The CSS Blog Network

The Politics of Twitter

Shifting sands or a tool that is here to stay? Photo courtesy of Rosaura Ochoa/flickr

Barack Obama’s 2008 election campaign may still be the benchmark for the use of social media tools in politics, but some surprising new actors are embracing Twitter in particular in an effort to reach out to voters and citizens in a more personal and immediate way.

While leaders of ‘old Europe’ still seem quite reluctant to use the service (David Cameron, in his pre-prime minister days, once famously blurted out that “too many twits [it’s tweets, David] might make a twat”), politicians in South Asia are embracing the service as a means of reaching a very large number of citizens, very quickly.

Among them, Shashi Tharoor, the Indian Minister of State for External Affairs and member of parliament, who tweets several times a day, even using his stream to respond to constituent concerns. He has also run into trouble for his tweets. Although this may have given his follower numbers a boost, the ability to reach and interact with 825,000+ followers in such a dynamic and instant way is a feat in itself and a potentially powerful tool for governance in an unwieldy country like India.

Why have leaders in the West not embraced this new form of instant interaction? Do they fear that they may say something unwise, even controversial on a service that is anything but forgiving in its immediacy, or do they fear the barrage of responses they may get to an unpopular comment? While Silvio Berlusconi’s PR people might have made a wise choice in keeping him from the service, it could prove powerful in narrowing the divide between the ‘rulers’ and the ‘ruled’ and in making politics more relevant to millions of politically apathetic young people. » More

ISN Weekly Theme: The Rise of the Right

Europe turning right? Courtesy of: Rene De Paula Jr/flickr

One hallmark of Europe’s changing political landscape in the past decades has been the steady rise of parties on the extreme right. This week the ISN explores the ‘family’ of right-wing parties and the implications of their rising popularity and clout across the continent.

Our Special Report offers the following content:

  • An Analysis by Dr Michale Bruter on the concept and reach of the extreme right in Europe.
  • A Podcast with Dr Andrea Mammone of Kingston University London on the rise of the right in Italy and the political, economic and ethical crisis engulfing the country.
  • Security Watch articles on the popularity of right wing parties among foreigners in Switzerland and on the rise of right-wing extremism in the UK.
  • Publications housed in our Digital Library, including a Centre for Eastern Studies commentary on Germany’s integration and naturalization policies and a Danish Institute for International Studies paper on multiculturalism in Denmark and Sweden.
  • Primary Resources, among them Geert Wilders’ speech in the House of Lords and a report on violence against Roma in Naples, Italy.
  • Links to relevant websites, including an article on populism in Europe and a swissinfo page on Islam and Switzerland that details last year’s minaret debate and its aftermath.

Preparing for Election Season in Colombia


Protests against FARC, photo: kozumel/flickr

After eight consecutive years in office, President Álvaro Uribe of Colombia has to step down and make way for potential change in Colombian politics. This post features a brief description of the main presidential candidates in the 2010 elections and looks at the potential impact of a changed political landscape on relations with the US, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and the guerrilla organization FARC.

This weekend’s parliamentary election will serve as an indicator of the direction Colombian politics will take in the post-Uribe era. » More

PoliSciZurich: Welcome To The Party

The professors and researchers at the Center for Comparative and International Studies (CIS), an have just started a blog, PoliSciZurich.

From PoliSciZurich:

“Our goal is to engage in a fresh exchange on research, teaching, and the academic profession by exploiting what makes political science in Zurich distinctive, namely a strongly research-oriented and international profile in a European location.”

Welcome to the blogosphere. Make yourselves at home!

The ‘X’ Factor

Girl power, photo: Valeria V.G/flickr

“During a crisis a woman can transform very quickly from being a politician to being a human being, and this can be bad”, Minko Gerdjikov, the deputy mayor of Sofia said in response to recent moves by the prime minister of Bulgaria to promote women to high-level positions in government and local administration, according to a New York Times article.

In a country known for its patriarchy and corruption, women, says the Prime Minister Boiko Borisov, are exactly what the country needs as “women are more diligent than men… are less corruptible than men… because they are more risk averse”. In an effort to clean his country’s act Borisov, an unlikely poster boy for the progressive forces in the country, has decided that it is exactly this ‘human’ characteristic that is required to overcome not only Bulgaria’s image problem, but also presumably its real problem of losing, rather embarrassingly, EU funds because of endemic and rampant graft.

To imply that being a ‘human being’ is somehow bad  is a strange assertion not only because it implies that men are somehow less human and better off so, but because it implies that politics and ‘human values’ are incompatible. Politics in a lot of transitional countries are undoubtedly tough, but to categorically negate human values as components of successful and good politics is self-serving from the point of view of those who have a vested interest in the continuation of ‘business as usual’.  Given the tendency for group-think and irrationality in crisis situations in particular, most often in male-dominated groups, should we not celebrate a more nuanced and independent form of deliberation that can come with the ‘human touch’, in women as well as men?

Even if women are more in touch with their humane side (buried deep in hardened male politicians), wired to perhaps see the world from a more communal point of view, does this bear out in the real world? Are women leaders any different when faced with the dilemmas of ruling the world’s countries, cities and communities? In other words, does the ‘X’ factor change anything? » More

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