Wednesday, 4 January 2012

What to expect in 2012

Photography: Mosaab Elshamy
The eurozone crisis

Pro-democracy uprisings, a hacking scandal and riots across England have been some of the biggest news stories of 2011 but as we enter 2012, the news is just not letting up. The biggest news story that is spilling over into the New Year is that of the eurozone crisis, from David Cameron vetoing a measure to “rescue the Euro” to French President Nicolas Sarkozy calling our Prime Minister an “obstinate kid”.
The dispute escalated when the governor of the Bank of France, Christian Noyer, reacted to the news that France was likely to lose its AAA credit rating by insinuating that the UK should instead be downgraded due to its high level of debt and poor economic growth. It’s nice to know that our leaders are being mature about the situation, especially when research suggests that there is a high likelihood of a douple-dip recession.
Yet since the very large public outcry after Cameron’s veto, we hear now that the Prime Minister has looked to get support from his counterparts in other non-euro states, putting more pressure on the bill that Sarkozy and Angela Merkel have been so vehemently pushing for. From the previous state of affairs being 26 countries versus one, where the UK was sidelined, Cameron could bring together a strong partnership that could severely undermine the plan. After the New Year break, if Cameron succeeds, the next battle will begin and the eurozone crisis will exacerbate. This story is far from over.
Leaving the talk about a united currency to one side, citizens across the Arab world have bravely stood up and demanded democracy. They flocked to the streets in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya and continue to do so in Bahrain, Syria and Yemen to fight against dictatorial regimes and to bring about a revolutionary change.
Yet the concern now is of these countries bringing about a different type of democracy. In Egypt, the worry is about an Islamist party, the Muslim Brotherhood, leading the country towards a state influenced by Islamic law. Yet if the majority of Egyptians voted for the Muslim Brotherhood, what type of democracy is it where the west dictates their decisions?
Our concern instead should be focussed at home, where we claim to be democratic and to allow freedom of thought and expression. Yet when people start to voice their displeasure, we suppress their opinion and dissuade others from doing so also. It was only in November that Lt. Pike pepper sprayed students taking part in a peaceful protest at UC Davis and on our side of the Atlantic the City of London police have also now branded the Occupy movement a domestic terrorism threat to City businesses. To give a further example, when students protested against tuition fees in 2010,they were kettled and many were squashed onto Westminster bridge, some fearing that they would fall over the sides due to the way they were treated – and this was after not being allowed to leave Parliament Square for over 5 hours without even basic sanitation. We should ensure true democracy in our nations before we claim that democracy in the Arab world is misguided.
Equally, elections are going to play a large role in 2012. In France, no-one can be certain about next year’s victor. Before May, it was predicted that Dominique Strauss-Kahn would be voted the Socialist Party’s candidate for the elections and that he may even become President; his 6-minute encounter with a chambermaid in New York destroyed any hopes he held.
Nicolas Sarkozy, on the other hand, has been gearing up for a number of years to retain the presidency through policies appealing to far-right voters while the leader of the National Front, Marine le Pen, has a real chance of getting through to the second round of the Presidential elections.
She has brought a clearer approach than her father and does not carry any of his history alongside her (he was allegedly involved in torture during the Algerian War). The last major candidate is Dominique de Villepin. The independent candidate only recently announced that he will be running but many will remember him from his rousing speech as Minister of Foreign Affairs to the UN Security Council speaking out against the Iraq war. With his presence, the election will certainly be very open.
Of course, next year also brings us to the US elections. President Obama’s tenure may soon come to an end and next year will see hundreds of articles written about whether Obama really brought change to the US. He has certainly pushed hard on his Medicare reform but his failure to follow through on an executive order he passed the day he was inaugurated – to close Guantanamo Bay– is a stinging blow both to his campaign and supporters. Let's not even talk about passing the NDAA, which gives the President the right to indefinitely detain a US citizen without trial.
However he is yet to find out who his Republican counterpart will be; Herman Cain lead the polls before he made a series of gaffes including all but asking about Obama’s position on Libya (before withdrawing from the race) and Mitt Romney is now leading the race. Analysts now believe that he will become the Republican candidate, especially after scraping a win in the Iowa caucus, and despite fierce competition particularly from Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich, the GOP may just have to stop looking for the ‘anyone but Romney’ candidate.

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