First Past the Post: June 7

The president of Estonia unloads both barrels on Paul Krugman. (UPDATE: Krugman shrugs).

Henrique Capriles steps down as Miranda state governor to focus on the Venezuelan presidential campaign.

Haunting photo essay of the new Athens.

The misery of being Greek, from someone who knows.

Russian president Vladimir Putin pushes anti-protest law through the Duma. Alexey Nalvany does not care for this.

Incoming Hong Kong chief exec Leung Chun-ying is planning his first 100-day blitz.


Golden Dawn incident highlights possibility of neo-fascist decline in Greek election re-run

There aren’t many silver linings in being forced to hold two legislative elections in as many months, while your country is running out of money, mired in near-depression economic conditions and suffering from budget cuts that have torn apart the country’s social contract.

But perhaps one of the best things that can come of the June 17 elections — regardless of whether the pro-bailout center-right New Democracy or the anti-bailout radical left SYRIZA wins — is the chance that the neo-fascist Golden Dawn party will fare significantly poorer this time around.

Among other things, reduced support for Golden Dawn would significantly facilitate the arithmetic of forming a government.

The high-profile implosion of the party’s spokesperson Ilias Kasidiaris — an arrest warrant was issued for Kasidiaris after he threw water at one female parliamentary candidate yesterday and repeated slapped another on a live television talk show — does not bode well for the party’s chances:

The exchanges came when the discussion turned to the sensitive topic of the Greek Civil War (1946-1949).
When Kasidiaris called [Communist MP Liana] Kanelli an “old Commie”, she retorted that he was a “fascist”.  Kasidiaris also was incensed that SYRIZA’s Rena Dourou mentioned a pending court case against him.
When Dourou said that there was a “crisis of democracy when people who will take the country back 500 years have got into the parliament”, Kasidiaris, who has served in the army’s special forces, picked up a glass of water and hurled its contents at her.
“You joke,” he shouted.
He then turned on Kanelli, who had got up out of her chair and appeared to throw a newspaper at him.
He slapped Kanelli three times on the side of the face.

The Kasidiaris distraction follows a ridiculous post-election press conference in May when Nikolaos Mihaloliakos, the party’s leader, launched into a neo-nazi screed after the party’s thugs tried to force journalists to stand at attention.

Golden Dawn thrives on these confrontational moments to attract attention.  But even if you think that these kinds of outbursts are deliberate, it’s a sign of Golden Dawn’s weakness that it is staging these moments to suck away media attention from the main parties just 10 days before the election.

In the May elections, Golden Dawn won 6.97% of the vote and 21 seats.  Parties will win seats in the parliament, on the basis of proportional representation, if they can draw more than 3% of the vote. Continue reading Golden Dawn incident highlights possibility of neo-fascist decline in Greek election re-run

AMLO rising: López Obrador gets lift in Mexican presidential race

Gone are the days when Mexico’s first female presidential candidate, Josefina Vázquez Mota, could have transformed the presidential race with her historic candidacy with a high-profile break from the current leadership of her party, the ruling Partido Acción Nacional (PAN).

Over the past month, the man to watch in the Mexican presidential election — except, of course, for the longtime frontrunner Enrique Peña Nieto, candidate of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) — has increasingly been Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the leftist candidate of the Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD), who previously served as head of government of the Distrito Federal from 2000 to 2005 and who narrowly lost the 2006 presidential race to current PAN president Felipe Calderón.

López Obrador led the 2006 polls throughout much of the campaign, much as Peña Nieto has led polls in the current presidential campaign, but narrowly lost after the PAN and the PRI launched negative attacks claiming that López Obrador would take Mexico down a path similar to that of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela.  Although those fears were overblown, they were strong enough to deny López Obrador a long-anticipated win.

Once regarded as a hopeless retread in the current campaign, López Obrador — or AMLO, as he’s also known in Mexico — has overtaken Vázquez Mota in polls for second place in the increasingly bleak race to become the main challenger to Peña Nieto.  Despite his narrow 2006 finish, López Obrador alienated much of the Mexican electorate by loudly protesting the vote result for months afterwards, a tactical mistake from which he never quite recovered.

So it was surprising, to say the least, when López Obrador placed just four percentage points behind Peña Nieto in a Reforma poll last week.  Other, more reliable polls, show Peña Nieto with a steadier lead — Peña Nieto has led every presidential poll since last year — but also show an unmistakable rise in support for López Obrador.  In one recent poll, he is even leading among independents and among college-educated Mexicans.

Rivals have taken notice — both the PRI and the PAN have taken aim at López Obrador in recent daysContinue reading AMLO rising: López Obrador gets lift in Mexican presidential race