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Category archive for: International Politics

Super Tuesday: Clinton and Trump lift off as rivals straggle behind

Written by Todd Landman.

The results of “Super Tuesday”, when a clutch of US states voted to choose the two parties’ nominees, have seriously ironed out both the Republican and Democratic primary campaigns. Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton scored major gains, and their rivals are now fully on the ropes. It may be that the campaigns are finally stabilising after a truly wild start to the primaries.

Donald Trump has bounced back remarkably from his loss in Iowa. He went into Super Tuesday having won New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina; he’s also seen off experienced Republican candidates including onetime frontrunner Jeb Bush and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie – who has made the shocking move of endorsing Trump, to widespread disgust. Continue reading Super Tuesday: Clinton and Trump lift off as rivals straggle behind

The cost of caste in India’s universities

Written by Diego Maiorano.

Last week I was supposed to give a couple of lectures at the University of Hyderabad, India. However, the students there – some of whom are on ‘indefinite’ hunger strike – had locked most university buildings and were not in the mood to let normal academic activity to be restored.

A few days before, on 17 January 2016, Rohith Vemula, a Ph.D. student, had hanged himself to the ceiling of one of his friends’ room, sparking off the students’ protest. In India, between 2007 and 2013, 25 students ended their lives on campus; 23 of them were Dalits (former untouchable castes) like Rohith himself. Indeed, his caste identity – which relegated him at the very bottom of India’s social order – is what brought him to kill himself. “The value of a man was reduced to his immediate identity”, Rohith wrote in a very poetic suicide note. A few weeks before, in a letter to the Vice Chancellor, Prof. P. Appa Rao, Rohith had suggested to equip all Dalits students’ rooms with “a nice rope” and to provide them with poison “at the time of admission itself”. Continue reading The cost of caste in India’s universities

Europe wades into debate over Poland’s constitutional crisis

Written by Fernando Casal Bértoa and Simona Guerra.

Poland’s prime minister Beata Szydło recently found herself summoned to the European Parliament in Strasbourg to defend her government over accusations that its commitment to democratic values is on the slide.

This was an unprecedented meeting. The parliament had called a debate under the auspices of a law introduced in March 2014, giving it the right to question a national government if it thinks a systemic threat to democracy is about to take place in a European country.

In Poland’s case, concerns were raised over government plans to limit the power of the national constitutional court, and change the way the media is governed and civil servants hired. Continue reading Europe wades into debate over Poland’s constitutional crisis

2015: the year in elections

The following short articles come from academics with the School of Politics and International Relations (SPIR) and discuss the 2015 elections in Nigeria and Poland.  These blog posts form part of a wider series from The Conversation that discussed all major elections that year.

Nigeria: matters of urgency

Written by Catherine Gegout.

When Muhammadu Buhari was elected president of Nigeria in March, he certainly had his work cut out. Nigeria’s economy badly needs to be diversified; petroleum exports revenue represents more than 90% of total export revenue, even as only half of all Nigerians have access to electricity. Education is in a dismal state, especially in the north, where only 6% of children have primary education.

There have already been some promising moves. Buhari has renewed Nigeria’s beleagured fight against corruption, including oil corruption and both he and his deputy took a symbolic pay cut. He must now start honouring his promise to improve gender representation in politics. Currently, only 16% of cabinet members are women, and only 6% of senators and members of the House of Representatives. Continue reading 2015: the year in elections

Paul Ryan just accepted the worst job in American politics

Written by Anthony J Gaughan.

Republicans voted overwhelmingly to make Paul Ryan the new speaker of the House of Representatives last week, but the Wisconsin congressman has no reason to celebrate. He just got the worst job in American politics.

In theory, the House speaker is an immensely powerful office. Among other things, the House speaker controls when and whether legislation gets voted on.

But since the late 1980s, the job of House speaker has been a career killer for most of the people who have held the position.

And today the job is harder than ever. Continue reading Paul Ryan just accepted the worst job in American politics

Going negative in Germany – but why and with which effects?

Written by Jürgen Maier.

Most scholars agree that in many countries there is a high amount of negative messages in political elites’ campaign communication. Moreover, some experts even find a steady increase of negative campaigning. But why do candidates opt (more and more) for attacks instead of sending positive campaign messages? And do such negative campaign strategies really work?

Although there are a vast number of studies on negative campaigning, both questions have not been fully answered yet. On the one hand, there is a serious lack of research on negativity outside the United States. Because society, politics, and the media in the U.S. are very different from European countries, it might be inappropriate to simply transfer our knowledge about negativity from one culture to another without prior verification. On the other hand, research on negative campaigning is basically research on campaign advertising. No matter if we look at the United States or at other countries, there is remarkably little evidence on the use and the impact of attacks in other campaign messages. Continue reading Going negative in Germany – but why and with which effects?

The Necessity of Negativity

Written by David Redlawsk and Kyle Mattes.

Finally, as regards the Roman masses, be sure to put on a good show. . . It also wouldn’t hurt to remind them of what scoundrels your opponents are and to smear these men at every opportunity with the crimes, sexual scandals, and corruption they have brought on themselves.

—Purported to be from Quintus Cicero to his brother Marcus, advising him on his campaign for Roman Consul, 64BCE

How do you feel about negative campaigning? If you’re like most Americans, you probably don’t feel so good about it. Americans (and others, we suspect) readily tell pollsters that they are negative about negativity. Polling in the 1990s and early 2000s consistently reported such results: for example, 61% were “very much” bothered by negative campaigning, and 60% claimed negative ads make people feel less like voting. The polling consensus was so clear that few pollsters even bother asking about negativity any more. We just know voters hate it. Continue reading The Necessity of Negativity

What are the UN sustainable development goals?

Written by Asghar Zaidi.

At the end of one of the largest summits at the United Nations headquarters in New York, government representatives from all over the world will sign a commitment to new global development goals. These will replace the millennium development goals, setting objectives for bringing peace and prosperity, and reducing the impact of climate change.

UN member states have agreed on a list of 17 broad goals and 169 more specific targets. These goals are not legally binding but they will be important. They are aimed at eradicating hunger and poverty, while at the same time promoting peace, prosperity, health and education and combating climate change.

The SDGs come into effect at the end of 2015, following the completion of the millennium development goals (MDGs), and cover the period 2016-2030. Unlike the MDGs, which were aimed largely at poorer countries, the SDGs are designed to be universal. The idea is to involve the whole world in taking responsibility for development. Continue reading What are the UN sustainable development goals?

Of War and Words

By Anna Huber

In the second academic term of 2014/2015 I was asked by the United National Society (UN Soc) of the University of Nottingham to attend the London International Model United Nation (LIMUN) 2015 conference.  LIMUN is a student-organised event, in which students have to represent assigned countries throughout the conference, simulating a United Nations (UN) conference. LIMUN aims to build an understanding of global challenges and encourage participants to find solutions to future global problems that are compatible with the aims and principles of the UN.

Like any other UN conference, LIMUN involves research, debating, writing skills and public speaking. Whereas the former three skills are well thought by our department, I think that the latter is a skill that can only be fully gained by your own individual efforts. Additionally, attending lectures where you are confronted with issues such as the uneven growth and exploitation of developing countries, democracy having the potential to lead to tyranny of the majority and the misuse of nuclear weapons – demonstrate how essential public speaking is in order to make your voice heard! So even though seminars tend to make even the quietest students speak up during heated debates (especially when it comes to private schools), I believe that many students still hesitate to confront people on these challenging issues rather than introducing others to their thoughts. I therefore decided to join the UN Soc and sign up to a conference as soon as the opportunity arose which is how I ended up at the LIMUN in London.

Continue reading Of War and Words

The Many Faces of Social Media: Challenging the Social Media Democracy Nexus

By Ignas Kalpokas

The conventional narrative about social media and political change tends to be a rather simplistic one: a relatively strong causal relationship between the use of modern communication technologies and democratic change is presumed. Although on some occasions this causation (or, at least, correlation) might hold, there is a different side to social media as well: one of facilitator to non-democratic regimes or instigator of violence. In fact, social media do not have intrinsic qualities of their own but are, instead, dependent on offline conditions. Having established that, the post then moves to the application of social media for influence operations as part of hybrid warfare.

To begin with, social media are usually said to have added a new tool to the social movement repertoire. The new media allow them to access and share information that is not available on mainstream media either because of economic or political pressure or because it simply relates to an issue that is not (yet) high enough on the agenda. Moreover, social media enable instant sharing of new and grievances and, coupled with smartphones, tablets, and other devices capable of capturing and instantly uploading images, allow the development of a new type of activist – an engaged ‘citizen journalist’ who is usually more effective in timing, access, and the immediacy of the cause than any representative of conventional media can be. These developments by themselves help democratise the public sphere and change the way in which citizens relate to it: instead of being passive users, they now become crucial influencers. Social media also have the potential of shifting the balance of power: instead of vertical public communication dominated by heavyweight political and media actors (which, not uncommonly, are one and the same), they can create multidirectional flows of communication.

Continue reading The Many Faces of Social Media: Challenging the Social Media Democracy Nexus