Structure:

• Definition: The institutions and institutional arrangements (relationships), formal and informal through which policy decisions are made and implemented.
• Usage: The more democratically the government structure is organized, the more complex it is likely to be.
• Example: Most government structures are unitary and do not include the kinds of checks and balances found in the USA. However, there are usually other limitations on the power of institutions and officials.

14. Imperialism:

• Definition: powerful rich countries spreading their influence around the globe
• Usage: Imperialistic goals of Britain forced China to open trade.
• Example: Opium wars, Hong Kong

15. Legitimacy:

• Definition: Legitimacy occurs when the majority of citizens believe that a government is adequately addressing their basic needs, which gives the government the right rule.
• Usage: When governments lack legitimacy, it is difficult to stay in power.
• Example: In Nigeria the government has struggled for legitimacy because it has failed to meet the basic needs of its citizens. Therefore, the people in Nigeria are reluctant to support such a government.

16. Nation:

• Definition: a group of people with similar cultural characteristics and political goals
• Usage: Many Nigerians do not identify themselves as members of the nation-state, but rather as members of a nation.
• Example: Nigeria

17. Nation-state:

• Definition: a territory with political boundaries and institutions where there is one dominant nation
• Usage: Many Nigerians do not identify themselves as members of the nation-state, but rather as members of a nation.
• Example: Nigeria

18. Party Systems:

• Definition: The structure and arrangement of political parties in a political system.
• Usage: The floating party system in Russia is usually visible only in the months before elections. The party system in Iran is mostly visible only by observing the political statements of individuals.
• Example: the party system in Britain involves three parties; the party system in France involves four or five

19. Political Culture:

• Definition: attitudes and beliefs that influence political behavior
• Usage:
• Example: Theme for the entire course

20. Political Economy:

• Definition: the study of the interaction of the political processes and the economy of a state or region
• Usage: China moves from a communist economy to a government directed market economy
• Example: Theme for the entire course

21. Political Ideology:

• Definition: a system of beliefs concerning the proper roles and responsibilities of people and their government—the beliefs need not be specific to any individual state and are often universal in their philosophical underpinnings.
• Usage: To what extent is Marxist political ideology still evident within the People’s Republic of China? What evidence of classical liberal ideology can be found in contemporary British society?
• Example: In many ways, political ideologies have been altered to fit the socioeconomic realities of different nations.

22. Political Particiation:

• Definition: citizens actively involved in their government; making views known and holding them accountable
• Usage: Authoritarian regimes might have participation but their actions are not free
• Example: China can vote but only for the allowed parties.

23. Political Socialization:

• Definition: the process how one's political beliefs and political culture are attained (family, education, media, experiences, church, employment, etc...)
• Usage: Religion (Islam) is a major factor on the political socialization of the people of Iran.

24. Recruitment of Elites:

• Definition: process by which newcomers become members of the political elite
• Usage: In China the recruitment of elites occurs through quanxi.
• Example: China

25. Rule of Law:

• Definition: everyone and every organization, including the political party in charge, is accountable and subject to the law
• Usage: In a country that has an authoritarian system only those who are not in positions of power are subject to the rule of law. Those in power may use the law to keep themselves in power.
• Example: China has not established the rule of law because the CCP may not be subject to the law.

26. Social Welfare

• Definition: a set of governmental policies and programs designed to help and improve the lives of a nation’s citizens. Examples of such programs include material assistance to the needy, health care to some or all citizens, safety provisions, labor regulations, etc.
• Usage: The degree of social welfare within nations is in part a result of political ideology.
• Example: UK web links to social welfare programs.

27. Sources of Authority:

• Definition: various methods that governments use to acquire, gain, and maintain authority
• Usage: Governments of all types use various sources of authority to maintain their power.
• Example: Theme for the entire course.

28. Sovereignty:

• Definition: Authority of a government over its people and territory (independent of other factors/governments)
• Usage: There is a question among some members in the EU about sovereignty and the proposed constitution.
• Example: County and city government in the UK are not sovereign.

29. State:

• Definition: key political institutions responsible for making important policies in a country
• Usage: Parliament is a long established political institution of the state of the United Kingdom.
• Example: UK

30. Structural Adjustment:

• Definition: a program to reform the economic structure of a country often involving privatization, trade liberalization, and limits on the printing of currency.
• Usage: A country which is in debt is often required to follow a structural adjustment program, if it wants to receive assistance from the World Bank or the IMF
• Example: The structural adjustment program imposed on Russia by the IMF involved privatization of state institutions and a limitation on the printing of rubles by the Russian government.

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Boris Yeltsin

Boris Yeltsin died today.

The news reports on the death of an important figure are often very useful for teachers. The major news outlets will do biographical obits and they are often good summaries of the times as well as the life of the deceased. I'll be looking at the BBC, the Economist, the New York Times, and Russian sources.

The Independent reported it this way today:

"Russian President Vladimir Putin hailed his predecessor Boris Yeltsin, who died on Monday aged 76, as the man who gave birth to 'a newly democratic Russia'.

"Yeltsin would always be remembered as the first president of the post-Soviet Russian Federation, Putin said.

"Under Yeltsin 'a newly democratic Russia was born, and a free nation opened to the world. A state where power really rests with the people', he added.

"Yeltsin was instrumental in drawing up a new constitution for Russia with human rights at the forefront and ensuring freedom of thought and free elections, Putin said..."

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More analysis of Nigeria

The analysis from the New York Times' Lydia Polgreen echos that of Edward Harris in the International Herald Tribune. I wonder how this instant analysis will compare with longer-term academic analysis in a few years.

Africa’s Crisis of Democracy

"Nigeria’s troubled presidential election... represents a significant setback for democracy in sub-Saharan Africa at a time when voters in countries across the continent are becoming more disillusioned with the way democracy is practiced.

"Analysts said the Nigerian vote was the starkest example of a worrying trend — even as African countries hold more elections, many of their citizens are steadily losing confidence in their democracies...

"African voters are losing patience with faulty elections that often exclude popular candidates and are marred by serious irregularities, according to the Afrobarometer survey, published last year, which sampled voters in 18 countries, based on interviews with 1,200 to 2,400 people per country. While 6 in 10 Africans said democracy was preferable to any other form of government, according to the survey, satisfaction with democracy dipped to 45 percent from 58 percent in 2001...

"In 2000, in the euphoric aftermath of Nigeria’s transition from a long spell of military rule to democracy, 84 percent of Nigerians said that they were satisfied with democracy as practiced in Nigeria, according to the Afrobarometer survey.

"By 2005 that number had plummeted to 25 percent, lower than all the countries surveyed save Zimbabwe. Almost 70 percent of Nigerians did not believe elections would allow them to remove objectionable leaders, the survey found..."

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Nigerian political culture

The International Herald Tribune has a good analysis article that considers the condition of Nigeria's political culture. I think it offers a good chance to ask students to cite evidence to support or refute the analysis.

Look for official election results and explanations about why the flaws in the system don't negate the legitimacy of the vote from the president and government spokesmen later today.

Elections disappoint, and Nigerians too beaten down to rise up

"Saturday's presidential vote denounced by the opposition and election observers as a sham was meant to set up Nigeria's first transfer of power from one elected civilian to another, a benchmark for democratic growth...

"But the day after a new president is sworn in on May 29, presuming Nigeria finishes what it started and the populace accepts the results, regular folks will awake as impoverished, disadvantaged and disaffected as ever. They're yet to see the promised benefits of civilian rule — and don't expect to soon.

"'All this is just a waste,' said 32-year old Lawrence Akro, looking at electoral material during the vote. 'It's like a dead lion, no use to anyone.'

"So where are the massive protests, the rising tide of anger to sweep away the corrupt political class that benefits at the expense of the average Nigerian? Where is Nigeria's Vaclav Havel, its Nelson Mandela, its Tiananmen Square?

"Nigerians say they have little time for revolutionary politics — they're so far removed from politics, particularly at the federal level, and their lives are so filled by fighting for survival in a country where the government provides little.

"Plus, they're been conditioned by years of military rule to understand that those who step out of line suffer the worst fates...

"Civilian rule that returned to Nigeria with Obasanjo's 1999 election was supposed to change the country's political calculus, by putting an end to the brutal military regimes that long lorded over Nigeria and handing power to the people.

"Obasanjo, himself a military ruler in the 1970s who handed over to a civilian government later overturned by the army, has made advancements, virtually clearing Nigeria's books of tens of billions of dollars of foreign loans and playing peacemaker for Liberia and other war-battered African countries.

"He has liberalized much of the country's moribund economy and tamed inflation rates that used to reach 400 percent.

"But after three consecutive elections — each more chaotic and heavily rigged than the one before, the opposition says — Nigerians don't see that voting has meant an improvement in their lives..."

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Sunday, April 22, 2007

And in the bad news...

Another brick is added to the authoritarian system being built in Russia.

50% Good News Is the Bad News in Russian Radio

"At their first meeting with journalists since taking over Russia's largest independent radio news network, the managers had startling news of their own: from now on, they said, at least 50 percent of the reports about Russia must be 'positive.'

"In addition, opposition leaders could not be mentioned on the air and the United States was to be portrayed as an enemy, journalists employed by the network, Russian News Service, say they were told by the new managers, who are allies of the Kremlin...

"In a darkening media landscape, radio news had been a rare bright spot. Now, the implementation of the '50 percent positive' rule at the Russian News Service leaves an increasingly small number of news outlets that are not managed by the Kremlin...

"Parliament is also considering extending state control to Internet sites that report news, reflecting the growing importance of Web news as the country becomes more affluent and growing numbers of middle-class Russians acquire computers.

"On Tuesday, the police raided the Educated Media Foundation, a nongovernmental group sponsored by United States and European donors that helps foster an independent news media...

"With this new campaign, seemingly aimed at tying up the loose ends before a parliamentary election in the fall that is being carefully stage-managed by the Kremlin, censorship rules in Russia have reached their most restrictive since the breakup of the Soviet Union, media watchdog groups say...

"[The government's] tactic has been to impose state ownership on media companies and replace editors with those who are supporters of Mr. Putin — or offer a generally more upbeat report on developments in Russia these days.

"The new censorship rules are often passed in vaguely worded measures and decrees that are ostensibly intended to protect the public...

"The change leaves Echo of Moscow, an irreverent and edgy news station that often provides a forum for opposition voices, as the only independent radio news outlet in Russia with a national reach.

"And what does Aleksei Venediktov, the editor in chief of Echo of Moscow, think of the latest news from Russia?

"'For Echo of Moscow, this is positive news,' Mr. Venediktov said. 'We are a monopoly now. From the point of view of the country, it is negative news.'"

Colin Powell interviewed on Echo radio, Moscow

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Russian culture

A reminder about a nasty bit of Russian culture from the Washington Post:
Russian Medical School Imposes Curfew for Hitler's Birthday

"One of Russia's leading medical schools has advised its many foreign students to stay in their dormitories for three days, fearing they could be attacked by neo-Nazis and skinheads marking the anniversary of Adolf Hitler's birth, which fell on Friday.

"The warning issued by the almost 250-year-old IM Sechenov Moscow Medical Academy, which suspended classes for its 1,940 foreign students, was a reminder of the xenophobic and racist violence here targeting students and migrant workers...

"Students in a dormitory near the academy's main building took the measure in stride, saying they had stocked up on food and were using the three-day hiatus to study for final exams next month. Some said they welcomed the concern for their well-being. 'Security is very high, and we have very good protection,' said Pari Vallal, 22, an Indian student who is in his fourth year at the academy.

"Students interviewed at the school said they are constantly on alert, especially when traveling on the Moscow Metro, where a number of racist murders and attacks have occurred..."


Who do we believe?

And, oh, the logistical problems!!

From the New York Times:
Fears of Fraud Grow Before Nigerian Vote

"An opposition party claimed Friday that soldiers in northern Nigeria had seized a truckload of ballots that had already been filled out in favor of the governing party’s presidential candidate, raising fears that Nigeria’s presidential election on Saturday would be marred by the same kinds of irregularities that plagued state elections last week.

"Election officials denied the allegation, saying in a televised news conference that no one could have seized ballots, because the new ones, altered at the last minute to accommodate a candidate who had previously been barred from running, had only just begun arriving in the country after being printed abroad..."

Nigeria at the polls: Voters' log

BBC readers and listeners across the vast country are sending in their voting experiences via email and SMS text messages. The local time in Nigeria is GMT plus one hour.

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Context for understanding

As I was reading this article from the New York Times, I identified the following bits of context that helped me understand the complicated topics:
  • democratic centralism
  • 100 Flowers CampaignBai hua qi fang, bai jia zheng ming: A hundred flowers bloom, a hundred schools of thought contend

  • Chiang Kai-shek
  • Kuomintang (Nationalist) Party
  • Democracy Wall
  • Tiananmen protests (1989)
  • Gorbachev's demokratizatsiya and glasnost
  • Deng's "Four Modernizations"Shixian sige xiandaihua : Achieve the Four Modernisations

  • Hu's "harmonious society"
  • Party Congress

You could assign your students the task of describing how these "things" relate to the news article.

Caution: this article was written by Joseph Kahn, whose take on judicial politics awhile ago was, according to well-informed legal experts practicing in China, really off base. Perhaps your students could identify the reporter's assertions that are open to question.

In China, Talk of Democracy Is Simply That

"Like the spring showers that give the parched landscape a veneer of green, China’s authoritarian leaders, approaching the end of their five-year terms in office, have suggested that they would like to see their country become more democratic...

"Top leaders have authorized the publication of the pro-democratic political reflections of Lu Dingyi, a Long March veteran who advocated political change before his death a decade ago, two party officials said...

"China is not embracing Western-style democracy, even in theory. But by permitting a relatively open round of political discussion, President Hu Jintao and other top leaders have sought to cast themselves publicly as progressives who are open-minded about ways to improve government practices and reduce corruption...

"Mr. Hu may also be trying to rally support among younger party members and intellectuals ahead of an important party congress in the fall...

"At a minimum, the recent flurry of articles suggests that the terms democracy and freedom have lost the taboo they had after the bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protests in 1989, after which Deng Xiaoping squelched talk of any democratic-style political change.

"'What we’re seeing is a repudiation of Deng Xiaoping’s edict that the party should focus exclusively on economic development,' said Lu De, an influential economist who has pushed for greater political pluralism...

"Many political analysts are more guarded. Big political events like party congresses, which are held once every five years, can sometimes give rise to relatively unfettered debate that officials stop tolerating after the congress settles on a new slate of leaders. Mr. Hu stirred up expectations of imminent political change around the time he became Communist Party chief in 2002. But since then, they say, he has pursued repeated crackdowns on journalists, lawyers and rights advocates, leading many to conclude that the space for divergent political views in China has shrunk on his watch...

"The essays in party journals do not endorse multiparty democracy. Most of the authors argue that democracy can be functionally consistent with single-party rule. But they say it is necessary to enliven intellectual life and creativity, and to curtail official corruption...

"One of the most passionate calls came from another party elder, Xie Tao, a former vice dean of People’s University in Beijing... Mr. Xie warned... 'If we pursue only economic reform, to say it straight, we’re headed toward the path of bureaucratic capitalism that destroyed Chiang Kai-shek’s rule on the mainland'..."

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Friday, April 20, 2007

Nigerian elections or crisis?

An "analysis" by Lydia Polgreen from the New York Times, Nigeria Frets Over How to Give Voters a Real Say, is a good lead in to the elections there.

Now that your students have studied about Nigeria, they ought to be able to critique Polgreen's analysis.

"The purple banner across the normally staid front page of The Guardian, a national daily newspaper here... [read] 'The election has brought Nigeria to the crossroads of an emergency... the options available to save the country from impending danger are now very few indeed. The usual, easy route is to advocate putting up with the charade, not rocking the boat. But Nigeria today is beyond such simplistic postulation.'

"The most likely danger is not the obvious -- the long-feared collapse of this vibrant nation of 250 ethnic groups into tribal and religious warfare.

"Indeed, eight years into its young democracy, Nigeria is in many ways a better nation than it was when President Olusegun Obasanjo took office in 1999. Some forms of corruption have been curbed. The national debt has been paid off, and the economy is growing. Nigeria’s role as a regional peace builder has also grown, and as The Guardian editorial demonstrates, it has a robust free press and a blossoming civic society.

"But that has not meant improvements in the way its leaders are chosen, nor in the way much of the country is run. The growing sentiment among international and local election observers is that electoral abuses are worse than ever...

"Nigeria has a reputation for going right to the edge of disaster and then suddenly pulling back. This tendency has kept the country from absolute crisis, with at least one exception — the Biafran civil war in the 1960s, which killed one million people...

"But Nigerians are beginning to wonder whether the national instinct for self-preservation that has bound them to their political elite, a bargain that has staved off disaster but also kept the majority in poverty, has been worthwhile, said Nnamdi K. Obasi, senior analyst at the International Crisis Group. 'All these masses of young, unemployed men we have in our streets, they have no stake in the current system,' he said. 'They have no hope, no future. They are not bound by the same sense of shared destiny of years past.'...

"In his essay the Trouble with Nigeria, written a generation ago, the novelist Chinua Achebe clearly says where the trouble lies: 'The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership.'

"The lack of transparent elections is the reason, analysts say, that governance has been such a problem in Nigeria. 'The voters have almost no role at all in the system,' Mr. Nsirimovu, [a human rights advocate in the Niger Delta region], said. 'So how can we have good leaders?'

Iranian rule of law

How would your students evaluate the state of the rule of law in Iran based on this report?

From the New York Times

Iran Exonerates Six Who Killed in Islam’s Name

"The Iranian Supreme Court has overturned the murder convictions of six members of a prestigious state militia who killed five people they considered “morally corrupt.”

"The reversal, in an infamous five-year-old case from Kerman, in central Iran, has produced anger and controversy, with lawyers calling it corrupt and newspapers giving it prominence...

"Three lower court rulings found all the men guilty of murder. Their cases had been appealed to the Supreme Court, which overturned the guilty verdicts. The latest decision, made public this week, reaffirms that reversal...

"The ruling may still not be final, however, because a lower court in Kerman can appeal the decision to the full membership of the Supreme Court. More than 50 Supreme Court judges would then take part in the final decision.

"According to the Supreme Court’s earlier decision, the killers, who are members of the Basiji Force, volunteer vigilantes favored by the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, considered their victims morally corrupt and, according to Islamic teachings and Iran’s Islamic penal code, their blood could therefore be shed.

"The last victims, for example, were a young couple engaged to be married who the killers claimed were walking together in public.

"Members of the Basiji Force are known for attacking reformist politicians and pro-democracy meetings. President Ahmadinejad was a member of the force...

"Iran’s Islamic penal code, which is a parallel system to its civic code, says murder charges can be dropped if the accused can prove the killing was carried out because the victim was morally corrupt.

"This is true even if the killer identified the victim mistakenly as corrupt..."

See also

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Nigeria's electoral dance continues

From the BBC: Nigerian poll boycott scuppered

"Nigerian presidential candidate Muhammadu Buhari will not boycott Saturday's elections, his party says, splitting an opposition alliance.

"The All Nigeria People's Congress spokesman said as 'true and patriotic democrats' they did not want to play into the hands of the ruling party...

"Mr Buhari had called for an opposition alliance against the PDP's Umaru Yar'Adua but neither he nor Mr Abubakar seems willing to step aside for the other."

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"ren quan" or "fa zhi"

Preface: While reading Enemy of the State, a profile of China Democracy Party founder Zha Jiangguo in the New Yorker (April 23rd issue), I came across this statement:
"Agitation for political reform has, in the past four or five years, grown more assertive, while taking on more artful forms: instead of using the fraught term ren quan ("human rights"), for example, people talk about fa zhi ("the rule of law") and wei quan ("defending civil rights") to discuss consumer rights or migrant-labor rights or private-property rights."

So, it seems that perhaps all this talk about "rule of law" is the only way in contemporary China to continue the discussion of human rights.

Back on January 19, I wrote about and quoted an article from Asia Times Online. My posting was titled The Long March to the Rule of Law. (Also see How to reform China.)

That article concerned, "82 farmers, who have been fighting for years to have authorities investigate the pollution of their fish ponds by the 2,000 factories operating in the municipality of Wenzhou, last week [in mid-January] won a landmark ruling against provincial police in a local court... While the ultimate resolution of the case is unknown, it has already made Chinese legal history in that a local court has ruled against a provincial authority."

Back in January I marked my calendar for mid-April, because further developments were expected.

Sure enough, when I went searching on April 18 for those developments, I found a new article. It's not about the fish farmers and pollution, but it is about the courts in the same province.

Three things stand out to me in these cases.
  • First, as pointed out in the article, the Party is sending a message to peasants that legal processes are preferable to protests and demonstrations
  • Secondly, maybe Zhejiang has become a model province for how courts are supposed to work. In the past, model villages, model communes, model danwei, and model workers were touted as examples that everyone should follow.*
  • Finally, as the article points out, "the lawsuit happened when Xi Jinping was the party secretary of Zhejiang province. Xi last month was appointed Shanghai party secretary... and as such... is poised to become a member of the new Politburo...

    "The high-profile media coverage... helps portray the rising political star as an enlightened leader. By comparison, leaders of other regions where similar disputes led to violent confrontation should feel ashamed."

A step toward the rule of law

"China's official media have given high-profile coverage to a court case in which 12 farmers in a village in Zhejiang province won their lawsuit against the provincial government and the governor over the acquisition of their farmland.

"Obviously, Beijing wants to deliver a message through its propaganda machine to people that unfair land requisitions can be dealt with by the rule of law, instead of through violently confrontational ways...

"On April 14, 2006, the Zhejiang High Court made its historic ruling that the provincial government acted illegally... The ruling was final.

"But it was not until the end of that year that the provincial government revoked its decision. Construction at the site was not stopped until before Chinese New Year in mid-February, 2007.

"Will the local officials violating the law be punished, and how? Will Zhang and his fellow villagers be compensated for their losses during these years? Will the government consider providing legal aid to the poor who want to sue the government?..."

*One of my favorite model citizens is Lei Feng. He's a favorite because 45 years after his untimely death, he is still used as a teaching tool in China. He's still unbelievably perfect, although not in the same ways he was during the Cultural Revolution (see Another year, another Lei Feng below for ways Lei Feng has changed over the years).

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Nigerian governors races

The BBC news site has a good map showing results of the recent elections for governors. It's hidden away at the bottom of an article entitled Nigerian army attacks Islamists.

If you show your students the map without revealing the key, could they figure out which colors represented which parties?

There are links at that page to many other BBC articles about Nigeria and the upcoming presidential election.

Iranian politics

Jim Lerch wrote, pointing me at some interesting news reports about the development of nuclear energy (and perhaps nuclear weapons) in the Middle East.

The most relevant for comparative politics is the analysis by Shora Esmailian (an Iranian journalist and activist living in Sweden) and Andreas Malm (a reporter for the Swedish weekly newspaper Arbetaren), Iran: the hidden power on the Open Democracy web site.

The article should remind us that things are neither so simple nor as stable as images in the media suggest. It should remind students to be wary of single-dimensional or single-causation analysis. It's also a reminder of the interplay between domestic politics and foreign policy.

"The entire history of the Islamic Republic of Iran since its foundation in 1979 has been characterised by the attempt of its rulers to stigmatise dissent and opposition with the taint of treasonable collusion with Iran's external adversaries... Throughout, the most enduring and dangerous of these oppositional forces - albeit very often the most ignored by those outside Iran ostensibly committed to the country's democratic advance - has been the organised working class of Iran...

"The workers of Iran were at the heart of the 1979 revolution. After their general strike was instrumental in bringing down the Shah's regime, jubilant workers seized factories, mines, oil refineries and workplaces in most other sectors of the economy, installing their own direct rule in place of the old management. The shora councils, based on general assemblies of all employees, assumed control over the Iranian economy... The shora movement... was also a major threat to the power of Ayatollah Khomeini and the sort of society he and his fellow Islamists were striving to establish.

"[A]s soon as they felt strong enough, the mullahs in charge of the nascent Islamist state turned against the shora councils... A decisive weapon for the regime in crushing them and regaining control over the economy was the war with Iraq... all internal dissent could instantly be branded as unpatriotic...

"It took a generation for a new labour movement to emerge in Iran...

"The most dramatic battle of this new movement to date was sparked in January 2006, when up to 17,000 bus drivers at the Vahed company in Tehran went on strike...

"Schoolteachers (of whom 80% are women) have also been at the heart of the post-2004 labour protest...

"Iran under Ahmadinejad's presidency has undergone a process of profound militarisation. The pasdaran [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps]... has assumed more and more direct control over both the state and the economy...

"The west's own confrontational policy is a crucial instrument in the Tehran regime's armoury. Only because the mullahs' claims of encirclement and threat can be made to appear plausible is it possible for them to present themselves as the righteous guardians of the nation..."

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Nigeria update, 17 April

From the Washington Post, 9:30PM, 17 April

Nigeria Opposition Protests Looming Vote

"The main opposition parties joined forces Wednesday to demand the annulment of results from state balloting they branded "sham elections" and called for a postponement of the presidential vote scheduled for this weekend.

"A communique signed by 18 parties called on Nigerians to 'protest in a non-violent manner' against election results that showed the governing party rolling up huge victories in state governor and legislator races...

"The opposition's late-night demands after an hours-long meeting threaten to further endanger the drive to cement civilian rule in Africa's most-populous nation.

"Violence and irregularities marred state elections last weekend. Authorities reported at least 21 people were killed, while many voters waited for hours in front of polling stations that opened late with faulty voter-registration rolls. In some areas, people were seen stuffing ballot boxes.

"Authorities announced stepped-up security measures Tuesday as the electoral commission said it would comply with a Supreme Court ruling that Abubakar -- who had been barred from running -- could rejoin the race..."

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Russia's integrated elite

If you'd like your students to see how integrated Russia's elite is, set them a task like the one I went on.

I did a Google search for Igor Sechin.(Saturday's blog entry)

He's usually identified as the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office, Aide to the President.

In that position, he is the general supervisor of the "Presidential Chancellery, the Presidential Information and Documentation Directorate, and the Presidential Directorate for Communication and Public Feedback."

He is responsible for organizing the publication of federal laws. He issues decrees and orders by the President... makes decisions on issues of state secrets protection, including issues on access of Presidential Executive Office officials to information that constitutes a state secret, and he appoints and dismisses officials in the Presidential Executive Office.

The President of Russia's web site says that Sechin also, on behalf of the Executive Office, signs service contracts for performing civil service duties and occupying civil service posts in the Presidential Executive Office... organizes the activity of the Presidential Commission for Rehabilitation of Victims of Political Repressions, [and] approves official regulations for federal state civil servants...

You'd think that would be enough for one person. In fact, reading through that list of responsibilities, I'm reminded of the resumes of college students and young professionals that are "padded" with every conceivable thing they can think of.

But no! Sechin is not done.
(At left, Rosneft HQ's front window reflecting the Kremlin. At least Sechin's second job isn't far from his first.)

He's also the chairman of the board of Rosneft, the state-owned oil company that recently took over Yukos. That makes Sechin the chairman of one of the world's largest oil companies. Imagine if White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten or presidential advisor Karl Rove was simultaneously chairman of ExxonMobile.

Other people in Putin's inner circle?

Here's where you assign students to find out the positions of power held by people in the Kremlin.

Once students have identified the people and the roles they play, ask them to illustrate the connections between government and business organizations with a large wall or chalk board chart. Then comes the analysis of the chart. What are the hubs of the connections? Can you tell who's in charge? Where would an ambitious young person go and what would he or she do to reach the top? How does this system compare to the Soviet nomenklatura?

Are we having fun yet? Are we learning?

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Nigeria update, 16 April

Al jazeera reported a few minutes ago that the Nigerian Supreme Court has ruled that Abubakar has a right to be on the presidential ballot next Saturday.

Nigerian VP 'able to stand in poll'

"The Nigerian Supreme Court has cleared the way for Atiku Abubakar, the current vice-president, to stand in Saturday's presidential election.

"A panel of seven judges ruled on Monday that the Independent National Electoral Commission acted unlawfully when it removed Abubakar from the ballot after he was indicted for fraud...

"Electoral officials previously said the 61 million ballots have already been printed, but that unspecified provisions had been made in case Abubakar should rejoin the field..."

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Speaking of concepts to review with your students, don't forget that economic liberalization (and its political causes and effects) is something they should know a little bit about.

Here are some of the economic concepts that students ought to be able to define and use in an appropriate and coherent sentence.

  • market economy
  • command economy
  • mixed economy
  • agricultural sector
  • manufacturing sector
  • sevice sector
  • GDP
  • inflation
  • fiscal policy
  • monetary policy
  • debt (national)
  • Deficit
  • balance of trade (deficits and surpluses)
  • foreign exchange
  • productivity
  • comparative advantage
  • structural adjustment
  • shock therapy, etc., ec.

Get out the intro economics textbook. Or visit the economics page at Social Studies Help, a web site created by David Miller an assistant principal at Schreiber High School in Port Washington, New York


Sunday, April 15, 2007

Sharia in Nigeria

And an update on sharia in Nigeria from the Washington Post: In Nigeria's North, a Compromise Between Islamic Law, Secular Culture

"Nigeria is officially secular, with its 140 million people nearly evenly divided between Christians and Muslims. Christians predominate in the coastal south and Muslims in the north.

"In 1999, more than a decade of brutal military rule ended with President Olusegun Obasanjo's election, and many in the north began clamoring for Islamic law. In many ways, it was a reaction to general lawlessness and Nigeria's shattered justice system...

"But several factors have prevented Islam from becoming completely dominant...

"Obasanjo, a southerner and a Christian, and others in the federal government declared their opposition to sharia and said they would work to ensure that its implementation wouldn't run afoul of the federation, which gives wide powers to the states. When sharia has clashed with national law, the federal government has won...

"Unlike in some countries in the Middle East, women drive cars and vote. They have unfettered access to state education, although female literacy lags that of males. Women run for elected office, albeit rarely...

"Nigerians say the strictest interpretation of sharia runs counter to their culture. Keeping women behind doors and out of sight, or cloaking them in fabric, is a foreign idea in Nigeria, where women play leading roles in economic life...

"Sharia has also met Nigeria's poverty... A fact of life in Nigeria is that all able hands are put to use, male or female, at whatever jobs can be found..."

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Update on Nigerian elections

From the International Herald Tribune: Nigeria ruling party takes lead in state elections as opposition party alleges fraud

"The ruling party took a commanding lead in Nigeria's state elections, officials said, and authorities reported that 21 people died during the vote, which a main opposition party dismissed as fraudulent...

"The electoral commission acknowledged some irregularities as it released partial results Sunday saying President Olusegun Obasanjo's party won 10 of 12 states announced so far...

"Nigeria's private daily newspapers reported that between 41 and 52 died.

"Most of Saturday's deaths came in fights between supporters of rival political parties or during attempts to steal ballot boxes or otherwise skew the outcome of the vote, according to the papers' reports.

"There were no reports of killings by security forces. Previous elections have seen roughly similar levels of violence..."

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Finishing up

Scott Berry wrote from Guadalajara, Mexico asking about pre-AP exam summaries and reviews.

At this "summing up" point in the course, I usually fell back on using the basic concepts, rather than countries for organizing classes and activities.

The suggestions I made the other day about asking students to compare levels/stages/problems of political integration are examples.

Other concepts to focus on would include things like
  • democratization
  • representation
  • electoral systems
  • legitimacy
  • sovereignty
  • recruitment of leaders
  • judicial independence
  • separation or fusion of powers
  • unitary vs. federal systems
  • comparative methodology
  • correlations and causations
  • qualitative and quantitative research
  • normative and empirical questions
  • etc., etc.
You could use the key terms at the ends of chapters or in the glossary of your textbook for more ideas.

Another approach is to use the AP outline to reorganize the knowledge students have about individual countries. Or you could use the discipline outline in the textbook you use.

One of my favorite methods is to put the students to work preparing presentations of their conceptual projects to their classmates. They often need some standards and instructions, like what presentations should include and how they should be made.

I'd also think it's good to assign students to write multiple-choice questions for the topics they present -- one question for each country and one for the EU (that will probably show up on the exam too). You can ask them to turn in the questions and make up some review "tests."


Saturday, April 14, 2007

Upcoming elections in Russia

First there are reports that a third term for Putin has again been proposed by a legislator.

Putin's Third Term To Feature In Duma Campaign

"Sergei Mironov -- the freshly reelected speaker of the Federation Council and the leader of the young pro-Kremlin party A Just Russia -- suggested in late March that the Russian Constitution be amended to extend the president's time in office from two to three consecutive terms."

Then, Robert Coalson's analysis article about Russian politics on the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty web site offers a more conspiratorial idea about how to keep Putin in office and some good fodder for asking students to identify and evaluate assumptions and generalizations about government and politics. And, of course, one of the ways to evaluate those assumptions is to compare Russia to other political systems.

Russia: The Political Advantages Of Instability

"'Establishing stability' appears prominently on almost anyone's list of the achievements of Russian President Vladimir Putin's two terms in office...

"Putin's achievements have been largely bolstered by his staggeringly high personal popularity ratings... and a generally favorable global political and economic environment for Russia.

"The greatest challenge Putin has faced in his seven years at the helm has been controlling the situation in the North Caucasus and ending the vicious wave of terrorist attacks that swept through Russia in the decade ending in September 2004. Putin has been largely successful in this...

"Now, however, Russia enters a period fraught with danger for any personality-based political system -- elections and the transfer of power...

"At present, the front-runners in the race are the two first deputy prime ministers, Dmitry Medvedev and Sergei Ivanov...

"In recent months, Russian political analysts have agonized over the fact that the so-called siloviki -- the section of the political elite that is bound by ties to the intelligence and security structures and is widely believed to be centered around Putin's deputy chief of staff, Igor Sechin (right) -- does not back either Medvedev or Ivanov.

"Increasingly, they are speculating the siloviki could play the role of spoiler as Putin attempts a managed power transition -- a role they fear could easily undermine the surprisingly fragile 'vertical of power' that Putin has built so assiduously in the past few years...

"It would not be hard to argue that the weakening of the vertical of power or even the collapse of the 'entire system' created by Putin would not be a bad thing -- if not for the wild card of the siloviki, since the stability ushered in by Putin is a decided liability for their political fortunes...

"Observers... [have] pointed to the recent high-profile murders of Central Bank Deputy Chairman Andrei Kozlov, investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya, and former Federal Security Service security agent Aleksandr Litvinenko as signs of the direction developments in Russia could take if a powerful section of the elite begins to see its political advantage in increased fear and instability...

"Since Sechin and the siloviki do not seem to have placed their support behind any possible successor, speculation is mounting that their real goal is to compel Putin to accept a third term and thereby extend the status quo. An editorial in Kommersant-Vlast in January argued bluntly that Sechin's group could force Putin to remain in office by destabilizing the situation in the North Caucasus. Political consultant Gleb Pavlovsky, writing on kreml.org in January, argued the siloviki could be plotting a policy of 'managed destabilization.'

"However, the institutional weakness of the Russian political system -- which remains heavily centered on Putin's personal popularity -- and the superficial nature of the imposed stability that has emerged in the North Caucasus in the last two years means that 'managed' destabilization could quickly become unmanageable. And if it does, Russia and many in the international arena could find themselves relieved if Putin does agree to stay on for a few more years..."

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