Iraq at a crucial moment (Part 2)
Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi’s to-do list reads like Mission Impossible. Staff his cabinet with honest officials; rebuild war-torn Sunni areas in the north; placate an angry Shia south that is desperately short of water and power; deal with Kurdish demands; reintegrate Iranian-backed militias into civilian life; balance carefully between Iran and the U.S. He must do all this without a secure parliamentary majority or even a solid support base. Mr. Abdul Mahdi’s position as an honest broker gives him great strength, but if he fails, Iraq could become Libya.
Iraq at a crucial moment (Part 1)
Iraq’s new prime minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi, was reportedly hand-picked at meeting in Beirut by the leaders of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps and Hezbollah. Yet the man they chose is far from a radical. Close examination of Mr. Abdul Mahdi’s career shows him to be an experienced, honest and gutsy politician, friendly to the U.S. and hardly in Tehran’s pocket. The task he faces is gargantuan, but Mr. Abdul Mahdi has hidden strengths.
Opinion: In the U.S., the 2020 presidential race is on
For U.S. President Donald Trump, Republican defeat in the 2018 midterm elections at least turned the GOP into his party. With economic successes to his credit and growing constraints on his power imposed by a Democratic Congress, the question is whether he will tone down the polarizing style that has worked so well for him. On the domestic front, this seems unlikely, but international policy may provide an arena where Trumpism’s theatrical conflicts could yield constructive solutions.
Tanzania tries bulldozing its way to growth
Tanzanian President John Magufuli seems to have based his rule on an unusual combination of traits: a pugnacious, personalized style of power politics; a statist approach to the economy; and a strong efficiency fetish. While this formula has brought some early successes, it may not be sustainable for long.
Macedonia: A new front in Russia-West tensions
Macedonia is moving forward with changing its name and securing membership in the EU and NATO, even though a referendum to approve these steps failed to meet minimum turnout requirement. But the damage has already been done. Russia, which does not want to see another Balkan country absorbed into Western institutions, has gained clout and could potentially scupper the process. That would leave Macedonia in limbo, creating further instability in this already volatile region.
Opinion: African democracy’s long and winding road
Since the collapse of communism, Western powers have kept urging African countries to establish democracies by holding elections. Yet democracy is a complex institution that does not adapt well to multiethnic, impoverished societies – especially when it is imposed from outside. Too often the trappings of centralized democracy have been used to legitimize “elected autocrats,” yet there are signs the import will take if grafted onto native roots.
Catalonia, one year later
A year after Catalonia’s botched declaration of independence, pro-independence parties still cling to power in the regional government but find themselves increasingly at odds with each other. Political gridlock has taken its toll on the Catalan economy, while urban dwellers are tilting toward the anti-independence camp. The choice appears to be between continued stalemate or an accommodation with Madrid, which would require a political realignment of pro-independence moderates with unionists.
Essay: As Russian history repeats itself, Putin becomes Yeltsin
Russia’s pension reform continues to reverberate in domestic politics. For the first time ever, President Vladimir Putin has assumed full personal responsibility for an unpopular decision that directly infringes on the lives of most Russians. The effects are already visible in his slumping popularity and in the startling results of gubernatorial elections in several regions. Mr. Putin could be looking for an electoral out as he follows the downhill path of his predecessor, Boris Yeltsin.
Zimbabwe’s Mnangagwa faces political, social and economic crises
Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa has a daunting task ahead. He has indicated he wants to engage with the West, encourage investment and open up the country’s politics. But elements inside his own party are holding him back. The military wing of the ZANU-PF, led by Vice President Constantin Chiwenga, seems intent on continuing repression and backward economic policies. Until President Mnangagwa gains control of his party, he will be unable to implement any real reforms.
Opinion: The slow death of Germany’s political center
Recent elections in Bavaria were the latest to show the weakness of Germany’s centrist parties, the SPD and the CDU/CSU. These traditional mainstays of German politics have seen their bases move toward more radical movements of the right and left and parties that espouse more “modern” values. But the Social Democrats and Christian Democrats have delivered great economic prosperity – why are voters punishing them? The answer can be found in immigration and high incomes. The result could be a less internationally active Germany.