Live-blogging the Québec debates: Marois v. Legault

I’ll be live-blogging tonight’s debate — the third and final debate of a series of one-on-one debates — between Pauline Marois, leader of the leftist, sovereigntist Parti québécois (PQ) and François Legault, leader of the newly formed, sort-of maybe center-right Coalition avenir Québec (CAQ).       

Sunday night featured a four-way debate, Monday night featured a raucous one-on-one between Marois and premier Jean Charest, the leader of the centrist, federalist Parti libéral du Québec (Liberal Party, or PLQ), and Tuesday night featured a debate between Legault and Charest.

Québec’s voters go to polls on September 4 to choose 125 members of Québec’s Assemblée nationale.

Read Suffragio’s prior coverage of the Québécois election here.

So that’s a wrap. Marois is queen of the status quo, Legault is the queen of the caribou. Oy. On to Sept. 4.

What’s striking is that they spent so little time bringing down Charest tonight. I wonder if that was a strategic mistake for both Legault and Marois, especially with today’s Forum poll showing the PLQ with a renewed 35% lead over the PQ (29%) and the CAQ (24%). In any event. Full live blog after the jump.

* * * *  Continue reading Live-blogging the Québec debates: Marois v. Legault

Dom Mintoff, ‘architect’ of Maltese politics, dies at 96

Dom Mintoff, a former Maltese prime minister and the towering figure of Maltese politics since the 1960s, has died at 96

Mintoff (pictured above in 1972) was leader of the Labour Party from 1949 to 1984, and he was known in Maltese as il-Perit, ‘the architect.’

Always divisive and always entertaining, he served as prime minister from 1955 to 1958 (while Malta remained a British colony) and again from 1971 to 1984.

In his first stint as prime minister, Mintoff was a proponent of full integration of Malta into the United Kingdom — he resigned in 1958 when those negotiations failed.  Mintoff had demanded the same level of social services for Malta, and the UK failure to grant that concession led to Mintoff’s turn toward independence.  Malta gained full independence in 1964, exactly 150 years after becoming a crown colony of the British empire.

As prime minister, Mintoff brought Malta’s standard of living and welfare state (including a pension system) closer in line with continental Europe, despite Mintoff’s propensity for nationalization of various industries in Malta.  Today, however, Malta is not only a member of the European Union but also a member of the eurozone, as of 2008.

The second time around, though, Mintoff was no slouch with Britain and the West, and his foreign policy zig-zags made him unpopular in the West and in the United Kingdom especially.  He skillfully played both sides of the Cold War against each other, often to Malta’s benefit.  Mintoff kicked the British governor-general and NATO out of Malta upon his election in 1971, and he negotiated to closure of the last UK military base in Malta in 1979.  He refused to allow either the United States or the Soviet Union to hold a base in Malta (an island strategically located in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea).  Furthermore, Mintoff widened the circle of Maltese diplomacy to include China and other ‘non-aligned’ nations and developed a particularly strong relationship with Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi — he once said Malta was part of the Arab world.

Mintoff’s legacy to Malta is as an architect of the current stable democracy there (even if it was neither entirely stable or democratic with Mintoff in charge).  For the world, he’ll remain one of the more ornery and colorful figures of the Cold War era.

One Maltese reporter’s remembrances can be found hereMaltaToday‘s full coverage here, including an in-depth piece assessing his complicated legacy.

First Past the Post: August 22

The Kremlin is lashing out at Western support for Pussy Riot, the three-woman punk-rock activists jailed last week for two years (pictured above).

Mitchell Prothero in Foreign Policy has a great takedown of Hezbollah’s role in the latest Lebanese tumult.

With six weeks to go, Venzeulan president Hugo Chávez holds a narrow 49% to 47% lead over Miranda state governor and Mesa de la Unidad Democrática presidential nominee Henrique Capriles.

Greek prime minister Antonis Samaras asks for more time in an interview with Germany’s Bild. English summary from Spiegel here.

Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi will visit the United States on Sept. 23.

A new Forum Research poll shows Jean Charest and the Liberals are once again in the lead in Québec with 35% to just 29% for the sovereigntist Parti québécois.

Liberal Democratic leader Nick Clegg is coming under pressure from his own party’s rank-and-file to step down before the United Kingdom’s next expected election in 2012.

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte has emerged in advance of the Sept. 12 election, calling for a €1,000 tax break for every worker.

Romanian prime minister Victor Ponta’s fight against president Traian Băsescu shows no signs of abating.

Photo credit to Andrei Stenin of RIA Novosti.

Merkel tops Forbes list of top 100 powerful women

German chancellor Angela Merkel is the most powerful woman in the world in 2012, according to Forbes magazine.

It’s a bit whimsical, but that’s probably the right call, considering that no one person has more power, probably, to determine whether the eurozone sticks together or falls apart.

Also on the list are several women of important to world politics:

  • U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton (#2),
  • Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff (#3),
  • Indian National Congress Party leader Sonia Gandhi (#6),
  • International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde (#8),
  • Argentine president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (#16),
  • Burmese National League for Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi (#19),
  • Australian prime minister Julia Gillard (#27),
  • Malawi president Joyce Banda (#71),
  • Nigerian finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (#80),
  • Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (#81), and
  • UAE minister of foreign trade Shiekha Lubna Al Qasimi (#92)

Predictions, questions and thoughts:

  • Where is Danish prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt? Robbed!
  • And where is Icelandic prime minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, the world’s first openly lesbian head of government? Also robbed!
  • Josefina never had a chance.
  • Too soon for Pussy Riot, I suppose.
  • Might Parti québécois leader Pauline Marois make it on next year’s list if she wins the Sept. 4 election in Québec and schedules a referendum on Québec’s independence?
  • Next year, Park Geun-hye could well be South Korea’s new president, which would make her automatically top 20, I presume.
  • Also next year, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Hannelore Kraft become Merkel’s chief opposition.
  • If Silvio Berlusconi makes a comeback in Italy, why not his favorite MP Michaela Biancofiore and the rest of Silvio’s angels?

Is Kenneth Clarke — and his experiment with prison reform — finished in British politics?

Longtime observers of British politics will note with some alarm recent reports that justice minister Kenneth Clarke may be headed out of UK prime minister David Cameron’s cabinet, pursuant to a widely expected cabinet reshuffle in early September.

To contemplate this is to see the final curtain drawn on one of the ‘big beasts’ of British politics in the past three decades — as has been noted, Clarke won his first ministerial role when UK chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne was just one year old.

The Telegraph reports that Cameron is considering replacing Clarke with Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary (and the ill-fated former leader of the Tories from 2003 to 2005), or Nick Herbert, a junior justice minister.  Even more odd is the way in which Clarke has issued a statement on the potential reshuffle:

“I have never had any conversations of any kind with the Prime Minister or anyone acting on his behalf about a reshuffle. I am totally laid back about a reshuffle and am waiting to see whether or not it affects me,” he said.

Clarke is, simply put, one of a kind: a bloke in a party of toffs.

Second to Boris Johnson, perhaps, Clarke connects with the British people in a way that few Tories have managed in recent times. Continue reading Is Kenneth Clarke — and his experiment with prison reform — finished in British politics?