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Big Ideas

There is one thing you need to know about this unit (okay, I lied, two things!):

  1. How does a political system impact the lives of its people on a daily basis?

  2. How do comparative political scientists generate meaningful conclusions that can then be used to try and identify and explain trends and patterns in other nations?

Before we get into unit 1, let us just spend one more second on the course as a whole, since this is our first time together ๐Ÿ™‚ The course is divided into 5๏ธโƒฃ five units covering how government gains power ๐Ÿ’ช and legitimacy, institutions (stable, long-lasting organizations that help turn political ideas into policy, so for example-legislatures and political parties), culture and participation ๐Ÿ—ณ๏ธ, elections, and political and economic ๐Ÿ’น change.

Core Course Countries

The course will ask you to demonstrate what you have learned about each of these topics through six 6๏ธโƒฃ countries, called the Core Course Countries:

  1. UK ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง: When you use the term UK or United Kingdom we are referring to the combination of Scotland ๓ ง๓ ข๓ ณ๓ ฃ๓ ด๓ ฟ๐Ÿด๓ ง๓ ข๓ ณ๓ ฃ๓ ด๓ ฟ, Great Britain ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง, and Northern Ireland ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ช. For the purposes of this course the UK is used as an example of a democratic ๐Ÿ™‹regime, as well as a parliamentary system.

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    UK Map. Image courtesy of commons.wikimedia

  2. Russia ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡บ: Russia came into existence again after the Soviet Union broke ๐Ÿ’” up in 1991. Russia is used as an example of an authoritarian ๐Ÿ‘‘ regime and a semi-presidential ๐Ÿ™Œ system.

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    Map of Russia. Image courtesy of commons.wikimedia

  3. Iran ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ท as a course country is quite interesting because it is an authoritarian ๐Ÿ‘‘ regime, but it is also an example of a theocratic ๐Ÿ•Œ government. Unlike the first two course countries, the UK and Russia, Iran cannot be identified as a semi-presidential, presidential, or parliamentary system, but more on that in Unit 2 Political Institutions ๐Ÿ›

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    Map of Iran. Image courtesy of commons.wikimedia

  4. Mexico ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฝ: This country, much like the UK, is an example of a democratic ๐Ÿ™‹ regime, however unlike the UK, Mexico is an example of a presidential ๐Ÿคด system.

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    Map of Mexico. Courtesy of commons.wikimedia

  5. China ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ: This country is an authoritarian ๐Ÿ‘‘ regime, similar to Russia and Iran. Much like Iran, the course does not categorize China as a presidential, semi-presidential, or parliamentary system, but once again we will talk ๐Ÿ’ฌ about that in Unit 2 Political Institutions.

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    Map of China. Image courtesy of commons.wikimedia

  6. Nigeria ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฌ: This country, much like the UK, is an example of a democratic ๐Ÿ™‹ regime, however unlike the UK, Nigeria is similar to Mexico in that it is an example of a presidential ๐Ÿคด system.

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    Map of Nigerian Linguistic Groups. Image courtesy of commons.wikimedia

In addition, you also need to know about Supranational Organizations. These are organizations like the EU ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡บ that encourage states to pool ๐ŸŽฐ their sovereignty together in order to receive economic ๐Ÿค‘, political ๐Ÿ‘ฉโ€โš–๏ธ, and social ๐Ÿ‘จโ€โš•๏ธ benefit, but more on that later.

1.1 The Practice of Political Scientists

Do you love data ๐Ÿค“? Then this is the unit and topic for you!

For this topic, you need to understand how political scientists gather data ๐ŸŽฏ, and how they use the data gathered to explain the behavior of individuals and groups in a society ๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿ‘ฉโ€๐Ÿ‘งโ€๐Ÿ‘ง More specifically you will need to apply what you learn about being a comparative ๐Ÿง scientist using the course countries ๐Ÿ—บ๏ธ

Let me take a second to once again mention that there are 6 course countries (UK ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง, Russia ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡บ, Iran ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ท, China ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ, Mexico ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฝ, and Nigeria ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฌ) that AP Comparative Government will expect that you as a student are able to :

  1. Be able to analyze data in the form of charts, graphs, real life examples from the course countries.

  2. Be able to compare the course countries and explain the reasons for similarities and differences between the course countries using provided data.

Topic 1.1 Terms

Success in this course relies very heavily on knowing ๐Ÿง  your terms. Vocabulary ๐Ÿ“‡ is key in Comparative Government and that vocabulary will be used over the course of the entire course of study, not just in the unit of study. For that reason, we will always start with key ๐Ÿ”‘ vocabulary for every topic.

  • Empirical Dataโ€”Evidence gathered by observation ๐Ÿ”Ž or experimentation ๐Ÿงช, in other words, factual evidence.

  • Normative Dataโ€”Evidence that is conceptualized data ๐Ÿ“Š in other words, norms, or opinion based on data.

  • Quantitative Analysisโ€”A large number of cases, allowing the researcher to analyze ๐Ÿง the data through the use of statistical ๐Ÿ“Š techniques. (Whew this is a lot to take in! An easier way to think of this would be quantity over quality.)

  • Qualitative Analysisโ€”A small number of cases, which is much more limited in terms of statistical evidence, but tends to be more thorough and detailed in terms of subjective analysis. This is a lot of words, so it's easier to remember quality over quantity.

  • Correlationโ€”Exists when there is an association between 2๏ธโƒฃ > variables.

  • Causationโ€”Relationship between cause and effect, in other words what is the cause of something. Extremely difficult to determine with certainty in comparative politics with so many variables that influence items like stability, influence, etc.

  • Human Development Index (HDI)โ€”An index created by the United Nations. Summarizes measures of average achievement in key dimensions in human development (like schooling ๐ŸŽ’, life expectancy ๐Ÿ‘ถ๐Ÿผ, and income ๐Ÿ’ฐ) If you want to explore the Human Development Index further here is a helpful link.

  • Gini Indexโ€”Shows income inequality within a country. Familiarize yourself with the Gini Index as well as using this link.

  • Gross Domestic Product (GDP)โ€”Market value of a goods and services produced. If you want to learn a lot more about GDP ๐Ÿค‘ and learn how to calculate GDP ๐Ÿ’ธ I recommend this website.

Topic 1.1 Essential Knowledge ๐Ÿง 

  1. 1๏ธโƒฃ identify types of data (see the definitions above).

  2. 2๏ธโƒฃ describe data presented to you. Let's go through an example of what you might need to do.

In a research study, which of the following does a researcher seek to explain?

A. the concepts

B. the theory

C. the independent variable

D. the dependent variable

E. the reliability

Correct Answer! โœ…

The correct answer is D. Let's look at why. The dependent variable is caused or influenced ๐Ÿ—ฃ๏ธ by another variable and this is what political scientists ๐Ÿ”ฌ are doing looking at an issue and trying to look at what other variables are correlated ๐Ÿ“‰ or causing that variable.

Confused yet? Let me give you an example. A researcher hypothesis that high mortality rates (dependent variable) are a result of high poverty rates (Independent variable). In the research study they are looking for the impact of poverty on mortality rates and where there is a causal relationship (direct cause-poverty causes high mortality rate, or correlation, a change in poverty rates and a change in mortality rates exists but there is not enough evidence to prove direct relationship

Starting with the 2021 exam, you will have at least one 1๏ธโƒฃ free response question that is going to be a quantitative analysis ๐Ÿ“ˆ question. Let's look at a simple example from a previous exam:

This publicly released College Board FRQ Question (2019) is an excellent example of what you will need to do during your APยฎ Exam.

Let's breakdown each part of the question together and we can go through what the expectation is for you as a student, and how you should answer each part of question 8 from the 2019 AP Comparative Government Exam.

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To reach the full questions, click here.

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(a) Using the population pyramids, describe one difference in the age structure of China compared to that of Nigeria.

  • This takes us back to expectation 2. Be able to analyze data in the form of charts, graphs, real life examples from the course countries. All you need to do to answer the question and earn the point is to explain a difference between the 2 countries using the provided data.

  • (a) An acceptable answer if you look at the graph you could say Nigeria has a younger population than China OR China has an older population than Nigeria.

(b) Describe one governmental policy that influenced the age structure in China.

  • (b) This is where you have to know your course countries, this isn't going to come from the graphic organizer, but rather your understanding of policy in our course countries. In this case an acceptable answer would be the one-child policy limited the number of children per family.

(c) Describe one economic consequence of the age structure of Nigeria.

  • (c) In this case you need to use the data provided to you and make a claim based on the data and what you know about the course country. A strong answer here would be high unemployment in Nigeria as there is an overwhelming number of young people and not enough economic opportunities.

(d) Describe one economic consequence of the age structure of China.

  • (d) You need to do the same thing for China, so the College Board is really wanting to know if you know your course countries and their economic and political policy. Currently there is a large work force and because of this China can expect continued economic growth.

(e) Explain a political consequence of having a disproportionately younger population structure.

  • (e) In this case you need to make a claim based on evidence and what you know about the course country as to a political consequence. In the case of Nigeria you could say due to the large numbers of individuals under 18, a significant number of citizens cannot vote and therefore may not have their interests represented by the government because they do not have a direct say in elections or policy making.

Topic 1.2 Defining Political Institutions

Vocab anyone?! This topic is all about vocabulary. At the end of this topic you are to know the different ways that political institutions are defined. So here we go!

Topic 1.2 Terms

  • Political Systemsโ€”The laws ๐Ÿ“œ, the ideas ๐Ÿ’ก, and the procedures that decide who has the authority to rule and what the government's influence should be politically and economically.

  • Statesโ€”Political organizations that combine a permanent population with governing institutions in a defined territory with international recognition.

  • Regimeโ€”A group in power who exercises power. Can be democratic ๐Ÿ™‹๐Ÿพโ€โ™€๏ธ or authoritarian ๐Ÿ‘‘

  • Governmentโ€”The institutions and individuals allowed to make legally binding decisions for a state.

  • Nationโ€”A group of people with items in common like language ๐Ÿ—ฃ๏ธ, race ๐Ÿ‘ฆ๐Ÿผ๐Ÿ‘ฆ๐Ÿฝ๐Ÿ‘ฆ๐Ÿป, or religion โ˜ช๏ธ.

Definitions are the key ๐Ÿ”‘ to success in this class. You can't compare countries if you don't understand the terms and ways in which you are being asked to compare them. College Board also wants you to show throughout the exam that you can explain and analyze! That means being able to discuss what a political system looks like in the countries of study. Here's a chart to help.

๐Ÿ‘ธ Institution Examples

TermUK-ExamplesRussia-ExamplesChina-ExamplesIran-ExamplesMexico-ExamplesNigeria-Examples
Political SystemDemocracyConstitution/Authoritarian CCP and/or AuthoritarianTheocracy and /or Authoritarian Constitutional DemocracyConstitutional Democracy
StateUKRussiaChinaIranMexicoNigeria
RegimeDemocraticAuthoritarianAuthoritarian Authoritarian Emerging DemocracyEmerging Democracy
GovernmentUnitary, but turning more federalFederal but asymmetricUnitary Unitary FederalFederal
NationScottish, IrishRussian, ChechanHan Chinese, TibetansPersians, AzerisMestizoHausa, Yoruba

This topic is all about providing you a way to define political institutions. The rest of the unit will have you break each of these down in more detail and begin to examine each in the course countries.

Topic 1.3 Democracy ๐Ÿ™‹๐Ÿพโ€โ™€๏ธ vs. Authoritarianism ๐Ÿ‘‘

Regimes are either democratic ๐Ÿ™‹๐Ÿพโ€โ™€๏ธ or authoritarian ๐Ÿ‘‘ One of the first things you need to be able to do is define those terms.

  • Democratic ๐Ÿ™‹๐Ÿพโ€โ™€๏ธโ€”This regime type involves the selection ๐Ÿ—ณ๏ธ of government officials through free and fair elections โ˜‘๏ธ, a balance between the principle of majority rule and the protection of minority interests, and constitutional ๐Ÿ“œ limitations on government actions.

  • Authoritarianism ๐Ÿ‘‘โ€”A regime type defined by the rule of single 1๏ธโƒฃ leader, a small group of people, or a single political party 1๏ธโƒฃ or institution.

You need to understand the characteristics of both democracy ๐Ÿ™‹๐Ÿพโ€โ™€๏ธ and authoritarianism ๐Ÿ‘‘, so I've created charts to help.

๐Ÿ™‹๐Ÿพโ€โ™€๏ธ Democratic key characteristics

  1. Free and fair elections.

  2. Competitive elections.

  3. Government-developed policies and procedures that guarantee due process, accountability, and transparency in decision making.

  4. Political and civil rights are possessed by all.

  5. Independent judiciary.

  6. Elected government officials who exercise authority over the government.

  7. Rule of Law.

๐Ÿ‘‘ Authoritarian key characteristics

  1. Limited political participation.

  2. Limited autonomy of society from state control.

  3. Limitations placed upon political opposition.

  4. Little political accountability or transparency.

Authoritarian regimes can include illiberal โ›” democracy or hybrid โž• regimes, one 1๏ธโƒฃ-party systems, theocracies ๐Ÿ›, totalitarian governments ๐Ÿ•ต๏ธ, and military ๐ŸŽ–๏ธ regimes. You will need to know the difference.

  • Illiberal democracy or hybrid regime is an authoritarian regime in which elections are held, but elected officials often use the electoral process to keep themselves in power. In other words it's an authoritarian regime where elements of "democracy" are present โž•โ›”

  • A one-party system only allows one party to run for government office 1๏ธโƒฃ

  • Theocracies are governments in which religious leaders run the government. There is no separation or church and state ๐Ÿ›

  • Totalitarian governments are regimes that seek to control nearly every aspect of public and private life ๐Ÿ•ต๏ธ

  • Military regimes are authoritarian governments in which a military leader runs the government ๐ŸŽ–๏ธ

So what about our countries of study?

UK ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง = Consolidated ๐Ÿ™‹๐Ÿพโ€โ™€๏ธ

Russia ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡บ = ๐Ÿ‘‘, Illiberal or hybrid regime

Mexico ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฝ = ๐Ÿ‘‘, theocracy

Nigeria ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฌ = ๐Ÿ‘‘, military and more recently hybrid

Mexico ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฝ = ๐Ÿ‘‘, hybrid

China ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ = ๐Ÿ‘‘, one-party system

Topic 1.4 Democratization

The goal for you in this topic is simple: describe and measure (remember Topic 1.1) how regimes include more of the 7๏ธโƒฃ seven characteristics of democracy into their political systems. Both authoritarian ๐Ÿ‘‘ and democratic ๐Ÿ™‹๐Ÿพโ€โ™€๏ธ regimes can democratize.

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Often this is not a linear processโ€”sometimes regimes take a small step toward democratization, and then a giant leap back to authoritarianism. Democratization can involve any of the characteristics of democracy, but may not include them all!

Need a reminder of what those 7๏ธโƒฃ characteristics are? ๐Ÿ™‹๐Ÿพโ€โ™€๏ธ Democratic key characteristics

  1. Free and fair elections.
  2. Competitive elections.
  3. Government-developed policies and procedures that guarantee due process, accountability, and transparency in decision making.
  4. Political and civil rights are possessed by all.
  5. Independent judiciary.
  6. Elected government officials who exercise authority over the government.
  7. Rule of Law.

So let's look at some examples of each of the 7 characteristics as we discuss democratization in our countries of study.

1. Free and Fair elections. Two authoritarian nations, Mexico ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฝ and Nigeria ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฌ have been moving toward electoral democratization. They're attempting to accommodate and include more individuals into the system by increasing multiparty competition with rule adjustments, creating gender or cultural quotas, proportional representation proportional (an electoral system in which parties gain seats in proportion to the number of votes cast for them, remember this is different from winner take all, which is what we have in America-if you win the popular vote you win all the votes)and changing vote thresholds and district boundaries.

In both countries, independent election committees have been created to reduce voter fraud and make elections more fair. However, democratization of electoral systems can happen in democratic nations, like England, as well. Prior to 1918 only men ๐Ÿ‘จcould vote in England ๐Ÿด๓ ง๓ ข๓ ฅ๓ ฎ๓ ง๓ ฟ. However, in 1918 they passed the Representation of the People Act, which allowed women ๐Ÿ‘ฉ๐Ÿผ over 30 who owned property to vote. In 1928, the Equal Franchise Act expanded voting to include all women over 21.

2. Competitive elections. Again we can discuss Mexico ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฝ and Nigeria ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฌ. One of the big things to understand with democratization is that the party out of power needs to have an opportunity to win elections. In Mexico ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฝ there was a time when the PRI (Partido Revolucionario Institucional) held power for 71 years! Today, power has switched back and forth between the main parties, which is an indication that steps have been taken to democratize elections. Now you might say to me, but Ms. C, Russia ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡บ has more then one party, but no opposition party has ever taken control of the national legislature through elections! That is why we would say that Russia is a lliberal democracy, because elections are in place, as well as multi-party systems, but there is no chance that another party can win power, so elections lack true competitiveness and therefore, are more or less elections in name only, they lack legitimacy and transparency (those characteristics of democracy that have to be present.)

3. Government transparency. A pattern is starting to emerge here because we are going to talk about Mexico ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฝ and Nigeria ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฌ again! (This should indicate that of the nations of study, these two authoritarian ๐Ÿ‘‘ regimes seem to be moving more toward emerging democracies, meaning that they have far more characteristics of a democratic nation than authoritarian regime in the modern era (20th century and beyond). The nations should be considered democratic, like the UK, and far more democratic ๐Ÿ™‹๐Ÿพโ€โ™€๏ธ then Russia ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡บ, China ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ, and Iran ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ท). Both Mexico ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฝ and Nigeria ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฌ have passed National Freedom of Information Acts, and this means more accountability and transparency regarding government actions!

4. Political and Civil Rights possessed by all. Mexico ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฝ and Nigeria ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฌ have national courts and protections of rights and liberties, but there are issues and obstacles in both countries. For instance in Nigeria there are segments of the country that have experienced violence between religious factions, and therefore rights are severely impacted.

5. Independent Judiciary. In China ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ there is little to no democratization in its judiciary, but there is a 99.3% conviction rate! Therefore, we would say that China ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ is still very authoritarian ๐Ÿ‘‘ in nature.

6. Elected government officials who exercise authority over the branches of government. China ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ and Russia ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡บ are good examples of this, and in both cases the President and the party of power control the various branches of government. In Russia ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡บ the branches can't really challenge Putin's authority.

7. Rule of Law. Laws are clear, government is open, there is accountability, and accessible justice. One good indicator of rule of law is to ask, do elections matter? In Mexico ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฝ and Nigeria ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฌ the answer is yes, but in Russia ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡บ no party has won an election outside of United Russia!

This great website allows you to look at democratization around the world.

Before we move onto 1.5 I thought a visual representation of all that we discussed in topics 1.3 and 1.4 as this is a large amount of information to remember and 1.3 and 1.4 have common themes that run through out both topics.

๐Ÿ”‘ Key Characteristics of Democratization-Democratic and Authoritarian Regimes

CountryRule of LawFree and Fair ElectionsGovernment control of MediaIndependence of Branches
UK Established DemocracyHouse of Commons directly elected by the public voted against airstrikes in Syria (2013)In 2010 the Conservative Party won the House of Commons after 13 straight years of control by the Labour PartyControls some media outlets, but allows private media and media to be critical of the government.Commons votes against the PM at various times, like our example in Syria.
Mexico Emerging DemocracyIn 2000 the PRI lost the Presidential election to PAN candidate and relinquished powerIn 2018 President Nieto who was constitutionally prevented from running again, saw his party relinquish control to an opposing partyControls some media outlets, but allows private media and media to be critical of the government.Supreme Court is able to review the Constitutionality of laws
Nigeria Emerging DemocracyNigerian legislature directly elected by the people rejected the Presidentโ€™s bid to add a 3rd term to the presidencyIn 2015 Nigeria saw its first transfer of power between parties through a presidential electionControls some media outlets, but allows private media and media to be critical of the government.The legislature votes against the President, like in our example of adding a 3rd term to the presidency
Russia AuthoritarianInvasion and annexation of CrimeaPutin has won every election in the first round of voting in each of his electionsRegulates the internet to limit dissent, controls most of the media outlets, violence against reporters commonNational legislature is merely a rubber stamp for expansion of Executive Power
Iran AuthoritarianElection protestors put down violentlySupreme Leader is not directly elected by the people. Supreme Leader directly and indirectly appoints all members of the Guardian CouncilBlocks internet content to limit dissent, controls most of the media outletsNational legislature is merely a rubber stamp for expansion of Executive Power
China AuthoritarianPresident Xi ends Constitutional term limits for presidencyNo direct elections of high ranking governmental officials, appointed from within the party.Blocks internet content to limit dissent, controls most of the media outletsNational legislature is merely a rubber stamp for expansion of Executive Power

1.5 (Sources of Power and Authority) and 1.6 (Change in Power and Authority)

These two topics of study should really be studied in conjunction with one another because they build upon one another. In topic 1.5 you need to be able to identify where power and authority come from in the course countries ( ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ท ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡บ ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฌ ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฝ ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง). In topic 1.6 you are being asked to examine if the source of power and authority has changed in the course countries over time and why. You will also be asked to go one step further on the exam and, you guessed it, compare countries and their experiences or look for patterns that can be applied among countries.

Let's start with topic 1.5, sources of power. Power can come from constitutions, religions, military forces, political parties, legislatures, and popular support, but remember our focus also needs to be on how sources of power changed over time, and why.

Now you may be asking yourself, but how much history do I need to know in order to show changes in sources of power? You should have a general knowledge of where the power to rule originated and basic changes over time, but you don't need to memorize the timeline of history for any nation with meticulous detail, so relax! Just the basics in this case. So let's go over the basics before we move onto a discussion of authority.

Brief History of EACH course countries

  1. UKโ€”The political system in Britain is influenced by its history, and it's a long history. The UK was once ruled only by the monarchy who had absolute power, but the UK has a very evolutionary history. Over time, the monarchy lost power through moments like the Magna Carta and the Glorious Revolution. When the monarchy was restored in the 17th century, its powers were severely restricted by Parliament. The monarchy has no decision-making power. The power rests entirely in the prime minister and the parliament.

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    Queen Elizabeth. Image courtesy of commons.wikimedia

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    Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Image courtesy of commons.wikimedia.

  2. Mexicoโ€”This country has had a chaotic history of revolution and violence. Mexico transitioned from Spanish control to independence, but that independence was primarily under military dictatorships through the 19th centuries. After the Revolution of 1910, there was instability that was often calmed by authoritarian regimes. However, as the 20th century has come to a close, Mexico has become an emerging democracy, exhibiting characteristics like free and fair elections and rule of law.

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    President Obrador. Image Courtesy of commons.wikimedia

  3. Nigeriaโ€”This country has a long history of colonialism, having been under British rule until 1960. In 1960, however, they gained their independence. This has created a complex history in Nigeria, because on one hand the country was exposed to western beliefs like rule of law, but since independence has been gained, the military has been a tool to maintain control in the nation.

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    President Buhari. Image courtesy of commons.wikimedia

  4. Chinaโ€”For centuries, dynastic rule influenced political, economic, and social culture in China. However, China was a victim of colonialism in the 19th century and revolution in the 20th century. The 20th century saw China become a communist nation under the leadership of General Mao. Authoritarian policies in regards to trade, education, and industrialization went through a period of reform under Deng Xiaoping, however there has been little move away from authoritarianism politically.

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    President Xi. Image courtesy of commons.wikimedia

  5. Iranโ€”A country of complex history, we can describe the history of this course country as "two histories at odds with one another." Iran has a long history with the religion of Islam, but its modern history is one of revolution that resulted in a western-style constitution that was modified after another revolution in 1979. Iran politically follows the principles of Shiism and a divine cleric, but this often clashes with the idea of the people's sovereignty, which was part of the constitution pre and post 1979.

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    Supreme Leader Ali Khameenei. Image courtesy of commons.wikimedia

    https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/fiveable-92889.appspot.com/o/images%2F-vlZE7DebvQQ6.jpg?alt=media&token=613d3d7b-0731-4839-bc49-75df90b52ae4

    Iranian President Rouhani. Image courtesy of commons.wikimedia

  6. Russiaโ€”Historically Russia was an autocratic nation, ruled by a tsar. In 1919, autocracy turned into dictatorship under the communist party. In 1991, the Soviet Union broke apart and Russia re-emerged. However, years of communist rule did not disappear, despite some move toward more democratic tendencies under Boris Yeltsin. However, any movement toward democracy has taken a step back under Vladimir Putin.

    https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/fiveable-92889.appspot.com/o/images%2F-CjNbvLW6Ven4.jpg?alt=media&token=2d41b8e2-7f4c-457d-a433-1a566756cd69

    President Putin. Image courtesy of commons.wikimedia

These brief histories are important because in the CED you will see several examples of power and authority singled out. Power and authority need to come from somewhere, and the histories above will help you to understand those sources of power and authority. The CED is very clear with the examples of power and authority in each of the course countries, and when College Board takes the time to provide you examples, you need to know those examples! Let's go over them together.

The UK ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡งโ€”Several changes in regards to authority over time. Once authority lie with a King via divine right, but as time went on authority shifted from the monarchy to parliament, and more directly the people as a result of constitutional reforms.

Mexico ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฝ and Nigeria ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฌโ€”We have discussed several times how these authoritarian regimes are becoming more democratic and can be seen as emerging democracies. One source of legitimacy for regimes in recent times has been multi-party elections in which different parties have won power as a result of free and fair elections.

China ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณโ€”Authority rests with the Communist Party's control over the military, and this, in turn, provides power and authority to maintain regime stability.

Iran ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ทโ€”Authority used to rest with a dictator, in fact it was a Shah or a King that had the authority to rule, but in 1979 there was a revolution and the authority shifted to religious leaders, which still remains today!

Russia ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡บโ€”Authority rests with the political elite's back of a strong President, so in this case it is the support of the elite, not election results that provides the authority for the President to have such power.

One last thing before we leave this particular topic: differences in the way authority is maintained by democratic and authoritarian regimes. Democratic ๐Ÿ™‹๐Ÿพโ€โ™€๏ธ regimes tend to evolve slowly over time, using non-violent means like elections. In authoritarian ๐Ÿ‘‘ regimes we often see sudden changes as a result of revolution or coups d e'tat (military takeovers). So once again, be sure to study the examples above as they illustrate some of the differences between democratic ๐Ÿ™‹๐Ÿพโ€โ™€๏ธ and authoritarian ๐Ÿ‘‘ regimes! However, charts are always helpful so here is another to help you remember if the course countries have evolved or faced sudden changes.

CountryType of ChangeExamples
UKEvolution/Change in political institutions through changes to laws and political traditionThe Britain today did not come from sudden change but years of steady evolution of the political system. The monarchy slowly relinquished power through changes in British law and tradition.
MexicoSudden/Change through RevolutionsRevolution of 1910
NigeriaSudden/Change through Coup d e tats led by the militaryNumerous military coups, some encouraged by the people when they felt regimes needed to be corrected
ChinaSudden/RevolutionCommunist Revolution
IranSudden/RevolutionRevolution of 1979
RussiaSudden/RevolutionCommunist Revolution 1919/Collapse of the Soviet Union 1991

Topic 1.7 Federal and Unitary Systems

This topic is once again heavily focused on vocabulary, specifically the terms federal and unitary.

Federal Systemโ€”A division of power between two entities. Now let's take the the United States ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธas an example. It happens to be divided between the federal, state, and local governments, but it doesn't always have to be divided this way, so be sure if you were asked about federal systems you focus on division of power. Examples: Mexico ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฝ, Russia ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡บ, Nigeria ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฌ

In all three countries above the central governments are the most powerful of the governments, even though the state or local governments do have some power and autonomy, but we can go through that more when we look at each course country individually.

  1. Mexico ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฝ is divided between a strong central government and 32 state governments. The power division is guaranteed by the Constitution, certain guarantees of power to the states. An example would be that Mexican states can raise taxes locally. The central government is in control of oil, which has a history of relying on oil as their primary economic product. One policy that is pointed out by the College Board as an example of power provided to the states is abortion. Two (2) states have chosen to allow abortion up to 12 weeks, while the other 30 states do not allow for abortions. This is an example of policy that's different from state to state.

  2. Nigeria ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฌ is divided between a strong central government and 36 state governments. The power, much like Mexico is divided between a strong central government and the states and guaranteed by the Constitution. One example of policy diversity would be the way that legal systems are implemented in Nigeria. In the Northern States of Nigeria, 9 states implement Sharia law in their civil and criminal law, while 3 states partially implement Sharia law. In the Southern states of Nigeria, Sharia law is not part of the legal system. Once again, this illustrates that the states do have some policy making freedom. However, like Mexico there is a strong central government because of the history of military rule and authoritarianism.

  3. Russia ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡บ is much more complicated system of federalism to understand than Mexico or Nigeria. In Russia the Constitution guarantees a separation of power between the central government and regions. The regions are bound to the Russian Federation by a treaty, but not all regions signed the treaty. In the 1990s as Russia was transitioning from the Soviet Union to the Russian Federation. Under Yeltsin the strength of the central government weekend and many of the regions (often referred to as republics) ruled themselves independently. However, Putin has taken numerous steps to diminish regional autonomy. Let us look at several ways this has been done.

    1. Might. Putin used the Russian military to bomb Chechnya to enforce its position as part of the Russian Federation, as they had not signed the treaty joining the Federation.

    2. Laws. Putin passed ensured a law was passed to remove governors in the Republics who do not follow the Russian Constitution in creating local law.

    3. Super-Districts. In 2020 seven federal districts were created and all republics were placed into the districts. In addition federal districts are headed by, yep you guessed it, a presidential nominee.

It is clear that in the authoritarian regime in Russia, there is little autonomy for the non-central governments, where in the emerging democracies of Mexico and Nigeria as they move further away from their authoritarian roots, there is more independence in the state governments.

Unitary Systemโ€”A central government which is supreme. Examples: China ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ, Iran ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ท, the UK ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง We should talk for a second about unitary systems. A lot of times students think this form of system is more authoritarian than a federalist system, but this is not necessarily the case. The Russian Federation is extremely authoritarian, because it is an authoritarian regime. However, the unitary system in the UK allows for devolution and local power because it is a democratic regime.

  1. China ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ The power lies with the central government, and more specifically with the Communist Party. However, there is an issue in China which gives local authorities some power, and that is the sheer size of China. With all power centralized in one location it is almost impossible for the Central government to oversee the expansive land and population. There is one more reason for some autonomy among local governments, the Chinese government has moved away from a command economy toward a market economy, and that means more western influence and less control over policy. Autonomy in China isn't the ability to make laws, but rather the ability to ignore central government policy, set their own tax rates or building projects without government approval.

  2. Iran ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ท The power lies with the central government, and more specifically the Supreme Leader. There is real devolution of power to speak of!

  3. UK ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง There is no written Constitution so there are no guarantees to power for any government other than the central government. However, through a process called devolution in which power has been granted to regional governments through national legislative policy making. In recent years the UK has allowed regional governments the ability to make decisions regarding policy like education.

Topic 1.8 Political Legitimacy and Topic 1.9 Sustaining Legitimacy

These topics once again go hand in hand so we will study them together. You will have 2๏ธโƒฃ tasks: define legitimacy and describe the source of legitimacy, and then describe how governments maintain legitimacy.

Legitimacy is when a government's constituents believe their government has the right to use power in the way it does. Legitimacy is important in both authoritarian ๐Ÿ‘‘regimes and democratic ๐Ÿ™‹๐Ÿพโ€โ™€๏ธregimes!

Now that we have a definition, we need to understand where this legitimacy comes from. Sources of legitimacy for both authoritarian ๐Ÿ‘‘and democratic ๐Ÿ™‹๐Ÿพโ€โ™€๏ธregimes can come from popular elections, tradition, economic success, religion, constitutions, and/or the dominant political party's endorsement. Let's explore the current sources of legitimacy for each of our countries of study.

  • The UK ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡งโ€”Tradition and stability. Keep calm and carry on

  • Russia๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡บโ€”Tradition and nationalism. Pre-dates Russia's constitution and enormous pride in political and economic advances, especially since the end of the Cold War.

  • China๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณโ€”Revolution and economic growth. Mao and the second largest GDP in the world give legitimacy.

  • Iran๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ทโ€”Revolution and religion. The 1979 religious revolution can be traced back to this revolution and the traditions of Shia Islam.

  • Mexico๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฝโ€”Revolution and constitution. First social revolution of the 20th century, and a great deal of pride in the creation of the constitution as a result of the revolution.

  • Nigeria๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฌโ€”Independence and constitution. Big role in the development of Africa and their arrival at independence from British rule. Very proud of 1999 constitution and the expansion of political freedoms.

Even from the list above we can see that these are sources of legitimacy for current/modern regimes. This indicates that legitimacy must be maintained, and this can be done in a variety of ways from strong economic growth, political efficacy (participation of citizens in government), charismatic leadership, as well as expansion of rule of law. Let me give you an example.

When you think of Russia ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡บ, you probably think immediately of their leader Vladimir Putin riding shirtless on horses. He is charismatic ๐Ÿ˜ You may think this is silly, but he embodies a strong sense of pride in Russian nationalism and he legitimizes his power through his charisma and ability to defend Russia against western influence.

Think about legitimacy. If you can maintain legitimacy, then it can be lost. Let's talk about what can cause a regime to lose legitimacy.

Regime can lose legitimacy because of: corruption, lack of free and fair elections, one party domination, an economic depression, or a major social strife (for example, an ethnic clash). Once again, because this is a course of application, let us look at some examples in our course countries.

  • Russia ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡บโ€”mass protests against electoral fraud in the 2011 elections, leading to mass arrests of opposition party members.

  • The UK ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡งโ€”Brexit has caused much political and economic strife in the UK and caused the Conservative Party to lose legitimacy as they struggled with how to accomplish the Brexit vote.

  • China ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณโ€”99.3% conviction rate has been used by President Xi Jinping to increase punishment of activists who have been protesting slowing economic growth.

Topic 1.10 Political Stability

Political stability is the ability of the government to provide the services its people need, in order to build the public's confidence in the institution of the state.

You must be able to examine internal actors that can impact political stability. College Board says specifically there are three specific impacts:

Methods to combat political corruption within the county.

Here you must provide at least one example from each of the course countries, so let's get to it! The UK ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง, Nigeria ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฌ, and Mexico ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฝ have all passed Freedom of Information Acts allowing for criticism from citizens. It also bolsters political stability as it builds the public's confidence that the government is willing to serve them, because criticism can lead to change (providing better services).

Contrast the ability to criticize in the UK, Nigeria, and Mexico with the inability to criticize in China๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ, Russia ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡บ, and Iran ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ท

In China, President Xi Jinping has used the courts and corruption charges to keep rival factions from power. This silences criticism and stifles change. Let's examine Russia for a moment.

Russia ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡บ in 2012 riots were held as many claimed that Putin's garnering of 63.6% of the vote was suspicious (Putin has also always won on the first vote in Russia, each and every time he has run). OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe) observed the election from the start and found irregularities every step of the way, from Putin having more access to the media, stricter requirements being required to officially be listed as a candidate for President, and accusations that there was repeat voting by Putin supporters. All of this resulted in massive protests in March after the election. Protesters were jailed and because the Russian government controls media outlets and limits internet access to information, the riots ceased and no investigations of the election were conducted by the media.

In Iran ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ท the media is controlled by the central government, as well as the internet and this makes it difficult to criticize or combat political corruption as there are no real outlets to question the government.

State responses to separatist group violence, drug trafficking, and discrimination based on gender or religious differences.

The CED specifically names Nigeria ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฌ, Iran ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ท, and Mexico ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฝ as the areas you are to focus on. Let's look at Iran ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ท for an example of religious difference and gender. Women have the right to vote. The constitution also guarantees that Christians and Jews have guaranteed representation in the national legislature.

Nigeria ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฌ and Mexico ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฝ both struggle with violence.

Nigeria

In Nigeria, the terrorist group Boko Haram promotes a version of Islam which makes it "haram", or forbidden, for Muslims to take part in any political or social activity associated with Western society. In recent years this terrorist group has conducted bombings, kidnappings, and assassinations. President Buhari has recently coordinated military attacks against the terrorist group, but they have not been able to entirely eliminate this internal threat.

Mexico

In Mexico, the issue for years has been the drug cartels. A number of drug cartels control large territories of Mexico as well as being responsible for government corruption and assassinations. The Mexican government has used the military since 2008 to combat drug cartels in Mexico, but they have taken a low intensity approach focused more on attempting to dismantle the cartels and less on preventing drug trafficking. The Mexican government's inability to stem the violence of cartels can undermine political stability, legitimacy, an vital economic industries. As you can see by the examples in Nigeria ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฌ and Mexico ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฝ, not all factors that impact a regime are from within a regime, but rather there can be external factors, like terrorist groups or drug cartels that can impact the regimes ability to maintain power.

State responses to protest movements that oppose governmental policies.

In authoritarian ๐Ÿ‘‘ regimes, coercion (the use of force) is typical in dealing with protest movements. The Tiananmen Square protest movements in China ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ in 1989 are a great example. Protesters were demanding democratic reform, and on June 4th the protesters were violently removed. Even today, China ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ denies that there were ever protests or that the protesters were removed. In fact, if you live in China ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ, all references to the protests in Tiananmen Square are blocked. Russia ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡บ, and Iran ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ท use similar tactics jailing those who oppose governmental policies, blocking details through state controlled media outlets, and blocking internet searches of such protests. All 3 course countries have used violence and intimidation to quell public disagreement with unpopular policy.

In more democratic regimes like UK ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง, Nigeria ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฌ, and Mexico ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฝ today, protesters are provided more protections, but of these 3 course countries protesters in the UK have the most protections and ability to impact policy making. A perfect example of this would be the recent Brexit policy. In 2019 massive protests in London led the lawmakers in Parliament to delay the exit from the EU. In Nigeria and Mexico which are emerging democracies, with deep authoritarian roots, protests are still sometimes put down violently.

For example in Mexico 1968. A number of demonstrations in Mexico City began springing up prior to the Olympics that were to be held in Mexico City. The Mexican armed forces opened fire on October 2, 1968 on unarmed protesters killing hundreds. However, the Head of the Federal Directorate of Security claimed and so did the government controlled media, that the protesters had opened fire on the military first. Government documents released in the 2000s (remember in the last 2 decades freedom of information acts were passed) seem to contradict the governments claims.

UNIT 1 RECAP

It's important to remember that unit 1 is an introduction to the expectations of the course. At the end of this unit, the College Board expects students to be able to understand how data is gathered, what types of data are used by comparative scientists, and how that data can be used to compare the 6 course countries (UK, Russia, Iran, China, Mexico, and Nigeria). ****In this unit you are introduced to terms that will we need all year through each and every unit, terms that indicate what comparative scientists are comparing. Here's a sample list of terms you should know:

  1. correlate

  2. causation

  3. empirical data

  4. normative data

  5. nation

  6. regime

  7. authoritarianism

  8. democracy

  9. federal system

  10. unitary system

  11. authority

  12. legitimacy

  13. political stability

Above all in unit 1, and every unit that follows, you as a student need to be able to apply what you have learned about how political institutions work in each of the course countries. You're also expected to be able to analyze data and trends and be able to create claims based on the data analysis to explain what internal factors cause institutions to run differently in each of the course countries.

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