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How to Become a PoliticianPoliticians are vital to a successful country, state or municipality. Their main task is to represent the beliefs and needs of their constituents at the various levels. They create laws and carry their people through good times and bad times, and they often hold large amounts of power.

Politicians must represent the political, financial, administrative, economic, educational and other interests of their constituents. Most politicians strive to get elected to office in order to participate in creating legislation that supports those interests and eventually move their way up tot the state or national level.

But how does one actually become a politician? The following are important steps to answer the question of how to become a politician:

 

Step 1: Learn the Essentials

There are a few critical characteristics and steps to achieve before even considering the logistics of how to become a politician. First, one must understand politics. As simple as it sounds, the political landscape is vast and ever-changing, and it requires a certain finesse to navigate. Developing strong communication skills is another important necessity.

In order to convince constituents of one’s trustworthiness and effectively communicate their interests, one must be an exemplary and effective communicator. Finally, politics is not for the faint-hearted. There are significant risks involved with running for office, including risks to financial security and permanent reputation. Also, politicians often receive harsh criticism, so potential politicians have to have thick skin.

Step 2: Raise Money

Assuming that an individual possesses the aforementioned qualities, he or she needs to secure finances as quickly as possible. Money is arguably the best predictor for the outcome of an election. In fact, even the very best candidate will fail miserably without proper funding.

Running for office is a job in itself and often requires that the candidate take time off his or her work, which may cost his or her a year or more’s worth of salary. Money is especially critical for those seeking to serve at the state or national level.

Step 3: Gain Experience

When considering how to become a politician, a good way for complete beginners to enter into the political world is to volunteer or work at another politician’s office who is in their chosen party. This experience will expose the future politician to the job and allow him or her to build connections and work experience. As time goes on, he or she may even be promoted and considered by the party for a nomination. After that, the most important task is to connect with and advocate for one’s constituents.

These are important steps, but certainly not the only ones one must consider when wondering how to become a politician. The profession is complex, demanding, and requires a great deal of responsibility, yet can be incredibly rewarding.

Lauren Mcbride

Photo: Flickr

Charity LawChina is now home to more billionaires than the United States and has experienced an annual economic growth rate of 7% since 2010. Despite this, the country is still ranked second to last in a list of 145 most charitable countries, according to the 2015 U.K.-based Charities Aid Foundation’s World Giving Index. However, China’s new Charity Law seeks to promote a model for greater domestic charitable giving within the country.

The law will also prospectively support the country’s sustainability in disaster relief, environmental protection, public health and anti-poverty efforts to lift rural residents out of poverty by 2020. As of 2015, 55.75 million of China’s rural residents were still considered impoverished.

What Will China’s New Charity Law Assist?

While China’s annual donations to charities have soared from 10 billion to 100 billion yuan in the last ten years, growth has remained stagnant within the last five years paradoxically alongside economic prosperity.

According to the Boston Globe, the China Philanthropy Project at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Ash Center identified three reasons.

First, giving in China remains localized and focused on a single cause — six out of 10 renminbi was donated to the same province where the donor’s corporate headquarters was situated, leaving the poorest rural areas without financial support.

Second, three-quarters of the donors gave to a single cause: education, leaving out other realms needing support.

Third, the majority of donors gave through their corporations, a pattern “reflecting the range of legal, regulatory, and political challenges facing the development of a vibrant giving environment on a national level.”

China’s new Charity Law will encourage a more sturdy model of contemporary giving, allowing for more charities to raise funds from the public without a complex registration system or a need for approval from the supervisory board and China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs.

The law will also allow for tax incentives for charities and make it easier for the wealthy to establish charitable trusts on their own. Moreover, with a track record of scandals in the past which have deterred success in charitable giving, transparency, as well as tighter management, will be incorporated. “From the philanthropy side and public policy side, it’s very well written,” Edward Cunningham, a scholar at Harvard University said.

The global community looks forward to the results from the Charity Law, not just in better services and poverty alleviation for Chinese citizens but a transparent and confident government charity program.

Priscilla Son
Photo: Flickr

call_congress
Politics can be very confusing to follow, especially if one is unaware of the basics, but a quick description of the functions and structure of Congress can help advocates of poverty reduction get a brief overview of the complex size and scope of the United States Congress.

Let’s define Congress. The U.S. Congress makes up the legislative branch of the U.S. government, meaning it has the power to write and make laws. Additionally, it has the ability to approve all government spending, collect taxes, declare war, regulate commerce and provide for the general welfare. Under the American democratic system of checks and balances, it shares governing authority with the executive and judicial branches of the government.

Structure

Congress is made up of two parts, or chambers. The lower chamber, the House of Representatives, has 435 members. The amount of members per state varies by the state’s population, but currently each representative typically represents approximately 700,000 constituents. Each state must have at least one representative who serves two-year terms.

The upper chamber, the Senate, has 100 total members. Each state has two senators, regardless of its population. Senators face re-election every six years; however, elections are rotated so that no more than one senator per state is up for re-election in a single election cycle.

Making Laws

A “Congress” lasts two years and begins on January 3 of odd-numbered years. Each year is considered a “session” of Congress. As of 2014, the 113th Congress is serving its second session. At the end of this year, elections will be held to decide the 114th Congress, which will meet from 2015 to 2017. Unapproved bills remain alive between sessions of Congress but do not carry over into the next two-year congressional term.

After a bill’s introduction in either house, it goes for review to the legislative committee that covers the subject of the bill. The committee may refer the bill to a subcommittee, which may hold hearings on the bill and amend it before recommending it for approval in a new form to the greater committee. Once the bill clears the committee process, it goes to the House or Senate floor for debate.

The House and Senate must each approve the bill in identical form before the President has an opportunity to sign it into law. Therefore, should differences exist between the House and Senate versions, the two chambers of Congress will form a conference committee to hash out any discrepancies. The president then has ten days to sign or veto the bill.

Shared Authority

The Senate and the House of Representatives share identical legislative authority with a couple of exceptions. First, the House of Representatives originates all revenue-raising bills, initiates impeachment proceedings against federal officials and has the final authority to choose the president if no candidate wins in the electoral college.

The Senate has the authority to confirm federal and judicial branch appointments and also the authority to ratify treaties. The senate also conducts impeachment trials after the House of Representatives has initiated them.

Martin Levy

Sources: About, Congress Link, Census Data
Photo: OSG’s AP Gov. and Politics

 

Learn how to call Congress.

 

saudi_arabia_counterterrorism
Human rights activists across the globe continue to raise concerns about Saudi Arabia’s new counterterrorism law, which took effect on February 1st. Titled the ‘Law for the Crimes of Terrorism and its Financing,’ this new piece of legislation allows the kingdom to prosecute peaceful opposition activists as terrorists.

Previously, the law was published in its entirety for the first time in the government’s official newspaper, Um Al-Qura. It states that any act seen as “destabilizing the society’s security or the state’s stability or exposes its national unity to harm” could be tried as an act of terrorism under the law.

“Offending the nation’s reputation or its position” now also falls under the country’s legal definition of terrorism, preventing many human rights defenders to speak up for what they believe in.

Of the most controversial articles in the counterterrorism law is one that grants the Ministry of Interior broad powers to search and raid people’s homes with little to no judicial oversight. Another article states that terror suspects can be held without charge or trial for up to one year, without the ability to appeal the decision. Many are worried that Saudi women who violate the ban on female drivers could even be considered terrorist suspects under the new law.

This is not the first time that the Saudi Arabian authorities have sought to suppress peaceful political dissent. In 2011, a similar draft was shelved after various human rights groups leaked a copy online. Among these groups was the Saudi Association for Civil and Political Rights (HASEM), which was subsequently shut down.

Eight of its founding members were imprisoned and one is still awaiting trial. This new law confirms many people’s worst fears about one of the world’s last absolute monarchies.

That is that the counterterrorism law is aimed at keeping the kingdom’s ruling Al Saud family in control in the wake of a series of democratic reform protests, including the Arab Spring protests of 2011. 89-year-old King Abdullah is the present ruling monarch, essentially making the majority of the country’s decisions, as there is little written law and no parliament.

Within the past few years, Saudi Arabia has experienced waves of reform movements and political activism that seem to be shaking the nation. Activists have been detained, rights organizations have been shut down, and the Saudi authorities have been increasingly monitoring social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

Abdelaziz al-Shubaily, the HASEM activist currently awaiting trial, says, “They characterize you as a terrorist because you ask the kingdom to do something it does not want to do.” Nations across the globe have experienced this same hostility between government and citizen, and as we well know, history tends to repeat itself. The world will be watching to see what Saudi Arabia does next.

– Mollie O’Brien

Sources: Amnesty International, Al-Akbhar
Photo: AJC

Bayan Mahmoud Al-Zahran
The first all-female law practice has opened in Saudi Arabia, marking progress for women in a nation that has historically not afforded even many basic rights to women.

Bayan Mahmoud Al-Zahran, the first woman in Saudi Arabia to be issued a law license, along with Jihan Qurban, Sarra al-Omari and Ameera Quqani, opened the firm on January 1, 2014. While they will provide services for both genders, the stated objective of the new law firm is to advocate for the rights of Saudi women and to bring cases centered on women to court.

Al-Zahran officially became Saudi Arabia’s first female lawyer on November 2013 when she defended a client at the General Court in Jeddah. She had worked for many years as a legal consultant, the only legal position previously open to women, and had represented clients in dozens of court cases.

In a strictly sex-segregated society such as Saudi Arabia, it can be hard for men and women to speak openly and understand the issues put forth by an opposite-sex client, she says.

With more female lawyers in Saudi Arabia, this hurdle for women could be alleviated.

Al-Zahran asserts, “I believe women lawyers can contribute a lot to the legal system. This law firm will make a difference in the history of court cases and female disputes in the Kingdom. I am very hopeful…”

She also states her desire for the number of female lawyers to rise in the future.

At the opening of the firm, the vice president of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce, Mazen Batterjee, congratulated the new lawyers, but cautioned them to remain true to Sharia law in their practice and in their personal lives. He reiterated that the women should always wear their hijabs to court.

Batterjee’s tentative praise and caution are outshined by the enthusiasm of Al-Zahran’s father, Sheikh Mahmoud.

He calls the move an important step for women’s rights and affirmed his complete support his daughter. “We are very proud of our daughter who stands firm for [the] protection of women’s rights,” he states.

The issue of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia has long been a contentious one.

Women living in the Kingdom still must have a male guardian who can decide if a woman can travel, work, marry or go to school—for their entire lives.

Women are also expected to fully cover themselves in public spaces and are forbidden from driving.

In October 2013, over 60 women drove cars in protest of the law, a move that earned global attention and praise while pointing to a growing, though still small, movement in Saudi Arabia toward increased rights for women.

If it is up to her and her firm’s lawyers, Al-Zahran plans to see the dream of women rights in Saudi Arabia fully realized.

Kaylie Cordingley

Sources: Arab News, Feminist, International Business Times
Photo: The Art of 12

morocco_teen_suicide
A teenage girl in Morocco committed suicide last month after being forced to marry her rapist. Her death occurred amidst debate over a controversial article of Morocco’s Penal code which allows rapists to avoid a jail sentence if they marry their victim.

The article in question, Article 475, received global attention after a similar case in March 2012 in which Amina Filali, 16, drank rat poison after being forced to marry her rapist. At the time, activist Abadila Maaelaynine said on Twitter, “Amina, 16, was triply violated, by her rapist, by tradition and by Article 475 of the Moroccan law.”

In Moroccan society, a woman who loses her virginity – even by rape – is considered unfit to marry. “There’s a mentality that says that a girl that’s no longer a virgin is worthless,” said Khadija Riyadi, President of the Moroccan Association of Human Rights (AMDH). She went on to say that families feel like they cannot support an “unmarriagable” daughter and to make her marry her attacker seems like the only solution.

Opponents of Article 475 pressured U.S. president Barack Obama who met with Moroccan King Mohammed VI on Friday to urge the king to repeal the article.

A move to protect women from violence was submitted to the Moroccan parliament earlier this month, a year after the initial idea was proposed. Justice Minister Mustapha Ramid told Al Jazeera, “Until now, it’s still just a law project that’s being considered by parliament but hasn’t been rectified. We have not yet formally edited the article.”

“Delays in legal reform in Morocco are leaving women and girls exposed to abuse,” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International. “Unless the gap is closed between the authorities’ rhetoric about improvements to the law and their delivery of these changes, more lives will be at risk.”

– David Smith

Sources: Al Jazeera, The Telegraph, All Africa