Mitchell’s NNP sweeps back to power in Grenada, winning all 15 parliamentary seats


I wrote on Monday that Grenada’s New National Party (NNP) was likely to win today’s parliamentary election — and won it they have, taking all 15 of the seats in Grenada’s lower house of parliament, the House of Representatives.grenada flag

That means that Keith Mitchell, who previously served as prime minister from 1995 to 2008, will return to head Grenada’s government with a slightly more center-right administration, although it remains unclear whether the NNP or the NDC can unilaterally pull Grenada into better economic times when the entire Caribbean region remains economically depressed.

Not to say that the Caribbean region has ever exactly been an engine of economic growth beyond tourism revenue, and that’s of course highly dependent on the global economy.

The last time that one party swept all 15 seats was in 1999, when, once again, Mitchell was leading the NNP.

Not only will Tillman Thomas, the current prime minister and leader of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) lose power, he will lose his constituency, and the NDC will now be entirely unrepresented in the House of Representatives through the next five years.

Thomas’s government was seen as somewhat lackluster and passive in the face of unemployment and economic malaise on an island where tourism is the key industry, and his party was beset with numerous defections and infighting heading into Tuesday’s vote.  Thomas’s former foreign minister Karl Hood even endorsed the NNP, and a former NDC environment minister Glynis Roberts formed a new center-left alternative, the National United Front to challenge for three constituencies on Tuesday.

Unemployment is running between 30% and 40% on the island of around 110,000 residents.

The Caribbean Development Bank has identified Grenada as one of seven Caribbean economies with unsustainable debt levels.

Among the other seven is Barbados, which holds parliamentary elections on Thursday — and prime minister Freundel Stuart’s Democratic Labour Party (DLP) faces a stiff challenge as well from a former three-term prime minister, Owen Arthur, and the opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP).

The BLP is not as strongly favored to win Thursday’s elections as the NNP was favored to win today’s Grenadian elections, but the result from St. George’s should give Arthur and the BLP some amount of comfort — and likewise, it won’t be an easy 48 hours for Stuart’s drive for reelection.

Photo credit to WEE FM’s Mikey Hutchinson.

Making sense of Kenya’s ethnopolitical alliances

uhuru rally

To understand what’s going on in Kenya’s politics and to understand the nature of its upcoming March 4 presidential election, you have to understand that Kenyan politics are based on ethnic identity, not ideology.kenya

Due to the nature of Kenyan election rules, a presidential candidate has to build an electoral coalition larger than any single ethnic group in the country — a candidate must win not only a 50% majority of the votes, but 25% of the vote in at least 24 of Kenya’s 47 counties.

So it’s not enough for deputy prime minister and former finance minister Uhuru Kenyatta to win a plurality of the vote based largely on the support of his Kikuyu ethnic group, Kenya’s largest.  Nor would it be enough for Kenyan prime minister Raila Odinga to win a plurality on the strength of his own Luo ethnic group.

That means the winning candidate will have to craft a coalition based on many different ethnic groups, and Kenyatta and Odinga have both named running mates of differing ethnic groups.  In light of the aftermath of the 2007 election, when incumbent Mwai Kibaki won narrow reelection against Odinga amid charges of rigging the vote count, political riots quickly descended into ethnic violence.  But the 2013 elections will also largely be determined on the basis of ethnicity-based coalitions, which only underscores the fear that Kenya could undergo another round of destabilizing political violence.

Identifying Kenya’s ethnic groups

In the broadest terms, Kenya’s ethnic groups can be divided into the Bantu and the Nilotic peoples.

The Bantu comprise by far the largest group of Kenyans, roughly two-thirds of Kenya’s 43 million people.  The Bantu ethnic groups derive from people who originally came to Kenya from western and central Africa 2,000 years ago during the so-called Bantu expansion.  The Bantu languages are derived from the Niger-Congo language family — you are likely to be most familiar with Swahili, a Bantu language that, along with English, is one of Kenya’s two official languages.

The Nilotic peoples are the second-largest group, comprising about one-third of Kenyans.  Unlike the Bantu, they originally came to Kenya from what is today South Sudan, and they are somewhat more rural than their Bantu counterparts.  They speak languages derived from the Nilo-Saharan language family, which includes the Dholuo language of Kenya, but also Nubian and other languages throughout Sudan and north-central Africa.

But that only explains so much about Kenya’s incredibly complex range of ethnic groups, which are divided even further on the basis of regional, linguistic and other cultural and historical criteria.  Notably, as the useful map below shows, much of Kenya’s population resides in the highlands that stretch from the Rift Valley and along the western border through the central heartland of Kenya.


Accordingly, there are five major ethnic groups and countless others that form a mosaic of politically mobilized chess pieces, any of which can come together to form a political and governing alliance.  Alliances are not based on Bantu / Nilotic lines, and from one election to the next, one ethnic group may support a candidate that it virulently opposed in the prior election, making Kenyan politics incredibly unique — and also difficult to understand.

As recently as 2005, Odinga and Kenyatta found themselves on the same side, politically, in opposition to a constitutional referendum

The five largest groups are as follows:

  • The Kikuyu, a Bantu group, comprise 17% of the population (according to the 2009 census) that, as the map shows, reside largely in the central highlands of Kenya around Mount Kenya north of Nairobi.
  • The Luhya, also a Bantu group, comprise 14% of the population and reside in the highlands of Western Province, along the Ugandan border just north of Lake Victoria.
  • The Kalenjin, a Nilotic group, comprise 13% of the population and reside in the Rift Valley highlands and are perhaps best known for producing some of the Kenya’s best runners, who routinely rank among the fastest in the world.
  • The Luo, a Nilotic group, comprise 10% of the population and reside in the highlands of Nyanza province, adjacent to Lake Victoria, bordering both Uganda and Tanzania — Barack Obama, Sr., the father of the current U.S. president, was from the Luo ethnic group.
  • The Kamba, another Bantu group, comprise 10% of the population and reside in the area east of Nairobi, where the highlands begin to level off into Kenya’s lowlands.

Continue reading Making sense of Kenya’s ethnopolitical alliances

Monte dei Paschi scandal gives shares of blame to Italian left, right and center

Monte dei Paschi

Founded in 1472, it’s the oldest bank in the world, but the Bank of Monte dei Paschi di Siena has proven that it can still surprise the world, for better or worse.Italy Flag Icon

The news last month that Monte dei Paschi lost €730 million from dodgy financial products between 2007 and 2009 and, even worse, that the bank hid those losses were hidden from regulators, caught everyone off guard, including not only Italy’s politicians just weeks before its general election, but even Mario Draghi.  Currently the head of the European Central Bank, Draghi served as the head of Italy’s central bank at the time Monte dei Paschi incurred the losses, an embarrassing oversight for the man whose ‘do-whatever-it-takes’ mantra has kept the eurozone’s sovereign debt crisis at bay since summer 2012.

Monte dei Paschi is Italy’s third-largest bank, which posted revenue of over €4 billion in 2010 before posting losses of €4.7 billion in 2011 and, as of last September, €1.7 billion in losses for 2012, a figure that’s sure to rise.

After its listing on the Italian stock exchange in 1999, it began an aggressive phase of expansion, acquiring several local banks as well as Banco Antonveneta from the Spanish bank, Banco Santander — the hidden derivatives that Monte dei Paschi entered into in order to finance those expansions are at the heart of the current scandal.

The crisis has helped no one in the Italian election — there’s enough blowback from the scandal to implicate not only Draghi’s bank regulators, but to have hurt leaders of Italy’s left, right and center at a time when disillusion among the Italian political elite is running as high as ever. Continue reading Monte dei Paschi scandal gives shares of blame to Italian left, right and center

First Past the Post: February 19


East and South Asia

Shinzō Abe gets the New York Times profile treatment.

North America

preview of the ‘Throne Speech’ of Ontario’s new premier, Kathleen Wynne.

Latin America / Caribbean

Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez is back in Venezuela after 68 days of treatment in Cuba.

60% of Colombians apparently disapprove of the reelection of president Juan Manuel Santos.  [Spanish]

Ecuador’s ruling Alianza PAIS has won two-thirds of the seats in the National Assembly.  [Spanish]

A closer look at the geography behind Ecuador’s Sunday presidential election.  [Spanish]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Welcoming Mamphela Ramphele and her new party to the fray of South African politics.


A McKinsey pope for the Vatican?

Russia and Former Soviet Union

Belarus has sentenced a border guard in retribution for the Great Teddy Bear Airlift of 2012 (pictured above).

Official results from the Armenian presidential election.

Middle East and North Africa

Hezbollah operating in Syria?

Peer Gatter on Yemen and the politics of qat.

Another day, another failure to form a Tunisian government.

All sorts of interesting polling data from Turkish politics.

Australia and Oceania

New Zealand will introduce ‘plain’ cigarette packaging.