Last night we all read “Why Referendums Aren’t as democratic as They seem” by Amanda Taub and Max Fisher. The reading discusses a referendum which is when a country’s population is given the ability by the government to take part in a decision. Countries which utilize referendums are generally democratic.² The reading outlined that a lot of times, referendums are used by governments to help gain support for their agendas, as noted in Northern Ireland.² Also, the article notes an example in the UK in which politicians only focus on issues which will support their own opinions. Referendums can also give off the impression of a weak democracy. As seen in Ireland, only 38% of the population comes to vote, and the votes are almost split down the middle. ²
Recently Catalonia took part in a referendum wanting its independence from Spain. In a CNN article, Catalonia independence referendum: What just happened?, by Angela Dewan. The tension between Catalonia and Spain is discussed. Catalonia held voting polls, and 90% of their population was in favor of becoming independent from Spain. As a result of this voting being held Spain’s highest court ruled the vote illegal under the Spanish constitution. In response, Madrid “ flooded Catalonia with thousands of national police in advance of the vote. Officers seized millions of ballot papers and sealed schools and other buildings to be used as polling stations” (CNN). ¹
Do referendums weaken a state’s autonomy?
Referendums are helpful when dealing with issues that will not impact the way a state interacts with other states. In other terms, the UK leaving the European Union or Catalonia attempting to secede from Spain are not instances in which a voice from the people in the form of a referendum is helpful. Although referendums seem to reinforce democracy, politicians who have experience should be elected by the people, but then left in charge of taking crucial decisions. With a referendum, since the majority will ultimately win, this can create even more tensions around key issues and can deter peace in a state.
As discussed in the reading, Indian Case Study: Society, Political Economy and Foreign Relations and the World, India is the largest democracy in the world, in terms of population and GDP it will soon outrankChina¹. Outsourcing has come to play a major role in the economic growth of India¹. Social scientists, are baffled as to how democracy has survived in India despite its caste system, relatively poor population and wide range of ethnic groups and differences¹.
In a New York Times article, India’s embattled Democracy, the author discusses some of the threats which face India’s democracy². Corrosion of the governor’s, Modi, office has become evident after state elections in the southern Indian state of Karnataka. An alliance of parties who opposed Modi’s BJP party won a majority of the seats². Vajubhai Vala, who used to be work for Modi, was “constitutionally bound to invite the non-B.J.P. alliance to form the government. Instead, Mr. Vala demonstrated his loyalty to Mr. Modi by asking the B.J.P. to form the government” (NYT).²
Does the formation of coalition governments strengthen or weaken democracy?
Coalition governments help minorities have a voice (seat) in government; however, coalition governments also force certain parties to compromise with other minorities in the coalition, therefore diminishing some of their values and views. In other words, a coalition government creates a large melting pot of smaller governments with diluted values.
¹ONeil, Patrick H., Karl J. Fields, and Donald Share. Cases in Comparative Politics. Indian Case Study: Society, Political Economy and Foreign Relations and the World.Pages 453-461. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2018.
Tonight we all read an article published in ITMC called Explaining the Development of North and South Korea. Through this article the authors discussed a Most-Similar-Systems (MSS) Design study and notes the influences that North and South Korea followed through their historical development. Although, North and South Korea have similar cultures and geographies they vary drastically in their political and economic institutions.¹ North Korea is still employs a Soviet Style “planned economy”, meaning the state makes all key decisions regarding funding and production.¹ On the contrary, South Korea promotes export-led growth.¹ The article presents a set of theories to why these two states vary in their development, the theories are focused around Institutions (market institutions), Institutions (states and state policy), culture and the World-System.¹
In a 2017 article titled , “Why Harley-Davidson Is Moving Production Overseas published” by Fortune, the author discusses the reasons and implications of the move. The Trump administration increased tariffs on imported steel and aluminum from the EU, Mexico and Canada, although these tariffs were designed to protect U.S Jobs they enraged other countries.² “In response to Trump’s tariffs, Europeans are targeting the most iconic American products… The EU raised U.S. motorcycle tariffs from 6% to 31%”.² Harley has made the decision to produce its European product in the EU to maintain their business abroad and combat the tariff. ²
How much government control is helpful for economic growth in a nation?
In South Korea, the government has been focused on having an export-led growth economy, allowed by the policies of their government, a democracy. ¹ In the United States the administrations action of implementing high tariffs in order to protect American jobs has backfired. Companies that are moving overseas to produce goods in order to offset the cost of the high tariffs is depleting the amount of jobs available to Americans, as well as increasing the price of goods for Americans. As the state government limits the countries involvement in the World-System the price and accessibility to goods increases. On the contrary to North Korea’s Communist ways, a laissez- faire system enables businesses to be involved with other nations.
¹Dickovick, J. Tyler, and Jonathan Eastwood. Comparative Politics: Integrating Theories, Methods, and Cases. Second edition. Pages 114-117
Lijphart’s article discusses constitutional design and government organization in regards to divided societies in which he recommends a “consociational model” in which political institutions share power among different identity groups. He claims that the power sharing model is the only model able to be adopted by divided societies. While describing his “one-size fits all” model, Lijphart highlights nine areas in which constitutional writers have choice and gives his opinion on how to craft the most effective constitution for a divided state.1
President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines wants to change the constitution in order to both introduce federalism as well as change the central government from a presidential system to a presidential-parliamentary one, however people suspect he may have an ulterior motive. Duterte believes that federalism will move money and power away from Manila to poorer parts of the country and foster peace between the diverse groups the country inhabits. Duterte also hopes that the parliamentary system will foster party politics. Despite Duterte’s wishes, he has found difficulty finding support in Congress. Critics of Duterte worry that the controversy about the transition of the constitution will lead to a corruption of the executive branch.2
Is democracy an effective regime of government for countries with significant diversity and if not, what would be a better regime?
India and Nigeria are both countries with very diverse populations and a history of political unrest that has improved with the implementation of a democratic regime. One of the leading political problems both these countries face is whether or not groups (based on things such as ethnicity, religion, party, etc.) are receiving representation in the government. There are many factors to take into consideration when it comes to ensuring individual group receive representation in a democracy. Constitutions determine whether or not there is a system of power sharing. There can be both a division of power between central and local governments (federalism) or power sharing between parties which is determined in the elections. A proportional representation system allows voters to elect representatives based on parties whereas in a member district system votes elect representatives based on the individuals.
Arend Lijphart, “Constitutional Design for Divided Societies” Journal of Democracy 15(2): 96-109 (2004) Found in J. Tyler Dickovick, Jonathan Eastwood Comparative Politics: Classic and Contemporary Readings (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017) 177-186.
After the 10 years Maoist Civil War, the Nepalese government created a constitution in 2015. This constitution made the government federal, which better represented the vast diversity of Nepal. Within Nepal, there have been many cases of marginalized ethnic groups that were not previously represented. So this constitution established seven states. However, even the provisional boundaries for these states caused protests between different groups. These protests lead to the death of at least 40 people. With an unsuccessful past and ethnic groups protests, much of Nepal was uncertain about the newly formed constitution.
Now that three years have passed since the creation of the Nepalese Constitution, we are able to see the lasting effects of their changes. According to the Korea Herald, since 2015 Nepal has seen rapid economic growth and development, while reconstructing and rehabilitating infrastructures that were damaged during the earthquake in 2015. In the years 2016 and 2017, Nepal saw economic growth of 7.5 and 6.9 percent. This growth is expected to continue into next year and the future. Also, Nepal has focused on restoring ethnic groups connection through democratic means. Nepal foremost ambassador stated that they are aiming to maintain stability, advance socioeconomic transformation and ensure social justice, good governance and the rule of law.
How do federal governments allow various ethnic groups to gain power within the government?
Since a federal system enables state governments to be more involved in the governing process, ethnic groups, no matter the population, are able to voice their opinions on laws. Especially, in Nepal’s case, this helped ethnic groups regain trust between each other and the government.
Dickovick, James Tyler, and Jonathan Eastwood. Current Debates in Comparative Politics. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2019.
Although there have been multiple instances of government restrictions on civil rights and periodic demonstrations of intolerance towards protests, Indian politics have been successful and inclusive. With an extensive population size and variety of races and cultures, India has an array of political groups. The Indian National Congress was founded in 1885 with the idea of national independence. This party gained large amounts of support and after India gained their independence, the INC pursued a more socially democratic form of rule. The INC later fell apart, which gave way for The Bharatiya Janata Party. This parties influence grew as support for secularism increased. The BJP continued their advocacy for Hindu nationalist party with very little influence until 2014, when they came into power. The parties on the left mainly follow communist beliefs, however, have struggled to gain power without seeking help or forming alliances with other parties.
Although the Bharatiya Janata Party was not initially able to gain power, the gradual fall of The Indian National Congress helped their growth as a party. According to Hindustan Times, the BJP has dominated the political race since their initial rise to power in 2014. The BJP adopted an emphasis on Hindu nationalism and a “new developmentalism” because secularism fell out of favor. After a decisive single-party parliamentary majority it earned in 2014and victories in many state elections, allowed the BJP to quickly make a lasting impact on the Indian government.
With a large diversity in India, what makes their political party system successful?
India’s political party system is prosperous because they have a collection of different parties that maintain the ideals of many groups. Also, each party has an equal and fair opportunity to gain power within the government.
ONeil, Patrick H., Karl J. Fields, and Donald Share. Cases in Comparative Politics. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2018.
Vaishnav, Milan, Jayaram Ravi, and Jamie Hintson. “What’s Fuelling BJP’s Dominance in Indian Politics?” (October 08, 2018.) https://www.hindustantimes.com/.
After the death of the former Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez, crowds of people showed their devotion to the politician. According to the locals, Hugo Chávez had won using his charisma and his vision for Venezuela. During his political career, he insulted his opponents by obscuring his attacks in misleading speeches to further his own agenda. While many ordinary citizens supported Chávez, many politicians feared his radical agenda. Chávez wanted to dismantle the former two-party system and install give his own socialist party complete control. Also, he attempted to limit the people’s and media’s right to information. Today, many Venezuelan politicians have attempted to emulate Chávez’s political career. In the 2013 election, Nicolás Maduro, a clear Chávez supporter went against Henrique Capriles. Capriles advocated for many changes as the Venezuelan economy is failing and the murder rate is skyrocketing. Despite these issues, Maduro narrowly won and has struggled so far in his presidency.
As many world leaders of authoritarian regimes look to Chávez for guidance and a way to gain the people’s trust, many are overwhelmed and make drastic changes, similar to those of attempted by Chávez. After a recent election, the Democratic Republic of the Congo cut off all access to the internet to avoid the possible “chaos” after the election results. The government is attempting to control all media access so they can disband any coup. This control is similar to China’s as they are limiting the people access to news and the ability to assemble.
How can an untruthful politician with an unsuccessful career be praised?
Despite the failures of a leader, the media often serves as the only news outlet for many people. So they can distort the realities of a politicians life to maintain a party’s following.