Some interesting developments, let's plunge in.
General Pervez Musharraf's grip over Pakistan has been slowly weakening over the last couple of months. People have been protesting his authoritarian rule more actively, and the demand for democratic reforms have been strong.
Musharraf came to power in a coup in 1999. In doing so, he deposed a guy named Nawaz Sharif, who had been elected Prime Minister in 1997. Sharif in turn came to power after Ms. Benazir Bhutto, the old PM, was removed from office due to gross corruption. They were both exiled after the coup, and as General Musharraf became more unpopular, both began to plot a political comeback.
Mr. Sharif's plan seems to have been the more poorly thought out. Last month he flew back into the country, smug and secure that he'd be greeted as a returning hero. Instead, minutes after he stepped into the airport, guards arrested him and sent him on the first plane back out.
Ms. Bhutto, in contrast, has been engaged in high-level behind-the-scenes negotiations with General Musharraf. And if recent reports are to be believed, they have paid off.
The parliament of Pakistan today voted to extend Musharraf's term as president for another four years. Ms. Bhutto's faction in the parliament boycotted, but did not oppose the vote, and regarded the extension of the General's term as legitimate. Musharraf has in turn agreed to resign from the army, stop wearing a military uniform, and drop all outstanding corruption charges against Bhutto.
Bhutto will return to Pakistan soon, and will run for another term as Prime Minister in upcoming elections. Musharraf has agreed to share power with her, if she wins.
So everything seems to be all rosy and lovely for the time being. Perhaps a glorious shining democratic future is in the works.
Here's a fun fact about Pakistan, though. No leader in the entire history of that country has ever served a full term in office. Not one! They've all either been overthrown, killed, or impeached.
I'll tell you one country that's not going to have a glorious democratic future, though- Russia!
Mr. Putin's term has expired, so he has to step down as president at the end of this year. Analysts were a bit flabbergasted that Putin was willing to go along with this. "Putin the tyrant respect term limits?" they said, "what madness is this!" I thought they were just being alarmist at first. Maybe Putin wasn't as autocratic as they say.
Then Putin appointed his friend, who no one had ever heard of, as Prime Minister a couple weeks ago. Okay, well that seemed a bit dodgy. It was obvious the new PM was being groomed to succeed Putin in the presidential election, just as Yeltsin had groomed Putin back when the latter was Prime Minister. But still, at least Putin was acknowledging that he wasn't going to be in power any more.
The conspiracy theorists finally got what they wanted this week, though. Putin was named leader of the "United Russia" political party, which dominates the Russian parliament. Putin then announced that he'd like to become Prime Minister again should a "decent, capable and modern person with whom I can work" be elected president and decide to appoint him. Hopefully you can fill in the rest of the blanks.
Boring formal updates
But it wasn't all cloak-and-dagger intrigue around the world. In the last few weeks there have been a couple mundane transfers of power.
The Republic of Mali, one of Africa's more stable and democratic countries had a parliamentary election in July in which the ruling party was turfed a new coalition was elected. The incumbent Prime Minister Ousmane Issoufi Maïga agreed to step down once the coalition got its stuff together. He officially resigned on September 27, and the next day the President appointed Mr. Modibo Sidibé as new PM. Sidbe is a longtime loyalist to Mali's popular head of state, President Amadou Toumani Toure. As is the case in most African nations, the Prime Minister of Mali is not a very strong or relevant office, and exists mostly to serve the president. Regardless, President Toure is now in a much stronger position having a loyalist in the PM's office and a sympathetic majority in the parliament.
The half-year terms of the two Captains of San Marino came to an end on October 1. The new captains are named Mirko Tomassoni and Alberto Selva. They shall hold office until April. I wrote about San Marino's kooky political system (and country) a few months ago. http://headofstateupdate.blogspot.com/2007/04/welcome-to-serene-republic-of-san.html
At first I thought the President of Serbia died last week, but it turns out only the President of the Serb Republic died. Serbia is a country, while the Serb Republic is just a province in the Federation of Bosnia and Hercegovina. This is a subtle distinction which only political nerds like me would appreciate. Well, and the Serbian people, I guess.