Blair & the UK 2005 elections

Tony Blair is holding on, but not by much, and with such a large undecided contingent it's nowhere near a done deal. The next general election is expected to be held in May, 2005. YouGov (pdf) released a poll showing the following results:
If the General election were held tomorrow, 
which party would you vote for?

                  11/04     11/03	
Labor              35        36
Conservative       32        38
Liberal Democrat   23        19
Other              10         6

Who would make the best Prime Minister?

                  11/04     11/03
Tony Blair         31         31
Michael Howard     19         27
Charles Kennedy    16         10
Don't Know         34         32
With stagnant approval ratings in the 20's for many months now, it's doubtful that Blair will be running on his record, especially in regards to the miserable failure in Iraq. Howard seems to be fading as an alternative to Blair, with his numbers dropping steadily since he became the Torie leader about a year ago. Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats are becoming a stronger and determined force; in fact they are targeting to take away Micheal Howard's seat in the next election. With the by-elections of 2004 having showed a surge toward Liberal Democrats, away from the Labour Party, 2005 could become a realignment year in the UK.

Ukraine

Exit polls do not much the reported election totals in Ukraine, and there are allegations of fraud, including complaints from international observers:The central electoral commission said with more than 99% of the vote counted, Mr Yanukovych had 49.4% while Mr Yushchenko had 46.7%.

But the opposition says it has recorded many thousands of irregularities - including very high turnouts in government strongholds.

Mr Yanukovych was backed by incumbent President Leonid Kuchma.

Exit polls earlier suggested that Mr Yushchenko had been on course for victory with a lead of at least six percentage points.

"The second round did not meet a considerable number of [international] commitments for democratic elections," said Bruce George, head of the OSCE mission in Kiev.

The OSCE also reported serious irregularities in the first round.

People are pissed: Nov. 23 (Bloomberg) -- Ukraine's Viktor Yushchenko declared himself president in parliament, as more than 1 million supporters in Kiev threatened to storm government buildings unless lawmakers annul results that show he lost the election to the prime minister.

The oath was not legal because there were not enough lawmakers present at a session called to debate canceling official results that led to Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych's victory in Sunday's vote, said a Yushchenko spokesman. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and other monitoring groups said the ballot counting was flawed as Kiev was overrun by protesters in a sea of orange banners shouting Yushchenko's name.

The Republican response is typical: Republicans calling for activists to overwhelm the vote count and overturn the results? At a press conference the morning after the election, US Senator Richard Lugar (R-Indiana), Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair, with long-standing ties to the CIA, and Bush's official envoy for the Ukrainian elections, called on Ukrainians to take action against their government regarding the election results. Why? It's the Cold War, stupid: The outcome of this election will have a direct impact on the global balance of power between the United States, the European Union, and the Russian Federation for many years to come.

After a decade of "shock therapy" at the hands of US and European advisers designed to cripple the economies of the former Soviet republics, the ascendance of Vladimir Putin as Russia's president has caused a sea-change turn around, with the reestablishment of governmental authority over the oligarchs and their mafia, economic growth after the most catastrophic depression in the world, and the reemergence of Russia as a strategic power. Those former Soviet republics with heads of state that came from the old political-industrial mangerial class, such as Belarus, Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and most of Central Asia, are gravitating back toward a reviving Russia after following devasting International Monetary Fund dictates while stranded on their own during the Yeltsin era.

Following the successful coup in Georgia in 2003 orchestrated by the US via George Soros's "Open Society Institute," every one of the ex-Soviet leaders who had been working with the Western powers realized that they could be next, and hence rapidly turned back toward rebuilding ties with Russia to protect themselves and their countries from Western takeover.

If there was any doubt at how Republicans would have at least tried to act had Kerry been declared the winner on November 3rd, this should erase them.

Running against Bush abroad

Politicians abroad have figured out that the easiest path to victory is to align opposite Bush. Even Conservatives in the UK. Angered by Rove's refusal to allow the Tory leader Micheal Howard to visit with Bush, because of Howard's criticising Tony Blair over Iraq, Howard refused to congratulateBush:Mr Howard's decision to distance himself from the White House reflects his belief that Mr Bush is so unpopular in Britain that voters will be impressed by a politician who stands up to him. This has created a unprecedented situation in which a Labour prime minister will be feted at [a Republican] White House while a Tory leader is cold-shouldered.I'm rooting for the Liberal Democrats.

Australia stays with Howard, Greens gain

Looks like Howard's party is going to win by about 2% over Labor (40.7-38.2). Greens are coming in 3rd at 7%, jumping over National and the Democrats party results from the previous election; but the current conservative government is going to hold power, possibly even gain a couple of seats, in the House of Representatives. The conservatives worked together, Howard being pushed by "the right-wing Family First Party, first-time entrants to the political arena whose strong vote suggests that the "religious right" has arrived in Australia".

As for Iraq, Australia has about 850 troops serving in and around Iraq (down from 2000 in March, '03), which probably puts them in the top ten of the 24 or so coalition countries, but well behind Missouri, California, and about 48 other states in the US. Nevertheless, Australia has been a crutch for Bush, so they'll now start touting Howard's victory in Australia as a 'coalition victory.'  

With that few troops, it's hard to argue that the issue was anything more than symbolic for Australian voters. Labor leader, Mark Latham thought it was an issue, but Howard realized it wasn't and concentrated on economic issues, thowing cash at anything that moved, and saying that Austrailia could not trust its economic future with a Labor/Green plan.

Here are the current results, with 77% reporting (Liberal means Conservative in Austrailia), the incumbent governing coalition lead by about 2 percent overall, but have sewn up a majority in the House of Representatives.

Road to Surfdom has more to say; if you want even more there's The Domain, an rss feed of "Australia's best political blogs".

October Surprise

Of all the October surprises the tinfoil hat crowd comes up with, I am surprised so few people are talking about the October 9th Presidential Election in Afghanistan, which looms as a potential turning point in our election:Masouda Jalal is the only woman out of 18 presidential candidates. She said poor security and the continued rule of the gun would make it difficult to have a fair and free election. "There are major security challenges in front of us, they will impact the most on women voters," she told IRIN.

The presence of powerful local leaders, many with their own private militias, means many Afghans have withdrawn from candidacy because they felt pressure from competing powerful people in their areas. "Some of the candidates did not dare to collect the signatures of 10,000 registered voters as required for nomination of a presidential candidate," Latif Pedram, another presidential hopeful, told IRIN. He added it was challenging and risky to be a candidate if you did not have military power or plenty of money.

More from the Toronto Star: After voter registration centres closed across Afghanistan on the weekend, election officials acknowledged the number of voting cards issued far exceeded the estimated number of eligible voters -- and that the illegal practice of multiple registrations is widespread. Because of continuing violence and other problems, the Afghan elections have been delayed on numerous occasions. These reports from the ground indicate that the prospect of a fair election is dicey at best. If reports of fraud, intimidation and violence continue to damage the credibility of the process all the way until Election Day, it might just be the straw that breaks the back of Bush's campaign. More likely, however, no matter what happens in Afghanistan the national media will ignore it. They stopped paying attention to that war a long time ago.

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