ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 16/11/2017

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Financial Times—David Pilling / Zimbabwe’s military takeover fits the narrative of its patriarch

  • Robert Mugabe has not yet been formally deposed as Zimbabwean president, nor has General Constantino Chiwenga, the military commander who ordered yesterday’s takeover, declared himself head of state.
  • But Mugabe’s days as president seem to be numbered, and he may be replaced by Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was vice-president until he was sacked last week.
  • General Chiwenga has sought to portray the military intervention as a means of saving an increasingly frail and delusional Mr Mugabe from himself, as well as from “the criminals” around him.
  • The military’s purpose in taking over may well be to purge the ruling Zanu-PF party of its rogue elements — and thus ensure its continuation in power.
  • Members of the opposition suspect that the military intervention will not lead to a hoped-for opening up of the political system.

Politico—Emily Schultheis / German coalition talks go down to the wire

  • Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian sister party, the CSU, have been in preliminary talks with the liberal Free Democrats and the Greens for more than three weeks.
  • As they approached today’s deadline set by Angela Merkel, the Greens and the FDP signaled that they were open to compromise, but the parties remain far apart on areas like migration, agriculture and climate policy.
  • Moreover, an internal document from the talks that surfaced last week showed there was still no agreement on a eurozone budget or the future of the eurozone bailout fund, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), although the FDP’s Christian Lindner hinted at a compromise on the issue.
  • Should Germany have to go to the polls once again, support for Merkel’s conservatives would likely decline and the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) would be emboldened.

Foreign Affairs—Andrew Leber & Christopher Carothers / Is the Saudi purge really about corruption? Lessons from China

  • Analysts are not in agreement about the meaning of the Saudi purge. The arrests have nothing to do with corruption or everything to do with it; they are about consolidating power or a sign of power consolidated; they are the beginning of an era of transparency or further evidence of unchecked power.
  • The recent developments in Saudi Arabia have been compared with Xi Jinping’s “anti-corruption campaign”. The first takeaway from this comparison should be that autocrats like Xi can sometimes combine power grabs with substantial reforms.
  • The test of the Saudi reforms over the coming months will be whether the crackdown continues, whether Mohammad bin Salman (MbS) announces and enforces clear rules against official conduct, and whether purged elites are quietly released and “un-purged.”
  • Forthcoming analysis of 27 attempted authoritarian cleanups since 1945 suggests that leaders have succeeded when they had unconstrained authority to challenge the corrupt status quo and could count on strong state capacity to implement and enforce reforms.
  • Both Xi and MbS meet the first criterion, but MbS is far behind Xi when it comes to the second criterion. This could force MbS to drop the issue, because the arrests are imposing real costs on the Saudi economy in the short run.

Foreign Policy—Dan de Luce / Congress questions Trump’s exclusive hold on the nuclear football

  • For the first time in more than 40 years, U.S. lawmakers are holding a hearing to examine whether the president should have carte blanche to launch a nuclear strike.
  • The protocols for ordering a nuclear strike created during the Cold War were designed to ensure that the president — and not the military — had full authority over the nuclear arsenal. But instead of worrying about rogue military commanders, many lawmakers are now concerned the current occupant of the Oval Office.
  • Bruce Blair, a research scholar at Princeton University, and some former senior officials have argued for revising the nuclear protocol to add the defense secretary and the attorney general to the chain of command.
  • Some Democratic lawmakers have gone further, proposing legislation that would prohibit the president from initiating a nuclear first strike without a declaration of war from Congress. The billswould not affect the president’s authority to order a retaliation if the United States came under nuclear attack.

The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and ESADEgeo. 

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