Adieu, Dominique

Dominique de Villepin, the former foreign minister and former prime minister who was once an intraparty rival of French president Nicolas Sarkozy, has ended his somewhat quixotic bid for the presidency after failing to receive sufficient signatures to qualify for the ballot. 

De Villepin had polled around 1% in polls for this race, although voters gave him the nod as sexiest presidential candidate.

His long-shot center-right candidacy seemed like it was motivated primarily by personal animosity against Sarkozy rather than any specific policy goal.

Accordingly, his exit may give a very minor boost to Sarkozy — the French president remains far behind in second-round voting to Parti socialiste candidate François Hollande, but has been gaining ground in first-round polls with indications that his emphasis on immigration may be pulling votes away from Front national candidate Marine Le Pen.  Continue reading Adieu, Dominique

Peña Nieto holds on… for now

With the formal campaign for Mexico’s president yet to begin, a new poll in the Mexican presidential race shows that PRI candidate Enrique Peña Nieto remains the frontrunner with 39% of the vote to 24% for PAN candidate Josefina Vázquez Mota and 18% for PRD candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador, with 19% undecided.  

The poll shows some movement toward Vázquez Mota and some very modest movement to López Obrador.

Vázquez Mota made history last month by becoming the first female candidate nominated by a major party for president in Mexico.  The poll shows that while Vázquez Mota has made some modest gains since her nomination, she will have to make much stronger inroads between now and the July 1 vote.  Alternatively, the poll shows that while Peña Nieto remains the favorite in the race, he is no longer the overwhelming favorite that he appeared to be throughout much of 2011.

The race for the Cámara de Diputados (Mexican chamber of deputies) showed similar trends: 32% for the PRI, 22% for the PAN and 18% for the PRD. All 500 members of the Cámara de Diputados will be elected in the July 1 election, along with all 128 members of Mexico’s Senate. Deputies are elected for three-year terms, while Senators and the President are elected to six-year terms. In each case, incumbents are not allowed to run for reelection.

Bo knows Bo, but only Wen knows when

The removal of Bo Xilai as the party secretary of Chongqing, coming hours after sharp criticism from China’s premier Wen Jiabao, is an unmistakable sign of the change coming to China’s leadership.

It seems clear now that Bo will not be among what are expected to the seven new (of the nine total) members of the Politburo standing committee to be appointed this autumn.

It also seems fairly clear that both the current Chinese leadership as well as Bo’s fellow “princeling” Xi Jinping, who is widely expected to succeed Chinese president Hu Jintao next year, will take a firm line against the more leftist / neo-Maoist model of leadership that Bo attempted to bring to life in Chongqing.  But we know fairly little about what the “Chongqing model” actually entailed — were Bo’s efforts there a bona fide campaign against corruption to root out organized crime or were they really an effort to persecute business and expropriate resources to build Bo’s own political organization in Chongqing?  I suspect we won’t know the answer to that anytime soon.

So while it’s easy to see this as a victory for market liberals and a defeat against the new left, you can also spin a lot of narratives about the Bo earthquake. Continue reading Bo knows Bo, but only Wen knows when

One strategy for the Irish vote: blackmail

The economists have spoken: Irish voters should vote “yes” on the fiscal compact later this spring or else.

From a report from Ireland’s largest stockbroker comes the following:

A No vote would cast doubt over Ireland’s commitment to the euro and could trigger a ratings downgrade which would destroy our chances of returning to the bond market for the foreseeable future, he added. Yields on Irish bonds are likely to rise ahead of the vote, which will be held some time this year.  Bond yields would rise sharply if the people were to vote No but fall if the people were to vote Yes.

The gauntlet has been laid down — I expect this refrain to become a steady drumbeat in advance of the referendum.