The Gestation of a New Indian Strike Corps

Indian newspapers have variants of this headline today: “India to create new Army corps along China border.” (For example, here and here.) And I think to myself, man, am I getting old? I swear I read this story like ten times now. So, I decided to go look. It might only be interesting to those that track Indian security issues closely, but I think glimpsing the news stories over the years on the new Indian strike corps gives you a little bit of a feel for the Indian bureaucratic process at work. It’s not pretty, but it’s not absurd either. A proposal is generated. It moves forward. Questions are asked. It goes backward. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. More after the jump for those that care. Continue reading

What We’re Reading

Who is protesting in Brazil?

The current developments in Brazil have caught all by surprise. Yearly increases in bus fares, notoriously bad public transportation, inflation and slow economic growth (weirdly combined with low unemployment rates) have been looming for some time now. The Free Fare Movement (MPL) has been actively voicing its demands for better public transportation since at least 2006 and other similar organizations and movements have also been mobilizing for better public services. In this context, therefore, it would not be accurate to state that the “the Giant is awake” on the streets (“o Gigante acordou”). Yet, it would also be cynical to say that the current mobilization is not unprecedented – at least since redemocratization.

The nature of the unfolding events, affected by almost daily incidents and bipolar swings in public opinion and in an editorialized media, makes it hard for most of us to answer simple questions: Who are these protesters? What do they want? Social media outlets, in particular Facebook, have been primary sources of information for protesters over the past few weeks. However, social media also works to bias our opinions on the basis of our own personal experiences and social groups: after all, birds of a feather tend to flock together, as research on social network has shown (McPherson, et. al, 2001).  In summary, it has been difficult to see the forest for the trees.

On Sunday, June 23rd, Ibope, a well-know survey company in Brazil, released the first (to my knowledge) systematic collection of data on the characteristics of the protesters. This data is illuminating and, importantly, allows us to answer further questions: how different are these protesters from the “average” Brazilian? Are these protesters different than those individuals who usually engage in politics?

The plots below show a comparison of the demographic profile of protesters and the broader Brazilian population. Protesters are much younger, and, as expected, students are over-represented compared to the population. Also, those who mobilize are clearly better off compared to the rest of the population: the discrepancies between income and education distributions of the protesters and the population are remarkable. For instance, about 10% of the population has a higher education degree, whereas about 43% of the protesters have at least a college degree.

age education



These differences might be due in part to the sampling process: Ibope surveyed protesters on Thursday, June 20th, a point at which the protests had already started to encompass a wider swath of society, distinct from the left-leaning individuals that mobilized early (who would be, presumably, less well-off than the protesters on June 20th).

There are other possible explanations: it is not uncommon for those who engage in political activity, in particular mass-based political action, to be better off than those who do not. This hypothesis has taken many shapes and forms and it is commonly referred to in political science literature as the socioeconomic status (SES) model and there has been systematic evidence supporting it in various places, including Brazil (Verba, 1995; Norris, 2002; Reis, 2000).  This model is known for not taking into account variation in mobilization over time, events that trigger mobilization, and the power of organizations, which are patently important in times of nation-wide mobilizations, but, despite all these pitfalls, it is interesting to see the predictions made by the SES model supported by these simple analyses.

However, support for this stripped-down version of SES model receives only very modest support even if one turns a blind eye to all methodological issues underlying this quick-and-dirty analysis of the Ibope data. According to the SES model, individual who engage in political activity also tend to be more active in “non-political” organizations. This does not seem to be the case among the protesters surveyed on June 20th in 7 cities in Brazil – they are no more likely to be engaged in non-political associations.

Rather, it was found that protesters are less likely to identify with a political party and less likely to be affiliated with a political party than the population overall. This is not surprising given the likely effect of social desirability bias when answering these questions in protests that block streets to make their dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs heard – whatever this dissatisfaction means in more specific terms is still to be determined.

union party

In summary, students and young people do seem be the largest groups out on the streets, and those who are mobilizing have attended school for longer, and have higher incomes than most of the population. Also, they seem to feel less represented by a political party than most of the population – even though this is a tough comparison given the unstable nature of party “sympathy” in times like these.  Despite this interesting protester profile, however, we still do not have answers to all of our questions.

Are these protesters very different from the early joiners whose protests mostly focused on reducing bus fares? It is hard to say, even though the type of demand and the way in which they mobilized (mostly through civil society organizations) seems to indicate as much.

Protests continue to shake the country: mayors from all over the country have backed down on the increase of bus fares and are starting to rethink their public transportation contracts and policies, governors have started to become less supportive of police repression (at least publically), the federal government is starting to play a more active role in pushing laws and reforms, and the Congress is rushing to discuss and vote on some of the issues raised by protesters (such as committing all oil royalties to spending on education and health and repelling a controversial constitutional amendment on the investigative powers of the Public Ministry). Protesters are still shaking the trees, but the characteristics of the protesters will help determine on which side the fruit will fall.

[I used data from PNAD 2011 to make the plots about the demographic characteristics of the Brazilian population and I used the population from the states in which Ibope surveyed protesters. For the plots about questions on representation and population, I used data from ESEB 2010. Both of these datasets can be found in Centro de Estudos da Metrópole and Consórcio de Informações Sociais.]

São Paulo Demonstrations: It’s Not About 20 Cents, Stupid!

(Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post by Raphael Neves, PhD candidate at the Politics department at the New School for Social Research, and assistant professor of politics at the University of São Paulo)

São Paulo, the largest city in the Southern hemisphere and Brazil’s financial center, is located thousands of miles away from Istanbul but its 11.3 million inhabitants still know what it feels like to be in Taksim Square. This month, both bus and subway fares
increased by 20 cents of real – the equivalent of 9 cents, USD. Protesters took to the streets following the raise, leading to several clashes with the police. Authorities
claim the increase was below the inflation rate (6.50% in the last 12 months). The mayor, Fernando Haddad, a philosophy professor and the former minister of education under Lula, had stated during his election campaign last year that the city would have to raise the already subsidized fares, frozen since 2011. Brazil has received some of the best combined democracy, economic growth and income distribution scores among the BRICS. So why are people complaining? face_protest The demonstrations have been organized by the Free Fare Movement, which promotes free public transportation for all (a demand the mayor says would cost almost 3 billion USD/year). As the event page of one of the protests on Facebook shows, the demands range from the decrease in public transportation fares to better salaries for teachers; from increased freedom on the Internet, to objections of the construction of soccer stadiums for the next World Cup. Furthermore, the São Paulo state police, commanded by governor Geraldo Alckmin, has overreacted and stepped out of the law. Countless people were arrested for bringing vinegar to the demonstrations. According to police officers, vinegar may be used to produce a bomb. In fact, demonstrators say, it alleviates the effects of tear gas. As a result, protesters have embraced a campaign to “legalize” vinegar. They’ve made Guy Fawkes masks their symbol and “V for Vinegar” has become an immediate hit on social networks. Mockery and creativity are central in these protests as
they’ve helped keep people mobilized. Even when they are forced to split up by the police, they keep connected online.

As the construction of a shopping mall at Taksim square became the last straw for protesters in Turkey, in Brazil, the 20 cents increase has catalyzed dissatisfaction. The perplexed may wonder whether ten years of Workers’ Party rule – Lula’s first term inauguration was in 2003, Dilma, his successor, in 2011 – have contributed to
fight inequality. The answer is yes. However, and here we may have a sharp distinction between Turkey and Brazil, the protests are not directed only towards the government. They are much more dispersed and fragmented. On the one hand, a large part of the population has been integrated into the economic market and consumption levels have never been so high. On the other hand, this possibly made people more aware of other problems way beyond material needs. A minimum wage worker may now choose which cell phone or TV she or he is going to buy, but one is unable to have dominion over basic
aspects of everyday life. In São Paulo, where rent is as expensive as in New York, someone who lives in a poorer area will spend at least two hours in an extremely crowded bus or train to get to work. To lose control over one’s own time and space is enough reason to revolt, isn’t it?

"São Paulo will shut down if the fare doesn't go down!"

“São Paulo will shut down if the fare doesn’t go down!”

All in all, the political system has not been capable of processing this generalized and
fragmented dissatisfaction. The increasing scale of the demonstrations is probably due to their rejection of any sort of party commitment. Of course, the risk of such detachment between civil society and political institutions is to give even more autonomy to bureaucratic structures that administer Brazilians’ lives. In this sense, mobilization may lead to political change, although the result is not necessarily more “progressive” – think,
for instance, of Indignados in Spain, a movement that demanded a radical change of the political system but was followed by the election of Mariano Rajoy. The challenge Brazil
faces is to make democracy more visible; to go beyond the right to cast a ballot in order to empower citizens to exercise effective control over all realms of their lives. These 20 cents are worth a change.
Raphael on twitter: @politikaetc

The Smoke-Filled Room at Midwest Political Science Association

Four of The Smoke-Filled Room’s contributors will be presenting their papers at the Midwest Political Science Association conference starting today. We’ve pasted the paper abstracts below.

Matt Eckel: “Nationalism, Chauvinism and Inequality: Skewed Incomes, Political Elites, and the Political Economy of Xenophobia” (Panel: Thursday, April 11 12:45 pm, 21-4, Who Are We?: The Politics of Defining National Identity)

Does inequality increase the intensity of chauvinist politics? There has been substantial recent work relating socio-economic inequality to a host of political outcomes, including redistribution, partisan polarization and popular nationalist sentiment. The relationship of inequality to nationalism, in particular, has been an object of inquiry in recent years, with studies finding that unequal societies tend to have more nationalist populations. Other work on inequality and redistributive outcomes has emphasized complex dynamics through which the specific shape of income distributions shapes voter and elite incentives. In this paper I test whether there is evidence that inequality leads political elites to mobilize constituencies with more intense ethnically and culturally chauvinist appeals in order to maintain status-quo socio-economic realities. Using time series cross sectional data on inequality in OECD countries as well as measures of nationalism drawn from the Comparative Party Manifesto dataset, I find evidence that political appeals become more nationalist and chauvinist as societies become more unequal.

To download paper:

Matt Scroggs: “Creating a Balance: Great Power Politics and Regional Integration” (Panel: Thursday, April 11, 12:45-2:25, 8-3, Causes and Consequences of European Integration)

Many consider the success of the European Union to be a major blow against power-based accounts of international relations, namely realism. While there have been some attempts at applying realist theory towards European integration, namely Grieco’s “voice opportunity thesis” and Rosato’s balance of power argument, this paper will challenge the logics of both these works, as well as the liberal case put forth by Moravcsik, and will instead contrast the role of power politics and grand strategy that led to integration in Western Europe to Eastern Europe and East Asia where no such integration occurred, according to the interests of the U.S. and Soviet Union. That role, I contend, is consistent with the “realist” approach.

Natalia S. Bueno and Thad Dunning: “Race, Class, and Representation: Evidence from Brazilian Politicians” (Panel: Sunday, April 14, 8:30 am, Representation and Social Identities in Developing Countries)


A persistent racial gap between Brazilian citizens and their elected politicians raises the possibility of important failures of descriptive as well as substantive representation—failures that are especially puzzling in the context of Brazil’s alleged “racial democracy” as well as electoral institutions that should be favorable to racial inclusiveness. This paper uses new, original data to document for the first time the size of this representational gap. We then explore several alternative explanations for it. First, drawing on an experiment in which the race and class background of faux candidates for city council are varied at random, we find some class effects but no discernible effects of candidates’ race on voters’ support for them. Thus, the representational gap may not be readily explained by race-based voter preferences or by a failure to politicize a latent racial cleavage. Next, we explore but reject several possible institutional explanations, including discrimination by party elites and electoral rules that foster or inhibit candidate entry along racial lines. Our evidence instead suggests the importance of race-associated resource disparities that are also strongly related to electoral victory. While the mechanism through which personal assets may shape electoral outcomes should be further explored in future research, our evidence suggests the enduring importance of resource inequalities in explaining failures of descriptive representation.

Nikolay Marinov and William G. Nomikos: “Electoral Proximity and Security Policy” (Panel: Sunday, April 14, 8:30 AM, 17-14, Democracies and International Security)

How do approaching elections a ffect the security policy states conduct? While international relations has paid some attention to this issue, existing theoretical work is scattered among many disparate arguments and the evidence does not allow researchers to identify causal relationships. We improve on both points. We identify the problem faced by democratic policy-makers near elections as a time-inconsistency problem. The time-inconsistency problem arises when the costs and benefi ts of policy are not realized at the same time, giving rise to electoral business cycles in security policy. We apply the argument to the case of allied troop contributions to Operation Enduring Freedom (“OEF”) and the International Security Assistance Force (“ISAF”) mission in Afghanistan. The exogenous timing of elections allows us to identify the causal eff ect of approaching elections on troop levels. Our fi nding of signi ficantly lower troop contributions, in the order of approximately 10 percent, near elections, is the first arguably identif ed e ffect of electoral proximity on security policy. We discuss the role of election-related incentives in eliciting suboptimal security behavior from democratic policy-makers.

Representation by law? Gender quotas in Brazil’s elections

On January 1st, 2013, 7,646 women took office as members of the local legislatures in more than five thousand municipalities in Brazil. 665 women were also elected as mayors in these municipalities, marking the largest number of women to enter local office in Brazil’s history.

Is this latest achievement part of the trend started two years ago, when on January 1st, 2011, Dilma Rousseff took office as President of the country? After all, in 2010, not only did Brazil elect its first female president, Marina Silva also gained the largest vote share of any third-runner for the presidency since re-democratization in 1989. Or, are these numbers the direct effect of the gender quota law enacted in 2009? This law requires that a minimum of 30%, of women be on party lists for proportional elections (local, state, and federal legislators). This 2009 law, applied for the first time in the 2012 elections, made a similar 1997 gender quota law more effective by forcing parties to actually enlist women to their tickets.

Examining only the absolute number of elected women in Brazil can be misleading, however. Indeed, careful examination suggests that the proportion of elected women has only risen slightly despite the more effective enforcement of the quota law.


The graphs above tell us part of the story. We can see that the proportion of elected women still remains significantly less than elected men. The first graph indicates that  even though the number of female candidates for local chambers has risen sharply (due to the enforcement of the quota law), the proportion of elected local female legislators is still very small.  Similarly, the proportion of elected state and federal deputies is remarkably stable even through there has been a rise in the number of candidates in the 2010 elections, as shown in the second graph. Given that the gender quota does not affect majoritarian elections, it is a bit surprising that the proportion of elected female mayors has been rising more rapidly than the proportion of elected female local legislators.

One possible explanation for the under-performance of women in elections for local chambers is the lack of resources and support provided by the parties, which recruit women simply in order to formally reach the threshold demanded by the law. This is a difficult hypothesis to test but the graphs above shed some light on it. For instance, the number of female candidates who identified as “housewives” increased in the 2012 elections. This may reflect the greater influence the Electoral Justice had on parties to obey the gender quota law, leading parties to enroll female candidates who were related to existing male candidates.

The gender quota law provides a necessary first step towards equal gender representation. Nevertheless, making sure women have spots on party lists does not guarantee that they will have the resources or access to other factors necessary to get elected.  Like other types of affirmative action, quotas tackle issues of inequality by guaranteeing access of underprivileged groups to the arenas in which they are systematically under-represented (these arenas could be the realm of elections, universities or jobs, among others). Yet, whether this type of affirmative action proves ultimately effective hinges upon empirical and normative assessments.

Guest Post: Understanding Attitudes Toward Corruption

By Nara Pavão*

Brazil very recently hosted the trial of the century, in which important politicians were accused of, and convicted for, their involvement in a large-scale corruption scandal allegedly concocted by some of the most important politicians of the Workers’ Party (PT). The scheme supposedly consisted of the exchange of legislative support for a big monthly payment. This unprecedented event – the trial and conviction of the nation’s foremost politicians –  has brought the topic of corruption to the center of public debate. Although the Supreme Court has convicted these politicians, not all citizens who have thoughtfully assessed the case agree with the ruling. The unique nature of the judgment, a singular case in the juridical history of the country, has generated controversy and disagreement, a clear indication that interpretations of information about corruption are not as homogenous or simplistic as some would have us believe. While some Brazilians were persuaded by the information surrounding the scandal—accusations, media reports, and proper evidence—other citizens were skeptical of this information and continued to believe in the innocence of the politicians.

When investigating what leads voters to take action against corrupt politicians, the rather scarce literature on the topic, generated primarily from the field of political science, calls attention to the notion of a lack of information: voters support corrupt politicians because they lack sufficient information about these politicians’ misdeeds. The reality is, however, far more complex. From the standpoint of voting behavior, we should expect a more multifaceted account of attitude formation. Why should information about politicians’ involvement in corruption automatically translate into negative attitudes toward corrupt politicians? What if individuals have different levels of tolerance for corruption? What if they interpret information about corruption differently, becoming more or less likely to be persuaded to believe in the accusation?

Because ready availability of information is referred to as an “antidote” to political corruption (Winters, Testa, and Fredrickson 2012), little is known about what induces voters to make informed decisions to support corrupt politicians. Similarly, we know very little about how information about corruption translates into attitudes toward corruption. We know even less about the factors that may moderate the impact of information about corruption on individuals’ attitudes.

Opinion data from Brazil offers us some basis to begin thinking more comprehensively about the question of tolerance toward corruption and about the real role of information in leading citizens to adopt less tolerant attitudes toward corruption.

As we begin thinking in this vein, we should consider one surprising finding: the percentage of survey respondents who admit that they tolerate corruption is striking, particularly if we consider that social desirability bias is affecting their answers (the socially desirable attitude is to not tolerate corruption).

 Avaliação do Presidente Lula, do Congresso e outros assuntos, 2005. DATAFOLHA

Furthermore, according to an opinion poll conducted in 2005 in Brazil, those who sympathize with the Workers Party tend to be more informed about the corruption accusations against their preferred party; nevertheless, they are precisely the ones who believe that there is less corruption in Lula’s government than evidenced. According to the same data, information about corruption (both awareness about the corruption scandals and the extent to which the individual is informed about the scandals) does not predict citizens’ tolerance for corruption.

Avaliação do Presidente Lula, do Congresso e outros assuntos, 2005. DATAFOLHA

Inconclusive though it may be, this data should stimulate us to think more about attitudes toward corruption not only in Brazil but elsewhere. The challenge is to move the debate beyond lack of information to the problem of how citizens react to corruption and the extent to which they are willing to take action against corrupt politicians. Perhaps disseminating information about corruption and increasing transparency—initiatives perceived as essential to good governance—are not the sole antidotes to corruption in politics. Rather, the remedy may depend on something we still lack: a comprehensive understanding of citizens’ real attitudes toward corruption and how information about corruption scandals impact such attitudes.

Editor’s note: Nara Pavão is a PhD candidate in Political Science at the University of Notre Dame. She specializes in Comparative Politics and conducts research on public opinion, voting behavior, and corruption in Brazil, Argentina, and Colombia.