Merkel may be next German Chancellor

Here's an update on the situation in Germany, Guessing About the German Government, by conservative Paul Weyrich. If she's able, Merkel will attempt to form a 'Grand Coalition' that includes Schroeder's SPD, with "Merkel will be Chancellor ("Prime Minister" in some countries) and the Foreign Ministry will belong to the SPD." So no Bush lovin' will be coming out of Germany, and given the parliament, she'll have to make this grand coalition for any enactments or changes. You'll see the MSM champion this as a win for conservatives with Merkel being the figurehead, but it's more a recipe for status quo given the split parliament.

Election Fraud in Iraq? Looks like it.

Moving on to Iraq from the previous post (Iraq is really the mother of all scandals), there may have been some rather severe election fraud during the recent vote in Ninevah province. From Juan Cole:Al-Hayat reports that 643,000 votes were cast in Ninevah Province (capital: Mosul). At the time it filed, 419,000 had been preliminarily counted, and the vote was running 75 percent in favor. Ninevah Province was the most likely place that Sunni Arabs opposing the constitution might be able to get a 2/3s "no" vote. This number stands out for two reasons. First, these numbers compare to a neighboring province, Salaheddin, as follows:In the Sunni-dominated province of Salaheddin, which includes Tikrit, election official Saleh Khalil Farraj told AFP that turnout was 80 per cent, but added that the percentage of `no' votes was 71 per cent. 71% "no" in Salaheddin, and only 25% "no" in Ninevah? A 46% difference from one Suuni Arb province to another? This level of discrepency is very, very hard to believe, considering how similar these two provinces voted in January, and that both have Suuni Arab majorities. (Click here for a detailed, province-by-province table on the January elections).

Second, this result is also a little stunning considering the following story from September:

If the referendum on Iraq's draft constitution next month is conducted fairly, it now appears very likely that the document will be defeated by a two-thirds majority in the three Sunni-dominated provinces of Anbar, Salahadeen and Nineveh, plunging Iraq into a new political crisis.

However, one way such a defeat could be averted is by massive vote fraud in the key province of Nineveh. According to an account provided by the U.S. liaison with the local election commission, supported by physical evidence collected by the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq (IECI), Kurdish officials in Nineveh province tried to carry out just such a ballot-stuffing scheme in last January's election.

This looks a lot like fraud in Ninevah. To buck another, neighboring Sunni Arab majority privnce to the tune of 46% after a plot to defraud the vote in Ninevah province was uncovered in January stinks of fraud. A lot. And they didn't even do it well--20% would be streching it, but 46%? Juan Cole notes:Several of my knowledgeable readers are convinced that the Ninevah voting results as reported so far look like fraud. One suspected that the Iraqi government so feared a defeat there that they over-did the ballot stuffing and ended up with an implausible result. This would be like Bush winning Rhode Island by 30% without any other rsults changing nationwide. Something is very wrong in Ninevah.

Afghan goes Islamic

Younus Qanooni, who was a lieutenant to the slain Mujahadeen leader, Ahmed Shah Massoud, assassinated on 9 September 2001, is said to be the victor in the Afghanistan vote. Qanuni, an oppositional leader to the U.S.-backed President Hamid Karzai, predicted that his "Understanding Front" will win half the seats in the 249-seat national assembly. Qanuni is determined that"Afghans will never agree on any secular or liberal system. Islam is the modern system and Afghanistan's future is tied with Islam". Qanooni says that Afghanistan remains the world's biggest opium producer, and he's gonna stop it. Is this what the LGF keyboarders are fighting for? Is electing an Islamic fundamentalist government really something that Republicans agree on that is "positive news for the world." I guess if the US media just keeps on repeating the Bush mantra that freedom is on the march, they won't even know watching faux news.

Germany holds election, outcome unsure, but pollsters fail

The polls sure got it wrong, that's for sure. They all vastly overstated the strength of conservative Angela Merkel's CDU/CSU party, by 6-8%. Not even close to the margin of error. Forsa, FGW, TNS Emnld, Allensbach, Infratest. They all polled the conservative Merkel's CDU/CSU party getting between 41-43 percent. Not even close. Here's the approx. tally from the exit polls out:
Merkel's CDU/CSU            35
Schroeder's SPD             34
Lib Free Democrats FDP      10
Left Party PDS               8.5
Greens                       8.1
Schroeder failed with the Greens to get above 50%, bringing the end of the Red-Green ruling partners. Merkel failed, with the business-friendly SDP, to get near 50%, so the only shot Merkel has at forming a majority is with Schroeder's SDP, but Schroeder has rejected that coalition offer, or perhaps with the Greens joining Merkel and the FDP.

CNN has a listing of the possible coalitions. The possibility for Schroeder in maintaining his position as the German chancellor is either having the FDP join the Red-Green coalition, but the FDP ruled that out; or the PDS leftists (a combination defectors from the Social Democratic Party and former East German Communists), but Schroeder ruled that out.

I don't see how the Greens would join Merkel, so that seems unlikely. That brings us back to a CDU/CSU and SDP alliance, probably without Merkel in the picture. The other possibility is that the SPD and the breakaway PDS put their differences behind them, and with the Greens form a +50% ruling coalition.

Update: The Forsa institute says both parties were now tied at 222 seats; that the Social Democrats will have the same number of seats in parliament as the conservative opposition Christian Democrats, out of"299 seats — half of the 598-seat Bundestag chamber. The second vote decides the allocation of the other 299 seats via the state lists using a proportional system of calculation."

Update: Here's the preliminary official election returns:

CDU/CSU:    35.2
SPD:        34.3
FDP:         9.8
Left Party:  8.7
Greens:      8.1

Does the French center-left need a Nicholas Sarkozy? Some Thoughts on the "Non" Vote

What am I talking about? Well, to state it roughly, Sarkozy is a center-right - although, by US standards, he's a moderate - politician, and in my mind, as well as the minds of many French citizens, one of the only politicians in France who is willing to face up to the nature of the problems that face France today.

So why do I think the French left could benefit from his leadership? A bit counterintuitive, I know. Because he "gets it": he realizes that just a bit of tinkering, just a bit of politicing, here and there, is not good enough any more. He gets that the current French political structure is fundamentally fucked, and that a new way of conceptually the world is needed. In sum, Sarkozy offers leadership and vision in a French society that seems to offer too little in this age of Chiraquien corruption.

Update [2005-5-30 0:56:19 by Ben P]: desmoulins suggests the possibility of Francois Bayrou, who is nominally a member of the vaguely center-right UDF, or Union pour la Democratie Francaise as an better alternative to Sarkozy, although Bayrou maybe needs a better vehicle than the UDF, which is nominally a part of Chirac's coalition and a fairly wide ideological spectrum amongst its members. Also, it should be noted that center-right in the French context doesn't mean "John McCain" - rather, it means "Bill Clinton," or even, "Howard Dean"

A large segment of the French left is still stuck in some kind of post World War II fantasy world, oblivious to the nature of globalization, oblivious to the nature of the EU, oblivious to the nature of the United States' role vis-a-vis that of Europe in the world, oblivious to the fundamental differences they could potentially exploit between the far from monolithic "Anglo-Saxonist" bogeyman. For crissakes, Britain and the US are not a part of some vast monolithic anti-French conspiracy: a strong majority of Brits are extremely distrustful - if not outright hostile - of the neoconservative turn. Probably close to a majority of Americans are, too. In this sense, the French left (conceived broadly as the non-FN and UMP voters) is in a position similar to the British Labour party in the 1970s, but with two major advantages. Firstly, it is not in power. And secondly, the French body politic is more liberal (in the American sense) than the British body politic was, and does not have to contend with a generally hostile print media. As such, the ascension of a Sarkozy would not result in 18 years of conservative rule as it did in Britain. Indeed, it does not even have to result in any French version of the Thatcher revolution: the French left is postioned to grab the brass ring. BUT, only if it accepts globalization and realizes that the postwar "socialist dream" is dead.

As such, the French could be a vital part of a Europe that provides a "social-liberal" pull on a still American dominated world.("Social Liberalism" is a European term, which basically describes the prevailing philosophies governing the American Democratic Party, the British Liberal Democrats and to extent, the Labour Party, as well as parties like the Netherlands' Democrats 66 and Denmark's Det Radikale Venstre, and even Zapatero's Spanish example) If the US is going to continue to elect leaders like Bush, I think this subtle counterweigh could be of vital importance. And a revitalized French social liberalism could be an important part of this: a protectionist, backward looking French socialism justifying massive agricultural subsidies while implicitly (if not explicitly) fanning the flames of xenophobia against le plombier Polonais and the Turkish "specter" cannot be.

Although I would much rather a French leader of the left emerge in with this understanding, because a leader like Sarkozy comes with too much baggage for my liking, I fear the French non-right will be incapable of getting its act together enough to grab the bull by the horns. Indeed, it might take a "Sarkozy shock" to force it to do so.

I'll leave you with the words of Renaud Fessaguet, from the pages of the Observer. I take the unprecedented steop of quoting Fessaguet's op-ed in its entirety, because I think it so powerfully sums up the problem:

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