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Iran: Options for the West

Iran: Domestic Crisis and Options for the West
Iran: Domestic Crisis and Options for the West

What are the effects of Iran’s domestic crisis on the nuclear issue?

A new analysis by the Center for Security Studies (CSS) looks at policy options available for western governments.

Roland Popp, senior researcher at the CSS, argues that the weakening of the Iranian regime is unlikely to ease negotiations with Tehran over the nuclear issue.

You can download the paper here.

ISN Weekly Theme: Japan Changes

Street scene in Tokyo/Photo: James D Law
Street scene in Tokyo/Photo: James D Law, flickr

As Europeans celebrate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, in Japan, the Cold War political system has just been overthrown. The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which together with the bureaucracy and big business formed the clich├ęd ‘iron triangle,’ has been defeated. The victorious Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), which will take over the government, has promised to loosen the grip of the bureaucracy. However, in taking power from the bureaucrats, DPJ politicians face a dilemma, according to Dan Harada in our latest edition of ISN Podcasts.

At this historic moment in the country’s political history, we present to you some of our resources on Japan:

  • In the Policy Briefs section, Alexandru Luta explains what ‘Climate Sudoku’ means, as Japanese interest groups, ministries and NGOs argue over greenhouse gas reduction targets
  • We present to you Japan’s post-war constitution, with the legendary Article 9, “Reunciation of War,” as well as the DPJ’s platform for government in the Primary Resources section
  • In the Publications section, Axel Berkofsky examines the past, present and future of bilateral relations between North Korea and Japan
  • We introduce you to the Japan Forum on International Relations (JFIR), as well as the the National Institute for Defense Studies (NIDS) in the IR Directory

Japan: Balancing Bureaucracy with Change

DPJ Poster "Government Change", www.dpj.or.jp
DPJ Poster "Government Change", www.dpj.or.jp

Change had been predicted, change occurred. Parliamentary elections in Japan brought two victors: First, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), which won almost two thirds of the seats in the House of Representatives. Second, opinion pollsters, who predicted the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) would be defeated. My skepticism towards the opinion polls proved unjustified.

In the latest edition of ISN Podcasts, I talked to Dan Harada, an insider to Japanese politics, about the elections and their implications. According to him, the DPJ now faces a dilemma: On the one hand, the new government needs to fulfill its election pledge and strengthen the role of politicians in lawmaking at the cost of bureaucrats. On the other hand, the DPJ needs to cooperate with the bureacracy in order to realize their policies.

Japan: Same Predictions of Change

Building of the National Diet, the Japanese parliament/ Photo: erinsikorskystewart/flickr
Blinded by the prospect of change? The National Diet, Japan's parliament/ Photo: erinsikorskystewart/flickr

For The Economist, as for most other commentators, the dice have been cast. Four years after it won a landslide victory under the reformist banner held by Koizumi Jun’ichiro, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is expected to lose the lower house elections set for 30 August. The predicted winner will be the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) (don’t be misled by the party names, they don’t mean much).

However, government change has been predicted before, or as The Economist writes: “The 54-year-old LDP’s obituary has been written many times, and the corpse has always revived.” Among those obituarists is also The Economist, who like me, have been wrong in the past. But this time, the evidence seems defeating. Recent opinion polls suggest that 46 percent of the respondents would vote for the DPJ compared to 19 percent for the LDP. A week ago, the DPJ won the elections to the Tokyo metropolitan assembly and pushed aside the LDP, which had been the biggest party there for 40 years.

Nevertheless, I remain skeptical about the prospect of government change. Let me give you four reasons for this.

Electoral Geography

Screenshot from Electoral Geography 2.0
Screenshot from Electoral Geography 2.0

Ever since my first hiking holiday, I’ve been a big fan of maps! So I was thrilled to discover the website Electoral Geography 2.0. It gathers election and voting data from all over the world and illustrates most of it with maps.

For example, check out the results of last weekend’s elections in Bulgaria or Mexico. International media usually reports on overall national results. But I like comparing regional patterns, since these are often very telling about ethnic and social cleavages. Electoral Geography 2.0 also provides election results from previous years, which also make for interesting comparisons.

According to the authors of the website, electoral geography is the study of regularities and patterns of election results. They don’t provide original analysis (yet?), but they do have a page listing a few good papers and articles on the topic.