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Article

Land-Related Conflict and Electoral Politics in Africa  

Catherine Boone

Land-related disputes and land conflicts are sometimes politicized in elections in African countries, but this is usually not the case. Usually, land-related conflict is highly localized, managed at the micro-political level by neo-customary authorities, and not connected to electoral competition. Why do land conflicts sometimes become entangled in electoral politics, and sometimes “scale up” to become divisive issues in regional and national elections? A key determinant of why and how land disputes become politicized is the nature of the underlying land tenure regime, which varies across space (often by subnational district) within African countries. Under the neo-customary land tenure regimes that prevail in most regions of smallholder agriculture in most African countries, land disputes tend to be “bottled up” in neo-customary land-management processes at the local level. Under the statist land tenure regimes that exist in some districts of many African countries, government agents and officials are directly involved in land allocation and directly implicated in dispute resolution. Under “statist” land tenure institutions, the politicization of land conflict, especially around elections, becomes more likely. Land tenure institutions in African countries define landholders’ relations to each other, the state, and markets. Understanding these institutions, including how they come under pressure and change, goes far in explaining how and where land rights become politicized.

Article

LGBT and Queer Politics in the Commonwealth  

Matthew Waites

The Commonwealth is the international governmental organization of states that emerged from the British empire, and since 2000 it has emerged as a focus for contestation relating to the regulation of same-sex sexualities, gender diversity, and diverse sex characteristics. Following colonial criminalizations focused on same-sex sexual acts, and later formal decolonizations, there have appeared many national movements for decriminalization and human rights in relation to sexuality and gender. The Commonwealth has emerged as a site of politics for some significant actors claiming human rights in relation to sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics. This has been led by specific organizations of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, increasingly with intersex people and allies, but it is also important to consider this in relation to queer people, understood more broadly here as people in all cultures experiencing forms of sexualities, biological sex and genders outside the social structure of heterosexuality, and its associated sex and gender binaries. A range of forms of activist and non-governmental organization (NGO) engagement have occurred, leading to shifts in Commonwealth civil society and among some state governments. This has required researchers to develop analyses across various scales, from local and national to international and transnational, to interpret institutions and movements. The British Empire criminalized same-sex sexual acts between males, and to a lesser extent between females, across its territories. In certain instances there were also forms of gender regulation, constraining life outside a gender binary. Such criminalization influenced some of those claiming LGBT human rights to engage the Commonwealth. Research shows that a majority of Commonwealth states continue to criminalize some adult consensual same-sex sexual activity. Yet the history of struggles for decriminalization and human rights within states in the Commonwealth has led up to such recent important decriminalizations as in India and Trinidad and Tobago in 2018. LGBT and queer activist engagements of the Commonwealth itself commenced in 2007 when Sexual Minorities Uganda and African allies demanded entry to the Commonwealth People’s Space during a Heads of Government meeting in Kampala. Activism has often focused on the biannual Heads of Government meetings that are accompanied by civil society forums. A particularly significant phenomenon has been the emergence of a “new London-based transnational politics of LGBT human rights,” evident in the creation from 2011 of new NGOs working internationally from the United Kingdom. Among these organizations was the Kaleidoscope Trust, which shaped the subsequent formation of The Commonwealth Equality Network as an international network of NGOs that became formally recognized by the Commonwealth. Significant developments occurred at the London Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in April 2018; Prime Minister Theresa May expressed “regret” for past imperial criminalizations while announcing funding for Kaleidoscope Trust and other UK-based groups to use in international law reform work. These developments exemplify a wider problematic for both activists and analysts, concerning how LGBT and queer movements should engage in contexts that are still structured by imperial legacies and power relations associated with colonialism, persisting in the present.

Article

The Lisbon Treaty  

Jacques Ziller

The expression “the Lisbon Treaty” (LT) is a shortcut to the treaties upon which the European Union (EU) has been based since December 1, 2009. During the “reflection period” that lasted from June 2005 to December 2006 three options were available: remaining with the European treaties as amended by the Nice Treaty; starting new negotiations in order to adopt some changes deemed technically necessary; or trying to get “the substance” of the Constitutional Treaty (CT) of 2004 approved in the form a new treaty. Most member states and the EU institutions were in favor of the third option. The negotiations that led to the adoption of the LT in December 2007 departed from the usual treaty amendment scenarios. The content of the LT is to a large extent similar to that of the CT, as most of the novel provisions of that treaty have been taken over as they were written in the CT and introduced in the existing European Community (EC) and EU treaties. Apart from a few institutional innovations such as the Permanent President of the European Council and the new voting system in the Council, most innovations with regard to the European communities are to be found in the details. The ratification process of the LT was difficult, as it was slowed down by the necessity to hold two referenda in Ireland, and to overcome the resistance of the President of the Czech Republic, an overt Euroskeptic. The negotiations of 2007–2009 shed some light on the importance in EU policy-making and especially in treaty negotiations of the epistemic community of legal experts and, more precisely, of experts in EU law. Events in the years 2010 and 2011 led to minor treaty amendments, shaping the present content of what is usually referred to as the LT. Whether Brexit and the EP elections of 2019 will lead to important changes remains unknown.

Article

The Politics of Language Education in Africa  

Russell H. Kaschula and Michael M. Kretzer

Language policies in sub-Saharan African nations emerge out of specific political, historical, socioeconomic, and linguistic conditions. Education plays a crucial role for all spheres of language policy. Policies either upgrade or downgrade indigenous languages through their application at various educational institutions. The most significant example is the selection of the language(s) used as languages of learning and teaching at higher-education institutions. The region’s colonial history also influences the language policies of the independent African states. Language policy in Senegal is an example of a francophone country focusing on a linguistic assimilation policy in which minor reforms in favor of indigenous languages have taken place. Rwanda’s language policy is unique as the former francophone nation now uses English as an exoglossic language in a type of hybrid language policy. Botswana is an example of an anglophone country that follows a language policy that is dominated by a very close connection to the notion of nation-building through its concentration on a single language, Setswana, alongside English. Tanzania is an anglophone African country whose policy focuses on Kiswahili, which is one of the very few indigenous and endoglossic languages. Kiswahili is broadly used in Tanzanian educational institutions until the tertiary level, but its use as medium of instruction focuses on the primary level. South Africa demonstrates the very close relationship between general political decisions and language policy and vice versa. Language policy decisions are never neutral and are influenced by the politics of a specific country. As a result, individual and societal language attitudes influence language policies. In addition to this, the overt and official language policy on a macro level may differ from the implementation of such policies on a micro level. At the micro level, practice can include covert language practices by various stakeholders.

Article

Prosecutors: A Cross-National Political Perspective  

Stefan Voigt

Over the past decades, prosecutors have become more and more powerful within criminal justice systems. Yet, there is still relatively little empirical research on prosecutors. Most of the literature focuses on the analysis of the prosecutorial system of a single country. Cross-country analyses are close to nonexistent. From a comparative perspective, the various possible means to establish the independence of prosecutors from government and at the same time securing their accountability to the law are of paramount interest. Regarding the former, appointment procedures, possible career paths, and the degree to which prosecutors are subject to orders both from within the prosecution agency as well as from without (e.g., the ministry of justice) are of special concern. With regard to prosecutorial accountability, it is the legality principle (also known as mandatory prosecution), the issue whether prosecutors enjoy a monopoly in the prosecution of criminals, whether decisions not to prosecute a suspect are subject to judicial review, and the transparency of the behavior of prosecutors that are key. Regarding the organizational design choices of prosecution agencies that have been implemented across countries, four different clusters can be identified. The four clusters perform markedly different in terms of the rule of law levels associated with them. The consequences of institutional design choices are surprisingly small. The de facto organization of prosecutors turns out to be far more relevant for outcomes than what is prescribed de jure. Countries in which prosecutors enjoy a high degree of de facto independence suffer significantly less from corruption than countries in which this is not the case. Given that the institutional design choices of prosecutors are of limited relevance for their de facto situation, the question is: What factors determine the de facto independence and accountability of prosecutors? It turns out that some rather stable and immutable factors are decisive: Common law legal systems do better than those belonging to the civil law legal families. Generalized trust also plays an important role. If most people believe that others can be trusted, very specific rules for the behavior of prosecutors may seem unnecessary. A number of trends regarding the organization of prosecutors can be observed in many countries, among them the increased reliance on trial waiver systems, bonus payments to incentivize prosecutors, the founding of prosecutorial councils, and prosecutorial activism. It is questionable whether the first three of these trends will increase the efficiency of prosecution agencies; rather, they are likely to lead to a deterioration in the overall rule of law score of those countries relying on them.

Article

Revolutions and Constitutional Crisis  

Johannes Vüllers

Revolutionary actions and constitutional crises are closely linked. However, research mainly looks at the two phenomena as distinct from each other. While studies on revolutionary actions are interested in the agency and the impact of the actions on the country’s institutions, legal research focuses on the constitution itself. The separation of the two strands leads to a limited understanding of their dynamics and complexity. What do we know about the relationship between revolutionary actions and constitutional crisis, and vice versa? The first question is how revolutionary actions trigger constitutional crisis, defined as a moment in which decision makers are unwilling or unable to manage the societal conflicts within the confinement of the constitutionally provided boundaries. Different types of revolutionary behavior—such as elite-led military coups, civil wars, and nonviolent resistance movements—trigger constitutional crises in many cases. They can lead to a new constitution with diverse implications for the political system. Whether the opposition or the old regime prevails in the constitutional crisis is a question of the power resources of both parties to the conflict. In some cases, the opposition movements succeed in making the political system more democratic. However, there are also cases where the constitutional crisis ultimately leads to more power for the ruling class. The relationship also works vice versa: a constitutional crisis can trigger revolutionary actions. Constitutional coups, and processes of democratic backsliding and constitutional rot, can trigger violent and nonviolent revolutionary actions. Political elites can try to change constitutional norms for their own benefit, such as extending the presidential term of office. This often leads to a storm of public protest and can become a real threat to the regime’s survival. A constitution can enter a crisis phase for a long time if it no longer serves the needs of parts of society. The injustices that thus arise within society can be a strong motive for revolutions. The combination of agency and constitutional processes is a promising avenue for future research that could help analyze the complex relationship between constitutional crises and revolutionary actions. In addition to innovative theoretical approaches, new empirical data is needed to examine the process of constitutional negotiation in more detail.

Article

Theorizing the U.S. Supreme Court  

Charles M. Cameron and Lewis A. Kornhauser

We summarize the formal theoretical literature on Supreme Court decision-making. We focus on two core questions: What does the Supreme Court of the United States do, and how can one model those actions; and, what do the justices of the Supreme Court want, and how can one model those preferences? Given the current state of play in judicial studies, these questions then direct this survey mostly to so-called separation of powers (SOP) models, and to studies of a multi-member (“collegial”) court employing the Supreme Court’s very distinctive and highly unusual voting rule. The survey makes four main points. First, it sets out a new taxonomy that unifies much of the literature by linking judicial actions, modeling conventions, and the treatment of the status quo. In addition, the taxonomy identifies some models that employ inconsistent assumptions about Supreme Court actions and consequences. Second, the discussion of judicial preferences clarifies the links between judicial actions and judicial preferences. It highlights the relationships between preferences over dispositions, preferences over rules, and preferences over social outcomes. And, it explicates the difference between consequential and expressive preferences. Third, the survey delineates the separate strands of SOP models. It suggests new possibilities for this seemingly well-explored line of inquiry. Fourth, the discussion of voting emphasizes the peculiar characteristics of the Supreme Court’s voting rule. The survey maps the movement from early models that ignored the special features of this rule, to more recent ones that embrace its features and explore the resulting (and unusual) incentive effects.