In a recent article, Marko Klasnja and Joshua A. Tucker provide evidence from the experiments in Moldova and Sweden to show there is a relationship between the economic perceptions of the voters and their reactions to corruption in their respective countries [gated version, ungated version]. They argue that in low corruption countries such as Sweden, voters punish the corrupt politicians in the elections regardless of the state of the economy. However, in high-corruption countries such as Moldova, voters tend to be less concerned about corruption when they are satisfied with the government’s economic policy performance. I wouldn’t hesitate to add Turkey to the group of high corruption countries, especially after the corruption investigations started in December 2013, revealing illicit money transfers to Iran and bribery for construction projects. Some have called the charges the biggest corruption scandal of Turkish Republican history. Very briefly, Turkish police seized shoeboxes stashed with $4.5 million in cash at the home of a state-owned bank’s chief executive and arrested sons of four cabinet ministers and several high-profile businessmen. Continue reading
Mark Kayser and Arndt Leininger sum up the results of their German election forecasting model and compare it to others. They had predicted a share of 47% for CDU/CSU and FDP (very close to the actual 46.3%). But they also point out that it’s much harder to predict the stability of coalitions…
Our model drew on previous election outcomes, characteristics of the government and of voters and, most originally, the relative economic performance of Germany in comparison to the two other most important economies in Europe (…). Our model fared at least as well as traditional polling, making us optimistic about the future of forecasting elections in general and forecasting German elections in particular.
The Comparative Constitutions project has launched a great new website called “Constitute” allowing everyone to get to know constitutions from all over the world. You can browse by country or by topic, but it seems that older versions are not included (via Monkey Cage).
Henry Farrell compares the controversy about the analyst Elizabeth O’Bagy to the case of former German defense minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, who had to resign in Germany (for plagiarism in his dissertation), but now works at a respected D.C. think-tank:
O’Bagy’s academic credentials were crucial to her status as an ‘expert.’ When these credentials exploded, so did her career. Zu Guttenberg’s value rests not on his purported academic training, but on his past political role and current political connections.
Jay Ulfelder argues that we live in a time of systemic instability, which is only inadequately captured by observers that stick to a perspective where “countries are a bit like petri dishes lined up on a laboratory countertop”. So we ought to think harder about connecting the dots between state failures, increasing piracy, the financial crisis, food prices, and long-time cycles of social unrest (which look slightly esoteric to me)…
56 (80%) of the 70 teaspoons disappeared during the study. (…) The half life of teaspoons in communal tearooms (42 days) was significantly shorter than for those in rooms associated with particular research groups (77 days). The rate of loss was not influenced by the teaspoons’ value. (…) At this rate, an estimated 250 teaspoons would need to be purchased annually to maintain a practical institute-wide population of 70 teaspoons. (…) The loss of workplace teaspoons was rapid, showing that their availability, and hence office culture in general, is constantly threatened.
Election Day in Germany is on Sunday. Yesterday was the information event for my tasks as a poll worker on Sunday. As we all know, Germans are said to be very organized and efficient, but can be harsh. This event proved the rule. And I feel like making fun about one specific disadvantage of being German:
German elections and forecasting
Back to serious issues. A few weeks ago I somehow lamented about the state of forecasting Germany’s federal elections in 2013. Sadly, I wasn’t aware of Kai Arzheimer’s work. In the mid of August, he has launched a series of blog posts on forecasting the German elections and some follow-ups here, here, here, and here. But you could also have a glance at his code and data for replication or just visit his blog in general which is very entertaining.
He also has a piece in the online edition of Al Jazeera on Germany’s elections, the EU, and the future of the Euro.
The European Council on Foreign Relations is currently running a great series looking at how the German elections being viewed from by other EU partners. So far, the series covered Poland, France, Italy, Bulgaria, Britain, and Spain.
Scholars from the Social Science Research Center in Berlin (WZB) have looked at party manifestos of all German federal elections. Their data is now available and they have published some at the Democracy & Democratization blog. See also their introduction to the Manifesto project. The online edition of the newspaper Die Zeit also presented some of their findings (in German). The base line is: political parties differ on many issues in their party manifestos and there is a general turn to the left regarding both economic and socio-political dimensions (less market-oriented and more progressive). But, of course, exceptions prove the rule. Continue reading
On Sunday, September 1st, all major TV channels in Germany will broadcast the first (and only) “duel” between Angela Merkel and her challenger in the upcoming federal elections, Peer Steinbrück. As we have criticized in a previous post, both are not exactly known for their visionary positions on foreign policy.
Nonetheless, we will make sure to watch the show. In particular, we’ll pay close attention to any mentions of foreign policy and international affairs.
And to make things more interesting, we suggest you gather a group of friends for a round of “German foreign policy bingo”! We’ve come up with 24 topics that could be featured in Sunday’s debate and created a set of randomized bingo sheets. Please download, print, and share them with your friends:
PS. For added fun, turn this into a drinking game! Take a shot for every topic that is mentioned, and prepare a bottle of champagne for the lucky winner (in case the candidates actually talk about foreign policy enough to fill a row on the card).
The election campaign in Germany is about to gather speed with less than 30 days left until election day. I assume we’re going to cover that in more depth soon, too. For now, I can direct you to the Hertie School’s Expert Blog on the German Federal Elections in 2013 in case you have not checked it out yet. They cover a plethora of topics from labour market policies and the German Energiewende to gender equality and family policy.
So let me do the kick-off for some posts that will appear on this blog over the next couple of weeks. Yet, this is not about politics but looks at polling and forecasting in the German case, thereby briefly touching upon some of the recent trends of the German political landscape. I will point out some of the flaws of both polling and forecasts. However, don’t misread the point: I’m not against polls and forecasts as such and have lots of fun following the respective discussion throughout the year. But we should not overemphasize these results, either, as both do not come without problems.
Summer break has begun in Germany. Wherever you are, enjoy your time in the sun! In case you’re stuck inside (or using a handheld device instead of just relaxing in the park), here are some links:
- One of my favorite web comics has an episode on how to reform voting disctricts; it involves strict rules, is based on incentives and public scrutiny, and leaves little room for corruption.
- The forecasting competition in which I take part (Good Judgment Project) is about to kick off season 3. I plan to cover the next steps here on the blog, in particular because I have now been promoted to “super forecaster” status. Please consider reading part 1 and part 2 of my coverage so far.
- Edward Snowden’s fate is still undecided and the news about U.S./UK surveillance will probably keep going. For Germany, there is a new angle to the whole story in the aftermath of interior minister Friedrich’s visit to Washington: “many were critical of his trip, saying he was given little information and came across like an obedient school boy” (SPIEGEL).
- Friedrich is now under fire for suggesting that several terrorist attacks on German soil have been avoided thanks to PRISM; a statement that was not backed up by facts. He also neatly summarized the ‘let’s give up civil liberties for counter-terrorism’ logic: “The noble intention of saving lives in Germany justifies working with our American friends and partners …” (my translation; via law blog)
- Chancellor Merkel, on the other, is extremely careful not to say anything at all in her recent interviews on the topic.
- Speaking of domestic politics: Our colleagues at Hertie School have set up a very promising blog covering the German federal election. We will try to get in touch with them and address some more foreign policy issues here!
Earlier this year, I informed you that there would be held a constitutional referendum in Zimbabwe this March. The outcome was positive and the Zimbabwean people have agreed on a new constitution. The referendum was only one step out of several others agreed upon in the roadmap to democratic elections in the South African country as foreseen in the Global Political Agreement (GPA) and negotiated with the SADC and the main Zimbabwean parties. Elections shall be held this year and consultations about the date are currently under way.
So how does the outcome look like? Little surprising, the new constitution has been approved by the majority of the electorate. A huge a majority of 95% of the votes were in favor of the new constitution. Also, more than half of the six million eligible voters went to the ballots. While the high number of approval is not very surprising given that the proposed draft had been supported by the two large Zimbabwean parties, ZANU-PF and MDC, one needs to say on a more positive note that the number of electoral participation was higher than expected. Remember, the process was overshadowed by political tensions, politically motivated violence, and the exclusion of NGO and media representatives.
In Zimbabwe, a constitutional referendum will be held on Saturday which will end a process that started almost five years ago. As of now, the draft constitution is said to be constraining presidential powers, setting a maximum of two terms for the presidency, and strengthening political freedom. But what else is to be expected this year? With the current tense political situation around the polls this Saturday and the intra-party quarrels, the referendum and the likely to be-accepted new constitution are only the first steps in Zimbabwe’s democratization endeavor. The real litmus test is still to come: the presidential elections.