Issues in Comparative Politics


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    Comparative Democratization and Dictatorships
    Turmoil in the Arab World

    Massive, largely peaceful demonstrations in January and February 2011 forced longtime autocrats in Tunisia and Egypt from power, including Hosni Mubarak, who had dominated Egypt for more than 30 years. Subsequently, protests erupted in at least a dozen other countries across the Arab world, several of which continue. Using social media to organize, young demonstrators have called for the removal of long-entrenched corrupt regimes, greater freedom and more jobs. They have been met with violent government crackdowns in Syria, Yemen and Bahrain, while in Libya strongman Moammar Gadhafi is battling a ragtag rebel force backed by NATO. As the region reverberates with calls for change, scholars say some key questions must be answered: Will the region become more democratic or will Islamic fundamentalists take control? And will relations with the West and Israel suffer? Then, a few months later on May 1, al Qaida chief Osama bin Laden was killed in a U.S. raid in Pakistan. Once, such news might have triggered anti-U.S. protests across the region. Now, it seemed, those bin Laden had tried to radicalize were more interested in jobs and freedom than in bin Laden's dream of a vast, new Muslin caliphate.

    Democracy in Southeast Asia

    Indonesia is the world's third-largest democracy and one of its newest. But while Indonesia is consolidating its democratic institutions and slowly making progress against endemic corruption, democracy elsewhere in Southeast Asia is in distress. High-level corruption and politically motivated murders are obstructing democracy in the Philippines. In Thailand, 14 years of turbulent democracy ended with a military coup in 2006. Elections eventually resumed, but after anti-government protesters camped in Bangkok's commercial center for months in the spring of 2010 demanding new elections, the government finally broke up the demonstrations and began shooting and arresting protesters. True democracy is largely a fiction in Cambodia, Singapore and Malaysia, and Myanmar (Burma) is run by a brutal authoritarian regime. Against this backdrop, opposition politicians, scholars and human rights activists debate how best to encourage democracy in Southeast Asia.

    Sub-Saharan Democracy

    Despite a recent economic renaissance, some say much of sub-Saharan Africa is drifting toward a new age of authoritarianism. After the Cold War — when the superpowers propped up African dictators as proxy pawns in a global ideological chess match — the seeds of democracy rapidly spread across the continent. By 2000, nearly half of sub-Saharan Africa's 48 countries were considered electoral democracies. But democratic progress stalled and even regressed in the 2000s. By one measure, freedom in the region has retreated to about the same level it was in 1992–1993. Human rights are eroding in influential countries like Nigeria, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Ivory Coast. Experts blame Africa's continuing ethnic tensions and the emergence of China as a major trading partner. Western governments are skittish about pressing for democratic reforms now that they must compete for Africa's natural resources with China, which ignores such issues in its business dealings.

    Accountability, Civil Liberties, and Civil Society
    Press Freedom

    Press freedom around the globe declined for the eighth year in a row in 2009, with more than three-quarters of the world's population now living in countries without a free press. It was once thought that new technologies — such as cell phones and the Internet — would help to open up repressive societies. But as fast as reporters in those countries adopt technologies that enable them to connect to the outside world, authoritarian governments like China, Iran and Russia devise sophisticated new tools to control the flow of online information. Meanwhile, dictatorial regimes continue to use heavy-handed, old-school methods to control the world's media, including intimidation and violence. Fifty-two journalists were murdered in 2009, most of them while investigating corruption or politics. Another 136 journalists were jailed — the highest number since 2003 and a 68-percent increase over 2000. Such trends alarm media experts, who say press freedom is a prerequisite for economic development and a harbinger for the future direction of political and social freedoms.

    Separatist Movements

    When Kosovo declared its independence on Feb. 17, 2008, thousands of angry Serbs took to the streets to protest the breakaway region's secession from Serbia. Less than a month later, Chinese authorities battled Buddhist monks in Lhasa, the legendary capital of Tibet, where separatist resentments have been simmering since China occupied the Himalayan region more than 50 years ago. The protests were the latest flashpoints in some two dozen separatist “hot spots” — the most active of roughly 70 such movements around the globe. They are part of a post-World War II independence trend that has produced a nearly fourfold jump in the number of countries worldwide, with 27 of those new countries emerging just since 1990. Some nations, like the far-flung Kurds, are fighting fiercely to establish a homeland, while others — like Canada's Québécois — seem content with local autonomy. The Sri Lankan Tamils finally experienced defeat by government forces after a 26-year struggle for independence. A handful have become de facto states that are as-yet-unrecognized by the U.N., including Somaliland, Taiwan, South Ossetia and Nagorno-Karabakh, while South Sudan became the 193rd member of the U.N. in July 2011.

    Gay Rights

    By some measures, the last 10 years could be considered the “Gay Rights” decade, with countries around the world addressing concerns of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community. Beginning with the Netherlands in 2001, gay marriage metamorphosed almost overnight from a largely ridiculed notion to a legal reality in at least 10 countries. Sixteen other nations recognized same-sex civil unions. Nevertheless, homosexual acts remain illegal in most of Africa and the Muslim world, with severe penalties for anyone found guilty of the crime. If Uganda approves a proposal to criminalize repeated homosexual activity, it will join the five other countries (and parts of Somalia and Nigeria) where homosexual activity is punishable by death. In Russia and other Eastern European countries, gay and lesbian “pride parades” have sometimes met with violent responses, leading some observers to believe a backlash against rapid gay and lesbian advances may be developing in parts of the world.

    The Global Market: Development, Poverty, and Inequality
    Rapid Urbanization

    About 3.3 billion people — half of Earth's inhabitants — live in cities, and the number is expected to hit 5 billion within 20 years. Most urban growth today is occurring in developing countries, where about a billion people live in city slums. Delivering services to crowded cities has become increasingly difficult, especially in the world's 19 “megacities” — those with more than 10 million residents. Moreover, most of the largest cities are in coastal areas, where they are vulnerable to flooding caused by climate change. Many governments are striving to improve city life by expanding services, reducing environmental damage and providing more jobs for the poor, but some still use heavy-handed clean-up policies like slum clearance. Researchers say urbanization helps reduce global poverty because new urbanites earn more than they could in their villages. The global recession could reverse that trend, however, as many unemployed city dwellers return to rural areas. But most experts expect rapid urbanization to resume once the economic storm has passed.

    Brazil on the Rise

    Centuries ago, Brazil was a remote Portuguese colony. Today the biggest nation in Latin America has evolved into a stable democracy, a regional power and an important U.S. and European Union partner. Economic growth has been steady, fueled by rising food exports, and the burgeoning oil and ethanol industries have helped the country become energy independent. Twenty-eight million Brazilians have been lifted out of poverty in the past decade. Globally, Brazil participates in numerous peacekeeping missions and is becoming an aid donor rather than recipient. The picture is not all rosy, however. Brazil needs major infrastructure upgrades before it hosts the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics. The Amazon rain forest continues to disappear, drug gangs control many city slums and the country increasingly relies on cheap Chinese imports. Nevertheless, as Brazil's new President Dilma Rousseff — a former guerrilla fighter — begins to make her mark, Brazil is a booming regional power.

    India Rising

    India's stars appear to have aligned. The World Bank projects that India is expected to overtake China as the world's fastest growing economy. India also recovered from the 2008 global meltdown faster than either the U.S. or Europe. Experts say if India stays on its current path it could be a global power by mid-century. Yet, India remains exceedingly poor. Per capita income is less than half of China's, and a quarter of the more than 1 billion Indians live below the poverty line. Government pledges to extend the benefits of growth to all are hampered by corruption and red tape. So, while the world's second-most populous country and largest democracy is headed in the right direction, it still has a long way to go.

    Future of the Euro

    Portugal has become the third eurozone government to seek a bailout loan from the European Union, which is struggling to prevent a debt crisis from crippling its poorest members and spreading to richer euro countries. Historically impoverished nations such as Ireland, Portugal and Greece experienced a surge of wealth in the 1990s after adopting the euro. But in the wake of the worldwide economic crash and recession, that wealth proved to be an illusion based on cheap credit from Germany and other stronger economies. The euro's defenders say the crisis has created a new determination to fix the eurozone's defects, particularly its lack of strong centralized governance. But the rise of nationalist parties in richer countries opposed to bailouts could hamper a solution. And despite years of rhetoric about European unity, critics say individual nations will never give up enough of their sovereignty — especially their right to tax and spend on liberal social programs — to become part of a United States of Europe.

    Evaluating Microfinance

    Since the 1980s, millions of impoverished people around the world without access to banks have been able to take out tiny loans to start businesses. Nobel Prize-winning economist Muhammad Yunus, who established the first microfinance bank in Bangladesh and launched the modern microlending movement, claims microloans have lifted millions — especially women — out of poverty and spurred economic growth. But recent studies cast doubt on microcredit's effectiveness. Borrowers have been saddled with multiple loans at exorbitant interest rates, often having to borrow from loan sharks to make their microcredit payments. Economists fear overindebtedness could make borrowers even poorer and that a possible credit bubble could burst. Others worry that in recent years, for-profit investors have swarmed to the field, attracted by high returns on investment. Some governments have capped microlenders’ interest rates, but the industry hopes to forestall regulation by adopting voluntary consumer protection measures.

    Social Policies and Social Issues
    Religious Fundamentalism

    People around the world are embracing fundamentalism, a belief in the literal interpretation of holy texts and, among the more hard-line groups, the desire to replace secular law with religious law. At the same time, deadly attacks by religious extremists in India, Uganda, Somalia and Nigeria are on the rise — and not just among Muslims. Meanwhile, political Islamism — which seeks to install Islamic law via the ballot box — is increasing in places like Morocco and in Muslim communities in Europe. Christian evangelicalism and Pentacostalism — the denominations from which fundamentalism derives — also are flourishing in Latin America, Africa, Central Asia and the United States. Ultra-Orthodox Jewish fundamentalists are blamed for exacerbating instability in the Middle East and beyond by establishing and expanding settlements on Palestinian lands. And intolerance is growing among Hindus in India, leading to deadly attacks against Christians and others. As experts debate what is causing the spread of fundamentalism, others question whether fundamentalists should have a greater voice in government.

    Europe's Immigration Turmoil

    Recent gains by European right-wing political parties advocating halts in immigration from Muslim countries signal a growing resentment against foreigners as Europe faces an economy with fewer jobs to go around. Anti-immigrant parties have received unprecedented shares of the vote in famously tolerant Sweden and the Netherlands. Mainstream politicians in France, Germany and Britain have vowed to cut immigration, complaining that many immigrants — especially conservative Muslims — fail to integrate into mainstream society. Ironically, anti-immigrant fervor is rising just as the economic downturn is slowing immigration to many countries. Some economists argue that aging Europe needs young immigrants to fill its work force and support its growing pension costs. Other experts say governments need to do more to integrate Muslims, many of whom are native-born. As governments pass laws to ban burqas, headscarves and minarets, many are asking how much cultural conformity Europe can demand in an increasingly globalized world. Immigrant advocates say language requirements and citizenship tests discriminate against Muslim immigrants and, together with immigration caps, send a hostile message to the skilled workers Europe needs to attract from abroad.

    Honor Killings

    Each week brings horrific new headlines stating that, somewhere around the world, a woman or girl has been killed by a male relative for allegedly bringing dishonor upon her family. According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, “In the name of preserving family ‘honor,’ women and girls are shot, stoned, burned, buried alive, strangled, smothered and knifed to death with horrifying regularity.” Between 5,000 and 20,000 so-called honor killings are committed each year, based on long-held beliefs that any female who commits — or is suspected of committing — an “immoral” act should be killed to “restore honor” to her family. Honor killings are deeply rooted in ancient patriarchal and fundamentalist traditions, which some judicial systems legitimize by pardoning offenders or handing out light sentences. Human-rights organizations are demanding that governments and the international community act more forcefully to stop honor killings, but officials in some countries are doing little to protect women and girls within their borders.

    Social Welfare in Europe

    The Euro debt crisis and calls for fiscal austerity are putting a harsh new light on Europe's gold-plated welfare and pension programs. According to some economists, Europeans pay for their generous welfare programs — such as national health insurance and universal preschool — with more sluggish economies and higher unemployment than in the United States, which has among the industrialized world's least generous welfare safety nets. But in recent years, Scandinavian countries, the most generous with subsidized child care and paid parental leave, have grown at least as fast as the free-market United States. And, contrary to popular opinion, workers there have a better chance than Americans of climbing further up the economic ladder than their parents. Now Greece, Spain, France and Portugal have all proposed welfare austerity measures — mainly delaying early retirement ages and freezing pensions — not cutting core programs like free child care or unemployment safety nets. Cutbacks in pensions have already spurred angry street protests, but most experts agree Europe has little choice as it faces a demographic time bomb of aging societies supported by a diminishing number of workers.

    The Graying Planet

    The world's populations are aging rapidly, triggering demographic changes that will have a profound impact on economies, government expenditures and international migration patterns. In the past century, life expectancy has doubled, while the average family size has shrunk. By 2050, the number of children under 5 is expected to drop by 49 million, while the number of adults over 60 will skyrocket — by 1.2 billion. An unprecedented number of senior citizens will be depending on diminishing numbers of younger workers to contribute to pension and health care programs for the elderly. And it's not just a problem for wealthy countries: Developing countries’ elderly populations are growing faster than in the developed world. For example, in 20 years, China will have 167 million senior citizens — more than half the current U.S. population. On the positive side, some demographers believe aging societies will be more peaceful, since seniors suffer fewer crime and drug-abuse problems. And with fewer children, there could be more money per capita for their education.


    Will democracy emerge from the “Arab Spring”? Is religious fundamentalism on the rise? Is Europe becoming intolerant of foreigners? These questions—and many more—are what make comparative politics so interesting and important to today's world. Students must first understand the facts and contexts of these and other issues if they are to analyze and articulate well-reasoned positions.

    The first edition of Issues in Comparative Politics includes sixteen up-to-date reports by CQ Researcher, an award-winning weekly policy brief that explains difficult concepts and provides balanced coverage of competing perspectives. Each article analyzes past, present and possible political problems and is designed to promote in-depth discussion and further research to help readers formulate their own positions on crucial international issues.

    This collection is organized into four subject areas—comparative democratization and dictatorships; accountability, civil liberties, and civil society; the global market: development, poverty, and inequality; and social policies and social issues—to cover a range of topics found in most comparative politics courses. Citizens, journalists and business and government leaders also can turn to the collected articles to become better informed on key issues, actors and policy positions.

    CQ Researcher

    CQ Researcher was founded in 1923 as Editorial Research Reports and was sold primarily to newspapers as a research tool. The magazine was renamed and redesigned in 1991 as CQ Researcher. Today, students are its primary audience. While still used by hundreds of journalists and newspapers, many of which reprint portions of the reports, Researcher's main subscribers are now high school, college and public libraries. In 2002, Researcher won the American Bar Association's coveted Silver Gavel Award for magazine excellence for a series of nine reports on civil liberties and other legal issues.

    Researcher staff writers — all highly experienced journalists — sometimes compare the experience of writing a Researcher report to drafting a college term paper. Indeed, there are many similarities. Each report is as long as many term papers — about 11,000 words — and is written by one person without any significant outside help. One of the key differences is that the writers interview leading experts, scholars and government officials for each issue.

    Like students, staff writers begin the creative process by choosing a topic. Working with Researchers editors, the writer identifies a controversial subject that has important public policy implications. After a topic is selected, the writer embarks on one to two weeks of intense research. Newspaper and magazine articles are clipped or downloaded, books are ordered and information is gathered from a wide variety of sources, including interest groups, universities and the government. Once the writers are well informed, they develop a detailed outline and begin the interview process. Each report requires a minimum of ten to fifteen interviews with academics, officials, lobbyists and people working in the field. Only after all interviews are completed does the writing begin.

    Chapter Format

    Each issue of and therefore each selection in this book, is structured in the same way. A selection begins with an introductory overview, which is briefly explored in greater detail in the rest of the report.

    The second section chronicles the most important and current debates in the field. It is structured around a number of key issues questions, such as “Will aging populations cause economic upheaval?” and “Do small loans for poor entrepreneurs help end poverty?” This section is the core of each selection. The questions raised are often highly controversial and usually the object of much argument among scholars and practitioners. Hence, the answers provided are never conclusive, but rather detail the range of opinion within the field.

    Following those issue questions is the “Background” section, which provides a history of the issue being examined. This retrospective includes important legislative and executive actions and court decisions to inform readers on how current policy evolved.

    Next, the “Current Situation” section examines important contemporary policy issues, legislation under consideration and action being taken. Each selection ends with an “Outlook” section that gives a sense of what new regulations, court rulings and possible policy initiatives might be put into place in the next five to ten years.

    Each report contains features that augment the main text: sidebars that examine issues related to the topic, a pro/con debate by two outside experts, a chronology of key dates and events and an annotated bibliography that details the major sources used by the writer.

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    Interested in building your ideal CQ Press Issues book, customized to your personal teaching needs and interests? Browse by course or date, or search for specific topics or issues from our online catalog of CQ Researcher issues at


    We wish to thank many people for helping to make this collection a reality. Tom Billitteri, managing editor of CQ Researcher, gave us his enthusiastic support and cooperation as we developed this edition. He and his talented staff of editors and writers have amassed a first-class collection of Researcher articles, and we are fortunate to have access to this rich cache. Some readers may be learning about CQ Researcher for the first time. We expect that many readers will want regular access to this excellent weekly research tool. For subscription information or a no-obligation free trial of Researcher, please contact CQ Press at or toll-free at 1–866-4CQ-PRESS (1-866-427-7737).

    We hope that you will be pleased by the first edition of Issues in Comparative Politics. We welcome your feedback and suggestions for future editions. Please direct comments to Elise Frasier, Acquisitions Editor for International Relations and Comparative Politics, College Publishing Group, CQ Press, 2300 N Street, NW, Suite 800, Washington, DC 20037; or send e-mail to

    The Editors of CQ Press


    Brian Beary —a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C.— specializes in European Union (EU) affairs and is the U.S. correspondent for the daily newspaper, Europolitics. Originally from Dublin, Ireland, he worked in the European Parliament for Irish MEP Pat “The Cope” Gallagher in 2000 and at the EU Commission's Eurobarometer unit on public opinion analysis. Beary also writes for the Brussels-based Parliament Magazine and The Globalist magazine. His last report for CQ Global Researcher was “Religious Fundamentalism.” He also wrote CQ Press’ recent book, Separatist Movements, A Global Reference.

    Roland Flamini is a Washington-based correspondent who writes on foreign-affairs for The New Republic and other publications. Fluent in six languages, he served as Time bureau chief in Rome, Bonn, Beirut, Jerusalem and the European Common Market and later served as international editor at United Press International. His previous reports for CQ Researcher were on Afghanistan, NATO, Latin America, Nuclear Proliferation and U.S.-Russia Relations. His most recent reporting trip to China was in November-December 2009.

    Sarah Glazer, a London-based freelancer, is a regular contributor to CQ Global Researcher. Her articles on health, education and social-policy issues also have appeared in The New York Times and The Washington Post. Her recent CQ Global Researcher reports include “Radical Islam in Europe” and “Social Welfare in Europe.” She graduated from the University of Chicago with a B.A. in American history.

    Alan Greenblatt covers foreign affairs for National Public Radio. He was previously a staff writer at Governing magazine and CQ Weekly, where he won the National Press Club's Sandy Hume Award for political journalism. He graduated from San Francisco State University in 1986 and received a master's degree in English literature from the University of Virginia in 1988. For the CQ Researcher, his reports include “Confronting Warming,” “Future of the GOP” and “Immigration Debate.” His most recent CQ Global Researcher reports were “Attacking Piracy” and “Rewriting History.”

    Reed Karaim, a freelance writer living in Tucson, Arizona, has written for The Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report, Smithsonian, American Scholar, USA Weekend and other publications. He is the author of the novel, If Men Were Angels, which was selected for the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers series. He is also the winner of the Robin Goldstein Award for Outstanding Regional Reporting and other journalism awards. Karaim is a graduate of North Dakota State University in Fargo.

    Robert Kiener is an award-winning writer whose work has appeared in the London Sunday Times, The Christian Science Monitor, The Washington Post, Reader's Digest, Time Life Books, Asia Inc., and other publications. For more than two decades he lived and worked as an editor and correspondent in Guam, Hong Kong and England and is now based in the United States. He frequently travels to Asia and Europe to report on international issues. He holds an M.A. in Asian Studies from Hong Kong University and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University.

    Jennifer Koons teaches journalism at Northwestern University's satellite campus in Doha, Qatar. Previously, she was a Washington, D.C.-based journalist writing about national politics and legal issues, including cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, the 2008 and 2004 presidential campaigns and congressional action on Capitol Hill. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, San Diego Union Tribune and Inside Mexico, among other publications. She earned a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism and a master's degree in law from Northwestern's School of Law. She was the McCormick Journalism Fellow at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press in Rosslyn, Va.

    Barbara Mantel is a freelance writer in New York City whose work has appeared in The New York Times, the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psycho pharmacology and Mamm Magazine. She is a former correspondent and senior producer for National Public Radio and has won several journalism awards, including the National Press Club's Best Consumer Journalism Award and the Front Page Award from the Newswomen's Club of New York for her April 18, 2008, CQ Researcher report “Public Defenders.” She holds a B.A. in history and economics from the University of Virginia and an M.A. in economics from Northwestern University.

    Jason McLure has been an Africa correspondent since 2007, reporting for publications including Bloomberg News, Newsweek and The New York Times. Currently based in Ghana, he previously worked for Legal Times in Washington, D.C., and in Newsweek's Boston bureau. His writing has appeared in The Economist, Business Week, the British Journalism Review and National Law Journal. His last CQ Global Researcher was “The Troubled Horn of Africa.” His work has been honored by the Washington, D.C., chapter of the Society for Professional Journalists, the Maryland-Delaware-District of Columbia Press Association and the Overseas Press Club of America Foundation.

    Ken Moritsugu, based for three years in New Delhi as special correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers, is now the Asia-Pacific enterprise editor for the Associated Press in Bangkok. Until August 2004, he was the national economics correspondent for McClatchy's Washington Bureau. He previously was a staff reporter at the St. Petersburg Times, The Japan Times in Tokyo and Newsday, where he was part of a reporting team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 1996 for coverage of the crash of TWA Flight 800.

    Jennifer Weeks is a Massachusetts freelance writer who specializes in energy, the environment, science and technology. She has written for The Washington Post,Audubon, Popular Mechanics and more than 50 other magazines and websites and worked for 15 years as a public policy analyst, congressional staffer and lobbyist. She has an A.B. degree from Williams College and master's degrees from the University of North Carolina and Harvard.

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