Wednesday, April 01, 2009

G20: Summit of Doomed Leaders?

As we await the G20 summit in London and its potential impact on the global financial system, one of the most interesting subplots may be the fact that many of the leaders at this meeting are in serious political peril back home. Makes you wonder just how much credence to lend to any treaty or agreement emerging from London. A quick trip around the world is in order. Let's start with the host.

Gordon Brown, Prime Minister of the UK: The opposition Tories have their knives out for Brown, they just need an election to finish the job. In the fall, Brown looked like he was on top of the economic crisis. Now the crisis is definitely on top of him. If Brown were to survive the upcoming British election, it would be nothing short of miraculous.

Taro Aso, Prime Minister of Japan: The Japanese political system is almost as messy as their economy these days. Mr. Aso is the third Prime Minister to have the job since the resignation of Junichiro Koizumi in the fall of 2006. The Japanese people will soon have a choice between an incompetent and disorganized government and a scandal plagued opposition. Makes Harper and Ignatieff look like great statesmen.

Mirek Topolanek, President EU, Prime Minister Czech Republic: A rotating presidency is always going to make things interesting. However, having the Czech government fall while they're supposed to be the head of the EU, really throws a wrench into the EU works. The only non-country at the G20 will also be represented by EU Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso, but it is a little awkward to have the bureaucracy representing one of the world's largest markets. Think of Canada being represented by the Clerk of the Privy Council.

Kgalema Motlanthe, President Republic of South Africa: Okay, so it is still unlikely that the ANC will lose this month's elections in South Africa. It doesn't change the fact that South African politics are a lot less certain now then at any time since the end of apartheid. Even the possibility of defeat for the ANC means political uncertainty in South Africa.

Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India: Much like the ANC, the Congress Party is still the favourite heading into this year's elections in India. However, who the Prime Minister will be is another question altogether. With yet another Gandhi (this one constitutionally eligible to be Prime Minister) making waves in India, the odds that Singh (a surprise PM last time around) will survive as PM seem longer by the day.

Angela Merkel, Chancelor of Germany: Merkel may be in slightly better political shape than her British counterpart because her principal opposition is part of her coalition government. Hard to criticize a government you're a part of, don't you know. However, Europe's economic engine isn't running like it used to and the chancelor may take the fall come September.

Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada: Harper has the benefit of not necessarily facing the voters this year. However, any leader trailing the opposition in the polls while trying to lead a minority government in a recession is decidedly on the hot seat.

Felipe Calderon, President of Mexico: Yes, I know, the Mexican presidency is term limited to one term so barring impeachment no president of Mexico has political problems. However, with Mexico trying to fight a raging drug war and stop the economic bleeding caused by the American recession, it isn't exactly fun for President Calderon these days.

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, President of Argentina: Things are bad enough for Mme. Fernandez de Kirchner that she has subverted her husband's election law to try to hold on to legislative power in Buenos Aires. Presidential elections are still a few years away, but times are tough for the Argentinian President.

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, President of Brazil: Not in a whole lot of danger. He's term limited so even if he isn't as popular as he once was, he doesn't have to face the voters again.

Silvio Berlusconi, Prime Minister of Italy: An Italian Prime Minister is never entirely safe. However, Berlusconi still owns much of the Italian media, so he's probably safer than he otherwise would be.

Nicolas Sarkozy, President of France: Sarko is demanding major changes in London. Like so many others, he's trying to blame the rest of the world for his country's problems. French Presidents get nice long terms and Sarkozy was just elected, so he's not in any immediate danger. However, how well Sarkozy can manage this strange dance of distancing himself from his Western allies in London and then bringing France back more firmly under the NATO umbrella in London a few day later may determine his chances next time he faces the French voters.

Barack Obama, President of the United States: Okay, so the ink is barely dry on the results of his electoral landslide, but Obama can't help but look ahead. Obama is being ambitious out of the gate. He's going to have a long record, the only question is whether or not it is a good one.

Dmitry Medvedev, President of Russia: Yes, he is technically in charge not PM Putin. The economic crisis has rocked Russia and there is serious discontent for the first time in almost a decade. Whether or not that loosens the grip that Medvedev and Putin have on power, is up for debate.

Lee Myung-Bak, President of South Korea: Also recently elected by a wide margin, Lee is safe for now. However, I admit I know little about South Korean poltics.

Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, President of Indonesia: I know less about Indonesian politics, so I'll skip Indonesia altogether. If you can enlighten me, be my guest.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Prime Minister of Turkey: As long as the AKP remains a legal political party, Erdogan shouldn't have much to worry about politically. Like Sarkozy, Obama and Berlusconi, Erdogan has a relatively weak and disorganized opposition.

Kevin Rudd, Prime Minister of Australia: Recently elected, Rudd should be relatively safe. The upcoming climate conference in Copenhagen may be Rudd's coming out party on the international scene.

Wen Jiabao, Premier of the People's Republic of China: Not having to face the voters at all, makes Wen Jiabao fairly immune to political storms. However, the politburo cannot be thrilled about millions of disgruntlled migrant workers going back home far away from the watchful eye of Beijing.

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia: It is good to be King. Particularly when the country is named for your family and the family runs the government.

1 comment:

Miles Lunn said...

Good summary on the whole here. I think Brown is almost certain to lose the next British election, although a hung parliament is at least still possible. In the case of Germany, Merkel might actually come out the winner here since the FDP has surged in the polls and they are considered a preferable coalition partner to the current SPD. A Red-Green coalition is pretty much out of the picture. That being said, she is polling below what she got last election and for whatever reason the CDU/CSU always polls higher in between elections than on election day

Sarkozy has until 2012, so the recession likely won't cost him the election. However, his UMP party has been in power since 1995 so the time for a change might work well.

Berlusconi has a majority so unless the Lega Nord pulls out of the coalition he is safe for now.

Zapatero has until 2012 and the poll numbers seem pretty stagnant there.

Kevin Rudd is actually polling at record levels for Australia so if anything he might win a larger mandate.

Obama should probably okay largely due to the mess his opponents, the Republicans are in. Also, the Democrats are more likely to get punished in the 2010 midterms than they are in the next general election. Clinton in 1994 and Reagan in 1982 all faced low approval ratings yet won by larger margins in the next election. In fact in US politics, more often than not, sitting presidents improve their vote total rather than reduce them.

In Canada, Stephen Harper is not in great shape overall and the poll numbers aren't great. The only positive he faces, is the Liberals have to win every riding they came within 13 points last election which is doable but quite difficult and that type of swing hasn't happened in one election since 1993. Still if he gets another minority, he is likely gone as leader.

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