Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

German rivals trade smiles, not barbs

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German Chancellor Chancellor Angela Merkel and Vice  Chancellor Frank-Walter Steinmeier will battle each other in September’s federal election. But on Tuesday, it was hard to imagine the German odd couple campaigning against each other just a few months from now. The leaders of the two rival parties, locked in their loveless grand coalition since 2005, sat next to each other for 90 minutes, smiling politely as they jointly defended a new economic stimulus package their two ruling parties welded together.

“The campaign will start early enough,” said Steinmeier, who also is Germany’s foreign minister. “What we have presented here shows that the parties in this coalition act responsibly.” Merkel, nodding approvingly in response to several of  Steinmeier’s “we’re-on-the-same-team” type of answers at the nationally televisioned news conference, added: “This is a good package. Everybody has made their contribution.” 

Those looking for some pre-election darts being flung were disappointed. It was all smiles between the future rivals. Steinmeier and Merkel are used to presenting a common German policy line at international meetings, such as European Union summits in Brussels. But the two rarely appear together at news conferences at home, where their parties’ domestic platforms can differ more markedly. 

Their united front on Tuesday offered a curious start to Germany’s “super election year”, which features five state polls as well as September’s federal election. The campaigns are expected to highlight their differences on economic policy. Both Steinmeier’s Social Democrats (SPD) and Merkel’s conservatives (CDU) had stressed their different economic priorities ahead of six-hour long talks on Monday that produced the new 50-billion euro stimulus package

from Africa News blog:

Ghana steps back from the brink

Ghana's epic nail-biter of an election has finally ended with opposition leader John Atta Mills being declared the winner by the narrowest of margins: barely 40,000 votes out of 9 million, or less than 0.5 percent of votes from the past week's run-off.

Virtually everybody was expecting a close race, but the contest got tighter and increasingly acrimonious as both rival camps sensed power was within their reach. As the vote went down to the wire, to be decided with delayed voting held in one final constituency on Jan 2, the ruling New National Party (NNP) announced a boycott and launched legal proceedings to postpone the poll and freeze the announcement of results
 
After a year that has seen electoral bloodshed in Kenya and Zimbabwe one analyst who has followed the vote closely warned that incidents of violence during the polls indicated Ghana "may be coming close to that abyss of no-return".
 
Yet shortly after the Electoral Commission announced results on Saturday, Akufo-Addo conceded defeat, congratulated Mills and both candidates were stressing the need for cooperation and consensus between their two parties.

Bibi’s back as flak

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Saying he was answering a request from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to help out with Israel’s “PR”, or public relations, during its current Gaza offensive against Hamas, right-wing Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu gave a series of interviews to foreign media on Tuesday, including Reuters in
Jerusalem.

It’s not every day that a leader of a country’s main opposition party serves as what journalists call a “flak”, or PR spokesman, in support of political rivals.

Ghana’s elections: Dare Africa hope?

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As Ghanaians get set to elect a new president and parliament on Sunday, there seems to be as much attention on what a new leader will mean for Ghana as on what message Ghana will send the world about the state of Africa today. After a dismal year with elections rigged or marred by violence in Kenya, Zimbabwe and most recently Nigeria, to name but a few, Africa could do with a pick-me-up.

Despite some wobbles and sporadic violence in northern Ghana where several people were killed in the early stages of the campaign, preparations for Sunday’s elections have gone relatively smoothly.

Drugs and guns in Guinea-Bissau

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Members of Guinea-Bissau’s unruly armed forces have blotted the military’s record again with another attack against the country’s political institutions. Early on Sunday, Nov. 23, renegade soldiers, their faces hooded, sprayed the Bissau residence of President Joao Bernardo “Nino” Vieira with machine-gun and rocket-propelled grenade fire. The president survived unhurt this latest apparent attempt to topple him.

 

But The attack underlined the fragility of the small, cashew nut-exporting West African nation, one of the poorest in the world and a former Portuguese colony which has suffered a history of bloody coups, mutinies and uprisings since it won independence in 1974 after a bush war led by Amilcar Cabral. The assault followed parliamentary elections on Nov. 16 which donors were hoping would restore stability and put in place a new government capable of resisting the serious threat posed by powerful Latin American cocaine-trafficking cartels who use Guinea-Bissau as a staging post to smuggle drugs to Europe.

The political price of recession

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As journalists, we spend a lot of time watching politicians and policies to guage their impact on financial markets and economies. Now, as recession takes an inexorable hold in the Asia-Pacific region, we’re watching for the impact on politicians themselves.

 So far there has been no repeat of the political upheaval triggered by Asia’s economic crisis a decade ago, which culminated in the ignominious resignation of President Suharto in Indonesia and the ouster of Thailand’s prime minister (see previous blog). There are no food riots as there were back then, and Asians are not crowding at  banks’ doors to rescue their savings.

Asian Contagion Redux

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    The Indonesian rupiah has lost more than a fifth of its value against the dollar so far this year and on Friday hit its weakest point since August 1998. Authorities swooped in to take over an
insolvent Bank Century, the first such takeover since the Asian financial crisis a decade ago.

   Are things in Southeast Asia’s biggest economy really that dire to prompt comparisons with the chaotic events of a decade ago? Today’s financial crisis is draining liquidity from many banks across the world, including in Indonesia.  And as was the case a decade ago, domestic capital is swarming hot on the heels of foreign capital in fleeing Indonesia.

Nigeria: Will someone turn on the lights?

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Returning to Nigeria for the first time in five years, nothing is more striking than the mobile phones ringing wherever you go.

 

The phone signal barely drops on a drive some five hours out of Abuja, through countryside where the only people visible are hoeing the red earth and balancing unwieldy stems of sugar cane on bicycles. A growing number of village households now have phones.

Steinmeier sheds dull image with rousing speech

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Steinmeier address SPD conventionAs Germany’s foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier has delivered many speeches,  but none that anyone can particularly remember. Germany’s top diplomat has impeccable credentials yet has rarely come close to stirring anyone with his balanced, cautious, usually dry and sometimes rather dull addresses. No one would ever think of ticking the box “rousing speaker” next to his name.

That all changed on Saturday — when Steinmeier gave the speech of his life to a congress of his centre-left Social Democrats (SPD). The 500 delegates interrupted the white-haired lawyer’s riveting 88-minute address with applause 114 times. They then elected Steinmeier, who had never won election for any public office, as their candidate for the 2009 election with 95 percent of the vote.

The Party’s Over For Merkel

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Suddenly, the outlook has darkened for Chancellor Angela Merkel, thanks to Bavaria’s conservatives who suffered their worst result in half a century in a state vote on Sunday.

German Chancellor Angela MerkelMerkel is used to riding high in polls and had looked to be cruising to re-election in a year’s time.

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