Though there’s a delightful array of global elections coming in 2016, the most important will most certainly not be New Zealand’s final referendum on changing its flag.
Nevertheless, it might well be the most fun.
For the past month, New Zealand’s voters have been asked to choose from among five options (narrowed down from a larger finalist field of 40 designs) in a postal-based referendum that began on November 20 and ended on December 11. Less than 50% of eligible voters took part in the voting.
The winner, by a very narrow margin, was a one of three designs to feature the silver fern, a symbol that, increasingly since the end of the 19th century, has become associated with New Zealand — on its coins and its coat of arms, on the logo of its national football team. The silver fern, cyathea dealbata, is a species endemic to New Zealand.
The ubiquity of the silver fern in three of the original four finalists drew so much criticism from anti-fern proponents that the flag panel actually added a fifth design, a stylized ‘red peak’ to the list of choices (though like the other two designs, it polled far behind in single digits). Continue reading And the most important election of 2016 will be…→
It’s the most important trans-Atlantic politics meme since that time US president Barack Obama took a selfie with British prime minister David Cameron and Danish prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt.
A throwback to The Sound of Music, yes, as the leaders of the G7 (just when we’d gotten used to G8) gathered at Schloss Elmau in the Bavarian Alps to consider the risks to the global economy — most notably, the risks from Russia’s continued mayhem in Ukraine and its growing isolation in the rest of the world. Greece, too, is high on the agenda, with time running out for the beleaguered country to make a deal with its European and IMF creditors.
It’s disappointing, however, that Obama’s first beer in the country was non-alcoholic. (Hint, Mr. President: You’re doing it wrong).
The real question: how would Julie Andrews tackle Russian president Vladimir Putin, or ISIS, or the fallout from a potential Greek fall from the eurozone, or US-EU free trade? Or climate change? That high-profile conference in Paris is only five months away…
SAINT-PIERRE — Just off the coast of Newfoundland lies an archipelago of eight attractive if forlorn islands where after a few hours it becomes hard to remember that you’re still in North America.
In Saint Pierre and Miquelon, it’s easier to believe that you’ve stepped back in time to the 1970s, perhaps to a sleepy seaside town in northern France. It’s the France that you might remember from your introductory French textbook in grade school (‘Nous sommes à la discothèque de la ville‘)*, but that exists in mainland France, if it ever did, only in the early films of François Truffaut.
Greetings from St. John’s, where I’m spending a little time through the middle of next week.
Accordingly, posting will be slightly reduced over until later next week, though you might expect to see some further thoughts on Newfoundland’s role in Canada, and perhaps even its historical significance as a case study for financial crisis and sovereignty, and why Germany hasn’t done to Greece what the United Kingdom in 1933 did to the Dominion of Newfoundland.
I may also have some thoughts about what the ‘Better Together’ campaign can learn (or should avoid) from Newfoundland’s example of Confederation into Canada, and I hope to spend a little time on St. Pierre et Miquelon, the self-governing territorial overseas collectivity of France just off the coast of southern Newfoundland, where euros (and not Canadian dollars) are the official currency. Literally, and not figuratively, France.
I’ll also be working on additional thoughts on Iraq’s ongoing government formation process, the political fallout from the current tension between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, the fallout from Indonesia’s recent presidential election, Spain’s newest party leader, and previews of the coming Turkish and Brazilian presidential elections.
Though the pace of world elections is slowing from the past three months, there’s still a massive amount of world political change.
Over the coming weeks, I hope to retool Suffragio with an exciting new video component, a daily briefing and shorter, more focused analysis. Stay tuned!
I had the pleasure of joining a panel discussion earlier today at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars on Diane Francis’s new book, Merger of the Century: Why Canada and America Should Become One Country.
I’ve already written about the book, which has made quite a splash on both sides of the border. It was a pleasure to meet Francis, an American-Canadian who’s been writing and thinking about Canadian policy for years. With a Canadian federal election approaching in 2015, the US presidential election in 2016, and ongoing negotiations between the United States and the European Union over a free-trade agreement, it’s a particularly opportune time for both Canadian and US policymakers to be thinking about many of the policy ideas for greater bilateral cooperation that the book outlines.
If you woke up this morning to the ‘leader of the free world’ doing an interview with Zach Galifianakis, immediately scratched your head and wondered whether you could be trusted to read anything before coffee, you weren’t alone.
When I first saw it, I thought it was a joke — surely this was Galifianakis somehow video-shopping the president of the United States into a forum that’s otherwise reserved for the likes of spanking Justin Bieber.
It was somewhat of a shock to see Daft Punk win so many awards at last night’s Grammys. It’s a, well, French robot-headed electronic music duo, Guy-Manuel de Momem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter. They’ve been around for over two decades, and they’ve already won a place in the pantheon of French house music and electronic music worldwide.
The duo won record of the year for ‘Get Lucky’ and album of the year for ‘Random Access Memories,’ which was something of an upset. Perhaps a cultural boost for France, which is as much in the political doldrums as ever and on the day that French presient François Hollande announced that he is splitting up with ‘first lady’ Valerie Trierweiler.
Suffragio‘s favorite Daft Punk song? ‘Around the World,’ of course. From the duo’s 1997 debut, Homework.
Just a couple of months after social democratic chancellor hopeful Peer Steinbrück flipped the bird on the cover of a top German news magazine, the middle finger is back at the heart of a European election campaign.
With the Czech Republic set to vote on Friday and Saturday in parliamentary elections, artist David Černý erected a 30-foot-tall purple hand with an outstretched middle finger and is floating it down the Vltava that divides Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, pointed toward the presidential palace and Czech president Miloš Zeman:
Mr. Cerny said the monumental hand with its 16-foot-long outstretched middle finger, placed on a float facing the castle, was a “scream of alarm” against the state of politics in the Czech Republic, endemic corruption and Mr. Zeman, a former leftist prime minister, whom he accused of becoming intoxicated with power. He said the sculpture, which he gave an unprintable title, was also aimed at the country’s Communist Party, which could gain a share of power in the coming elections for the first time since the revolution that overthrew communism more than two decades ago.
“This finger is aimed straight at the castle politics,” Mr. Cerny said by phone from Prague, the Czech capital. “After 23 years, I am horrified at the prospect of the Communists returning to power and of Mr. Zeman helping them to do so.”
Here’s a longer look at the circumstances leading up to the weekend’s snap elections.
It’s one of those autumn days in Washington, DC when you want to pull away from General Assembly speeches (though they’re important) and world politics to just take a moment to live — or grab a book and enjoy one of those post-summer sublime days.
Luckily, I had one of those books in my hands already: Tyler Cowen’s new book, Average is Over: Powering America Beyond the Age of the Great Stagnation.
It’s superb, as expected. If the message of his January 2011 book The Great Stagnation was we aren’t as rich as we thought we were, the message of Average is Over is we aren’t as smart as we thought we were.
There’s just something undeniably homoerotic about the Austrian far right.
It all started when octogenarian Austro-Canadian businessman Frank Stronach, the leader of Team Stronach, a new eurosceptic party contesting Austria’s upcoming parliamentary elections, bared his chest over the weekend while talking to reporters from his lakeside home. But Heinz-Christian Strache (pictured above), the leader of the more established far-right Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs (FPÖ, Freedom Party of Austria), felt the need to show even more skin in an uncharacteristic race to the bottom.
Another day on the campaign trail for Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd, though yesterday’s star was Joseph Kim, a five-year-old who delighted in making faces as the cameras rolled away at a Rudd campaign stop at a Korean church in Sydney on Wednesday.
Australians vote in exactly one month on September 7 to determine whether to give Rudd a full term as prime minister, six weeks after his fellow Labor colleagues reinstated him as party leader when polls showed that former prime minister Julia Gillard had virtually no chance of winning this autumn’s election. Gillard had replaced Rudd as prime minister in June 2010 after griping over Rudd’s management style.
All together, Labor is seeking a third consecutive term — Rudd led the party to a robust victory in November 2007, and Gillard led the party to the narrowest of victories in August 2010.
Rudd faces Tony Abbott, the leader of the National/Liberal Coalition, which governed the country under former prime minister John Howard in the early 2000s.
One more photo:
Photo credit: Andrew Meares, Sydney Morning Herald
From the U.S. Department of State comes this photo of U.S. secretary of state John Kerry toasting Vietnamese president Truong Tan Sang, who is visiting Washington, D.C. and met earlier today with U.S. president Barack Obama.
For Americans (and Vietnamese) of a certain era, the fact that Vietnam’s president, who was a member of Vietnam’s ruling Đảng Cộng sản Việt Nam (Vietnamese Communist Party) in the late 1960s during the U.S. military intervention to support allied South Vietnam against the Communist North Vietnam, and Kerry, a veteran of the U.S. war in Vietnam, would be standing side by side toasting one another in Washington, D.C., is incredible.
Kerry, a former Democratic senator from Massachusetts, along with fellow Republican senator and former Vietnam veteran John McCain, was instrumental in normalizing U.S. relations with Vietnam in 1995, over 20 years after the U.S. withdrew from the region. The North Vietnamese quickly overwhelmed the South Vietnamese resistance and consolidated Communist Party rule in Vietnam’s entirety by 1976.
In recent years, Vietnam has emerged as one of southeast Asia’s leading economic performers.
Truong Tan Sang, who was jailed by the South Vietnamese government between 1971 and 1973, has been a leading member of the Vietnamese Communist Party since the 1990s, and formally became leader of the party and the Vietnamese president in summer 2011.
With the approaching holiday, and with a nice stretch before the autumn election season kicks off in September (capped by Germany’s long-awaited federal elections) Suffragio is taking a little bit of a summer breather.
I’m headed to France for a few days in Paris and thereafter a wedding in Bretagne.
So posting will be a little lighter than normal, and it may include a few more cultural and political thoughts on French and Breton life rather than the cut-and-thrust of Iranian politics or Pakistani economics.
Photo credit to Kevin Lees — view of Eiffel Tower from Centre Pompidou, January 2006.