Updated 4 February 2018

AP*Comparative Government
and Politics Examination
|What You Need to Know and Just The Facts!
__ Updates, What You Need to Know, 7th Edition
and Just the Facts!, 2nd Edition________________________

Update on Brexit - 2018

The BBC published a great collection of questions and answers about Brexit in January 2018. It would be a great outline for self-study or an organization for a cooperative study group.

Connect with the article and scroll through to questions you want answers for.

Brexit: All you need to know about the UK leaving the EU

Here is an easy-to-understand guide to Brexit - beginning with the basics, then a look at the negotiations, followed by a selection of answers to questions we've been sent.

British snap election, 2017

After becoming Prime Minister, Theresa May found herself facing the EU and negotiations for Britain's withdrawal with a bare 12-seat majority in the House of Commons. Just a few dissenting Tories could undermine her position while negotiating a deal for Brexit. Hardline Brexit supporters threatened to undermine her position if she didn't take an aggressive position in negotiations with the EU.

Opinion polls showed the Conservatives to be much more popular than Labour. In addition, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn appeared to be an unpopular figure.

In April, the PM asked Commons for permission to call an early (snap) election. Nearly all parties supported the election. Most observers expected PM May to win a larger majority and therefore have more power in negotiations with the EU.

Corbyn ran an energetic campaign and appeared in public all over the UK. Labour promised to maintain or restore social programs and make taxes more progressive. May's campaign was more subdued and traditional. The conservatives emphasized national defense, balancing the national budget, and promises to reach a Brexit agreement that wouldn't damage the British economy. May declined to participate in a televised debate produced the BBC.

The results were surprising to nearly all politicians, pollsters, and voters. The Conservatives lost their majority in Commons. Labour gained 30 seats.

The Prime Minister had to make an agreement with the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland, which won 10 seats. The agreement will be an awkward one. It won't be a formal coalition, but an agreement to support the budget and major goals of the minority government and its minority partner. A major factor in the difficulty is that the DUP is likely to insist on maintaining an open border with the Republic of Ireland, an EU member. Such an open border is an anathema to advocates of Brexit.

The government is likely to be seen as weak and face the EU negotiators as even less powerful than May's government was before the election. Brexit negotiations began on 19 June 2017.


Iranian election, 2017

At the end of May 2017, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was reelected by 57% of those voting. He had campaigned on promises of continued economic reform and engagement with the world community. Voters evidently thought his promises were more appealing even though his first four-year term did not produce as much greater prosperity as expected.

Nonetheless, after the election results were announced, men and women packed the streets all over Iran, reveling most of the night. They were celebrating Rouhani's re-election. They cheered his vision of opening Iran to the West and the electoral defeat of Iran's isolationists and hardliners.

President Rouhani might make job-creation his uncontroversial centre piece policy. Foreign investment which was hoped for when Iran negotiated relief from international sanctions, might increase now that he has won a second term.

The president must also prepare for a backlash by the military and conservative clerics who opposed him. The Revolutionary Guards and their basiji followers operate throughout the world and can threaten opponents everywhere. The Revolutionary Guard elite is heavily involved in Iraq and Syria and might seek to undermine Rouhani's opening to the world.

The presidential campaign did reveal a number of highly significant, new social and political trends in the country. These three trends brought to light the still-existing social, political and ideological cleavages within the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Perhaps the most significant aspect of this presidential election campaign was the return of Iranian nationalism, which is more civic than ethnocentric.

Iranians are still divided on the issue of secularism versus religion in the country's political life. Many Iranians prefer a society in which religion is not overly intrusive and allows for a greater space for the freedom of expression. But conservatives are adamantly opposed to what they see as creeping secularism.

The resurgence in nationalism and the divide over religion's role add up to the third and most consequential divide: what does it mean in today's Iran to be a revolutionary, and which faction--reformist/moderate or conservative/principlist--best represents the ideals of the 1979 Islamic revolution?

Although encouraging as long-term trends, the election's results have done little to change the underlying dynamics of Iran's Islamic system. Even reformists like Rouhani are not willing to go as far as challenging the revolution's foundational values. They only try to moderate them.


British Political Parties, 2017
The state of political parties in the UK is in flux. A writer for The Economist argued that perhaps the party system in the UK is a one-party system. In fact, at the beginnin of 2017 there are two major parties and at least two others that need to be considered.

The Conservative government was under pressure from anti-EU members of the party and the government. And it was competing with a relatively new party the UK Independence Party (UKIP) that was formed in 1991 with the goal of getting the UK out of the EU.

In 2016, after winning an election to gain control of the government, PM David Cameron and his government scheduled a referendum, which they expected would confirm the desire of most people in the UK to remain in the EU. However, they were surprised. A bare majority voted for Brexit (British exit from the EU). Cameron and his government resigned. A new government organized by Theresa May took power, promising to follow the will of the people.

However, the cleavage between those who wanted the UK out of the EU and those who favored remaining was a strain on the party.

Meanwhile the Labour Party, a major power since the 1920s, suffered its own intra-party struggles. Tony Blair's successors have not been effective in opposition.

After five years of Conservative-Liberal Democratic coalition and the Conservative victory in 2015, there was a battle for Labour Party leadership. The traditional wing wanted to get back to the socialist and union roots of the party, while the moderates wanted to revise and build upon Blair's "third way" with new leadership.

Jeremy Corbyn, representing the traditionalists, won the election for party leadership. Corbyn attracted many new members, but also alienated many of those who wanted to pursue the strategy used by Tony Blair in the 1990s. (See note below, "Labour Party changes," for more details.)

The Liberal Democrats were created out of a collapse of centrist parties in the 1980s. Their candidates frequently came in second to Conservative or Labour candidates in parliamentary elections. They held relatively few seats in Parliament until 2010. After party leader Nick Clegg impressed a nation-wide audience during the UK's first televised candidate debate, the party won 57 seats in Parliament. Since no party held a majority, the Conservatives invited the Liberal Democrats to join a coalition government.

Nick Clegg was less impressive as a deputy prime minister than he was as a debater. And, of course, the Conservatives did little to give the Liberal Democrats credit for achievements. In the 2015 election, the Liberal Democrats won only eight seats in the House of Commons.

The UK Independence Party (UKIP) started out as a single issue (get the UK out of the EU) party, but has since added proposals to its manifesto to severely limit immigration, to establish an English Parliament (to parallel the devolved bodies in Scotland and Wales), and to limit National Health Service benefits to citizens of the UK. In spite of the success of the Brexit referendum, there is only one MP from UKIP.

So, is the UK a multi-party system? Is it a two-party system? Or do you accept the argument from The Economist that the system is, in reality, a one party system?

Russian Duma election, 2016
On the day after the election, it appeared that United Russia had won 343 of the 450 seats in the State Duma. That was a gain of over 100 seats. The significance of those results was that United Russia had enough seats to amend the constitution on its own. Observers will be watching what amendments are made to the regime.

One reason for the overwhelming victory for United Russia was that half the Duma representatives were elected from single member districts this time. In previous elections, parties nominated lists of candidates who were elected by proportional means. The single member districts gave the leadership of United Russia more control over who was able to run and who was elected. Fewer minority parties won seats. Turnout was low, perhaps a function of lowered expectations for effective protest votes.

Brexit and May

In the spring of 2016, Prime Minister David Cameron was facing the disintegration of his Parliamentary majority and his government. The demand for Britain's withdrawal from the EU had become irresistible. Even members of the government, when given permission to disagree with the official line, had joined the Brexit (Britain exit) campaign..

Cameron called for a referendum on the issue, assuming that people would not vote to leave the EU. Trade, travel, and occupational opportunities were too great, he assumed.

Boy, was he wrong. Just over half of British voters favored Brexit in the referendum. He resigned.

After a short intra-party campaign, Theresa May was elected leader of the Conservative Party and became the second woman to be Prime Minister of the UK. She had campaigned against Brexit, but promised to carry out the will of the people in ways that didn't hurt the country. During the summer of 2016, she made the rounds of EU prime ministers and presidents (most importantly Germany and France), to discuss how best to end Britain's EU membership while maintaining the trade, travel, and immigration advantages.

Prime Minister May and many observers suggested that no one should expect formal action of the UK's withdrawal from the EU until 2017.
Labour Party changes
After the 2015 election losses, Labour Party leader Ed Millliband resigned. That led to a lively campaign among four rivals for party leadership.

Much of the conversation during the contest was about the nature of Labour Party ideas. Tony Blair had led Labour government for a decade, advocating, as did U.S. President Bill Clinton, the idea of political triangulation. The goal of that practice was to find the middle ground of public opinion and the most votes. Blair promoted the idea of a "New Labour" Party that was pragmatic and not ideologically socialist.

After the shocking losses of 2015, some party members blamed the pragmatic political practices. (The success of SNP and the losses of votes to UKIP candidates were probably larger factors.) Jeremy Corbyn campaigned for the party leadership by advocating a return to basic Labour principles of social welfare, redistribution of wealth, and government management of the economy. His campaign drew lots of media attention and many new Labour Party members.

Corbyn's success requires us to pay particular attention to the politics in Commons for the next while. Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs) might be a valuable source. (That link includes links to videos of recent PMQs.)
__ Updates, What You Need to Know, 6th Edition and Just the Facts!_____________________________

Nigerian Elections 2015

At the end of March, former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari became the first opposition candidate to win a presidential election in Nigeria. He defeated the incumbant, Goodluck Jonathan by more than 2.5 million votes. Buhari's All Progressive Congress (APC) won 15,424,921 votes and Mr Jonathan's People's Democratic Party (PDP) gained 12,853,162 votes.

Significantly, Jonathan telephoned his rival to concede defeat. Never before has a sitting president been defeated in an election.

Figures released by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)... showed that APC won 61 senate seats while PDP has 48 (out of a total of 109 seats in the Senater - three for each state and one for the capital district of Abuja). The APC, hitherto the main opposition, has now attained simple majority in the senate, although the number fell short of the two-thirds required to pass major legislations.

The APC has secured a total of 209 seats in the House, while the PDP has 133. This figure gives the APC absolute majority.

The list showed that All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) secured five seats, while Labour Party, ACCORD and Social Democratic Party (SDP) go one member each.

The governorship polls were held in just 29 states, since seven had already been settled in by-elections over the past few years.

APC now has a total of 20 states. The PDP holds the governorship in 13 states. Minor, local parties hold office in 3 states.

__ Corrections, What You Need to Know, 7th Edition _____________________________

__ Corrections, What You Need to Know, 6th Edition _____________________________

A careful reader asked about review question #8 for chapter 12: International Organizations on page 146.

She wrote, "You give the correct answer as C - 'staffed by technocrats loaned to the EU by member governments.' However, on page 140, [near the bottom of the] right column, you say that 'it is the Commission that proposes new laws... ' Therefore, I would have thought that B would be the correct answer: 'has the power to propose legislation.'"

I created confusion by my careless use of words (power and propose) in the question.

My intention would be clarified if choice B for question #8 was "has the power to introduce legislation."

I meant to distinguish the law-making power of the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from the advisory roles of the European Commissioners and their bureaucrats.

In real life MEPs ask Commissioners and bureaucrats in their commissions to draft legislation for them to introduce. Most MEPs are not lawyers and thus not familiar with the formal, legal language of legislation.

Often Commissioners or their staffs suggest to MEPs legislation they believe would be beneficial. These suggestions are often accompanied by drafts that MEPS could introduce to the EP. However, only the MEPs can formally introduce legislation.

I caused the problem by not using terms carefully enough. (That should be a hint about the care you should take when writing responses for FRQs.) In some contexts, the word propose means merely to suggest. I should have used the "introduce" to make it clear that I was referring to the legal authority (power) to present legislation for parliamentary consideration.

If you find yourself scratching your head about other things in the book, let me know. I have no desire to confuse anyone. (But sometimes I do.)

Please let me know about errors and omissions. Ken Wedding.

__ Corrections, Just the Facts!, 2nd Edition __________________________

__ Corrections, Just the Facts! __________________________

__ Corrections, What You Need to Know, 5th Edition _____________________________

Please let me know about errors and omissions. Ken Wedding.

__ Updates, What You Need to Know, 5th Edition ________________________________

__ Supplements ________________________________

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