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The Zaras Factbook

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Zaras
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The Zaras Factbook

Postby Zaras » Sun Nov 13, 2011 8:49 am

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The Free City of Zaras


Basic Information
Official name: The Free City of Zaras
Demonym: Zaran
National motto: Freedom and justice for all
National anthem: The Anthem of Zaras
Independence declared: 5 January 1966
Form of government: A hybrid of mayor-council government and parliamentary democracy
Head of state: Governor James D. Lin
Head of government: Mayor Shaheen Muhammad
Official language: English
Recognised regional languages: Any minority language with at least a certain amount of speakers
Official religion: None
Currency: Zaran lira (L)
Region: Confederation of Democratic Socialists
Total land area: 953 km2
Population: 4.5 million (total metropolitan area)

National codes
National Abbreviation: FCZ
ISO Country Code: ZS (alpha-2), FCZ (alpha-3), 900 (numeric)
ISO Currency Code: ZL
International Calling Code: +91
Top Level Domains: .zs
Sports Code: FCZ
Civilian Naval Craft Code: ZCN
Military Naval Craft Code: ZMN

Sections
1. Introduction
2. History
3. Geography
4. Economy
5. Demographics
5.1. The housing problem
6. Government and political system
6.1. Political system
6.2. Political parties
6.3. Past election results
6.4. Political culture
7. Administrative divisions
8. Law enforcement
9. Foreign affairs
10. Military
11. Media and culture
12. Education
13. Transportation

Introduction

"It was supposed to be all simple. Build a new, custom-made capital for the nation. Solve the constant infighting between the various regions over which gets to be favoured by the government by putting the government in some backwater, tiny peninsula next to the border that had just been recently annexed. Start building and waste ten years getting it done. Surely nothing could go wrong.

One civil war and secession later, we found out just how much could."

- Nirála Kallin, first Governor of Zaras (1966-1981)


The Free City of Zaras is an independent city-state occupying the Nyari Peninsula and a few nearby islands of varying sizes, affiliated with the Confederation of Democratic Socialists region. Its only borders are with the state of Dainarén in the north, from which it seceded in 1966, the Gerjen Gulf in the east, the Karnap Strait in the south, and the Saleyrak Ocean towards the west (the Principality of Montogranda is located on a peninsula in this direction).

It is a small country of 953 km² (slightly smaller than São Tomé and Príncipe), whose entire territory is legally organised as one metropolitan area. Despite its small land area and medium-sized population, it possesses a reasonably healthy economy, driven primarily by its strategic position as a free port, the service industry, tourism, and the technology industry.



OOC: I'd like to thank Brutland and Norden for having such a good factbook I couldn't help but use it as a model on occasion.
Also, a big big thanks to Steel and Fire for helping me with the map-making!
Last edited by Zaras on Thu Jun 28, 2012 2:51 am, edited 23 times in total.
Bythyrona wrote:
Zaras wrote:Democratic People's Republic of Glorious Misty Mountain Hop.
The bat in the middle commemmorates their crushing victory in the bloody Battle of Evermore, where the Communists were saved at the last minute by General "Black Dog" Bonham of the Rock 'n Roll Brigade detonating a levee armed with only four sticks and flooding the enemy encampment. He later retired with honours and went to live in California for the rest of his life before ascending to heaven.

Best post I've seen on NS since I've been here. :clap:
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Zaras
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Founded: Nov 06, 2011
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Postby Zaras » Sun Nov 13, 2011 8:49 am

History

Early settlement

The Nyari Peninsula, with its strategic position, favourable climate, flat grassland and separation from the more nomad-stricken Yalnarë Lowlands, would seem like an ideal place to inhabit. Yet, for the longest part of its early history the peninsula was not permanently settled, but only criscrossed occasionally by nomadic populations or explorers - the rather poor quality of soil, absence of any natural resources and excessive distance from the nearest cities undoubtedly served as deterrents.

The first archeological evidence for a settlement in the region dates as far back as the 1202, when the Malasi Empire first established an outpost on the southern tip of Pordhay as part of its defense against the pirates who staged incursions on its Saleyrak coast. However, this outpost (its name has long since been forgotten) was poorly equipped and organised, forcing the Malasi to spend excessive funds on distant trade and supply missions that left the outpost constantly suffering shortages and on the verge of starvation. The situation only worsened as the Empire found its attention distracted by a long, costly stalemate of a war with neighbouring Dargan, and the outpost was deserted by 1212 as a result of nomadic harassment and constant supply issues.

By the time the Malasi-Dargan peace was signed in 1214, Malasi had long abandoned the outpost, and agreed to cede all claims to the islands surrounding Nyari to Dargan. However, the Dargan emperor also couldn't muster the funds to settle the distant region and could not see any benefits to such an endeavour, so the country never actually asserted its claim to the islands. For the ensuing centuries the region occasionally saw settlement from fishermen and pirates, but its geographical separation and the lack of resources meant that the first permanent settlement, the village of Kuangan, was only established in 1397.

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The coastal states period

The islands slowly collected more inhabitants throughout the following centuries, and by the 16th century there were three main states in the region: Paravas, which occupied the islands of Kuangan, Sergan, Kaura and much later a small piece of territory on modern-day Montogranda, Geyraz, which occupied a small territory on the eastern coast of the Gerjen Gulf, and Dulhaidas, which held Leseruek Island and the city of Razhi on the eastern tip of Nyari. These states failed to flourish due to their different ethnic compositions leading them to expend most of their efforts and resources on attempting to conquer each other, resulting in a complicated series of shifting alliances and a general failure to thrive. Geyraz additionally suffered from losing a war against Gierza due to its attempt to take over Pordhay Island in 1671, but the states were otherwise ignored by their neighbours.

The Serinar Empire

The coastal states would have been left alone to their own petty bickering had the emerging Serinar Empire not entered into a territorial dispute with the Gierza state over colonial rights in the Saleyrak Ocean. As a means to gain an advantage over the Gierza, Serinar sent its army to subdue Geyraz, which had entered into trade agreements with Gierza. The resulting battle was won by Serinar with predictable ease, and it annexed Geyraz in 1777. Serinar thus secured a foothold on the mainland close to Gierza, and scared the leadership of Paravas and Dulhaidas into declaring their neutrality in the conflict while arming themselves. The empire then applied pressure on the two to the point that the shaky understanding reached by war collapsed and invaded them in 1781, razing Razhi to the ground and sacking Dualhaidas.

As the conflict with Gierza died down and ended with an agreement in 1784, Serinar lost interest in acquiring the rest of the Nyari Peninsula (largely due to a scientific expedition that showed its soil composition was not good enough to support large-scale agricultural activity), and merely took over the islands surrounding it. Nyari was later annexed as a rogue action by the islands' governor Sedral Canah in 1797, and the first permanent settlement, Nihral, was built at the northern mouth of the Gerjen Gulf, outside the peninsula. But as there were still no resources to be gained, for a long time the Nyari region was ignored by the government and sparsely settled, making it the poorest province in Serinar. Improvements only began in 1823 with the reign of Emperor Jiaurslàn the Reformer, who launched an extensive program of upgrading the country's infrastructure and liberalising its politics. Yet despite roads being built and the first railroad reaching Nihral in 1830, the Serinar population still resisted colonisation - the region's population peaked at 1053 inhabitants in 1850 but by 1940 it had been reduced to merely 367.

Incorporation into Dainarén

Serinar had had a tense relationship with its northern neighbour Dainarén ever since it achieved independence, and the two had repeatedly clashed over borders in Serinar's north-west in 1852, 1863, 1877 and 1891, the last ending with a stalemate and a negotiated settlement at Eirád that had managed to not solve the conflict at all, but merely freeze it. As relations between the two worsened, skirmishes began to take place closer and closer to the Nyari province.

Eventually, Dainarén's Prime Minister Robert Sanczech (1936-1947) began another war with Serinar over territorial issues in 1940. While most of the Dainarén military managed to advance quite a distance into Serinar before being stopped and ending up in a stalemate, the small detachment sent to occupy Nyari managed to do so without incident, and throughout the war the country used the peninsula to stage naval attacks on Serinar. Finally, Sanczech lost elections due to the increasing military losses, and his successor Eddy Rasyan-Lech (1947-1950) negotiated a peace settlement with Serinar in 1949. This settlement provoked an uproar in Dainarén as the only gains for the country where the Nyari peninsula, surrounding islands, and land around the Gerjen Gulf. Rasyan-Lech proceeded to lose the elections by a massive landslide to Kerali Sensha (1950-1957).

The Dainarén annexation represented the first time that a country paid serious attention to the Nyari region, as Dainarén upgraded the infrastructure even further and began to organise a semblance of economic activity in the region through fishing and agriculture. Yet despite numerous funds spent to modernise and populate the region, it continued to remain poor as new inhabitants proved to be more interested in settling in Geyraz and the southern coast beyond Nyari.

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The building of Zaras

The impetus for building Zaras came as an insurgency in north-eastern Dainarén began in 1954 due to long-standing grievances by the Zäler minority against the neglectful Dainar majority. The Sensha government's heavy-handed attempts to repress the insurgency backfired and inspired popular support for the insurgents, resulting in a humiliating episode when in November 1955 the insurgents sacked the capital Suraitha, forcing the government to flee to the village of Runox for safety. Sensha then proposed that a new, planned capital be built in order to defuse the ethnic tensions and regional rivalry that had long plagued Dainarén and now threatened to engulf the country entirely. The plan was adopted by Parliament in February 1956, and after some consideration, the southern tip of the peninsula was chosen as the site for the new capital, which would be named "Zaras".

With Keith Samuel named the first Capital District Commissioner in March, construction work began immediately but at a slow pace. Sensha lost the 1957 elections to the Socialists due to his continued attempts to defeat the insurgency, whereas incoming Prime Minister Lerak Dedal (1957-1960) promised to instead negotiate an end to the insurgency. Dedal's term saw a massive investigation that removed Samuel from office in 1957 due to corrupt practices, appointment of underqualified cronies to oversee the building and choosing companies at massively overinflated prices - at the time of his ouster, only the famous Government House had been completed.

Amidst a bevy of candidates, Dedal chose as Commissioner Marina Dora, a 35-year old lawyer and Serinar War veteran. Dora's first act in office was to officially discard Samuel's urban plan (heavily modelled after Brasília) and instead follow one developed by her ally Kirlu Ezeret. The Ezeret-Dora plan, heavily inspired by Ezeret's visit to Washington DC, would involve an extensive greenbelt, numerous parks, buildings that would not be larger than six stories and officially mandated architectural guidelines that favoured neo-traditionalism and Art Deco at the expense of modernism. Despite a cut in government funding due to continuing unrest in the country, Dora managed to implement her plan and proceed with building at a faster pace after renegotiations and several contract cancellations. By 1961, Zaras as it is known today was beginning to take shape and become a popular attraction for both tourists and new residents, making the city expand steadily. However, it was still dependent on government funding for its budget needs and suffered increasing cuts as Dainarén plunged into a devastating civil war. In the end, Zaras was never officially used as a capital.

Independence

With Dainarén mired in a civil war, on the 5th of January 1966 Marina Dora declared the city's independence as a "Free City" (inspired by Naalej's ultimately unsuccessful secession attempt two years earlier) and directed the city's security forces to seize the entirety of the Nyari peninsula and all islands in the Gerjen Gulf and Saleyrak Ocean. This independence mustered no reaction in Dainarén itself due to the fighting and lack of a central authority but it was quickly recognised by other countries.

Dora then proceeded to announce that an election for the new, 10-member City Council would take place on the 25th of January and immediately registered a new party, the Democratic Socialist Party of Zaras (DSP). A wave of party registrations ensued but the short campaign period wrong-footed the nascent opposition and the Democratic Socialist campaign on the importance of securing independence and protecting the city from the Civil War. Come election day, the DSP won every seat in the City Council. A City Charter was hastily sketched together to provide basic governance, and in March the Council chose Nirála Kallin as its first Governor.

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Mayor Marina Dora (1966-1982), pictured here in 1964.
The Dora administration

"Artificial prosperity"

Upon independence, Zaras was a tiny city of barely 90.000 residents, confronted by a lack of natural resources, the need to prevent the Dainarén Civil War from affecting it, a next-to-inexistent water supply and a faltering economy. Shortly after her inauguration and the adoption of the Charter, Marina Dora promised to tackle these problems as Mayor and turn Zaras into a prosperous, independent city with a distinct identity, a policy that came to be known as the "Slow City" Plan due to her speech.

Dora's immediate actions on the economic front were to abolish all tarriffs, declare Zaras a free port, nationalise several important industries and institute a wide range of taxes (among them: progressive income and corporate taxes, sales tax, car and petrol tax, inheritance and property taxes, alcohol and tobacco taxes and fees on luxury items) of varying severity in order to compensate for the loss of Dainaréni funding. On the other hand, she disregarded fiscal prudence in favour of spending and investing enormous sums of money in building a generous welfare state, setting up extensive an education and healthcare system and heavily militarizing the country to prevent a possible attack from Dainarén.

These policies, along with the offering of numerous development grants to small businesses and technology research, disproportionate investment in land reclamation, urban beautification, infrastructure development and subsidising the city's sprawling expansion, led to enormous deficits and an explosion in debt: in its first fiscal year, the administration ran up a 28 billion lira deficit, and its following budgets usually stagnated around that mark. This fiscal recklessness was condemned by Conservative Party of Zaras (CP) leader Jay Rocke, who derided it as "Fortress Sweden" (a term that stuck), and the Liberal Moderate Party of Zaras (LMP) attacked her policy of increasing government controls on the economy as stifling.

On the internal front, Dora introduced a mandatory military service, invested in building and modernising the city's meagre armed forces, and reorganised law enforcement. Her lasting legacy was the heavy, ubiquituous presence of law enforcement in the city and an almost nonexistent crime rate, and even detractors praised the Charter's prohibition on discrimination on the basis of gender, race, creed or origin and extensive public campaigns against discrimination and prejudice. However, the adoption of the 1967 Architectural Act that imposed a building height limit of only six floors and a ban against specific types of architecture was criticised as inefficient and leading to residents being gradually priced out of several neighbourhoods.

By the time of the next election of 1970, the electorate's dissatisfaction with the heavy tax burden was mitigated by the popularity of the government's welfare state policy and an unexpectedly improving economy that had reduced the deficit to a more manageable 800 million lira. However, the city soon found itself threatened as Dainarén was taken over by a military dictatorship led by Kenen Erán, who declared on the 17th of January that he refused to recognise Zaras' independence and would re-annex it "as soon as possible", after he had started a Blitzkrieg and annexed Dainarén's neighbour Keuwala. The DSP handily won another victory, keeping all the seats in the now-expanded 15-member City Council.

Dora's second term began with another economic downturn, during which her economic advisor persuaded her to implement small tax increases as a means to reduce the deficit somewhat. However, the burden of too many programs being run at once and the cost of Zaras' contribution to the Dainarén-Montogranda War led the economy to continue to stagnate or grow slowly throughout the 1970s and her popularity among the public began to erode, but her term ended up being dominated by foreign and defense policies. With a high amount of military spending, a strong law enforcement apparatus and mandatory national service, a Dainarén attack would at the very least endure spirited resistance.

Somewhat unpredictably, Dora chose to engage in a very reckless, antagonistic foreign policy towards Erán. The Zaran Navy was deployed to prevent any Dainarén ships from entering Zaran territorial waters, which were claimed as the entirety of the Gerjen Gulf, Karnap Strait and 12 nautical miles into Saleyrak. Powerful transmitters were installed right next to the border as part of a policy of "information warfare", allowing both Zaran and international TV and radio signals to be easily received in the areas immediately bordering the city. And in perhaps its most contested decision, the administration heavily liberalised its border control and immigration policy, extending asylum to anybody who came into the city (especially political refugees from all over the world) and openly encouraged smuggling across the Dainarén border into the southern regions that were devastated by the civil war. Dora also sent Zaran military forces to Montogranda to aid it after it was invaded by Dainarén in 1972, successfully helping defend the Principality and preserve its independence during the war, which lasted until 1980. In recognition of Zaras' significant contribution, Prince Jozef I of Montogranda granted Marina Dora the title of Duchess of Novo Bohemio.

While no Zarans would disagree that the contribution to the Montogranda-Dainarén War was one of Dora's crowning achievements as Mayor, the free immigration and asylum policy has since been recognised as... not very well thought out: in exploding the city's population and sprawl, it caused a mass of racial tensions that was only kept at bay by the omnipresent police forces, and worst of all it meant that refugees flooded into the city faster than its institutions could adjust to it. The unbirdled immigration caused the unemployment rate to steadily increase, hovering around 15-20% throughout the 1970s (due also to businesses perceiving the DSP as unfriendly and very pro-union labour laws), and increased the poverty rate from previously negligible to a high of 27% in 1977.

Democratization and reform

Protests began around 1973 over how the city continued to operate under the outdated Charter and 15-member City Council despite its enormous growth and demographic shift to a "melting pot" of immigrants from nearly everywhere, culminating in a mass assembly in front of the Government House on the 7th of November and threatened sympathy strikes by state employees and teachers. Her hand forced by the protests and a looming party rebellion, Dora passed an electoral reform on the 11th of November that created a Parliament formed of a 100-member Legislative Assembly and an expanded 20-member City Council.

In the ensuing election, the DSP won a majority, gaining 12 Council seats and 52 Parliamentary seats, with the second largest amount of votes going to the LMP. This result came as a surprise to previous forecasts that the Conservatives would win the election instead - a pre-election speech by Rocke that promised the implementation of conservative social policies is commonly cited as the reason the electorate seemingly turned on the CP. However, its gains were sufficient enough for Rocke to survive a confidence vote and continue as leader. Dora formed a new, minority government and was sworn in for a third term as Mayor.

The new government, which had all her old advisors as ministers, spent most of its term either attempting to redress the increasingly fragile economy or struggling to pass its agenda with only a narrow majority in the new Parliament. Dora was severely criticised for stubbornly refusing to drop her immigration policy, rein in government spending and blocking attempts by the Liberals and Conservatives to decrease the level government intervention in the economy. However, this period saw the Charter be replaced by the Constitution of 1976 and a reform of city government, minimising the bureaucratic nightmare of running a large city by dividing the city into districts, led by directly elected commissions and commissioners.

Despite the legislative gridlock and continued stagnation, the government managed to serve an entire four-year term, its only successes being the constitutional reform and the economy's lack of major contractions - the deficits had been reduced from earlier but remained constant around 10-20 billion lira, and by 1979 the highest amount of government spending was on debt interest. While the government's "Fortress Sweden" policies were still popular, the electorate showed increasing dissatisfaction with the sluggish economy, inept immigration policy and Dora's over-extended period in power.

In the 1978 election, Dora took a different tack and heavily campaigned in immigrant-dominated neighbourhoods, threatening the prospect that a LMP or CP government might reduce welfare or attempt to kick them out of the city - Rocke once again blundered before the election in making a speech that was seen as racist about "immigrants who come to the city to steal money from the government and not contribute to society". The final election result showed the CP losing ground to the LMP, which gained a majority in the City Council, while the DSP barely held on to 45 seats in the Assembly. Dora was forced to accept a DSP-LMP coalition government, and Rocke was removed as the leader of the CP.

The resulting DSP-LMP coalition began an ambitious series of economic reforms but had to drop a series of proposed drastic spending cuts after they resulted in a wave of strikes in 1979, and couldn't raise taxes further to solve the deficit problem. However, the Liberals did succeed in removing the government controls on industry and beginning a process of liberalising the economy. For the first time after nearly two decades of stagnation or contractions, the GDP registered 3,2% growth in 1981.

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Mayor Iris Bernev (1982-2002)
The Bernev administration

Despite collapsing public support, Dora announced in 1980 that she would once again run for Mayor in the next election. This announcement led to a party rebellion and a leadership contest in 1981. Dora was thoroughly defeated on the first ballot, garnering less than 10% of the votes against a bevy of candidates. The second ballot led to the choice of Iris Bernev, wealthy heiress, former Conservative, popular Welfare Minister, Montogranda War veteran and generally colourful public figure, to lead the DSP into an election that was generally perceived as being a certain rout.

Bernev campaigned heavily since her selection as DSP leader, touting her success at halving the poverty rate from 27% in 1977 to 13,5% in 1981 and heavily criticising Dora for mishandling the economy, promising to work with the LMP to solve the debt crisis and pass necessary reforms. Nevertheless, she also focused on social policies as a means to gain points against the new CP leader Kar Restenis, who also made Rocke's mistake of attempting to steer the party rightwards and pander to a socially conservative base. The combination of signs of economic recovery beginning to appear, a pledge to work with the LMP, Restenis' poor campaigning and Bernev's excellent performances in the televised debates resulted in the DSP improbably winning a majority in the Assembly, allowing Bernev to form a DSP-LMP coalition government. The 1982 election also marked the first appearance of the Green Party (GP), which gained representation in both houses of Parliament, and the Communist Party, which won 2 seats in the City Council.

"Solid foundations" and recovery

Bernev had the enormous luck of winning an election just as the city seemingly began to emerge from its "growing pains", benefit from the large investments in infrastructure and education, and develop a more stable economy - indeed one of the themes of her campaign was to develop "solid foundations" for the economy and move away from Dora's wasteful "Fortress Sweden" policies. During the administration's first term, she and her Finance Minister Hannah Taylor embarked on a large-scale privatisation (except for key public services), abolished government controls on industry, reduced income, inheritance and property taxes, abolished numerous fees, and cut the amount of paperwork required for businesses to operate. With the help of a tourism boom, the growth of the technology industry and a crackdown on tax evasion, the Zaran economy began to grow at a steady pace: by 1986 the city had its first surplus after drastically reduced deficits. This renewed growth contributed to Bernev's popularity and allowed her and the DSP-LMP coalition (later DSP-LMP-Green coalition) to win further reelections in 1986, 1990, 1994 and 1998 with comfortable majorities.

With the exception of minor spending and taxation adjustments, Bernev and Taylor kept this economic policy constant throughout their terms in office, leading to the city experiencing near-constant economic growth and successfully paying off all of Dora's debts. Bernev's other key action during her first term was to change the immigration policy, increasing the amount of border control and introducing a "waiting period" before citizenship to slow down the pace of immigration and defuse racial tensions. The resulting reduction of migration and population growth helped unemployment decline from a peak of 21% in 1982 to a mere 2% by 2002.

The city's economic growth allowed Bernev to focus on other areas of city development and policy. One area of focus for her administration was the preservation of Zaras' distinct "character" and "greenifying" the city: despite amending the 1967 Architectural Law to remove restrictions on architecture and increase the maximum height of a building to 10 stories, Bernev presided over continued investment and expansion of the greenbelt, urban parkland and green spaces, a large street redesign scheme between 1987-1997 that made them very bicycle-friendly and added trees to sidewalks, a renovation and expansion of the Civic Centre in 1992, and a growth in city's many public transit facilities.

Another one of Bernev's achievements in cooperation with the Liberal Moderates was to amend the Constitution in 1985 to strengthen protections against discrimination and pass a bevy of socially liberal laws - the ones she considered the most important were the recognition of LGBT marriage and adoption rights in 1982 and the passage of the country's first hate speech laws in 1985, which were eventually only ratified in 1987 due to a long back-and-forth with the Supreme Court over its constitutionality. In terms of foreign policy, the continued presence of a military dictatorship in Dainarén led her to continue Dora's policy of antagonising the country in numerous ways and refusing to recognise its government, and maintain mandatory military service. The administration also continued to claim to all of the Gerjen Gulf as territorial waters, and expanded its naval and military bases in the area.

However, the one area Bernev tended to accord the most attention to during her tenure as Mayor was promoting Zaras' cultural and artistic growth, something she felt that Dora had neglected and was necessary in the context of the city's new demographics and lack of an identity. To that end, she established an official Culture Ministry in 1982 (naming Carina Branszin to the post), declared numerous buildings to be of historical value, built and funded dozens of new cultural venues and artistic establishments using both her fortune and city revenues, offered tax incentives for filmmaking, and organised several artistic festivals and events. More controversially, she slashed prices on importing certain genres of music and cinema but not others and pursued a policy of renaming many of the city's streets and landmarks whose previous names she judged as being "too bland". Both critics and supporters to this day are divided on how well this policy succeeded in creating or promoting culture in Zaras.

Bernev also tried to counteract the city's neglect of foreign policy under her predecessor by placing more of an emphasis on foreign policy and good relations with other countries to break its unofficial isolation. Her actions on this front led to several successes, such as preserving the good relations with Montogranda and helping the principality's own economic recovery (this in conjuction with her war service led Prince Jozef I to similarly honour Bernev by giving her the title of Duchess of Spiro).

Despite the disagreements over the effectiveness of her policies, Bernev remained popular throughout her 20 years in office due partly to economic growth and reemphasis on "green", low-skyline, pedestrian-friendly city planning (due to the Greens entering the coalition in 1994), and also partly due to her charismatic personality and openness to the public. A notable development during this time was the increasing growth of the Green and Communist Parties, which established themselves as credible presences in the city's public life. In 2001, Bernev announced that she would not run for re-election next year and retire as Mayor, but remained involved in the city's political life by continuing to be the leader of the DSP, and also by means of her involvement in various charities and other patronages. She was also frequently accused of only "cosmetically" resigning and continuing to run the city from behind the scenes, with frequent evidence both in favour of and against this charge brought up.

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Mayor Caryn Sarnas (2002-2010)
Recent developments

With Bernev reelected by acclamation as leader of the DSP, the party chose Deputy Mayor Caryn Sarnas as its electoral candidate, who led the DSP-LMP-Green coalition into a somewhat narrower victory than previous elections but was still able to form a majority government.

For better or worse, Sarnas is usually regarded as the first Mayor of Zaras who did not have an overarching (some would say 'overambitious') "vision", but to be fair, after the previous 45 years dominated by two mayors that saw the city grow into what it is today, perhaps there was no great innovation left to be had. Sarnas was thus able to concentrate on merely keeping the city's socioeconomic machinery working as opposed to instituting new national development policies. Her first term was marked by some small reductions in military and state spending and small-to-negligible tax cuts for the lower income levels - an attempt to sell off the last remaining nationalised sectors of the economy was scrapped after it caused several protests in 2004. At the beginning of her term the city's economy showed a reduction in the large growth rate that Bernev had presided over, and the slower growth rate went on to persist throughout her term in office, but it was never serious enough to threaten the city's newfound fiscal health.

On the foreign policy front, Erán died early in Sarnas' tenure and was succeded by Syaqther Xamol (whose age and history of illness led him to be seen as a weak leader), but her attempts to move away from her predecessors' overly provocative approach to Dainarén was stymied by a lack of support from her coalition partners, influential organisations for Dainarén refugees, and the city's new Constitution. While Xamol was rumoured to be in favour of recognising Zaras' independence, no moves to this effect were forthcoming. Sarnas instead turned to having Zaras play a more active role in international relations outside of the Dainarén question (without much success).

The DSP-LMP-Green coalition government won reelection in 2006 with a reduced share of the vote, concurrent with some celebrations of the DSP's 40 years in government. The GP's gains in the election led Sarnas to focus her second term on environmental initiatives, such as an ambitious plan increase the amount of electricity provided by "clean sources" and mandate that all buildings in the city have at least one working solar panel installed on the roof. This proved to be the government's only large-scale undertaking, as the rest of its term was chiefly marked by the abolition of several outdated, restrictive regulations on businesses, and a prolonged standoff with Dainarén after a border skirmish near the district of Nasiek.

The lack of any notable policy initiatives and generally low-key nature of the new Mayor led to the public perception that Sarnas was merely a puppet for Bernev to continue to rule the city "from backstage" - Bernev's numerous, frequent meetings with Sarnas and the appointment of her daughter Sarah Bernev as a minister without portfolio only added fuel to the fire. Unable to shake this image and dogged by the low growth rate in the city's economy, Sarnas steadily lost popularity throughout her second term while Bernev's remained as high as ever.

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Mayor Shaheen Muhammad (2010-present)
The Muhammad administration

Sarnas announced that she had "no plans" to run for a third term in 2010. After a slightly contentious internal campaign and another easy reelection for Bernev as the leader, the DSP chose Culture Minister Fatima Abdulwalīy Shaheen Muhammad as its candidate for the next election. The election proceeded peacefully in spite of some far-right agitation over the choosing of a devout Muslim as a candidate, and the DSP-LMP-Green coalition won the election handily, with the DSP registering its first increase in votes after at least eight years (by about 1%). Muhammad was inaugurated as Mayor the same year, promising to increase the city's involvement in international relations, continue to support "democratic regime change" in Dainarén and implement reductions in government spending and taxation "wherever possible". Her announced cabinet included Bernev as a minister without portfolio, with the justification that "it would be foolish to disregard the further services of a proven, successful leader", and her daughter Sarah as Planning Commissioner. She also reassured citizens that she would guarantee the city's official secularism, declaring that "Zaras' secularism is not so fragile that a woman wearing a niqāb is enough to place it in mortal danger, and anybody who implies otherwise is gravely insulting our esteemed institutions."

A large concern during Muhammad's first term remained the foreign front; indeed, one of her first actions in office was to officially affiliate Zaras with The Imperial State and become a World Assembly member state. However, The Imperial State proved to be a poor fit for the city's foreign ambitions due to its ineffectiveness and lack of activity, and with the November 2011 announcement that it was being absorbed into the United Kingdom of Britain and Eire, Muhammad chose to temporarily stay out of existing regional politics. Asides from this setback, Muhammad oversaw a return to sucesses in foreign policy, such as the establishment of new embassies, a successful application to join the LUNA coalition as an observer, and the signing of a trade agreement with the Federation of Arcesia, though the latter ended up being cancelled as a result of Arcesia sinking into internal turmoil and ceasing foreign contacts, and the LUNA coalition also ended up being dissolved later on.

Due to increasing concerns about the effect of the city's isolation and the decline and dissolution of LUNA, Muhammad reversed course in early 2012 and instead affiliated Zaras with the Confederation of Democratic Socialists. Her government also began an internal audit in April as the city's economic growth rate stubbornly stayed around very low and the GDP per capita had entered a decline after a period of stagnation. The resulting analysis led to internal difficulties as the LMP pushed for a reduction of the public sector's influence in the economy to allow for more private sector freedom while the DSP (under Bernev's leadership) and Greens raised concerns about excessive capitulation to businesses and an abandonment of the social democratic principles that the city had been governed on since independence. Muhammad attempted to dampen the resulting tension by calling for a vote of no confidence on 25 May 2012, which she won quite handily, but still found herself exposed to fears that she would preside over a breakup of the coalition. Doubts about her leadership were somewhat dampened later in the year thanks to a succession of events that shook Zaran politics: a successful referendum to form a new district by the Montograndan minority of South California Beach in September, referendums in both Zaras and Montogranda voting overwhelmingly in favour of union in October, and the Confederation of Democratic Socialists region merging with the Global Federation of Nations.



Note: I stole the images from a buncha places on the web. Credit goes to the original authors. Also, thanks again to Steel and Fire for his mapmakin' expertise.
Last edited by Zaras on Tue Jul 24, 2012 4:24 am, edited 41 times in total.
Bythyrona wrote:
Zaras wrote:Democratic People's Republic of Glorious Misty Mountain Hop.
The bat in the middle commemmorates their crushing victory in the bloody Battle of Evermore, where the Communists were saved at the last minute by General "Black Dog" Bonham of the Rock 'n Roll Brigade detonating a levee armed with only four sticks and flooding the enemy encampment. He later retired with honours and went to live in California for the rest of his life before ascending to heaven.

Best post I've seen on NS since I've been here. :clap:
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Postby Zaras » Sun Nov 13, 2011 8:49 am

Image
Geography

Zaras is comprised of the Nyari Peninsula and several surrounding and outlying islands. Some of the more important islands include:

1. Kuangan Island, the largest island and the one closest to the peninsula in the east. It is connected to the city through the Frank Zappa Memorial Bridge, the George Harrison Memorial Bridge, and the Gerais Tunnel.
2. Sergan Island, located to the south of the peninsula in the Karnap Strait. Connected to the peninsula using the Telarak Tunnel. In the past not as heavily inhabited as Kuangan, but it is now catching up. Tourist resort known for its beaches.
3. Leseruek Island, located to the east in the Gerjen Gulf. Heavily fortified and hosting a military and naval base. Part of Zaras' "territorial cordon".
4. Devan Island, located to the north-east of the peninsula in the Gerjen Gulf. A tiny, uninhabited island but of vital strategic importance: being the closest to the mainland, it hosts a sizeable Navy base and is one of the key elements of the government's territorial waters controversy. The city's northernmost point, and part of the "territorial cordon".
5. Najries Island, to the west of the peninsula, is the location for the city's Zaras International Airport.
6. Kaura Island, to the west of the peninsula in the Saleyrak Ocean, is the city's Westernmost point. It hosts a port due to being the city's closest point to Montogranda, and is a popular destination for cruises.
7. Pordhay Island, to the south of the peninsula in the Karnap Strait. The city's southernmost point, also heavily fortified and militarised on account of its closeness to the continent. Part of the "territorial cordon".

There are smaller ones as well, but usually they are ommitted from the city maps due to their size and lack of population. The peninsula itself extends southwards from the continent in a rather irregular shape that, when viewed with the map rotated 90° to the right, somewhat resembles an extended arm or a handshake (leading to the quasi-ironic, self-deprecating nickname "The Helping Hand City"). The city's current total land area is 953 km², but due to ongoing land reclamation projects this is expected to increase in the future.

The peninsula's dominant environment is that of a flat plain dominated by grassland, with soil that is not agriculture-friendly. In spite of the lack of forests or distinctive geographic features, Zaras has some very stringent environmental policies - at least 15% of the city's space is formed of urban parks and open spaces, and its development plans place an emphasis on green space and minimising environmental impact by encouraging use of public transport and bicycles. The city is also known for its scenic coast and beaches, the latter being a mixture of natural and artificial as a result of land reclamation policies.

Zaras has what can be classified as a Mediterranean climate, with dry, hot summers and mild winters, and as a result has a rather low precipitation average per year. The city's distinctive, low-height architecture and a long emphasis on efficient use of energy to compensate for the costs of importing and producing it have resulted in it not being severely affected by light pollution or skyglow.

The city also does not have any natural supplies of water, instead needing to rely on costly desalination plants and imports from abroad. There are laws in effect that mandate prosecution for misuse or waste of water, and hotels are expected to notify tourists and visitors of the requirement and make sure they comply with the unofficial rationing practices.
Last edited by Zaras on Sat Jun 09, 2012 4:16 pm, edited 4 times in total.
Bythyrona wrote:
Zaras wrote:Democratic People's Republic of Glorious Misty Mountain Hop.
The bat in the middle commemmorates their crushing victory in the bloody Battle of Evermore, where the Communists were saved at the last minute by General "Black Dog" Bonham of the Rock 'n Roll Brigade detonating a levee armed with only four sticks and flooding the enemy encampment. He later retired with honours and went to live in California for the rest of his life before ascending to heaven.

Best post I've seen on NS since I've been here. :clap:
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Postby Zaras » Sun Nov 13, 2011 8:50 am

Economy

Due to a lack of natural resources beyond its strategic location, the governments of Zaras since independence placed their bets on using the city's status as a free port, creating a highly educated workforce and investing heavily in education and technology as a means to achieve prosperity. However, the collision between measures that scared businesses, lax fiscal planning and the governments' hurry to do too much too soon almost derailed the plan: while Zaras did boast a highly educated workforce, significant investments in technology and use as a free port, by 1982 it had experienced 16 years of constant fiscal deficits, a 13,5% poverty rate, near-constant unemployment of at least 10%, and a lurching debt crisis as companies increasingly felt the Democratic Socialist policies were excessively hostile to business. Since then, the government has moved towards a more hands-off approach to the economy while retaining its characteristic social welfare programs modeled after Scandinavian countries, to notable success: steady economic growth and prudent budgets allowed the city to pay off its debt and accumulate sizeable reserves by the 21st century, and unemployment and poverty were drastically reduced.

Zaras' economy heavily relies on trade and shipping traffic, the service industry, some advanced manufacturing, and tourism*. And while other cities may be loath to admit it, a significant contribution to the economy also comes from areas that other states may perceive as "questionable", such as legalized gambling, prostitution and drug use, and cross-border smuggling with Dainarén. While the city benefits from its worker productivity, well-funded education system and well-maintained infrastructure, it still has some vulnerabilities. Despite the DSP's shift from overt attempts at economic planning to privatization, businesses still have to contend with the city's stringent environmental regulations, limited building space, heavily unionized workforce and a comparatively heavy tax burden: income taxes are progressive and range from a minimum of 15% to a maximum of 65%, corporate tax works on a similar scale, capital gains tax is vigorously enforced, the sales tax is also 25% and property taxes can be quite forbidding for various neighbourhoods. Unsurprisingly, Zaras is required to spend a lot of effort cracking down on tax evasion and the black market, and its governments since independence have all in some way or another wrestled with the question of how to decrease the city's excessive reliance on taxation income and place its economy on more solid foundations. Current data suggests they've rather failed at finding a satisfactory solution to this.

(* Fishing is not usually counted because it is done according to strict quotas, either in the wild or supervised fish farms, and only aimed at providing a domestic source of food.)

Additionally, the sheer disparity between the amount of resources and raw materials Zaras needs to import for its daily functioning and whatever it has available to export has left it very vulnerable after its adoption of free trade - the city's trade balance has suffered from being almost invariably fragile, erratically moving between narrow surpluses and overall deficits. The current trade balance very noticeably shows the city imports more than it exports.

The government's major spending areas throughout the city's history have been education, healthcare, welfare, infrastructure maintenance, and law enforcement and the military. Zaras offers its citizens generous unemployment benefits, childcare benefits, fully-paid parent leave, pensions, disability benefits, state-subsidised housing and rent control, universal public healthcare, free education and sizeable university grants, and repeated surveys have demonstrated that the inhabitants believe they more than justify the high tax rates charged by the government. (The government's large-scale education and transparency campaigns to prevent Zarans from falling for the "gummint is the problem, lower all taxes" train of thought probably also helps.) Small business owners are also pretty happy about the interest-free loans to purchase new technology and the ability to not pay taxes in the first fiscal year of their existence. Due to the extensive welfare assistance and cheap housing, the city's poverty rate is negligible, its Gini coefficient is reasonably close to zero and its social mobility is high.

The city's minimum wage is officially required to be the same as its living wage, and thus it is indexed and constantly adjusted based on inflation and other socioeconomic factors. Zaran wages as a whole are adopted on a case-by-case basis through collective bargaining and negotiations between employers, trade unions and the government, the latter being officially required to serve as an impartial arbiter in the process.

Since independence, Zaras' currency has been the lira (with the symbol L, plural "liras"), which is subdivided into 100 kend (symbol K, plural "kends"). The currency was initially issued by the Central Bank of Zaras in banknotes of 1, 5, 10, 50, 100 and 500 liras and coins of 1, 5, 10 and 50 kends and 1 and 5 liras; the Central Bank ceased to print 1 and 5 lira banknotes in 1972 because they were so rarely used compared to their coin equivalents, but it never officially withdrew them from circulation. The lira has a freely floating exchange rate and, after suffering from a period of double-digit inflation between 1974-1978 as the government attempted to cover its deficits by printing more currency (which led to the introduction of the 100 and 500 lira banknotes), has since stabilised and benefitted from monetary policies aimed at keeping the inflation rate low.

The currency situation of Zaras' neighbour Montogranda is more complex: Montogranda officially maintains its currency, the paco, which has been pegged at a 1:1 exchange rate with the lira since 1980, but it ceased to print paco banknotes in 1974 due to hyperinflation and accepted the lira notes as legal tender. WIth the exception of one commemorative 25.000 paco note between 1993-1995, Montogranda does not produce paco banknotes, using the lira banknotes instead, but it continues to mint its own subunit, the esperi, which is equal in value to the kend. While ceasing production in Zaras in 1972, the 1 and 5 lira notes continued to be used in Montogranda, at least until 1997 when the 1 lira note was similarly removed from circulation.
Last edited by Zaras on Sun Sep 09, 2012 2:50 am, edited 18 times in total.
Bythyrona wrote:
Zaras wrote:Democratic People's Republic of Glorious Misty Mountain Hop.
The bat in the middle commemmorates their crushing victory in the bloody Battle of Evermore, where the Communists were saved at the last minute by General "Black Dog" Bonham of the Rock 'n Roll Brigade detonating a levee armed with only four sticks and flooding the enemy encampment. He later retired with honours and went to live in California for the rest of his life before ascending to heaven.

Best post I've seen on NS since I've been here. :clap:
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Zaras
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Postby Zaras » Sun Nov 13, 2011 8:50 am

Demographics

According to the most recent census, Zaras has a population of approximately 4.5 million in its total metropolitan area, with a density of 4721,93/km² and a population growth rate that over the past decade has hovered between 1-2% (mostly due to migration instead of birth rates).

When it was first founded, Zaras' population was mainly comprised of Dainarén residents as well as some refugees from Serinar. A long period of next-to-nonexistent border control, liberal immigration policy and guaranteed asylum laws have not only increased the population but radically altered the city's demographics, giving it a more diverse, cosmopolitan character. Due to the sheer amount of immigrants and ethnic minorities, English was designated as the city's official language to facillitate understanding between residents. Districts and neighbourhoods that have sizeable minorities are allowed to enforce official bilingual policies (such as in Aubedoré, Nasiek, Domov Cizí and wherever there are significant numbers of Montograndese residents) - as a result, it is usually unheard of for a Zaran resident to not know at least the basics of another langauge.

The Constitution mandates a strict separation between religion and state, but otherwise the government does not interfere and allows religions to freely operate as long as they comply with laws (especially the city's hate speech and anti-discrimination laws). Most surveys show that a majority of Zarans are either atheists or else do not strongly identify with a religion. Of those that do, on the other hand, the demographics are as follows:

Christianity ... 21%
Islam ... 18%
Judaism ... 13%
Buddhism ... 10%
Hinduism ... 9%
Other religions ... 29%

Most of the religions are scattered around various parts of the city, with the exception of Judaism and Islam: due to housing prices in the period when immigration started, Muslims are concentrated in the West (right below the California Beach region) and Southwest of the city, while the Jewish population mostly lives in Haifa Gardens and adjacent neighbourhoods.



The housing problem

Since its inception the city has followed a certain "vision" of urban planning that emphasises abundant green space, low-height buildings and public transport, largely modelled after Washington, DC. The city even had an Architectural Act promoted in 1967 that demanded a certain specific "type" of architecture for all buildings and restricted their size to six floors.

The problem with this type of approach should be easily obvious: Washington DC can exceed its allocated land area and have residents sprawl into neighbouring Virginia and Maryland, whereas Zaras has a limited amount of space and only one, hostile neighbour. Additionally, lax immigration and asylum policies led to explosive population growth throughout the 1970s and 1980s, growth that far outpaced the urban planning mandate - soon enough, all of Zaras' peninsular territory was effectively occupied with no more room to expand. The only adjustment done by the city since was to increase the amount of available floors to 10 in 1982 and begin a program of lengthening, demolishing and rebuilding in order to accomodate the city's population.

The restrictive urban planning policy has placed a huge strain on available accomodation in Zaras: living alone is virtually unheard of due to the city's rents and property taxes usually being beyond affordable by a single person. Thus, extended families and residents usually cramp together in small-to-medium sized flats offered by public housing (private housing is very rare - usually only found in the form of beach houses in the south - and stereotypically associated with the wealthy) in order to afford rent and property tax - even studio flats are usually shared by at least two persons to save money. Due to gentrification of several neighbourhoods, the worst strain and overcrowding in public housing tends to occur around the city's centre and north. As an observer once noted, "Zaras is a fine city as long as you're outside. Indoors, you can't even breathe without accidentally inconveniencing one or two people."

The pressure group Alliance for the Future (AF) was formed in the early 1990s to galvanise discontent with the city's housing problem and the various administrations' inability to remedy the problem. The group's first spokesman, Imam Zafira Yahya Amatullah ad-Din of the city's East Central Mosque, declared, "When we have to keep a house of worship, a house of worship for God's sake!, open as a refuge for whoever needs it and spend most of the zakāt we receive on helping people with rents instead of helping the poor, there's no more excuses we can possibly hear. The system is broken." The AF supports abolishing the city's Architectural Act and erecting high-rise flats to alleviate the problem of overcrowding, believing that this can be done without destroying the city's essential character.

Zaras' public housing is run under a "hybrid" system whereby it is technically owned by the city but officially the responsiblity of the people who live in them. This system has largely been adopted to provide incentives for Zarans to continually improve their housing, which is also encouraged by the Planning Commission's programs that provide low-interest loans and funding for larger-scale improvements or transformations.
Last edited by Zaras on Sun Jul 15, 2012 1:20 pm, edited 9 times in total.
Bythyrona wrote:
Zaras wrote:Democratic People's Republic of Glorious Misty Mountain Hop.
The bat in the middle commemmorates their crushing victory in the bloody Battle of Evermore, where the Communists were saved at the last minute by General "Black Dog" Bonham of the Rock 'n Roll Brigade detonating a levee armed with only four sticks and flooding the enemy encampment. He later retired with honours and went to live in California for the rest of his life before ascending to heaven.

Best post I've seen on NS since I've been here. :clap:
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Zaras
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Postby Zaras » Sun Nov 13, 2011 8:50 am

Government and politics

Political system

Zaras has evolved over its existence from being organised as a city with a strong mayor-council government to a hybrid system that is closer to parliamentary democracy.

The head of state of Zaras is the Governor, currently James D. Lin. The Governor is a largely ceremonial post with some reserve powers, analogous to presidents or monarchs in parliamentary democracies - a Governor's main roles are to call for elections, appoint Mayors, and, if the Mayor has lost a vote of confidence or asks for one, dissolve Parliament and call a snap election.

In the past, Governors were selected by the legislative for a five-year term, but this was changed after a 1993 reform; Governors are currently elected for a four-year term (two years apart from parliamentary elections) through a system similar to Louisiana's "jungle primary": all of the candidates and their party affiliations are placed on one ballot and whoever wins a plurality of the votes becomes Governor. During their term as Governor, the winning candidates must resign from their parties since the post is legally non-partisan.

Historical Governors
1. Nirála Kallin, Democratic Socialist, serving three terms between 1966-1981.
2. James Bay, Democratic Socialist, serving three terms between 1981-1996. He announced he would retire after the 1993 reform to allow for "a fresh start".
3. Jennifer Richard, serving two terms between 1996-2004. Richard was the first Conservative candidate to be elected Governor in a traditionally Democratic Socialist city, and enjoyed a close working relationship with Mayor Bernev during her time in office.
4. Saul Davis, serving one term between 2004-2008. A Democratic Socialist, Davis was the first Governor to serve only one term, as a health problem led him to announce he would not seek reelection.
5. James D. Lin, in office since 2008. Lin was the first Liberal Moderate to be elected to the position, and was reelected in 2012.

The head of government is the Mayor, usually the leader of the party that has either gained a majority in Parliament or manages to negotiate a coalition government. In the past the Mayor was a directly elected position, but since the transition to parliamentary democracy a Mayor is not directly elected, but appointed by the Governor after winning an election. The Mayor then names a Cabinet, which contains 9 ministries (Culture, Defense, Education, Environment, Finance, Foreign, Health, Justice, Transport) plus the Deputy Mayor (which, contrary to the name, is actually a position similar to a Home Affairs Ministry, responsible for national security, policing and immigration in cooperation with the Defense, Transport and Justice ministries) and the Planning Commission (a prestigious post since it is in charge of urban planning, development and administrating parks and green spaces). The position of minister without portfolio also exists, usually used for party leaders and people who the Mayor wants involved in government but cannot occupy a position.

The current cabinet is as follows:
Mayor: Shaheen Muhammad (DSP)
Deputy Mayor: Françoise Gerald (LMP)
Culture Ministry: Rishika Hadani (CTM)
Defense Ministry: Ali Batin Weiss (DSP)
Education Ministry: Shirley Williams Taylor (DSP)
Environment Ministry: Helen Westwood (Green)
Finance Ministry: Mark Seevertsen (LMP)
Foreign Ministry: Garán Hannes (DSP)
Health Ministry: Matthew Stewart (DSP)
Justice Ministry: Jenaly Dobáes (LMP)
Transport Ministry: Carla Queralt (LMP)
Planning Commissioner: Sarah Bernev (DSP)
Minister Without Portfolio: Iris Bernev (DSP)

Both the Mayor and their Cabinet wield a fusion of executive and legislative powers, but in practice power is frequently accrued and centralised by the Mayor and the Cabinet can be easily sidelined in decision-making, leading to accusations that there are insufficient Constitutional limits on power, making the position more akin to an "elected dictator" than a head of representative government and weakening democracy. Mayors of Zaras have traditionally shown some tendencies towards centralised decision-making (possibly because of the city's late adoption of representative democracy) and skepticism of reducing their powers (former Mayor Iris Bernev was once accused by the opposition of being an "elected dictator" after passing a new judiciary law, and her reply was "Benevolent dictator, thank you, dear."), although the reality that every government since 1978 has been a coalition has served to mitigate this.

Historical heads of government
1. Keith Samuel, 1956-1957 (Capital District Commissioner)
2. Marina Dora, 1957-1982 (Capital District Commissioner 1957-1966, Mayor 1966-1982)
3. Iris Bernev, 1982-2002 (Mayor 1982-2002, accused of unofficially continuing to govern from behind the scenes afterwards)
4. Caryn Sarnas, 2002-2010 (Mayor)
5. Shaheen Muhammad, 2010-present (Mayor)

Legislative power is held by the Parliament, a recent development: it was created in its modern form in November 1973 after heavy protests and threatened strikes over the government's failure to increase the size of the City Council to account for the city's rapid development and new demographics. The Parliament is bicameral, encompassing both the old, 20-member City Council and a 100-member Legislative Assembly - proposals over the years to abolish the City Council as wasteful or redefine it to make it more distinct than the Assembly have not succeeded. Any proposed law requires an approval by both chambers, first the Assembly and then the Council. If the Council rejects the law, it can either be sent back for retooling or the government can call an "overriding vote" in the Assembly, with a sufficient majority allowing it to bypass the Council and pass the law.

The Parliament's term can last five years total, but it is customary to call elections every four years since 1966. Snap elections are also allowable, but unheard of. According to election laws, the Parliament's term always expires on Independence Day, the 5th of January, the campaign season lasts three weeks, and the election takes place on the 26th of January, the government being sworn in on the 1st of February. The law specifies that a Mayor who has either lost or not run in the election shall remain in office until the handover, but so far only a distinct case of this has happened: in 1981, Iris Bernev defeated Marina Dora in a leadership election and was chosen as the DSP's leader for the election, but Dora was allowed to serve the remainder of her term until the handover. This was done because the city's prolonged lack of exceptional circumstances and political culture leads to heavy skepticism of governments that assume power without having won an election.

The Parliament's continued small size in proportion to the city's population has also drawn criticism, and spurred Mayors Sarnas and Muhammad into proposing measures to increase its size to make it more representative, but these have so far been tied up in procedural issues and not had any practical effect.

As of the 2010 election, the current composition of the legislative is as follows:

Legislative Assembly
Democratic Socialist Party 37
Conservative Party 28
Liberal Moderate Party 17
Green Party 16
Communist Party 2

Total: 100 seats

City Council
Democratic Socialist Party 6
Conservative Party 4
Liberal Moderate Party 5
Green Party 4
Communist Party 1

Total: 20 seats

The city's judicial system is divided into two tiers: District Courts, responsible for hearing either local, district-related matters, and Civic Courts, more wide-ranging issues that affect the entire metropolitan area. Above these two tiers lies the Supreme Court, the highest court of the city and the last one that can hear appeals in a trial. It is also the last step in the process of passing a law, being charged with guaranteeing that the proposed law does not contravene the Constitution.

Zaran law is largely based on statutory law, but courts are allowed to rule that a certain law might be unconstitutional and thus annull it. The government can then either accept its repeal or re-draft the law in compliance with the Constitution.

As a means to save expenditures, all branches of government are headquartered in the Government House, located at 1 Independence Boulevard, and all government workers have fixed salaries they cannot increase - Assemblymembers, district commissioners and Mayors can however recieve bonuses and penalties based on how well they govern (according to several criteria) and whether they've fulfilled their campaign promises. Otherwise, politicians and leaders live wherever they can find or afford to - the city does not have a special mansion for the Mayor or anything like that.



Political parties

Represented in Parliament

Democratic Socialist Party
Motto: Together, for a fair and just Zaras!

The Democratic Socialist Party was the first party registered in Zaras, on the same day as the declaration of independence. Unsurprisingly, it won the election three weeks later. Surprisingly, it went on to remain in office continuously, both alone (until 1978) and through coalitions with other parties (since 1978). Supporters have given it the nickname "The Natural Government Party" (detractors use it too, but with heavily sarcastic connotations) and the 40th anniversary of uninterrupted Socialist governments in 2006 used the slogan "40 years of experienced, proven leadership".

The DSP's program is roughly similar to Sweden's Social Democratic Party, and founding Mayor Marina Dora explicitly cited Sweden as the model that Zaras would use for its development. The party's policies include, among others, generous spending on welfare, education and healthcare, progressive taxation, strong unions as a "necessary" counterpart to employers' power, active labour market policies, generous parental leave, and government ownership of important sectors such as electricity and water distribution. They also support free, public education and healthcare, were instrumental in passing numerous laws to protect minorities from "arbitrary" discrimination, are officially supporters of feminism, and are opposed to implementing more restrictive immigration laws. Its social policies are notably liberal, including legalised drugs, prostitution, government-sanctioned gambling, extensive LGBT rights and a ban on guns being used outside the army.

The party used to have a reputation as excessively left-wing, hostile to business, incompetent on immigration and border control, and unable to run an economy, but it has since moved towards the centre from its previous "hard left" stance and no longer advocates nationalisation or interference in the private sector as long as it operates in accordance with city regulations. This shift to the centre is usually attributed to the party's electoral losses forcing it into a coalition with the Liberal Moderates in order to remain in government.

An anomaly amidst its centre-left policies is the party's support for mandatory military service, mandatory voting and large military expenditures. Its policies on the foreign front are also rather schizophrenic: the party is the chief architect of the city's aggressive, provocative stance towards Dainarén, but in regards every other nation it emphasises diplomacy and cooperation. It was responsible for passing a 1983 amendment to the Constitution that prevents Zaras from officially having diplomatic relations with non-democratic states, an amendment that has encountered no small amount of criticism for being unrealistic towards the demands of international relations.

The DSP's power base is generally understood to encompass the poor, the working class and trade unions, students, state employees, female voters, LGBT voters, various minority and immigrant voters, and parents. It also enjoys solid but occasionally fluctuating support from the middle classes (who support the party's public services but are skeptical of the generally high tax burdens) and some support from the retired (a group with split voting preferences).

Party leaders
Marina Dora, 1966-1981
Iris Bernev, 1981-present

Conservative Party
Motto: Responsibility and efficiency.

The second oldest party in Zaras (by merely one day) and the so-called "Eternal Second Best Party", the Conservatives have spent their entire existence so far in the opposition and have never managed to form a government. They came close in 1974 and 1978 when the Democratic Socialists were unpopular, but they were hurt by leader Jay Rocke's blunders in attempting to pander to the socially conservative electorate (a promise to institute "conservative values" backfired in 1974, and a poorly-phrased speech against the government's immigration policy further damaged the party in 1978), and factional in-fighting due to the party's inexperience in playing big-tent politics. Despite Rocke's removal as leader in 1978 and replacement with Rop Djänstak, the party continued to struggle with fighting between its moderate and "hardline" wings, and steadily experienced a decline in votes during the 1980s and early 1990s under a series of short-lived, unremarkable leaders, all of whom only managed to last one term before being rejected at the next four-year party convention.

Spurred on by the 1994 election, which saw the party's worst results since democratisation, the Conservatives chose Sarah East as their leader. East succeeded in rebuilding and rebranding the party by successfully expelling its more extreme right-wing members and moved the party to the centre, abandoning all of its social planks and focusing exclusively on economic policies. Older members criticised this change as making the party indistinguishable from the Liberal Moderates, but East succeeded in increasing the party's share of votes and modernising its image. She also proved to be an effective debater in the Assembly, leading Mayor Bernev to describe her as "the best opponent I've ever had". She announced that she would retire as party leader before the 2006 election, and was succeeded by Laura Jalki. Jalki has largely kept the centrist orientation and modernised image she inherited from East, but at the same time she successfully reasserted some of the party's more right-wing social stances to regain the conservative electorate.

The CP supports the city's liberal social policies, free market economic policies, a "strong" foreign policy, and other tenets of liberal conservatism. As a concession to the status quo, it supports the welfare state but wishes to reduce taxes and spending to ease the burden on citizens and companies. It has also in the past "theoretically" supported reinstating citizenship tests, rolling back the city's asylum policy, reducing car and petrol taxes, reducing "excessive" trade union power, and encouraging private healthcare and education. The latter two points have usually provoked rabid opposition from the Democratic Socialists, who are fanatically against such policies for fear that it may create "two-tiered education and healthcare" and affect the citizens' equality of opportunity.

Its power base includes the city's wealthier residents, more patriotic residents, motorists, the religious, capitalists, conservatives, private sector employees, the self-employed, entrepeneurs, and a section of the retired.

Party leaders
Jay Rocke, 1966-1978
Rop Djänstak, 1978-1980
Kar Restenis, 1980-1982
Carl Carson, 1982-1986
Fred Kierans, 1986-1990
Ted Ansélmo, 1990-1994
Sarah East, 1994-2006
Laura Jalki, 2006-present

Liberal Moderate Party
Motto: United for freedom and prosperity.

Founded in 1972 as a result of a merger between the Liberal Party and the Moderate Party, the Liberal Moderate Party traditionally presented itself as being the "centre" party of Zaras, appealing to voters not swayed by the Democratic Socialists' left-wing inefficiency or the Conservatives' infighting and excessively traditionalist views. Its is nowadays chiefly known for having been a part of coalition governments since 1978, and receive a large credit for helping steer the Democratic Socialists away from the "hard left" and towards more moderate policies.

The LMP has abandoned their occasional rightward lurches in its early years (such as supporting a reduction in welfare and immigration in 1978) and nowadays supports free market economics and privatisation, and are in agreement with the Democratic Socialists' social policies. Their key difference with the Democratic Socialists is an emphasis on individual freedom, leading to a corresponding opposition to laws the party feels excessively infringe on individual rights. Unlike the Conservatives, they are in favour of maintaining balanced labour laws and support negotiations between unions and employers as "the best way" to determine wages and benefits.

True to its centrist roots but more of an anomaly in Zaran politics, the LMP remains one party that defies the mainstream by advocating abolishing abolishing mandatory military service and moving away from an overly belligerent stance towards Dainarén, believing that it would be more productive to start engaging in bilateral talks. They also support scrapping the constitutional article that prevents the government from having official diplomatic relations with "authoritarian" states, believing that such a policy is naïve and ignorant of the realities of international relations. In criticising this policy, party leader Gerhard Stahlmann pointed out that the USA and Soviet Union always had bilateral relations with each other even during the Cold War.

Its power base includes the middle class, capitalists, the self-employed, motorists, and some students and lower-class citizens dissatisfied with Democratic Socialist economic policies. It used to receive some support from the wealthy, but those voters have since moved to the Conservative Party after the LMP entered coalitions with the DSP.

Trivia: The LMP used to be the only party in Zaras that only allowed its leaders to serve for a maximum of two terms. This policy was abolished in 1990 after they lost their popular leader Gerhard Stahlmann and suffered a reduced share of the vote in the election. It was also the only other party besides the Democratic Socialists and Communists to specifically call a convention to remove their leader before the four-year term's end, in this case due to dissatisfaction with Eèzesi Kirednüg's incompetence.

Party leaders
Albert Neven, 1972-1982
Gerhard Stahlmann, 1982-1990
Eèzesi Kirednüg, 1990-1992
Areyta Jakpanta, 1992-2006
Elzaveta Sirinale, 2006-present

Green Party
Motto: Respect Mother Earth and her giving ways, or trade away our children's days.

The Green Party was founded in 1979 after the DSP-LMP administration began to implement economic reforms, fearing that such reforms would lead to a loosening of regulations and increased pollution and environmental damage. Over the next three years, they managed to build up some support and win several district elections. They first entered Parliament in 1982, when they won a respectable 5 seats in the Assembly and 5 seats in the City Council and began to siphon environmentalist support away from the Democratic Socialist Party. However, its leader Peter Mads died of a heart attack in December 1985, and his rapidly-chosen successor Stephen B. Deng proved unable to maintain their momentum, as they lost their Assembly seats. The party then went through its mandatory internal struggle under the similarly uncharismatic Galjarad Swarti, and lost all but one Council seat in 1990 after an infamously disorganised campaign.

A party meeting was called shortly after the 1990 election and Swarti ousted, with Councillor Helen Westwood elected as its new leader. Westwood began campaigning heavily to revitalise the party's grassroots organisation, drafted in professional PR companies to remedy its troubles with the media, and used her Council seat regularly to raise protests about the DSP-LMP coalition's neglect of the environment, plan to build coal-fired power plants to ease the city's dependence on imported electricity, and inept handling of the Cape Horizon garbage beach incident.

With its sole Council seat putting it in a weak position for 1994 and a poor financial situation, the party spent all of its electoral funds commissioning a professionally-produced electoral broadcast entitled "Destruction" while Westwood went to work campaigning in person across the city. Aired as the final political broadcast of the 19th of January, the "Destruction" ad featured a montage of images from recent environmental disasters and facts about the government's increasing neglect of the city's environment with Neil Young's "Mother Earth (Natural Anthem)" playing in the background, and ended with a shot of the city's iconic Elsinore Park and the words "HOW MUCH FUTHER?". Recognised as one of the most iconic, effective, shocking and depressing political ads in the city's history (simultaneously), the broadcast led to a surge in the Green Party's support and an unprecedented 33 LA seats, crowding out the LMP and CP and pushing the Communists out of the Assembly entirely. The result forced the government to invite the Greens into a DSP-LMP-Green coalition, an option they accepted.

This surge could not be maintained and the party's seats have since fallen, but its support remains steady enough to make it a viable "fourth party", and keep it as part of all governing coalitions since 1994.

The Green Party is the closest Zaras has to a single-issue party: it heavily focuses on enforcing strict environmental policies, promoting renewable energy, and supporting measures to reduce the city's environmental impact as much as possible (especially taxation measures such as carbon, petrol, car and plastic bag taxes). Among some of its successes have been pushing the DSP-LMP away from excessively catering to business, promoting new environmental regulations and clean energy subsidies, organising the Nature's Volunteers groups to help maintain the city's parks and beaches, implementing strict pollution controls and mandatory recycling, and mandating limits on car emission. Some of its less popular stances have included opposing the building of any bridges to Sergan Island due to fears of the impact on its environment, proposing the introduction of a tax on air travel and opposing the expansion of the city's Najries Island airport.

Outside environmental stances, the party shares a concern for civil liberties with the LMP, and emphasises the importance of social justice and grassroots democracy. The Greens are also notably pacifistic and are the other party besides the LMP and Communists who support reducing military spending and abolishing mandatory military service - they have intentionally refused to comment on what their policy towards Dainarén is.

The Greens' power base includes students, environmentalists, the middle class, and some anarchists and socialists. They notably earn a lot of support from Zaran neighbourhoods that are known for their abundance of green space, like Aubedoré, California Coast, Cape Horizon, Rainbow Gardens, Parkland and Sergan Island.

Trivia: Due to the Green Party's somber electoral broadcasts and Helen Westwood's firebrand campaign style, they have acquired a reputation as being the least "politicianlike" parties in Zaras, more concerned with their cause than engaging in the pleasantries of PR-driven electoral politics. They also tend to be stereotyped as a bunch of doom-and-gloom-laden treehuggers dedicated to environmentalism and outright disdainful of using spin or other tricks to "connect" with voters. The Greens themselves have slyly alluded to these perceptions of the party during the 2006 election by using the slogan "Everyone is talking about independence. We're talking about the environment.", paraphrasing one of the German Green Party's 1990 campaign posters.

Party leaders
Peter Mads, 1979-1985
Stephen B. Deng, 1985-1986
Galjarad Swarti, 1986-1990
Helen Westwood, 1990-present

Communist Party
Motto: Workers of the world, unite!

The Communist Party was formed in 1973 as a splinter party for radical Democratic Socialists dissatisfied with the Dora administration's inability to nationalise the economy completely and begin the transition to socialism. They won no seats in the 1974 or 1978 elections, but did build up a following on a municipal level and won elections in several districts. Led by Stephen "Comrade" Aguiñaldo, the Communists began to assert themselves on the political stage in 1982, when they won two seats on the City Council. Their gains increased in 1986 and 1990 as a result of left-wingers disillusioned with the DSP-LMP's turn towards the centre.

However, the aging Comrade Aguiñaldo made a crucial mistake in rejecting an alliance with the Greens and dismissing Helen Westwood using very sexist terms in 1992. This alienated female voters and killed their support among students, leading to the party losing all their Assembly seats to the Green surge of 1994 and barely hanging on to a Council seat by 700 votes in Nasiek. Aguiñaldo narrowly managed to remain leader in the post-election convention but under extreme controversy and unpopularity, was deposed only a year later at a specially organised party convention. Aisha Holtzman was elected as his replacement. Since then the Communists have not managed to recapture their momentum, usually barely managing to win 2-3 seats in either chamber of Parliament, and have instead focused on activism at a grassroots and municipal level.

The party's ideology is in favour of overthrowing capitalism and beginning a transition to a communist society, duh. Its specific orientation under Aguiñaldo was Marxist with some Maoist tendencies. Holtzman has since reoriented the party towards a Trotskyist focus on avoiding a degenerated workers state and tendencies towards anarcho-communism and anarcho-syndicalism. Holtzman has been a vocal critic of "traditional" Communism's emphasis on people being "led" towards a utopia, emphasising that any changes or revolution must come through the will of the people, and at no point can they be deprived of representation. She has accordingly steered the party towards an ironically fanatical stance on protecting civil rights and freedoms. Rather predictably, they want to abolish mandatory military service.

Party leaders
Stephen "Comrade" Aguiñaldo, 1973-1995
Aisha Holtzman, 1995-present

Smaller parties

The Civic Tolerance Movement
Motto: United against discrimination and ignorance.

The Civic Tolerance Movement was founded after the 1978 elections as a party to represent the interests of the city's growing Muslim minority and combat perceived discrimination. Ever since, under the leadership of Ahmad Evran, the party has diversified its stances beyond simply representing the Islamic community and has become a largely centrist liberal party that emphasises minority representation and involvement in politics, immigration policies, and the need to combat racism and ignorance.

The CTM has no representation in Parliament but is successful at a municipal level thanks to its power base of ethnic minorities and immigrants. However, the election of Shaheen Muhammad as Mayor has brought increased attention from "mainstream" parties, with Muhammad appointing Commissioner Rishika Hadani to the cabinet as Culture Minister.

The Log Cabin Green Party/Ensalutu Kajuto Verda Partio
Motto: Brotherhood and Unity.

The LCGP/EKVP was formed on 29 July 2012 in anticipation of the successful referendum to create the Trankvilaj Altecoj district, and was successful in the subsequent elections for district commission. It officially supports multilingualist policies, Titoist economic policies, Bhutanese enviornmentalist policies, a union between Zaras and Montogranda and advocates repealing the Architectural Act to solve the housing problem.

The True Communist Front
Motto: A better Zaras for all, immediately!

A splinter party formed after Aisha Holtzman took over the leadership of the CP, this party is even less popular than the Communists, and is primarily meant to represent the more authoritarian left tendencies that Holtzman dropped like a hot potato after reshaping the party's ideology.

It has some success at a municipal level, and probably a snowball's chance in hell of actually getting in Parliament, though they're still more likely to win than the NUF.

National Union Front
Motto: Defending the city's future.

The NUF is Zaras' mandatory far-right nationalist/populist party, with all its attendant policies: halting further immigration, "repatriating" foreigners who live in Zaras, harsh "law and order" policies, deregulation, phasing out the welfare state, and so on and so forth. It has no parliamentary seats (and gaining any would be a massive shock to Zarans) and minimal representation on a municipal level, having never managed to win an election outright. Its power base is stereotypically associated with racist, ignorant, over-privileged bastards, and it's frequently endured attempted bans by various districts on the grounds of its extremism.

Other

Though not parties, an important influence on the city's political life is the Association of Dainarén Refugees (ADR), whose main role is to provide a representative organisation for political refugees who have fled Dainarén's military dictatorship and taken refuge in Zaras instead. The ADR is a key promoter of the city's current foreign policy towards their neighbour and supports conscription and the current high levels of defense and law enforcement spending.

Another significant pressure group is the Alliance for the Future (AF), which is so far smaller than the ADR but gaining members and attention. The AF was formed as a result of discontent with the city's planning policies and housing shortages, and wishes to repeal the 1967 Architectural Act and being to allow construction of skyscrapers.



Past election results

1966

City Council
Democratic Socialist Party 10

Total: 10 seats

1970

City Council
Democratic Socialist Party 15

Total: 15 seats

1974

Legislative Assembly
Democratic Socialist Party 52
Conservative Party 21
Liberal Moderate Party 27
Communist Party 0

Total: 100 seats

City Council
Democratic Socialist Party 12
Conservative Party 5
Liberal Moderate Party 3
Communist Party 0

Total: 20 seats

1978

Legislative Assembly
Democratic Socialist Party 45
Conservative Party 33
Liberal Moderate Party 22
Communist Party 0

Total: 100 seats

City Council
Democratic Socialist Party 4
Conservative Party 3
Liberal Moderate Party 13
Communist Party 0

Total: 20 seats

1982

Legislative Assembly
Democratic Socialist Party 48
Conservative Party 25
Liberal Moderate Party 23
Green Party 4
Communist Party 0

Total: 100 seats

City Council
Democratic Socialist Party 5
Conservative Party 1
Liberal Moderate Party 9
Green Party 3
Communist Party 2

Total: 20 seats

1986

Legislative Assembly
Democratic Socialist Party 48
Conservative Party 25
Liberal Moderate Party 23
Green Party 0
Communist Party 4

Total: 100 seats

City Council
Democratic Socialist Party 4
Conservative Party 0
Liberal Moderate Party 8
Green Party 3
Communist Party 5

Total: 20 seats

1990

Legislative Assembly
Democratic Socialist Party 48
Conservative Party 16
Liberal Moderate Party 20
Green Party 0
Communist Party 16

Total: 100 seats

City Council
Democratic Socialist Party 6
Conservative Party 0
Liberal Moderate Party 8
Green Party 1
Communist Party 5

Total: 20 seats

1994

Legislative Assembly
Democratic Socialist Party 40
Conservative Party 11
Liberal Moderate Party 16
Green Party 33
Communist Party 0

Total: 100 seats

City Council
Democratic Socialist Party 4
Conservative Party 0
Liberal Moderate Party 4
Green Party 11
Communist Party 1

Total: 20 seats

1998

Legislative Assembly
Democratic Socialist Party 42
Conservative Party 16
Liberal Moderate Party 21
Green Party 21
Communist Party 0

Total: 100 seats

City Council
Democratic Socialist Party 6
Conservative Party 2
Liberal Moderate Party 5
Green Party 7
Communist Party 0

Total: 20 seats

2002

Legislative Assembly
Democratic Socialist Party 40
Conservative Party 21
Liberal Moderate Party 20
Green Party 15
Communist Party 4

Total: 100 seats

City Council
Democratic Socialist Party 3
Conservative Party 4
Liberal Moderate Party 3
Green Party 8
Communist Party 2

Total: 20 seats

2006

Legislative Assembly
Democratic Socialist Party 38
Conservative Party 26
Liberal Moderate Party 16
Green Party 18
Communist Party 2

Total: 100 seats

City Council
Democratic Socialist Party 4
Conservative Party 4
Liberal Moderate Party 4
Green Party 4
Communist Party 4

Total: 20 seats



Political culture

The minimum voting age in Zaras is 16. Voting in elections is mandatory but failing to do so is not punishable by anything worse than a small fine, and as a result Zaras regularly has very large turnouts during its elections.

In terms of electoral systems, Zaras uses proportional representation for municipal and district elections, and first-past-the-post for Parliament. The latter is more due to tradition, since the City Council before 1973 was also elected using first-past-the-post. The first-past-the-post system has been criticised more or less constantly since the 1973 transition to parliamentary democracy for not being as representative as it should (there have been cases where a party receives more votes as a percentage but does not gain enough seats), and numerous proposals for its replacement have come and gone. The chief problem in that regard is that electoral reform is something that's near-universally supported by Zarans, but divisions appear on which specific system to replace first-past-the-post (the main split is between single transferable vote, preferential voting, or mixed member proportional), and political support for it is somewhat compromised by predictable fears that it might help everybody else more.

Thanks to factors such as mandatory voting and numerous Politics classes in schools and universities, Zaras can have quite a lively civic culture, with high rates of trade union or party membership and volunteering. This political culture is chiefly based around free expression of grievances and vigilance against the possibility of governments trying to curb civil rights. Protests, rallies and vigils are quite common in the city's large public squares - in fact, it's considered a very serious sign if there isn't at least some kind of gathering in a square.

Zaran politics at a grassroots level can also tend to be quite radicalised, as shown by the support for further left-wing parties such as the True Communist Front, the Workers' Party and the Reconstruction Party (none of them represented at a metropolitan level, but in some districts) and the rate of membership for anarchist associations (or, less positively, far-right wing parties like the NUF). A few of the neighbourhoods are famous for being strongholds for radical left-wingers and anarchists, such as University Village and Workers' Quarter.

An additional part of Zaran politics is an obsession with restricting the amount of influence that business can have over politicians. Corporations and businesses in Zaras are legally banned from donating money to parties (only people can do that), and during elections each party receives equal amounts of time for electoral broadcasts, either at a metropolitan or district level.

The following political compass chart roughly sums up the city's politics, although it tends to understate the Conservative Party's acceptance of the city's social liberal policies and makes the Green Party look less leftist than they are. The compass also depicts parties as their policy positions technically present them, whereas in practice the process of negotiation and compromise inherent in lawmaking makes them not as "extreme" as they might appear.



OOC: Thanks to Yohannes for showing how to remove the table spaces.
Last edited by Zaras on Wed Sep 26, 2012 5:24 pm, edited 35 times in total.
Bythyrona wrote:
Zaras wrote:Democratic People's Republic of Glorious Misty Mountain Hop.
The bat in the middle commemmorates their crushing victory in the bloody Battle of Evermore, where the Communists were saved at the last minute by General "Black Dog" Bonham of the Rock 'n Roll Brigade detonating a levee armed with only four sticks and flooding the enemy encampment. He later retired with honours and went to live in California for the rest of his life before ascending to heaven.

Best post I've seen on NS since I've been here. :clap:
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Political compass (old), Political compass (new)
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Zaras
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Founded: Nov 06, 2011
Ex-Nation

Postby Zaras » Sun Nov 13, 2011 8:51 am

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Administrative divisions and neighbourhoods

Zaras is divided into 57 districts, which are in turn divided into smaller municipalities. The districts are governed by commissions with a chief commissioner, elected every four years. The districts themselves vary in size, some coinciding with certain neighbourhoods and some incorporating more than one. Some of their shapes can appear odd when seen on a map due to historical evolution: Zaran law allows districts to be split or municipalities to be reassigned to certain districts either by governments, or due to voter initiative. At independence, Zaras only had twelve districts in total, three for each of its northern, central and southern regions, but rapid expansion and population increases led governments to gradually split the districts for ease of local governance until they reached their current configuration.

The districts are usually grouped into North, Central and South Zaras. They and their constituent neighbourhoods can be described as follows:

Northern

  1. Parkland, one of the less inhabited neighbourhoods of continental Zaras. As belied by its name, most of its territory is taken up by the Serenity Garden City Park, with the northern border with Dainarén given over to the mandatory border patrols and powerful transmitters. The small population is concentrated along the Saleyrak Coast; the resulting low density and lack of development giving the neighbourhood a secluded atmosphere similar to an undiscovered beach or the Lost Coast (quite ironic considering it is right next to the Dainarén border).
  2. Border Land, a slightly more developed, working-class district hosting the Jeffries Military Base and a raft of immigrants (since the city's main border crossing is located in it). The city's main north-south thoroughfare, the multiple-lane, elaborately constructed and maintained Independence Boulevard (modeled deliberately after the Champs-Élysées) begins in this district, at the intersection of Bessieville Street and Sharp Road.
  3. Nasiek, a similarly working-class neighbourhood with some middle-class residents, traditionally the site of industrial manufacturing and fishing. It has been the site of several skirmishes with Dainarén forces in the past, with the most recent and prolonged one taking place in 2007.
  4. Sunset City is a somewhat more affluent neighbourhood where the city's first technology-focused manufacturing plants were built in the 1970s, causing no small number of silly double-entendre jokes about being "Zaras' Silicon Valley" (due to the already-existing stereotype of its female residents' physical appearance). Besides IT, it also earns money from tourism, since it is the district where the city's California Beach region begins. What are now Sunset City, North California Beach and South California Beach used to be a single district until 1979, when Sunset City voted to split off and constitute a separate district.
  5. Workers' Quarter, as the name probably shows, is a traditionally working-class neighbourhood that has been affected by the government's shift to a more centrist approach to economics. Its residents are usually stereotyped as middle-aged Eastern European industry workers wearing flat caps and tuques who spend a lot of time railing against how the Democratic Socialists "sold them out" and vote for various far-left parties instead. Which has a large amount of truth to it, since the district is a Communist Party stronghold. It is somewhat of a centre for fishing, having the most aquaculture facilities and heavily regulated fishing ports.
  6. Cape Keratian, on the other hand, is stereotyped as a bunch of pretentious rich Conservative Party voters who don't have enough money to move to Cape Horizon. The district's main source of income is tourism, to the point that when Zarans aren't mocking it as having delusions of being Monaco, they're mocking it for being a trashy, overpriced tourist trap for people unfamilliar with California Beach, Aubedoré or Cape Horizon.
  7. The two districts now known as North California Beach and South California Beach continued to form a single district until the government decided to separate the two in 1984 since a district of that size proved cumbersome to govern. They form a distinctly middle-class region whose chief attraction represents the aforementioned beaches and coastline, but have won praise for avoiding becoming a tourist trap like Cape Keratian. Besides that, the North's other chief source of income is computer technology, while the South has a large service sector. The electorate in both districts is chiefly concerned with avoiding the degradation of their coastline, which translates into solid support for the Green Party.
  8. Hollis Field is a quiet, mixed-income neighbourhood with some parks, well-maintained residential areas, and no clear majority population as a result of immigration. It is sometimes referred to as Zaras' most "average" neighbourhood, and possibly the best embodiment of Marina Dora's vision for how Zaras was supposed to turn out. Not to be confused with East Hollyfield, which is in the south but is usually referred to without the disambiguating "East". Mixing the two up on purpose is an age-old prank in the city.
  9. Sandy Plain is one of the North's wealthier neighbourhoods, even more so than Cape Keratian, but they usually escape severe mockery on account of the residents being less ostentatious about it than their north-western neighbours. Its residential areas are a combination of terraced houses, beach houses and mansions. Towards the south there are some upmarket shopping areas.
  10. Esthasan is a mixed residential-industrial district with significant variations in residents' incomes, but unlike Hollis Field it is considerably more homogenous. The district has a majority Dainarén refugee population, and the Association of Dainarén Refugees has its headquarters here.
  11. Yehat is considerably less well-off than its surrounding neighbourhoods, being primarily a refuge for either the Zarans priced out of Sandy Plain and East Simi due to gentrification, or fleeing from Larián. It is also a Communist stronghold, and its central Red Plaza is frequently the site of gatherings and rallies by left-wingers.
  12. East Simi is wealthy but somewhat behind Sandy Plain and Cape Keratian on the average earnings scale. However, its ethnic and racial homogenity has given it a terrible perception as being populated by ignorant, barely concealed racists who spend their time ranting about the evils of the damn furriners, joining the NUF or telling the unemployed it's their fault they have no jobs. The latter is mostly because East Simi used to be part of Yehat but voted to secede in 1985, a fact that Yehat residents are still bitter about since it deprived them of additional revenue and caused the district's average income to plunge. Needless to say, residents of the two districts can have quite a bitter rivalry even nowadays. Its name comes from the former district of Simi, which was gradually split until it was reduced to its current size - the former West Simi was renamed Yehat.
  13. Derauan is practically a split district: north and east of Diamond Road is poorer and divided between residential and industrial areas like Esthasan, while south and west heavily gentrified and even wealthy. The district is known for being a key home for private schools and universities, thanks to Commissioner David Kenneth (1986-1994) and his successful drive to attract such institutions. The north-south split makes elections for the District Commission quite heated and the day-to-day governing of the district a headache.
  14. Larián used to be a reasonably well-to-do neighbourhood, but it had a dramatic fall from grace due to several poorly-thought-out local policies. Nowadays, it is the poorest neighbourhood in the city. Various programs have been implemented to revitalise the neighbourhood, with some success. Notably, despite its disadvantaged financial status, Larián is not noticeably worse off than the rest of the city, and is still a clean, safe place to live, even if it has a slightly higher poverty rate. This is sometimes overlooked by foreign analysts, who tend to make the mistake of thinking it's somehow a vast swath of desperate poverty and criminality when it isn't anywhere close to such.
  15. Gerjen is usually regarded as the Western equivalent of California Beach, except it relies nearly exclusively on tourists and services and has no real industry to speak of. The area is known for its abundant parks, open paved areas and widely-spaced houses, which make it a nice, quiet retreat but also leaves it exposed to gentrifying pressures - rising house prices have driven its less upwardly-mobile residents into Larián almost since the two neighbourhoods began development. It is also considered a solidly Green Party district.
  16. Trankvilaj Altecoj was created after a successful redistricting referendum on 6 August 2012, prompted by concerns that the Esperanto-speaking, Montograndan minority of South California Beach was not properly represented in the South California Beach district comission. As can be deduced, it is where the Montograndan residents of Zaras are mostly concentrated, though the area retains a minority of English-speaking Zarans and Francophone emigrants, as well as allophone residents who usually end up there because it's hard to find a place to live.
  17. The Industry Quarter's name isn't accurate anymore: most of its industry moved out to other areas of the city, but it compensated by attracting middle-class residents from neighbouring South California Beach and Upmarket. Nowadays, it's a well-to-do district which hosts the most luxury goods markets in Zaras, giving it the reputation of "Zaras' SoHo".
  18. Issei suffered from its proximity to Larián, as the northern neighbour's decline and demographic pressures from Gerjen have pushed an influx of people into an ill-prepared Issei (quite a metaphor for Zaras' immigration policy in the 1970s). It used to be named in honour of its small Japanese minority, but nowadays the district is more diverse, but has an unfortunate reputation for being overcrowded and haphazardly built, with a few eyesore buildings and much less green space than one would expect from a Zaran neighbourhood.
  19. Domov Cizí is another middle-class district, but it goes against the generally ethnically mixed North by having a distinct identity and a majority of Czech, Slovak and Polish immigrants. Its central Prague Square has a statue of King Wenceslas and a monument commemorating the 1989 collapse of authoritarian regimes in Eastern Europe and their victims.
Central

  1. Hásan Qádar is a primarily working-class district with a large artist colony in the western Qaraustan neighbourhood. It's the district where the distinctive California Beach coastline officially ends, but it hasn't succeeded in capitalising on it for tourist money as well as Sunset City or North/South California Beach. It is a majority Muslim district, mostly hosting immigrants from Northern African Arabic nations.
  2. Upmarket's name is a grotesque joke nowadays, since the luxury shops have moved to Industry Quarter and The Port. While not as ugly or haphazardly built as Issei, Upmarket shares a reputation for being one of the most overcrowded districts in Zaras. There is even an entire category of jokes about living in Upmarket, chiefly centered around the comedy of having too many people crammed in small living spaces - roughly analogous to Chinese jokes. Due to this reputation and somewhat smaller streets, Upmarket is usually avoided by car traffic and public transport like the plague, which manages to cause some congestion issues in nearby Hásan Qádar and The Port instead.
  3. The Port, as its name suggests, is extensively developed and the city's main centre for shipping, naval transport and trading. Beyond the coast, the west is viewed as somewhat of a playground for the rich, since it hosts the luxury stores that fled Upmarket some time ago.
  4. Kuangan is the city's most heavily inhabited island, known for its nice coastline and being the home of several technical colleges and IT facilities, much like California Beach.
  5. Najries is the site of Zaras International Airport, the city's main airport. The land unoccupied by airport facilities is left as a park, and recent proposals to expand the airport to accomodate increasing traffic have been met with firm opposition by the Greens.
  6. Gateway Drive is the main route into the city through the airport, thus explaining its name (also, its shape kind of resembles Alaska, explaining its nicknames of "The Great Mediterranean North" and "The Thumb of Zaras"). The areas around the eponymous Gateway Drive motorway are less developed and more scenic, with most of the population concentrated along its northern and south-eastern coastlines.
  7. Marina is yet another stereotypically pleasant middle-class neighbourhood with good beaches. The only things that separate it from the others are the fact that it is Zaras' largest gay village, and that it is the district where Gateway Drive intersects with Independence Boulevard, near its western border.
  8. Upper Tyanik used to be a part of Haifa Gardens, but voted to separate and form its own district in 1987 as a result of resentment by the locals that the Haifa Gardens District Commission was neglecting the area's development. It is primarily a mixed residential-commercial area, but contains the beginning of the Parkway Promenade, which runs along the Saleyrak Coast into Lower Tyanik. The south of the district has some small parks.
  9. Haifa Gardens has a Jewish majority population (with Reform Judaism being the majority by only a few percentage points), the most synagogues in Zaras, and is officially part of the city's "Upper Greenbelt". As a result of the latter, the south of the district is largely left undeveloped with the exception of planting trees, making it a popular place for outdoor recreation, and the rest of the district is also quite heavy on the green spaces. Unsurprisingly, since the 1970s it slowly shifted from supporting the DSP exclusively to becoming also a stronghold for the Greens. Local politics in the district can be summarised as the DSP- and Green-supporting majority banding together to tell the Haredi minority to fuck off. Notably among these culture war policies, the district sued Haredi private schools in 1985 for violating the city's educational law (specifically, infringing their students' civil rights and not adhering to mandatory academic standards and admission policies), won, and had them all closed the next year and their students reassigned to public schools. The resulting controversy polarised the district's population and drove the non-Jewish population along the coast to vote to secede so they could govern themselves more effectively. To this day, Haifa Gardens does not recognise private educational institutions.
  10. Green Terrace is basically exactly like Haifa Gardens but without a clear ethnic or religious majority and a larger, more affluent population (Haifa is mostly middle-class). The south is similarly given over to the Upper Greenbelt, forcing many cars to congest into underground passages to get across it.
  11. Aubedoré is a majority French-speaking neighbourhood and, much like neighbouring The Port, considerably affluent: it routinely ranks as one of the richest districts of Zaras. The Upper Greenbelt cuts across the district through the middle: the north is the most affluent while the south is a bit more pronouncedly middle-class. It has a sizeable minority of students living in the south, meaning that politically the district is a battleground between the CP, DSP and Greens. It also hosts the Frank Zappa and George Harrison Memorial Bridges and the underground tunnel connecting Kuangan to the rest of the city.
  12. Lower Tyanik used to be just "Tyanik", but had "Lower" added to its name by the government after Upper Tyanik broke off from Haifa Gardens. Besides its chief tourist attraction of the Parkway Promenade, it's notable as being a majority Christian neighbourhood. The Conservative Party has in the past tried to court this electorate at the cost of alienating the less socially conservative residents from the rest of the city, but has since abandoned that policy and shifted to the centre.
  13. Sherwood Beach is a mostly middle-class, quite heavily inhabited neighbourhood with a population split between a Muslim majority and a Buddhist minority.
  14. Following Lower Tyanik and Sherwood Beach is a "circle" formed of the districts The Triangle, Tarhat, Central Europa, New Manila and Lower Copenhagen. Dubbed the "Choking Circle" or the "Claustrophobia Circle", these districts are known for being the central areas with the most heavy population pressure, and while not overcrowded or ugly like Upmarket and Issei, the area exercises the worst strain on the city's public housing system. Living alone here is a true anomaly, and having about 4-5 residents crowd into a single flat is not unheard of. Students especially tend to seek accomodation in the Choking Circle due to its smaller distance from University Village compared to other areas. New Manila is famous as a hotbed for anarchism and squatters, having quite a few occupation movements, while Central Europa has a majority European population and Lower Copenhagen is overwhelmingly Danish (and named after its main thoroughfare, Copenhagen Street). Independence Boulevard runs through Tarhat and New Manila in a straight line.
  15. Stephenson Hills, named after famed social activist Thomas Stephenson, is a much less agoraphobic neighbourhood to the east of the Choking Circle, more visibly middle-class than Aubedoré. It has a reputation as an artist colony and a generally "weird" place, with numerous events taking place throughout the year, usually either spontaneous or community-organised. Street parties are very common, as well as campfires along the eastern beaches.
  16. Westwood is a mixed-income, primarily residential neighbourhood undergoing some gentrification, with a Muslim majority. The south of the district is left undeveloped and marks the beginning of the "Lower Greenbelt", the first greenbelt created by the city in the late 1960s.
  17. Rainbow Gardens is sometimes called "the Central Parkland", and that about sums up its appeal. The Lower Greenbelt passes through the north, necessitating that that part be left mostly undeveloped, but the rest of the district is planned similarly to Gerjen, with abundant green space (including the Zaras Botanical Gardens) and low-key habitation.
  18. Shanti has the north undeveloped due to the greenbelt, but the south is mostly a mixture of residential, commercial and industrial space, showing the city's zoning laws at their zenith of disorganisation. True to its name, it has a majority Indian population.
  19. Haran is a primarily commercial district in the north, serving both the people of Stephenson Hills and the students of the Choking Circle. The south is part of the Lower Greenbelt, and therefore is left undeveloped with the exception of some parks.
  20. Zellantes Beach has a varied population, some manufacturing facilities, beaches, and not much else. It has quite the thriving music scene though, having spawned bands both famous (The Fnordern Lads) and cult classic (The Butt Puppies). Students who are sick of living in the Choking Circle usually try to find refuge here.
  21. West Persia is an ethnically mixed, once again majority Muslim part of the city which has undergone gentrification. The eastern side of the district is generally crammed with students - due to its proximity to University Village, it is considered "prime student real estate".
  22. Art Centre was one of the city's first thriving neighbourhoods, even if it remained primarily working-class for most of its history. It was declared an artist colony in the 1980s and nowadays hosts some important cultural institutions such as the Zaras Metropolitan Theatre. It used to be larger, but several of its northern neighbourhoods managed to organise a referendum in the early 1990s and voted to join Rainbow Gardens instead, dissatisfied with the emphasis on cultural development and inattention to residential needs.
  23. Delphi is a mostly Greek, well-to-do neighbourhood which unfortunately suffers from insane housing prices due to its closeness to the South, making it also an attractive neighbourhood for university students.
  24. Jiranh used to be a larger district, but the Harbour section voted to form a separate district in 1991. It was designed in the 1960s to be a primarily commercial district, serving the needs of the city's residents. While it remains known for its variety of shops and restaurants, the city's heavy sprawl northwards has reduced its strength as a commercial district somewhat.
  25. Harbour is... well, the city's harbour. Okay, other harbour besides The Port. Unlike Jiranh's commercial orientation, it was primarily designed for residential and industrial purposes. Its shore has similarly been adapted for shipping needs, receiving only slightly less traffic than The Port.
Southern

  1. Khorasan was originally an upscale residential area, but heavy immigration during the 1970s and shifting demographics have turned it into a Muslim-majority middle-class district. It has the city's largest mosque, the East Central Mosque, which is a popular tourist attraction.
  2. Diplomatic Quarter is the site of the city's embassies, which inflates housing prices and gives it a reputation for being a wealthy neighbourhood filled with politicians. It forms part of the "Amphitheatre" with University Village, Crosland-Williams, Central District, East Hollyfield and Cape Horizon, a region thus nicknamed because the districts' shapes make it resemble an ancient amphitheatre.
  3. University Village is where most of the city's prestigious universities are massed. It's an area famous for green spaces, large and nearly omnipresent campuses, students, and radicalism. There are few actual residents in the Village since most of its territory was marked off for university-building, but there are plenty of commercial places. Independence Boulevard technically "runs" through the district: the border between University Village and Crosland-Williams matches the boulevard's shape exactly.
  4. Crosland-Williams is named in honour of former UK education secretaries Anthony Crosland and Shirley Williams. Predictably, the district is home to more universities that were beaten to the punch to build campuses in University Village, including the famous Hannah University. However, the district's larger shape means that it is more residential than UV, and it's not completely swamped with people who either study or work in universities.
  5. The Central District is the city's, well, central district. It is chiefly occupied by the imposingly large, renovated and expanded Tori Amos Civic Centre (TACC), which is possibly the city's best known landmark and definitely the last vestige of its early Brasília-inspired plans before it switched to the Washington model. Somewhat modeled after the Three Powers Plaza from Brasília, the TACC hosts the Government House, a massive open paved area with some fountains, and The Zaran Monument, a classicist statue which depicts (female) personifications of Justice, Work and Education crossing hands with broken chains at their feet, thus representing the city's main goals (additionally, the Monument is visible through most of the city due to being much taller than the Architectural Act limit). Otherwise, the TACC is surrounded by parks for almost the entire length of the Central District. The TACC's sheer scale has made it a popular tourist attraction and meeting place for Zarans, but has also earned criticisms for being "monotonous" and "overblown", and is sometimes cited as an example of the excessively ambitious, megalomanical ambitions of the ruling party that led Zaras into an economic crisis in the 1970s. It is an everyday sight in Zaras to see at least one political protest, vigil or gathering in the Centre, and certain mass protests in the past have even managed to occupy its entire length. Independence Boulevard cuts right through the middle of the TACC, but due to frequent protest activity, two ring roads have been constructed around the district, to be used whenever a protest is large enough to shut down access to the boulevard.
  6. East Hollyfield is a well-to-do neighbourhood known mainly for hosting one of the Independence Boulevard ring roads and having the Metropolitan Zoo in the north. Its pleasant beaches are also something of a tourist attraction, which translates into solid support for the Green Party. In the past it was popular among city bureaucrats and politicians to live in East Hollyfield. This is no longer the case due to rising house prices, but the region still has a bit of a reputation for being "privileged".
  7. Cape Horizon is one of the richest districts of Zaras, chiefly known for its white-wall, low-roof seaside condominums and bungalows, water sports and well-managed tourist resorts. "Cape Horizon" in popular parlance is used to indicate that somebody might be considered "old money" in Zaran society and might even have the ego to go with said privilege. The district used to be solidly Conservative until worries over beach degradation pushed it into the Greens' camp in the 1990s - it's now more or less evenly split between the two parties.
  8. Sergan is the sword-shaped island to the south of Zaras, and also something of a tourist attraction even though it's decidedly more working-to-middle-class than Cape Horizon. Its development proceeded very slowly in the past due to a lack of connections to the mainland. Even today, the only connection to the peninsula is through an undeground tunnel and a Metro station. Proposals to build a suspension bridge have roused opposition and controversy due to the fears that such a brige would destroy the island's distinctive skyline and potentially lead to ruinous development and make it another Cape Keratian.
The descriptions tend to overemphasise certain characteristics for the neighbourhoods: Zaras does not really have designated, unified residential, commercial or industrial areas, as its development in some ways was haphazard and the government never developed a single zoning policy but instead went on a case-by-case basis.



OOC: Once again I owe a big thanks to Steel and Fire for saving my arse with his mapwizardry. Thanks!
Last edited by Zaras on Tue Oct 02, 2012 9:31 am, edited 23 times in total.
Bythyrona wrote:
Zaras wrote:Democratic People's Republic of Glorious Misty Mountain Hop.
The bat in the middle commemmorates their crushing victory in the bloody Battle of Evermore, where the Communists were saved at the last minute by General "Black Dog" Bonham of the Rock 'n Roll Brigade detonating a levee armed with only four sticks and flooding the enemy encampment. He later retired with honours and went to live in California for the rest of his life before ascending to heaven.

Best post I've seen on NS since I've been here. :clap:
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Postby Zaras » Sun Nov 13, 2011 8:51 am

Law enforcement

Maintaining law and order in Zaras largely falls under the responsibilities of the Deputy Mayor. There are several institutions responsible for law enforcement, namely:

  • The Zaras Metropolitan Police (ZMP), the main law enforcement institution. The ZMP is divided into public security forces and specialised police forces, with the latter numbering slightly more than the former due to them encompassing the city's extensive intelligence and antiespionage units. It regularly recieves a sizeable budget allocation and has larger human resources than the other law enforcement institutions (partly due to the establishment of the Special Volunteer Force [SVF] in 1968).
  • The Zaras National Gendarmerie (ZNG), an institution that is simultaneously under the authority of the Defense Ministry and Deputy Mayor, and is legally bound to cooperate with the other police forces. Its members are largely drawn from the ranks of the city's military forces (either permanent members or national servicemen) and charged with providing additional manpower and policing for the civilian population, but its responsibilities also include policing the military and collaborating on various specialised matters.
  • The Zaras Customs and Borders Guards (ZCBG) is mainly responsible to patrolling the city's borders. They are the city's least funded police force due to the various' administrations lenient immigration and asylum policies and tolerance of smuggling towards Dainarén. However, they are considered one of the riskier assignments since in the event of an attack by ground forces, they would practically represent the first line of defense and be responsible for immediately notifying the government.
  • The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), which has wide-ranging powers to investigate corruption and malpractice charges. They are usually credited with keeping the city's corruption rate low, but are sometimes criticised for their excessive powers and the possibility that they could be abused.
Zaras has traditionally favoured policies aimed at having a large police force "on every street corner", and indeed the city's numerous institutions and large police:citizen ratio is credited with keeping the crime rate very low. The various police forces also enjoy a mostly positive public perception, chiefly due to their ubiquituous presence in the city, heavy emphasis on community policing and extensive training to prevent "inflammatory" incidents and police brutality.

Because of the city's strict ban on civilian ownership of handguns outside of the military or police, police officers are usually not issued bulletproof vests. The law enforcement institutions themselves are usually heavily armed, which has been criticised in the past for allegedly "distancing" the police from the population and encouraging excessive use of force.

An anomaly for the city is the lack of a unified intelligence division (the police forces' various departments have to cooperate with each other instead), a dedicated counter-terrorist and special operations unit along the lines of the GSG9 (this is usually left to specialised police units) and a crowd control force. The latter is because the city's political culture bears a strong emphasis on free speech and the right to protest, and consequently there is a strong public bias against establishing a separate police for crowd or riot control, seen as a potential "backdoor" assault on civil rights (the same reason why using tear gas or water cannons by the police is legally banned). Police duties during protests are usually limited to standing by in case disorder breaks out and physically separating opposing factions from each other to prevent fights from starting.

Prison space in Zaras is usually in quite short supply due to the city's already strained development and limited available land space. Its justice system thus tends to focus more on rehabilitation than retribution when trying people convicted of crimes.
Last edited by Zaras on Sun Jun 10, 2012 3:37 am, edited 2 times in total.
Bythyrona wrote:
Zaras wrote:Democratic People's Republic of Glorious Misty Mountain Hop.
The bat in the middle commemmorates their crushing victory in the bloody Battle of Evermore, where the Communists were saved at the last minute by General "Black Dog" Bonham of the Rock 'n Roll Brigade detonating a levee armed with only four sticks and flooding the enemy encampment. He later retired with honours and went to live in California for the rest of his life before ascending to heaven.

Best post I've seen on NS since I've been here. :clap:
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Zaras
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Postby Zaras » Sun Nov 13, 2011 8:51 am

Image
The dark blue represents the city's official enforcement of territorial waters against Dainarén. The western end is not visible on this map.
Foreign affairs

Zaras has traditionally not been a significant presence in global or regional affairs, and to understand why we must understand its stance towards Dainarén. At least to a certain extent it's arguable that Marina Dora's declaration of independence in January 1966 was an opportunistic act, aimed at both sparing the city from the ravages of Dainarén's bloody civil war and gaining more power - one cannot overlook the fact that her first action as Mayor was to send her meagre security forces to seize all of the Nyari Peninsula and outlying islands. In these first couple of years the city did not have relations with Dainarén as the civil war had deprived it of a unitary government, but its stance wasn't notably negative.

All this changed after Kenen Erán seized office and announced his refusal to recognise the city's independence. Such an announcement directly caused the government to adopt widespread militarisation policies and are primarily responsible for the city's large spending on law enforcement and defense. However, Erán failed to seize the opportunity to act on his promise since he was distracted by attempting to wipe out the last insurgents and rebels within Dainarén itself, a process that quickly devolved into a costly attrition war and lasted until 1980.

The relationship between Zaras and Dainarén can best be described as a "cold war", and Zaras' foreign policy involves being heavily defensive and openly defiant towards the dictatorship:

  • Early in the conflict, Zaran forces began to enforce a claim to most of the Gerjen Gulf and Karnap Strait as "territorial waters". This claim is still in effect today despite blatantly conflicting with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 1982, and the Navy enforces a strict ban on any kind of Dainarén ships entering Zaran waters, contravening accepted maritime policies of freedom of navigation and innocent passage.
  • Zaras has very loose policies in place for asylum and immigration, which were primarily intended to benefit refugees fleeing the repression and poverty of Dainarén. The government also continues to officially tolerate smuggling of goods from Zaras to southern Dainarén, and has had at least a few incidents where Zaran border guards shot at Dainarén security forces trying to prevent citizens from fleeing across the border. Zaras officially claims exclusive jurisdiction over enforcing the border between the city and its former country.
  • Under Marina Dora, the Zaran government engaged in building high-powered TV and radio trasmitters right next to the Nyari Peninsula border as well as on Pordhay, Leseruek and Devan Islands as part of a deliberate "information warfare" policy, wishing to achieve a similar situation to how West German TV channels were easily receivable and watched by most of East Germany's population. Later governments have still adhered to the policy of attempting to undermine Dainarén's dictatorship by providing powerful transmitters in order to allow some of Dainarén's population the ability to follow both Zaran and foreign broadcasts, which are less censored and provide more information than the Dainarén ones.
  • Since Erán's seizure of power, Zaras has officially followed a policy of endorsing any and all opposition to the regime and allowing it to operate freely within the city (similar to how Florida is a kind of hotbed for Cuban anti-Communist activists and refugees). The city has made quite a sizeable contribution to the opposition's cause by following the policy of informational warfare, providing resources and expertise to activists and smuggling resources into Dainarén.
Due to this extensive focus on trying to undermine the Dainarén dictatorship, the city has otherwise somewhat neglected foreign policy, earning it a stereotype as being insular, paranoid and ineffective on the international front. Iris Bernev was the first Mayor to try and combat this perception by dedicating more attention to foreign policy, and her successors have similarly devoted attention to increasing Zaras' involvement on an international level.

Zaras' closest foreign relationship is with the Principality of Montogranda, which similarly seceded from Dainarén during its civil war but was unlucky enough to have endured an attempted re-annexation war, to which Zaras contributed aid and military forces. The two countries are incredibly good friends as far as states go (that whole war thing helps; the closest equivalent to describe their relationship would be Canada and the Netherlands), close economic cooperation, and also that military base Zaras maintains in Montogranda just in case Dainarén gets any more bright ideas about invading again.
Last edited by Zaras on Sun Jun 10, 2012 3:38 am, edited 9 times in total.
Bythyrona wrote:
Zaras wrote:Democratic People's Republic of Glorious Misty Mountain Hop.
The bat in the middle commemmorates their crushing victory in the bloody Battle of Evermore, where the Communists were saved at the last minute by General "Black Dog" Bonham of the Rock 'n Roll Brigade detonating a levee armed with only four sticks and flooding the enemy encampment. He later retired with honours and went to live in California for the rest of his life before ascending to heaven.

Best post I've seen on NS since I've been here. :clap:
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Zaras
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Postby Zaras » Sun Nov 13, 2011 8:51 am

Military

The military of Zaras is under the control of the Defense Ministry, but the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces is the Governor. It is divided between the Army, Navy, and Air Force. Its primary mandate is to defend the city, and patrol Zaran territorial waters.

Since 1970, Zaras has decreed a mandatory period of national service for every citizen who reaches the age of 18, usually right before beginning university studies. This period lasts a year, and citizens are allowed to choose which branch of the military they wish to be assigned to or if they wish (for various reasons) to perform alternative services in lieu of military training. Counterintuitively enough, evading conscription is not considered a criminal offense but a civil misdemeanour, and if caught is only punishable by a fine. Due to national service, the military has more reserve personnel than active duty personnel.

In addition to domestic defense, Zaras also maintains a military base at Signal Hill in Montogranda, 3 km south of the Antaŭen Province occupied by Dainarén.
Last edited by Zaras on Mon Jun 18, 2012 9:13 am, edited 4 times in total.
Bythyrona wrote:
Zaras wrote:Democratic People's Republic of Glorious Misty Mountain Hop.
The bat in the middle commemmorates their crushing victory in the bloody Battle of Evermore, where the Communists were saved at the last minute by General "Black Dog" Bonham of the Rock 'n Roll Brigade detonating a levee armed with only four sticks and flooding the enemy encampment. He later retired with honours and went to live in California for the rest of his life before ascending to heaven.

Best post I've seen on NS since I've been here. :clap:
Factbook
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Zaras
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Postby Zaras » Sun Nov 13, 2011 8:52 am

Media and culture

Culture

It is possible that at some point in the past Zaras had something approaching a unified, shared culture, but ever since its demographics were completely redefined by waves of immigration, it cannot be said that that is the case today. Instead, Zaras is more of a melting pot of various cultures that interact with each other, and few traditions or events that are shared by the entire population of the city. A common joking observation is that the only thing that unites Zarans is the belief that the national anthem "sounds like a Politburo funeral" and that the national flag was created by a computer set to order "the blandest possible combination of primary colours" (even though green is not actually a primary colour, but the saying's supposed to be simple and catchy, after all...).

For the first years of its independence, the city ignored cultural concerns in favour of more immediate issues such as balancing the budget, alleviating economic concerns and trying to respond to the housing problem - whatever cultural institutions existed were usually founded privately and did their best to survive without any governmental backing. This policy changed under Iris Bernev's long tenure as Mayor, as the city's government adopted a new policy of trying to encourage artistic and cultural development. Many measures were taken to this effect, such as nationalising and amalgamating cultural institutions so they could receive government subsidies, designating several neighbourhoods as artistic villages, and creating an official Culture Ministry. There is still no consensus on how well this policy has succeeded in achieving its goals, but succeeding Mayors have continued to adhere to such a policy.

While the government's actions have led to a more favourable environment for artists in Zaras, the most visible result is the city's music scene. The latter encompasses nearly all genres, but the most popular one is alternative rock, chiefly attributed to the city's sizeable student population, proliferation of university radio stations, and the city's geographic isolation leading to its reliance on foreign cultural imports (the timing of its independence also helped rock 'n roll become universally popular). Several Zaran bands have even managed to become popular despite foreign acts usually commanding more attention, such as The Sunday Girls (an all-female pop-punk band inspired by the Ramones and the Pixies), The Manta Rays (a mostly-female shoegazing/space rock band) and Gyrocaster (an alt-rock band in the vein of The Stone Roses). The city's inhabitants don't really have any bias against accessibility (as proven by the popularity of catchy power pop, New Wave, pop-punk and similar genres, and the fact that "jangly" is a big compliment), and the small population and admittedly somewhat small distinction between "mainstream" and "alternative" leads to a lack of any kind of stigma on popularity.

The aforementioned mentality of needing to keep up with Western cultural exports and its initial population pyramid favouring young people, while not exactly creating a unitary culture, has given Zaras the distinctive status of being a city that's primarily preoccupied with "low", pop culture areas like music, movies, comics, literature, video games and the like, and unfamilliar with "high" culture areas like opera and theatre. The old joke that when asked to name an opera a Zaran would say Tommy is only slightly exaggerated.

Due to the city's lack of a unitary culture, wide variety of minorities and long period without outside world interaction, Zarans are usually stereotyped as being insular, heavily left-wing, overly obsessed alternative rock/"weird" music fans with a hatred for conversational pleasantries who live with ten other people in a flat designed for only one person and are ruled by an incompetent government who taxes them within an inch of their lives but grants them numerous freedoms. The other stereotype is that the only thing Zarans have in common is living in the city and the aforementioned snark for the national flag and anthem, because on everything else they are different from each other or disagree.



Media

One of the essential guarantees of the Constitution is that of freedom of speech, with a separate article banning censorship of the media by the government except in cases that are judged to be extremely threatening to national security.

Television

The city's main public broadcaster is the Zaran Public Broadcasting Society (ZPBS), which is funded by means of a television licence and government grants. In terms of TV broadcasting, ZPBS owns three television channels: ZTV1, ZTV2 and ZTV3. As per the ZPBS charter, these channels are to some extent government-funded (thus can broadcast without advertising) but they are independent of the government and are required to be politically neutral (although it is a popular pastime for both government and opposition to accuse them of being biased). During elections, all three channels are required to carry party electoral broadcasts "in an equal manner".

ZTV's chief competition is from a wide variety of private, advertising-funded TV channels both local and metropolitan. The reason why there are so many channels is because of Zaran law not allowing media companies to merge and form conglomerates. The law was adopted in the past because of fears that such a consolidation would lead to reduced diversity as a result concentration of media ownership and thus represent a "backdoor" towards increasing corporate influence on politics.

Due to the city's long-held "information warfare" program, Zaran TV broadcasts can be received quite widely among several regions of Dainarén. As a consequence, most channels have a specialised service for foreign broadcasts, which are usually more politicised and focused on international news.

Radio

Radio broadcasting is a similar situation to television: ZPBS operates a public broadcasting channel called ZPR, funded by government grants, while its competition is formed largely of commercial and local radio stations. The latter category involves both community and university radio stations.

Due to the large concentration of radio stations and the government's haphazard policy of regulating the airwaves, it's not unheard of for some of the various metropolitan or local stations to suffer frequency clashes and interference, depending on which area of the city one is listening from.

Like TV channels, most radio stations have separate divisions for external services.

Press

The city's largest circulating newspapers are as follows: The Zaras Mail (daily broadsheet), The Zaran Independent (daily broadsheet) and Unity (daily). These are supplemented by various other newspapers, especially local, alternative ones such as The Rainbow Gardens Gazette, The University Village Dispatch and Al-Anbaa. Most newspapers are published in English since it is the city's lingua franca, but there are also ones aimed at certain minorities which are published in other languages.

A fact that has earned the city some parody abroad and self-deprecation at home is how most of its newspapers are left-wing, and some can be quite fierce about it. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, but The Zaras Alternative Post is one of the few non-left-wing newspapers to be actually respected because its writing style is noticeably even-handed towards the government's successes and failures, it follows officially libertarian stances towards civil rights and it emphasises realism and facts as opposed to opinions (indeed, it spends a lot of time verbally lashing out extremists of any stripe, especially the right-wing, and one of its more celebrated issues was dedicated to destroying right-wing arguments about the effectiveness of welfare in alleviating poverty).
Last edited by Zaras on Mon Jun 18, 2012 5:52 pm, edited 11 times in total.
Bythyrona wrote:
Zaras wrote:Democratic People's Republic of Glorious Misty Mountain Hop.
The bat in the middle commemmorates their crushing victory in the bloody Battle of Evermore, where the Communists were saved at the last minute by General "Black Dog" Bonham of the Rock 'n Roll Brigade detonating a levee armed with only four sticks and flooding the enemy encampment. He later retired with honours and went to live in California for the rest of his life before ascending to heaven.

Best post I've seen on NS since I've been here. :clap:
Factbook
RP 1, RP 2, RP 3, RP 4, RP 5
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Zaras
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Founded: Nov 06, 2011
Ex-Nation

Postby Zaras » Sun Nov 13, 2011 8:52 am

Education

Education

Education in Zaras is founded on the principle of being public, free, and open to all - the city's first Education Minister Beverly Anrìn was once quoted as saying that the idea of private education and charging students for their own education was "abhorrent and contrary to our commitment to equality and justice for all residents." However, the Supreme Court struck down a government attempt to ban private schooling in the late 1960s.

Ever since independence, government policies have determined that education in Zaras is mandatory until the age of 18 and free for all, while university education comes with generous grants. This tenet is funded mainly through taxation at a metropolitan level and property taxes on a local level - the government largely leaves resource allocation to district commissions but these can petition the government for additional funding in cases of economic trouble. "Private" schools mostly accept state money without being directly government-controlled since charging tuition would arguably violate the principle of free education, but are required to have the same academic standards, admission policies*, human rights policies and wages as public schools.

(* Namely, they are not allowed to discriminate against prospective students based on "arbitrary" criteria such as gender, religion, race, ethnic origin, and so forth.)

Zaran schooling usually begins at age 7 after kindergarten, and has the following tiers:
Primary education: Grades 1-8 (ages 7-14)
Secondary education (high school): Grades 8-12 (ages 14-18)
Tertiary education: Various universities, academies, colleges, seminaries, graduate schools and technology institutes (ages 18 and up)

Tertiary education institutions are accredited by the Education Ministry after fulfilling several criteria, and afterwards are eligible to receive grants and government funding. Public universities are usually mostly free, while private universities have a lot more leeway and can charge tuition for students for funding. The city has many tertiary educational institutions, the more famous and prestigious of them being concentrated in the University Village and Crosland-Williams neighbourhoods around the south.

By city law, educational institutions are not allowed to have functioning charters that excessively infringe on students' civil rights - this includes dictating a dress code and so forth.

A notable anomaly in the tertiary education system is represented by Hannah University, usually distinguished as being the city's best university in internal reports. It was established in 1960 by Sandra Tanaz as a women's college, and besides its excellent academic credentials it is also (in)famous for being allowed to openly violate city law: it is the only university in Zaras that is aimed exclusively at women (men are not allowed on its campus) and it has a very strict dress code for anybody who either attends it or works for it, along with some other strict regulations. Yet the city has more or less allowed the University to operate normally and hasn't forced it to change its policies, in contrast to the intervention that led the proposed Irwin Secondary School to become co-educational instead of single-sex. People who attend or work at Hannah University are sometimes stereotyped as being radical, far-left misandrists... for some reason.

Besides its public and private institutions, the city also has quite the number of government-recognised anarchistic free schools that provide free, decentralised, informal education.
Last edited by Zaras on Sat Jun 09, 2012 11:32 am, edited 3 times in total.
Bythyrona wrote:
Zaras wrote:Democratic People's Republic of Glorious Misty Mountain Hop.
The bat in the middle commemmorates their crushing victory in the bloody Battle of Evermore, where the Communists were saved at the last minute by General "Black Dog" Bonham of the Rock 'n Roll Brigade detonating a levee armed with only four sticks and flooding the enemy encampment. He later retired with honours and went to live in California for the rest of his life before ascending to heaven.

Best post I've seen on NS since I've been here. :clap:
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Postby Zaras » Sat Jun 09, 2012 11:30 am

Transportation

Contrary to myth, cars exist in Zaras. But there are several incentives not to ride cars, like car tax, petrol tax, congestion charge and various other fees adopted by governments to manage the city's environmental impact. These measures have succeeded in the sense that private use of cars, trucks and other motor vehicles in the city is very low (they're primarily used for transporting goods), and the city has no noticeable air pollution or smog problems. On the other hand, turning Zaras into a City of Pedestrians has also tied governments' hands into sinking a lot of money into maintaining public transportation, but its genuine popularity among Zarans helps.

Since obviously walking sometimes is not the most effective way of getting from point A to point B (say if point A is Sergan and point B is Parkland), the Transport Ministry's job is to guarantee the smooth functioning of the city's extensive public transportation system, and maintain its reputation for punctuality and reliability. This system is government-owned and officially run by the Zaran Central Transit Corporation (ZCTC) in cooperation with the Ministry.

Bicycling

Bicycles are probably the most ubiquituous and constantly-used method of private transportation in the city, leading to jokes that Danish and Dutch immigrants would probably adjust to Zaras quite easily. While their popularity means they can be bought by residents quite cheaply, the city also runs the Shared Bicycle Program (SBP), whereby bicycles can be rented from several stations across the city for a small fee, which varies based on the amount of time a bicycle is rented for. Customers are charged additional fees for damaging bicycles (unless they can prove that the damage was caused by a third party) and going over the time limit beyond a "reasonable standard", and the sizeable police presence deters attempts at theft. The SBP bicycles are easily recognisable as they are painted white, as a reference to Amsterdam's 1965 White Bicycle Plan, the first attempt at a bicycle sharing scheme.

Buses

Buses are the primary method of public transport. The Zaran bus network is centrally-organised, and spans at least 100 routes across the length of the peninsula - this is primarily meant as a measure to reduce waiting times between buses. Zaran buses are usually labeled with two or three numbers preceded by one of three letters, namely N (for north), C (for central), S (for south) and T (for cross-regional bus routes) - Kuanagan is counted as part of Central Zaras, and Sergan is small enough that the city has not yet felt the need to expand bus services there. Night buses have an "N-" added before the letter-and-numbers combination. The universal bus fare for one journey is L1.25, with children being allowed free service and discounts available for the elderly and university students. Alternate payment options include a day-long pass (which costs L5 and can be used on all transit services) or purchasing a Transport Card ("t-card"), similar to the Oyster Cards in use in London. The latter allows the user to receive discounts for its use either on buses or trains, and if used sufficiently during one day allows for free use of public transport.

Bus services during the day run between 6 AM and 12 PM, with night buses running between 12 PM and 6 AM.

Trains

The city doesn't have any overground train services, due to concerns about environmental impact, noise pollution, and the expense of having to bulldoze through already-built areas to lay lines. Underground, on the other hand, is quite a different story, as the Zaras Metro currently has seven lines, which are categorised based on colour: black, white, red, yellow, green, blue, and brown. Unlike other metro systems, they do not have any official names, and are always referred to by colour. The fare for a two-trip card is equal to the bus fare (while these cards must be checked out twice to allow a passenger to get in and out of the Metro, they are only charged once, upon entering), and the Metro additionally also offers the option of a 10-trip card (for L3) and t-cards and day passes are also accepted. The official Metro map is modeled after Harry Beck's Tube map, and shows the lines and stations schematically, without accounting for geographical accuracy.

Notably, the Metro running through the Telarak Tunnel is currently Sergan Island's only connection to the peninsula.

The Metro technically runs on a 24-hour basis, but some lines reduce their coverage during late nighttime (primarily due to very low passenger numbers), or have to be stopped to accomodate maintenance work. Notices of maintenance work and service alteration are given out in advance to passengers.

Travel by air

Zaras' main connection to the outside world is the creatively named Zaras International Airport, located on Najries Island. It is connected to the peninsula through bus services, Metro, a highway and an SBP station, and it is the city's only airport.

Travel by sea

Zaras' main areas for shipping are the Harbour and The Port districts, which have been extensively developed to accomodate naval traffic. The city also runs a ferry service to Kaura Island.
Last edited by Zaras on Thu Jun 28, 2012 1:23 am, edited 16 times in total.
Bythyrona wrote:
Zaras wrote:Democratic People's Republic of Glorious Misty Mountain Hop.
The bat in the middle commemmorates their crushing victory in the bloody Battle of Evermore, where the Communists were saved at the last minute by General "Black Dog" Bonham of the Rock 'n Roll Brigade detonating a levee armed with only four sticks and flooding the enemy encampment. He later retired with honours and went to live in California for the rest of his life before ascending to heaven.

Best post I've seen on NS since I've been here. :clap:
Factbook
RP 1, RP 2, RP 3, RP 4, RP 5
ADS, UDL, GFN member
Political compass (old), Political compass (new)
Bottle, telling it like it is.
Risottia, on lolbertarianism.


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