Monthly political analysis on nations in
economic or political transition


May 2015



The UK General Election 2015

The United Kingdom is about to elect a new government for a five year fixed term in a new situation, imposed by the fact that the old ‘two-party system’ has had to give way, since neither of the two large ‘traditional’ parties can any longer win an overall majority. Following the 2010-2015 coalition government, the first in the 70 years since WWII, it seems that this was no aberration since no single party can any longer win outright. This is by no means unusual in neighbouring Europe but the UK –particularly its insular Press, prefers to ignore any form of perhaps unfavourable, continental comparisons. Now there is a reasonable expectation that Coalition government has become the new norm and that has given a boost of interest in the smaller parties pressing to become potential coalition partners.
The fact is that insufficient members of the electorate can be rallied any more to vote for either the Conservative Party or the Labour Party, the two traditional parties of power, yet due to their shortcomings it could be argued, there has developed a considerable enthusiasm for minority parties. Back in 2010, the outcome of the last UK Election, was a Conservative coalition with the Liberal Democrat Party, which has now ‘gone the 5 year distance’ on an agreed policy platform and the appointment of a number of ministers from the junior partner. 

It could be said, in terms of governance, to have worked better than expected. 

Now, five years later, further upheavals relating to Scotland and the UK’s membership of the EU have further distorted the old familiar ways, resulting in a noisy anti-EU nationalist party and a vigorous Scottish Nationalist party becoming significant in the UK, at least during the election period. That bubble could burst –or not, when the votes are counted and the 650 constituency seats are won and lost.

The issues are predominantly domestic: the austerity-ridden economy and the underfunded, massively popular, National Health Service; now are joined by disputed UK membership of the EU; a widely negative approach to immigration; the underfunding of national Defence, the fate of the UK’s nuclear weaponry and inadvertently by the election itself, ‘the State of the Union’. Very little is said about the future of the UK in the wider world.

Peter Crisell explains below the realities of present day electoral politics in a nation that claims to have long been the cradle of world democracy, and to be governed through the ‘mother of all parliaments.’ [...]

Ukraine, Putin and the neocons

During their 24 years of post-soviet rule, government in Ukraine has been like ‘the rope’ in a tug-of-war. The nation is in-play as a major pawn between US and Russia, given Putin’s objective of re-creating a non-communist, predominantly Slav “imperial” Russia, which cannot conceivably co-exist with the US’s ‘New American Century’ imperialism of the State Department’s neocons. This was exemplified in the recent US managed coup removing the pro-Moscow Viktor Yanukovych from the presidency and the short and ugly war that inevitably followed.

Hitherto a key factor in outcomes has been the corruption within the Ukrainian body politic, that has steadily increased since the collapse of the USSR. What chances that the appalling recent violence, may conceivably be replaced in future by the advent of a genuinely selfless body of politicians? Indeed what Ukraine needs is a truly democratic, truly moral leadership, that puts country first, but on past form – don’t hold your breath. We have yet to see and welcome this kind of heroic change – and it’s too soon to form judgements about the current leadership.

The Russian interest was obvious and quite transparent. Since Ukraine had been the second largest mainly slav SSR in the Former Soviet Union, it had a key role fashioned for it by Moscow in their Eurasian Economic Union, which has now got off to a dismal start. That story continues. But the phoenix-like rise of the US neocons, undeterred by their total screw-up in Iraq and with both Houses of the Congress now in Republican hands, has put them once again centre stage in geopolitics. The neocon phenomenon has not been well known on the European side of the pond since the Iraq war, so we are particularly pleased to publish this article.

"Vladimir Putin and the neoconservatives" by WILLIAM PFAFF
PARIS -- Russia and the United States are engaged in a profound ideological confrontation -- one that isn't widely understood in Western Europe or even at the White House. [...]

Saudi Arabia: A new king - with what prospects?

Following the enthronement of King Salman, Saudi Arabia once more finds itself in a pivotal situation as an outbreak of rebellion takes place in neighbouring Yemen.  It seems appropriate to review the Saudi world and its obvious effects on ambitions, policies and the wider framework of the region as a whole, the complexities of which are profound.

‘Saudi Arabia’ suggests the idea of stability in a region that has had little of it over the past several years, allowing it to enjoy a privileged diplomatic status with western powers, despite its archaic social practices. In reality, the Kingdom has fractures and inequalities, which are tribal, sectarian and class in nature and far deeper than the threat posed by the so-called "Shia crescent". The conflict in Yemen, which has produced a disturbing increase in victims in a very short period, has attracted global attention, largely because of the prominent role played by Saudi Arabia unusually engaged (from the air) in the actual fighting.

The new Saudi king, has assembled a coalition of (Sunni) regional states to support his campaign, which the propaganda considers to be as another proxy for a conflict with Iran. However, for the Houthi tribe to be rebelling in Yemen is far from new and since Riyadh wants to maintain a dominant sphere of influence in the region, it also uses the conflict in Yemen for internal political purposes.

King Salman
King Salman, who succeeded King Abdullah in January, appears to have ignored the real and many internal challenges facing the Kingdom by adopting an aggressive foreign policy. [...]




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