A historical look at Senegalese democracy

Former Nigerian president Olusegun Obsanjo arrived today in Dakar as a representative of the Economic Community of West African States to meet with the M23 opposition group, which is protesting Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade’s bid for a third presidential term as unconstitutional. (Ironically, Wade himself was among those who criticized Obsanjo in 2006 when he sought constitutional changes to allow for a third term as Nigeria’s president).

Meanwhile, technically illegal protests continue in Dakar in advance of Sunday’s vote, with tensions running high and occasionally spilling into deadly violence.

But with five days to go until it appears that the 85-year-old Wade will prevail to “win” a third term in office unitl the year 2019, just how strongly rooted is democracy in Senegal? Continue reading A historical look at Senegalese democracy

Porque no te callas?*

Meanwhile, in Venezuela, Hugo Chávez has launched a rip-snorting fusilade against opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles with some, ahem, choice words (video with subtitles below compliments of The Guardian):

My mission… (will be) to take off the mask, you low-life, because no matter how much you disguise it, low-life, you have a pig’s tail, a pig’s ears, and you snort like a pig.

Chávez apparently also refers to Capriles not by name, but by reference to el majunche, or “the crappy one.”

So glad to see that the race is off to such a promising start.

Continue reading Porque no te callas?*

Senegal turns deadly

More unrest today from Senegal, where protestors gathered in defiance of a government ban in opposition to President Abdoulaye Wade, who seeking a third term in the February 26 presidential election.

Wade argues that constitutional changes in 2001 limiting presidents to two terms in office do not apply to him because they were adopted only in the middle of his administration — the nation’s court approved his reelection bid in January, even as it disqualified opposition candidates such as popular Senegalese singer Youssou N’Dour. Indeed, the rapper-led “Fed Up” coalition and the “m23” coalition of opposition parties have organized protests, but police are refusing to authorize permits on the basis of public security.

Already, four people are dead, and Senegal’s capital, Dakar, is choked with tear gas.  Not an auspicious omen for the next nine days or for the post-election governance of Senegal, which has traditionally been more a model of strong governance and economic strength in Africa that a model of political unrest.

The new Putin (or maybe, the new Medvedev)

Reuters today profiles the man it calls the brains behind the Putin campaign: Vyacheslav Volodin, currently Russia’s deputy prime minister.

The profile provides a wealth of information on Volodin, who is sure to remain a key player for the foreseeable future in Kremlin politics — the profile goes so far as to compare him to Stalin’s key aide Vyacheslav Molotov.

With Putin all but sure to win the “election” on March 4, and with the length of the presidential term extended to six years, I wouldn’t bet too many rubles on Volodin surviving the Kremlin gauntlet until 2018 (or longer). Until August 1999, no one had even heard of Vladimir Putin, who served as Boris Yeltsin’s prime minister for five uneventful months before Yeltsin announced his resignation and tacit support for Putin’s candidacy in the presidential election to follow in May 2000. So file this one alongside those speculation pieces on the 2016 US presidential race. Continue reading The new Putin (or maybe, the new Medvedev)

Shock and social media awe: Sarkozy campaign, day one

Earlier this evening, Nicolas Sarkozy launched the most uphill battle for reelection of any French President of the Fifth Republic.

Sarkozy is both lurching to the right and playing the European statesman card.  Acknowledging that the next five years would be different from the first five, he continued to call for separate referenda on both immigration and on unemployment benefits, with French unemployment at a 12-year high of 9.3 percent. Sarkozy harkened back to his 2007 message of rupture with the past; he noted that for 30 or 40 years, work has been devalued, and he promised that anyone with the health and desire to work will have a job or training:

Depuis trente ou quarante ans, on a dévalorisé le travail. Mon projet, c’est de mettre le travail au centre de tout. Tous ceux qui ont la force la santé pour travailler auront un emploi ou une formation. Et ceux qui n’en peuvent plus, qui sont malades, on aura la solidarité.

Continue reading Shock and social media awe: Sarkozy campaign, day one

Can Henrique Capriles defeat Chavismo?

Can a 39-year-old newcomer to the Venezuelan political scene usher an end to 13 years of Chavismo?

Meet Henrique Capriles, the governor of the coastal state of Miranda in Venezuela, who won the opposition’s primary on Sunday with overwhelming support for the chance to face off against Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez.   Continue reading Can Henrique Capriles defeat Chavismo?

The field, c’est moi

So it looks like Nicolas Sarkozy is gearing up to announce his formal campaign for reelection tomorrow.

In one sense, the optics will be horrible given Moody’s Monday downgrade — in one fell swoop, the credit ratings agency downgraded Spain, Italy, Portgual and others, while shifting the outlook on France’s current Aaa rating to “negative.” Standard and Poor’s downgraded France’s credit rating from Aaa to Aa last month, in what was seen as a stinging rebuke to Sarkozy.

But then again, it’s long seemed clear that the European debt crisis could also be Sarkozy’s key to victory. Continue reading The field, c’est moi

Africa’s Bloomberg, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Term Limits

This is one way to protest a president who’s running for a constitutionally dodgy third term.

Abdoulaye Wade, who was once the candidate of hope and change in Senegal when he swept into office with genuine support in 2000, now remains highly controversial as the entrenched and corrupt incumbent in advance of Senegal’s February 26 election.

On the other hand, it seems to have worked for Michael Bloomberg…

New York mayoral shenanigans aside, it’s hard to see how this will arrest an alarming and growing trend away from democratic norms in what has been one of Africa’s relative economic and political success stories.

More background on President Wade, who is seeking a third term, here.

 

Glasnost ghost

 

 

 

 

 

Mikhail Gorbachev is speaking out on the Russian “election”, advocating for a transition from the Putin era to a new, more democratic era.  Gorbachev, in speaking to Moscow students earlier, called out the upcoming election for what it is — a sham affair with only window-dressing opposition.  Gorbachev predicted a Putin win, but implored for a transition to democracy from a regime that is “exhausted.” Continue reading Glasnost ghost

Putinocracy, 2.0

Vladimir Putin has penned an article in Kommersant today outlining his vision of Russian democracy.  Just try to make it through the opening lines and not laugh:

Real democracy cannot be created overnight and cannot be a carbon copy of some external example. Society must be completely ready for using democratic mechanisms. The majority of people must see themselves as citizens of their country, ready to devote their attention, time and efforts on a regular basis to taking part in the process of governance. In other words, democracy is effective only when people are ready to invest something in it.

If ever a public official neither willing nor ready to invest in democracy, it’s Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin. Continue reading Putinocracy, 2.0

Shadows of 2007

I noted last week that Marine Le Pen could well shut out French President Nicolas Sarkozy in the first round.

Sure enough, I read this as an attempt, however clumsily, to win some of those culturally right-wing Front National voters back.  Sarkozy, as Minister of the Interior, co-opted Marine’s father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, in the 2007 elections in an incredibly skillful way.

With Marine polling substantially higher than her father’s 10.4% in 2007, it’s clear that Sarkozy will sending some quiet, but sure, signals to FN voters to attract the support he’ll need in the first round to advance to the runoff.

**** Continue reading Shadows of 2007

Five reasons why Josefina could become ‘la primera Presidenta Mexicana’

Having secured the presidential nomination of the Partido Acción Nacional (PAN) Sunday, Josefina Vázquez Mota has already made history as the first female major-party presidential candidate in Mexico’s history.  The nomination finalizes the shape of the presidential race in advance of the July 1 Mexican general election, in which voters will elect a new Chamber of Deputies and Senate as well. 

Josefina will face off against frontrunner Enrique Peña Nieto, the former governor of the State of Mexico and candidate of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) and Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the former head of government of the Distrito Federal (in essence, the mayor of Mexico City) and candidate of the Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD). Continue reading Five reasons why Josefina could become ‘la primera Presidenta Mexicana’

MAKING WORLD POLITICS LESS FOREIGN