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How does Obama spend his time? September 30, 2009

Posted by Sverre in : Methods in political science, United States , 1 comment so far

POTUS_trackerJust came across POTUS Tracker, an interesting little tool from The Washington Post that lets you track what Obama emphasizes by how he spends his time in meetings. Apparently foreign policy and the economy are what he spends most of his time on, with health care only clocking in at place no. 5.

(Hat tip to Pravda for finding this).

Obama’s soft power July 25, 2009

Posted by Sverre in : International relations, World politics , add a comment

Some numbers are out from Pew Global Attitudes on how different nations view the United States after the change in the presidency. Dan Drezner has made some comments on them, saying that this is a measure of how Obama’s soft power policy is changing the world’s  attitudes. But the really amazing stuff has been dug up by Kevin Drum at the Mother Jones blog. Just have a look at this table (click it to see the entire table in its original location):


These figures are rather amazing. There seems to be only one country where the people don’t think Obama is more likely to do the right thing in international affairs – Israel. And the relationship between Israel and the US can hardly be said to be much like the relationship with any other country…

Presidents and constitutions in Latin America July 10, 2009

Posted by Sverre in : Political Theory, World politics , add a comment

Now that more information is available, it seems clear that calling the situation in Honduras a coup. Using the military to drive the president out and sending him into exile is hardly part of a legitimate judicial process. Steven Taylor had some good comments about that today. For that matter i recommend all his comments on the situation in Honduras.

Even though the rest of the government obviously overstepped their bounds in ousting Zelaya in the manner they did, it still remains that the entire government wanted him gone, including his own party. Now, I don’t know much about politics in Honduras, but it all reeks of something. And looking at Latin American politics from the side, it does seem to reek of the same thing that has happened in several other countries in the region lately: That the executive branch gets in a position to keep changing the constitution and election laws to counteract the checks and balances of government, such as term limits. (more…)

Coup in Honduras? June 29, 2009

Posted by Sverre in : World politics , add a comment

What does it take to make a coup? There might be some things I’m missing here, but according to this CNN report it appears to me that the president of Honduras has been deposed on orders from the parliament and the supreme court regarding what they have ruled are unlawful actions in trying to change the constitution. I see how it may be encroaching on the powers of the executive for the parliament and the supreme court to issue orders to the military, but it seems a bit of a stretch to call it a coup, doesn’t it?

Or have I just got the situation all wrong based on what is reported by American and European media?

The Iranian election undoubtedly rigged June 25, 2009

Posted by Sverre in : World politics , 2comments

Daniel Berman and Thomas Rintoul of the Insitute of Iranian studies at the University of St. Andrews have analyzed the figures from the Iranian election. The report is published through Chatham House. They conclude that there is little doubt that the election was rigged to a degree that has decided the outcome.

Their most interesting finds:

· In two conservative provinces, Mazandaran and Yazd, a turnout of more than 100% was recorded.
· If Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s victory was primarily caused by the increase in voter turnout, one would expect the data to show that the provinces with the greatest increase in voter turnout would also show
the greatest ‘swing’ in support towards Ahmadinejad. This is not the case.
· In a third of all provinces, the official results would require that Ahmadinejad took not only all former conservative voters, all former centrist voters, and all new voters, but also up to 44% of former
reformist voters, despite a decade of conflict between these two groups.
· In 2005, as in 2001 and 1997, conservative candidates, and Ahmadinejad in particular, were markedly unpopular in rural areas. That the countryside always votes conservative is a myth. The claim that this year Ahmadinejad swept the board in more rural provinces flies in the face of these trends.

Even in an unstable “democracy” such as Iran, it seems highly unlikely that such results could appear by coincidence. Of course this wasn’t unexpected, but it has become very hard for the Guardian Council to deny that there were irregularities. As the sham of democracy in Iran falls, we might see the regime losing even more of their popular support, which might turn out to become a catalyst for change in the long run. At the moment, however, it seems to me that the regime has the upper hand with its brutal treatment of the protests.

Hat tip to Kai Arzheimer for posting on this report.

No freedom of speech in France? June 6, 2009

Posted by Sverre in : World politics , 1 comment so far

I can’t yet find any English sources on this, but Norwegian newspaper Aftenpostenand the Swedish Aftonbladet report of events in France that don’t belong in any democratic country.  A French blogger was reportedly arrested and charged with “public insults” after having called the French Minister of Families, Nadine Sorano a liar. “Hou la menteuse” – “O, what a liar” are said to be the exact words of 49-year-old blogger Dominique Broueilh. The newspapers claim that Sorano has also called for tighter surveillance of bloggers in general by Frenchs ISPs.

If this is true, it is nothing short of an outrage. No democracy is possible if public figures are to be protected by such strict laws. Merely being impolite can’t be a reason to clamp down on free speach. I didn’t believe a democratic Western European country like France could employ such policies…

Carl Bildt not wanted in Sri Lanka April 28, 2009

Posted by Sverre in : World politics , add a comment

My last post covered the EUs new involvement in Sri Lanka. Today, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt reports on his blog that the Sri Lankan government har refused to receive him. As a consequence, only his British and French colleagues Millband and Kouchner will be coming on behalf of the EU. According to Bildt, UN representative John Holmes has expressed disappointment. He also says that it “will affect bilateral relations” and that Sweden will recall its Charge d’Affairs “for consultations”. Diplomat language for “we’re annoyed and don’t want to play with you for a while.”

No reason has been given for the refusal, but I can hardly see how it can be a positive sign for the Sri Lanka situation.

The EU goes in with force in Sri Lanka April 26, 2009

Posted by Sverre in : World politics , 6comments


Norway’s role as peace broker in Sri Lanka seems pretty much played out after Norwegian police failed to prevent damage to the Sri Lankan embassy in Oslo on the hands of Tamil protesters. The Sri Lankan government has reputedly declared Norway unwanted in the process.

But according to Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt’s blog, he is going to Sri Lanka to try and handle the humanitarian situation – together with French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner and their British counterpart David Milliband. It’s a real show of force from EU to apply pressure on the parts of the conflict to refrain from further bloodshed. It may also be a sign that the EU is really serious about its role as a global peace broker with  a different focus than that of the US.

The Tamil Tigers (LTTE) have according to various media already asked for a cease fire, but the Sri Lankan government has rejected it, demanding a complete surrender.

Controversial new NATO boss April 4, 2009

Posted by Sverre in : World politics , add a comment

AP now reports that Danish PM Anders Fogh Rasmussen is confirmed as new NATO secretary general, despite strong opposition by Turkey. It was not an easy choice for NATO, and carries with it a number of issues.

Fogh Rasmussen is certainly controversial in many places. One of the big problems Turkey had with his candidature may be his involvement in the Mohammed caricature controversy, in which he supported Danish newspapers quite vehemently. He is also closely tied to former US president Bush and has been very supportive of the war in Iraq. This is understandably difficult for a Muslim country partially located in the Middle East.

Fogh Rasmussen, a right-liberal politician, has also been controversial domestically. In 1992 he had to resign from his post as Minister of Taxation preempting a vote of no confidence for misinforming the Danish parliament. He is also known for his adherence to the liberal ideal of the minimal state and a preference for low taxes. On the latter point he has been criticized for not doing enough, but he has implemented a “tax freeze”, promising at the least not to raise any Danish taxes. The most controversial of his policies is arguably his government’s hard-line stance on immigration, by many accused of bordering on the xenophobic.

Fogh Rasmussen has also made a name for himself as a strong EU supporter, and has reportedly been considered for several positions in the EU leadership. He has however run into many problems on home ground during his years in the Danish cabinet, with Danish rejection of the Maastricht Treaty, the Monetary Union and most recently opposition to the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty.

The biggest challenge for NATO is however likely to be that many leaders in the Muslim world still connect Denmark and Fogh Rasmussen with the controversy over the Mohammed charicatures – a connection that could now spill over more strongly to NATO, giving more fuel to Muslim leaders that benefit from portraying it as an anti-Muslim alliance.

Exit Pak Lah April 2, 2009

Posted by Sverre in : Malaysia, World politics , add a comment

badawianwarIt’s been in the works for quite some time, but Malaysia’s unpopular prime minister Abdullah Badawi (nicknamed Pak Lah – “uncle Abdullah”) finally handed in his resignation to the Malaysian king yesterday. He will be succeeded by his deputy prime minister and successor as UMNO party president, Najib Tun Razak.

After UMNO has been losing ground over the last few years, in 2008 in particular, the challenges for Najib will be great. While Malaysia is being hit harder and harder by the international financial crisis, Najib will have to reform and revitalize his party, the Barisan Nasional coalition and the government of Malaysia itself if he is to have any hope of holding the opposition coalition under the leadership of Anwar Ibrahim at bay.

On taking office, the heredtary nobleman Najib is already shrouded in suspicions of corruption and scandal – none of which have been yet to stick in court, but are accepted by large parts of the population. His work is certainly cut out for him. (more…)