AMAC Exclusive – By Barry Casselman
The dramatis personae of the eternal international political theater is undergoing another period of cast changes, and once again, the new faces are mixed with returning figures attempting to revive past glories.
This interval is likely to last for most of the calendar year in 2022, as elections, coups, votes of no confidence, resignations and other assorted upheavals are taking place, scheduled or otherwise, through December.
Although the next U.S. presidential election isn’t until 2024, the key mid-term U.S. House and Senate elections will take place in less than 4 months, and seem likely to change the faces of the congressional leadership as well as the federal political environment. The United States is being seriously challenged in its global superpower role, but what comes from Washington, D.C. still matters a great deal. The incumbent president, Joe Biden, is already much weakened, and could be an historically premature “lame duck” by year’s end.
New executive leaders have already been selected or taken office recently in Germany, Australia, South Korea, the Philippines, and Colombia. Other nations such as France and Canada re-elected their executives, but saw key counter-changes to their legislatures.
On September 6, the British Conservative Party will elect a new leader who will automatically become Prime Minister, replacing Boris Johnson, who resigned under fire after three tumultuous years. The next U.K. general election is scheduled for 2024 — although such an election could occur sooner under special circumstances.
There were originally eight qualifying candidates for the role, but a first vote of Tory MPs has reduced that number to five. The next vote will reduce the total to two. These will then be voted on by all Conservative Party members, with the winner being announced on September 6.
The three leading qualified candidates are former finance minister Rishi Sunak, current trade minister Peggy Mordaunt, and current foreign minister Liz Truss. Two other candidates, Kemi Badenoch and Tom Tugendhat, are not expected to survive the next cut. Rishi Sunak led on the first vote and was an early frontrunner. Peggy Mordaunt was a surprise second-place vote getter, but most Boris Johnson loyalists are now assembling behind Liz Truss.
Since the Conservative Party will remain in power, not much will change in British policies, especially in foreign affairs, but Truss, like Margaret Thatcher, is a strong conservative, and is more likely to lower taxes and take other economic actions to try to revive the weak British economy. The British Labour Party has recovered since its 2018 debacle, but will likely have to wait until 2024 to try to retake control of the government.
In Israel, an unlikely ruling coalition, has failed after just one year, and new elections, the fifth round in less than four years, will be held the first week of November. Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, currently the leader of the Opposition, leads in recent polls, but seems now to be 1-3 votes short of the necessary 61 votes to form a government. The coalition under Prime Minister Naftali Bennett included parties spanning the Israeli political spectrum, as well as a breakaway Arab party, something unprecedented in Israeli politics. Bennett has resigned, and Yair Lapid, the former foreign minister, has taken his place until the new election. The coalition itself – which was primarily an anybody-but-Netanyahu endeavor – was always an acrobatic effort, and many observers believed it was destined to come apart. Despite a protracted trial for wrongdoing, and being out of power for more than a year, Netanyahu and his party, all recent polls say, are by far the most popular in the Jewish state, even if they continue to lack a majority.
The problem appears to be inherent to the current election system which provides parliamentary seats for very small parties in the Israeli Knesset (parliament). The Knesset has only 120 members, and more than a dozen political parties are entitled to seats. For the nation’s first six decades, this system was workable, even with ideological and religious/secular divisions. But the intractable and violent hostility of Israel’s Arab neighbors, plus domestic failures of socialist policies, have all-but demolished the once dominant labor/leftist parties. Since all Arab Israeli citizens have the right to vote, two Arab parties have grown in strength, and hold about 10% of the Knesset seats. The two-state concept, once popular with left leaning Israeli Jewish voters, no longer has much support — although it remains very popular in Europe and the U.S. as a means to bring peace to the region. Unfortunately, the leadership of the Palestinian community continues to call for the destruction of the Jewish state, making the proposal unworkable and unthinkable to most Israelis left and right.
Unless this new election resolves the current stalemate, the 2024 U.S. and British elections could also coincide with a sixth or seventh Israeli election. All three could then see new leaders chosen, or the return of one or more of the three charismatic leaders, Donald Trump, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Boris Johnson, now out of power.
The old adage “the more things change, the more they remain the same” would then be tested anew.
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