Browsing articles from "March, 2011"
Mar 31, 2011
Center for Democracy and Civil Society

Something is a better message than nothing

Sam Tadros, MA in Democracy and Governance student, has some advice for helping his fellow Egyptian liberals improve the resonance of their message:

Because liberals have been obsessed with unity that lacks any meaningful ideological content, they’ve forgotten that they don’t really share many interests between themselves. They don’t share an economic outlook. They differ on social policies. They also differ on foreign policy. The only thing they have in common is what they are not. They are not Islamists. Note that, perhaps without anyone even noticing, this ends up framing the debate as one between Islamists and the rest. This is a losing debate for the liberals,-not because Egyptians are ignorant religious people who blindly obey their religious leaders, but because, given the choice between an incoherent political message and a coherent Islamist message, Egyptians will choose the latter.

In other words, you can’t beat something with nothing.

Mar 29, 2011
Center for Democracy and Civil Society

False-residency election fraud

The study of election fraud is largely undeveloped in the academic community.  Although there are some exceptions, such as Walter Mebane’s use of Bendford’s Law and random digit forensics, most research has been case-specific without broad implications.

One type of election fraud, which often goes undiscussed, is when electors casting ballots in constituencies they don’t reside in.  Kentaro Fukumoto  and Yusaku Horiuchi address this issue, in a paper, which explores the impact of registration requirements on electoral fraud.  The authors use Japan as a case study, where weak registration laws automatically change where a citizen is registered to vote after they submit a change of address form to the local municipal office.   In other words, any Japanese citizen can easily change their voter registration address by submitting a form without evidence of their actual address.   By examining the 2003 local elections, the authors argue that there is considerable evidence of voters changing their registration status before the election, only to switch back right after.  Because only select municipalities vote in a particular year, the authors claim they can use local areas where elections are held as a control group, contrasting it with those that don’t.  They notice that changes in registration occur at a statistically significant level, more often in municipalities where elections are being held.  They further argue that the events leading up to why certain regions held elections on specific years was far enough removed from present day to be considered exogenous. Continue reading »

Mar 28, 2011
Center for Democracy and Civil Society

Obama & Our Conflict in Libya

Image courtesy of Politico.

Tonight President Obama prepares once again to address the nation on the subject of our ongoing conflict in Libya.  After a great deal of bipartisan complaint over US engagement without the consent of Congress, the President’s past news conferences, radio address and tonight’s speech at the National Defense University seems to have been coming for some time now.  Perhaps in part tied to news coverage and the current political argument around the subject, it’s one of the least popular military actions in decades, and likely the President hopes to stem that discontent with tonight’s address.

This evening we can probably expect to hear an explanation of the administration’s reasons for engaging in the conflict, and potential plans for where we go from here.  There’s bound also to be some explanation of the role of the international community in this conflict, and why it was critical that the United States join in a coalition rather than attempt to resolve Libya’s woes on its own.  The question is whether or not any of this new information will change much as far as public opinion and legislative rhetoric?

Perhaps the US engagement in Libya is actually some grand maneuver by the President to finally form a bipartisan consensus, even if that consensus is only over Congressional displeasure with the administration.

Mar 24, 2011
Center for Democracy and Civil Society

Congressional Politics & Global Conflict

Image courtesy of

Recently I’ve had a few excellent and rather fiery discussions with friends on the subject of the current conflict in Libya and the role being played by the United States in that conflict.  It’s fairly difficult for me to stand behind uses of military force, but like some of my peers it’s hard to see what would have been the better option for the US in Libya.  While I suspect David and I differ in regard to our government’s stance on the conflicts in Yemen and Bahrain, we agree that those conflicts are not a reason to let things in Libya grow worse.

Specifically, a colleague asked my opinion on the President’s recent decision to pursue military action in Libya without the consent of Congress.  Amid the current din of contrasting claims of Obama’s Presidential weakness, and the image of him as a socialist authoritarian overstepping the boundaries of Presidential power, the question certainly seemed worth addressing.  This isn’t the first time the role of the executive in conflict has come to a head in American history, and I suspect it will not be the last. Continue reading »

Mar 24, 2011
Center for Democracy and Civil Society

Money, money, money

More than a year after the earthquake that devastated the island nation, Haiti remains in a state of relative ruin. The U.S. is currently facing the prospect of further prolonged conflict in the Middle East with the situation in Libya. Our role and goals in Afghanistan evolve with alarming frequency.

And yet, the very kind of preventative aid and work overseas is on a chopping block known as the United States Congress, the House Foreign Affairs Committee in particular. Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is moving forward with her desire to slice and dice the State Department’s budget in order to help reduce overall federal spending. This is an admirable and absolutely necessary goal–it’s just that the funds she seeks to nix will have a marginal, if any, impact on the bottom line.

It is understandable that in a time of fiscal austerity here in the U.S., doling out dollars to the world’s poorest populations seems like it should come second to fixing our own problems. I completely understand this sentiment. The issue is, however, that we spend far less on foreign aid–specifically on work that with primarily humanitarian rationale–than most of the American public realizes. It’s not a problem of the purse, it’s a problem of perception. Continue reading »

Founded in 2004, Democracy and Society is a biannual print journal published by the Center for Democracy and Civil Society at Georgetown University. The D&S Blog provides web-only content, including special reports and investigative series, on issues relating to democracy and development.

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