Thursday, July 15, 2010

Deceision 2010- Runoff Voting in Poland, Colombia; Reigonal Elections in Mexico; Australia's Rudd Steps Down

Heading into a pivotal mid-term election of our own later on this year, it's a little easy to forget that there have been elections (or other peaceful changes of government) taking place elsewhere.

MEXICO: Gubernatorial and municipal elections took place on July 4th in 14 of Mexico's 31 states. While the polling itself was relatively quiet, the campaigning was marked with intermittent violence. Rodolfo Torre Cantu was campaigning for governor of Tamaulipas when his convoy was ambushed by masked gunmen on June 28. Rodolfo's brother, Egidio Torre, replaced him as candidate. This was the most high-profile slaying of a political candidate in Mexico since the 1994 slaying of Mexican presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio.

While the current opposition party (PRI- Institutional Revolutionary Party) retained some of their governorships, it was by a closer-than-anticipated margin.

Voter turnout was low in many parts of the country- with only an estimated 33% of eligible voters showing up in violence-wracked Chihuahua state.

AUSTRALIA: Prime Minister Kevin Rudd stepped down on June 23rd after facing a leadership challenge from within his own Labour party from Julia Gillard. Rudd's resignation paved the way for Gillard to be sworn in as Australia's first female Prime Minister. While there was no position for Rudd in Gillard's cabinet, speculation is that she could appoint him Australia's Foreign Minister if Labour does well in the next round of elections.

Rudd was an advocate for what amounts to Australia's answer to Cap & Trade- the Resource Super Profits Tax, which would levy taxes anywhere from 30%-40% of all non-renewable minerals mined in Australia. This led to an 'ad war' between the government and mining companies like BHP Billiton [NYSE: BHP], Rio Tinto Properties [NYSE: RTP] and XStrata [LSE: XTA.L] that ceased immediately after PM Gillard's leadership challenge.

POLAND: A special runoff election was held after President Lech Kazcynski and 86 others were killed in an April plane crash in Russia. Former speaker of the Parliament Bronislaw Komorowski of the Civic Platform Party was appointed interim president after Kazcyinski's death. A special election was called for on June 20, with Komorowski and Jaroslaw Kaczynski- the late president's twin brother and Law & Justice Party chief- finishing as the top two out of 10 Presidential candidates on the ballot. However, since neither of them won more than 50% of the vote, a special runoff election was called for on July 4th. Komorowski won that election by a 53% 47% margin against Kaczynski.

Komorowski has been described as pro business and is allied with Prime Minister Donald Tusk, who is also from the Civic Platform Party. This means that Komorowski's proposed austerity measures to deal with the ongoing European financial crisis will run into less legislative resistance, although Poland has fared much better economically than many EU nations over the last year and a half.

While the Prime minister in Poland can set policy, the President has the power to veto laws, appoint high-level officials and have a say in foreign policy.

COLOMBIA: Colombia's Presidential elections were held on May 30th, but with no candidate getting more than 50% of the vote, a second election was set for June 20th. The top two finishers in the first round of polling were former Bogota Mayor and Colombia National University Dean Antanas Mockus and former National Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos. While the academic, former mayor, son of Lithuanian immigrants and Colombian Green Party head matched up fairly well with Santos in opinion polls, Santos won by a margin of 69% to 27% over Mockus.

Santos is close to incumbent president Alvaro Uribe, who has been one of the USA's staunchest allies in the region over the last decade. Uribe himself had attempted to place a referendum on the ballot that would allow him to serve a third term, but Colombia's constitutional court rejected it in February of this year.

Santos was also chief of Colombia's military when they launched a daring raid into a FARC guerilla camp across the Ecuadoran border that killed FARC leader Ivan Rios and yielded an intelligence goldmine from captured documents and laptops in 2008.

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