Friday, April 07, 2006

A sorely needed update

There's a lot going on around the world, and it's been a while since I've stepped into the blogging world, so I have a lot of random comments to make...

First, the parliamentary elections in Ukraine. Viktor Yushchenko can proudly point to the fact that these elections were basically free and fair. The results were also to be expected: the pro-Russian opposition was basically united behind Yanukovich, while the more European-leaning Orange factions were split. The big surprise, as has been noted, was the performance of Yulia Tymoshenko as opposed to Yushchenko. A tripartite Orange government is clearly the eventual solution; what will have to be resolved is the distribution of government posts and the government's overall goals. Yushchenko has failed to revive Ukraine's economy; this is the clear priority.

There was also an election in Israel, of course. In the Palestinian territories, the trend is clearly towards moderation within Hamas; reports coming out today suggest that Hamas and Mahmoud Abbas are preparing to talk about Hamas' acceptance of a two-state solution. The question is what empirical effects this has on the behavior of the organization, and what the long-term goals of Hamas are. International pressure has clearly been beneficial to the point and must be maintained even if Hamas accepts negotiations and recognizes Israel--but the pressure should be redirected toward creating more openness in the Palestinian political space.

The Israeli election was a severe rebuke to Binyamin Netanyahu, who is probably seeing his political career at an end, at least for the moment. He is facing an open revolt within his party led by former foreign minister Silvan Shalom. Of course, we've seen Netanyahu rebound before. The upcoming coalition will clearly be centered on Kadima and Avoda. Ha'aretz has indicated that Amir Peretz will take the defense portfolio in exchange for getting some veto rights on the budget and guarantees of social spending, and leave finance to Kadima. This is probably the politically smartest move as well. One of the biggest questions right now is whether Yisrael Beitenu will sit in the cabinet, and if so, whether they will remain in when Ehud Olmert's "convergence" begins.

The next major upcoming poll will be seen in Peru, where nationalist Ollanta Humala leads the polls but will have to face a second round. It's tough for me to lend support to anyone in this race, given that (1) Humala's commitment to democracy is very questionable, (2) Lourdes Flores is right-wing and very pro-business and (3) Alan García has a horrible track record from the late 1980s. Given that, I will support (passively, as always) whoever runs against Humala in the second round, as both Flores and García have indicated they will support the other. President Alejandro Toledo has been positive in this race, and has stressed ensuring a free and fair election--perhaps he hopes a smooth transition will be one of the few legacies he passes on, given his exceedingly low popularity ratings.

I'll be back shortly with more in-depth commentary on Evo Morales in Bolivia, the effects of proportional representation in Latin America, a look forward at the Mexican presidential election, the question of the Israeli electoral system, and comments on Vladimir Putin.

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