The turn out was high and the "purple wave" has taken Hassan Rowhani to victory, not power.
Power still rests with the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who can wield it directly or indirectly with his control over the Revolutionary Guard, the judiciary and the intelligence services through hand-picked loyalists. That's where the power was and will be.
Then there is the Guardian Council of 12 experts of Islamic law who not only have to approve candidates for elected office (dozens were barred in this election, notably those who are seen as " the opposition"), but also has veto power of any parliamentary bills considered to bei in violation of the constitution.
The President has limited power,( subject to the above), whether it be political, social, educational, media etc. He represents the country aboad but again he can be and usually is reined in by the above who also control foreign and defence policies. Thus, whether it be the nuclear programme or the USA or the UN sanctions or Israel or Syria or Hizbollah etc. , it is the Supreme Leader and the Council of Guardians who are in charge.
There is a parliament (Majlis) of 290 members elected every 4 years, who can set economic and social policies but again subject to the "loyalists" of the Supreme Leader. Then there is the "hand-picked" Expediency Council which mediates between Guardian Council and parliament. They are more an advisory body to Khamenei and do his bidding. Finally there is the Assembly of Experts, an elected body of 86 clerics whose role is to oversee the supreme leader's performance. but really they are there to select a successor after his death, because the Supreme Leader ( at least so far), remains in his position until he dies.
The election of Rowhani may bring some hope to his followers, but like Rafsanjani (another so-called moderate, who was prevented from running), he may "tinker around the egges" but will not be able to make any changes that are not approved by the Parliament, the Guardian Council and especially the Supreme Leader. The next few weeks will be interesting, for it will indicate how much leeway, Rowhani is allowed.
It is obvious, or should be, that the Guardian Council and teh Supreme Leader are not too bothered by his "moderation". They after all, allow him on the ballot. He is not an outsider and he will not shake things up or else he is "Gone".
The recent scandals over housing allowances claimed by some senators has given added impetus for somethiung to be done about the Senate. There are those, including the NDP who want to aboilish it and those including the Liberals and the Ref/Cons who want to reform it. Let's look at both proposals and see what can be done.
Firstly, abloition of the Senate may not be possible or may be a very lenghty and divisive idea. It may be abolished onlt by constitutional amendment that requires the consent of at least seven (7) provinces, together representing at least 50% of the population of the country, as well as the consent of the House of Commons and the Senate. It means that either Ontario (38%) or Quebec (24%), must agree and then six (6) of the other eight(8), Western and Atlantic provinces must agree too ( This is a typical Caqnadian compromise in that it has to have the consent of the large provinces as well as the medium and small provinces for amendments to take place eg Ontario or Quebec and the 4 Western provinces or the 4 Atlantic provinces cannot do it. You must have some support from each region. It has to have support from each region to satisfy the needed 7 provinces and must have support from either Ontario or Quebec to get the required 50% of the population. The Large provinces of Ontario and Quebec make up more than 50% but lack the 7 provinces needed and also the 4 Western and 4 Atlantic provinces cannot do it alone because they lack the 50% reqiured). Quebec will not agree to any amendments, because to do so mean that they recognise the "patriated" constitution, which they have refused to do so far. The small provinces (N.B. and N.S. especially) will not be willing to give up their allocations, unless some guarantees are made ( whatever those maybe). So a lenghty and possibly very acrimonious and divisive debate. Forget abolition also, because as a federal system there has to be a "house" to represent the provinces. So that means replacing the present Senate with something else with enumerated powers and that will be another battle, lenghty and divisive.
That leaves us with reforming the Senate. Not an easy task either. Any changes to the Senate involving its membership, its powers and its functioning has to be done through amending the constitution. What do you change? How members are chosen? Appointed or elected and by whom? The people at large or from each region or each province / or by municipal councils of the regions/ provinces? or by some specially constituted body? The term? Life? Eight years? Retirement at 70? 75?. What powers? Equal legislative powers as the House of Commons? Powers to protect and represent the regions/provinces? Representation? Regions or provinces? How many from each area? Equal or weighted so that large provinces/regions get more than small ones? So many questions and so many options. Long and acrimonious and divisive.
What to do? Its great to critize and score political points but after that, what?
One thing that can be done and easily is the manner of appointments. Take the power away from the Prime Minister, who has used it to reward party hacks and friends "the choicest plum in the patronage basket" and give it to an independent body (say 9) made of retired judges, members of the business community ( to satisfy property qualifications/representations) as well as workers reps. and community groups, who serve a five-year term. This will take the patronage abuses and make the Senate a useful chamber of "sober second thoughts".
It's a start.
The bloody sectarian war continues unabated in Syria. Tens of thousands have been killed and wounded and many more tens of thousands have been displaced forming huge refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey. Towns and villages are targeted because of them being Sunna or Shia and the neighboring countries are drawn in with Iran, and the Shia majority Iraq, Hizballah in Lebanon supporting the Assad regime and Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Sunnis supporting the "rebels".
Who are these "rebels"? Some of them form the Syria Free Army and others represent foreign fighters who are connected to Al Qaeda, and other Islamist groups. Why are thery there? Some want to get rid of the Assad regime, while the others want to establish a Islamic/ Sharia state and still others want to use it as a base to attack the West. What about the West? As usual they have misread the situation and are about to create another cesspool of violence that has overtaken Iraq and Libya? Some wanted to weaken Syria and to make it less of a threat to Israel and less of a sponsor of Hizballah, and of course there is the connection to Iran. The greatest harm the West can do to the region and itself is to arm the "rebels". Hopefully, they are not too dumb or blinded by "interests", theirs or Israel to forget the lessons of Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, where they have made a bad situation worse and bequeathed misery, anguish and bloodshed for years. They have turned stable, albeit tyrannical systems into a charnel house, with one religious group slaughtering another even though they profess to believe in the same God.
Japan had been occupying the Korean Peninsula for years and Kim Il Song was leading the Korean resistance. The occupation was very brutal and the resources of Korea was of great importance to the Japanese war machine. In Vietnam Ho Chi Minh was leading the resistance and in China it was Mao Tse Tung. The Japanese were brutal and rapacious sparimg no one or nothing and the fighting was bloody and cruel.
The USA declared war on Japan after Pearl Harbour and immediately sought the alliance of the Koreans, the Vietnamese and the Chinese. It was obtained with the promise that Korea and Vietnam and China would be free to build their countries after the defeat of the Japanese. The promises were not kept.
Kim, an admirer of the American republican form of government and his hero was George Washington felt that the Americans woulg honour their promise, but that was not to be. Instead, they immediately set up and supported a puppet regime in the South and Kim went to war to unify his country. Years of fighting ( the Americans were able to use their influence to get the newly formed United Nations to declare ), resulted in a stalemate and an Armistice was signed to end the fighting and since then there as been an uneasy situation between the Koreans and Americans. Today it takes the form of the North threatening to wage nuclear war. Its new young leader is Kim Yong Un, a grandson of Kim Il Song, and also has striking resemblance. A lie or a promise not kept, has led to70 years of enmity, insecurity and instability
. Ho Chi Minh, another admirer of the US, was similiarly promised, a free, united Vietnam, and that promise was not kept either. Instead of supporting Vietnamese independence from France (the old colonial power), the Americans supported ther continued occupation by France with money and arms and when the French were defeated by Ho at the Battle of Dein Bien Phu, the Americans stepped in and created a puppet regime in the South. This led to the Third war, this time with the Vietnamese fighting the Americans. It would become America's bloodiest (and until Afghanistan) and longest war costing alimost 60,000 American lives, 2 million Vietnames lives and countless wounded and displaced and tens of billions economically. Today there is peace and trade between Vietnam and the USA, but the lost years, lives and sufferings of the Vietnamese people cannot be regained.
Mao's success in 1948, (China ha Arisen), turned an ally into an enemy, and policymakers in the USA, saw a Red threat and a wave of Communism spreading all over the world. Their perception of a Communist force overrunning the world and as such America's interests, began the Cold War and years of surrogate wars fought from Africa to Asia to Central and South America.
The tension today is a direct result of America's broken promise. The North Koreans do not trust the Americans and feel that the only thing that keep them from being attacked by the United States is its nuclear weapons. They are the North's security and they are the North's bargaining chip and they will continue to use it as such, until some trust can be achieved. Kim Jong Un is young, energetic and untested. In the South Park Geun-hye, is young energetic and untested. He is the grandson of Kim Il Song, whom he strikingly resembles and she is the daughter of ex-president Park, the tyrannic dictator of South Korea's dynamic economy. USA has 30,000 troops sataioned in the South, that guarantees the security of the South while at the same time, maybe, the trigger for renewed conflict as they are directly in harms way, just beyond the DMZ and within easy striking distance of any North attack.
The North is playing a wily game. They maybe paranoid of America and its intentions, but they are not stupid or mad. They will push only so far and then will pull back.....Provoke and Pullback.....to get attention, food and trade. America should send a basketball team instead of threats. Kim Jong Un is a basketball nut.
He is not from Italy, but he is of Italy. He is one of five children of Italian immigrants to Argentina, was trained as a chemist, worked as a teacher of literatute and psychology and was ordained as a priest in Dec. 1969, at the age of 32. He, obviously had much inter-action with the real world before he became a priest. His name was Jorge Mario Bergoglio, but from henceforth he will be known as Francis, after the gentle saint Francis of Assisi, who spent his life working amongst the poor.
He now heads a flock of 1.2 billion, 500 million of whom are from Latin America ( perhaps this was a crucial point of his winning the vote ( it took five ballots). He is 76 years old and face a daunting task with the multitude of problems facing the Catholic church, from sexual molestation of children to banking corruption to allegations of a "gay mafia" in the Roman curia to dwindling attendance and fewer and fewer young people entering the priesthood and nunnery, to gay and abortion rights, clerical celibacy and female priests.He is the 266th pope.
He brings with him some "baggage", questions of his silence during the "dirty wars", when 13,000 to 30,000 people disappeared, during the rule of the military junta, with which the Catholic leadership, was very close. He was also silent when many priests were rounded up between 1976-1983. "Evil exists and flourish, when people say and do nothing" and he was one of those who did not speak out and tens of thousands suffered, imprisoned, killed (their newly born children taken away, some adopted by members of the military) and disappeared , ask Ls Abuelas de la Playa", still looking and mourning for their children and grand children. He was no Oscar Romero, who stood up, defied the regime in El Salvado and was murdered. During this time he rose quickly through the ranks of the depleted clergy, becoming Arch bishop of Buenos Aires in 1998, and a Cardinal in 2001.
Finally, in Oct. 2012, he led Argentina's bishops in issuing a collective apology for the church's failure to protect its followers. Too little, too late for the thousands but good for him.
He is very conservative, opposed to the abortion of rape victims and argued that gay adoptions discriminated against children. This has caused him to be at odds with Argentina's government social agenda, which he campaigned against, but her has also accused fellow church leaders of hypocrisy, that they have forgotten that Jesus bathed lepers and ate with prostitutes, " Jesus teaches us another way. Go out and share your testimony, go out and interact with your brothers, go out and share, go out and ask. Become the Word in body as well as spirit", he told Argentina's priests last year, promoting his social outreach programme.
The voters in Israel sent a message to the governing parties with their same old messages that hey have had enough and wanted change and voted for Yesh Adid and its message that "there is a future" and its emphasis of dealing wiyh economic and social problems. Now they have done the same in Italy by giving 25% of the votes to comedian Beppe Grillo and his anti-establishment message. At the same time they also supported Silvio Berlusconi, who had had 10 years of stable if not economically successful government.
They voted for a clown and an aged gigolo and have thrown Italy back to the years of uncertainty and instability of government, an election every 9 months or so. During the 1950's -1990's, Italy muddled along from government to government, but the country did build the third largest economy even amidst the violence of the Red Brigade and the crime spree which ensnared many top politicians.
Crime and violence may have gone down, but the instability of government has made a comeback with the center-left Luigi Bersani holding a narrow majotity in the lower house (with the largest share of the votes, 29.5%, he gets a bonus which pushed his seat total to 340 of 630; Berlusconi made a great comeback with a surprising 29.2% ( mosty from the north) and Grilli got 25% thanks to social media that brought new voters out to protest against the austerity measures imposed by Mario Monti, the outgoing prime minister whose party fared very badly.
The Senate, (where seats are distributed on a regional basis,) is deadlocked, as a result of Grillo's showing, with Bersani winning only 121 seats, falling short of the 158 needed for a majority; Berlusconi won 117 seats and the reaminder spread between Grillo and the other parties.
So here you have it. Vox Populi......the voters protest, a gigolo. a clown and a new Pope. Ciao Italia. Hell, it's better han the droll French Hollande and the boring Brit Cameron, with "Brunhilde" Merkel cracking the whip. Bring " Ruby and the Bunga, Bunga" parties
Created in 1867 to represent the regions, property rights and conservatism, the Senate has lost most of its powers to, first the Cabinet and then the PMO and the provincial governments themselves. It has become the "the old folks home" for retired, spent, defeated candidates, bagmen, friends of the Prime Minister and others, who meet the fancy of the Prime Minister, " the choicest plum in the patronage basket".
In recent days it has come under close scrutiny, because of some senators making outlandish claims for housing and travel expenses and for not attending meetings and in one case for domestic violence. There is demand for outright abolition of the Senate from many and for reform from some.
It will require the consent of each province, together with the federal parliament to abolish it, but it will only require the federal parliament and the consent of seven provinces, representing 50% of the population of Canada to reform it. The Senate itself can delay such an amendment for 180 days, after which it can be bypassed.
There have been many proposals in the past to reform it and the present Ref/Con. government ( from its Reform Party days) had proposed a triple -e, senate...equal, elected and effective and still do. This is opposed by the other political parties and more importantly by the provinces and so this will not "fly". The larger provinces , Ontario and Quebec do not support the idea that all provinces be equally represented and electing it, is opposed on the grounds that it will compete with the House of Commons for power and create a gridlock in government as is the case in the Unite States with its equal, elected Senate and Rep, by Pop House.
Others have suggested a term limit ( rather the present retirement at 75 yrs.); that the appointment be taken away from the Prime Minister and be given to an independent body; that it (like in Germany) become the representative of the provinces and be given specific powers to do so, (a federal system require a two-house, so there is no getting away with one House); that it be chosen by the provinces to represent their interests ( this will make it untenable with each province reps. being mere extension of provincial interests, but may force them to look for common cause and work out compromises). There are many other suggestions but what must be borne in mind is Canada's uniqueness of linguistic, religious, geographic and economic, regional cleavages.
We do need a House of the Regions as was initially decided. That's where we should begin. Equal representation of the regions ( it was 24 from each of four regions and special consideration for the North), with the regions choosing their representatives, based on national standards and with clear powers to represent regional interests ( the Supreme Court can act as arbiter in disputes, as it does presently in Federal /Provincial disputes). This will make the "second" house equal. elected and effective. Triple "e", but regional, not provincial.
The second house becomeS relevant and reflects the needs of the regions and thus the country and we get rid of the 'albatross' that we presently have.
The desparation of Netanyahu, with his appeal to extremism, failed ( the alliance of Likud/Beitenu lost 11 seats to drop to 31). His attempts to outflank Bennett of Israel is our Home and his message of no "two-state", more settlements and nothing for the Palestinians (annexation, which would have turned Israeli in an apartheid ,minority, Jewish state), thankfully backfired. Shas (12) and its demands for continued deferment from the military and continued handouts from the government, when the country is suffering economically and living conditions are worsening was rejected but Yair Lapid of There is a Future, with his call for peace with the Palestinians, military service for all, including the Orthodox and the Palestinian/Arabs, more attention to domestic matters was rewarded (19) and so was Labor and Shelley Yachimovich(18).
The voters woke up and slapped Netanyahu down. More than 6% more turned out and only 11 of the 34 parties won seats. Now the "souk" politics take over, deals and trade offs, inducements and even "bribes". This is politics at its basest.
The Right have 61 seats and the centre-left/ moderates have 59. This allows Netanyahu to try to cobble together a coalition. What comes out of this "sausage-maker" will be unwieldy, rancorous and short-lived with elections in 18 months and for the new star Lapid, Isreal's Chuck Norris to capitalise with his moderation.
Jan. 20, 2013,at the 57th swearing in ceremony, an African-American, bi-racial man, who unabashedly calls himself a "mongrel" was sworn in for his second term as president of the United States of America. A historic occassion, surely. He was not given the credit for his victories, rather it was said by many to be the fault of the opponents, first the McCain/ Palin dreadful campaigning fiasco and then the Romney/Ryan flip-floping, disconnection. The brilliant startegies were dismissed, because surely, America was not ready to elect an African-American, especially one with the name of "Hussein. Well no one told the legions of the young Americans, the Hispanic Americans, the African-Americans, the Jewish Americans, the gay/lesbian Americans, the white female Americans, the changing demography of Americans, rural, urban, rich and poor, college-educated and not, the auto workers, the aged pensioner etc. all except " the old white men", the monied and their ilk who were stuck to the 50s.
The times, they are a-changing. Get on board or get left behind.
President Obama should be aware of the pitfalls that awaits the "second-termer". I am certain that he knows of LBJ; of Nixon; of Reagan; of Clinton and of George W. Here is a brief history:- First Johnson, the accidental president who gave the country, the vision of the Great Society and then followed through with the Voting Rights Act (allowing African-Americans, especially in the South, to vote freely and equally), Medicare and Medicaid etc but was felled by Vietnam "I shall not seek, nor will I accept the nomination of my party for the presidency" and faded away a broken man. Nixon, who lost the presidency to JFK in 1960 and then the governership of California to George Brown and famously uttered that "you wont have Nixon to kick again", came back in 1968 and squeaked out a victory against Humphrey. In 1972, running on the platform of ending the Vietnam war with an "honorable peace", instead extended the war which cost thousands more lives but still trounced " the peacenik" McGovern very easily. He was however caught up in the small burglary but the big lie of Watergate and was hounded out of office, waving defiantly and still muttering tha "I am not a crook"
Ronald Reagan, the 'amiable dunce" defeated the "wimp" Carter in 1980. He had kissed the blarney stone, sold America ( even as he sold products for G.E. in the 50s), a positive vision of the future " as a beacon of light". He gave the country "voodoo economics", that eventually led to the 1987 failed "Savings and Loans" economic meltdown, had won re-election in 1984, defeating Mondale, mainly on the issue of military strength ( he expanded the defence budget to the highest in peacetime and saddled America with a huge debt). The failed assassination attempt in 1982 had turned him into an American icon.He supported right-wing military dictatorship in South and Central America, from Argentina to Nicaragua ( in the words of his U.N. ambassador, Jeanne Kirkpatrick "They are our dictators") but he was eventually done in by the Iran-Contra Affair and left office with a grin and a tainted halo. He gave the country a huge debt, "constructive engagement" with apartheid South Africa and "plausible deniablity" ( when he did not want to answer a question from reporters, he would turn his injured ear to them and pretended that he did not hear the question or he would wait for his wife Nancy to tell him what to say).
Clinton won re-election in 1996, defeating Bob Dole, on the basis of the economic upturn. His economic policies, had rescued the country from the Reagan/Bush "supply side", "voodoo economics" and "read my lips. No new taxes", huge budget deficit and exploding national debt and had ushered in years of economic growth, but he was felled by the Lewinsky affair " I did not have sex, with that woman", was impeached by the House but avoided conviction by the Senate. He has been rehabilitated as America's 'eminence grise', spending his time campaigning for Democrats and for a better world, free from disease and poverty, "The comeback kid".
Goerge W. won re-election, defeating John Kerry in 2000 ( both his victories were tainted, Florida in 1996 and Ohio in 2000 tainted ballots. It is said that his first victory was an"election by the Supreme Court"). 9/11 happened on his first watch, but he used it to the fullest by declaring war on terrorism, started a war with Iraq and another with the Taliban/al Qaeda in Afghanistan, increased defence spending, bankrupted the country economically, ( undoing the seven years of Clinton growth and the budget surpluses). He had won re-election with his his "You are with me or you are against me", declared "mission accomplished", mishandled the New Orleans ( You are doing a great job, Brownie), flood relief, and left office, disappearing to his Waco ranch, with jokes about his ineptitude ringing in his ears.
President Obama ended the war in Iraq, bailed out the banks, saved the auto- industry, introduced his health-care plan, revived/ restored Americas reputation which was in tatters,especially with allies, improved the economy and winding down the war in Afghanistan, won re-election in 2012. That he was able to do so much, when hamstrung by a "say no" Republican House is a testament to his team and his leadership.
The second term begins now. He has a somewhat chastened Republican House but that does not mean that they will not drive a hard bargain on the budget, Social Security and Immigration reform, infrastructure rebuilding and other domestic issues. It is foreign policy, mainly in the Middle East, that will test him. His dealings with a more right-wing,religious, settler-driven Israel; the nuclear program with Iran; the civil war in Syria; the growing al Qaeda network in North Africa, Egypt, Libya and the Arab Spring, a full plate. Then there is China, but this will not be as testing as China's growth and reliance on trade with especially the US, will be the the guiding light. It is China's dealings with Japan and other countries over disputed territories that is worrisome, but this too will be tied to China's needs and especially trade and investments. The two-track policy of security and trade , together with the internal pressures , jobs, the economy, environmental issues, ethnic tensions will demand that China's new leaders tread a careful path and this may make for a more amenable China.
Good luck Mr. President. You have 18-24 months and then you become a lame-duck, for the next two years, but this is the period when you need to be very careful, this is when mistakes are made, so do not let down your guard and become careless. There are many "enemies" at the gate, waiting to pounce.
34 political parties, vying for 120 seats in the Knesset, led by "Bibi", "Bennett", "Tzipi", "Shelly" et al, some newly created, others on the fringe and yet others driven by religiuos fervor, nationalism and zealotry.
It has been a rancorous campaign so far and it promises to get worse as the date looms and the realisation that many will not win the 2% require to win seats and others, like the Likud- Israel Beitennu, the new coalition of Netanyahu and Lieberman are losing support to the newly formed,more right-wing anti-Palestine Habayit Hayehud of Naftali Bennett, a former aide of Netanyahu. Kadima which was formed by the iconic Ariel Sharon and won the most seats in the last election is expected to fare badly and win no seats; Shas, the party of the Orthodox which favors exemption from military service on religious grounds is doing well and may win 11 seats; the Pensioners party, which won 7 seats in the last election is not expected to win any, so too the Green Leaf Party, the "on line" party, but the irrevent, Eretz Hadasha which exposed the use of big money in politics is expected to win at least 2 seats.
"Bibi" Netanyahu and Lieberman's coalition was expected to win about 42 seats but after Lieberman's corruption charges, is now expected to still finish with the largest number, about 36, while Labor ( the grand old party of Meir and Rabin) of "Shelley" Yachimovich is expecting to win 18; Hatnua, formed by Tzipi Livni, (after she lost the leadership of Kadima) should win about 10,; Naftali Bennett's Habayit 14 and Israel's Chuck Norris, Yair Lapid (officer of elite forces) of the Yesh Adid 9-11.
The splintering of votes and the new players makes for an interesting scenario, the day after election. Netanyahu is expected to form a coalition with the support of Shas, Hamayit, Yesh Adid. It will be the most extreme, right-wing, religious , settlers government of Israel, building more settlements on Palestinian land, legalising "outposts"(Netanyahu's visit to Ariel to change status of local college to that of a university and to the illegal settlement of Rechelim, to try and stop the bleeding of votes to Bennett (critised by British as an "obstacle to peace"). His proposal to build housing on the last stretch of usable Palestinian land east of Jerusalem, chopping the West Bank in half and thus denying the Palestinians their state.
He is howling at the moon, unconcerned about international isolation in his pursuit of personal ambitions and power.
The continued seizure of Palestinian lands and the expansion of settlements will kill any prospect of peace and with it the two-stste solution. Rather it will eventually lead to a South African-style apartheid state with a small minority ruling over a ever growing majority....a small hard-line Jewish minority,( the religious and the settlers etc) ruling over a majority Arab/Palestinian , with the same eventual outcome. Stop the madness.