Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

One and one child?

There is "talk" in China about the one child policy — at least among academics.

The child in time
Rumblings of discontent over the one-child policy have been growing louder, stirred by debate over whether it is needed now that the first children born under it face the prospect of caring for an ever-increasing number of pensioners. A report last month by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), a leading government think-tank, said officials were seriously overestimating the fertility rate (the number of children an average woman can expect to have in her lifetime). Rather than suppress the rate, suggested the report, the government should try to lift it…

Yicheng, county in the northern province of Shanxi… [has] been trying a two-child policy for 25 years. Despite its more relaxed regulations, the county has a lower-than-average population growth rate. It also has a smaller-than-average imbalance between boys and girls. Elsewhere a traditional preference for boys, combined with the one-child policy, has resulted in widespread abortions of baby girls…

Rural residents are usually allowed to have a second if the first is a girl (typically after a gap of four years). Ethnic minorities can have more. Many places have started allowing parents who themselves lack siblings to have two offspring. A senior family-planning official said in 2007 that in effect the one-child policy applied to less than 40% of the population.

The government, however, shows little inclination to scrap it… In February… an official said it would remain unchanged at least until 2015.

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Monday, August 30, 2010

Transparency with Chinese characteristics

The Politburo has called for more transparency in grassroots party organs. Will this trend extend to the top of the Party?

Chinese leaders vow to make Party affairs public
The Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee has instructed CPC local branches to be more open in Party affairs.

Members of the 25-strong Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee at a meeting Friday discussed and adopted a document that stressed the importance of openness in Party affairs, said a statement issued after the meeting.

The meeting was presided over by CPC Central Committee General Secretary Hu Jintao…

Openness at Party grassroots organizations was also an important measure to strengthen supervision within the Party, to regulate authority and to build clean and honest grassroots Party organizations, the meeting was told.

The statement said efforts should be made to safeguard Party members' rights to know, to participate, to elect, to express and to supervise, so as to enhance their participation in Party affairs.

It was also necessary to expand channels for them to express opinions and to build a favorable environment for democratic discussion and supervision in the Party, the statement said.

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Friday, August 27, 2010

Veto over banking

If anyone needed more evidence of the growing power of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, here's some. Somedays it seems that the de facto regime in Iran is more and more like China's. The difference is that in Iran, the power is in the military, while in China power is held by the Communist Party.

Iran's Rev. Guard granted more economic powers
Iran's Supreme National Security Council has granted the country’s Revolutionary Guards more powers to expand and maintain its control of the economy…

The Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), headed by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, issued a resolution stipulating the appointment of a representative of the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution, commonly known as the Revolutionary Guard, in the Board of Directors of Iran's Central Bank, reliable government sources told Al Arabiya.

According to the resolution, no decisions can be taken at the bank without the approval of the Revolutionary Guards representative…

The second SNSC decision stipulates the appointment of a Revolutionary Guard member… in the Association for Decision Reviewing and Organization, a monitoring body affiliated to the Telecommunication Company of Iran and located at the Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technology.

These decisions came in the aftermath of the tightening sanctions on Iran and despite warnings from financial experts and opposition leaders of the consequences of the Revolutionary Guard's hegemony in the country's political, financial, and security sectors.

The decisions also coincide with harsh criticism by leading reformist and presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi…

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Anecdotes about police corruption

The problem is not new. The problem is not unknown. The problem is not insignificant. Human Rights Watch offers some anecdotes to fill in the details behind the long-term, well known big deal.

Bribes fuel corruption in Nigeria police
Nigeria's federal police officers use illegal arrests and torture to demand bribes from the innocent…

The report by Human Rights Watch highlights how the oil-rich nation's police force shakes down crime victims for money…

Police spokesman Emmanuel Ojukwu said Tuesday's report contains "largely embellished innuendoes" and had reached a preconceived conclusion…

Those interviewed by the rights group spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution. They described how officers seize merchandise from roadside hawkers, holding it until receiving a bribe. Others complained about being "arrested" without cause while at restaurants and bars. Officers take those detained to police stations, where the innocent must pay around $40 to be released, the rights group said…

Bribery also remains endemic within the ranks of the police, first created in 1861 by British colonialists and known even then as "The 40 Thieves." In the modern force, recruits bribe their way into uniform and must meet bribe quotas set by superiors to reach and hold on to lucrative posts, the report claims. Otherwise, officers get banished to desk duty and are forced to survive on a meager salary…

The report suggests that money from the corrupt police practices ultimately line the pockets of the force's top administrators, while Nigerian citizens pay with their lives.

That could be seen last Sunday, a truck plowed into cars stopped along a Lagos expressway, starting fires that left at least 20 dead. Local newspapers quoted witnesses saying a police roadblock caused the traffic jam, as officers attempted to extort money from passing motorists.

See also: A Nigerian Youth Corper’s Experience with the Nigerian Police: Are we all guilty?

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Not Hu, but Wen

In a Western context, the questions are mild. In China, they are nearly unheard of, at least in print.

Book critical of Chinese PM Wen Jiabao goes on sale
A controversial new book written by a Chinese dissident critical of China's Premier Wen Jiabao has gone on sale in Hong Kong.

The book, entitled China's Best Actor: Wen Jiabao, dismisses Mr Wen's image as a reformist…

Wen Jiabao has gained popularity in China by showing sympathy with ordinary people, especially during natural disasters like the mudslide last week.

"Wen Jiabao and [Chinese President] Hu Jintao are like the two sides of a coin. They are on a tandem bike, heading in the same direction. I think they are playing the good-guy-bad-guy routine, like the harsh-dad-loving-mum sort of thing," [author Yu Jie] told the BBC's Chinese service.

"But they share the same goal, which is to strengthen their power base…

"The purpose of this book is not only to criticise individuals and the communist system, but also to develop the idea of freedom of speech."...

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

How do 3000 legislators get their work done?

The answer, of course, is that they choose representatives to do most of it. The headline of the Xinhua article might be misleading to some of us, but a vital part of the National Peoples Congress is in session.

China's top legislature opens bimonthly session
China's top legislature Monday opened its bimonthly session with a series of draft laws and amendments, including the amendment to the Criminal Law and a draft law on intangible cultural heritage (ICH) protection.

The session of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) continued to deliberate draft amendments to the Law on Officers in Reserve Forces, the draft People's Mediation Law, as well as the draft Law on the Application of Laws to Civil Relationships Involving Foreign Interests...

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What if it's not the government that restricts freedom of the press? What if the government is unable to guarantee freedom of the press?

Under threat from Mexican drug cartels, reporters go silent
A new word has been written into the lexicon of Mexico's drug war: narco-censorship.

It's when reporters and editors, out of fear or caution, are forced to write what the traffickers want them to write, or to simply refrain from publishing the whole truth in a country where members of the press have been intimidated, kidnapped and killed…

As the drug war scales new heights of savagery, one of the devastating byproducts of the carnage is the drug traffickers' chilling ability to co-opt underpaid and under-protected journalists — who are haunted by the knowledge that they are failing in their journalistic mission of informing society.

"You love journalism, you love the pursuit of truth, you love to perform a civic service and inform your community. But you love your life more," said an editor here in Reynosa, in Tamaulipas state, who, like most journalists interviewed, did not want to be named for fear of antagonizing the cartels.

"We don't like the silence. But it's survival."…

The United Nations sent its first such mission to Mexico last week to examine dangers to freedom of expression. On Aug. 7, in an unprecedented display of unity from a normally fractious, competitive bunch, hundreds of Mexican reporters demonstrated throughout the country to demand an end to the killings of their colleagues, and more secure working conditions.

Few killings are ever investigated, and the climate of impunity leads to more bloodshed, says an upcoming report from the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists…

When convoys of narco hit men brazenly turned their guns on army garrisons in Reynosa, trapping soldiers inside, it was front- page news in the Los Angeles Times in April. It went unreported in Reynosa…

Not that regional Mexican papers are squeamish. They will publish any number of grisly photographs of severed heads and battered corpses dangling from bridges. But not information that will offend the cartel in charge…

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Monday, August 23, 2010

Controlling people

The extent of control the Chinese government has over people's lives surprises many Americans even though they expect extensive authoritarianism. One facet of that control is coming under more scrutiny as the pressures of economic growth make life more difficult and inequality more apparent.

China 'hukou' system deemed outdated as way of controlling access to services
One of China's oldest tools of population control, the hukou is essentially a household registration permit, akin to an internal passport. It contains all of a household's identifying information, such as parents' names, births, deaths, marriages, divorces, moves and colleges attended. Most important, it identifies the city, town or village to which a person belongs.

The hukou dates back at least 2,000 years, when the Han dynasty used it as a way to collect taxes and determine who served in the army. Mao Zedong's Communist regime revived it in 1958 to keep poor rural farmers from flooding into the cities. It remains a key tool for keeping track of people and monitoring those the government considers "troublemakers."

Critics say the hukou system perpetuates China's growing urban-rural divide. Migrant workers flock to the coastal cities to labor in factories and take other manual jobs… Because they lack an "urban hukou," they are forever designated "temporary residents" -- unentitled to subsidized public housing, public education beyond elementary school, public medical insurance and government welfare payments.

People who live in a city such as Beijing but do not have a local hukou must travel to their home towns to get a marriage license, apply for a passport or take the national university entrance exam...

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Saturday, August 21, 2010

A stealth campaign

President Goodluck Jonathan has not announced his candidacy, but there are people campaigning for him.

Election pressure mounts for quiet leader
While Nigeria's president remains silent on whether he'll seek the oil-rich nation's highest office in upcoming elections, the campaign has all but begun on the Internet.

A new website once linked from a Nigerian government page purportedly advertises President Goodluck Jonathan's 2011 election bid, complete with a biography and a campaign platform. [The link to "Rethink Nigeria" was removed late Friday night from the government website without explanation.] A Facebook page for the leader has more than 168,000 fans and there's a nascent Twitter feed in his name.

Even though an unofficial choreographed campaign has begun in Africa's most populous nation, Jonathan -- a Christian from Nigeria's oil-rich Niger Delta -- still must win the support of the nation's northern Muslim elite before he officially declares his candidacy…

Meanwhile, shadowy support groups have plastered posters supporting a Jonathan presidential run in the nation's capital of Abuja and around the commercial megacity of Lagos. A Facebook page purportedly bearing daily messages from the president draws thousands of comments…

Former military dictator Ibrahim Babangida and former vice president Atiku Abubakar, both Muslims, have already said they will run in the primary for the ruling People's Democratic Party.

An unwritten party agreement calls for the presidency to alternate between the predominantly Muslim north and Christian south -- a balancing act aimed at placating the two dominant religions in the country of 150 million people. Party leaders anticipated Yar'Adua, a Muslim, holding office for two four-year terms just like his Christian predecessor, but his death after being in office for less than one term complicates that agreement.

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Friday, August 20, 2010

Global Cities Index

Foreign Policy has released its 2010 rankings of global cities. Students could look at the criteria described for the rankings and hypothesize what regime type and state capacity have to do the results.

The capital cities of most of the AP6 made the list (Abuja and Tehran did not, although Lagos did). London was ranked 2nd, Beijing 15th, Moscow 25th, Mexico City 30th, and Lagos was 59th.

7 Chinese cities make Global Cities Index
To create this year's rankings, the magazine analyzed 65 major cities using several criteria, including per capita GDP, influence, culture, innovation and overall strength. In the 2010 Global Cities Index, New York ranked 1st; Hong Kong 5th; Beijing 15th and Taipei 39th. Shanghai ranked 20th; Guangzhou 57th; Shenzhen 62nd and Chongqing 65th.

ATKearney, the company that helped prepare the index, described the methodology they use on their Global Cities Index web site.
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Ratings can't get much higher

What if you had an election and everybody did vote for the same candidate? Or what if the top vote getters tied?

Russians Still Smitten with Putin, Medvedev
President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin remain highly popular in Russia, according to a poll by the Yury Levada Analytical Center. 72 per cent of respondents approve of Medvedev’s performance, and 77 per cent endorse Putin’s…

The next presidential election is scheduled for March 2012. Both Putin and Medvedev are eligible to run as candidates…

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Socialism with Chinese inequalities

There was a time in China when the demands for egalitarianism meant that PLA uniforms had no signs of rank. Officers could only be identified because they carried ball point pens in their shirt pockets. Oh, and the highest ranking officers sometimes wore wrist watches. That fit with the ideological demands for equality.

Today, not so much. Even in rural villages, imported cars, designer clothes, big houses, and golf courses are associated with those who have "gotten rich first."

A new report suggests that one of the Chinese characteristics of socialism might be greater inequalities than anyone had recognized. What effect will that have on building a harmonious society? What effect will that have on the rule of the Communist Party?

Hidden Trillions Widen China's Wealth Gap - Report
China's richest citizens are even wealthier than the statistics suggest, and may hold as much as 9.3 trillion yuan (897.7 billion pounds) of hidden assets, according to a Credit Suisse-sponsored study by a top economic think-tank.

Official statistics for 2008 failed to capture income equivalent to about 30 percent of China's gross domestic product, the "Analysing Chinese Grey Income" report found.

And nearly two thirds of that unreported income goes into the pockets of the richest 10 percent, widening China's already troubling wealth gap, said Wang Xiaolu, the economist at the China Society of Economic Reform (CSER), who headed the survey…

Average per-capital income for the richest 10 percent, at 97,000 yuan, was 65 times of that of the poorest 10 percent, Wang's survey showed -- instead of the 23 times figure given by official National Statistics Bureau's household income survey…

The report suggested actual urban income was around double official levels. The gap between earnings recorded in National Bureau of Statistics Data, and Chinese citizens' real earnings and assets, also grew rapidly from the "middle income group" and up, to become a yawning gulf for the richest.

The grey income comes from sources including stock market manipulation, property deals, vast bonuses from state-owned firms with a monopoly on the market, and even large wedding and other gifts to powerful officials and their relatives…

"Grey money is usually closely connected to the following: corruption, abuse of power, public investment, shares in land development (projects) and other monopoly interests," Wang told the Beijing Evening News...

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

What if...

The Monkey Cage blog featured part of an excerpt from a recent paper comparing EU and US elections. Good ideas your students might consider.

What If Europe Held an Election and No One Cared?
Last June’s European Parliament (EP) election was widely recognized to be a failure. Turnout was low across Europe and, as has been the case in each and every EP election since they were introduced in 1979, voters responded exclusively to domestic cues in deciding how to fill the European Union’s only directly-elected body. Campaigns were waged entirely on domestic issues outside of the purview of the EP and the popularity of domestic Prime Ministers, who were not on the ballot, was the most important factor in determining the results…

This paper argues that the problem of EP elections is much like problems in a variety of American state and local elections. Election laws ensure that national parties are on the ballot, and both legal limitations and strategic considerations make it difficult for major parties to develop separate localized identities…

Joshua Tucker, of New York University, comments, "I very much like the link between US elections and European elections. Europeans sometimes seem to have a 'sky is falling' reaction to low turnout rates, and there is a lot that can be learned from comparing turnout in the US and Europe…"

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Repetition in history

Political scientists look for patterns in organization and activity. Historians look for patterns in the record of past events. Michael Singh offers some Iranian history and tries to identify some patterns.

Michael Singh is a Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Iranian Re-Revolution
On June 10, when the Iranian opposition movement cancelled its planned commemoration of the anniversary of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s disputed reelection, commentators assumed that the Green Movement was finally finished…

But the history of political turmoil in twentieth-century Iran suggests that the movement may yet survive. After all, movements propelled by similar social currents have succeeded in dramatically changing Iran in the past.

Three periods of domestic political turbulence shook Iran in the last century -- the Constitutional Revolution of 1905–11… the Muhammed Mossadeq era of 1951–3… and the 1979 Islamic Revolution…

Each of these episodes was brought about by the confluence of three factors: increasing popular anger at the regime’s corruption, a rupture between the ruling and clerical classes, and dissatisfaction with Iran’s foreign relations. In each instance, two disparate camps -- one secular and liberal, the other comprised of politically active (often young and mid-ranking) clergy -- momentarily came together in opposition...

All three opposition movements took years to consolidate before becoming powerful enough to force change on the regime…

Each period of turmoil was distinctive but was propelled by similar undercurrents. It is a peculiar irony that in today’s campaign against Khomeini’s political heirs, the opposition movement is appealing to many of the same grievances Khomeini cited in his campaign against the shah. And indeed, the very same three factors that contributed to previous episodes of turbulence are converging again today…

Yet if history gives cause for optimism regarding the opposition’s prospects for success, it also gives cause for caution. Their primary goals achieved, the coalitions leading the past century’s three reform movements quickly crumbled, riven by conflicting objectives and ideologies...

The international community should not worry that the Green Movement is doomed, but it should harbor no illusions that its success would inevitably lead to peace and democracy in the long term. Indeed, the United States and its allies should be considering not only how best to support the democratic aspirations of Iranians but also how to prepare for the real possibility of instability in Iran should the opposition prevail.

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Another experienced candidate

Another of the old guard of Nigerian politics has thrown his hat in the ring. Can another former military ruler become president?

Nigeria's former military leader launches challenge for presidency
Nigeria's former military leader Ibrahim Babangida has formally announced his intention to challenge President Goodluck Jonathan for the presidential nomination of the ruling party in next year's election.

Babangida, 68, first seized power in 1985 in a bloodless coup. He was forced to step down eight years later after annulling an election widely regarded as fair…

The move may complicate attempts by Jonathan to extend his term, having taken over as acting president in February during the illness of the then president, Umaru Yar'Adua, who died in May.

The presidential nomination by the ruling People's Democratic party (PDP) already promised to be controversial owing to an unwritten understanding that power should rotate between Nigeria's Christian south and Muslim north every two terms. Yar'Adua, a northerner, died during his first term, so the next term should be reserved for a northerner.

Babangida qualifies, as does the former Nigerian vice-president Atiku Abubakar, who has also declared his candidacy. Their roots could be the deciding factor for some party traditionalists…

Babangida, or IBB as he is widely known, describes himself on his campaign website as a leader whose "charisma and love of country endeared him to millions" and "a father figure for modern Nigeria". Most Nigerians have a different, less flattering, memory of his rule, however, and the first anti-IBB websites have already sprung up…

Dr Jibrin Ibrahim, a political scientist who heads the Centre for Democracy and Development, in Abuja, said… "He is associated with so many negative things, including the destruction of democracy, that he has no chance in the election… I see this as an attempt to create the conditions where he can negotiate deals to avoid being tried for corruption and other crimes."

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Wanted: harmonious hospitals

China has come a long way from the barefoot doctors of the Cultural Revolution. How much of that change has been progress? And what does all that have to do with politics?

Chinese Hospitals Are Battlegrounds of Discontent
Chinese hospitals are dangerous places to work. In 2006, the last year the Health Ministry published statistics on hospital violence, attacks by patients or their relatives injured more than 5,500 medical workers…

In June alone, a doctor was stabbed to death in Shandong Province… Three doctors were severely burned in Shanxi Province when a patient set fire to a hospital office…

Such episodes are to some extent standard fare in China, where protests over myriad issues have been on the rise. Officials at all levels of government are on guard against unrest that could spiral and threaten the Communist Party’s power…

[T]he violence also reflects much wider discontent with China’s public health care system. Although the government, under Communist leadership, once offered rudimentary health care at nominal prices, it pulled back in the 1990s, leaving hospitals largely to fend for themselves in the new market economy.

By 2000, the World Health Organization ranked China’s health system as one of the world’s most inequitable…

Over the past seven years, the state has intervened anew, with notable results. It has narrowed if not eliminated the gap in public health care spending with other developing nations of similar income levels, health experts say…

Still, across much of China, the quality of care remains low. Almost half the nation’s doctors have no better than a high school degree…

Primary care is scarce, so public hospitals — notorious for excessive fees — are typically patients’ first stop in cities, even for minor ailments…

Once admitted, patients are at risk of needless surgery…

Patients appear to be even more likely to get useless prescriptions. Drug sales are hospitals’ second biggest source of revenue…

Doctors seem as unhappy as patients. They complain that they are underpaid, undervalued and mistrusted…

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Monday, August 16, 2010

Competition for Jonathan

An experienced politician and unsuccessful presidential candidate has announced his new candidacy. From Vanguard, Lagos.

Atiku Declares Presidential Ambition
FORMER Vice President Atiku Abubakar yesterday formally declared his interest to contest the 2011 Presidential election on the platform of the People's Democratic Party, PDP, just as he vowed not to quit the party even if he does not get the ticket to run...

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The other Shiite political theory

Ayatollah Khomeini's Wilayat al-faqih (guardianship of the jurist), was a departure from traditional political thinking in Shiite Islam. Even today it may not be a majority position. Mohamad Bazzi's analysis in Foreign Affairs makes that point and offers insight into Shiite political theory. This might be a good reading to supplement the textbook your students are assigned to read.

Mohamad Bazzi is an adjunct senior fellow for Middle East studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and a journalism professor at New York University.

Khomeini's Long Shadow
For many Shiite Muslims, whose religion was born of rebellion, last year's popular uprising in Iran was just the latest in a centuries-long struggle against injustice and tyranny… But the 2009 unrest and violent crackdown in Iran were actually battles in a larger war that has been raging for centuries within Shiism -- a war over who should rule the faithful, and how. There is a more moderate, democratic vision of Shiism -- one that has been stifled ever since Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution -- that could ultimately resolve the current conflict.

Shiite clerics have long debated their role in politics. The "quietist" school… argues against direct engagement in political matters. The more activist school emphasizes the martyrdom of Shiism's founding figure, Imam Hussein, who advocated rebellion and confrontation. But even within the activist school, there is a debate over the extent of clerical power.

The model of absolute rule that dominates Iran today is just one of several competing doctrines within the Shiite clergy. Wilayat al-faqih (velayat-e faqih in Farsi), or "guardianship of the jurist," triumphed under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of Iran's 1979 revolution. He modeled his doctrine on the concept of absolute rule exercised by the Prophet Muhammad and his successors in the early days of Islam. Khomeini's charisma and political skill overshadowed the more moderate vision of Shiism emanating from the Iraqi city of Najaf…

But contrary to popular perception, many Shiite clerics have long opposed Khomeini's vision of an all-powerful supreme leader. They do not want to seize political power directly, whether in Iran, Iraq, or elsewhere. One faction believes that a group of senior clerics should rule by consensus, while another camp argues that leadership should be left to politicians who are devout but not necessarily clerics…

Emboldened by last year's protests, some dissident scholars spoke out forcefully. One month after the disputed presidential election, Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri issued a religious ruling that did not mention Khamenei by name but declared Iran's leaders no longer fit to rule. It was the strongest criticism by a fellow cleric in 20 years. Montazeri said leaders who put their own interests above those of the people breach the implicit trust between ruler and ruled. "Those leaders are transgressors and usurpers, and therefore lose their right to rule," he wrote. "It is incumbent upon the people to call for their removal from office."

Montazeri, who died last December at the age of 87, was one of the most senior clerics in Iran. He was Khomeini's designated heir until the late 1980s, when he condemned the violence committed in the name of the revolution. In his critiques of Khamenei last year, Montazeri reiterated an argument he and other clerics had advanced for years: that an Islamic system of governance must rest on the sovereignty of God as well as the sovereignty of the people. "The government will not achieve legitimacy without the support of the people," he wrote. "As the necessary and obligatory condition for the legitimacy of the ruler is his popularity and the people's satisfaction with him."...

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Friday, August 13, 2010

Abandoning zoning?

The Nigerian PDP allows southerner Jonathan to run for the presidency.

Nigeria President Goodluck Jonathan gets PDP support
Nigeria's governing party has agreed that President Goodluck Jonathan has the right to contest next year's elections, overturning a party rule.

The People's Democratic Party has an unwritten practice of alternating power between north and south of the country.

Mr Jonathan, a southerner, became president after his predecessor died less than half-way through the north's "turn" of two presidential terms…

"The party believes that Dr Goodluck Jonathan as part and parcel of the joint ticket has the right to contest the presidential primaries for the 2010 elections," [PDP chairman Okwesilieze Nwodo] said.

But he added that this would not stop anyone else in the PDP contesting.

Mr Jonathan has yet to say whether he will run for office...

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Rule of whose law?

When people flee a country because of fears of political persecution, things are not going well. This Iranian case reminds me of Iranians who fled the country in the 1970s.

Iranian lawyer in stoning case flees to Norway
The lawyer defending a woman sentenced to death by stoning in Iran said... that he has applied for asylum in Norway…

The 31-year-old said he fled to Turkey last week after learning Iranian officials intended to arrest him. He flew to Norway Saturday after being detained briefly in Turkey over an undisclosed passport issue.

Mostafaei maintained a blog that sparked a worldwide campaign to free his client, Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani, a 43-year-old mother of two, who was sentenced to death by stoning after she was found guilty of adultery…

Late last month, Mostafaei - an outspoken lawyer who also has defended many juvenile offenders and political prisoners - was summoned for questioning by judicial officials at Tehran's Evin prison, released after several hours, then asked to return, which he failed to do. The same day, his wife, Fereshteh Halimi, and her brother, Farhad Halimi, were detained in a possible attempt to pressure Mostafaei to surrender if he wasn't already detained...

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Nigerian election finances

Solomonsydelle, in Nigerian Curiousity, offers details of the recently approved budget for the upcoming election. Can the INEC really spend all this money in time for a January election?

The Senate eventually agreed to give INEC $87.7 billion. That amount breaks down to include the following: 
  1. N4 billion for vehicles
  2. N3 billion for collapsible ballot boxes 
  3. N5.4 billion for the review of the voter register
  4. N10.8 billion for operations (personnel cost requirements and cost for registration of voters nationwide)
  5. N222 million for hotel accommodation for state INEC commissioners
  6. N3.66 billion for logistics and transport
  7. N502.5 million for training of staff for voter registration
  8. N10.3 million for printing of voter register 
  9. N5.4 billion to clean up the electronic voter register after election
  10. N155.5 million for Servicom
  11. N64.78 million for electoral hazards allowance
  12. N222 million for voter education, display of voter register across the 774 Local Government Areas

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A fight for political power

Mexico's president defines the war against the drug cartels as a political struggle.

Calderon delivers blunt view of drug cartels' sway in Mexico
Mexican President Felipe Calderon on Wednesday delivered an uncommonly blunt and dispiriting assessment of the broad sway held by violent drug traffickers throughout the besieged country.

From the "most modest little towns" to major cities, Calderon said, traffickers attack, intimidate and blackmail Mexican citizens as part of an illegal business that goes far beyond the simple transport of narcotics.

"Their business is no longer just the traffic of drugs. Their business is to dominate everyone else," Calderon said. "This criminal behavior is what has changed and become a defiance to the state, an attempt to replace the state" by exacting war taxes and taking up arms more powerful than those used by outgunned government forces...

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Money for the presidential election

The Senate made progress toward the election in Nigeria. It approved borrowing money to pay for the vote. From Vanguard in Lagos.

Senate Approves N87 Billion for INEC
THE Senate, slashed the supplementary budget of the Independent National Electoral Commission to N87,721,961,531 (eighty seven billion, seven hundred and twenty one million, nine hundred and sixty one thousand, five hundred and thirty one naira)…

But to finance the budget, the Senate also approved plans for a government bond issue to finance an 87.72 billion naira ($585 m) budget to help the electoral commission organise presidential and parliamentary polls next year. "We propose to fund this request by raising federal government bonds," President Goodluck Jonathan said in a submission to the Senate which was approved by lawmakers…

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Trying to tempt the wrong crowd?

The Iranian government is trying to convince expatriates to reconnect with the land of their birth. Not very many people are happy about that.

Iran Expatriates Get Chilly Reception
Over the past year, conservatives here have often fulminated against the role played by Iranian exiles, who helped organize protests against the disputed 2009 presidential election across the globe.

But last week, the Iranian government paid for several hundred “highly placed” Iranians living abroad to come back for a three-day, all-expenses-paid trip. They were invited as part of a high-profile effort to repair Iran’s pariah image, win over some of the expatriates and, not least, draw some much-needed foreign capital to Iran’s troubled economy…

The event did not exactly go as planned...

[N]o sooner had the visitors arrived in Tehran than hard-liners condemned them as traitors. Some clerics were offended by [a] musical event, which featured women playing traditional music alongside men…

In short, the conference underscored an ambivalence that had been part of Iranian political culture ever since the Islamic Revolution in 1979: an evangelizing impulse coupled with a deep distrust of those who ventured outside the fold. As a result, an event that was aimed at polishing Iran’s image ended up showcasing many of the country’s bitter internal divisions…

Some critics of the government claim that as many as 200,000 educated Iranians leave every year, though estimates vary. In 2007, the International Monetary Fund said Iran had the worst “brain drain” of 90 nations it surveyed…

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Policy decisions

The new government in the UK promised to drastically reduce deficit spending. The process has begun. One of the interesting things to watch will be the feedback the government gets, politically and economically. It's possible to predict what political feedback the government will get. But, will the economy improve?

Britain Reels as Austerity Cuts Begin
Like a shipwrecked sailor on a starvation diet, the new British coalition government is preparing to shrink down to its bare bones as it cuts expenditures by $130 billion over the next five years…

And as the government begins its abrupt retrenchment, the implications, complications and confusions in the process are beginning to emerge…

In June, the government announced its first round of cuts, removing about $10 billion from the current year’s budget.

While that is a drop in the bucket compared to the final goal, the reduction measures have already had severe consequences. Public sector workers across the country, except for the lowest paid, will have their salaries frozen for the next two years…

But far worse cuts await in October, when the government issues its long-term budget plans... Analysts have estimated that about 600,000 public-sector jobs could be lost nationwide…

George Osborne, the chancellor of the Exchequer, and Prime Minister David Cameron have said that almost every function of government will be up for grabs, and that cabinet members will have to make a case for every expenditure. That has prompted a huge round of maneuvering and lobbying from groups that will be affected — just about every group in the country…

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Getting the word out

I don't know how much good lectures will do, but maybe they are signs to local judges that someone might be watching.

I do find it interesting that the officials in local courts are referred to as "presidents," not judges. It's a reminder of the inquisitorial nature of the Chinese justice system.

China to conclude nationwide training for grassroots court presidents
China is completing a nationwide training for presidents of grassroots courts…

More than 3,600 presidents from intermediate and grassroots courts across the country attended the training in Beijing, a year-long-event that focused on raising their awareness of corruption-free law enforcement and improving their abilities in handling social disputes, according to information released by the Supreme People's Court (SPC)…

More than 80 high-ranking judges, including SPC President Wang Shengjun, delivered lectures during the training, which also covered topics of improving the judges' knowledge in coping with public opinion as well as that of the media...

The SPC spent three years training judges of grassroots courts from 2005 to 2007.

Since 2006, the SPC sent lecturers to grassroots courts in the western provinces and autonomous regions. As of Thursday, nearly 150,000 judges and police officers have attended such lectures, according to the SPC.

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Monday, August 09, 2010

Watching the citizens

Would you believe that 70% of the world's security cameras are being sold in China? It's especially noticeable in China's northwest. And the purpose for all this surveillance?

In Restive Chinese Area, Cameras Keep Watch
For a street whose name suggests throwing off shackles, South Liberation Road doesn’t look like a very free place these days.

At the intersection with Shanxi Lane, a busy crossing in this northwest China metropolis, 11 surveillance cameras eye the bustle from a metal boom projecting over one corner. Still more cameras stare down from the other three corners — 39 in all, still-photo and high-resolution video.

“The whole city is under surveillance,” said one nearby shopkeeper…

Roughly a year ago, Urumqi’s ethnic Han and Uighur populations took part in the worst ethnic rioting in modern Chinese history, killing at least 197 people. The riots caught the Communist Party and the local government unaware.

Now at least 47,000 cameras scan Urumqi to ensure there are no more surprises. By year’s end, the state news media says, there will be 60,000…

In Guangdong… security officials are just wrapping up a reported $1.8 billion installation of one million video cameras… Beijing was expected to have 470,000 cameras by the end of 2009… Chongqing, a sprawling South China city, will add 200,000 cameras by 2012 to the 300,000 it now has…

Urumqi’s taxi fleet has had live video cameras for two years...

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Friday, August 06, 2010

Marching toward an election in Nigeria

Solomonsydelle, writing in the blog Nigerian Curiousity, analyzes progress toward holding an election next year.

After much delay, Nigeria's Electoral Act is practically amended as all that remains is the President's stamp of approval. The changes to the law mostly reflect the suggestions of the…Electoral Reform Committee (ERC). And the electoral body, INEC, got most of the changes it's new leader, Attahiru Jega, pled for. While this new law means that the 2011 elections are one step closer to becoming a reality, certain additional factors could hamper the effective roll out of polls…

After the 2007 elections, then-president Yar'adua acknowledged the fraud and corruption involved and eventually created a committee to review the election, the nation's electoral law and make suggestions on how to improve future elections… [O]nce Goodluck Jonathan became acting president, he announced his support for the ERC's suggestions and eventually sent those suggestions, unchallenged, to the national assembly for review and adoption.

The Senate and House went back and forth debating the electoral act suggestions. As required by the constitution, all 36 state legislative bodies also weighed in on the amended law…

According to INEC's chairman, the body needs between N74 billion to N84 billion to conduct elections… However, a definite announcement on whether INEC will get the money it needs is yet to be made as at publication. 

Specifically, new polling machines must be purchased… [A] review of the voter's register of 19 states indicated that a new register is needed for credible elections… Jega aims to register at least 70 million voters and because of how late the Electoral Act was completed, his agency must register these individuals, procure all necessary materials, train electoral staff and much more in approximately 3 months so as to have a chance of conducting well organized elections that will be considered credible…

For Nigeria to get closer to the establishment of a political system that works within the local context, the 2011 elections must, despite problems, not be seen to be overly corrupt…

For now, all Nigeria must do is create an environment were fair elections can take place. Hopefully, the new electoral act and the solution of certain other problems will get Nigeria closer to the free, fair and credible elections it needs.

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Thursday, August 05, 2010

The past as future

Aleh Tsyvinski, Professor of Economics at Yale University and Sergei Guriev, Rector of the New Economic School in Moscow offer an analysis of Russian politics and economics that suggest a reprise of the 1970s if oil prices remain at present levels. There's obviously a connection between economics and politics, but does it overwhelm leadership? or globalization? Will 1970's-style stagnation produce another political crisis in Russia?

That 70’s Show in Russia
[I]f oil prices remain at $70-80 per barrel, Russia is likely to relive key features of the Brezhnev era of the 1970’s and 1980’s – with a stagnating economy and 70-80% approval ratings for its political leaders…

Fast and sustainable economic growth requires the rule of law, accountable, meritocratic, and non-corrupt bureaucrats, protection of property rights, contract enforcement, and competitive markets. Such institutions are difficult to build in every society. In Russia, the task is especially problematic, because the ruling elite’s interests run counter to undertaking it.

In post-crisis Russia, the resource curse is reinforced by two factors. First, massive renationalization since 2004 has left state-owned companies once again controlling the commanding heights of the economy. These firms have no interest in developing modern institutions that protect private property and promote the rule of law. Second, Russia’s high degree of economic inequality sustains the majority’s preference for redistribution rather than private entrepreneurship…

A comprehensive and consistent reform plan was already included in then-President Vladimir Putin’s own economic agenda at the beginning of his first term in 2000.

The so-called Gref Program… foresaw many of the reforms that are vitally needed – privatization, deregulation, accession to the World Trade Organization, and reform of the government, natural monopolies, and social security. Many of these reforms are outlined in the current government’s own “Long-Term Strategy for 2020.” The problem is that – as with the Gref program in 2000 – the Strategy is unlikely to be fully implemented, owing to the same old weak incentives…

The factors that drove the Putin era of rapid economic growth – high and rising oil prices, cheap labor, and unused production capacity – are all exhausted. Russia will thus be forced to start spending the reserves that saved the economy in the recent crisis. The “70-80” scenario will preserve the status quo, but eventually the economy will reach a dead end, at which point the only choice will be genuine economic reform or decline and dangerous civil disorder.

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Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Traffic cops in Nigeria

Dancing traffic cops in Nigeria

Cops in the middle of traffic often seem to have a good time. Here's Nigeria's example.

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Economic and political change in China

As labor in China becomes more scarce and more expensive, how will the economy and the politics be affected?

The rising power of the Chinese worker
CHEAP labour has built China’s economic miracle. Its manufacturing workers toil for a small fraction of the cost of their American or German competitors. At the bottom of the heap, a “floating population” of about 130m migrants work in China’s boomtowns, taking home 1,348 yuan a month on average last year. That is a mere $197, little more than one-twentieth of the average monthly wage in America. But it is 17% more than the year before. As China’s economy has bounced back, wages have followed suit. On the coasts, where its exporting factories are clustered, bosses are short of workers, and workers short of patience. A spate of strikes has thrown a spanner into the workshop of the world.

The hands of China’s workers have been strengthened by a new labour law, introduced in 2008, and by the more fundamental laws of demand and supply (see article). Workers are becoming harder to find and to keep…

In truth, Chinese workers were never as docile as the popular caricature suggested. But the recent strikes have been unusual in their frequency (Guangdong province on China’s south coast suffered at least 36 strikes in the space of 48 days), their longevity and their targets: foreign multinationals.

China’s ruling Communist Party has swiftly quashed previous bouts of labour unrest. This one drew a more relaxed reaction…

This suggests three things. First, China is reluctant to get heavy-handed with workers in big-brand firms that attract global media attention. But, second, China is becoming more relaxed about spooking foreign investors… Third, and most important, the government may believe that the new bolshiness of its workers is in keeping with its professed aim of “rebalancing” the economy…

See also: The next China: As the supply of migrant labour dwindles, the workshop of the world is embarking on a migration of its own

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Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Not mere shopkeepers

The bazaaris in Iran have been more politially powerful, but they still pack some clout. How will they use the power they still have?

The bazaar strikes back
WITH its shutters down and shops closed, Tehran’s usually bustling Grand Bazaar has been quiet of late. In the first weeks of July Iran’s powerful merchants went on strike because the government tried to raise their annual income tax by 70%. Even when the government hastily agreed to lift taxes by only 15% after the protests spread to other cities, businesses stayed shut for several days.

[left, Tehran bazaar, photo by zongo69]

The strikes have now ended but the threat of big reforms to Iran’s tax system still looms over the bazaar. Merchants argue that as the economy slows and inflation increases, they should pay less, not more, in taxes. But with lower oil prices, the government wants more money from a wealthy group that at the moment pays relatively little. Iran imposes valued-added tax (VAT) at 3% on large corporations but not on smaller and unincorporated businesses, so until now many of the bazaaris have escaped. The administration wants that to change…

The bazaaris’ power has dipped since the 1970s….

Their political backing is important too. In the past, dissent among the bazaarishas often gone along with political upheaval. Their abandonment of the shah helped the Islamist revolutionaries prevail in 1979. But in recent years some of the bazaaris have gravitated towards the reformists…

Strikes in the bazaar have been rare. This is only the second since the revolution. The first was in 2008 when President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government first proposed VAT. The bazaaris may not be allied to Mr Ahmadinejad’s political opponents, but their disgruntlement means that the president is obliged to fight on yet another front…

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Monday, August 02, 2010

Preventive arrest

Sometimes steps forward; sometimes steps back

Russia to introduce 'draconian' Minority Report-style law
Russian citizens can be issued official warnings about crimes that they have not yet committed under powers granted to the security services today.

President Dmitry Medvedev signed off on a new law giving the FSB, the successor agency to the KGB, the right to caution people suspected of preparing acts of extremism, or to jail them for obstructing the agency's work.

The powers appear similar to those enjoyed by Precrime, the police unit in the 2002 Hollywood film Minority Report. "This is a draconian law reminiscent of our repressive past," said Boris Nemtsov, a leader of the Solidarity opposition movement.

Rights activists had hoped Medvedev would rein in the security services, after his predecessor, Vladimir Putin, a former KGB colonel, stuffed his administration with hawkish veterans. The Kremlin's tough stance comes against the backdrop of a disparate but emergent civil movement protesting against corruption and authoritarian government…

There have been signs of democratisation under Medvedev, while Putin, whom he replaced two years ago, has continued to promote a hardline image from his post as prime minister…

"Medvedev may smile more than Putin but the face of power hasn't changed," said Eduard Limonov, an opposition politician who plans to run for president in 2012. "The Kremlin is still terrified there will be an Orange Revolution in Russia if people are allowed to gather on the streets."…

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Sunday, August 01, 2010

Nigerian National Assembly on the web (again)

Under President Obasanjo, a panoply of government web sites were created in Nigeria. However, the necessities and funding for maintenance and update were evidently not included in the contracts for building the web sites. Some are still online, but most haven't been updated for a long time.

Now, there's a new site for the National Assembly. According to Jeremy Weate, writing on his blog, Naijablog, it's not complete. There is access to bills from the Senate, but not from the House. However, it does offer potential for research. Ask your students to see what they can learn.

Welcome to the National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria!
The National Assembly is Nigeria’s bicameral legislature and the highest elective law-making body of the country. It consists of the 109-member Senate and the 360-member House of Representatives. The term of the National Assembly is 4-years from the date of its first sitting after the general elections. The current 6th National Assembly was inaugurated in 5th June 2007. This site will give you an overview of members of both Chambers of the National Assembly, their Committees and the legislative activities of the Parliament.

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