Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Democracy or Autocracy: Recent Development in the Literature

Athenian ancient Greek democracy 

In early 19th century, democracy started to developed and spread from its origin in Western Europe, which was the center of international politics during that time, to many countries in the world, especially Southern America which is rich in natural resources and oil deposits. However, the advent of democracy cannot be taken for granted as it is a complicated struggle for equality and power among different classes in a society of a particular country. The Western European countries had met different political outcomes in their paths of transformation to a new regime such as democracy, authoritarianism, and fascism due to their mixed characters of their developmental experience. For example, France had become a liberal democracy while its neighbor, Germany, had ended up in Fascism in the interwar period of World War I and World War II.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Development of Political Parties and Design of Electoral System

The establishment of state and its democratic regime will cultivate the rise of political parties and politicians and the running for elections within the national border. Electoral system provides rule-based mechanism on transforming voters’ preferences into seats in the national assembly. However, political parties are seen as the main players and a vehicle that office seekers have to integrate themselves into political parties in order to get nominations for elections. For a newly democratic state, there are a lot of works to be done such as the selection of electoral system, the establishment of electoral institution and electoral rules, and constituencies and the electorates. Furthermore states are normally troubled with the problem of ethnicity and diverse cultures, and the fragmentation of territoriality and political cleavage, all of which are affecting the process of making decisions to choose the best electoral system for the country in order to maintain harmony, ethnic representation, and national unity. Then, nationalization of politics is needed in order to integrate all issues into national standard and to ensure the success of national election.  Electoral system and political parties have become a subject of serious discussion by many scholars in designing of electoral system and conducting the nationalization of politics. Three scholars, namely Daniele Caramani, Charles Boix, and Kathleen Bawn, have made valuable contribution on these issues.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Urban Planning: Development and Preservation

Buddha statute in Kamakura, Japan

Central Market in the middle of Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Cultural richness, beautiful environment, advanced technology, excellent public transportation system, large metropolitan cities and a vibrant economic society, are all in Japan and other cities in South Korea, and China. People truly experience living in diversified and all-in-one environment which make everyday life interesting and convenient. Just thinking about visiting a section of Tokyo, tourists will surprise to see various interesting places such as high-rise buildings, modern shopping centers and commercial districts, large public parks, museums, shrines and Buddhist temples, and sophisticated and busy train lines and metros throughout the city. These unique achievements in Japan is contributed by the hard works of Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, who establish and implement master plans for city planning and infrastructure development in Japan. The mission of this Ministry is to create a strong foundation through policies designed to support comfortable communities, vibrant economic society, everyday security, a beautiful environment, and regional diversity.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Understanding Japan's Defense Policy

Japan's Self-Defense Force (SDF)

Recently, the security environment around Japan and East Asia is quite challenging due to North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests and China’s increasing military budget and modernization. In addition, the issues of Taiwan and unification of the Korean peninsula, and maritime territorial disputes such as the Spratly Island., Paracel Islands, and the Scarborough Shoal have soured bilateral relations among some countries and continue to destabilize peace in East Asia as a whole. In general, it is a conflict-prone environment and necessary policy implications are needed to be considered in order to prevent escalation of conflicts. On the other hand, all of these issues prompt the need to have a strong multilateral security forum in East Asia and also in the Asia-Pacific, especially ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), and East Asia Summit (EAS) to improve the security environment and promote trust among all countries. For Japan, as an island nation, its security issue is indispensable with Sea Lines of Communication (SLOC) which is not only the route of supply for its economic activities, but also its maritime security and cooperation.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Political Institutions

Capitol Building in Washington D.C. 

I. Introduction

Some countries in the world believe that democracy is the best form of government in which presidential democracy or parliamentary democracy is used to fit with situation of each country. United States is a good example of presidential democracy which the President has strong power to make decision in administration, military action, and also can exert veto power to the legislature. On the other hand, most democratic countries have preferred parliamentary democracy in which a Prime Minister is dependent on the vote of confidence of the Parliament elected by the people. Another interesting case is that some parliamentary democracies have monarchy who acts as head of state such as United Kingdom, Japan, Cambodia, Malaysia, etc. In addition, some countries have mixed system between the two constitutional designs by having the President and the Prime Minister as can be seen in France and other countries. According to changing domestic situations, there are also cases that some countries have switched from parliamentary system to presidential system (i.e. Sri Langka), but we rarely see the reverse case (president to parliament). Both systems have their own pro and con which are under comprehensive discussion and study by some scholars as follows:

Saturday, 2 June 2012

What is Political Culture?

Political Parties in Cambodia. The red dot indicates parties who competed in the Commune Council Election on 3 June 2012.

Photo of Commune Council Election on 3 June 2012 in Cambodia 

In general, different cultures and traditions, custom, beliefs, and values have been found among different countries and regions. Political regimes such as democracy and authoritarianism have been strengthened or eroded according to popular support and their thinking in a country with comparison to other countries in the region. Political moves are affected by the ways of thinking, attitudes, beliefs, and practices of political decision makers and the views and participation of the whole population.  As economic development can have positive impact on the sustainability of democracy, political culture, which has entrenched in a society consisting of different classes and religions, is also an important factor for social and political development. In some countries, such as United States and Great Britain, democracy has been firmly established and continued to be improved with high stability due to strong political culture of democracy which have existed a long time in the history. However, Western political culture may not be the same as that of Asia, in which during the period of cold war, communism and authoritarianism was the dominant political regimes. How about political culture in Cambodia? I leave the answer to all readers after go through this discussion article. The issue of political culture has been the major topic of discussion and studies by many scholars such as Gabriel Almond and Sidney Verba, Larry Diamond, Yu-tzung Chang et al., and Amaney Jamal and Mark Tessler. Is there a democratic political culture – a pattern of political attitudes that fosters democratic stability, which in some way fits the democratic political system?  Has the growth of democratic legitimacy in East Asia stagnated or even eroded? What do East Asians think of how democracy works in their countries? Is popular support for democracy deeply rooted in a liberal-democratic political culture?      

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Determinants of Political Development

From the sixteenth century to the twentieth century, the world had witnessed significant changes in both political and socio-economic structures through peaceful and violent struggles. However, not every country had experienced the same path of transformations into a new regime due to difference in historical sequences, social and economic base, geo-politics, and supports from different classes of society. Some countries such as England, France, China, and Japan, had managed to transform from agrarian society into modern states by adopting different paths of transformation. Currently, the issue of Arab Spring, which has originated in Tunisia and now is ongoing in some Middle East countries, has been drawing many attentions from politicians and scholars on violent political transitions to real democracy of those countries, especially in Egypt and Libya. Furthermore, Myanmar or Burma has surprised the world by its own peaceful transformation into democratic government during the universal election in 2011 and by-election in early April 2012. Interestingly, civilian control of government has been declared but the role of the military behind the government is still skeptical by international community. Furthermore, with the intervention of UN from 1991-93, Cambodia is also an example of peaceful transformation into electoral democracy which pave the  way for stable peace and national reconstruction after three decades of chaos and civil wars. This article will take some discussion on the way of transformations of a regime and inauguration of a new regime and provide comparative views among those countries.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

ASEAN's Core Role in the Building of An East Asian Community

The official launching of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Negotiation (RCEP) at the sidelines of the 7th East Asia Summit on 20 November 2012 in Cambodia

ASEAN Global Dialoge on 20 November 2012 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia  

The idea of East Asian regionalism is not new. The initiative was first originated from some countries in East Asia. In the early 1990s, Malaysia under the leadership of former Prime Minister Mahathir also proposed an East Asian Economic Caucus for economic cooperation among East Asian countries. After the Asian financial crisis, regional integration began to take shape, such as ASEAN+3 Process in 1997 and the first East Asia Summit in 2005. So far, Regional integration in East Asia and the Asia-Pacific are seen through several regional mechanisms such as ASEAN+3 Summit, East Asia Summit, ASEAN Regional Forum, ADMM Plus (ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting with its eight Dialogue Partners such as South Korea, China, Japan, India, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, and United States), and Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).

Saturday, 21 April 2012

My Field Trip to Nagoya City and Gifu Prefecture, Japan

Australian traditional dance

After having finished exams and independent study, all Young Leader Programme (YLP) students and I felt relief and totally enjoyed with this excellent field trip (July 30 - August 1, 2010) to Nagoya city and Gifu prefecture where we had the opportunity to visit heavy industrial bases such as Toyota factory, beautiful scenery and local culture . Every place that I visited is unique and excellent. This field trip gives me a new thinking of development that has balance between economy, and nature & culture. Not like the first field trip to Kumamoto prefecture in January 2010, I can say that this trip is unique and interactive with the local community. For example, we visited an underground sewage construction site. Furthermore, we learned and joined the Gujo dance with the local residents and also played and danced with the elementary school kids. Hence, I really understand the importance of development of local community and contribution to social development in general.  

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

How To Be a Smart Diplomat?

US's Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Opening Ceremony of 20th ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh on 3 April 2012

Patience, tact and good cross-cultural skills are often mentioned as important qualities to be an effective diplomat. However, much more than that is needed.

In the first place, a good diplomat has to be an effective ‘net-worker’. He or she has to have the ability to develop good relations with the various officials and opinion-makers in the country of accreditation who can affect relations with his or her country. For an ambassador, this requires not only developing contacts at the highest levels of government but also ensuring good relations with senators and with influential journalists and media owners.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Changing World Economic Governance and the New Direction of East Asia’s Economy

Smart Community Model in Japan by using only clean technologies.  

Offshore wind farm in South Korea. Early in recent global recession, the South Korean government determined Green and renewable energy technology would be a key growth engine for the ROK economy. A number of Korea firms quickly embraced the mandate.  

I.                   Introduction
So far the world economy has fully recovered from financial crisis which originated from the subprime problem in the United States (US) at the end of 2007. The US and the European Union (EU) were badly hit by this crisis, leading to a global recession in other areas of the world, especially in Asia. Although recent global economic recovery seems hopeful, but a sustainable economic growth is under question due to the recent Greece’s debt default and possible sovereign debt's crises in other EU countries. Particularly, for Japan, its economic growth rate for 2010 is very low at 1.9% and government’s debt is more than double of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2009. In contrast, China and other emerging economies in Asia have very high economic growth rates in 2011 and this year 2012.  Furthermore, Japan is facing with some persistent challenges such as aging society, low birth rate, deflation, and a stagnant economy. Climate change is also a global concern and a sustainable economic development is needed by taking into account environmental measures which require international cooperation, for example the Kyoto Protocol. Economic growth is necessary, but a sustainable global climate environment is vital for every country in the globe. In this context, Japan is a leading country which can balance economic development and environmental sustainability, which contribute to a significant reduction of the greenhouse gas emission.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Democracy or Autocracy?

In early 19th century, democracy started to developed and spread from its origin in Western Europe, which was the center of international politics during that time, to many countries in the world, especially Southern America which is rich in natural resources. However, the advent of democracy cannot be taken for granted as it is a complicated struggle for equality and power among different classes in a society of a country. The Western European countries had met different political outcomes in their paths of transformation to a new regime such as democracy, authoritarianism, and fascism due to their mixed characters of their developmental experience. For example, France had become a liberal democracy while its neighbor, Germany, had ended up in Fascism in the interwar period.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Community Power Structure and Japan's Local Government System

1.      The study of community power structure and theory of power

There is no agreement among scholars on the concept of powers or on the theory of power. According to Torben Bech Dyrberg (1997), power is the ability to make a difference and it is vested in the relationship between the subject (the person who is in position to wield power) and the dualism between agency and its structure. Although power can have different forms, it is a crucial means of political leaders to use it openly to serve the interests of the community to which they lead or to wield it covertly to promote their personal interests. Using of covert power is called non-decision making (Peter Bachrach, 1971). Hence, the interests of local community will be harmed by non-decision of decision by its leaders. If power has two faces, how can we integrate power safely into the community power structure for the sake of common good?  

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Three Critical Questions on Maintaining ASEAN Centrality

Leaders of ASEAN Member States pose for picture in ASEAN Way style at the 20th ASEAN Summit in April 2012

Opening Ceremony of the 20th ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

ASEAN has been viewed as a successful regional organization for developing countries. Starting from a modest inauguration in Bangkok in 1967 with only five members, namely Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, and the Philippines, ASEAN has achieved its political, economic, and socio-cultural cooperation successfully through the period of Cold War and Viet Nam war, which had destabilized Southeast Asia for decades. This achievement is seen through the ASEAN’s expansion to cover the ten countries in Southeast Asia (including the five additional members, namely Brunei, Vietnam, Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Cambodia). Not only successfully in its own integration, ASEAN actively makes significant regional grouping with Japan, China, and South Korea in 1997 to form ASEAN Plus Three cooperation. In November 2011 in Bali, East Asian Summit (ASEAN+3, India, Australia, and New Zealand), which was established in 2005 by ASEAN, has been upgraded into an expanded East Asia Summit by including two superpowers (United States and Russia). In combination, ASEAN Plus Three and East Asia Summit has been officially recognized as the core of East Asian Community. 

Monday, 16 January 2012

Political Parties and Electoral Systems

A ballot box for an election in Cambodia

A political campaign for parliamentary election in Cambodia in 1993

Democracy is generally seen through free and fair elections in a country to select parliamentarians or the President. Usually, political parties are established to participate in elections and to win seats in the lower house. Elections and political parties are common in a democratic country whether it is president or parliamentary democracy. A successful free and fair election that results in the establishment of a new government could be regarded as a success of bringing the will of a people into political actions which, in turn, serve for the common good. Furthermore, election and political parties provide opportunity to all citizens of a nation to show their voice or to stand as candidates in competition for the top jobs in government’s office. There are different electoral systems which can result in two-party system or multiparty system. For example, the United States has a two-party system consisting of Democratic Party and Republican Party while Cambodia can be a good example of multiparty system with several parties running in general elections. The importance of political parties are reflected in the election since an individual who wish to be the Prime Minister or President must join a political party or create his or her own party to run in the election. Currently, the issues of mass voting, the designing of the electoral systems, and the importance of political parties are raised by some scholars such as Gary Cox, Jonh Aldrich, and Donald Horowitz. Since Cambodia is running close to senate election on 29 January 2012, I feel the need for this article so that Cambodian people and other domestic and international stakeholders could have a good understanding of democratic election and electoral systems.