Foreign Politics

As a political science major you will spend time studying foreign politics and gain a deep understanding of the wide range of systems of government. While the Unites States is a democracy in which citizens elect their leaders, many countries work under a different model. In some parts of the world, very different types of government coexist with greater or lesser degrees of compatibility.

The Middle East is a case in point. Many countries that make up the region are currently experiencing political instability; others are relatively stable or are moving from one form of government into another with minimum disturbance. Recent events in Egypt are evidence that while not all change occurs easily, it can be achieved with a minimum of violence. Although Egypt’s former leader, Hosni Mubarak, assumed the title of president, for many years he ran unopposed in elections that the rest of the world saw as far from democratic. After tremendous public demonstration, he agreed to step down and allow military rule while the country prepares to transition. In Iran, the president, who is elected by popular vote, is secondary to the Supreme Leader. While the Iranian president is constitutionally charged with fulfilling executive functions, other tasks must be approved by parliament. The president doesn’t have control over the military or foreign policy; these are managed by the Supreme Leader.

Iran’s neighbor Iraq operates within a multiparty system and is, according to its constitution, an Islamic, democratic, federal, parliamentary republic. The prime minister heads the government in terms of executive power and appoints the country’s cabinet, the council of ministers. The country of Jordan is under the rule of a monarch who inherits his power. He appoints senate members, while house members are elected. Kuwait is also a monarchy whose emir, or king, selects the ministers and prime minister. Members of parliament are elected.

Latin America, like the Middle East, is composed of countries that operate under a number of types of government. Dictatorships such as Cuba and Venezuela coexist with democracies in which public servants are elected by popular vote, as well as with countries that exist under socialist rule.

Despite the fall of the Soviet Union and radical political changes in other parts of the world as well as in China itself over the last decades, China remains a Communist-run country. The party continues to have control over the military, as well as over all major media. The Communist Party also controls ministries, business, and universities.

Last Updated: 05/22/2014

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