Are referendums a form of weakening ?

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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.


¹Dewan, Angela. “Catalonia Referendum: What Just Happened?” CNN. October 02, 2017. Accessed October 26, 2018. https://www.cnn.com/2017/10/02/europe/catalonia-independence-referendum-explainer/index.html.

²Dickovick, J. T., and Eastwood, J.. 2019. Current debates in comparative politics. Pgs 91-94

Coalitions : Indian Case Study

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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 outrank China¹. 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.

²Bal, Hartosh Singh. “India’s Embattled Democracy.” The New York Times. May 30, 2018. Accessed November 14, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/30/opinion/india-democracy.html.


Why are companies moving ?

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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

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

²Carson Kessler “Why Harley-Davidson Is Moving Production Overseas.” Fortune. Accessed October 11, 2018. http://fortune.com/2018/06/26/harley-davidson-moving-production-overseas/.

Memo – Authoritarianism (Russia)

Since the fall of the Soviet Union Russia’s political development has been mixed. Russia today can be considered a hybrid regime with many authoritarian features that blends in some elements of electoral democracy.¹ Under Boris Yeltsin, Russia moved to a more democratic rule as well as a more privatized economy. ¹Russia’s government, however, has a weak rule of law and corruption is high. When Putin became president, he utilized state power in order to suppress state adversaries.¹ In Russia, parties are not well established; therefore, not strong enough to contest democratic elections, infact, they have facilitated the rise of an authoritarian regime. ¹

On December 5th 2018, law makers in Wisconsin voted to limit powers of a new democratic governor. In a lame duck session, the Republican-controlled state Legislature in Wisconsin has approved new limits on the power of Democratic Government elected Tony Evers.² Lawmakers voted to restrict Evers from following through on a campaign promise to remove Wisconsin from a multistate lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act.² In addition, lawmakers voted to limit early voting in Wisconsin and make it more difficult for Evers to alter Wisconsin’s voter ID law.²

Are there authoritarian tendencies in systems which are considered democratic?

In countries such as the UK, democracy has been threatened by events such as Brexit, if the UK passes a new voting opportunity, the vote of the people in the first place in undermined. While if they do not, then those who are in disbelief do not get a chance to express their views. In Russia and Nigeria, democracy is threatened by the lack of rule of law. In Russia it is also threatened by the lack of power sources available to the people, only one source is available for use.


¹ Dickovick, James Tyler, and Jonathan Eastwood. Comparative Politics: Integrating Theories, Methods, and Cases. New York: Oxford University Press, 2018. 533-537

²Johnson, Shawn, and Laurel White. “Wisconsin Lawmakers Vote To Limit Powers Of New Democratic Governor.” NPR, NPR, 5 Dec. 2018, www.npr.org/2018/12/05/673683966/wisconsin-lawmakers-vote-to-limit-powers-of-new-democratic-governor.

Memo – Gender (quota vs. reservation systems)

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The excerpt “Is gender like ethnicity? The political representation of minority groups” by Mala Htun seeks to analyze the politics of gender and ethnicity and how it impacts various electoral systems ; thereafter, introducing the best system to represent gender and ethnicity¹. Gender is considered a crosscutting group; therefor, it does not necessarily coincide with other social structures, class and geography. According to the author gender is best represented using the quota system, which can either be legislature-wide or within the parties¹. Countries around the globe have introduced quota systems hoping that they will mend the unequal representation of women in legislatures. Contrary to the later, coinciding identities increase party membership and voting patterns; these coinciding identities are best compatible with the use of a reservation system. A reservation system is one which alters the electoral system to bring about more fairness¹.

In July of 2012 the Irish parliament passed the Electoral Act². This act includes a candidate selection provision which encourages political parties to select at least 30 per cent female candidates and at least 30 per cent male candidates. If parties fail to meet quotas they will lose 50 per cent of the state funding to run their operations². This quota was adopted in response to low female representation in government². According to a study by The London School of Economics the representation of quotas has improved between the 2011 and 2016 election with the implementation of the quota in between the two².

Could quota systems be diminishing the role of women in a form of reverse discrimination?

Quota systems can help nations in which cultural norms make it harder for women to obtain equal opportunities. For example, in the UK women like Theresa May hold high ranking positions, and it is normal in UK culture to see women in the workplace — maybe quotas are effective. In places like India and Nigeria, women are not as valued through cultural norms, making it harder for women to obtain equal opportunities. In Nigeria and India, however,  since there are so many different ethnic group a Reservation system may be the most appropriate to represent the most amount of people. Quotas may not always be as effective as in the UK, some societies like China have a culture of having a strong divide between gender roles. Chinese girls are thought to be less important that a Chinese boy.


¹ Htun, Mala. “Is Gender like Ethnicity? The Political Representation of Identity Groups.” Perspectives on Politics 2, no. 3 (2004): 439–58. Found in Dickovick, James Tyler, and Jonathan Eastwood. Comparative Politics: Classic and Contemporary Readings. New York: Oxford University Press, 2017. P255-268.

² Buckley, Fiona. “The 2016 Irish election demonstrated how gender quotas can shift the balance on female representation” The London School of Economics. https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/europpblog/2016/03/16/the-2016-irish-election-demonstrated-how-gender-quotas-can-shift-the-balance-on-female-representation/

Memo – Lee Kuan Yew

In the excerpt Culture is Destiny: A Conversation with Lee Kuan Yew, Fareed Zakaria carries out an interview with the former prime minister of Singapore¹. Mr. Lee is a strong leader who helped boost Singapore’s economy to one of the world’s strongest and an authoritarian regime. Throughout the interview, Mr. Lee brought attention to the overwhelming differences in cultures between the East and the West.¹ He stands by the fact that although the West leads the world in science and technological innovation, the East will not abandon its tradition in order to fully resemble the West. Although Mr. Lee has made a point that the East will not change its culture to assimilate with the West economically and politically, the interviewer explicitly implicates that he believes that culture changes will occur and change the course of development¹.  

Recently, the Singapore government has announced the use of new technology in airports that it will be scanning travellers’ eyes at some of its border checkpoints, reports state that this is currently an initiative to trial new technology which could one day replace fingerprint verification and improve efficiency at border checkpoints.² This marks one the first initiatives towards using facial recognition in airports.² Although concerns around privacy rights have been brought forth, the Singaporean government has spoken to the fact that they will protect the privacy of its citizens and travelers².

Does the implementation of new technology make Singapore more or less of an authoritarian regime?  

Although the Singaporean government may have affirmed that they will be protecting the privacy of its citizens, the implementation of this new technology also shows heightened security and control being imposed on the country’s citizens. Even though Mr. Lee instills some new hope for a democratic system, the regime remains highly authoritarian. This system may be even more threatening than the “perfect dictatorship” under the PRI in Mexico. Singapore has more control and less checks and balances, partly because of the way that their prime ministers are placed into power. Similarly, to the implementation of new technology, Iran went through a period of heightened authoritarianism when the United states imposed the shah before the Iranian revolution in 1979.

¹Fareed Zakaria and Lee Kuan Yew, “Culture Is Destiny: A Conversation with Lee Kuan Yew,” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 73, No. 2, April 1994.

²”Singapore Tests Eye Scans at Immigration Checkpoints: Reports.” The Japan Times. August 2018

India ​: The parties

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Last night we all read about India’s party system. India has two major parties, the INC and the BJP, in addition to smaller communist and regional parties which are connected to ethnic and religious identities¹. The INC was pro-national independence and follows a social democracy ideology and also dominated the political system for a long time. The BJP party supported a pro-Hindu national identity along with neo-liberal economics.¹ In recent times the legislature has been mostly consisted of BJP members. The smaller parties are able to form coalition governments in order to find a voice in the legislature.¹

Recently the leader of the NCP, Sharad Pawar,  spoke out about the necessity of small parties forming coalitions in order to compete effectively with the BJP.  Pawar stresses the necessity for local level coalitions. In this recent article, published by Hindustan Times, Pawar expresses that he will try to “mend differences between the Congress and its rival political parties for a broad-based alliance to remove the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from power in 2019” ².

With a large diverse country, such as India, is it possible to represent all people?

The BJP accounts for a majority of the current legislature (52%).¹ Modi, the groups leader, has been known for only supporting Hindus. Hindus account for a large portion of the Indian population; however, certainly not all. To better represent all of India’s many religions and ethnic identities, their government has adopted a system of asymmetric federalism.¹ Regional governments are able to represent the regional differences, while smaller political parties can help represent different ethnic identities. With two major parties, often in control, the voice of smaller groups sometimes goes unrecognized.


¹    Patrick H. O’Neil, Karl Fields, Don Share, “Cases In Comparative Politics”, 6th ed. W.W. Norton &      Company (2018) 475-484.

   ²HT Correspondent. “Sharad Pawar Looks to Mend Differences between Congress, Other Parties.” alliance-says-sharad-pawar/story-Mpmxu6C9ods7r3aAMVAcDL.html.