Not to be outdone by Putin’s sexy ads targeting younger Russian voters, Mikhail Prokhorov campaigns in rap yesterday in Russia. If neither the New Jersey Nets and the presidential election don’t work out for Prokhorov, maybe he should team up with Jay-Z?
With the latest survey showing that Putin will win the first round of the March 4 presidential election with 66% of the vote (with Communist Party rival Gennady Zyuganov picking up just 15% of the vote for second place), it’s becoming clearer than ever that Prokhorov is not the serious candidate he perhaps once claimed.
No sooner than a week after an opposition candidate was selected with greater-than-expected turnout in the opposition primary, we learned earlier this week that Venezuela president Hugo Chávez will return to Cuba Friday afternoon for surgery early next week, concerning a new lesion that he admits may well be malignant, coming just a year after cancer treatments and ongoing angst about the health of the cancer-stricken president.
With a fairly popular and united opposition candidate in Henrique Capriles giving Chávez his toughest contest in perhaps the entirety of his 13-year reign as president, Chávez’s health becomes the central issue for the foreseeable future in the election battle, with Chávez to be in Cuba for treatment and recovery for weeks thereafter.
It’s been an extraordinary day in Australian politics, where Julia Gillard has called a leadership vote for Monday in the latest showdown of a long-simmering feud with foreign minister and former prime minister Kevin Rudd that has undermined the Labor Party almost since it took over government in 2007.
Rudd, who’s been visiting Washington, DC, resigned as foreign minister today in a press conference outside of Washington’s Willard Hotel, announced he will return immediately to Australia, indicating that he would stand for the leadership against Gillard:
I do not believe that Prime Minister Gillard can lead the Australian Labor Party to success in the next election. That is a deep belief, I believe it’s a belief also shared right across the Australian community…. Their overall argument to me is that they regard me as the best prospect to lead the Australian Labor Party successfully to the next elections, to save the Australian Labor Party and those next elections and to save the country from the ravages of an Abbott government.
One commentator said earlier today that the feud has left them both “screwed” — Rudd unable to win the leadership and Gillard unable to win the next election.
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.
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.
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.
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)→
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.
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.
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.
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→