Schedule Reminders…


As we discussed on Monday, I’ve made some adjustments to the course schedule to account for my lecture in Germany. As planned all along, Monday’s meeting will proceed for the graduate students (no class for undergrads), who will meet to discuss their comments on each others’ papers. Wednesday’s class is cancelled for everyone, but the reading and blog posts are still due. On Monday April 3, We’ll have presentations from both Alissa and the Chris/Marina “team.” Enjoy the spring weather, and I’ll see you all soon.


Populism-Friend or Foe?

The ultimate question of my research centers around popuism in Venezuela and if it hurts democracy in the region. Getting the answer to that question is the most important, however, this has also led me to many more questions about populism.

Does populism really give power to the people?

Is it a friend or foe of true democracy?

Are we always deemed to be ruled by the elites no matter what?

These are some questions I wish I could answer after reading extensively on populism. But, one thing I feel like I have answered is populism definitely hurts democracy, and more than that, it hurts the quality of life for people, even though the majority of them do not benefit from populism. Populism is supposed to return power to the people, but it has only been used for soft-line autocrats take power for their own benefit. Even worse, the people do not realize it. Mainly because there are specific tactics that buy people off. Chavez has employed this tactic during his reign, he would invest some money in social programs as an allusion to the people that they were being helped, unlike before. We see the same stuff with Correa, and Morales. The different between Lula in Brazil is his Cash Transfers like Bolsa Familia actually had wide-ranging effects on reducing poverty and wrote these CTC into law.

One thing that I do feel like I can conclude on, is populsim can be used for both the right and the left political idealogues. For example, I believe in Latin America they use the left-leaning populism, that may seem similar to the right-wing, but it is different in how they govern. Some of the right-wing populists I would consider are Donald Trump, Marine La Pen, and Nigel Farage. However the right-wing populists employ tactics such as anti-immigration, less money being used for waste, and pulling out of the global economy, so they may be not as effective. The left-wing populists of Latin America can employ social programs to literally buy even the poorest of votes, but they have no teeth.


I know this is everywhere, but this is some thoughts I have been having regarding populism in general that I wish to study more.

Hindsight Bias

I know I am a bit late on this, but I wanted to make the post anyway because I did really find these readings absolutely interesting. To know that in the times of globalization and every other trend pointing more towards mass information sharing and what we know about dictatorships, it is still at the end of the day more possible for your country to end up with a ruler with too much power and no concessions. Unless you are a longstanding Democracy, then you are extremely vulnerable. But, it is interesting to see the theories for a longstanding Democracy that could possible fall as well. I wonder if populism could do that…. ?

But, if I was Gaddafi, and I believe he is considered a hard-liner, he would believe in even more absolute power to keep control of the citizenry. But, hindsight bias, its probably why he eventually lost power. So if I was Gaddafi I would have become a soft-liner and made some concessions to the Libyan power because I am self-interested and retaining power is the most important part. Honestly, Putin has really figured out the perfect recipe to give just enough to the Russian people but not absolutely give them too much where they are claimoring for a stronger democracy or voting him out of power.

If I was the Rebel Group, I think they have done what they needed to do, except they protested too long. Now there is a lot more at play I believe because Libya has been so unstable it has been a place for stronghold terrorist groups because of the unstable grasp of power in the country. I would have pushed Gaddafi to the point where he made concessions, but then I would have went home, because they protested to the point now where the entire country is unstable and they are probably going to eventually have an even worse Gadaffi. The political institutions are so weak, economic recession and poverty, and political deadlock… eventually a hard-liner will act in the name of populism to cease control and Libyans will find themselves in the same sitaution as 5 years ago under Gadaffi.

These reading was very interesting and I would be interested to learn more about the United States, UK, France, Germany, and Italy vulnerabilities to Dictatorship. I know it seems diffifuclt and tough, but if history has taught us anything, even the greatest of empires fell. Rome used to be Republic as well until Caesar took over, and then other dictators. I wonder if the populism that is going on around the world creates an openinig of opportunity for hard-liners to take advantage of the situations. I mean though Latin America has democratized, there are still weaknesses, and it has led to the likes of Evo Morales in Bolivia, Chavez and Maduro in Venezuela, Rafeal Correa in Ecuador, and though LuLa in Brazil wasn’t a hard-liner, he has been seen as a populist.

Research Journal #8

I think I am in a relatively advanced stage for my paper. Pending Dr Kendhammer’s  feedback and my group’s feedback as well, I think I only have the case study to delve into.

As my paper indicates, it goes as follows;  “The paper subscribes to the democratization processes but extends its analysis to one specific institutional arena; democratization through education in post-conflict Middle Eastern societies. First, it broadly reviews the most relevant literature on citizenship education. Then, it narrows its focus to state construction projects in post- conflict contexts, the portrayal of politico-historical facts in national narratives, as well as citizenship education as far as the MENA region is concerned.

In the section that follows, the paper illustrates these theoretical points with reference to the case of Jordan by means of a longitudinal study. This study juxtaposes previous findings and scholarly work with post-Arab Uprisings educational curriculum in the same country. The purpose of this study is to bring two periodization into conversation with the Arab Uprisings as the cut point.”




Research Journal #9

Putting together a rough draft of my research definitely caused me to spend more time looking for the information I was still missing, and re-read some of my older pieces in order to locate any information I had previously been missing.  As my original research was based on the question of whether or not Gambia had been affected by the contagion effect in the most recent elections, I took a second look at Abdoulaye Saine’s “The Gambia’s ‘Elected Autocrat Poverty, Peripherality, and Political Instability,’ 1994-2006,” in which Saine argues that Jammeh’s initial support after his bloodless coup was partially due to the contagion effect, though that of the Strasser-led coup in Sierra Leone (455).  It is therefore interesting to note that the contagion effect did originally occur in Gambia, though not in the form of a Senegalese effect.  Furthermore, the fact that the Gambia did in fact experience the contagion effect, though much earlier in its history, allows me to conclude that my original hypothesis was incorrect, and turn to other contributing factors to explain the reason for the intervention of outside forces in upholding the recent election results.

Additionally, I was able to locate a new book,  edited by S. F. Jagne, Nation-States and the Challenges of Integration in West Africa, which provides a detailed exploration of the relationship between Senegal and Gambia (finally!!).  The various authors of the book do underscore the similarities in the countries’ two cultures, as well as various issues of contention, which I had previously found mentioned in a number of Gambian newspapers.  The book clarified the Casamance crisis, a low-level conflict between Senegal and the Jola ethnic group, who wish to obtain independence from Senegal, partially due to their differences in religion (the majority of Senegalese are Muslim, whereas the Jola tend to identify as Christian or animist).  As Jammeh had previously allowed the Jola people to come vote in Gambian elections, this no doubt contributed to some of the uneasiness between the two countries.  Additionally, there is the question of a bridge which would connect the two nations (this is another topic that came up multiple times in the Gambian/Senegalese newspapers I had read).  Gambia refuses to build a bridge between the two countries, arguing that in doing so, it would lose its sovereignty; meanwhile, in Senegal, this provides a huge handicap for workers, and they have often protested against the need to take ferries across.  This additionally hurts the Gambian economy (and partially explains why it did so poorly), as Gambia is dependent on Senegal’s economy, not having the possibility of accessing other trade or economic partners nearby.  Finally, there is the question of Senegal’s intervention in the botched 1981 elections, in which Senegal had originally interfered to get Jawara out of office, only to change its mind at the last moment and help Jawara retain his position as President.

The third important piece of evidence I was able to uncover was the reason for ECOWAS’s intervention in the 2016 election.  According to Frederick Cowell (2011), in “The Impact of the ECOWAS Protocol on Good Governance and Democracy,” the body adopted the protocol in 2001, which specifically listed a “trigger mechanism” in which participating states would be suspended in the case of unconstitutional government changes, allowing ECOWAS to intervene (331).  This protocol provides the reason for the body’s enforcement of the 2016 elections, and underscores the importance of international bodies in enforcing democracy.

As my original hypothesis concerning the diffusion theory is proven incorrect, the second half of my paper will discuss the reflection of other democratic theories in the case of the Gambia.  In particular, I hope to call attention to the fact that the downfall of one “hybrid” regime (in my continued reading I can conclude whether this applies to Jawara’s Presidency or not) doesn’t necessarily lead to its replacement by a democratic one, and the road between the two is time-consuming and difficult.  As I had previously mentioned, this additionally provides me with the opportunity of re-stating the importance of international bodies in pressuring countries to maintain certain levels of democracy, or at least democratic components.  The case of the Gambia ultimately provides a perfect case study reinforcing many of the current theories regarding the democratization process within a country.

Blog 3/22

I chose to write as Muammar Gaddafi, I want to keep power and crush my opposition while giving them nothing.

The first step is self promotion, gather supporters by convince them that you are the solution to long term problems- then promise a democratic future, label yourself as “transitional power.” Next, increase military power.  This is how you are going to keep power. Make them feel responsible for enforcing the policies of the regime through force and fear. Give your military officers positions within the government. Next, undermine the economy- start elaborate development project, increase military spending and compress wages . Censorship is your next step. Take control of the media, silence the journalists and the artist, get rid of anyone who speaks out against you, burn books that offer views different from yours.  As discussed on page 49, artists and intellectuals are usually the first to manifest public opposition to your authoritarian regime. Install fear in anyone who speaks out, this is done to avoid attention from human rights groups. Finally, monopolize your opposition. As Gaddafi I believe I would use violent military force.

Strategies for Gaddafi to prolong his regime – Make an offer that they would not refuge

Following the argument by Schmitter and O’Donnell, I would say the two key strategies are to restrict the citizenship and liberalization with the use of executive power. The authoritarian ruler would want to adopt a control and release mode to mitigate the upsurge against him. By limiting the public interaction and opinion exchange, the mass formation might be possibly controlled. On the other hand, offering incentive to the protesters would appease the movement as well. I would say the ruler would like to provide differential opportunities to different protesters in order to create mistrust among themselves. By applying such ‘divide and rule’ policy, the opposition could be weakened for a certain period of time.

Strategies to remove dictators, and what dictators can do to remain in power

The influential classical book of O’Donnell and Schmitter Schmitter suggest that almost all transitions constitute hardliners and soft-liners—the latter is much more focus on their own survival and often discard or sometimes eliminate any forms of democracy. The former often attempt to institute some version of electoral democracyThey also argue that these transitions were domestically induced with the possibilities of international factors fueling the transition rather than causing it. O’Donnell and Schmitter stress that mobilized or organized opposition can bring about democratization when a regime’s self-confidence is low, dissent is high, and the rules and issues of transitions are not under the control of incumbent autocrat.

They also suggest the possibilities of coup after the installation of democracy as hardliners that fear transition, will at any cost attempt to revert to the old times. To avoid hardliners’ from embarking on potential coup, the authors suggest the need for cooperation among main actors, and such possible pact will exist between soft-liners and opposition whose goal is to institute democracy. Thus, O’Donnell and Schmitter warn that the worst strategy in such situation is to pursue justice against human right violators of the former regime which could potentially cause conflict and instability. This argument has been described as ‘moderation thesis’ which many scholars challenged (Bermeo, 1997).

In this hypothetical prompt question, I will draw upon the authors’ argument to offer a roadmap regarding the best approaches opposition leaders in Libya should have used to bring about lasting democracy in the post-Ghaddafi period. First, the opposition leaders should have avoided going after the cronies of Ghaddafi including his son. This will help them to maintain peace and avoid any form of rebellion or counter-revolutionary movements which have already plunged the country into lawless state of nature. Second, the international campaign against Libya’s (NATO-led US campaign) Ghaddafi should also facilitate dialogue and peace broker among major factions, especially the moderates and soft-liners which might result to the formation of cooperation government in order to avoid any attempt to install or reverse to old form of regime that was in place.

On the other hand, since Ghaddafi was dictator who wanted to stay in power, he should have boosted his regime’s confidence, keep dissent as low as possible, and tightly control the transition in order to maintain. Ghadaffi was not in control of the transition as he was not able to minimize defections among his key military officers. Since the protest started, Ghaddafi’s public appearance has reduced significantly. The only times people saw him was when he addressed the nation in a tall protected story building which send signal to the public that he was afraid of the uprising and the possible foreign intervention.

The multi-layered chess board game that in some cases this can happen but here are other examples of when something else happened.

O’Donnell and Schmitter offer interesting insight and advice about the transition period of uncertain democracies. Although I feel at the end of the day without knowing more about the social, economic, and political practices (which were densely mentioned throughout this book) of Libya it seems kind of hard to really give advice to both camps (Gadaffi and Rebels). For now I will offer some general advice to both sides.

For Gadaffi and his regime to remain in control and in power it serves to make sure the other side is weak, unorganized, and in chaos (divided by class, gender, religion, etc.). It also matters a great deal if the regime can come to common interests and compromises between the “hardliners” and “softliners”. This could be done through secret pacts or bribes- anything that will keep Gadaffi and his cronies in full control. Gadaffi must make sure there is not any opportunity for revolution to happen- namely making sure the usage of force (the military) is happy and utilized to crush any resistance. The worst that can happen for Gadaffi-taking a lesson from Russia and China is allowing some “liberalization” of rights to give a very small piece of the cake to the crowd. Even putting on a “fake” election might help give the impression to the people without really changing much. But this is a tightrope and this could spark more resistance at the end of the day.

For the rebels it serves to find the common interests of allies across all classes- especially the “soft-liners” and bourgeois interests. People need to get mobilized and organized ( how and when possible is another question). They need to extend the public sphere and allow authors, artists, and outspoken critics to voice their concerns and objectives. This could push back the government repression and allow for liberalization of new rights. Maybe even propelling certain political allies to create political pacts and even extend franchise of some rights. Even if they throw the regime out of the window their is no guarantee of actual political democracy and progression. People need an ability to be educated and informed on the process. Also it serves that old authoritarian institutions can be guided to be open democratic open to all cohorts of the population. It really is so contingent of local factors that is seems fruitless to try and pin down certain things especially in the case of Libya. Have these people ever experienced the idea of real open elections? Will they still have uncertainties of government capacity to actually do stuff? Its a multi-layered chess board (eye roll).

Blog Post 3/22

In order to maintain authoritarian rule, it is important to give out as little as possible in concessions to any and all opponents.

Schmitter and O’Donnell discuss ways to overthrow authoritarian regimes (ex: encouraging more rights through citizenship, which essentially increases the amount of control that a citizen holds – something an authoritarian leader would not want). In order to limit the amount of said control that a citizen could potentially gain, it is imperative that a leader (Gadaffi, in this case) cuts off potential resources. This includes keeping coalitions rather small, in order to oversee and control institutions, as well as limiting voting rights (even not holding elections at all), or limiting access to any and all information – ensuring that people struggle to understand what may be going on.

By limiting these “liberalizations”, and ensuring that you are buying loyalty from one’s political machine, it would be extremely difficult to overthrow a “stable” authoritarian regime.