Thursday, January 4, 2007

The first fresh faces of two-thousand and seven

United States- Women edge closer to the presidency

Today is inauguration week in the United States, meaning various politicians of all stripes are being sworn into office.

Most notable of these is of course Nancy Pelosi, who is now America's first-ever female Speaker of the House of Representatives. Unlike many other countries, where the House Speaker is often an unknown, unimportant politician who does little more than call roll and tell people to sit down, in the US the Speaker is the de facto leader of the legislative branch. A deeply partisan figure, he or she is perhaps the closest thing the United States has to a Prime Minister.

As the first woman Speaker, Pelosi is now also the highest-ever ranking female in the US order of presidential succession, the legal list which chronicles in what order people assume the presidency following the death of both Bush and Cheney. Previously, the highest-ranking woman in American history had been Secretary of State Condi Rice, at position number four. Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright was never in the order of succession because she was an immigrant, and thus banned from assuming the presidency.

Inauguration week around the world

A number of other leaders have come to power in the first few days of the new year, too.

Ban Ki-Moon, the former South Korean foreign minister, has now formally assumed office as Secretary General of the United Nations. He was sworn in on New Year's day.

So was Micheline Calmy-Rey, the new President of Switzerland. She is that country's second-ever female president, and may also win the prize for most garish hairstyle presently worn by a world leader.

The Swiss president holds office for exactly one year, and the job rotates between cabinet ministers. As the Swiss government prides itself on collective decision-making, the president is not a very powerful individual. "The first among equals" as they say. If you can speak French, check out President Calmy-Rey's new snappy website.

With Switzerland now under female-rule, the total number of countries with female leaders is now 13. According to my estimates, this is the most female leaders the world has ever had, but it's happened twice before. If one more comes to power, now that will be truly unprecedented.

So who's running Fiji?

The aftermath of Fiji's December 5th military coup continues to be worked out at the political level.

Yesterday, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, who had been serving as the nation's military head of state since the coup, agreed to cede the presidency of Fiji back to Ratu Josefa Iloilo, the man he deposed.

CNN describes President Iloilo as "an ageing and ailing figurehead who is rarely seen in public." But true power will not rest with him, of course. In exchange for being restored, Iloilo agreed to appoint the Commodore (right) as Prime Minister, and he was sworn in today. "In all things, I will be a true and faithful prime minister," quipped the unelected military despot.

He's "called for" a return to democracy and free elections, but as usual, no specific dates have been given.

1 comment:

centerfield48 said...

Ratu Iloilo wasn't the target of the coup; it was the racist PM Laisenia Qarase, who is currently banished to one of the outer islands.