Nearly 7,000 people have died in the Philippines since controversial president Rodrigo Duterte launched his ‘drug war’ last July, following his insurgent populist victory.
Last week, the chief domestic critic of Duterte’s human rights record, senator Leila de Lima, was imprisoned on charges of drug-related corruption — charges that have been widely met with disgust from human rights groups who say that her arrest is politically motivated.
Since taking power, Duterte has bragged about killing drug dealers himself when he served as mayor of of Davao City, all while encouraging police (and others) to engage in extrajudicial killings of suspected drug dealers. Last September, Duterte threatened to kill up to 3 million drug addicts, likening himself to Adolf Hitler.
As human rights watchdogs across the world continue to sound alarms, Duterte’s encouragement is already showing signs of spiraling out of control, with far more suspected criminals killed at the hands of vigilante groups than the official police. A South Korean businessman was strangled to death in policy custody, forcing even the sharp-tongued Duterte to pause for a moment. Nevertheless, Duterte has pledged to continue his aggressive campaign through the end of his six-year presidential term in 2022. His blunt speaking, often in vulgar terms, has brought him popularity with an electorate that elected him to be tough on crime and on drug use. Even as Duterte risks becoming an international pariah over human rights, Philippines still give him an 83% approval rating as of the beginning of 2017.
De Lima, who previously served as the chair of the Philippine Commission on Human Rights under former president Gloria Macagapal-Arroyo and as the country’s justice secretary under Benigno (‘NoyNoy’) Aquino III from 2010 to 2015, has called Duterte a ‘murderer’ and a ‘sociopathic serial killer.’ De Lima has led the fight against Duterte’s drug war from the Senate, the 24-member upper house of the Philippine Congress. Last September, Duterte’s allies removed her from the Senate’s Justice and Human Rights Committee, where she hoped to investigate the abuses of the drug war, most notably the extrajudicial killings.
The two politicians have a difficult history. In 2009, when she was still heading the human rights commission, De Lima first investigated rumors of ‘death squads’ in Davao City, where Duterte served as mayor for over two decades, for the first time in 1988, prior to his election to the presidency last May.
Five days after its July 2 election, Australians woke up Thursday morning to find that they still don’t know who will lead the next government — and that Standard and Poor’s is moving its ‘AAA’ credit outlook from stable to negative as political uncertainty reigns.
The only clear result of the first ‘double dissolution’ election since 1987 is that it might be days or weeks before Australians know who will hold a majority in either house of their parliament, with every possibility that both houses could wind up with no clear majority.
The other clear result is that the election is that, though his Liberal/National Coalition is growing closer to winning the narrowest of majorities, prime minister Malcolm Turnbull is the clear loser of the election. Just nine months into his premiership after he convinced his party to oust its prior (more conservative) leader Tony Abbott, Turnbull has lost at least 16 seats in the 150-member House of Representatives to the center-left Australian Labor Party (ALP). The Coalition, as things currently stand, is now trailing in the so-called two-party preferred vote (under Australia’s single transferable vote system) by the narrowest of margins — 50.09% for Labor to 49.91% for the Coalition.
For someone whose leadership pitch came down to electability, it means his days as prime minister might be numbered — even if the Coalition emerges with a majority.
Politics isn’t always fair, but Turnbull’s problem has always been that he’s a moderate in a conservative party.
I have no doubt that Turnbull, who has always been far more socially progressive than many other Coalition MPs, would like to accomplish some heady goals as prime minister. He’s been an ambitious man his whole life, and there’s no reason to believe that, with the right kind of mandate, Turnbull would like to solve several conundrums that neither the Coalition nor the Australian Labor Party (ALP) have been able to solve.
He might *like* to find a way to end the detention centers in Nauru and Manus Island without encouraging thousands of poor Asians to risk their live by getting on rafts to Australia, especially after Papua New Guinea’s supreme court ruled the Manus Island detention center unconstitutional.
He might *like* to have Australia’s parliament vote to pass marriage equality for gay and lesbian Australians and be done with an issue that now separates Australia from much of the rest of the developed world — almost all of western Europe, Canada, New Zealand and the United States.
He might *like* to redesign the failed carbon trading scheme that former Labor prime minister Julia Gillard enacted (and that Abbott, a few years later, abolished) as perhaps a business-friendlier carbon tax. After all, Turnbull lost his position as leader of the Liberal Party to Abbott in 2009 after he tried to compromise with the Labor government on climate change.
He might even *like* to take another run at an Australian republic after leading the pro-republic campaign in the failed 1993 referendum.
Since Coalition prime minister John Howard lost the 2007 election, and thereby leaving office after 11 consecutive years in office, Australia has changed prime ministers exactly four times.
That wouldn’t be so remarkable in an era of rapid change and economic anxiety — except for the fact that Australians have only gone to the polls twice since 2007.
Internal coups, unknown in the democratic and developed world outside Japan, within both the center-left Australian Labor Party (ALP) and the center-right Liberal Party (the dominant partner in the ‘Coalition’ with the more socially conservative National Party) have made politics in Australia possibly more exciting in between elections than during election campaigns.
Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull came to power only last September after ousting his more conservative predecessor Tony Abbott in an internal coup, as Liberal MPs in Australia’s House of Representatives began worrying about polls that showed Abbott would easily lose the next election. Those polls turned around when Turnbull, a more moderate figure who led the Liberal Party briefly from 2008 to 2009 and who led the 1999 campaign to transform Australia from a constitutional monarchy into a republic, became prime minister.
Labor leader Bill Shorten, in his own right, has managed to do in opposition what Labor couldn’t manage when it was in government for six years — remain united. Though Labor was elected in 2007 with a wide mandate for Kevin Rudd, he was ousted by his own deputy prime minister, Julia Gillard, within two years. Though she won a narrower mandate in her own right in 2010, the Labor caucus, in turn, ousted Gillard in mid-2013 when it appeared that she would not win the next election. Instead, they turning back to Rudd, who subsequently lost the 2013 election, however narrowly, to Abbott and the Coalition.
As Australia goes to the polls in a campaign that has been unmercifully long by Australian standards and mercifully short by American standards (eight weeks), neither Turnbull nor Shorten seem to inspire much confidence from the electorate. The two have spent the campaign tussling over issues from health care to the economy to LGBT marriage equality to immigration and, in the process, making voters like each of them less.
It’s a tight race. Polls show that the Coalition holds the narrowest of advantages, about 51% to 49%, over Labor in the so-called ‘two-party preferred’ vote — which reflects the outcome of a compulsory electoral system that features a preferential instant-runoff mechanism. It’s almost certain that the Coalition is doing far better than it would have been under Abbott’s leadership, though it’s almost just as certain that, even if Turnbull wins, it will be with a much reduced majority in both houses — and in each house, the balance of power may lie with third parties such as the Australian Greens.
Though both the center-right Turnbull and the center-left Shorten are sensible moderates well capable of governing Australia in a competent and centrist manner, voters seem to have tired of the internal scheming that have come to characterize both of the country’s two major parties.
Turnbull, once a moderate lion who championed climate change legislation, LGBT equality and an Australian republic, was forced by his more right-wing caucus to run on a platform around an AUS$48 billion corporate tax cut.
Shorten, who once vowed to defend the carbon trading scheme, is running on an ambiguous platform, shellshocked by the damage that Labor sustained in 2013 over what was perceived as a double mining tax and carbon tax. Those issues have become especially tender now that the Chinese economy has slowed and the global demand for commodities is somewhat subdued.
On gay marriage, both Turnbull and Shorten personally favor marriage equality. But Turnbull has been pushed towards supporting a nation-wide referendum on the matter, while Shorten has promised to call a vote in the Australian parliament if elected. The Labor position is that a plebiscite is a Coalition tactic to divide Australians that would bring unnecessary strife and animosity to the LGBT community (though Shorten in recent days has taken flak for once supporting such a vote).
Though the Great Barrier Reef is going through a horrific moment of coral bleaching, Australian politics is moving away from the carbon trading scheme (and mining tax) that Rudd promised, that Gillard enacted and that Abbott repealed. Ironically, Abbott ousted Turnbull from the Liberal leadership in 2009 after Turnbull tried to strike a deal with Rudd on the carbon trading scheme. Today, Turnbull, in thrall to his more conservative parliamentary caucus, would never sign up to a similar deal. Shorten, for his part, failed to stop the carbon trading scheme’s repeal last year.
In recent years, both parties have moved towards a more restrictive immigration policy. Both are now wedded to the policy of offshore detention of immigrants bound for Australia in subpar camps in Nauru and Papua New Guinea, notwithstanding a Papua New Guinean judicial ruling in April that called into constitutional question Australia’s immigration policy.
In some ways, the Australian election feels retro, like a British election a quarter-century ago. Australian commentators are still talking about ‘swings’ from the Coalition to Labor in a two-party world. That’s even as the Australian Greens stand to make even more gains in Saturday’s election, under the leadership of Richard Di Natale, a senator from Victoria, who took over the party’s leadership in May 2015. Nick Xenophon, an independent-minded senator from South Australia who came to power initially to oppose gambling machines in the late 1990s, is now leading a centrist ‘Nick Xenophon Team’ that could win seats in both houses.
The stakes are particularly higher in 2016, because Australia is having (for the first time since 1987) a so-called ‘double dissolution’ election, in which all 150 members of the parliament’s lower house, the House of Representatives, and all 76 members of the upper house, the Senate, are up for election. In most elections, only half of the Senate’s members are on the ballot — in other words, half of an Australian state’s 12 senators are up for election.
But the current Senate is deadlocked. While the Coalition has more seats than Labour (an advantage of 33 to 25), 10 members of the Senate belong to the Green Party and another eight senators belong to other small parties or sit as independents.
If Australia’s House of Representatives and Senate twice fail to agree on legislation, the government may prevail upon the governor-general to dissolve both the House and the Senate under section 57 of Australia’s constitution. In the current election, four bills qualify to trigger such a double-dissolution election.
As returns come in from the May 9 general election in the Philippines, voters have delivered Rodrigo Duterte a strong victory in the race to become their next president. But they also seem to have had last-minute doubts about handing the vice presidency to Ferdinand ‘BongBong’ Marcos, Jr.
Instead, defying polls throughout the campaign that gave Marcos a slight lead, the narrow winner (for now) is Maria Leonor ‘Leni’ Robredo, the candidate of the Partido Liberal ng Pilipinas (Liberal Party), which has governed the world’s 12th-most populous country for the last six years under Benigno ‘NoyNoy’ Aquino III. Under Aquino, whose father struggled (and was ultimately assassinated) in the fight for a democratic Philippines, the economy has grown at rates of 6% or even higher (barring relatively lower 3% growth in 2011).
With over 96% of the votes counted, Robredo led with 35.1% to just 34.6% for Marcos, a slim margin of around 215,000 votes, though observers believe that, based on the outstanding results, Marcos is unlikely to take the lead. That’s despite Marcos’s nearly two-to-one advantage in metropolitan Manila, which includes both the capital city and the even more populous Quezon City.
Already, Marcos is complaining about election irregularities. That must come as something of an ironic shock to the rest of the world, which considers the Marcos name to be virtually synonymous with kleptocracy. The family was implicated in last month’s sensational ‘Panama Papers’ scandal over offshore tax havens.
Robredo, who isn’t necessarily natural allies with Duterte, has indicated that she is willing to serve in a Duterte cabinet and, in turn, Duterte’s spokesperson has confirmed that he will offer a cabinet position to Robredo.
It’s hard not to think of Rodrigo Duterte as the Donald Trump of the Philippines.
But in truth, he’s more like Joseph Arpaio — a conservative, tough-on-crime kind of guy willing to do whatever it takes to clean up his city, human rights or the justice system be damned.
At age 71, ‘Rody’ Duterte, who has served for a total of 22 years as mayor of Davao City, has vaulted to a lead in the polls to become the leading presidential choice among voters in the Philippines when they go to the polls on May 9. It’s an election in which Philippines might turn from liberalism to illiberalism not only by electing a Duterte presidency, but also by supporting the restoration of the Marcos family — the son of Ferdinand Marcos, the country’s autocratic ruler from 1965 to 1986, is running for the vice presidency as well.
Duterte is a presidential candidate with tough talk on crime, corruption
Known domestically as the ‘punisher,’ Duterte is not a man to cross. He brags about killing criminals, especially drug dealers, with his own gun, taking extrajudicial justice into his own hands where he sees fit. He openly admitted last November to killing three rapists and kidnappers in Davao City, and he said last week that he would kill his own kids if he found out they were using drugs. Duterte has trekked across the country delivering a fiery nationalist stump speech, often with his fist raised in the air, a variant of which serves as his campaign logo. It’s not a subtle appeal Duterte is making to supporters, who also casually refer to him as ‘Duterte Harry.’
For the United States, the Philippines figures heavily in the growing US strategic and military interest in the Pacific Rim, and the outgoing Obama administration hopes that, in particular, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will draw the Philippines closer to the United States and further, economically speaking, from China. Today, officials in the administrations of both outgoing US president Barack Obama and outgoing Philippine president Benigno ‘NoyNoy’ Aquino III view the growing cooperation as mutually beneficial.
In no uncertain terms, a Duterte victory next Monday in the presidential election would make US-Philippine relations much more difficult.
It’s not a small matter. The Philippines is the world’s 12th-most populous country, with 103 million people and growing.
Davao City, the fourth largest in the country, lies in the far tropical south, and Duterte has presided over its transformation from a hub for communist and left-wing radicals to a case study in law and order. In a country where everyone seems to be worried most about corruption and crime, Duterte and reports of how he’s tamed Davao City over 20 years in power have captured the national zeitgeist. Elected to national office just once (18 years ago) throughout his decades-long career, Duterte can also style himself as an outsider, relatively speaking. Like most politicians in the Philippines, Duterte comes from an influential family — his father was an attorney and a former governor of what used to be Dávao province.
But that’s where the similarity to most Philippine politicians ends.
Less than a year into his tenure as the leader of the sovereigntist Parti québécois, Pierre Karl Péladeau abruptly stepped down on Monday, sending political shocks waves throughout Canada’s majority French-speaking province.
Four months after a sudden split with the wife he married in August, and now facing a custody battle over his children, Péladeau abruptly announced his resignation from the PQ leadership and from the provincial assembly, tearfully explaining that he had chosen to put his family before his ‘political project.’
Péladeau’s departure leaves the province without a full-time opposition leader, and the PQ’s troubles could cause voters to turn to an increasingly crowded field of nationalist alternatives. It’s just the latest setback for a party that’s suffered two tough decades after coming just 55,000 votes shy of winning Québec’s independence in 1995.
Jean Charest, premier for nine years as the leader of the centrist Parti libéral du Québec (PLQ, Liberal Party of Québec), sidelined the separatists for nearly a decade. For a while, the PQ fell to third place after the 2007 elections. The party’s leader at the time, André Boisclair, the first openly gay party leader in Canadian history, spent much of his leadership alienating the party’s rural, unionized base and fending off charges of drug use and financial malfeasance.
When voters finally gave the PQ a shot at governing in 2012, under Pauline Marois, the party immediately launched a needless effort to introduce the ill-named Charte de la laïcité (Québec Charter of Values), which served only to alienate recent immigrants to the province, especially Muslims, by purporting to ban religious headgear.
After Marois called early elections in a disastrous effort to win a majority government, voters instead turned back to the PLQ under its new leader, Philippe Couillard, a former provincial health minister. Marois quickly lost control over the debate when a new star recruit — Péladeau — stood on a campaign platform with Marois and, fist raised, started calling forQuébec’s independence. That forced Marois to respond to hypotheticals about a third referendum, whether an independent Québec would use the Canadian dollar and how borders would work between Canada and an independent Québec. The PQ dropped to its lowest total yet — barely over 25% of the vote.
Meanwhile, its sister party, the Bloc québécois (BQ), won less than 20% of the vote in the 2015 Canadian federal election, and its leader, Gilles Duceppe, resigned (again) after failing to win his own riding. Its 10 seats in Canada’s House of Commons is somewhat better than the four seats it won in the 2011 election, but the days when the BQ dominated the province’s representation in Ottawa now seem long gone.
After a needlessly long internal campaign, Péladeau emerged last spring as the easy winner of the PQ’s leadership election, and he defiantly vowed to make Québec a country. Almost immediately, however, Péladeau’s stumbles seem to outweigh his charms. He indulgently refused to sell the shares to Quebecor the media empire that his father once ran and that Péladeau himself ran until his decision to enter provincial politics. His business-friendly demeanor met with skepticism from the party’s left-wing members and union activists. Many of them left the PQ for the more stridently leftist and pro-independence Québec solidaire.
Meanwhile, Péladeau was never able to steal votes from the ‘soft’ nationalist, center-right Coalition avenir Québec (CAQ), which dominates the vote in and around Québec City. Péladeau’s hardline calls to make Québec a country nearly guaranteed that the PQ would not be the beneficiary of the Couillard government’s growing unpopularity due, on doubt, to two years of spending cuts aimed to achieve a balanced budget. Though the most recent CROP poll from mid-April gave the Liberals just 33% support, the PQ drew just 26%, compared to 25% for the CAQ and 14% for Québec solidaire.
Having already announced the province’s 2016 budget in March, and basking in a Delta Airlines decision to buy 75 aircraft from local manufacturer Bombardier, it would not be the worst time for Couillard to call an early election.
In one sense, Péladeau’s resignation gives the party a fresh start as the province starts the countdown to new elections, to be held before October 2018. Under a long interim leadership, the PQ might continue to lose right-leaning supporters to the CAQ and left-leaning supporters to Québec solidaire. The next election will be François Legault’s third as the CAQ leader, and it will be Françoise David’s fourth as co-spokesperson for Québec solidaire, and both remain incredibly popular.
But there was a sense that Péladeau’s victory last May was the last shot for the péquistes to regroup, with increasingly bilingual young voters and rising numbers of immigrants, in particular, rejecting any abrupt separation with Canada. Demographics just aren’t in the PQ’s favor, and its next leader will have none of the name recognition or star power that Péladeau, for all his faults, brought to the PQ leadership.
Alexandre Cloutier, a 38-year-old former minister and currently, shadow education secretary, ran second in last year’s PQ leadership race, and could provide a Trudeau-like appeal to younger voters.
Jean-Martin Aussant, who left the PQ in 2012 to form Option nationale, dedicated to a more impatient brand of Québécois sovereignty, and who flamed out of provincial politics, could return as a 21st century version ofJacques Parizeau, the fiery champion of the independence movement.
Bernard Drainville, who masterminded the Marois government’s push for the Charter of Values, is another possibility, as is Jean-François Lisée, who served as minister of international relations and trade under Marois.
No doubt, old-timers will hope that the 68-year-old Gilles Duceppe, the BQ leader from 1997 to 2011 (and again, briefly, in the leadup to the 2015 election) will attempt one more comeback for the separatist cause.
Even before Péladeau’s resignation, the PQ was already facing an existential problem as a party dedicated to independence in a province where the most separatist generation is literally dying out. In a country where even former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper can call Québec a ‘nation’ without any major blowback, and where its current prime minister, Justin Trudeau, comes from Montréal’s most storied political dynasty, the PQ’s raison d’être seems even more like yesterday’s cause. Neither Péladeau nor his successor is likely to pick a fight with Trudeau, massively popular in Québec just as much as the rest of Canada, over sovereignty.
No matter who the PQ chooses as its next leader, he or she will face difficult odds to convince Québec’s youth, its growing immigrant class and anglophones to support it as the chief alternative to Couillard’s Liberals in a political marketplace that’s more crowded with ‘nationalist’ parties than ever. In trying to be all things to all nationalists, the PQ risks its very extinction.
With prime minister Stephen Harper’s decision to call an election last week, Canada has now launched into a 13-week campaign that ends on October 19, when voters will elect all 338 members of the House of Commons, the lower house of the Canadian parliament.
By American standards, where Republican presidential candidates will gather for their first debate nearly six months before a single vote is cast (for the nomination contest, let alone the general election) a 13-week campaign is mercifully short. In Canada, however, it’s twice as long as the most recent campaigns and, indeed, longer than any official election campaign since the late 1800s. But the major party leaders have already engaged in one debate — on August 6.
Plenty of Harper’s critics suggest the long campaign is due to the fundraising advantage of his center-right Conservative Party. Harper, who came to power with minority governments after the 2006 and 2008 elections and who finally won a majority government in 2011, is vying for a fourth consecutive term. He’ll do so as the global decline in oil prices and slowing Chinese demand take their toll on the Canadian economy, which contracted (narrowly) for each of the last five months.
Energy policy and the future of various pipeline projects (such as Energy East, Kinder Morgan, Northern Gateway and the more well-known Keystone XL) will be top issues in British Columbia and Alberta. Economic growth and a new provincial pension program will be more important in Ontario. Sovereignty and independence will, as usual, play a role in Québec — though not, perhaps, as much as in recent years.
In reality, the battle lines of the current election have been being drawn since April 2013, when the struggling center-left Liberal Party, thrust into third place in the 2011 elections, chose Justin Trudeau — the son of former Liberal prime minister Pierre Trudeau of the 1970s and 1980s — as its fifth leader in a decade. Trudeau’s selection immediately pulled the Liberals back into first place in polls, as Liberals believed his pedigree, energy and sometimes bold positions (Trudeau backs the full legalization of marijuana use, for example) would restore their electoral fortunes.
Nevertheless, polls suggest* that two years of sniping from Harper about Trudeau’s youth and inexperience have taken their toll. The race today is a three-way tie and, since the late spring, it’s the progressive New Democratic Party (NDP) that now claims the highest support, boosted from the NDP’s landslide upset in Alberta’s May provincial election. (*Éric Grenier, the self-styled Nate Silver of Canadian numbers-crunching, is running the CBC poll tracker in the 2015 election, but his ThreeHundredEight is an indispensable resource).
With the addition of 30 new ridings (raising the number of MPs in Ottawa from 308 to 338) and with the three parties so close in national polls, it’s hard to predict whether Canada will wake up on October 20 with another Tory government or a Liberal or NDP government. If no party wins a clear majority, Canada has far more experience with minority governments than with European-style coalition politics, and the Liberals and NDP have long resisted the temptation to unite.
Canadian government feels more British than American, in large part because its break with Great Britain was due more to evolution than revolution. Nevertheless, political campaigns have become more presidential-style in recent years, and the latest iteration of the Conservative Party (merged into existence in 2003) is imbued with a much more social conservative ethos than the older Progressive Conservative Party. The fact that polls are currently led by a left-of-center third party, the New Democratic Party (NDP), also demonstrates that the Canadian electorate, which benefits from a single-payer health care system, is willing to shift more leftward than typical American electorates.
Provincial politics do not often portend changes in federal politics, but the 2015 election is proving to be influenced by political developments in Alberta, Ontario, Québec, Manitoba and elsewhere, and many provincial leaders have not been shy about voicing their opinions about federal developments — most notably Ontario’s Liberal premier Kathleen Wynne. Continue reading In Depth: Canada’s general election→
In the United States, self-proclaimed ‘democratic socialist’ Bernie Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont running for the Democratic Party’s 2016 presidential nomination, has hit his stride this month — Politico proclaimed it a ‘socialist surge.’
Notwithstanding the thousands of supporters thronging to his campaign events across the country, Sanders holds a very slim chance of defeating against his opponent, former first lady, New York senator and secretary of state Hillary Clinton.
In Canada, however, it’s a different story.
The leftist New Democratic Party (NDP) has surged to a polling lead, giving its leader, Tom Mulcair, a legitimate chance to become Canada’s first NDP prime minister. Make no mistake, if the NDP wins Canada’s October election, it would be a huge milestone for the North American left.
ThreeHundredEight‘s June polling averages give the NDP a slight edge, with 32.6% to just 28.6% for prime minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives and 26.3% for the Liberal Party. The NDP has a healthy lead in British Columbia and in Quebec, is essentially in a three-way tie in Ontario, leads the Liberals in Alberta and the prairie provinces (a Tory heartland) and leads the Tories in Atlantic Canada (the only remaining Liberal heartland).
On these numbers, the NDP could emerge as the largest party in the House of Commons, though probably not with an outright majority.
It is, of course, still early — the election is more than three months away. But it’s a remarkable reversal of fortune for a party that only recently languished in third place.
It’s an aphorism of Canadian politics that federal trends don’t extrapolate from provincial trends. But there’s no doubting that the election of Rachel Notley in May as Alberta’s premier has much to do with Mulcair’s recent good fortunes. Notley’s Alberta NDP displaced the Progressive Conservative Party after 44 years in power — and sent Jim Prentice, a Harper ally and former federal minister, who returned from private-sector life to lead Alberta’s ailing PC-led government, back into retirement.
Under the leadership of Jack Layton, the NDP made its first major breakthrough in the 2011 elections. With voters unenthusiastic about Michael Ignatieff’s leadership of the center-left Liberals and with Québec voters in particular tiring of the pro-independence Bloq québécois, the NDP won 103 seats, including 59 of Québec’s 75 ridings. It was enough to make the NDP, for the first time in Canadian history, the official opposition. Tragically, Layton died of cancer less than four months after the election, depriving the party of a figure whose personality and integrity were a key element of the so-called ‘orange crush.’
Mulcair, a moderate with aims of winning over moderate as well as progressive voters, won the leadership in March 2012, dispatching Brian Topp, his more leftist rival. A French Canadian who got his start in the rough and tumble of Québec’s local politics, Mulcair served for 13 years in the provincial assembly and won plaudits as the minister of environment from 2003 to 2006 under Liberal premier Jean Charest. Mulcair made the jump to federal politics during the 2007 election, easily winning a riding from Outremont.
With the Liberals stuck in rebuilding-mode, the NDP took the lead in many surveys throughout 2012. But with the election of Justin Trudeau as the new Liberal leader in early 2013, the NDP’s support tanked — to just barely above 20% in many polls. That’s essentially where Mulcair’s NDP remained for the rest of 2013, 2014 and early 2015. Continue reading NDP rises to lead as Canadian election approaches→
Barring any surprises, Pierre Karl Péladeau, a successful businessman in the Québéc media space who entered politics for the first time last year, will become the new leader of the separatist Parti Québécois (PQ).
Though he was already the overwhelming favorite in the leadership election, Péladeau’s leadership hopes were almost reinforced by Bernard Drainville’s decision earlier this week to drop out of the contest, endorsing Péladeau. Drainville was the architect of the last PQ government’s disastrous attempt to enact the charte de la laïcité (Charter of Rights and Values) that would have banned government employees from wearing religious symbols and that critics argued would unfairly restrict the freedom of Muslim and other non-Christian recent migrants to Québec.
Drainville left the race after falling not only far behind Péladeau, but also behind Alexandre Cloutier, a member of Québec’s National Assembly since 2007, and a former minister for Québec’s north and Canadian intergovernmental affairs.
The vote follows the swift defeat of Pauline Marois’s minority government in April 2014. After Marois lost her own constituency in the election, she announced her resignation as party leader. When former Bloc québécois leader Gilles Duceppe declined to run for the leadership, Péladeau quickly emerged as the leading candidate. PQ members will cast a first ballot between May 13 and 15, with a second ballot to follow if no candidate wins a majority.
In the latest Leger poll from early April, Péladeau had the support of 59% of PQ voters, compared to just 13% for Cloutier and 9% for Drainville.
After two recent high-profile failures at the ballot box, the center-right Liberal Party is breathing a sigh of relief today with an election victory in New South Wales, Australia’s largest state and the home of Liberal prime minister Tony Abbott.
Less than a year after Liberal premier Barry O’Farrell resigned over a gift bottle of wine valued at $3,000, his successor Mike Baird won a renewed mandate for the Liberals in Saturday’s state election. That will come as some relief to Abbott, whose rising unpopularity caused a leadership spill in his own caucus in mid-February and whose hold on the Liberal leadership (and premiership) is still somewhat shaky. A Liberal loss in New South Wales, following losses last November in Victoria state and on January 31 in Queensland, would have certainly renewed calls for Abbott’s replacement.
New South Wales was the original name given to the British colony on Australia’s mainland established at Sydney in 1788. Over the decades of the 19th century, the colony was eventually whittled down to the pattern of today’s Australian states and territories. Nevertheless, its 7.4 million residents constitute nearly one-third of Australia’s population today.
Baird’s popularity won’t necessarily make him a direct threat to Abbott. Success at the provincial level in Australian politics only rarely results in a leap to federal politics. Former Labor premier Bob Carr, who served from 1995 to 2005, overseeing the 2000 summer Olympic games in Sydney, made the jump in 2012 only after then-prime minister Julia Gillard appointed him to Australia’s senate as part of his appointment as foreign minister. Moreover, Abbott is personally and ideologically closer to Baird than he was to O’Farrell. He’s far more likely to face a federal leadership challenge from communications minister Malcolm Turnbull or foreign minister Julie Bishop than from Baird.
Like Abbott at the federal level, Baird governs at the provincial level in a longstanding coalition with the National Party. Though the center-left Labor Party gained 11 seats, mostly at the expense of the Liberal/National coalition, which lost eight seats, Baird will continue to enjoy a plurality of seats in the state legislature’s upper house, the Legislative Council, and a strong majority in the lower house, the Legislative Assembly. Continue reading Liberals win big in New South Wales state election→
By just about any measure, Moldova’s first quarter-century as an independent state has been inauspicious long before last weekend’s parliamentary elections.
Emerging from the Soviet Union as a new state engaged in a war with separatists in Transnistria, Moldova is today the poorest country on continental Europe, and successive governments have left the country with antiquated and corrupt institutions that culminated in widespread protests (pictured above) and a political crisis in 2009. In 2014, no country in the former Soviet Union, including Ukraine, is perhaps more at risk from Russian aggression.
Though a coalition of three relatively pro-European parties appear to be moving forward to form a governing coalition, the winner in last Sunday’s vote was the Partidul Socialiştilor din Republica Moldova (PSRM, Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova), formed in 1997 and a fringe party until it received an endorsement from Russian president Vladimir Putin. The Socialists will enter Moldova’s 101-member Parlamentul (parliament), with 25 seats, the largest of five parties in the chamber.
It may yet be a long way back to taking national power in Australia, but the center-left Australian Labor Party will begin in Victoria, where it reclaims only its second state government across Australia.
Victoria, the second-most populous state in Australia, and home to Melbourne, has long been friendly terrain for Labor.
It’s not surprising, then, that Labor would win Saturday’s election, even though it represents the first time in 60 years that the electorate in Victoria tossed out a government after just one term in office.
Though results are not yet final, reliable early accounts give Labor 47 seats in the 88-member Legislative Assembly, and the Liberal Party’s leader, outgoing premier Denis Napthine, has already conceded defeat.
The Victorian election is a moderate defeat for Liberal/Coalition prime minister Tony Abbott, who had hoped that Napthine, who has led a razor-thin majority coalition since 2013, could eke out a victory. Napthine replaced Ted Baillieu, who resigned in March 2013 in the wake of a minor scandal involving government favors and the anti-corruption commission. Geoff Shaw, a rogue backbencher, caused headaches for both Liberal premiers, and he was indirectly responsible for Baillieu’s resignation last year.
Labor will take power under Daniel Andrews (pictured above), the leader of the opposition since 2010. Abbott didn’t campaign hard for Napthine, but national Labour leader Bill Shorten, a Melbourne native, devoted significant time and resources to the campaign.
Among the hottest issues in the campaign was a proposed East-West Link, an 18-km tollroad that would have linked the far ends of the Melbourne metropolitan area. It was one of the crowning infrastructure projects of the Liberal/Coalition government in Victoria, though Labor was always far more hesitant about the project.
Ultimately, it’s hard to say that the Victoria result, close as it was, is a harbinger of much of anything for national politics. Abbott brought the Coalition back to power in September 2013 after six tumultuous years of Labor government under Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard and, for a brief time, Rudd again last summer.
His chief policy accomplishment is the repeal of the two chief policy achievements of the previous Labor government — a carbon trading scheme and a mining tax, both of which Gillard and Labor enacted in 2012, after Rudd and the party campaigned on them in 2007.
Abbott doesn’t have to call another election until January 2017 and he currently enjoys a strong majority in the House of Commons, the lower house of the Australian parliament. Nevertheless, though Abbott last year won a relatively robust victory (53.5% of the two-party preferred vote for the Coalition versus just 46.5% for Labor), the government now narrowly trails Shorten’s Labor by a margin of 52% to 48%, according to the most recent November Essential survey. Much of the unpopularity stems from Australia’s slowing economy, due in large part to China’s respective economic slowdown, and unemployment in Victoria is currently running the highest in the country at 6.8%.
In short, though Victoria’s election was a solid win for Labor and something of a personal victory for Shorten, there’s not so much to read into the result for a federal election that might be held more than two years from now.
In the end, Australian prime minister Tony Abbott didn’t have to call a special, massive ‘double dissolution’ election to roll back Australia’s carbon pricing scheme, the signature policy accomplishment of the six-year Labor government that preceded him.
All it took was some deft maneuvering to cobble together a working majority in the 76-member Senate, where Abbott’s Liberal/National Party holds 33 seats, just short of a majority.
Nevertheless, Abbott (pictured above) won a narrow 39 to 32 victory last month in the upper house of Australia’s parliament, on the strength of six additional non-Coalition votes to repeal the carbon trading market. Having been one of the first countries to adopt a carbon trading market, Australia on July 17 became the first country to repeal a carbon trading market.
That included the support of a mercurial former mining magnate named Clive Palmer (pictured above), whose maverick conservative Palmer United Party (PUP) became the swing vote in determining whether Abbott’s repeal push would succeed or fail.
The Labor Party’s new leader, Bill Shorten, led an unsuccessful push in alliance with the Australian Green Party, to oppose the repeal. Labor holds 25 seats in the Senate, while the Greens hold another 10.
Abbott’s resulting victory is primarily a triumphant tactical and policy victory for the Australian right, giving Abbott an easy talking point on reducing the price of electricity for the average Australian voter (though the real long-term impact of the repeal of a carbon scheme that had reduced emissions by less than 10 percent nationally is yet to be determined).
It’s also a narrative about the fragmentation of the country’s two-party system, as far as Australian senatorial elections go, with voters placing increasingly greater power in the hands of independent third-party candidates.
On the global scale, it marks a symbolic victory for opponents of similar climate change legislation worldwide, though the battle over carbon emissions was never going to be won or lost in Australia, a country of less than 23 million. Arguably, China’s decision in June, for the first time, to limit carbon emissions at the national level, will have a much wider impact on global climate change policy.
While British prime minister David Cameron continues to promote a progressive stand on climate change as an issue to pull his Conservative Party to the middle in the United Kingdom, there’s no indication that the UK is set to introduce any major climate change legislation on the scale of Australia’s experiment with carbon pricing beyond the EU’s own carbon trading scheme. Though there was a brief window in 2008 and 2009 when a carbon-based exchange system might have been enacted in the United States with bipartisan support, those days seem long gone. Nevertheless, the administration of US president Barack Obama and the US Environmental Protection Agency, however, introduced executive actions this summer that aim to reduce US carbon emissions by 30% by the year 2030.
Australia’s carbon scheme has its origins as one of the major promises of former prime minister Kevin Rudd’s widely successful 2007 campaign that brought the Labor Party back to government after more than a decade in opposition. It was, in part, Rudd’s decision to back away from climate change legislation that caused his Labor colleagues to dump him in 2010 in favor of then-deputy prime minister Julia Gillard.
After Gillard won a narrow reelection campaign of her own later that year, she enacted a comprehensive climate change bill in 2012, as well as a broader tax on mining profits (that hasn’t raised nearly as much revenue as expected).
The problem, both in Australia and beyond, is that the global financial crisis of 2008-09 left many national electorates wary of climate change legislation that, almost overnight, suddenly seemed much too costly to introduce at a time when so many developed countries were struggling with the highest unemployment and lowest GDP growth in decades.
That made Abbott’s pledge to repeal what’s popularly become known in Australia as the ‘carbon tax’ one of the most popular aspects of his agenda, which won wide support the parliamentary elections last September that brought Abbott’s Coalition into government. His recent victory in winning Senate support to repeal the carbon scheme will almost certainly rank among the chief legislative successes of his first year as prime minister.Continue reading How Tony Abbott killed Australia’s carbon trading scheme→
After a first-round scare, Juan Manuel Santos won reelection to a second four-year term as Colombia’s president Sunday, delivering a narrow defeat to Óscar Iván Zuluaga and, perhaps more significantly, Santos’s one-time mentor and now opponent, former president Álvaro Uribe.
Though Santos (pictured above) served as Uribe’s defense minister, and won election as president in 2010 with Uribe’s blessing, the former president broke with Santos by opening negotiations with the leftist guerrilla group, Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia). Uribe won support throughout the 2000s from a wide swath of Colombian voters for his aggressive stand against FARC, other guerrilla groups and drug cartels.
Zuluaga, who won the first round of the presidential election over a divided field, indicated that, if elected, he would impose incredibly harsher conditions on the FARC talks — so harsh that they would almost certainly halt the progress of that FARC and the Santos administration have made.
On Sunday, Santos narrowly defeated Zuluaga by a margin of 50.94% to 45.01%. Santos has the support of a coalition of major parties, including the Partido Liberal Colombiano (Colombian Liberal Party) and the Partido Social de Unidad Nacional (Social Party of National Unity, ‘Party of the U’) that once supported Uribe. Zuluaga was supported by Uribe’s newly formed party, Centro Democrático (Democratic Center) and significant segments of the Partido Conservador Colombiano (Colombian Conservative Party), which had backed Uribe and Santos in the past.
Make no mistake — Santos’s reelection is good news for Colombia, good news for the entire region and good news for the United States, which has devoted significant resources to stabilizing Colombia in the past three decades. If there’s any lesson to be learned from the chaos in Iraq over the past week, it’s that insurgencies ultimately require political, not just military, solutions. Military force can subdue and repress internal dissent, but ending a domestic insurgency demands some form of political engagement.
Santos, throughout the campaign, demonstrated that he understands that in a way Uribe and Zuluaga don’t. Though Santos made his fair share of errors as a first-term president, his victory is cause for optimism that the Colombian government will ultimately reach a political settlement with FARC (even on the same day that Colombian security forces launched a successful operation against FARC on election day).
In the final days of the campaign, there was a sense that Zuluaga might, after all, back down from his hardline stance on the FARC talks, which began in late 2012 — 48 years after FARC’s creation.
But you don’t necessarily have to disavow the sometimes controversial aspects of uribismo to acknowledge that the FARC negotiations are a necessary next step. The Colombian military, first under the Uribe administration, and then under the Santos administration, was vital in bringing FARC to the negotiating table, and the current peace talks are, in many ways, the natural progression of Uribe’s successful efforts to marginalize FARC.
The second round of Colombia’s presidential election has been billed as a momentous decision between war and peace.
Juan Manuel Santos, the incumbent, has staked his presidency on the ongoing negotiations with the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), a left-wing group founded in 1964 out of the political turmoil that stretches back to the assassination of liberal presidential candidate Jorge Eliécer Gaitán in 1948 and ‘La Violencia’ that followed for the next decade. Over the last half-century, FARC has been an impediment to a truly peaceful Colombia, even as the worst days of the drug-fueled violence of outfits like the Calí and Medellin carters have long receded.
His opponent, Óscar Iván Zuluaga (pictured above, right, with Santos, left), is the protégé of former Colombian president Álvaro Uribe, who broke with Santos over the FARC talks. Santos served as defense minister under Uribe, he won the presidency in 2010 with Uribe’s full support, and he had been expected to continue the same militaristic push against FARC that Uribe had deployed.
When FARC offered up the possibility of peace talks, Santos surprisingly met the offer, and official talks kicked off in October 2012. The talks were designed to reach agreement on five key points — agrarian land reform and agricultural development, political participation for former FARC militants, the mechanics of ceasefire and ending the conflict, staunching the drug trade and creating a truth commission and compensation for the victims of abuses at the hands of government-backed paramilitary groups.
Those talks have reached accords on three of the five areas, most recently on ending drug trafficking — more than two decades after the death of Pablo Escobar and the demise of Colombia’s major cartels, FARC has become a leading conduit for cocaine and other drugs from Colombia and elsewhere in South America northward.
Zuluaga hasn’t exactly said that he’ll end the talks if he’s elected president. But he has indicated he’ll impose conditions as president that FARC leaders seem unlikely to accept, all but ending the best chance in a half-century to negotiate a political solution to the leftist insurgency, which follows a relatively successful Uribe-Santos military effort that has significantly weakened, if not eliminated, FARC. Moreover, Colombians say in polls that they have no sympathy for FARC, and they generally support the talks, in principle at least.
So the election is truly momentous, and the result will almost certainly determine whether the FARC talks will continue.
That’s not the reason, however, that Santos appears to be losing the election, after trailing Zuluaga in the first round on May 25.
Mary O’Grady, writing for The Wall Street Journal, serves up an analysis of the Colombian election that misses entirely the reason why Santos is in such trouble headed into the June 15 runoff:
A year ago Mr. Santos—part economic liberal, part old-fashioned populist—seemed certain to keep his job. Real gross domestic product expanded by an average annual 4.7% from 2010-13, and in 2011 Colombian debt won investment-grade status from all three major U.S. credit-rating firms.
Had Mr. Santos run on this record he might have won in the first round. Most voters don’t see much difference on economic policy between him and Mr. Zuluaga—the former CEO of a Colombian steel fabricator. But he made the FARC talks the centerpiece of his re-election campaign, which opened his weakest flank.
According to O’Grady (and, to be fair, other commentators), Santos would be winning this election if only he had merely rebuffed FARC’s negotiation entreaties. Most beguiling is the notion that Santos’s chief strength is Colombia’s economy.
It’s not. That’s actually the issue that’s most jeopardized his reelection. He could lose on June 15, not because of the FARC talks, but because he hasn’t offered any solutions to the everyday Colombians who feel like they have lost out in what otherwise looks like a stellar economy.