It has now been officially one year since I started Head of State Update. It's been a lot of fun, and a lot of work. It's no secret that my dedication in keeping the thing consistently updated has notably declined, largely because of of the other professional obligations in my life.
Are you interested in seeing Head of State Update continue for another year? Post your comments.
Anyway, let us finish DECEMBER
Solomons Stabalize Sans Sogavare
The parliament of the Solomon Islands voted no-confidence in their Prime Minister on December 13, booting him from office. Mr. Manasseh Sogavare had been in office for little over a year, taking office in May of 2006.
The Solomons is a very unstable and dangerous country, fraught by considerable turmoil. There are 27 islands in all, and their various tribal populations have taken to killing each other with renewed intensity over the last decade or so. There was a coup in 2000, and the Australians dispatched peacekeepers shortly after, helping stabilize the country.
The first post-coup elections were held in 2006, which resulted in a crazy mess of parties getting elected. The parliament only has 50 seats, but there are nine different parties represented more or less equally, which has made the country virtually ungovernable. They couldn't even decide who to elect as governor general, let alone prime minister.
They've now gone through four prime ministers in three years. The new guy's name is Derek Sikua. He used to be a member of the Sogavare administration, but jumped ship as that regime began to go downhill. The hope is that Prime Minister Sikua, a western-educated professor, will finally bring a clean, accountable, and stable government to the Islands, though I suppose it's just as likely that some scandal will end up turning the parliament against him, in time, and the Solomons will become the Pacific's new Nauru (see last post).
Not Much New in Kyrgyzstan
Igor Chudinov was elected as Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan on Christmas eve, a week after his political party swept to victory in the parliamentary elections. This is a bit of a non-event, and is unlikely to change much. Prime Minister Igor is an ally of the sitting president, a man who is accused of rigging elections, consolidating power, and basically betraying all the principles of the 2005 pro-democratic revolution that brought him to power.
New Presidents, one left, one right
Bigger news was to be had in South Korea, where former businessman Lee Myung Bak of the "Grand National Party" was elected president on December 19. A pro-business conservative, President Bak hopes to usher in greater economic growth in his nation's already very strong economy, through a series of reforms he (seriously) refers to as "Myung Baknomics."
Slovenia also got a new president that week, with Danilo Türk taking office as head of state of the Republic on December 22.
President Türk is a professor, and a career diplomat who has served time at both the UN and EU. I've noticed some news reports have been referring to him as an "independent," but that's only half-true. In the Slovenian system of government, which has a ton of political parties, the presidential candidates are always nominally independents. They then have to win the endorsement of numerous political parties in order to win the national election. So, in Mr. Türk's case, he was able to win the endorsement of most of the left-wing parties, while his opponent, Lojze Peterle, had the backing of the conservative ones.
There has been some concern that the leftist Mr. Türk will not be able to work well with a parliament controlled by conservative parties. The Prime Minister even speculated about resigning, rather than work with the new president. But cooler heads have prevailed and the country will now try its hand at embracing government by bi-partisanship. How's that been going in the US, by the way?
Death in Pakistan
Lastly, the most dramatic, and sad news of the month (if not year) was the December 27 assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
Ms. Bhutto was the two-time PM of Pakistan during the brief periods in which the Prime Minister was the highest office in the country (the Pakistani constitution has been amended to shreds, and they've changed from being under presidential rule to prime ministerial rule a couple of times). When she was first elected in 1988, it marked the first time ever that a woman had been placed in charge of a Muslim country.
Of course, Ms. Bhutto had the advantage of being the daughter of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the guy who ruled Pakistan for much of the 1970's before being overthrown and sentenced to death by one of Pakistan's many military governments. When he died, Ms. Bhutto became "leader for life" of his political party, and emerged as a critic of the military regime, eventually sweeping to power once the generals stood down and democratic elections were held.
As I cartooned about on my other site, history is sort of repeating itself now, but in the Marxian way, with the first time as tragedy, and the second time as a farce. The new leader-for-life of the Bhutto party is 19-year-old Bilawal Bhutto, Ms. Bhutto's son. The young Mr. Bhutto is hardly ready for the role that history has thrust upon him, however, and he's too young to even legally hold elected office in Pakistan anyway. So his succession is largely symbolic, and it remains to be seen as to who the true "new Bhutto of Pakistan" will be.