International: July 2009 Archives

Interesting times in Moldova.

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moldova.jpgYesterday's election appears to have turfed out Moldova's ruling Communists, perhaps disproving the view that the country has a "managed democracy" along Belarusian lines, or indeed Russian or Iranian lines. 

As with Belarus, the end of the Soviet Union left Moldova poor and dependent on the Russians, a situation aggravated by rapid "market reforms" instituted in the early 1990s.

These proved so unpopular that the Communists came back in 1997, although they've been more or less new-style, with a record of continued privatisation and alleged corruption. 

There are plenty of other problems, too. The country has been a major source of trafficked women for Western Europe and elsewhere. Grimly, if you type Moldova into Google, the top suggestion from autocomplete is "Moldova girls".

Human rights violations have been rife, especially after the post-election riots earlier this year. In addition to torture and other mistreatment, one person died in disputed circumstances. That'd never happen here. A new administration will also want to make some progress about the long-running dispute over the Transdniestra, something my former boss has taken a close interest in

Curiously, the opposition, presumably soon to be the government, is made up of four parties, with the three larger groups almost evenly sized. They are the Liberal Democratic Party (16.6%), the Liberal Party (14.4%) and the Democratic Party (12.5%). I guess Western-leaning Moldovans want both Liberalism and Democracy, but if pressed, they prefer the Liberalism.

More seriously, even the fourth opposition party, Our Moldova Alliance, is large enough to keep the Communists in power if they did a deal. Wikipedia explains their heritage here. They're an amalgamation of four other parties, one of which was confusingly also called the Liberal Party, which was itself a merger between three parties, one of which in turn derived from yet another merger between two parties.

With this convoluted family tree, stability looks like it'll be hard to achieve, but even though Moldova may be a faraway country about which we know little, it borders the EU and its people deserve better.
almedalen.jpgEvery July since 1982 the scenic city of Visby on Gotland has held an unusual type of political conference at Almedalen (link in Swedish). 

Rather than the usual political conferences, where all the parties retreat to their own ghettos to talk to themselves, it's a properly cross-party week. The event traces its history to speeches given there by Olaf Palme in 1968, incidentally.

In addition to the 1,000+ free events, the leaders of the seven parties in the Swedish Parliament each have a 30 minute speaking slot, which the other leaders sometimes go to. Just because, y'know, it might be interesting. 

Working in Holyrood is less partisan than many people imagine from the outside, and there are people I like and get on with in all parties. I'm sure minority government helps that, but there's still nothing quite like this in Scotland, no place where ideas get regularly discussed between parties without a vote on them at 5pm.

Last week, while out for drinks with a couple of other bloggers, we discussed whether something like this might work in Scotland, and we think it could be a goer. The initial idea is for something short and simple, perhaps including a dinner, to be held next summer: we're also short of social events with the demise (?) of the Scottish Political Journalists' Association dinner. 

If that works, then we might look at a longer event in August 2011. We'll all be out of election mode and rested, and there'll certainly be a lot of interest in how the new balance of power at Holyrood works, whatever it is.

Any thoughts? Feel free to tell me it's mad. Sure, Almedalen is also a lobby-fest, which isn't exactly what any of us want to see, but would you find something like this interesting? How would you make sure it's for the public, activists and civic Scotland as well as the political classes? 

Scotland's certainly spoilt for suitable venues, and in need of smarter and more open discussions about the problems that face our country. We have to draw the line somewhere, though. Talking about Almedalen, Anna Wramner says:

".. it's very informal, it's probably the only time each year you'll see the Prime Minister walking the streets in a swimsuit."

My eyes! They burn!
mcnamara.jpgIt's odd, feeling a pang to hear of Robert McNamara's death. As US Defence Secretary during the 1960s he presided over some of America's worst international crimes, in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, and in WWII he had a hand in the firebombing of Japan, also surely a war crime.

Nevertheless, it's hard to see Errol Morris's extraordinary documentary The Fog of War and not have a more nuanced view on the man. 

It contains a powerful sequence where he shakes the hand of a former North Vietnamese Army general, apparently achieving a moment of reconciliation. In the interviews which are the basis for the film, McNamara comes across as thoughtful and conflicted, if cold in places. 

It's a great flick for anyone interested in the period, and you are now instructed to watch it. A low-res version is on Google Video, or it's less than £6 on Amazon.
cuckoldgesture.jpgBack in the 1950s, when policemen called you Sir and Wimbledon was contested by adults, the Crichel Down affair led to the resignation of Sir Thomas Dugdale

He was not personally responsible for the problems with the case, and it is now widely cited as the classic example of the doctrine of Ministerial responsibility.

Nowadays, Ministers responsible for egregious failures cling on, bleating about needing the opportunity to fix their own mistakes. Opposition spokespeople fiddle taxes while preparing for high office. The Prime Minister's own fingerprints are all over various government disasters, from deregulation of the markets to the privatisation of the Tube, yet he will not go until the electorate drag him out of the door to Number Ten.

How much more impressive, therefore, is this news from Portugal. The Economy Minister made the sign of the bull to an opponent, implying someone else had got become very good friends indeed with his wife, and duly quit

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the International category from July 2009.

International: June 2009 is the previous archive.

International: August 2009 is the next archive.