Hola Mexico: A Post-election Reflection

The Mexican tricolour of green, white, and red , photo:Tracy Lee Carroll/flickr.
The Mexican tricolour of green, white, and red , photo:Tracy Lee Carroll/flickr.

In five weeks from now I will be moving to Mexico.

They say there is no place like home – and indeed, the state of things will be very different from what I know in Switzerland.

People not finding themselves under extraordinary circumstances emigrate because they want a lifestyle that can be best accomplished in their country of destination.

But I guess thoughts about lifestyle and how to best accomplish it would require deeper consideration – especially when it comes to accomplishing it in a country we associate with drug violence, economic problems and …swine flu. I will avoid going deeper and offer simply a brief reflection about the recent Mexican elections.

Has the country reinstitutionalized the revolutionary myth? The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) took power for the first time 80 years ago, enjoyed seven decades of domination, and has now accomplished a successful comeback. Therefore, I cannot help associating the PRI with the country’s authoritarian past.

When I go back and read James M Malloy words from 1977 about authoritarianism in Latin America, I can only hope that the described states of affairs would not still apply today:

“Mexico’s political system is characterized by patrimonially controlled participation exercised by the political elite based on the underlying assumption of privilege rather than right. (…) The decision-making process is legitimated by massive support from precisely those sectors of society that participate least in the distribu¬tion of benefits: labor, peasants, and Indians. For more than forty years the Party (PRI) has maintained this monopoly by preempt¬ing and institutionalizing the revolutionary myth and by creating for itself an image as the key component of an indissoluble trinity composed of Party, government, and political elite.”

However, things have changed during the past 30 years since Malloy’s writings.

Iraq Has Just Become Obama’s War

© The Australian, http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au, Peter Nicholson
© The Australian http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au, Peter Nicholson

Regardless of whether Obama or McCain won last year’s US presidential elections, today’s event would have taken place either way. Today, Iraq is celebrating “National Sovereignty Day.” The date for today’s US combat troop withdrawal from all Iraqi cities, towns and villages was agreed upon by the Bush administration and the Iraqi government headed by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who was overly eager to see US combat troops leave (and take credit for it).

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Only 278,478 to Go

Would Her Majesty Be Amused? / screenshot: guardian.co.uk
Would Her Majesty Be Amused? / screenshot: guardian.co.uk

In a supersized version of crowdsourcing, the Guardian is asking its readers to sift through MP expense documents released by the UK government and pull out interesting nuggets and key facts.

The info goes into the Guardian’s Data Blog, which keeps a running total of some of the more eye-brow raising receipts turned in by the MPs.

A helpful suggestion from the Guardian: “Examples of things to look out for: food bills, repeated claims for less than £250 (the limit for claims not backed up by a receipt), and rejected claims.”

According to the latest stats, it seems the lawmakers spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Or at least having it decorated.

Lessons in Leadership: Problem Solving

Two clips, two different approaches to problem solving. Vladimir Putin was recently filmed putting a pesky oligarch in his place (in this instance for shutting factories and denying workers their salaries). His performance makes for great agitprop. The last line in particular is a charm.

Meanwhile, over in Washington, President Obama finds that he too is struggling to make sense in a world turned upside down. The cause of his headache? A pesky fly.

Two very different problems. But both resolved with a certain ruthlessness.

What’s really going on in Iran?

Rioters and police in Tehran / photo: vipez, flickr
Protester and police in Tehran / photo: vipez, flickr

In the wake of a vehemently challenged election in Iran last Friday, the blogosphere and mainstream media outlets are on fire today.

With talk of a totally rigged election (and we’re not talking some lost ballots here), complete with rigged software counting the ‘votes’ of children and dead people, locals, bloggers and journalists are all weighing in on what happened in Iran and where we might go from here. The wildest, and to many the only acceptable, scenario involves the re-scheduling of the entire election due to massive fraud. But how likely is the hardline leadership in Iran to admit its mistake (or rather its crime) and allow for a rerun of the whole process? What happens if the results are allowed to stand? Are we witnessing a hardline ‘soft coup’, as our Tehran correspondent argued in an article published on 11 June, or is there still enough fire in the opposition movement to put the hardline plans under such pressure that they will have to cave in, one way or the other?

Here are some of the best sources for information and opinions on the topic:

  • Our Tehran correspondent, Kamal Nazer Yasin, has written an update, titled Days of Rage for the ISN, detailing the aftermath and likely outcomes of the current stand-off between Ahmadinejad and the opposition forces. The article gives unparalleled insight into the mood, news and events  in Tehran as they unfold on the ground.
  • A blogger on Global Voices has posted Youtube videos of the protests as they unfolded last Friday and Saturday. This gives more insight into how the protests proceeded on the streets of Tehran. The chanting is loud and passionate and the crowds are massive.
  • Michael Tomasky, head of the Guardian’s America bureau has posted an impassioned blog on the election, detailing reasons for why he believes that the elections were rigged. In the Analysis section, the Guardian has also provided some more insights, showing just how muddy the statistics are in terms of vote counts.
  • Ken Ballen and Patrick Doherty of the Washington Post urge caution and remind us that opinion polls three weeks before the election gave a 2 to 1 margin for Ahmadinejad, indicating that the results could be correct.
  • The Meedan site provides more information on the debate over the election results- both a case for and a case against, as well as supporting sources and links.
  • Some striking pictures, courtesy of the Foreign Policy Passport blog, from Tehran on Monday. The opposition forces, it seems, are still alive and well (and growing).
  • Alan Taylor of the Boston Globe has put together a fascinating slideshow on the protests. Please be warned that the last three images contain graphic content.

What do you think?