Category Archives: Social Movements

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.

Rise of Environmental NGOs in China: Official Ambivalence and Contested Messages

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

By Ruge Gao

Figure 1. Registered NGOs (Civil Organizations) in China 1988 to 2009. Data source: Xu Ying and Zhao Litao, 2013.

Figure 1. Registered NGOs (Civil Organizations) in China 1988 to 2009. Data source: Xu Ying and Zhao Litao, 2013.

With China’s impressive economic growth over the past few decades has come an environmental cost that reaches from the countryside to the capital.[1]  While some Chinese economists believe the lack of environmental regulation encourages uninhibited growth, the Chinese State Environmental Protection Agency and State Statistics Bureau have produced statistics that indicate that environmental damages have decreased growth by three percent.[2] Triggered most prominently by the 1998 Yangtze River Floods, the number of Chinese environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs) began growing around 2000 and experienced explosive growth within the last decade. According to Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs statistics,[3] in 2008 China had approximately 212,000 social groups, with 5,330 being of the environmental variety. Many Chinese ENGOs are in the public eye, but must simultaneously satisfy international donors and local government officials in order to survive. Continue reading

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

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

Expect increased Islamist instability in Bangladesh

By Anders Corr, Ph.D. On Sunday and Monday in Dhaka and Chittagong, Bangladesh, from 70,000 to 200,000 Islamist protesters called for adoption of Islamic law (Sharia) by the secular government. The government responded with force to related road blockages, violent riots, and primitive thrown explosives. The government use of force included some live fire, and a total of approximately 37 killed over two days. That number will likely rise, and thrice that number were likely wounded. The largest opposition party, which is allied with the Islamists, called for a 2-day general strike (WSJ, NYT, CNN, WP, AJ). Footage of the protests is below, courtesy of Associated Press.

The effects of such force will be to increase the number and militancy of islamists in Bangladesh. A minority will likely turn to more subversive violence, such as terrorist assassinations, extortion, and bombings. Such action and reaction by the government and protesters has no obvious resolution in sight. Combined with Islamist anger at continuing legal proceedings against prominent Islamist politicians and public anger at mounting factory deaths, the last two days is likely a turning point for Bangladesh’s stability — in a decidedly negative direction. At least some of this increasing unrest may soon target foreign visitors, investments, and suppliers in the country.

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