Moldova – the inevitable happens

As I end my two weeks here as a guest blogger, with events turning dramatic in Kyrgyzstan, the revolution that didn’t happen is fizzling out in Moldova. (See today’s RFE/RL Newsline, which unusually has no less than five stories from the forgotten republic.)

Those few of you who have been following the story may recall that the ruling Communist Party won the recent elections with 56 seats out of 101 in the parliament. However, President Vladimir Voronin will require 61 votes to get re-elected by the parliament on 4 April. The leaders of the two opposition factions who between them won the other 45 parliamentary seats pledged that they would boycott the vote, thus ensuring that no president would be elected and triggering new parliamentary elections.
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The Tulip Revolution

As you probably know, there appears to have been a peaceful revolution in Kyrgyzystan.

Latest news.


BBC backgrounder on the recent events

For general information on Kyrgyzustan, Wikipedia.

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Some original, not too informed analysis: The last years peaceful revoutions have all happened in countries with some democratic features, not straight out dictatorships. Kyrgyzystan was always the least authoritarian of the Turkistanic countries then became more repressive the last four years. I don’t think that’s coincidental; regime change in the other more repressive ‘stans seem unlikely.
But it’s noteworthy that it has happened in a more repressive country than Georgia and Serbia, with even less experience in democracy.

This revolution took almost eveyone by surprise. I think people, like me, just assumed have the possibility of change in the region, and maybe that was a bit lazy and prejudiced. It’ll be interesting if the new regime proves to be less authoritarian in the long run, like the new regimes in Serbia and maybe, probably, Georgia and Ukraine. Let’s hope so.

In Memoriam

National Gonzo Press Club Vows To Carry On Hunter S. Thompson’s Work

Even gonzo journalists who have disagreed with Thompson in the past, such as award-winning New York Times columnist Heck Murdo, count him as a freak comrade. “We did have sharp differences in opinion,” Murdo said. “He thought Richard Nixon should have had his intestines slowly unwound onto a giant cable spool. I thought he should have been lashed to an oceanside cliff near San Clemente, so that ospreys could feast on his eyes. We feuded for years, at one point conducting a bourbon- and mescaline-fueled motorized-cart demolition derby on a Lake Tahoe golf course. But we patched things up when Dubya was elected, agreeing?to our mutual horror?that Nixon far outclassed that Jesus-loving pinheaded man-child.”

From the Onion, of course.

Spring European Summit

I often marvel at the absurdities of the debate around the EU’s economic agenda.

Take, for instance, this pithy summary of Sunday’s meeting from EurActiv:

The costs of German reunification will be counted as a mitigating circumstance in the reform of the EU Stability and Growth Pact, EU finance ministers have agreed.

Because, of course, nobody knew about German reunification when the Stability and Growth Pact was first adopted. In 1997.

And the ludicrous row over the services directive leaves me wondering if the EU is at all serious about extending the four freedoms to the new member states, let alone about the dying Lisbon Agenda.

Perhaps the heads of state and government will surprise me. But I suspect the biggest effect of the summit for me personally will be the increased traffic jams when I go home tonight and tomorrow.

Singing is diplomacy by other means

Yes, I know sometimes it seems as though my job here at AFoE is to lower the high-minded tone with discussion of inanities, but there’s another interesting story about the Eurovision Song Contest today, namely that Lebanon – who were intending to make their first entry into the competition this year – have now withdrawn from it after being told by the EBU that they would not be allowed to avoid showing the Israeli entry. This report on the esctoday site gives more details, including some background of other problems with Arab countries around Israel’s entries over the years. For now, you can also see the gap between Latvia and Lithuania on the list of particpants on the official Eurovision site.

Obviously, there are far more important things going on in Lebanon right now, but it’s another interesting story to add to the file of the intersections between politics and culture at the Eurovision.

Wolfowitz: The World Bank staff hate him already

For everyone interested in the Wolfowitz appointment, I strongly recommend World Bank President, a blog devoted to the issue in its title. From it, I learn that the World Bank staff is already expressing concerns that staff views should play a role in the selection of the next Bank president, and that you can e-sign a statement of concern sponsored by the European Network on Debt and Development.

This might even prove more entertaining than nominating Bono would have.

Another Question

Apparently, lifting the embargo on selling arms to China is high on the agenda for the meeting of the EU foreign ministers next week.

The reasonably senior US diplomat said he wondered what the EU would be getting if it chose to lift the embargo now. Is there more than just contracts involved? Or are the sales enough?

Along with all of the major German parties, I’m finding this a peculiar time to lift an embargo, given the law that China just passed.

The Wolfowitz Bank

Everybody ready for neo-con development politics?

President Bush said today he is nominating Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz to be the next president of the World Bank, tapping one of his administration’s most controversial figures as the U.S. choice to head the 184-nation institution.

Because, y’know, after engineering a military quagmire in Asia, Robert McNamara was such a smashing success at the World Bank…

Or will it be a Koch-Weser moment?

UPDATE: Bloomberg comes through with a bit of the agenda.

Under Wolfowitz, the Bush administration may now try to narrow the focus of the World Bank, returning the international lending institution to its roots of primarily financing large infrastructure projects and limiting the practice of handing out zero-interest loans, analysts such as Alan Meltzer, who led a 2000 congressional inquiry into the World Bank, said.

Tapped also has scuttlebutt from 17th & H; in short, Wolfowitz will be hated by the institution he is slated to run.

On Monday, I was in the audience when a reasonably senior US diplomat speculated on improvements in US-European relations. I thought to myself, well, things will get a hell of a lot better on Jan. 21, 2009.