Turbo-libertarian Javier Milei has gotten into some trouble for his running mate Victoria Villarruel, who has been a long time apologist for Argentina’s Dirty War and as a lawyer defended officers accused of crimes against humanity. She claims the mass disappearances were understandable and necessary to defeat leftist terrorists (who had mostly been extinguished by the time Videla took power in 76 near the very beginning of this era of state terrorism). This has understandably drawn the ire of Argentina’s human rights organizations and isn’t just an issue of the past - if Milei wins she will be in charge of the police and armed forces.
Separately the Economist wrote a rather scathing article arguing that the IMF had been radically lowering its lending standards to put up with Argentina’s endless monetary mismanagement. At the rate they’re heading, no matter who wins the election it may be too late to save the currency crisis.
The United Kingdom
Politico reports on leadership difficulties in Britain. The Tories have been receiving a drubbing in the polls, recently lost two by elections, and apparently concluded a ministerial reshuffle without generating much excitement. All this is a challenge for PM Sunak and doesn’t reflect well on next year’s election:
Sunak’s supporters are keen to highlight that he’s chalked up some big wins since taking office less than a year ago. He produced a solution to the Northern Ireland trade deadlock, started to carve out a new image for Britain on the international stage, presided over slowing inflation, and passed a flagship bill aimed at cutting undocumented migration. But these limited successes just may not cut it for voters. Two-thirds of people think Sunak has achieved “only a slight amount” or nothing at all in his premiership so far, according to polling for POLITICO by PR firm Redfield and Wilton.
Speaking of leadership woes, following Nicola Sturgeon’s exit and SNP’s ongoing scandals, much of the oomph seems to have been taken out of the independence movement:
A recent Survation poll suggested the SNP could lose almost half the 48 seats it won at the 2019 Westminster election, with Labour picking up 24 — a dramatic improvement on opposition leader Keir Starmer’s current total of one, and a major boost to his hopes of entering Downing Street at next year’s general election.
I’m not really a Britain watcher and I know we have a fair amount of users who are so input would definitely be appreciated.
The left and right remain in deadlock in Spain’s never ending post election hangover. The conservatives were the frontrunner in votes and their leader Feijoo is currently attempting unsuccessfully to form a party. Feijoo actually proposed to the Socialist party that they collaborate on legislation if they allow him to come to power, which the socialists of course rejected.
Currently they still hold the top chance at winning a third party to their coalition because the third parties are mostly regional outright or quasi independence movements that are incompatible with a more nationalist coalition. However, the Catalan party Junts has now formally outlined their demands to support the left. They will require full amnesty for their leader Carles Puigdemon, who is in exile following the illegal Catalan independence referendum. Until now this has been a nonstarter for leftist PM Pedro Sanchez and Junts have already said they won’t accept an exchange of amnesty for police officers accused of brutality in the wake of the referendum, which has been thus far the only idea proposed to sweeten the hard-to-swallow demand.
To summarize the mess so far, two anti-military, anti-monarchy parties were big winners in the last election. One of them was more genuinely radical / progressive, the other was kind of the family party of the last two leaders that the military coup’d. For understandable reasons the latter party, Pheu Thai, were at first seen as a more serious enemy, and their incredibly popular shadow leader Thaksin Shinawatra has been exiled since the his 2014 coup.
However, the more radical (and popular) Move Forward party came to be seen as a more serious threat to the military-monarchy rule so the powers that be blocked them, and ended up coalitioning with Pheu Thai and let them pick a palatable, non-military PM in exchange for Thaksin being allowed to return. The King has now formally pardoned almost all of Thaskin’s sentence.
There are two ways to look at the conclusion to this saga. One is that populist forces have become so powerful that the military was forced on its back legs to sacrifice some power and even ally with their old enemy. The other is that the military has so skillfully entrenched their power that they have co-opted their historical enemy as an ally and handily crushed their only real threat. I tend to lean towards the latter explanation but you can differ.
Separately, I have previously used Thailand as an example arguing against people who think American foreign policy is guided by an urge to push progressivism everywhere. The Thai military basically just steamrolled a progressive democratic movement and we didn’t say anything, because what we really care about is whether they’ll lean towards us or China. At the time I argued it was very unlikely that Thailand made their move without letting the US know first, and that we should expect to see our countries grow closer, not farther apart following this arc. Early signs of this shift, the Thai PM has said he will also skip ASEAN and use that time to hold security talks with the United States.
I’ve been covering this election saga for a while and now that it’s basically concluded I probably won’t update on Thailand too often, unless they do something crazy (which they well might!) so thanks for following this with me.
After Gabon’s coup against the re-elected Ali Bongo, General Brice Oligui Nguema has risen to power as the new “interim” president. While on the surface this is the end of the 56 years of rule by the Bongo family, Nguema is actually cousins with President Bongo, leading the opposition leader to accuse the whole thing of being a sham to keep the family in power. Either way, the General has his work cut out for him:
The freeze on hiring since 2018 and the suspension of a salary before the civil servants are given a posting are just two issues that have made the job more precarious, unionist Sima Bertin says.
"Three major issues come immediately come to mind. First, the administrative situations of teachers must be regularized. The second is the regularization of their financial situation, including the payment of arrears. Last but not least, the pension should be indexed to the teachers' remuneration systems',' the Syndicat de l’éducation nationale member listed.
Nguema has promised to return the country to civilian control with free and fair elections but, uh, no timeline yet. Rwanda and Cameroon have responded to the coup by reshuffling their own defense forces and seem to be wary of more instability spreading.
Slovakia will have a parliamentary election on September 30th. This is earlier than normal because the last election was only in 2020, which saw the rise of the anti-corruption populist Igor Matovič, who proceeded to mismanage things so badly that he is apparently now the most distrusted politician in Slovakia with various polls showing 88% to 91% of the population rating him as distrustful. He was succeeded by Eduard Heger who struggled to maintain momentum through stillwater budget negotiations and ultimately lost a vote of no confidence in December, leading to a vote in January to reform the constitution to allow for early elections.
Right now the previous leader of the left wing coalition, SD, is in first place, trailed by a progressive party likely willing to coalition with them, and trailed comfortably by everyone else.
China’s second largest real estate giant after Evergrande, Country Garden, may default on their debts as well, turning a bad real estate -driven recession even worse.
This came as the crisis-hit company reported a record $6.7bn (£5.2bn) loss for the first six months of the year…
Country Garden also announced it had missed interest payments on bonds that were due this month. However, it added it was still within a 30-day grace period to make the payments.
It is also reportedly seeking to extend a deadline for the repayment of another bond…
Problems in China's property market - which includes everything from building homes to industries making the goods that go in them - is having a major impact as it accounts for around a third of the economy.
China's real estate industry was rocked when new rules to control the amount of money big real estate firms could borrow were introduced in 2020.
Evergrande, which was once China's top-selling developer, racked up debts of more than $300bn as it expanded aggressively to become one of the country's biggest companies.
Its financial problems have rippled through the country's property industry, with a series of other developers defaulting on their debts and leaving unfinished building projects across the country.
BBC adds more detail in a small retrospective:
The country's astonishing growth in the past 30 years was propelled by building: everything from roads, bridges and train lines to factories, airports and houses. It is the responsibility of local governments to carry this out.
However, some economists argue this approach is starting to run out of road, figuratively and literally.
One of the more bizarre examples of China's addiction to building can be found in Yunnan province, near the border with Myanmar. This year, officials there bafflingly confirmed they would go ahead with plans to build a new multi-million dollar Covid-19 quarantine facility.
Heavily indebted local governments are under so much pressure that this year some were reportedly found to be selling land to themselves to fund building programmes.
On the other hand, a series of articles seems to be praising Hauwei’s advances in the just released chip, in spite of sanctions:
Jefferies analysts said TechInsights' findings could trigger a probe from the U.S. Commerce Department's Bureau of Industry and Security, create more debate in the U.S. about the effectiveness of sanctions and prompt the Congress to include even harsher tech sanctions in a competition bill it is preparing against China.