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Comparative Government

The revolving door at the top of the Australian Labor Party continues to spin, with ex-Foreign (and Prime) Minister, Kevin Rudd, challenging the current Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, for her job on Monday morning. Three things are notable about this challenge: its speed (Rudd formally announced his intention to stand on 24th February and the ballot will be held on the 27th); its ferocity (military metaphors like ‘mutually assured destruction’ scarcely seem overblown); and the fact that Rudd was ousted from the PM job only twenty months ago. Ms Gillard should win convincingly.  Although 58% of Australians think that Rudd would make a better leader, Gillard’s parliamentary colleagues support her by a ratio of two to one.   Mr Rudd’s deep unpopularity amongst …

Russia’s out-going president, Dmitry Medvedev, has submitted a bill to the State Duma proposing that parties should be banned from fielding ‘fake’ candidates at the top of regional lists for Duma elections. These candidates, usually well-known or popular figures, are referred to in Russian as parovozy(locomotives), and have no intention of taking up seats in the Duma. They appear on the ballot paper solely to attract voters. Following the election, they cede their seats to lesser-known candidates further down the list. Medvedev’s proposals are part of a wider programme of electoral reform, including the re-introduction of gubernatorial elections, which were abolished in 2005. Directly appointed governors had become a liability to the Kremlin in recent years: as an unintended consequence of its …

This week a British Cabinet minister gave a speech in the Vatican decrying the spectre of militant secularism stalking the nations of Europe and bemoaning the corresponding marginalisation of the faithful. The Queen has also weighed in, speaking at Lambeth Place this week about the benefits of the Church. “We should remind ourselves of the significant position of the Church of England in our nation’s life,” she said. “The concept of our established Church is occasionally misunderstood and, I believe, commonly under-appreciated.” But despite their worry-inspired justifications, these comments, I believe, fall within a broad trend of the reintroduction of faith into the public sphere by British politicians and vociferous cries of persecution from the leaders of faith based organisations. Much of this is …

Nationalist movements often argue that small countries are more economically successful than big ones.  The Scottish Nationalist Party claims that independence would allow Scotland to advance from ‘its subordinate position within the UK, and generate a new prosperity for Scotland’.  And former Plaid Cymru MP, Adam Price, who is currently taking a career  break at Harvard University, goes further, wrapping the ‘small  equals rich’ argument in a cloak of pseudo-academic jargon. Price’s article, published in an on-line student journal, is entitled ‘Small is Cute, Sexy and Successful’.  He argues that smaller countries grow faster because they are more open to trade, more socially cohesive and more adaptable.  Rather optimistically, Price even argues that differences in population size alone account for ‘mighty minnows’ outperforming the big five (UK, Italy, …

The recent controversy over Salman Rushdie’s non-appearance at the Jaipur Literary Festival has been widely understood in the stereotyped terms of a threat to the freedom of expression. The belligerence of those Muslims protesting Rushdie’s presence, of course, as well as the eagerness of some Indian authorities to humour them, was entirely reprehensible. But lost in the anodyne narrative about free expression was also the controversy’s political meaning, which I will argue had little to do either with Rushdie or indeed the offended religious sentiments of certain Muslims. Instead this celebrated author has been reduced to a kind of billboard upon which almost any cause can be advertised, and it is in this purely functional guise that he is recognized …

As Ishtaiq Ahmed mentions in a recent blog post on the annual Pakistan Future Leaders’ Conference, held in Oxford earlier this month, Pakistani students in the UK have definitively shown that progressive thought is alive and well within the Pakistani community. For example, this student-driven event was unafraid to pick up sensitive issues such as the Balochistan separatist movement amply demonstrating the capacity of young Pakistanis to be fearless and independent in their thinking. Students vowed to work towards making Pakistan a progressive, truly democratic state where people of all creeds can enjoy the fruits of freedom and liberty. Dr. Ahmed, covered numerous topics in his piece; but I want to highlight a few areas in more detail. As mentioned above, …

The Submerged State: Atlantis? No, a slim and highly readable volume in which Suzanne Mettler describes how certain public policies have become highly resistant to reform and damaging to American democracy. By ‘submerged state’ Mettler means a set of indirect government subsidies and benefits whose size and beneficiaries, indeed whose very existence, is largely invisible to the public. Some types of governmental intervention are highly visible: most citizens are aware of them and know something about what they are, how they work and who benefits from them. For instance, most people know about the veterans’ benefits offered by the G.I. Bill. But others are more ‘submerged’, hidden either because they are channelled through private delivery organizations or because they come to …

 Rosemary Foot is a Professor of International Relations and John Swire Senior Research Fellow at St Antony’s College, Oxford. She has been a celebrated China scholar since completing her doctorate at the London School of Economics on Sino-Soviet relations and West Asia. Here, Professor Foot takes a moment to speak with Politics in Spires regarding her most recent book. Congratulations, your latest book, China, the United States, and Global Order has been praised by Foreign Policy Magazine as one of the 23 Essential Readings of 2011. Could we begin with you telling us a bit about the efforts behind this work? The book was a collaborative effort.* My co-author [Andrew Walter] is a specialist in international political economy, and I …