DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.

Comparative Politics

Essay #1

Salma Yehia

Due: 11-17-13


Bostonistan: A New United Centralized Nation


           The international arena is constantly gravitating amid realms of disparity between strong and corrupt governments. The scene is changing ever so rapidly with current revolutions that will define the international norms of the future. As a political scientist, it is crucial to identify and understand these current fluctuations that occur within countries while taking account the historical context of the state to make informed recommendations on unstable conditions. As an Indian political scientist, it will be useful to compare Bostonistan’s structure to India’s current governmental structure in order to find the most effective constitution to satisfy the citizens of the recently democratized country.  India is a country of asymmetrical federal status, comprised of a parliamentary system of government that functions on a single district electoral system. 

             On the other hand, Bostonian has dealt with a distinctive historical process and social pressures that had forced it from democratic rule to a military controlled government. If such results are recognized, then the appropriate move of Bostonistan should be one towards a system that can pass legislation quickly as to overcome past legislative gridlock; the suitable system would be a parliamentary type of government. The electoral system of Boston should duplicate India’s single district electoral system as it helps alleviate extremist views by parties that could have arrived by previous religious conflicts. However, rather than embodying a federal system, Bostonistan should take constructive steps towards a unitary system which help a gradual move from the centralized military rule and will deter conflict between religious groups since their power will be diminished with the continuous centralization of the government.       

              Bostonistan needs to employ the parliamentary system of government to effectively gravitate this new democracy to a different height that will satisfy the inhabitants of Bostonistan. However, it is important to recognize that even if the same system is used in India, its effectiveness depends on the socio-economic and cultural context of the country—which influences the model in practice. A parliamentary system in this newly established democracy would help keep power concentrated in one place, creating few institutional veto players that will help this new state double-fold [i]. First, ideally, it will help an easier transition from the previous military rule because the power is not radically moved to new powers. Simultaneously, this system can create an atmosphere where people’s voices are still heard. Second, it will move the process of creating and approving laws much faster since the fusion of the executive and legislative branches provides for an exceptionally powerful executive—therefore preventing legislative deadlock as often[ii].

          The parliamentary system in practice has its imperfections as India proves but has seemed to work based on India’s history and development. India has a system in which the prime minister and the cabinet are the key executives and decision makers while also having an indirectly elected president. India has never had a two-party system but rather has many parties. No single party has won a majority of seats in Parliament in the last twenty years, requiring coalition governments. The Westminster model for a parliamentary, theoretically, is the most centralized form of liberal democratic governing institutions.[iii] Whether the model operates this way in fact depends, most importantly on the number and strength of the parties.

           Conversely, the model may be good for a country like Bostonistan so that there can be space for religious groups to voice their opinions while not having too much freedom that could potentially lead to radicalization of the government. For example, Indian prime ministers persist in dominance, but without the ability of any one party to win a majority, coalition government has been indispensible.[iv] Nonetheless, Bostonistan should be warned that since 1989, the coalition government in India has substantially increased the potential veto players, adding a degree of consensual democracy. This may not be favorable outcome since military leaders specifically took to power to avoid legislative gridlock that had overburdened the country. Therefore, when writing the constitution it is crucial that there are preventative measures that create a fair balance between a centralized government and one where coalition governments overstep their rule.

            To ensure a realistic transition from the previous authoritarian regime of the military, the best electoral system that should be instilled is the first past the post system within the single member district system. In it’s purest form, single member districts ensure geographical representation with the largest vote winning. This eliminates any concerns regarding unequal representation based on religious parties—that could potentially start religious conflict again. They do well nationally and regionally and although some parties get no seats, it reduces the chances of minority parties emerging as influential decision makers.  Moreover, single-member districts maximize accountability because a single representative can be held directly responsible; and can therefore be re-elected or defeated in the next election. Ideally, the strength of the single-member districts is that there become close ties between constituents and representatives that can ensure accurate representation and relay the desires of Bostonistan’s citizens.

              Though, when this system is taken out of its theoretical context, issues arise as proven by the National Congress’s decline and the BJPs rise to power—a rare situation where a small minority party was able to receive seats. The Congress party was not able to conjure enough votes for plurality and a right-wing Hindu party, the BJP, and a new emergence of state-based parties. Moreover, there was a development of parties whose social status is rooted in either a religious ideology or particular caste signals—and therefore the emergence of cleavage based parties developed in the early 1990s[v]. This creates an issue for Bostonistan since it wants to deter religious conflict and influence. Yet, India has proven that there is a chance that these religious ideologies could become center of the political realm. So, in order to deter such activity, the constitution must be written in a form that will allow these ideologies to only influence the local politics and keep it within the state rather than to a national level.

            On another level, India’s asymmetrical federal system may keep its government orderly but should not be recommended to Bostonistan; and rather, a unitary system should be instilled. The system that India has in place momentarily is one in which different subnational states have distinct relationship with and rights in relation to the national government; although these have equal constitutional rights[vi]. India’s centralized federal system, especially under the continuous rule of a dominant party, controls state governments firmly. After India’s independence, the new constitution recognized various categories of states with numerous powers. While most states today have basic equal rights, the central government has bargained with regional groups to create new states to enhance regional loyalty to the center. This has meant giving certain states greater autonomy and power than others. [vii] This asymmetry can create power in the hands of parties that may not be popularly accepted which is not what this newly built democracy of Bostonistan should thrive for. Within India’s federalism, the states do not write their own constitutions and the national government has the right to create, eliminate, or change state boundaries, as it desires.  Although, states do control issues such as public order, health, agriculture, and land rights and the national government has the greatest taxation ability.

           The issue with the federal system is that citizens living in different parts of the country are treated differently, and may receive unequal benefits. Moreover there becomes a conflict between national power and state rights. These issues can become complicated for a newly developed democracy that did not enjoy the gridlock and conflict. Rather it seems that Bostonistan is focused on being swift and effective. For that reason, a unitary system is plainer and better to implement. In a unitary government, the central government possesses much authority and decision-making power and local states simply act as administrative bodies for the central government.[viii] For a country that has seen much instability, a unitary system is a chance for greater unity and stability for the nation. Overall, there can be less duplication of services and less conflict between the national and local levels. The country can more easily develop uniform polices, laws, and enforcements throughout the country which can be an advantage for a country that has seen religious divides within its country.

             States are not simply stagnant in form. They are constantly developing based on the globalizing and shifting world that we live in. Therefore, it is legitimate that although these recommendations might work in the short run, adjustments may need to be made as different parties gain more legitimacy that others and different ideologies conquer traditional values. A political scientist must accept these constant changes and learn to adapt and analyze the big picture. India may have had struggles finding a political equilibrium that represents its people in a satisfactory way, but in the long run they are developing into a sturdier country through amendments and have successfully become big competitors internationally. Similarly, Bostonistan must overcome initial hurdles in developing a system that works best for its people through trial and error. However, the recommendations made are evaluations that can propel Bostonistan into an optimistic future.




Works Cited

[i] Drogus, Carol A.. Introducing Comparative Politics: Concepts and Cases in Context, 2nd Edition. CQ Press, 2011-07-21. VitalBook file. 249.


[ii] Drogus 249

[iii] Drogus 257

[iv] Drogus 256


[v] Chhibber 6

[vi] Drogus 295


[vii] Drogus 298

[viii] Drogus 295

DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.