Tag Archives: MDP

Italian left threatens to upend Renzi plans to continue leading Democratic Party

Matteo Renzi (left) is facing a challenge from justice minister Andrea Orlando (right) for the leadership of the Democratic Party, but that’s the least of the Italian left’s worries these days. (Facebook)

The message from former prime minister Matteo Renzi to the Italian left couldn’t be more clear:

Unite or die.

Unfortunately for Renzi, who hopes to regain the leadership of the center-left Partito Democratico (PD, Democratic Party) and lead it to victory in the next Italian election, no one seems to be listening to him.

Even worse, it is Renzi’s my-way-or-the-highway leadership style and his continued insistence on personally leading the Italian left in the next election that has forced such a severe schism inside a party that has struggled since its foundation a decade ago to bridge a divide that spans Catholic social conservatives to outright democratic socialists.

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RELATED: What to expect from Italy’s new government

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In the span of just 10 days, Renzi’s heavy-handed approach — designed to entrench him as the Democratic Party leader — has instead launched a fresh leadership contest (with yet another preliminary struggle over the timing of the contest). More ominously, a breakaway faction split from the party over the weekend to form a new group, the Movimento Democratico e Progressista (MDP, Democratic and Progressive Movement) that could drain the Democratic Party of crucial support in the next election. The new group already claims nearly 40 deputies in the lower house of the Italian parliament and 20 senators in the upper house.

There’s still time for a rapprochement. 

The faction-ridden Democrats have always struggled with unity, but there’s a real chance that the centrosinistra‘s continued inability to unite in 2017 (and Renzi’s inability to win over skeptics) could tilt Italy’s next government to anti-EU populists.

With the traditional Italian centrodestra (‘center-right’) divided and weak in the post-Berlusconi era, unless the broad centrosinistra (‘center-left’) finds a way to heal the wounds, the infighting could allow the anti-austerity, eurosceptic and increasingly illiberal protest movement, the Movimento 5 Stelle (M5S, the Five Star Movement), to win the next Italian elections. Those elections must be held before May 2018.
Continue reading Italian left threatens to upend Renzi plans to continue leading Democratic Party

Weekend municipal elections from Japan to France


It’s another busy weekend for world politics — especially with regard to municipal elections in two G-8 countries.

Here’s a quick weekend update of the three world elections taking place today and tomorrow.

Maldivian parliamentary electionsmaldives

First, the Maldives on Saturday elected all 77 members of the Majlis, the unicameral Maldivian parliament. The parliamentary elections follow the highly botched presidential election last autumn — the initial September vote was annulled and Maldivian election officials postponed the vote to the point of constitutional crisis. By the time the country held a new vote in November, it pushed through a runoff just five days later. Former president Mohammed Nasheed, who won the first round, lost the runoff to Abdulla Yameen, the half-brother of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who previously governed the Maldives between 1978 and 2008. 

The polls are already closed there, and the voting has gone smoothly, according to initial reports. Results are expected on Sunday, and the contest pits Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party against Gayoom’s Progressive Party of Maldives. 

Osaka municipal electionosakacity osakaprefectureJapan

In Japan, Osaka’s controversial mayor Tōru Hashimoto (橋下徹) is forcing a mayoral election after resigning in February in what amounts to a power play over his plan to unite the city of Osaka and Osaka prefecture into a larger ‘Osaka-to’ region.

Though no major party is running a candidate against Hashimoto (pictured above), the popularity of the former television personality has fallen rapidly both at the national and local level.

His bid to join forces with former Tokyo mayor Shintaro Ishihara to form the right-wing Japan Restoration Party (日本維新の会, Nippon Ishin no Kai) made waves in December 2012 when it nearly became the second-largest force in the lower house of the Japanese Diet, but Hashimoto’s rising star has faded over the past 15 months, not least of all because of his insensitive comments that attempted to justify the use of ‘comfort women’ — Korean sexual slaves — by Japanese soldiers during World War II.

Though Hashimoto will likely win reelection in the Osaka vote on Sunday, his critics have attacked the election as an unnecessary waste of taxpayer money.

Hashimoto, who served as the governor of Osaka prefecture between 2008 and 2011, has served as the city of Osaka’s mayor since 2011. In 2010, he founded the Osaka Restoration Association (大阪維新の会, Ōsaka Ishin no Kai) under the banner of ‘One Osaka,’ his longtime campaign to unite the prefecture and the city as one larger metropolis, like the structure of Tokyo’s combined metropolitan government. Osaka is Japan’s second-most populous metropolitan area, and Osaka prefecture, which encompasses the city of Osaka, is home to 8.9 million residents.

The plan faces opposition by the Osaka city council, where Hashimoto’s Osaka Restoration Association doesn’t hold a majority. Though there might be gains in merging the prefecture and city governments, critics fear that Hashimoto is more motivated by the possibility of creating a regional political empire. The central government also opposes the plan, because it might mean ceding power from the federal to the prefectural level.

Paris (and other French) municipal electionsFrance Flag Iconparis

French municipal elections are also taking place this weekend — the first round will take place Sunday, with second rounds to follow next Sunday, March 30.

The indisputable highlight of the French elections is the Paris mayoral race, with Bertrand Delanoë stepping down after 13 years in the office. The race will almost certainly result in a runoff next week between first deputy mayor Anne Hidalgo, the Andalusia-born candidate of the Parti socialiste (PS, Socialist Party), and Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, a moderate who served as a former minister of ecology, sustainable development, transport and housing and as campaign spokesperson for Nicolas Sarkozy in 2012.

The vote takes place amid one of the worst bouts of air pollution that Paris has seen in recent years, which caused the city government to impose emergency restrictions on automobiles last week.

Though polls forecast a tight race, Hidalgo has held a consistent, if narrow, lead over Kosciusko-Morizet for nearly a year — the most recent BVA poll from mid-March predicted that Hidalgo would win the second round by a margin of 53% to 47%.

Outside Paris, however, the elections are a test for the struggling administration of France’s socialist president François Hollande, and an opportnity for France’s far-right Front national (FN, National Front), with its leader Marine Le Pen hoping to win at least some mid-sized towns and villages in the FN’s traditional stronghold in the Mediterranean south and in the economically depressed post-industrial north.

Half-brother of longtime authoritarian leader Gayoom wins Maldivian presidential runoff


Though the long-delayed presidential election process in the Maldives often seemed in danger of never coming to a completion, today’s Maldivian runoff has apparently selected a new president — five days after the Maldivian constitution required an inauguration and a week after the first round of the rescheduled vote.maldives

Former president Mohammed Nasheed won nearly 47% of the vote in the first round  — and around 45.5% in the previous first round held in September (which was subsequently annulled by the Maldivian supreme court).

But last week’s runner-up Abdulla Yameen (pictured above) emerged victorious today in the runoff, boosting his support from around 30% in the first round to 51.39% today.  Nasheed won just 48.61%.

Nasheed became the first democratically elected president in Maldivian history when he won the previous 2008 presidential election, though he was pushed out of office in February 2012 following protests over rising prices and a poor economy.  Nasheed achieved international fame for the cause of climate change — at an average of around four feet above sea level, the Maldives face destruction from global warming and rising sea levels.

But those concerns were distant from the 2013 election and political crisis.  Yameen’s electoral win is a victory for Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who ruled the Maldives from 1978 to 2008 (Nasheed defeated Gayoom in the 2008 election).  Gayoom, however, never fully left the stage of Maldivian politics — Yameen is his half-brother, and many of the Maldivian state institutions, especially its judiciary, are believed to remain more loyal to Gayoom than to the rule of law.

Though the Indian and global media are reporting that Yameen’s victory is somewhat of a surprise, it shouldn’t be.  Nasheed failed, however narrowly, to surpass the critical 50% mark in both the annulled September 7 round and in the November 9 round.  Moreover, the third-place candidate, Qasim Ibrahim, a former Gayoom-era finance minister, won 23% in the previous vote, and he subsequently endorsed Yameen.  It was Ibrahim’s complaint about potential ballot fraud following the first round that led the Maldivian supreme court to annul the September vote, a move that was widely seen as an opportunity for Nasheed’s opponents to unite around Yameen.

It’s clear that after three votes, Nasheed marshals something just short of an absolute majority (45.45%, 46.93%, 48.61%) of the Maldivian electorate.  While the process may not have been comically flawed, the votes demonstrate that Nasheed simply failed to build a fully majoritarian coalition for his relatively secular, technocratic, pro-democracy, pro-development vision.  It’s important to remember that five years ago, when Nasheed capitalized on three decades of pent-up resentments over the Gayoom regime, he defeated the old authoritarian with just 53.65% of the vote.  While Nasheed has conceded defeat in today’s vote, in a move to reinforce respect for the country’s nascent democratic institutions, Gayoom’s resurgence leaves those fragile institutions somewhat in doubt.

Yameen, the candidate of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), a party that Gayoom founded in 2011, campaigned on harsh criminal penalties — including the death penalty.  Nasheed had campaigned on a more broadly economic platform of boosting tourism revenues and business development.

Perhaps more fundamentally, Yameen and Ibrahim accused Nasheed and the Maldivian Democratic Party of being too close to the West and too secular in the Muslim country of just 328,000 residents.  Nasheed, in turn, argued that Yameen was using religion as a wedge issue to stir resentment and allow for Islamism to take root.

Maldives nullifies presidential ballot, new vote set for October 19 vote

Maldives Politics

After halting a runoff in the Maldives at the last minute, the Maldivian supreme court has now annulled the results of the first round of the election on September 7, calling a new election that’s supposed to be held October 19, with a potential runoff on November 4.maldives

Though nullifying the result may be an overhasty response, the supporters of Mohamed Nasheed aren’t entirely unhappy about it, because the October 19 race gives them an opportunity to reach the 50% mark to avoid a potential runoff and thereby restore Nasheed to the Maldivian presidency:

Thousands of Nasheed Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) supporters cautiously welcomed the Supreme Court announcement of the date of the polls.

“Do not worry. Now we have the election in our hands. We wanted an election date. Now we will not even have to go for a second round,” MDP legislator Mohamed Nazim told a gathering outside the court.

Nasheed’s supporters have taken to the streets since the initial September 28 runoff was cancelled.  The former president, who was pressured to step down in 2012, won over 45% of the vote in the initial September 7 election, and was set to face Abdulla Yameen, the candidate of the Progressive Party of Maldives, and the half-brother of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who ruled the Maldives between 1978 and 2008, when he lost the country’s first democratic election to Nasheed.

The third-place candidate Gasin Ibrahim, a tourist and media businessman, is a former Gayoom regime finance minister, and his complaint

But no one really knows if the October 19 vote will actually take place given the shenanigans that have already occurred (more Suffragio background here).

It’s not rare to see a fraudulent election denounced by international observers upheld by a country’s judicial system, but it’s odd to see a perfectly free and fair election, conducted with praise from international observers, vacated by the highest court in the land.

Moreover, there’s now a petition now before the Maldivian supreme court to disqualify Nasheed from the ballot on the basis of, well, I’m not entirely sure:

The Supreme Court petition filed today (October 10) states as grounds for stripping Nasheed’s candidacy his “outright criticism towards Islam and imposing Islamic Sharia’ in the Maldives” and his criticism of the judiciary.

Stay tuned.  Something tells me this won’t end well.

Will the Maldives pull itself together to hold a free and fair presidential election?

Mohamed Nasheed

The Maldives was supposed to hold an election last Saturday — a presidential runoff that may have resulted in the return of Mohamed Nasheed (pictured above) to power. maldives

Instead, the runoff was cancelled by the country’s supreme court over allegations of fraud in the first round, setting off protests and scrambles in the island nation of around 340,000 people in the Indian Ocean just southwest of India.  Although the electoral commission ultimately backed down from its initial plan to proceed with the September 28 runoff notwithstanding the court order, it leaves the developing country’s nascent democratic institutions in limbo pending a planned November 11 inauguration for a yet-to-be-determined president.

It’s been a rough go for Maldivian democracy in the five short years since its first free and open presidential election — an election that Nasheed won before he was removed from power in February 2012 by opponents armed by the country’s police and armed forces.  Protests against Nasheed’s administration began in 2011 over the country’s poor economy due to rising prices for an island nation that imports much of its food and energy — GDP growth dropped from around 7% in 2010 and 2011 to just 3.4% last year.

Nasheed, who leads the Maldivian Democratic Party, nearly won the first round with 45.45% of the vote.  His opponent in the runoff is Abdulla Yameen, the candidate of the Progressive Party of Maldives, and who narrowly defeated the third-place candidate Gasin Ibrahim, a wealthy businessman in the tourism and media industries who leads the Jumhoory Party — Yameen took 25.35% to just 24.07% for Ibrahim.  Both Yameen and Ibrahim have ties to Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who ruled the Maldives between 1978 and 2008, when he lost the country’s first democratic election to Nasheed.

But as Sudha Ramachandran writes for The Diplomat, Nasheed’s administration faced difficulties from the outset:

With Gayoom-era appointees and cronies firmly entrenched in the judiciary, bureaucracy, police and military, the Maldives’ nascent democracy was stymied. Meanwhile, anti-democratic forces joined hands with religious conservatives and accused Nasheed of working with Jews and Christians and undermining Islam. Almost from his first day, Nasheed was at loggerheads with the judiciary. Officials in various state institutions ignored the Executive in making decisions, undermining Nasheed’s authority. Massive demonstrations against the president and the MDP were organized, plunging the archipelago in unrest and instability.

Both challengers to Nasheed in the current race have ties to Gayoom, whose legacy looms over the country today — Yameen is Gayoom’s half-brother and Ibrahim served as finance minister and central bank president in the final three years of the Gayoom regime.

Generally, Nasheed opposes the delay in the runoff as a violation of the Maldivian constitution amid fears that Gayoom loyalists are behind the delay, and he Nasheed called for peaceful protests on Saturday.  Gayoom himself has already called for the first-round results to be annulled.

Although the supreme court’s ruling relates to charges from Ibrahim about fraud in the first round (though international observers found little to complain about), Ibrahim supports Yameen.  So does the current president, Mohammed Waheed, who finished in last place with just over 5% in the race, and who served as Nasheed’s vice president until Nasheed was ousted from office.

But it’s not clear where the runoff stands because the Maldivian supreme court didn’t bother setting a new date for the election, leading Nasheed and his supporters to believe that the court might never set a date for a runoff.  In any event, it’s not clear what the delay means for Maldivian law or for Maldivian democracy.  If the runoff is never held, or if the first-round results are cancelled, the Maldives will face another constitutional crisis.  Even if a delayed vote is ultimately held between now and November, a Yameen victory would be tainted by allegations of rigging and bias from the country’s generally pro-Gayoom judiciary.

India, which once buoyed Gayoom’s authoritarian regime (and protected him from a 1988 coup attempt), gradually soured on Gayoom, generally supported Nasheed’s administration and the country’s turn to democracy, denounced the election delay and called for a level playing field for all of the candidates.  Continue reading Will the Maldives pull itself together to hold a free and fair presidential election?