Politics this week
Jan 27th 2011
From The Economist print edition
A suicide bombing at Moscow’sDomodedovo airport killed 35 people and injured more than 100. There were no claims of responsibility but suspicion inevitably fell on Islamists from Russia’s restive north Caucasus, who have been responsible for previous terrorist attacks. President Dmitry Medvedev sacked several police and security officials for failing to prevent the attack.See article
A week of political drama in Ireland saw Brian Cowen, the prime minister, step down as leader of his party; the Greens withdraw from the coalition government; and the accelerated passage of financial legislation. An election is now likely to be held on February 25th, two weeks earlier than planned. See article
In Britain Alan Johnson resigned as Labour’s shadow chancellor for personal reasons. He was replaced by Ed Balls, a more pugnacious political performer. Andy Coulson, chief spin doctor to the prime minister, David Cameron, also stepped down as a long-running scandal over phone-hacking allegations at the News of the World, a tabloid newspaper once edited by Mr Coulson, refused to die.See article and article
Three people were killed in anti-government protests outside the prime minister’s office in Albania. Prosecutors issued arrest warrants for six members of the republican guard. See article
Portugal’s president, Aníbal Cavaco Silva, won re-election with over half of the vote. Some speculated that he could use his power to dissolve the Socialist government should Portugal seek an international bail-out.
There were signs of an end to Haiti’s political impasse when a member of the ruling party said its candidate, Jude Célestin, would withdraw from a run-off election for the presidency, leaving it to be contested by Mirlande Manigat, a constitutional lawyer, and Michel Martelly, a popular musician. This followed strong pressure from the United States for Mr Célestin to withdraw.
A French ship began laying an undersea fibre-optic cable from Venezuela to Cuba. It will bring fast broadband to Cuba for the first time.
In Canada Ed Stelmach, the Conservative premier of Alberta, announced he would resign despite enjoying a huge majority in the legislature. He was insufficiently right-wing for many in Canada’s most conservative province. See article
Barack Obama used his state-of-the-union speech in Congress to call for more investment in research and infrastructure in order that America can compete with a surging China and India, saying their rise was another “Sputnikmoment” requiring clever innovation. He also proposed a five-year freeze in discretionary spending, and more defence cuts. See article
The Congressional Budget Office forecast that this year’s budget deficit would swell to a record $1.5 trillion, $400 billion of which is down to the tax-cut and unemployment insurance package passed by Congress in December.
Rahm Emanuel’s run to be mayor of Chicago was stuck in the sands when a court ruled he did not meet residency requirements and should be struck off the ballot. Illinois’s Supreme Court ordered that his name be printed on voting sheets while it considered the matter.
Protests in Egypt, apparently prompted by the recent ousting of Tunisia’s strongman, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, erupted in at least a score of towns, including Cairo, where 30,000 people blocked a central square, and Alexandria. They called, among other things, for the removal of President Hosni Mubarak, who has been in power for 30 years. See article
There were also large demonstrations in Sanaa, the Yemenicapital, demanding that Ali Abdullah Saleh step down as president. He too has been in power for 30 years. See article
In Tunisia, a fragile transitional unity government struggled to restore order, promising elections in six months. Some people suggested that General Rachid Ammar, the army commander who is credited with persuading Mr Ben Ali to flee, should replace the current prime minister, Mohammed Ghannouchi, a technocrat who loyally served under the previous regime. See article
Leaks of discussions between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators, aired on Al Jazeera, the Arabic satellite channel, put both sides in a bad light. The leaks sought in particular to damage the Palestinian leadership under Mahmoud Abbas, portraying it as truckling to the Israelis by offering more generous concessions than publicly admitted. See article
A Sunni telecoms tycoon, Najib Mikati, became Lebanon’s prime minister, with the backing of Hizbullah, a Shia party-cum-militia whose influence is waxing. The United States, Israel, France and Saudi Arabia were all worried. See article
Talks took place in Istanbul between the governments of six big countries and Iran over its nuclear ambitions. They got nowhere.
Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan’s president, opened a new session of parliament, four months after elections that he claimed were fraudulent. Last week Mr Karzai said that the new parliament would be postponed pending further inquiry into the voting; he complained of being pushed into the inaugural session by “foreign hands”. See article
Australia’s government announced plans to finance the repair of an estimated $5 billion in damage wrought by recent flooding.
China introduced unexpectedly tough measures to cool the property market, including bigger downpayments and a requirement that local governments set price targets. Shanghai announced a limited property tax.
Protesters in Thailand took turns swamping the streets of Bangkok, again. First came around 30,000 anti-government redshirts to demand the release of their movement’s leaders, who were arrested amid last year’s paralysing demonstrations. A smaller number of yellowshirts, who have supported the government of Abhisit Vejjajiva in the past, raised their own voices in protest two days later on the ground that it has not shown sufficient spine in a border dispute with Cambodia.