New APCG Newsletter

Our September issue of the APCG Newsletter is now available. This is our most exciting issue yet!

Volume 8, Issue 2, September 2012

Here are some of the highlights:

Page 2. Symposium: New Directions in Gender and Politics Scholarship: Transforming the Study of African Politics, Guest Editors Gretchen Bauer & Aili Tripp. The symposium includes contributions from Aili Tripp, Kara Ellerby, Chiseche Mibenge, Peace A. Medie, Olajumoke Yacob-Haliso, Alice Kang, and Josephine Ahikire.

Page 13. Review of the Ethnic Power Relations dataset, written by Paul Zachary.

Page 15. Announcement of our award winners, Jaime Bleck (APCG-Lynne Rienner Award for Best Dissertation) and Robin Harding (APCG-African Affairs Award for Best Graduate Student Paper).

Page 16. Statements by candidates for APCG Chair and Treasurer.

Page 19. MPSA Panel Submissions are DUE FRIDAY!

Africa Notes: Yao-Min vs. the Chinese Government?

I recently posted about Yao-Min’s efforts to combat the ivory trade in Africa. It made for a great photo op.

However, as the NY Times story linked below notes, there may be reason to believe that offiicals in the Chinese government are creating the very economic conditions that make elephant poaching profitable. Can Yao-Min impact this?

A Story Exposes How the Chinese Government is Fueling Elephant Slaughter –

Global Elections: the race to be the next leader of the WTO

After 8 years in office, Pascal Lamy, the long-standing, cool-headed leader of the World Trade Organization will step down. Lamy (France, and former EC Commissioner for Trade) was the fifth Director-General of the WTO. Past leaders included Supachai Panitchpakdi (2002-2005, Thailand), Mike Moore (1999-2002, New Zealand), Renato Ruggiero (1995-1999, Italy) and Peter Sutherland (1993-1995, Ireland, also the last leader of the GATT). (WTO)

Lamy has presided over the WTO during some difficult times. Most notably, he has repeatedly tried–and failed–to revive the Doha round of trade talks. This has not been his fault, the D-G has limited power to impact members’ behaviors. And one could say that he has succeeded in fending off the complete death of the negotiations. However, one can wonder whether a fresh face might help revive talks.

Who is running for office?

According to Reuters, we only have two names at the moment (Reuters). Formal nominations will be made in December

The African Candidate
It is common for regional blocks to put forward their own candidates and the African Union may have the clearers mechanisms for doing this. Several potential African candidates have been mentioned. Nigeria’s Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who also was an important candidate for the World Bank’s top job earlier this year, has reportedly expressed no interest in running for the WTO position (PeaceFMOnline). Nigeria’s current trade minister, Olusegun Aganga, has also been mentioned. Another possibility that has been mentioned is South Africa Trade Minister Rob Davies (Reuters). But apparently the AU has decided it will be none of the above. There are a number of reports stating that the African Union has decided that Ghana’s former trade minister, Alan Kyremanten, should hold the post (Ghana Joy Online; Kyerematen currently is the trade advisor at the UN Economic Commission for Africa and head of the African Trade Policy Centre. ( As Reuters reports, this was a contentious decision. However, if he can get all of Africa’s WTO members to back him, then that would be (a) the first time all of them supported the same candidate and (b) a significant portion of the WTO’s membership, which could go a long way towards getting him elected to the job.

New Zealand Again?
Another likely candidate is New Zealand’s trade minister Tim Groser. However, it has barely been a decade since someone from New Zealand held the post, making his chances unlikely (The New Zealand Herald).

Other possibilities
Reuters mentions a number of possible candidate from Mexico and Costa Rica, with some broader speculation about Brazil’s Ambassador to the WTO, Roberto Azevedo, as a possible Latin American choice.

Bottom Line
It is still way too early to tell what will happen in this competition for the WTO’s top job. But it is clear that the game is afoot.

Africa Notes: Angola’s Election

Reuters reported today the somewhat unsurprising challenge by Angola’s opposition party, UNITA, to the national election results of August 31st (Reuters). The ruling MPLA party, led by President dos Santos, won with 74 percent of the vote (Reuters). This was a legislative election, but the constitution–changed in 2010 under MPLA and Dos Santos direction–stipulates that the party leader should become president for a five-year term. Dos Santos has already served about 33 years.

MPLA’s advantages
The MPLA had key advantages going into the election, in terms of resources and influence over most media. It also is able to claim itself as the choice for peace and stability, given the near decade of peace that it has presided over since the end of the civil war (Reuters-Timeline-Angola). And that past decade has also been prosperous for Angola as a whole. Between 2002 and 2008, growth averaged an astonishing 17 percent per year. To further their case as the party of prosperity, the MPLA announced a platform with a main focus on combating hunger and extreme poverty.

The opposition’s case
The platform of the opposition groups have focussed on limited political and civil rights and–perhaps most directly–the growing economic inequality within Angola. UNITA and other opposition groups are quick to point out that benefits of a decade of economic growth have been unevenly realized (Reuters; Mail&Guardian). They accuse the government of mismanaging oil revenues.

In terms of the election itself, many were concerned about the lack of transparency in electoral rolls. And on the day of election there were reports of some irregularities. Perhaps even more seriously, one relatively new opposition group, CASA-CE, protested the imprisonment of its youth leaders (Global Voices). Finally, many claimed that the National Electoral Commission was biased in its attachment to the ruling MPLA party. The relatively low voter turnout of 57%, some suggest, might have to do with both the fraudulent conduct of the election and voter apathy in the midst of the inevitability of an MPLA win (Global Voices). It will be a little while before we know what types of impacts the opposition’s complaints to the National Electoral Commission will have.

My take on all of this
Many democracy advocates are upset about the conduct of the recent elections and the MPLA’s continued grip on power. And I agree that there are some legitimate grievances here. However, optimist that I am, I think there may be a few reasons to be optimistic about what happened here. First, I think that the practice of voting and participating in contested elections strengthens democracy. This was only the second election since the civil war ended and there was far more enlightened contestation in this one. Second, the MPLA and Dos Santos were forced in this election to consider and respond to the needs of those who feel left out of Angola’s rapid economic rise. I think there is a case to be made for thinking that the fledgling middle class in Angola may be starting to learn its important potential roles in Angolan democracy. Third, opposition groups also learned in this process. And while their challenges may not have much of an impact, the use of the official institutions–as frustrating as the process may be–could have an impact. Finally, there will be another window of opportunity in the next five years, whether from an early retirement by Dos Santos or through a regularly scheduled election, for both sides to take the lessons they are learning and apply them. I’m not optimistic that there will be a major shift in political power in that next election, but perhaps the one after? It take time to build a democracy.

Noted: DNC vs. RNC on the environment

Last week, with the RNC Convention, Romney raised more than a few eyebrows with his comments on climate change:

President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet. MY promise…is to help you and your family. (Business Insider)

He paused in there just enough to get a laugh from the audience about Obama’s audacity to care about things like climate change. And this did not go unnoticed. The Examiner called it a “bizarre… laugh line”. Uri Friedman wrote for Foreign Policy that this might be the “most controversial line” in the speech:

Critics swiftly derided the comment. “That climate change laugh line is going to be in every documentary from the latter half of the 21st century,” Matt Novak wrote on Twitter. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof tweeted that Romney’s “dismissiveness was appalling.”(Foreign Policy)

There clearly is a partisan divide on these issues, but as Fuentes-George notes on his blog, environmental issues have had Republican support in the past. Over at Legal Planet, there are some thoughtful posts by Matthew Kahn and Dan Farber about the partisan divide. Farber usefully shares his own attempt at making an objective side-by-side comparison as well.

One only needs to follow the blogs of the Sierra Club and similar environmental groups to discover very quickly who they think the best choice for President will be. Below is the infographic from a North Carolina chapter. Unfortunately, Obama himself seems to be less committed to doing something about climate change than he once was (energy biz). The most recent evidence of this may be his decision to OK drilling in the arctic (Reuters).wpid-energy-plan-2012-09-5-20-42.jpg