Meanwhile…

July 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

It’s been an interesting couple of months. World Elections has covered most of the main elections. Highlights for me have been:

Turkey’s elections gave an unprecedented third term to Recep Erdoğan. Their majority fell slightly but a third successive landslide is a third successive landslide. The election confirms Erdoğan as Turkey’s most important politician since Ataturk, and that his programme of slightly nationalist, very slightly Islamic, modernisation will not be derailed by traditionalists, secularists, rationalists, liberals (with whom Erdoğan has a strained but not entirely antagonistic relationship), or a stalled EU accession process. I thoroughly recommend The New Turkey: The Quiet Revolution on the Edge of Europe, even though it is poorly written (or rather bizzarly written: it combines the wide eyed wonder of a confused hippie, the frenetic cutting of a Jerry Bruckheimer movie, and the ability to keep to the point of a child whose Ritalin has been switched for concentrated Sunny D) and is overly favourable to the Erdoğan project, it does do a decent job of explaining modern Turkey.

Peru chose Aids over Cancer – or whichever way around it was. Anyway they now have an Amerindian nationalist ostensibly left wing President called Ollanta Humala. He may be the  quasi-facist demagogue that some think, he may be another Evo Morales (you can take that as an insult or a compliment) or the new Chaves (less likely) or it could turn out everyone was over-reacting and he’s actually quite dull.

India is creaking in interesting ways. Congress is going through a rough patch, and whilst poor state elections can mostly be put down to local factors (and as the cow belt largely wasn’t up it was more Congress allies that were effected directly) what is harder to explain away is the growing and significant anti-corruption protest movement. It’s not quite yet the Indian Arab Spring but it is very very very interesting. I don’t quite know where it is going – and if it will be effectively be co-opted by one of the extant powers as so many similar movements have been before, or if it is the start of something new – but it is exciting.

Thailand is back in the hands of the Reds after the election of Thakisn Sinawatra’s sister as President. A fascinating country and story but one that has to wait for another day.

Europe seems to be going rightwards but to be honest I struggle to care about European elections unless they are truly mad (I am looking forward to France and Italy). Belgium has now gone a year without a government, breaking all existing records and meaning that these articles have dated quite well.

The Arab spring  has got nasty as we knew it would. There is vague civil war in Syria and there is nothing vague about it in Libya which has split almost as it was in antiquity: into Berber and Punic areas. Meanwhile Bahrain’s government has tried their best to crush the uprising (even destroying the totemic roundabout) but this has just led to the movement developing along Sunni/Shia Iran vs Saudi Arabia lines: and if Saudi Arabia and Iran clash then the winner will not be Bahrain.

Yemen is interesting – Saudi Arabia gambling on amputating the limb (Saleh) in the hope of saving the body (a weak and undemocratic Yemen). It is important to note the difference (as too few articles do) between the uprising, which is a new and largely peaceful movement for greater democratic powers largely in the cities, and the insurgency which predates the uprising by several years. The Yemeni government tries hard to conflate the two, and there are synergies – particularly with regards to the North Yemeni political domination of the south – but they are distinct; not least geographically as the insurgency is a very rural phenomenon.

There are actually two insurgencies: the South Yemeni one (more accurately East Yemeni) is based around a rejection of North Yemeni political hegemony and is much more recent. The Shia insurgency is much more significant (they even have a mini de facto state) and is based around a rejection of Sunni majoritarianism. It is the Shia insurgency which worries Saudi Arabia the most (they span the border) – and their actions have far more to do with that than quashing the democracy movement (not that they don’t enjoy a good democracy crushing too).

Meanwhile in Egypt and Tunisia it appears the old guard have re-branded rather than disappeared and this is leading to renewed clashes

Elsewhere in Africa there is a lot going on and I thoroughly recommend Think Africa’s Politics section. In brief:

In Somalia Abdiweli Mohamed Ali is serving as interim PM but, as always, all is flux. The previous PM was a qualified success by the very low standards of Somali PMs but allowed his term to expire without any thought to the sucession, then attempted to elongate his term, was talked out of it at the last minute, and left abruptly and without making what happens next at all clear.

Kagame is losing some of his shine in Rwanda and Astroturfing Twitter hasn’t helped. Amnesty have done a great report on the state of the press there:

Jonathan’s riding his Goodluck in Nigeria, but the sidelineing of the Yoruba community may not be a smart long term move politically – especially as Nigeria does no longer seem to be such a one party state.

Sudan and South Sudan are discovering that secession does not solve all their problems and are scrapping over the border and everything else they can think of.

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