After eight consecutive years in office, President Álvaro Uribe of Colombia has to step down and make way for potential change in Colombian politics. This post features a brief description of the main presidential candidates in the 2010 elections and looks at the potential impact of a changed political landscape on relations with the US, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and the guerrilla organization FARC.
This weekend’s parliamentary election will serve as an indicator of the direction Colombian politics will take in the post-Uribe era.
“During a crisis a woman can transform very quickly from being a politician to being a human being, and this can be bad”, Minko Gerdjikov, the deputy mayor of Sofia said in response to recent moves by the prime minister of Bulgaria to promote women to high-level positions in government and local administration, according to a New York Times article.
In a country known for its patriarchy and corruption, women, says the Prime Minister Boiko Borisov, are exactly what the country needs as “women are more diligent than men… are less corruptible than men… because they are more risk averse”. In an effort to clean his country’s act Borisov, an unlikely poster boy for the progressive forces in the country, has decided that it is exactly this ‘human’ characteristic that is required to overcome not only Bulgaria’s image problem, but also presumably its real problem of losing, rather embarrassingly, EU funds because of endemic and rampant graft.
To imply that being a ‘human being’ is somehow bad is a strange assertion not only because it implies that men are somehow less human and better off so, but because it implies that politics and ‘human values’ are incompatible. Politics in a lot of transitional countries are undoubtedly tough, but to categorically negate human values as components of successful and good politics is self-serving from the point of view of those who have a vested interest in the continuation of ‘business as usual’. Given the tendency for group-think and irrationality in crisis situations in particular, most often in male-dominated groups, should we not celebrate a more nuanced and independent form of deliberation that can come with the ‘human touch’, in women as well as men?
Even if women are more in touch with their humane side (buried deep in hardened male politicians), wired to perhaps see the world from a more communal point of view, does this bear out in the real world? Are women leaders any different when faced with the dilemmas of ruling the world’s countries, cities and communities? In other words, does the ‘X’ factor change anything?
Recently, Israel has experienced several inner conflicts. But this time, Palestinians have nothing to do with them. It is a series of conflicts and tensions between the two faces of the Israeli population: Orthodox Jews and secular Jews. As a report by the Institute for National Security Studies of Tel Aviv mentions, “a different but no less serious challenge to Israel is the deep ideological divisions among the Jews themselves.”
Examples of this division can be observed almost daily in the local media. From the settlement policy to the future of Palestine, the ideological difference is clear. Part of the Orthodox minority, most of them are settlers, is determined to occupy, if not conquer, the land they believe God gave them. As a short example of their determination, the government needed 40,000 troops and policemen and months of preparation to remove fewer than 8,000 settlers from the Gaza Strip over a period of a few months.
Until recently, this minority had little to say in terms of national policy. But the last election that saw Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu gathering a right-wing coalition changed the presence of the orthodox group on the political stage. The coalition government now includes several members of the Shas party and even one member of The Jewish Home. Theses religious parties are strong advocates of the presence of the Halakha, the Jewish law, in Israeli law. This once-stable coalition is now starting to fall apart:
In the wake of the Xinjiang riots, mass casualties and plenty of unwanted press, Chinese leaders were undoubtedly hoping for some good news.
They did not have to wait long. Little more than a week after the Urumqi riots Chinese authorities announced that the Chinese economy had grown by a healthy 7.9 percent in the second quarter of 2009. Compared to the West, this is a spectacular achievement and an encouraging sign for all those that saw the end of the world coming just months ago.
To the surprise of many seasoned China analysts and economists, China’s stimulus package managed to inject much-needed capital into the industrial sector; succeeded in offsetting the worst effects of massive export-industry layoffs by employing migrant workers in government projects, and perhaps most importantly, ensured that government-owned banks continued to lend despite the downturn. Even retail sales rebounded, the government announced, indicating that the Chinese consumer is still feeling confident and secure (unlike the rest of us).