The World Next Week podcast is up. Bob McMahon and I discussed the second and final round of France’s presidential elections; Vladimir Putin’s return as president of Russia; a possible North Korean nuclear test; and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to Bangladesh and India.
- French voters go to the polls, and the news does not look good for President Nicolas Sarkozy. The polls suggest that he will lose to Socialist candidate François Hollande. The only thing that might upend that prediction is if Sarkozy does unexpectedly well or Hollande does unexpectedly poorly in France’s one presidential debate. Should form hold and Hollande takes office, he promises to push policies that stimulate Europe’s economy. That would put him at odds with German chancellor Angela Merkel, who has so far favored austerity measures instead.
- Vladimir Putin is set to take the oath of office again as Russian president. He previously served two consecutive four-year terms in office. His term this time is six years. That’s not the only difference for his second time around. During his earlier presidential tenure he towered over Russian politics. Now he has many more critics, and they are not hiding in the shadows. Ever since reports of fraud in Russia’s parliamentary elections last December, Russians of all ages, backgrounds, and income levels have joined demonstrations against his rule. The discontented remain a minority of the Russian public, but they could become a more significant factor in Russian politics if Putin fails to address the country’s daunting economic and social problems.
- All signs point to North Korea testing a “highly enriched uranium device” in the next week. This would be the regime’s third test—the two previous tests were in October 2006 and May 2009. Following a rocket launch with a nuclear test seems to be a pattern for the North Koreans. If the test proceeds, expect to hear stiff denunciations from capitals around the world but not much more. Pretty much everything that can be sanctioned has been, and military force is easier to threaten than to use. North Korea essentially holds Seoul hostage, as the city’s 25 million residents live within range of North Korea’s conventional artillery and missiles. China could put more pressure on North Korea. But that doesn’t appear to be in the cards.
- Hillary Clinton follows up on her trip to Beijing for the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue with visits to Bangladesh and India. She will meet senior government officials in both countries and talk about a wide range of economic, political, and security issues. The State Department says that the U.S.-Bangladesh relationship is “excellent.” U.S. officials like to tout Bangladesh because of its growing economy and opposition to Islamic extremism while being a Muslim-majority country.
- Bob’s Figure of the Week is two million. My Figure of the Week is Chen Guangcheng. As always, you’ll have to listen to the podcast to find out why.
For more on the topics we discussed in the podcast check out:
France’s Second-Round Presidential Elections. Voice of America says the Far-Right vote is the most important factor in the election. Indeed, the BBC’s Gavin Hewitt claims that Marine Le Pen “sees herself as having new influence in French politics.” The Wall Street Journal reports that Hollande has been getting debate advice from his former partner Ségolène Royal. IFES has an election guide describing how French elections work. The Guardian reports that “so many people detest Sarkozy.”
Vladimir Putin Is President Again. The Water’s Edge profiled Putin after his election. Officials in Russia’s Human Rights Council plan on leaving their posts after Putin takes office. Putin is undecided on whether he will run for president again in 2018. The Telegraph recounts Putin’s involvement in the “Soviet-style” May Day parade in Moscow. Putin and Medvedev grabbed a beer after the parade. The Telegraph also profiles Putin’s past as president.
North Korea’s Third Planned Nuclear Test. AFP reports that North Korea is “ready” for its test. Reuters asks if this will be North Korea’s first “uranium bomb” test. The Telegraph says that Russia expects the test to happen. North Korea has sent “jamming signals” that are interrupting South Korean flights. USA Today has a photo that shows the test site in North Korea. Yochi J. Dreazen argues that last month’s missile test involved a “diplomatic breakdown” between North Korea and the United States.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Visits Bangladesh and India. The China Daily has information on Clinton’s entire trip. The U.S. Department of State has a video of the last time Clinton met with her Bangladeshi counterpart, Dipu Moni. The Wall Street Journal says India cut its oil imports from Iran due to pressure from the United States. Jyotti Thottam wrote about the “six things to watch” from Clinton’s last visit to India.