Category Archives: Electoral Politics

Election Boycott will Weaken Thailand’s Democrat Party and the PDRC

Anti-government protesters attend a rally outside Government House on December 9, 2013 in Bangkok, Thailand. Photo credit: Sira Anamwong.

Anti-government protesters attend a rally outside Government House on December 9, 2013 in Bangkok, Thailand. Photo credit: Sira Anamwong.

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 1, No. 8, December 2013.

By Anders Corr, Ph.D.

Thailand’s opposition Democrat Party, as well as the supporting People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) protest movement, will weaken due to strategic missteps of boycotting elections and attempting to block other parties from registering with Thailand’s electoral commission. It should be obvious that elections and elected position are a potent source of influence for both political parties and social movements. Boycotting elections invariably backfires as a strategy because it increases distance between the challenger who wields the strategy, and the electoral source of influence. Election boycotts led to landslide victories for incumbents in Trinidad and Tobago (1971), Jamaica (1983), Burkina Faso (1991), Ghana (1992), Togo (1993), Ethiopia (1994), Mali (1997), Algeria (1999), Gambia (2002), Guinea (2003), Azerbaijan (2003), Iraq (2005) and Venezuela (2005). The incumbent also won the boycotted 3 April 2006 elections in Thailand. These were later invalidated and followed by a coup, resulting in the instability that continues in Thailand today. As in prior boycotts, expect the incumbent political party, in this case Prime Minister Shinawatra’s Pheu Thai, to take advantage of the challenger’s absence to consolidate the Pheu Thai’s parliamentary majority and public image. Expect increased dissatisfaction among the opposition and military, and resulting political instability.1 Continue reading

  1. Horowitz, Donald. Ethnic Groups in Conflict. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1985, p. 327; New York Times, “Jamaica election boycott,” 11/29/1983.; Frankel, Matthew. “Threaten but participate: why election boycotts are a bad idea.” Brookings Policy Paper #19, March 2010. Washington, DC: Brookings Institute.

Stalemate in Egypt: Expect Years of Insurgency vs. Autocracy

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 1, No. 6, October 2013.

Map of Egypt. Source: University of Texas.

Map of Egypt. Source: University of Texas.

By Anders Corr, Ph.D.

Egypt is on the verge of being engulfed by a long-term insurgency. After a brief period of democratization following the Arab Spring, the world’s most populous Arab country has returned to a popular military dictatorship. General Sisi will likely lead the country, either as power behind the President, or as President himself. The primary difference between the Egypt of Sisi and the Egypt of the pre-Arab-Spring Mubarak will be a function of the overthrow of the democratic Islamism of President Morsi. A new outraged minority with pro-democracy and pro-Islamist beliefs fielded popular protests, and was repressed with lethal force. A significant minority of that minority will now divert their energy towards terrorism and organized insurgency. Continue reading

Constitutional Change Needed to Avoid Future US Shutdowns

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 1, No. 6, October 2013

United States Capitol Building. Artwork by Damion Brandon.

United States Capitol Building. Artwork by Damian Brandon.

By Anders Corr, Ph.D.

The United States is, and continues to be, a politically stable country. Despite a shutdown of non-essential federal government services that started at midnight on October 1, uniformed military personnel and most federal services, including the postal service, federal courts, and federal prisons, will remain open and functional. The “shut-down” is more accurately described as a temporary defunding of non-essential federal services. A spending bill will pass within the next few weeks, and non-essential government services will return to normal. Nevertheless, the appearance of a shutdown of the United States Government has huge reputation costs both domestically and internationally. The United States needs legal change, including a Constitutional Amendment if necessary, that provides for automatic funding of government services in the event of a budgetary impasse between the President and Congress. Such automatic funding could take the form of budgetary continuing resolutions at prior levels, or given a threshold deficit level, budgets with non-partisan across-the-board cuts of 1-5%.  Continue reading

Political Risk in The Gambia: Crime, Terrorism, Monetary Instability, Small Business Flight, and Protectionism

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 1, No. 4, August 2013.

Figure 1: Comparison of Gambia and Sierra Leone on the Ease of Doing Business in 2013. Data Source: World Bank. [1]

Figure 1: Comparison of Gambia and Sierra Leone on the Ease of Doing Business in 2013. Data Source: World Bank. [1]

By Anders Corr, Ph.D., and Naheed Vadsaria

Political risk in the tiny West African state of “The Gambia” is high.  Named after the small river around which its borders fluctuate, the country hosts a dictatorship established in a 1994 coup. The country also hosts Hizbollah operatives who conduct international financial transactions, and is one of the top African cocaine transshipment points to Europe. Local businesses are considering fleeing to Sierra Leone to escape a raft of seemingly arbitrary and protectionist laws promulgated by the President for potentially personal reasons. Continue reading

Chinese Political and Economic Influence in the Philippines: Implications for Alliances and the South China Sea Dispute

Figure 1: China and Philippines: Military Expenditure and Energy Use, 1989-2011

Figure 1: China and Philippines: Military Expenditure and Energy Use, 1989-2011. Shortly after most US forces left the Philippines in 1991-2, Chinese military expenditure and activity in the South China Sea increased dramatically. Data source: Correlates of War Project.

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 1, No. 3, July 2013.

By Anders S. Corr, Ph.D., and Priscilla A. Tacujan, Ph.D.

The Philippine government is constitutionally required to craft an independent foreign policy, but it must accelerate cooperation with foreign powers to do so effectively.  China’s growing militarization and energy consumption are fast out-pacing the meager military spending and energy consumption of the Philippines (See Figure 1). This makes China, more so than the Philippines, willing to risk military conflict over disputed energy resources, fishing areas, and transportation routes in the South China Sea. Continue reading

Protests in Latin America: impact on investment, the economy, and political stability

Figure 1: Economic data for Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica and Venezuela. Sources: Worldbank 2012, Index Mundi and Agencia Brasil.

Figure 1: Economic data for Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica and Venezuela. Sources: Worldbank 2012, Index Mundi and Agencia Brasil.

Journal of Political Risk, vol. 1, no. 3, July 2013.

By Evodio Kaltenecker

Over the last twelve months, it would seem that the habitants of Latin America and the Caribbean are particularly adept at protesting against their leaders and institutions, especially in Brazil, Chile and Costa Rica. Over a one-year period, Brazilian, Chilean and Costa Rican  government officers witnessed hundreds of thousands of citizens protesting issues such as crime, corruption, and the lack of low-cost quality public services.

Although there are many differences among the movements, the similarities are striking. First, protesters target problems that have significant impact in their lives: education, transportation and political inefficiency. Second and counter-intuitively, those countries have all enjoyed economic booms recently. Finally, all three countries face important elections in the near-term future. Continue reading

Political Risk to the Mining Industry in Tanzania

Data Source: African Economic Outlook, National Accounts of Tanzania Mainland.

Data Source: African Economic Outlook, National Accounts of Tanzania Mainland.

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 1, No. 2, June 2013.

By Ilan Cooper and Nathan Stevens

Long considered an anchor of East African stability, Tanzania has recently made headlines for aggressive expansion of its mining and extractive industries. In what might be considered growing pains, economic prosperity has strained government and civilian relations, and is increasingly testing the governance skills of Tanzania’s Ministries. Adverse investment laws, widening religious conflict, and proliferation of small arms and light weapons, however, tarnish Tanzania’s image as a peaceful and prosperous republic. Continue reading

Syria Strategy: Add Fuel to the Fire

Bomb crater in Serekaneye, Syria. Photo Credit: Fatih Polat., March 22, 2013.

Bomb crater in Serekaneye, Syria. Photo Credit: Fatih Polat., March 22, 2013.

By Anders Corr, Ph.D.

The US and NATO could be pursuing a strategy of adding fuel to the fire in Syria. The Government of Syria has been allied with Iran, and irritated the US and NATO from a nonproliferation perspective, for a long time. The US has consequently wanted to destabilize the Syrian Government. Now, that wish has been met. The Syrian Government is in a counterinsurgency against rebels that are closely allied with Al Qaeda. Other than humanitarian considerations, the US and NATO should be quietly overjoyed that two enemies are fighting. Continue reading

Biased wording in Syria Poll by CBS/New York Times

By Anders Corr, Ph.D.

Responses of Don't Know or No Answer for 28 New York Times/CBS polls. Blocks represent the density of observed DK/NA percentages for the 28 polls. The black line represents the probability of each DK/NA rate given a poisson distribution. The green dotted line depicts the mean of the observations. The black dotted lines depict two standard deviations above and below the mean. The most recent Syria poll, with a 14% DK/NA rate, is well above 10.5 (two standard deviations from the mean). It is therefore highly likely to be invalid based on an overly-ambiguous question format.

Responses of Don’t Know or No Answer for 28 New York Times/CBS polls. Blocks represent the density of observed DK/NA percentages for the 28 polls. The black line represents the probability of each DK/NA rate given a poisson distribution. The green dotted line depicts the mean of the observations. The black dotted lines depict two standard deviations above and below the mean. The most recent Syria poll, with a 14% DK/NA rate, is well above 10.5 (two standard deviations above the mean). The question is therefore highly unlikely to be valid and should be clarified for future polls.

CBS News and the New York Times released a poll yesterday on opinions regarding Syria. The poll posed a question to 965 adults nationwide worded as such: “Do you think the United States has a responsibility to do something about the fighting in Syria between government forces and anti-government groups, or doesn’t the United States have this responsibility?” Answers included “Yes” by 24% of respondents and “No” by 62% of respondents. CBS headlines interpreted the poll as “Americans Against Intervention in Syria.” The New York Times stated, “Americans are exhibiting an isolationist streak, with majorities across party lines decidedly opposed to American intervention in North Korea or Syria, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.”

While the wording of the poll question on North Korea was acceptable, the question on Syria was ambiguous due to usage of the word “responsibility” and the phrase “do something”. It would be very possible to think that the US has no responsibility to act in Syria, but should do something nonetheless. It is also possible to think that the U.S. has a responsibility to do something, but should nevertheless refrain from acting. Finally, “doing something” is ambiguous, and does not necessarily mean “intervention” as asserted in the reporting of the poll by the New York Times. The biases are countervailing, and lead to ambiguity. Continue reading

GDP Per Capita and Democracy Explain 87% of the Social Progress Index

Model 1: Effect of GDP Per Capita on the Social Progress Index

Figure 1. Effect of GDP Per Capita on the Social Progress Index (Model 1)

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 1, No. 1, April 2013.

By Anders Corr, Ph.D.

Social Progress Imperative, a global group that produces well-being data for 50 countries, released their Social Progress Index (SPI) today. The index compares countries not on GDP, but rather on a single quality of life metric as a function of housing, health, education, and environmental sustainability. The index is backed by Harvard Business School professors and the Skoll Foundation (WSJ).

Sweden, Britain, and Switzerland have the best Social Progress Index scores, because these countries have some of the highest GDPs per capita of the fifty countries in the index. It is no coincidence that the three lowest SPI scores – Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Uganda, have very low GDPs per capita. The best way to understand SPI is therefore to control for GDP per capita. Corr Analytics did simple regression analysis on SPI. Approximately 84% of the index is explained by gross domestic product (GDP) per capita (see technical details below). Countries with large economies relative to their populations will have more wealth that can be channeled to the basic necessities measured by SPI. Therefore the simpler standard used by economists for decades — GDP per capita — works quite acceptably for well-being. Continue reading