Not everyone pleased with Senegalese cabinet

Amid the plaudits for running a free and (not wholly, but mostly) fair election, Senegal has now turned to the inauguration of its new president, Macky Sall, and the naming of his new cabinet.

While most of the selections have been met with general approval — including the naming of popular singer Youssou N’Dour as minister of culture and tourism.

But in declaring that he would reduce the number of cabinet members from 40 to 25, Sall was bound to anger some of the members of the multi-party coalition that bound together to support him in the second round of the presidential election, and it seems like that’s already happening:

President Sall’s party took the lion’s share and also locked up the key portfolios of foreign affairs, internal affairs, defence and finance. In addition, the party took up ministries other strategic ministries like justice, youth and communications.

Almost immediately, all of the other parties have been unleashing their pent up anger over the distribution of the ministerial posts.

Former premier Moustapha Niasse’s Alliance de Forces du Progrès (AFP), managed to obtain the second highest number ministerial slots – four.

So much for a honeymoon.

One of the key challenges of Sall’s young administration will be to meet the expectations of a coalition whose sole aim was to oust then-incumbent Abdoulaye Wade, and who expect Sall to address more effectively the burden of high fuel and gas prices and corruption.  Sall, whose entire political career was spent as Wade’s protegé until 2008, however, remains much more tied to the existing Senegalese political elite than many of the outsiders who supported his campaign.

The Greek far right gets the NYTimes treatment

In advance of the May 6 legislative elections in Greece, The New York Times takes a look at Golden Dawn (Χρυσή Αυγή), the neo-fascist — even neo-Nazi (just take a look at the party’s flags and think about which infamous 20th century group they appear to emulate) — party that is polling up to 5% in polls, which would entitle it to representation for the first time in the Hellenic Parliament.

Make no mistake, this gang makes Marine Le Pen look warm and cuddly and downright pro-immigration.

The piece notes that the entire terrain of Greek politics has moved far to the right on immigration issues, in no small part because of the traction of Golden Dawn:

Experts say the group is thriving where the Greek state seems absent, the most virulent sign of how the economic collapse has empowered fringe groups while eroding the political mainstream, a situation that some Greek news outlets have begun comparing to Weimar Germany. Continue reading The Greek far right gets the NYTimes treatment

Park Geun-hye: ready for the Blue House?

With South Korean elections for the National Assembly now complete, and with the Saenuri Party (새누리당) holding on to its majority in the National Assembly, it is in many ways now the first day of South Korea’s presidential campaign.

No one emerges from the election with more of a boost than the Saenuri Party’s leader, who shepherded the Saenuri Party from the control of its unpopular and scandal-ridden old guard and rechristened it from the Grand National Party: Park Geun-hye, who also happens to be the daughter of former South Korean leader Park Chung-hee.

It seems clear that Park is ready to launch a campaign — she visited a national cemetery in Seoul Thursday morning and wrote in the visitors book at the front gate that she would create a new Republic of Korea.

Indeed, the Korea Times has a piece today setting the stage for Park’s emergence as presidential frontrunner:

Before the elections, few campaign watchers expected the Saenuri Party would receive such wide support from the general public after a series of scandals and corruption cases involving President Lee Myung-bak’s aides and relatives tarnished its image.

Park was called upon to assume the interim leadership last December when party support hit rock bottom.

The Korea Herald also hails her triumph, noting that Saeunri is rallying around Park in the aftermath of their win. Continue reading Park Geun-hye: ready for the Blue House?

Marine Le Pen and the youth vote

With 10 days to go until the French election, and with presumably more pressing topics to discuss, the campaign’s narrative has turned once again to Front national candidate Marine Le Pen — and her surprisingly strong support among the youngest voters.

According to a poll published in Le Monde earlier this week, Le Pen wins 26% of the 18-to-24 vote, to just 25% for Parti socialiste candidate François Hollande, 17% for incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy and 16% for Front de gauche candidate, Jean-Luc Mélenchon.  An IFOP poll earlier this week showed her polling second among the 18-to-22 vote.

This should not be a surprise – with unemployment running high in France amid near-recession levels of GDP stagnation and in the middle of a Europe-wide sovereign debt crisis (and currency crisis), it is perhaps understandable that job anxiety among the young, for whom unemployment runs highest, is fueling her support. 

Her anti-immigration rhetoric has been sanitized to the point where her argument is essentially economic and employment protectionism, less the nastier xenophobia of her father’s Front national.  She has no particular problem with LGBT rights and she has not emphasized religion in the same way as her father.  As an outsider, she is not tied to the difficulties and compromises that come with being a player in the European arena, which also undoubtedly plays a role in her success.

These polls somewhat remind me of the exit polls in the United States that showed U.S. representative and avowed libertarian Ron Paul leading among 18-to-29 voters in the Republican primaries of 2012 — as in the United States, it is hard to know whether to strike the anomaly to youthful rebellion or some deeper ideological turn among the right’s youngest generation.

But by all means: give Marine credit for her success.

She’s managed to take what was once a shamefully anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant and otherwise parochial party, headed by a grumpy old toad, and bring it within the mainstream of French politics.  Marine has clearly mastered the art of 21st century political imagery in ways her father could have never fathomed.  Indeed, at this point, the Front national probably has a stronger brand in France than Sarkozy’s own party — can you even name it?*  Even in a country like France where party identification is relatively weak, the party of center-right has been rechristened about once every decade in the Fifth Republic.  Continue reading Marine Le Pen and the youth vote