Monday, May 27, 2019

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Breaking Global Election News

The  concept and practice of representative democracy is currently
besieged with criticism and doubts around the world, including at its
modern birthplace, the United States of America. This political
institution has varying structural systems, including those led by
presidents, prime ministers and even a few remaining constitutional
monarchs, but they all share one vital practice in common --- free
elections. With next year’s U.S. presidential election already underway,
it is easy for Americans to forget that similar voting has recently taken
place in most of the world’s other major representative democracies,
including several just in the  past few days. Here below  is a report on
these news stories:

Based on returns so far, elections for the European Union’s parliament
have resulted in significant gains for both anti-EU nationalist parties on
the right and pro-EU parties on the far left. Seats were lost by the
various pro-EU parties in the center which must now form  a coalition
to continue to control the economic organization of 28 member nations
on the continent. Notable upsets occurred in the United Kingdom (UK)
where a new pro-Brexit party led by UK nationalist Nigel Farage
trounced both the ruling right-center Conservative Party and  the
left-center Labour Party. Not only did Farage’s far right party make
dramatic gains, but so did the leftist anti-Brexit Liberal Party. In France,
President  Emmanuel Macron’s ruling (and also new) centrist party was
defeated by Marine Le Pen’s far right nationalist party. Only last year,
Macron had soundly defeated Mme. Le Pen in the French
presidential race. Socialists and other pro-EU parties did have some
success in the Netherlands and other western European nations. The
EU election, including countries having a total population of 515
million, is the second largest free election in the world.


British Prime Minister Theresa May, following her failure to secure
a negotiated Brexit deal with the European Union (EU), has just
resigned, effective June 6. She will continue to lead a caretaker
Conservative (Tory) government until the Tory party selects her
successor later in the month. There will be no general British election
to pick her replacement. Former London mayor and and U.K. foreign
minister (in  Mrs. May’s cabinet) Boris Johnson is the clear
frontrunner to be the next prime minister, but there are other
candidates. most of whom are pro-Brexit. Johnson has pledged to a
U.K. departure from the EU on October 31, whether or not a Brexit
deal is reached.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist party 
have won a decisive re-election in the world’s biggest democratic
election just held. Mr. Modi first won in 2014, defeating the socialist
Congress Party which had governed India for most of the period
since it gained independence from Great Britain in 1948. The
subcontinent nation is one of the world’s two largest countries with
a population of 1.2 billion persons.


With a declining economy, newly-elected Brazilian President Jair
Bolsonaro already faces protests and calls for impeachment as he
attempts to introduce promised reforms in the chronically-troubled
nation of 210 million persons (and by far the largest country in South
America). Bolsonaro, a former army officer and long-time deputy in the
Brazilian legislature, upset the political establishment with his taking
office in January, and his attempted disruption of the nation’s ills has
met with mixed response. Compare often to Donald Trump, he has
further polarized always-turbulent Brazilian politics.

The largest nation in the world which does not hold free elections is
China (1.2 billion persons), but it has adopted a quasi-capitalist
economic model as it undergoes a continuing transformation of much
of its population that has been leaving rural farm communities to
move to the nation’s many large cities with multi-million inhabitants.
Although the political system is totalitarian, the rapidly-growing
Chinese economy has produced a consumer society, and the
national leadership under President Xi is currently locked into a
major trade dispute with the U.S. under President Trump in which
both sides are employing tariffs as economic weapons in a contest
of political shadowboxing. With resulting rising local prices of
imported goods and commodities, each side is attempting to force
the other to make trade concessions, and although the Chinese
leadership does not have to answer to its citizens at the polls, it does
face pressure from its huge population now accustomed to consumer
needs and expectations. This contest is likely to continue to be played
out in the remainder of 2019 and perhaps early 2020, and could have
impact on he U.S. elections.

The leader of Indonesia (population 265 million), Joko Widodo, won
re-election last month in a rematch of 2014 agains his rival Prabowo
Subianto, but in recent days, protests about the election have appeared.
Indonesia is he third largest nation in Asia (after India and China)
where almost two-thirds of the world’s population live.

Copyright (c) 2019 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

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