My Error on Ukraine’s Political Divisions

Ukraine Political Regions 1Several months ago, I posted an article and a map on GeoCurrents in which I divided Ukraine into a “nationalist” region and a “Russian-oriented” region. In retrospect, it seems that most of the area that I had designated as “Russian-Oriented Ukraine” does not actually fit that category. Despite the fact that a few pro-Russian demonstrations have occurred in a number of cities in this region, the bulk of it has remained calm and shows no signs of giving substantial to support pro-Russian separatists. A recent Harvard study indicates as much:

A new study conducted at Harvard University suggests that Russian-speaking Ukrainians may be significantly more supportive of Kyiv’s standoff against Moscow and the pro-Russian separatists than has previously been reported. …

What was surprising, “very surprising” [Bruce] Etling said, was the portion of Russian-language content coming specifically from within Ukraine that was backing the Euromaidan protests. “In Ukraine, among Russian-speakers, 74 percent were supportive of the protests, and only a quarter were opposed,” he said.

Ukraine 2004 election mapI had based my idea of a “Russian-Oriented Ukraine” not so much on linguistic geography as on electoral geography. The area that I had so designated had consistently supported candidates oriented more to Russia than to Europe and more in favor of decentralization than of a strong, unitary state. But evidently it was one thing to vote for a Ukrainian party that leaned toward Moscow and eschewed strong Ukrainian nationalism and quite another to want to see the break-up Ukraine Political Regions 2of Ukraine and the establishment of pro-Russian “statelets”. As a consequence, I have redrafted the map. In its new form, only Lugansk and Donetsk—much of whose territories now form two unrecognized, pro-Moscow “People’s Republics”—are deemed “Russian-Oriented.” (Crimea is still designated as “Russian-Occupied.”) The rest of southeastern Ukraine has been relabeled as “ambivalent,” which is probably not the best term.

New Novorossiya mapI am hardly the only one to have made this error. Many Russian nationalists, for example, openly refer to the entire expanse of southeastern Ukraine as “Novorossiya,” or “New Russia.” (As this term Novorossiya Map 2dates back to the conquest of this region from the Ottoman Empire in the late 1700s, “Novorossiya” now seems to connote to such people something on the order of “New Old New Russia.”)

Major threats to Ukraine’s national integrity, of course, still exist—and not just in the far east and Crimea. Last night’s ultranationalist protests in Kiev (Kyiv) were discussed in a blog-post today by Walter Russell Mead under the heading “Prelude to Dismemberment?” Such an assessment, however, seems rather extreme to me.

Ukraine Language MapLanguage maps showing the Russian- and Ukrainian-speaking regions of the country are themselves fascinating, as they tend to vary greatly in their depictions. I have posted here two extremes. The first is a recent Wikipedia map, derived from 2001 census data, that shows almost the entire country as strongly Ukrainian-speaking. The second, which also relies on information from the 2001 census (albeit aggregated in a different manner), shows the Ukrainian language as limited Ukraine Language Map 2to the far west; it also indicates that the entire southeast, and much more of the country as well, is actually Russian speaking. Most intriguingly, it depicts the core north-central region of the country as “Surzhyk speaking,” Surzhyk being an informal Russian-Ukrainian hybrid, described by the Wikipedia as:

a range of mixed (macaronic) sociolects of Ukrainian and Russian languages used in certain regions of Ukraine and adjacent lands. There is no unifying set of characteristics; the term is used for ‘norm-breaking, non-obedience to or nonawareness of the rules of the Ukrainian and Russian standard languages.’


The linguistic situation here is obviously highly complex. Rather than wade into these murky waters myself, I would refer readers to an excellent recent post on this issue by Asya Pereltsvaig in her website Language of the World.



My Error on Ukraine’s Political Divisions Read More »

Regional Patterns in India’s 2014 General Election

India 2014 Election mapThe overriding story of India’s 2014 general election is of course the massive triumph of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its leader Narendra Modi, along with the corresponding defeat of the Indian National Congress (INC). The BJP gained 166 seats in the Lok Sabha (Indian parliament) for a total of 282, while the INC lost 162 for a total of only 44. Yet in regard to the overall vote, the BJP victory does not appear so overwhelming, nor does the gap between the two main parties loom so large: the BJP took only 31 percent of the total vote against the 19.3 percent share of Congress. This discrepancy reflects the collective strength of India’s many regional and minor national parties, along with the fact that the Indian National Congress has few areas of concentrated support. But both the BJP and the INC do gain addition clout from their allied parties. In the nationwide vote, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance took 36.5 percent, whereas the INC-led United Progressive Alliance took 22.2 percent. But regardless of such complexities, if one analyzes the election results for all Indian political parties, the conclusion is clear: the 2014 contest reflects a major swing to the political right.

India 2014 Election BJP MapTo illustrate the main geographical patterns in the election, I have posted the Wikipedia map (originally in German) of the results above. The numerical data provided in this post come from the same source. I have also outlined some of the regional results found on this map to create a series of more simplified maps, with stylized boundaries. These maps, unfortunately, are rather crude, due to time constrains. In some cases, I have juxtaposed these maps with maps showing the results of the previous national election (2009).

India 2014 Election NDA MapThe main national pattern, clearly evident on the first map posted here, is a new electoral split between greater northwestern India, where the BJP dominated, and the south and east, where regional parties prevailed. The BJP’s current zone of support spans some of the deepest economic and cultural divides in India. It includes many of the country’s most prosperous and socially developed areas as well some of its poorest regions. It also bridges the gap between the Indo-Aryan-speaking north and the Dravidian-speaking south; although the south largely supported regional parties, most of Karnataka opted for the BJP.

India 2009 2014 Elections NDA mapThe zone of BJP support expanded greatly from 2009 to 2014. Its main new areas of electoral success include the mountainous north (Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir), impoverished and densely populated Uttar Pradesh, prosperous Haryana, and relatively poor and arid Rajasthan. Congress and its allies in the United Progressive Alliance saw major declines in these same areas, but their most spectacular drop was in the southeast. Here regional parties unaffiliated with their alliance did particularly well. In Andhra Pradesh, the INC was undermined in part by the controversies surrounding the creation of the new state of Telangana.

India 2014 Election INC MapThe paucity of districts taken by the Indian National Congress is striking. The only sizable areas in which the party was victorious were the lightly populated and peripheral far northeast and a few mostly rural zones in India 2014 Election UPA Mapsouth-central India. Although southeastern Karnataka constitutes one of the largest remaining Congress strongholds, Bangalore—the regional metropolis and center of India’s high tech industry—surprised some observers by voting for the BJP. The INC’s allies in the United Progressive Alliance also performed poorly, with the Maharashtra-based Indian Nationalist CongressIndia 2009 2014 Elections UPA Map—which had been “expelled from the Indian National Congress … for disputing the right of Italian-born Sonia Gandhi to lead the party”—losing three seats to take only six, and the Bihar-based Rashtriya Janata Dal taking only four. In West Bengal, the All India Trinamool Congress, which broke away from the INC in 1989, triumphed handily, but it also dropped its connection with the broader United Progressive Alliance two years ago.

India 2014 Community Parties Election MapIndia’s Third Front alliance, dominated by parties of the far left, also suffered a sharp loss in the election of 2014. This coalition saw a significant loss of representation in Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, and Tamil Nadu. India’s two major communist parties triumphed only in the small state of Tripura in the far northeast and in a few scattered districts of Kerala and West Bengal. Marxism’s electoral decline has been steep; as recently as the 2004 contest, most districts in West India 2014 Election Third Front MapBengal and Kerala supported communist parties. Nationally, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) dropped seven seats and retained only nine, whereas the Communist Party of India lost three seats and kept only one. Several other parties in the Third Front alliance saw even larger declines. The Uttar Pradesh-based Samajwadi Party dropped 18 seats and kept only five, and the Bihar-based Janata Dal (United) Party lost 18 seats India 2019 2014 Election Third Front mapand retained only two. (Curiously, Janata Dal [United] is a secularist, socialist party, yet it had previously been in an alliance with the BJP, which it dropped “in protest against the elevation of Narendra Modi.”) One party in the Third Front, Odissa-based Biju Janata Dal, gained both seats and votes. But this social-India 2004 election mapdemocratic party joined the Third Front only in 2009, having previously been affiliated with the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance. In India, political parties and especially party alliances do not always follow clear ideological lines.

Several parties allied with the BJP in the National Democratic Alliance also gained representation. Maharashtra-based Shiv Sena, a hard-core Hindu Nationalist party, added seven seats for a total of 18, and the populist Andhra Pradesh-based Telugu Desam Party gained 10 for a total of 16. In Bihar, the Lok Janshakti Party—which is officially described as secularist and socialist—went from zero seats to six. In Punjab, the Sikh-oriented Shiromani Akali Dal held even at four seats, although its share of the popular vote dropped.

Several central portions of Punjab, on the other hand, supported the new anti-corruption Aam Aadmi Party. In India overall, this party performed much worse than had been expected in late 2013, when its leader, Arvind Kejriwal, was elected chief minister of Delhi. Kejriwal, however, stepped down several months after his victory due to his frustration with the lack of progress against graft, a move that was evidently costly to his party. Nationally, Aam Aadmi took only two percent of the vote.

Several non-aligned regionalist parties did extremely well. The centrist, Tamil Nadu-based All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam gained 28 seats for a total of 37. In the emerging state of Telangana in the south-center, the center-right Telangana Rashtra Samithi went from two seats to 11. In southern and northeastern Andhra Pradesh, the new YSR Congress Party, which recently broke from both Congress and the United Progressive Alliance, gained nine seats.

Two major regional parties crashed. In Tamil Nadu, the democratic-socialist Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam went from 18 seats to none, taking only 9.6 million votes as opposed to the 18 million that went to the more conservative All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam Party. In Uttar Pradesh and environs, theBahujan Samaj Party lost all 21 of its seats. Despite this gargantuan drop, the party still took 23 million votes—four percent of the total—putting it in third place in the popular count. Such a discrepancy between votes and seats reflects in part the huge population of the central Ganges Valley. In 2009, Bahujan Samaj had taken ten per cent of the vote nationwide. This party gains its strength primarily from the Dalit (“untouchable,” formerly) community and the so-called Other Backwards Castes (OBC). The fact that the BJP’s leader, Narendra Modi, is himself a member of an OBC may have helped siphon off some support from Bahujan Samaj Party.

Modi’s membership in an OBC, however, has been the subject of controversy. As was reported in DNA, Congress Party representatives recently claimed that:

 Narendra Modi doesn’t belong to any backward caste, but was in fact born into an upper caste “Vaishya” family, that is given title of “Modh”, for being super rich, like Mod Brahmin and Modh Bania.  Alleging Modi was a “fake OBC”, former Gujarat Assembly opposition leader Shaktisinh Gohil armed with documents said Modi belonged to a Vaishya sub-caste the “Modh Ghanchi”, a microscopic minority found only in Gujarat. “He, in fact, belongs to the upper caste since he comes from a prosperous business community,” said Gohil.

Modi’s proponents, as well as some of his local opponents, disagree. As reported in RediffNews:

 The moot question is — is Modi an OBC?

“Yes!” says Achyut Yagnik, co-author of The Shaping of Modern Gujarat and a staunch critic of Modi.

Yagnik, an Ahmedabad-based thinker and social activist, says, “The Modh Ghanchi community is part of the Other Backward Classes in Gujarat. They are NOT upper castes.”

It will be interesting to see if Modi’s caste positions continues to be discussed.

The discussion on India’s 2012 election will continue with additional posts later this week. Maps showing the success of the major regional parties, along with state boundaries, will be posted.

Regional Patterns in India’s 2014 General Election Read More »

Ukrainian Regionalism and the Federal Option

Ukraine2004ElectionMapLike many other pundits, David Frum fears that Vladimir Putin is plotting to transform Ukraine into a weak federation and then transform some of its federal units into de facto Russian dependencies. As he argues in a recent Atlantic article:

In the weeks since Russian forces seized Crimea, Vladimir Putin’s plan for mainland Ukraine has become increasingly clear: partition. Putin’s ambassadors and ministers don’t use that word, of course. In talks with their U.S. and NATO counterparts, they prefer the word “federalism.” They want to organize manipulated referendums to create Russian-aligned governments in the eastern regions of Ukraine. These governments would be endowed with broad powers, including authority over trade, investment, and security. Russia would then reach deals with these governments in an arrangement that would amount to annexation in all but name.

Frum goes on to make some interesting observations about the ambiguities in the idea of a federation. As he notes, although Russia proclaims itself to be a federation rather than a national state, it is actually governed from the center, allowing little autonomy for its so-called federal subjects. As Frum explains:

Russia, of course, is itself one of the most centralized nations on earth. The president appoints regional governors, who in turn handpick the Federation Council, Russia’s Senate. The central government controls most state revenue, the police— really, almost everything.

Ukraine2006ElectionMapMy main complaint with Frum’s formulation is his use of the term “nation” in the first sentence. Russia may be a centralized state, but that does not make it a nation state, much less a nation, as its constituent nationalities are categorized as separate entities. In Russia, even passports make it clear that Tatars, Chechens, Jews, and others do not belong to the Russian nation, as explained in a previous GeoCurrents post.

The kind of federation that Putin seems to envisage for Ukraine, however, is not the superficial variety epitomized by Russia, but rather the fully decentralized type in which the federal government has scant power, such as Bosnia and Herzegovina. Ukrainian nationalists loathe the idea of transforming their country into a loose amalgamation, seeing, like Frum, a pretext for de facto partition and Russian domination. But regardless of Russian designs, Ukraine will probably continue to have trouble cohering as tightly unified state, as its split between the generally Russian-oriented southeast and the nationalistic and Western-oriented northwest is too profound. In the 2004 presidential election, for example, the Russian-inclined candidate Victor Yanukovych won over 90 percent of the vote in two far east eastern oblasts (Luhansk and Donetsk), whereas his rival Victor Yushchenko took over 95 percent of the vote in two regions of the far west (Ivano-Frankivsk and Ternopil). Such deep polarization does not bode well for Ukraine’s political future.

As is evident (and as was explained in earlier GeoCurrents posts), Ukraine is thus divided into two political units by a line running from the southwest to the northeast. But both of the resulting “macroregions” are in turn politically subdivided. The remainder of this post will examine the divisions of the northwest, the heartland of Ukrainian nationalism.

UkrainePoliticalRegonsMapOn the map to the left, I have labeled the northwestern half of the country “Nationalist Ukraine,” as distinguished from the southeastern “Russia-Oriented Ukraine.” Based on recent voting patterns, I have divided the former unit into three subregions. The first, labeled here “Core Ukraine,” is marked by pronounced but not overwhelming support for Ukrainian nationalists and Western-oriented politicians. To the west of the core is a smaller region composed of Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, and Ternopil oblasts, which is characterized by overwhelming support for Ukrainian nationalism along with Ukraine2012ElectionSvobodaMapa strong measure of extreme nationalism. In this region, called here Far Western Ukraine, the Orange-Revolution hero Victor Yushchenko took more than 93 percent of the vote in 2004. In the 2006 election, the Far West, unlike neighboring oblasts to the east, generally rejected the Yulia Tymoshenko Block, supporting instead Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine. In the most recent election (2012), the extremist neo-fascist party Svoboda polled well only in this region, where it took more than 30 percent of the vote – and a plurality in Lviv.

Ukraine2012ElectionMapWhile the Far West is the most ardent part of Ukraine’s nationalistic greater northwest, the extreme western oblast of Zakarpattia barely fits the pattern. In 2012, the Russian-oriented Party of Region took a plurality of its votes. The extreme nationalist party Svoboda, moreover, is relatively weak here. Zakarpattia also distinguishes itself in its variable voting Ukraine2012ElectionOudarMappatterns, which separate district from district, as can be seen in the map of the 2006 election. Zakarpattia is also notable for having given a substantial percentage of its votes in 2012 to Vitali Klitschko, a former highly successful professional boxer dubbed “Dr. Ironfist” in reference both to his physically prowess and his educational attainment (he holds a doctorate in “sports science” and is an avid chess player).  Klitschko pushes for European integration, reduced corruption, and enhanced transparency, as well as lower taxes, but does not advocate cultural nationalism, viewing the language issues as relatively unimportant.

Ruthenia MapZakarpattia’s distinctiveness is rooted in part in its physical geography. Located on the far side of the formidable Carpathian Mountains from the rest of the country, it is located in and on the outskirts of the Danubian Basin, also known as the Pannonian Plain. As such, it is much more easily accessible from Budapest, Bratislava, and even Vienna than it is from Kyiv (Kiev), let alone Moscow.

Historical-geographical patterns also help explain the political regionalization of “Nationalist Ukraine.” The main part of this region, which I dubbed “Core Ukraine” on the map above, was long under Polish-Lithuanian domination, but came under Russian rule with the partition of Poland in the late 1700s. Far Western Ukraine, on the other hand, passed from Polish rule to the Austrian (Habsburg) Empire, forming the Ukraine1700PoliticalMapeastern portion of its region of Galicia. It was returned to Poland after World War I, and did not become part of the Soviet Union until the end of World War II. The Austrian period seems to have been crucial in nurturing the far West’s devotion to Ukrainian nationalism as well as identification with the West. The key factor here was the continued survival and indeed florescence of the Uniate Church, which had emerged in the late 1500s under Polish-Lithuanian rule, when the Roman Catholic Church successfully brought part of the local religious establishment under its umbrella as one of the so-called Eastern Catholic churches (such self-governing Catholic divisions were allowed to keep their own liturgies, as well as married priests). As explained in an excellent Wikipedia article on the history of Christianity in Ukraine:

Ukraine1900PoliticalMapThe Austrians granted equal legal privileges to the Uniate Church and removed Polish influence. They also mandated that Uniate seminarians receive a formal higher education (previously, priests had been educated informally by other priests, usually their fathers, as the vocation was passed on within families), and organized institutions in Vienna and Lviv that would serve this function. This led to the appearance, for the first time, of a large educated social class within the Ukrainian population in Galicia. As a result, within Austrian Galicia over the next century the Uniate Church ceased being a puppet of foreign interests and became the primary cultural force within the Ukrainian community. Most independent native Ukrainian cultural trends … emerged from within the ranks of the Uniate Church. The participation of Uniate priests or their children in western Ukrainian cultural and political life was so great that western Ukrainians were accused of wanting to create a theocracy in western Ukraine by their Polish rivals

Zakarpattia, or trans-Carpathian Ukraine, experienced a markedly different political history, as it was long part of Hungary, even during the period when Hungary was subordinated to Austrian power under the Hapsburg dynasty. It passed to Czechoslovakia in the inter-war period, and did not Austria-HungaryRutheniaMapbecome part of Ukraine, and hence the Soviet Union, until the end of World War II. This region’s local “Uniate” Church, the Ruthenian Catholic Church, was mostly eradicated, or at least forced underground, by Soviet-era persecution. As a result, it maintained its structures most successfully among emigrant populations in the United States. Incidentally, the best-known American member of this community is the pop-artist Andy Warhol (1928-1987), born Andrej Varhola, Jr. in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Ruthenian Church’s main body in the United States, not coincidently, is the Byzantine Catholic Archeparchy of Pittsburgh.

(Note: the base maps used for the historical maps here is the Euratlas, an excellent source. )




Ukrainian Regionalism and the Federal Option Read More »

Tim Draper’s Proposed “Six Californias”

US States Divided MapAs was noted last October on GeoCurrents, efforts to split U.S. states have been gaining increased attention. Geographer Andrew Shears has made an intriguing map that shows a number of “failed state partition proposals through US history,” posted here. Note that few of the 50 states have never been so challenged. A single map of this type, however, cannot capture all such proposals, as many have overlapping boundaries. California and Texas in particular have seen many partition plans. On Shears’ map, the proposed state of Reagan in southeastern California is particularly notable.

6CaliforniasMapThe potential division of California made news again this past December when prominent high-tech investor Tim Draper announced that he would be putting together a ballot initiative designed to create six new states. Draper argues that California is nearly ungovernable, and that “citizens of the whole state would be better served by six smaller state governments.” Getting the initiative on the November 2014 election ballot will not be easy, however, as many thousands of signature will first have to be collected. Thus far, extensive organization seems lacking. The website devoted to the project does not yet have any content beyond a simple map and advice to “stay tuned.” And even in the unlikely event that the proposal does appear and triumph on the ballot, it is highly questionable whether the U.S. constitution would allow such state-level partition.

SicCaliforniasMapRegardless of its feasibility, Draper’s partition plan is worth a closer look. State division proposals are usually based on regional rivalries, strong regional differences in political orientation, or the feeling that a particular area is neglected by the existing government (or some combination of the three). Past efforts to split California have thus most often been based on the rivalry between greater Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area, the division between the more conservative interior and the more liberal coastal region, and the common sentiment in lightly populated rural countries that their needs are not being met by a state government dominated by metropolitan interests. Draper’s plan seems to take all of these issues into consideration, taking a maximal approach to state division. It is questionable, however, whether it does so effectively.

dividedCaliforniaMapOne of the most interesting aspects of the Draper plan is the fact that it would divide both of California’s major metropolitan areas: greater Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area. Los Angeles County—by far the most populous US county, with some 10 million residents—would be linked to Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo counties to become “West California,” while suburban Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino countries would join with San Diego to form “South California.” Such split does make a certain kind of political sense, as the former state would be decidedly Democratic-voting, while the latter would be more of a political toss-up (the counties that would compose “South California” were recently quite conservative, but they have been trending to the center in recent elections.) I do, however, question the proposed names, as most of “West California” is in the eastern half of what is now California. (Ask most geographically informed Americans, “What is the Longitude of LA Maplargest city east of Reno, Nevada and west of Chicago, Illinois?” and the usual answer is “Denver, Colorado.” The actual answer, however, is “Los Angeles, California.”) “South California” is also a problematic name, as the heart of “southern California” is certainly Los Angeles.

6CaliforniasPolitical MapDraper’s proposed “Central California” also makes political sense, as it is anchored by the agricultural heartland of the San Joaquin Valley. It would be a generally Republican-voting state, although it too has been trending more to the center, in part because it is becoming increasingly Hispanic. Such a state, however, would reliably vote against most environmental initiatives favored in the more left-leaning coastal counties.

Silicon Valley MapThe San The Francisco Bay Area would also be divided, with its core going to the new state of “Silicon Valley” and its northern counties placed instead in “North California.” The proposed name of “Silicon Valley” seems unfortunate, as the actual Silicon Valley, as it is conventionally understood, comprises only a small portion of this would-be state. I can only imagine that most voters in San Francisco and Oakland, and also in Monterey County to the south, would find this name offensive. But whatever its appellation, such a state would be far to the left on the conventional political spectrum, especially in regard to social issues. In Silicon Valley proper, however, libertarian leanings are quite common.

Draper’s oddest proposed new state is North California. The name is not intuitive, as “northern California” includes the entire Bay Area, while far northern California is instead placed in the state of Jefferson. The main problem with “North California,” however, is the fact that it would join together a number of liberal coastal counties with some decidedly conservative interior counties. I imagine that this state was configured this way in order to place the resort area of Lake Tahoe, located at the angle along California’s eastern border, in the same state as the north Bay Area as well as the capital city of Sacramento. North California would also be politically liberal, much to the consternation of rural voters in agricultural counties such as Sutter and Yuba and upland counties such as Amador and El Dorado.

The final state, Jefferson, was analyzed in a previous GeoCurrents post, which emphasized the fact that left-leaning Mendocino and Humboldt counties make a poor fit. I would only note in addition that  this version of Jefferson is not conventional, as it lacks southern Oregon.



Tim Draper’s Proposed “Six Californias” Read More »

A Conservative Core and a Reformist Periphery in Iran’s 21st Century Elections?

Khatami Ahmadinejad Vote MapAn earlier GeoCurrents post on the 2013 Iranian presidential election highlighted a slight tendency for conservative candidates, such as Saeed Jalili, to do better in the core, Farsi-speaking regions of the country, and for reformers to gather more votes in peripheral areas, especially in the Azeri-speaking northwest and the Balochi-speaking southeast. Intriguingly, earlier elections in this century show the same pattern but with greater intensity. A French map pairing the 2001 first-round election showing for Mohammad Khatami, a reformist, with the 2005 first-round vote for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a conservative, illustrates this tendency clearly. But a number of exceptions are also apparent on the map. On the provincial level, largely Farsi-speaking Fars exhibited relatively little support for Ahmadinejad in 2005, and gave a relatively large percentage of its votes to Khatami in 2001. A number of more pronounced exceptions are found at the district level.

Iran 2005 Election Reformists MapThe Wikipedia has posted several interesting maps of the first round of the 2005 election. One map divides Iran into two regions, one that gave most of its votes to reformist candidates (in green), and the other that supported instead conservative candidates (in red). Here the strength of reformist sentiments in the northwest and in southeast is clearly evident. It is not clear, however, how the creator of the map classified all the candidates in this election. The accompanying article places Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who took a plurality of votes in three provinces, in neither the reformist nor the conservative camp, regarding him instead as a “trans-party” candidate. It would require tedious calculations to determine how Rafsanjani’s votes were tabulated for the map.

Iran 2005 Election First Round MapAnother Wikipedia map of the first round of the 2005 election shows which candidate took first place in each Iranian province. As can be seen by comparing the two, the reformist candidate Mehdi Karroubi won a number of provinces that nonetheless gave a majority of their votes to conservative candidates in this seven-man race, including Fars, Bushehr, and Khuzestan. The most striking pattern on this map, however, is the strength of regionalist and ethnic voting proclivities. As can be seen on the GeoCurrents map, the reformist Karroubi did best in his native Lorestan Province. Another reformist  Mohsen Mehralizadeh, an ethnic Azeri, took only 4.4 percent of the national vote, but he triumphed handily in East Azerbaijan and took a plurality of votes in West Azerbaijan and Ardabil. Ali Ardashir Larijani, a conservative candidate, came in first in only one province, Mazandaran; it is probably not a coincidence that his family is based in that province. Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, another conservative, did much better in his native Khorasan than elsewhere in the country.

Iran 2005 Karroubi MapLess easily explained was the extremely strong showing of the reformist candidate Mostafa Moeen in Sistan and Baluchestan in the southeast.  Moen, a prominent physician, was born in Esfahan (Isfahan) Province in central Iran and established his medical career in Shiraz University in Fars Province. He seems to have triumphed in the restive southeastern province of Sistan and Baluchestan by promising to address ethnic and religious complaints. As the Middle East Research and Information Project explains:

 In the presidential election of 2005, the reformist candidate, Mostafa Moin [Moeen], promised to redress ethnic grievances and appoint Sunni cabinet members. His largest percentage of the vote came in Sistan and Baluchestan. Of the 874,353 votes cast in the province, 479,125 went to Moin. President Ahmadinejad got 47,070.

In Iran’s 2009 election, the incumbent candidate Mahmoud Ahmadinejad beat three challengers in the first round, taking 62 percent of the vote and thus avoiding a second-round election. This election, however, was viewed by many experts as fraudulent, rendering maps of the results suspect. The official map, posted here, shows challenger Mir-Hossein Mousavi, an ethnic Azeri, winning only a few districts, located mostly in reformist strongholds in the far northwest and southeast. As the GeoCurrents map shows, Mousavi also did relatively well (in the official vote) in greater Tehran.

Iran 2008 Mousavi Vote MapIntriguingly, Mousavi also officially won several districts in Yazd Province in the center of the country, including Yazd City, population 423,000. Unlike most parts of central Iran, Yazd has leaned strongly in a reformist direction in recent elections. It is noted as the main center of Zoroastrianism in Iran, but its Zoroastrian population is still minor; according to the 2012 census, Iran as a whole contains only 25,271 adherents of this ancient faith. Perhaps more significant is the fact that Yazd is a significant industrial center. Resource competition may also be a factor. Yazd is the driest city in Iran, receiving on average only 1.9 inches (48 mm) of precipitation annually. Yazd contends with neighboring Esfahan (Isfahan) Province for water, which may have generated discontent with the Iranian government. Such water controversies intensified earlier this year. The focus of the current controversy, however, is Esfahan, though Yazd features prominently. As France 24 reported:

Outraged that precious water from their local river is being diverted, last week a group of farmers in Isfahan, Iran destroyed a pump channelling water to the city of Yazd. They’ve been guarding the pump day and night ever since, refusing to let the authorities fix it. Meanwhile, residents of Yazd are suffering from a severe water shortage, leading to fears of unrest there.

All week, the farmers guarding the pump, which is located just outside Isfahan, have been clashing with police. According to opposition news sites, Wednesday and Thursday’s night’s clashes have been the worst yet, with police opening fire on protesters with rubber and lead bullets, wounding many. Despite this, the demonstrators – whom our Observer in Isfahan says number in the several thousand – have stayed put.

The local branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard blames “rebels” for fostering violence, and says the clashes have resulted in injuries and arrests, without specifying any numbers. It also accuses them of attacking a local base belonging to Basij paramilitary volunteers.


A Conservative Core and a Reformist Periphery in Iran’s 21st Century Elections? Read More »

Regional and Ethnic Patterns in the 2013 Iranian Presidential Election

Iran 2013 Election MapThe recent Iranian presidential election revealed some interesting geographical patterns. The election itself seems to have been reasonably free, although it was undermined by the previous disqualification of reformist candidates. Hassan Rouhani, widely viewed as the most moderate and pragmatic of the six candidates, won election handily. As can be seen in the Wikipedia map posted here, Rouhani took a majority or plurality of votes in all but three provinces, all located in the southwest. Elsewhere in the country, he triumphed in all but a handful of districts; the few that he lost are clustered in the northeast and southeast. Rouhani did particularly well in the northern and northwestern peripheries, winning substantial majorities in Kurdish-, Azeri-, and other non-Farsi-speaking parts of these regions. He also triumphed handily in the Baluchi-speaking far southeast.

Iran 2013 Election Rouhani Map(One central Iranian province, Markazi, presents an enigma in regard to these results. The Wikipedia map shows Rouhani as having won the province by a relatively narrow margin, yet the provincial data in the same article show a much wider spread. The same situation obtains in the Electoral Politics 2.0 website; here the map gives Rouhani a fairly narrow win in Markazi, but the accompanying table indicates that he took more than 70 percent of the province’s vote. The GeoCurrents maps posted here are based on the data table found in Electoral Politics 2.0, and therefore show a commanding Rouhani win in Markazi—but with a question mark.)

Iran 2013 Election Rezaee MapThe only candidate besides Rouhani to win any provinces was Mohsen Rezaee, who won a plurality of votes in Khuzestan, Chaharmahal & Bakhtiar, and Kohgiluyeh & Boyer-Ahmad provinces, all located in the southwest. Rezaee also did relatively well in the Azeri-speaking northwest, but elsewhere his votes were few, and as a result he finished in fourth place. A former chief commander of the Revolutionary Guards from Khuzestan Province in the southwest, Rezaee stressed ethnic inclusion, decentralization, and privatization. This message evidently sold better in his native region than in other parts of the country.

The ethnic pattern shown by the Rezaee vote is more complicated than it might seem at first glance. Khuzestan is an oil-rich but restive province whose densely settled rural southwest is dominated by Arabic-speakers. Rezaee, however, did not do particularly well in the Arab core, as can be seen on the detailed Wikipedia map. His base of support was rather in the Luri-speaking uplands of eastern Khuzestan, Chaharmahal & Bakhtiar, and Kohgiluyeh & Boyer-Ahmad. But Rezaee did not do equally well in all Luri-speaking areas; in Lorestan Province itself, he received only 28 percent of the vote against Rouhani’s 48 percent. Such a discrepancy, however, is not particularly surprising, as Luri speakers do not form a tightly integrated ethnic group. The Luri language forms a continuum, closely related to Persian, and one of its dialects, Bakhtiari, is often regarded as separate language.

The Bakhtiari people form the core group of Rezaee supporters. (Although I have not found specific information on Rezaee’s ethnic affiliation, IranTracker notes that he was born in a “Bakhtiari tribal area.”) A traditionally nomadic tribal confederation now some three to five million strong, the Bakhtiari once played a major role in Iranian politics. The Constitutional Revolution of 1905–1907 that led to the downfall of the Qajar Dynasty gained its strength from Bakhtiari tribal levies. Later Iranian leaders feared Bakhtiari power and tried to curtail it.  As the Wikipedia explains:

Reza Shah Pahlavi (r. 1925-1941) would be amongst the first modern Shahs who made destruction of the Bakhtiari influence, his mission. The existence of oil on Bakhtiari territory further motivated the Pahlavi monarch to undermine the autonomy of the tribe and force its population to adhere to the commands of the central government. Reza Shah Pahlavi would eventually execute few noteworthy tribal leaders as to crush Bakhtiari autonomy and maintain control over the tribe.

Despite such efforts at crushing, the Rezaee vote would indicate that the Bakhtiari people maintain a strong sense of political cohesion.

Iran 2013 Election Jalili MapThe geographical patterns evident in the vote for the third-place candidate, Saeed Jalili, are not nearly so pronounced. Jalili, Secretary of the National Security Council, was widely regarded as the most conservative candidate, reputed to have been favored by the Supreme Leader, Ali Hosseini Khamenei. As such, his 11.3 percent take was no doubt a disappointment to the regime. Jalili gained his largest percentage of the vote in his native Khorasan region (although he did better in South Khorasan than in his own homeland of Razavi Khorasan) and in Qom, Iran’s religious center. He did particularly poorly in non-Farsi-speaking areas of western and northern Iran.

Iran 2013 Election Ghalibaf MapThe second-place candidate, with 16.6 percent of the vote, was Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, the mayor of Tehran. Also from Razavi Khorasan, Ghalibaf has a Ph.D in political geography and was the former chief of Iranian police. He has a reputation for “getting things done.” Ghalibaf ran well in Tehran and neighboring provinces, and did especially well in his native Khorasan. Although not apparent on the province-level map, Ghalibafran also gained large numbers of votes in certain parts of the southeast (although not in Sistan & Baluchestan), coming in first place in several districts in eastern Hormozgan and southern Kerman. As can be seen on the Wikipedia map, Jalili did very well in this same general area. I have not been able to find anything that would indicate why this area would have such aberrant voting patterns, and I would welcome any information or speculation from readers.

Iran Wikipedia Language MapA forthcoming post will examine Iranian voting patterns in previous elections. Another post will take on Iran’s linguistic geography, as different maps show very different patterns. I suspect that many maps, and especially the Wikipedia map posted here, unreasonably reduce the area of Persian/Farsi speech.

Regional and Ethnic Patterns in the 2013 Iranian Presidential Election Read More »

The Core/Periphery Pattern in Egyptian Electoral Geography

Egyptian Constitutional Referendum MapEgypt’s troubled and insecure transition to democratic rule has exposed some intriguing political geographical patterns. Yet at first glance, maps of recent elections do not seem particularly revealing. Consider, for example, the December 2012 Constitutional Referendum, a measure favorable to the ruling Muslim Brotherhood that critics claim restricted basic freedoms and democratic governance. The referendum passed with almost 64 percent of the vote nationwide, going down to defeat only in Cairo and two governorates (as Egyptian provinces are termed) in the Nile Delta (Gharbia and Monufia). Otherwise, no striking patterns are evident on this map. The June 2012 final round of the Egyptian presidential election, in contrast, seemingly shows Egypt divided longitudinally, with the east supporting Ahmed Shafiq (with the exception of the far northeast), a military, secular figure closely identified with the old regime of Hosni Mubarak, and the west voting solidly for the winning candidate, Mohammad Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Egyprian Presidential Election MapThis east/west Egyptian divide, however, is more apparent than real. To grasp the actual nature of Egyptian electoral geography, it is first necessary to restrict discussion to the parts of the country that are actually inhabited, as most Egyptian territory has extraordinarily low population density. As can be seen on the map posted here, almost all Egyptians live in the narrow Nile Valley and triangular delta. If we restrict our vision to this zone, a different electoral-geographical pattern emerges. Instead of an east/west divide, we find a core-periphery division, with the core extending Egyptian Core Area Mapfrom greater Cairo into the interior portion of the delta, and the periphery including the Nile Valley of Upper (central and southern) Egypt and the fringes of the delta.

Nile delta Election MapAt this level, Egypt electoral geography can be viewed as pitting a strongly Islamist periphery against a core zone more skeptical of the religious agenda. The  December 2012 Constitutional Referendum, for example, received much less support in Cairo and the inner delta than it did in most others parts of the country, provided that one excludes the sparsely settled Red Sea and Southern Sinai governorates. Similarly, in the June 2012 final round of the presidential election, the winning candidate, Mohammad Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood was triumphant almost everywhere except Cairo and the inner delta, which opted instead for Ahmed Shafiq, a figure closely identified with the old regime of Hosni Mubarak. (Many Shafiq-voters, it is essential to note, disdained him as a representative of the old regime, yet nonetheless preferred him to the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate.)

With the exception of the city of Luxor, Morsi took the entire Nile Valley of Upper Egypt handily. Morsi did even better in the densely populated Fayoum Basin, an important off-shoot of the Nile Valley.

This core/periphery pattern is most clearly evident in the Nile Delta itself, as can be seen in Eric Schewe’s detailed map, posted here. As is clearly evident, Shafiq won an overwhelming victory in the central and especially the southern delta, whereas Morsi did well in the periphery, especially in the north and northwest. In a fascinating post, Schewe links this pattern to the history of land reclamation in the delta. Many of the areas that supported Morsi are marginal lands that came under irrigation and cultivation only in relatively recent times. As a result, they came to be characterized by large landholdings and numerous landless peasants. As the Mubarak regime was closely associated with landlord interests, Schewe contends, the poor population here was unwilling to support a figure closely associated with it. But as Schewe goes on to explain, this pattern does not necessarily obtain everywhere in Egypt:

While all of this doesn’t explain why a landless peasant would necessarily be a pious Muslim or want an Islamist government, it does explain why they would want to vote against an elitist ex-regime minister who curried favor with his landlord. The reclaimed land-Muslim Brotherhood pattern doesn’t hold everywhere. For example, in the South district of Port Said governorate, where the newest reclaimed land in the country is being rolled out of Lake Manzala in parallel strips, Shafiq took 66% (out of only 8500 votes).

Nile Delta Presidential Election First Round mapThe results of the first round of the election, contested by numerous candidates, reveal a similar but not identical pattern in the delta. In the map here (also by Schewe), one can see the core zone voting again for Shafiq and both the eastern and western peripheries opting for Islamists candidates, either for the Brotherhood’s Morsi or the independent Aboul-Fotouh. Monufia governorate in the inner Delta particularly favored Shafiq, giving him more than 45 percent of its votes. The north, on the other hand, along much of Cairo, favored Hamdeen Sabahi, identified with the older Nassarist political movement, based on a secular, Arab-socialist ideology. Sabahi did particularly well in the northern governorate of Kafr el-Sheikh, taking over 45 percent of its votes in the first round.

The striking contrast between Kafr el-Sheikh and Monufia in the initial round of the Egyptian presidential election seems perplexing on first glance. Both are characterized by densely populated, intensively cultivated farmland dotted with towns and industrial cities, yet the former governorate strongly supported the Nasserist Sabahi and gave few votes to Shafiq, whereas in the latter governorate the situation was reversed. It is probably not coincidental that Hamdeen Sabahi was born in Kafr el-Sheikh, whereas Monufia was the birthplace of Hosni Mubarak as well as Anwar Sadat. Schewe thinks that machine-style politics were at play, arguing that, “This monolithic slab of dark blue tends to make me suspicious that the Shafiq voting machine not only used aggressive tactics in Al-Menoufiya [Monufia], but uniquely aggressive tactics.”

An urban/rural divide is also apparent on these maps, but not to the same extent as the split between the core and the periphery. Alexandria and Port Said stand out to some extent as having supported Shafiq in the final round, but the difference between the urban centers and the surrounding countryside is by no means overwhelming. Much the same can be said in regard to the important textile and cotton ginning cities of El-Mahalla El-Kubra and Tanta. Interestingly, El-Mahalla El-Kubra gave less support to Shafiq than its surrounding rural areas.

After performing this preliminary analysis, I turned to my colleague Joel Beinin, an expert in the political economy of Egypt, who was able to provide a much more nuanced explanation of these patterns. As Beinin explains:

Minufiyya Governorate, the section of the inner Delta where the pro-Shafiq vote was strongest, is the home of both Sadat and Mubarak and of Gamal Mubarak’s crony in chief and steel oligopolist Ahmad ‘Izz.  The two presidents invested a great deal in their native villages and the surrounding areas.  Izz employ(ed) well over 10,000 workers in Minufiyya in steel and ceramics in Sadat City in Minufiyya.  He had regularly mobilized them and peasants in the surrounding villages to vote for him in parliamentary elections.  There were reports that the networks that accomplished this are still in existence but were lying low.

Gharbiyya Governorate is the home of Misr Spinning and Weaving — 22,000 workers and the biggest industrial enterprise in Egypt.  I’m pretty sure that the no vote on the Constitution there is largely due to that.

One city that does stand out fairly strongly from its surrounding countryside in supporting Shafiq is Desouk, located in the socially conservative northwestern delta. Intriguingly, Desouk is noted for its religious nature, yet it gave more than 55 percent of its vote to the non-Islamist candidate. The key here is the city’s Sufi orientation. As the Wikipedia notes, “Desouk is a member of the Organization of Islamic Capitals and Citie, because there are important Islamic shrines in the city, like the tomb of Saint “Ibrahim El-Desouki” (13th century)…” The Desouki order of Sufi mystics, once closely tied to the heart of the Ottoman Empire, is still strongly associated with the city. And as Lee Keath and Sarah el Deeb explain in a Huffington Post article, “Shafiq also rallied … the widespread Muslim mystical sects known as Sufis, who fear the Brotherhood, which advocates implementing a harder line version of Islamic law.”

I am not able to offer any possible explanations for the strongly Shafic-voting area in the northeastern delta. Anyone?

The Core/Periphery Pattern in Egyptian Electoral Geography Read More »

Intense Regionalism in the South Korean Presidential Election of 2012

300px-South_Korean_presidential_election_2012.svg South Korea is usually considered to be one of the world’s most homogenous countries. Regional differences in dialect are relatively minor, with only that of Jeju island being distinctive enough to merit designation as a separate language by linguistic splitters. A pronounced sense of Korean nationalism, moreover, is found across the country. But despite these commonalities, South Korea is still characterized by intense regionalism, as is evident in election returns. The December 19, 2012 presidential election in particular revealed deep political cleavages.

South Korea 2012 Presidential Election Map Most maps of this election, however, hide such disparities. The Wikipedia map posted here, for example, merely shows the southwest and greater Seoul as having supported the losing candidate, Moon Jae-in, and the rest of the country as having voted for the winning candidate, Park Geun-hye. I have therefore made a more detailed map that highlights regional differences, using data presented on the Electoral Geography website. As can be seen, Moon may have taken only 48 percent of the vote nationally, but he gathered over 80 percent throughout the southwest, winning more than 90 percent in the important southwestern city of Gwangju. Park, in contrast, did extremely well in the southeastern part of the country, taking more than 80 percent of the vote in North Gyeongsang and in the city of Daegu. Eastern South Korea more generally supported Park. Only the northwest, including the megalopolis of Seoul, saw a truly competitive election.

The South Korean regional patterns illustrated by the 2012 presidential election are nothing new. The southwest, a region traditionally known as Honam, generally supports left-leaning candidates, and hence went for Moon Jae-in, who represented the center-left Democratic United Party.  The southeast, a regiona traditionally known as Yeongnam, generally supports right-leaning candidates, and hence went for Park Geun-hye of the conservative Saenuri Party (formerly known as the Grand National Party). Personal factors, moreover, seem to have exacerbated regional differences in this election. Park Geun-hye is the daughter of Park Chung-hee, a former South Korean leader and military strongman who declared martial law and named himself president-for-life in 1972. Park is said to have focused development on the southeast while marginalizing the southwest, which in turn became the stronghold of the democratization movement.  Shortly after Park was assassinated in 1979, a popular uprising against authoritarian government in the southwest was crushed by the South Korean military, an incident usually called the Guangju Massacre.

Korea Three Kingdoms Map Some writers have suggested that the roots of South Korea’s southwest-southeast tensions date back to the Three Kingdoms Period (57 CE to 668 CE). As can be seen on the map, southwestern South Korea was then largely coincident with the Kingdom of Baekje, whereas the southeast corresponded to the kingdom of Silla. In the struggles between the two, Silla eventually proved victorious.

In general terms, regional electoral discrepancies of the sort seen in South Korea indicate weak national foundations, with local particularism overriding unity of the nation. This does not seem to be the case in South Korea, however, where politicized regionalism does not seem to run counter to pronounced nationalism. But regardless of such widespread national solidarity, South Korea cannot be considered, strictly speaking, to form a nation-state, as the national sentiments in question encompass the people of another state as well, that of North Korea.







Intense Regionalism in the South Korean Presidential Election of 2012 Read More »

Changes in U.S. Electoral Geography from 2000 to 2012: A Renewed North/South Divide?

As noted in a previous post, the presidential contest of 2000 seems to have been a watershed event in U.S. electoral geography. Up until that point, successful Democratic candidates enjoyed considerable support in many predominantly rural counties dominated by Whites, particularly in the Upper South (see the map of the 1996 election). In order for the Democrats to have carried many of these counties, southern candidates seem to have been necessary. As a result, all successful Democratic candidates from 1964 to 1996 were southerners (Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton). In 2000, the Democratic Party held to the same strategy, nominating Al Gore of Tennessee. But Gore, who is a much stronger environmentalist than most southern Democrats, lost support massively across rural, White America. Although he narrowly won the popular vote nationwide, Gore lost the Electoral College, as most states opted for George W. Bush, including Gore’s native Tennessee.

Since the 2000 election, the basic patterns of electoral geography at the county level have remained relatively constant. But a number of relatively minor shifts have occurred, which are worth examining.  Today’s post therefore compares the 2000 and 2012 U.S. presidential elections at the county level. These two contests make particularly good comparisons, as their popular vote figures were close, especially on the Republican side (in 2000, Al Gore took 48.4 percent of the vote against George W. Bush’s 47.9 percent, whereas in 2012, Barack Obama took 50.7 percent against Mitt Romney’s 47.7 percent).

The basic differences between the two elections result from a continuation of the trends that produced the map of 2000. Democratic support in the interior portion of the Upper South continues to plummet, with most of the region’s few remaining blue counties turning red. At the national level, one sees a slight intensification of macro-regional patterns, with the South trending a bit more Republican and the North trending a bit more Democratic. At the local level of analysis, however, a number of exceptions to this pattern can be seen. To make such differences more immediately apparent, I have divided the United States into three parts, juxtaposing the 2000 map of each region against that of 2012.

The paired maps of the eastern third of the country clearly show a Democratic advance in New England and adjacent areas in New York. A number of counties in northern and central Virginia also turned blue, as did a few in central North Carolina. South Carolina also has a few more blue counties, generally the result of enhanced turnout in the Black community. Northern Ohio also tended in the Democratic direction, although the opposite tendency occurred in southeastern Ohio, which is part of the central Appalachian region that has exhibited the most pronounced red shift. Similar Republican gains were made across Tennessee and in northern Alabama. A movement to the Republican side is also evident in rural counties in the northern reaches of Michigan’s lower peninsula, while a few urban counties in Indiana contrastingly moved in the Democratic direction.

The central third of the U.S. exhibits the strongest pattern of regional differentiation, with the southern half of the area trending Republican and the northern half trending Democratic. Illinois is itself spilt by this divide; note that the northern half of the state, and especially the Chicago suburbs, shifted blue between 2000 and 2012, whereas the southern half shows a red shift. The strongest move to the Republican Party on this map occurred in Oklahoma and Arkansas. In the northern Great Plains, in contrast, a handful of rural, predominantly White counties moved into the Democratic camp. Texas, however, deviates from this north/south pattern, exhibiting instead a rural/urban divide. Note that the few rural counties in Texas that voted for Gore in 2000 (outside of the heavily Hispanic south) supported Romney in 2012. Yet over the same period, the urban counties of Bexar (San Antonio), Travis (Austin), Harris (Houston), and Dallas (Dallas) all moved in the opposite direction, although only Travis gave a substantial margin of its votes to Obama.

In the western third of the U.S., the shift at the county level from 2000 to 2012 was entirely in the Democratic direction, although most of the region remains solidly Republican. In the non-metropolitan parts of the region, most blue-trending counties can be explained by such factors as migration by people from blue states seeking natural amenities (Teton County, Wyoming), or the presence of universities with large student populations (Missoula County, Montana). The two rural counties in north-central Montana that have turned blue (Blaine and Hill) both have substantial American Indian populations.

Andrew Sullivan and several other commentators have argued that the Republican Party is increasingly keyed to the American South, and in particular to the old Confederacy. The map analysis provided above indicates a tendency in this direction, but only a relatively slight one. As Karen Cox recently argued in the New York Times, the conservatism of the South is often exaggerated, as many of its urban counties continue to support Democratic candidates—although it is notable that only ten percent of Whites in Alabama voted for Obama. At the same time, in the North many counties remain staunchly Republican. In central Pennsylvania, only semi-metropolitan Dauphin County (Harrisburg) gave a majority of its votes to Obama; most counties in this region overwhelmingly supported Mitt Romney. Even Centre County, home of the massive Pennsylvania State University, is colored red, albeit in the lightest shade of the color possible (Romney took the country by twenty votes, out of some 67,000 cast).

Owning to its conservative nature, central Pennsylvania is sometimes referred to as “Pennsyltucky,” which the Wikipedia tells us is a “portmanteau constructed from “Pennsylvania” and “Kentucky”, implying a similarity between the rural parts of the two states. It can be used in either a pejorative or an affectionate sense.” In 1992, Democratic strategist James Carville similarly referred to central Pennsylvania as “Alabama without the Blacks.” A 2008 blog posting by Brian Schaffner in the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies, however, disputes this characterization, arguing that the region actually has more cultural features in common with the rest of Pennsylvania than it does with Alabama. Surveys show, for example, that many more central Pennsylvanians regard political comedian Jon Stewart favorably than do residents of Alabama, just as many more Alabamans than central Pennsylvanians shop at Walmart. I suspect, however, that voting behavior makes a better yardstick in this regard than shopping patterns. Still, Schaffner’s analysis is intriguing.

(“Pennsyltucky”  Image credit here)


Changes in U.S. Electoral Geography from 2000 to 2012: A Renewed North/South Divide? Read More »

Catalan Secession Looming?

Fear are mounting that Spain will face a new secession crisis after the government of Catalonia called for a snap election on November 25, which is widely seen as a referendum on enhanced autonomy if not outright independence. The move came shortly after the Madrid government rejected Catalonia’s demand for greater autonomy on taxation issues. Desire for political separation is growing in the region, as evidenced by massive (600,000+) pro-independence demonstrations in Barcelona earlier this month. Catalonia is Spain’s most indebted region, and one of its wealthiest ones as well, and most Catalans believe that they pay a disproportionate share of taxes.

The Spanish constitution bans outright votes on secession, and it is unclear in any event if most Catalans want full independence or merely enhanced autonomy. The central government, however, is taking the current challenge very seriously. According to blogger Tyler Durden, “the Spanish Military Association (SMA) has warned Monday that those who cooperate or allow ‘fracture’ of Spain should ‘respond with all the utmost rigor’ in the courts in the field of military courts by the ‘serious charge high treason.’”

Catalan Secession Looming? Read More »

Continuing Tension in Namibia’s Caprivi Strip

Namibia is generally regarded as one of the most successful states of sub-Saharan Africa, with a stable, relatively democratic government, a high degree of press freedom, and a political-economic system that successfully translates wealth in natural resources (diamonds particularly) into broad-based gains in human wellbeing. Just this month, for example, Namibia announced that that it will be able to bring electricity to all rural schools in the country within five years, which would be a significant accomplishment in such a large, sparsely settled country.

Namibia, however, suffers from a major political dilemma in the Caprivi Strip, its long northeastern “panhandle,” a legacy of the European partitioning of Africa in the late 1800s. The people of the Strip are relatively isolated from the rest of country, and many have long held secessionist aspirations. A major push for independence was crushed in 1999, but fall-out from the event continues to generate tension. Trials of secession advocates continue, hundreds of suspects languish in prisons, and many Caprivian activists continue to advocate their cause from exile.

Such tensions intensified in mid April, as activists planned peaceful demonstrations, circulated petitions calling for the unconditional release of all political prisoners, and demanded a referendum on the political status of the Caprivi region. Such demands were rebuffed by the Namibian government, which refused permission for the planned demonstrations. Activists denounced the prohibition as unconstitutional, and vowed to continue the struggle through peaceful, legal means.

The upsurge in secessionist activities in the Caprivi Strip has been linked to recent events elsewhere in Africa, especially the proclamation of the new country of Azawad by the Tuareg movement of northern Mali. It has also been connected with the independence movement in Barotseland in neighboring Zambia, where “2,000 chiefs, indunas and headmen recently had a meeting where they demanded the secession from Zambia of the Western Province – formerly a British Protectorate.”

Meanwhile, villagers in the Caprivi Strip have been demanding help from the national government to protect their maize fields from rampaging elephants herds. According to a recent allAfrica article, neither the beating of massive drums nor the use of “chili bombs” have been sufficient to keep the elephants at bay. Locals are therefore asking for the instillation of electric fences to protect their crops and villages.


Continuing Tension in Namibia’s Caprivi Strip Read More »

Mapping Language and Politics in Latvia

A comment from a GeoCurrents reader last week mentioned the linguistic situation in Latvia, where almost 40 percent of the population speaks Russian rather than Latvian as a first language. As it so happens, Latvia recently held a referendum on whether to elevate Russian to the status of a second official language. The election attracted a large turnout, more than 70 percent of the electorate, and the proposition was decisively defeated, gaining only about a quarter of the vote. Asya Pereltsvaig has analyzed this problematic vote in a separate post in Languages of the World. In this post, I would merely like to outline the geographical patterns apparent in the referendum.

As can be seen by comparing the three maps posted here, the “yes” vote was heavily concentrated in the urban areas of the country and in the largely Russian-speaking southeastern region. The electoral map, however, does not exactly square with the linguistic map, which was derived from the Muturzikin website. Muturzikin shows much of southeastern Latvia as Latvian-speaking, but the election returns would seem to indicate otherwise. Muturzikin also shows the city of Daugavpils, Latvia’s second largest, as being located in a Belarusian-speaking area, but standard references sources state that city’s population is predominately Russian (ethnic Latvians constitute only 18% of Daugavpils’ residents). More problematic is Muturzikin’s depiction of northwestern Latvia as Livonian-speaking. According to the Wikipedia, Livonian, a Uralic language closely related to Estonian, went extinct in 2009, when its last native speaker died. Ethnologue claims that fifteen people speak Liv, another name of the same language, but gives a 1995 date for the figure. Whatever the actual situation is, I do think that it would be fair to erase Livonian from the language map of Latvia.

I like the Muturzikin language maps because of their comprehensive coverage. I do wonder, however, about their accuracy. One intrinsic problem with linguistic mapping is the fact that languages are going extinct on a monthly basis, and it would be a difficult task indeed to update maps on such a regular schedule.

Mapping Language and Politics in Latvia Read More »

Regionalizing California

With thirty-eight million people spread over an area of 163,696 square miles (423,970 km2) and an economy that would rank between the eighth and eleventh largest in the world if it were an independent country, California makes an unwieldy state. Its different regions are so distinctive culturally, economically, and politically that numerous attempts have been made to divide California into two or more states. As a previous GeoCurrents post noted, earlier divisional movements wanted to split northern from southern California, whereas current-day campaigns want to hive off the more conservative interior from the coastal counties. “Coastal California,” however, is far from unified, as its north/south divide, focused on the metropolitan rivalry between Los Angeles and San Francisco, remains profound.

Northern California Map from Wikipedia Despite the political gap between the coast and the interior, the binary north/south scheme remains the most popular way to divide the state. “Central California” appears on many corporate and governmental maps, but it barely exists in the public consciousness. Hardly anyone would describe himself or herself as being from “Central California,” although many would specify the “Central Valley” or the “Central Coast.” Yet as fundamental as it is, the dividing line between the north and the south remains uncertain. The older scheme, which I learned in Elementary School, splits the state at the Tehachapi Mountains, giving northern California the entire Central Valley, including the culturally southern* city of Bakersfield at the far end of the San Joaquin Valley. The Wikipedia’s map of “Conventional Northern California,” which splits along county lines, gives only the southern extremity of the Central Valley to southern California. Many observers, however, put the boundary further to the north.

One intriguing way to assess such regional affiliation is through “fansheds,” areas in which most people cheer for a certain professional sports team, and hence identify with the city in which it is located. Major League Baseball has produced a map that approximates such cheering zones, based on “blackout zones” in which the television coverage of home teams is limited. Here the state’s north/south divide is approximately halfway down the San Joaquin Valley. Note here the northward extension of southern California to the east of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, placing sparsely populated Inyo and Mono counties in the south.

Yet the terms “northern California” and “southern California” do not always refer to these primary divisions of the state. When California is divided into multiple regions, the same names can be attached to much smaller areas. As the collection of maps posted here shows, “northern California” sometimes means far northern California, in one form or another. One semi-official scheme delineates nine economic regions, one of which is called “northern California.” This particular region, however, is poorly conceived.  Mendocino County, its economy based on marijuana, wine, and high-end tourism, has precious little in common with Modoc County in the far northeast. Economically, culturally, and politically, Modoc is more closely linked to northern Nevada and eastern Oregon than it is to the rest of California, let alone Mendocino County. (The fitting motto of conservative Modoc County is, “Where the West Still Lives.”)

One way to more rigorously regionalize the state is through voting behavior. Although California is now considered hopeless for Republican presidential candidates, large areas of the state remain Republican strongholds. While the division here is sometimes depicted as one of the Democratic coast versus the Republican interior, the actual pattern is rather more complicated. The 2000 and 2004 presidential elections make particularly good examples, as that of 2008 skewed unusually far to the Democratic side. As these maps show, southern California still trends Republican at the county level, with the notable exceptions of highly Hispanic Imperial County, populous and multi-ethnic Los Angeles County, and up-scale Santa Barbara County. In Northern California, on the other hand, the coast/interior divide is stark; all coastal and Bay Area counties voted for the Democratic candidates in these elections except Del Norte in the extreme north, and almost all interior counties voted for Republican candidates, many by substantial margins. The only two Central Valley counties to lean left were Sacramento, site of the state capital, and Yolo, home of the University of California at Davis. (The city of Davis has been evocatively called “Berkeley in Ohio,” referencing the flat topography, hot summers, and the relatively conservative attitudes found in neighboring communities.)

Similar patterns are found on other electoral maps. Consider, for example, the returns from Proposition 8, which rejected same-sex marriage in 2008 (the results of which were recently overturned in court). Here a few northwestern counties drop from the liberal camp, including heavily Hispanic San Benito and Solano, the latter noted for a recent anti-gay backlash movement in the working-class city of Vallejo. Proposition 215, which legalized medicinal marijuana in 1996, had much broader support, virtually sweeping the coastal counties, north and south. The defeated initiative that would have fully legalized marijuana in 2009, on the other hand, gained the majority of votes only in the Bay Area and the Central Coast, along with sparsely populated Alpine (population 1,175) and Mono (population 14,202) counties in the east. Note that even Mendocino County rejected this initiative. But it did so, many argue, not from opposition to marijuana, but rather from fear that cannabis legalization would generate too much competition and thus undermine the local economy. San Luis Obispo County on the Central Coast is the real oddity here, as this usually conservative-voting county rejected medical marijuana in 1996 but supported full legalization in 2009.

*Bakersfield’s, and, more generally, Kern County’s, “southern” affiliation links the region not so much to southern California as to the American South (which is actually the southeastern quadrant of the country). Oil-rich Kern County was settled heavily by migrants from Oklahoma and Arkansas in the 1930s, it has some Southern linguistic markers (such as pronouncing pen the same as pin, see map), and its popular musical tradition—“the Bakersfield sound”—is Southern as well.


Regionalizing California Read More »

Ivory Coast: Divided and Reunited

Map of the main political/ethnic blocks in Ivory Coast

Map of the main political/ethnic blocks in Ivory CoastAccording to most reports, Ivory Coast is slowly returning to normal. On May 6, 2011, Alassane Ouattara was sworn into office by Constitutional Council President Paul Yao N’Dre, a close associate of deposed leader Laurent Gbagbo. N’Dre, not surprisingly, called for national reconciliation. Although he was heckled at times, the event generally proceeded smoothly. A day before, news reports indicated that the “last” of Gbagbo’s loyalist militias had been eliminated, its naval base seized. Business concerns are increasingly optimistic that mining and agricultural exports will pick back up—although there is concern that neighboring Ghana will supplant Ivory Coast as the world’s top cacao producer.

Economic reconstruction will take time, as war-damage was considerable, and ethnic reconciliation may not come easily either. Both sides accuse the other of committing atrocities, and with good evidence. Ouattara’s forces are accused of attacking a Baptist church in which as many as 2,500 displaced persons had sought sanctuary. In Abidjan and environs, victims of Gbagbo’s militias are being exhumed. On May 9, sixty-eight bodies were discovered in mass graves on a soccer field, allegedly targeted for belonging to the Baoulé and Dyula ethnic groups, which had supported Ouattara in the recent election.

Those optimistic about Ivory Coast’s future often point to the stability and prosperity experienced under the government of founding president Félix Houphouët-Boigny (1960 to 1993). Yet by the end of that period, the country was economically reeling and beset by ethnic tensions. After Houphouët-Boigny’s death, National Assembly president Henri Bédié outmaneuvered Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara in a struggle for the presidency. Bédié rejected the pro-immigration stance of his predecessor, a fellow Baoulé, pushing instead the ideology of Ivoirité, designed to restrict the rights of the immigrant community. Under new rules, those whose parents were not born in Ivory Coast—such as Ouattara—were not eligible for the presidency. Bédié’s term was marked by economic decline and rampant corruption, provoking a military coup in 1999 that installed Robert Guéï as president. In the presidential election held the next year, Ouattara was still excluded. Laurent Gbagbo, of the previously somewhat marginal Bété ethnic group, won the contest, but Guéï refused to honor the results. In the end, street protests brought Gbagbo to power. With Ouattara demanding a new and open presidential contest, northerners widely boycotted a parliamentary election later in 2000. Gbagbo’s victory did not merely anger northern supporters of Ouattara. The Baoulé, previously the politically dominant Ivorian group, were also displeased with the Gbagbo regime, reflecting Baoulé-Bété tension over land rights in southwestern Ivory Coast.

Map of the Ivory Coast Civil WarAt the end of the millennium, the political situation in Ivory Coast was spiraling out of control, but the decisive break did not come until September 2002, when northern troops mutinied, demanding an end to the doctrine of Ivoirité. The rebelling troops soon gained control of the entire northern half of the country, basing themselves in Bouaké, located in the northern Baoulé region. The Baoulé zone was itself split by the war, as the government remained centered in Yamoussoukro, Houphouët-Boigny’s natal village that had been transformed into the national capital. A U.N.-mandated, French-enforced buffer zone (zone de confiance) soon stretched across the country, cutting through Baoulé territory between the rival capitals.

Map of the conflict between Ivory Coast and FranceFrench peacekeepers were themselves eventually drawn into the fighting. Both sides mistrusted French intentions, but the break occurred with the governmental forces. In 2004, Gbagbo ordered an aerial bombardment of the rebel capital of Bouaké, during which a French base was also bombed, killing nine French troops and injuring more than thirty. The Ivorian government claimed that the assault was accidental, but France disagreed. In response, it destroyed the Ivorian air force. Anti-French riots then broke out in Abidjan, provoking another French military response, which took twenty to sixty Ivorian lives. Although Paris reestablished normal relations with the Ivorian government after the official end of the Civil War in 2007, relations with the Gbagbo regime remained icy. Anti-French rhetoric played a significant role in Gbagbo’s unsuccessful 2010 re-election bid. Gbagbo’s subsequent downfall intensified anti-French sentiments across most of southern Ivory Coast—and in neighboring Ghana as well. Critics accuse France of playing a neo-colonial role, manipulating Ivorian politics for its own benefit; supporters counter that French forces have sought only to maintain order by allowing the will of the Ivorian people to be realized.

Ivory Coast continues to face major challenges. Suspicions run deep, and impartial arbiters—whether Ivorian or foreign—are not easily found. Although Ouattara did win the election, it is important to recall that he received just thirty-two percent of the vote in the first round, as opposed to Gbagbo’s thirty-eight percent; in that contest, both candidates were rejected by the powerful Baoulé block in favor of its own favorite son, former president Henri Bédié. Although the Baoulé districts voted for Ouattara in the final round, support remained hesitant and dissatisfaction runs deep. If Ivory Coast is to successfully rebuild its economy, some degree of ethnic reconciliation will be necessary. Whether it is achievable remains to be seen.  Much depends on the evolving attitudes of the Baoulé, the ethnic group that once dominated the country, and which today occupies the middle ground between Ivory Coast’s Muslim-majority north and its Christian-majority south.


Ivory Coast: Divided and Reunited Read More »

Electoral Politics and Religious Strife in Nigeria

Map of Nigeria's 2011 Presidential Election

Map of Nigeria's 2011 Presidential ElectionFor the past week, GeoCurrents has demonstrated that the conflict in Ivory Coast cannot be reduced to a simple north/south, Muslim/Christian split. This kind of broad cleavage is more apparent in Nigeria, as shown by its recent election. But even in Nigeria, the contrast between a Muslim north and a Christian south is not as simple as it may appear. As in Ivory Coast, religious adherence in Nigeria is an uncertain matter. Most sources claim that the country has slightly more Muslims than Christians. Wikipedia puts the breakdown at 50.4 percent Muslim, 48.2 percent Christian, and 1.4 percent “other”; the CIA World Factbook states that 50 percent of Nigerians are Muslim, 40 percent Christian, and ten percent “indigenous.”

Map of Ethnic Groups in NigeriaAs these numbers suggest, Nigeria’s religiously indigenous population is proportionally smaller than that of Ivory Coast, although both sources quoted above probably understate it. Indigenous religion is especially prominent among the Yoruba of the southwest, one of the country’s main ethnic groups. Yoruba Religion may actually be expanding in Nigeria; its South American off-shoot, Candomblé, is certainly thriving in Brazil. Nonetheless, Islam is deeply entrenched in the north, and Christianity is dominant in the southeast. Southwestern Nigeria is mixed, with substantial Christian, Muslim, and Yoruba Religion communities, as is much of the central zone. Religious strife has long been most intense in the middle area and in the northern cities, where substantial Christian minorities reside. Despite the religious heterogeneity of Yorubaland, the region has seen relatively little conflict, in part because it is relatively homogeneous in terms of language and ethnicity.

Map of Sharia in NigeriaThe northern focus of Islam in Nigeria is clearly visible on the map of Sharia in the country. Since 1999, Nigeria’s constituent states have been permitted to institute Islamic Law as the basis of local civil and criminal court procedures. All twelve northern states have done so—nine over their entire expanse, and three over large areas with Muslim majorities. Today, the geography of Sharia cleanly cleaves Nigeria’s north from its south.

So too does the electoral map. On April 16, 2011, Nigeria’s incumbent president—Christian southerner Goodluck Jonathan—trounced his main Muslim opponent, former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari, by fifty-nine to thirty-two percent. Every state in the Sharia belt gave a majority of its votes to Buhari; almost every other state massively rejected him. In partially Islamic southwestern Osun, the majority of votes went to another Muslim candidate, the anti-corruption stalwart Nuhu Ribadu. Ribadu polled well across Yorubaland and in parts of the country’s midsection, but he received only 5.4 percent of the votes nationally, and did even worse in the solidly Muslim north. (For returns by state, see Electoral Politics 2.0.)

Goodluck Jonathan crushed all other candidates across the southeast, receiving more than ninety-five percent of the vote in nine states, and more than ninety-eight percent in six. Jonathan also did surprising well over much the north, winning not just Christian votes. In the solidly Muslim state of Jigawa, he was favored by 36.7 percent of the voters.

But if many Muslim northerners were willing to vote for the Christian candidate, others were not willing to accept his victory. By all reports, the Nigerian election was relatively clean and calm, but the aftermath across much of the north was stormy. Post-election violence, directed mainly against Christians, may have taken 500 lives. In the north-central state of Kaduna, one estimate claims that 14,000 Christian fled their homes; in Katsina state, Buhari’s homeland, sixty-five churches have been burned or otherwise damaged, according to Christian sources.

The post-election carnage in northern Nigeria has been ascribed to several factors. Some sources emphasize high youth unemployment and the economic marginalization of the north. Christian sources point to radical Muslim leaders, arguing that the spasm of violence was not a case of “spontaneous combustion” but part of a planned campaign. Some Muslim activists stress anger over possible electoral fraud, dumbfounded that a supposedly Muslim-majority country would cast fifty-nine percent of its votes for a Christian candidate. Another source of anger was the supposed violation of the unwritten rules of Nigerian politics, which hold that Christians and Muslims must alternate in the presidency. This policy had been upended when the previous incumbent, Muslim leader Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, died in office before serving his full term. Yar’Adua was succeeded by vice-president Goodluck Jonathan, whose subsequent incumbency, some say, gave him an unfair advantage in the 2011 election.

Assuming that the election results were accurate, several issues call for further investigation. Why did Jonathan poll as well as he did in the north, winning a substantial minority of Muslim votes? Why did southern Muslims decisively reject the main Muslim candidate, Buhari, and why did northern Muslims equally rebuff the Muslim reformer, Ribadu? Tempting as it may be to delve into these issues, our next post will return to Ivory Coast before GeoCurrents moves on to another part of the world.

Electoral Politics and Religious Strife in Nigeria Read More »