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Category archive for: International Politics

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.

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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.

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Political Studies: The number one choice for British academics

In the wealth of commentary that followed upon the release of the results of the REF exercise just before Christmas 2014, not much attention was devoted to the places in which British academics working in politics and international relations felt that their very best work had appeared.  But a recent posting on Chris Hanretty’s blog shows that more work submitted to the latest REF appeared in Political Studies than in any other journal, at home or abroad.   In the event, 109 items submitted to the research exercise were published in Political Studies, the lead journal of the Political Studies Association, with the nearest other contender (with 97 items), being the Review of International Studies, flagship journal of the PSA’s sister organization, the British International Studies Association.   Along with the 71 articles drawn from the British Journal of Politics and International Relations, this means that nearly three hundred articles submitted to the REF exercise had appeared in journals published by the two professional associations of academics in politics and international relations working in the UK.

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The Greek government, EU policy constraints, and the tension between responsiveness and responsibility

By Kyriaki Nanou

In January 2015, after failure to agree on the nomination of a president, national elections were held in Greece – a country at the eye of the storm of the Eurozone crisis. The main opponents were New Democracy, the main party in the governing coalition arguing in favour of the necessity of the memorandum agreements and the continuation of the reforms as part of the external support package; and, on the other side, SYRIZA, arguing that there is a different way for Greece to exit the crisis – involving renegotiation of the the terms of the bailout agreements and not undertaking all of the reform measures. Together with its governing partners, New Democracy stressed ‘responsibility’ and argued that Greece had no other way out of this crisis but to implement all of the austerity measures, which it argued had already improved the state of the economy, and to satisfy external creditors and EU partners. Their campaign was focused on a rightist agenda underlying the dangers of deviating from the implementation of the painful reforms, which had the potential of upsetting the creditors, stopping the transfer of further payments and leading to a potential ‘Grexit’ from the euro. On the other hand, SYRIZA emphasised ‘responsiveness’ and argued that politicians should listen to the needs and concerns of Greek people, who were disillusioned with austerity politics. It had a leftist agenda that aimed to provide hope to the Greek electorate by promising measures that would ease the burden of austerity – by either not implementing planned reforms or by changing or reversing some of the reforms implemented by the previous government.

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Promises, promises in the Croatian Presidential Elections

By Mladen Pupavac and Vanessa Pupavac

“I won’t let anyone say that Croatia won’t become prosperous and rich. Croatia will be among the most developed countries of the EU and the world, I promise you here tonight”.

So promised Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic of the Croatian Democratic Union party (HDZ) after winning the 2014-15 Croatian presidential election and becoming the first female president of Croatia.

The electoral race was very close. Kitarovic won 50.74% and the previous president Ivo Josipovic of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) 49.26% of the popular vote. In absolute terms, the difference between the two candidates was only around 30,000 votes, with the number of spoiled ballots twice that number at around 60,000.

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Armando Ianucci is a hypocrite for demanding Britons vote

By Steven Fielding

Armando Iannucci, the man who gave us The Thick of It and Veep, has just called on Britons to make sure they vote in the upcoming general election.

Iannucci points out, rightly, that politicians only notice those who vote. Yet, while arguing against Russell Brand’s claim that the British political system is so flawed it is only by non-voting that change will come, Iannucci suggests that it is perhaps only comedians like Brand who offer a “proper, mature engagement with democracy”. Britain’s political parties in contrast only come in for criticism. They engage in negatives, Iannucci claims, such that it is almost impossible to know for what they actually stand.

This is all a little rich from the man responsible for television situation comedies that on both sides of the Atlantic show politicians and their spin doctors to be lying, incompetent careerists. The current popular hostility to representative democracy is by no means all due to comedians’ jokes about politicians: office-holders have hardly done themselves many favours on that count. But the likes of Iannucci have played some role in framing the exaggeratedly negative way we see our leaders.

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Regulating European Party Politics: Causes and Consequences

By Fernando Casal Bértoa

The question of how political parties are, and ought to be, regulated, has assumed increased importance in recent years. The legitimacy crisis experienced by the parties themselves, and also their progressive codification in public law, including national constitutions or party finance laws, have raised important questions, ranging from the motivations inspiring specific regulations to their effect on the parties and the party systems, and the underlying conceptions of the role and place of political parties in modern democracies.

Interestingly enough, and notwithstanding the fact that, both in Europe and elsewhere, political parties have increasingly (see figure 1) been subject to regulations governing their external activities or determining the way in which their internal organisation may function, none of the abovementioned questions has received the necessary attention, neither from political scientists nor from constitutional lawyers. Indeed, the few works dealing with the subject are mostly descriptive and lack a comparative dimension.

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Is Modi’s Honeymoon Over? The 2015 Delhi Legislative Assembly elections and the Possibility of Change

By Wilfried Swenden

Since wresting power from the Congress led United Progressive Alliance in the Lok Sabha elections (April-May 2014), Narendra Modi’s Bharitiya Janata Party (BJP) has secured a trail of successive electoral victories. The party swept the state legislative assembly elections of Haryana and Jharkhand, became the lead coalition party in the government of Maharashtra and, following the November 2014 state assembly elections, may well become the junior partner in the government of Kashmir after it successfully captured two third of the seats in Jammu, the Hindu-dominated part of that state. Yet, with a massive electoral defeat in the February 2015 Delhi legislative assembly elections to the Aam Aadmi (common man) Party, the BJP electoral bandwagon finally appears to have run into trouble. Despite winning all 7 Lok Sabha seats from Delhi in 2014, the BJP is set to capture only 3 of the 70 seats in the Delhi Assembly against 67 for the Aam Admi Party and none at all for Congress, India’s –not so Grand- Old Party- which governed Delhi uninterruptedly for fifteen years (1998-2013).

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Corrupt politicians can only look on in horror as Mr Integrity takes Italian presidency

By Catherine Gegout

Italy has a new president in the form of Sergio Mattarella, a 73-year-old constitutional judge from Sicily. Mattarella was elected to the role in the wake of the retirement of Giorgio Napolitano, who had held the post for nearly a decade.

The president of Italy has limited powers: he or she guarantees that politics complies with the Italian constitution, but real political responsibility remains with the government. However, the election of Mattarella is important for both the centre-left prime minister Matteo Renzi and his Democratic Party. Mattarella represents integrity, and has made no secret of his contempt for the kind of politics that has bolstered the interests of former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi over the years.

In securing the job for Mattarella, who is a former Christian Democrat, Renzi has humiliated his main rival Silvio Berlusconi, the former prime minister who is still leader of Forza Italia.

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Malheureusement, nous ne sommes pas tous Charlie 2: Rules of Engagement

by David Stevens and Kieron O’Hara

Last week in this blog, we argued that goods such as belonging and commitment were the chief drivers of extremist groups, alongside a rejection of mainstream thinking. In a book which appears next month, The Devil’s Long Tail, we claim that suppressing ideological messages in the hope of preventing radicalisation is simply not effective, as they are not the chief motivators of such people, and furthermore that the emergence of the web hasn’t changed this calculation.

Nevertheless, this kind of thinking pervades the anti-extremist drive. In the UK, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has just written to over 1,000 Islamic leaders to suggest that “There is a need to lay out more clearly than ever before what being a British Muslim means today: proud of your faith and proud of your country.” One assumes that a would-be jihadi might struggle to assent to this proposition – and if he or she heard it from an Imam at the local mosque, then he or she might well assume that this message was mere government propaganda.

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