By Gwynne Dyer - For the second time in a month, a member country of the European Union has NOT voted a populist into power. Could it be that the populist wave has broken?
The decision to promote Juan Guaidó as a rival president to Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela was clearly made in Washington, not in Caracas. The speed with which U.S. allies in the Americas and western Europe recognised Guaidó’s claim on Jan. 23 to be the legitimate president of Venezuela would not have been possible without a lot of prior coordination — and a lot of pressure by the Trump administration.
Five of the world’s largest democracies now have populist governments, claimed The Guardian last week, and proceeded to name four: the United States, India, Brazil and the Philippines. Which is the fifth? At various points it name-checks Turkey, Italy and the United Kingdom, but it never becomes clear which. (And by the way, India’s prime minister Narendra Modi is not a populist. He’s just a nationalist.)
Barack Obama said of the U.S. mid-term elections that “the character of our country is on the ballot,” and the outcome proved him right. The United States is a psychological basket case, more deeply and angrily divided than at any time since the Vietnam War.
If the Singapore meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un had been a zero-sum game, then Trump definitely lost. But maybe it wasn't. Kim got a meeting with Trump on terms of strict equality right down to the number of flags on display, which is a huge boost for his regime's claim to legitimacy.
By Gwynne Dyer (*) - From the Ceausescus in Romania (overthrown and shot 1989) to the Mugabes (removed in a non-violent military coup 2017), husband-and-wife teams running authoritarian regimes seem to have a particularly high casualty rate. And now it may be the turn of the Nicaraguan team: President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice-President Rosario Murillo.
By Gwynne Dyer - Vladmir Putin is going to win another six years in power by a landslide in the Russian election on March 18 — probably between 60 and 70 per cent of the popular vote. The real question is what happens after that, because he will be 72 by the end of his next term and will not legally be allowed to run for president again.
By Gwynne Dyer - Politicians never lie. Well, hardly ever. They're not into full disclosure, as a rule, but they know that if you lie, sooner or later you will be caught out, and then you are in deep trouble. So just change the subject, or answer a different question than the one you were asked, or just keep talking but saying nothing until everybody gets bored and moves on.
By Gwynne Dyer - China Mieville, a novelist I much admire, has published a history of the October Revolution to mark its hundredth anniversary (which is actually on 7 November, since the Russians were still using the Julian calendar in 1917). It had an unusual effect on me. It made me question whether I was right about the utter futility of that revolution.
By Gwynne Dyer - It's been going on for a while. Recently in Catalonia we have been living through a kind of 'soft' totalitarianism...the illusion of unanimity created by the fear of expressing dissent, wrote best-selling Catalan author Javier Cercas in the Spanish newspaper El País in 2014. Those who didn't want independence kept their heads down and their mouths shut, in other words.