politics

A story told in the Bank of England goes like this. Shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, a group of Russian central bankers with solid grounding in Marxist economics came to London for a training course at the BoE. They patiently absorbed the theoretical run-down of supply and demand curves and how prices were determined, and then asked “But who sets the price?” A world without a state official with a clipboard announcing the cost of everything was unthinkable. Eventually the exasperated BoE economists took them on a trip to Smithfield meat market in the City of London to see the magic in action.

After the Wall came down in 1989 – triggered by a single unguarded remark by an East German Politburo member in a press conference – the speed and size of changes in the economies of central and east European (CEE) and the former Soviet Union (FSU) were unprecedented since the Second World War. Twenty-five years later, with currency crises wracking Ukraine and Russia, and FSU economies like Belarus and Moldova struggling to emerge from the Soviet era, the dispersion of performance has been dramatic. Read more

Presidential candidate Aécio Neves receives minor boost in polls

Brazil’s benchmark stock index staged one of its most volatile trading days yet in the lead-up to next month’s election ahead of a poll that showed upstart presidential candidate Marina Silva rebuilding her lead.

The Bovespa index finished up 2 per cent at 59,114.66 after earlier gains of nearly 4 per cent on hopes that the poll would indicate incumbent President Dilma Rousseff was losing, analysts said. Read more

By Dalibor Rohac and Nouh El-Harmouzi

Campaigners for Abdelaziz Bouteflika, the 76-year old Algerian president who is seeking re-election for a fourth consecutive term, promise “broad democracy” if their candidate wins. After decades of oppression and authoritarianism, Algerians have little reason to believe them. Read more

Kiska (left) and Fico: victory of the underdog?

By Tom Nicholson of bne in Bratislava

It’s been over a decade since Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico has been an underdog in any election. But his assertive campaign to capture the country’s highest office – the presidency – in the March 29 crucial run-off ballot suddenly looks vulnerable to the challenge of a rank political outsider. Read more

The hotly contested Honduran election still hasn’t yielded a final official result. But maybe it’s not too soon to spot some lessons Mexico might offer the Central American state.

They boil down to: “Amlo” vs “Pacto”Read more

By Clare Nuttall of bne

Unsurprisingly, Emomali Rakhmon, Tajikistan’s president, has been re-elected for a fourth term with an overwhelming majority, preliminary results of this week’s flawed election showed on Thursday.

While Tajikistan may be the poorest country of the former Soviet Union, its importance is set to grow. The region is preparing for the withdrawal of Nato troops from neighbouring Afghanistan in 2014, China is battling with Russia to increase its influence, and the Tajik government is pressing on with plans for a giant dam that could inflame tensions in an already jittery part of the world where water is an increasingly precious resource. Read more

Masked men storming polling stations, assaulting officials and voters and throwing gas bombs; ballot boxes disappearing; international observers fleeing for their safety; an atmosphere of intimidation. Sunday’s local elections in Kosovo were not quite the affirmation of new-found inter-ethnic cooperation and free and fair democracy the European Union had hoped for. Serbia will wish to disassociate itself from the violence swiftly, lest it prove a setback to its budding hopes of EU accession, and the investment related to it. Read more

Nobody seriously doubted that Ilham Aliyev would be re-elected for a third term as president of Azerbaijan in Wednesday’s poll. Indeed, Aliyev was so confident of victory, which he took with a resounding 84.55 per cent of the vote, that he did not even bother to campaign. “The fact that this election was free and transparent is another serious step towards democracy,” he said.

Camil Hasanli, the main opposition leader, cried foul and described the election as an exercise in vote-rigging. Despite representing a coalition of some 20 opposition parties, the 61-year-old historian received only 5.53 percent of the vote. Read more

By Vasyl Filipchuk of the ICPS and Amanda Paul of the EPC

The Yalta conference in Crimea, Ukraine, left a clear feeling of a geopolitical shift in Europe. Not the one 68 years ago at this Black Sea resort but the annual Yalta European Strategy conference organised last weekend by Ukrainian philanthropist Victor Pinchuk with the participation of Tony Blair, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Karl Bildt, Stefan Fule and many other European and global leaders and opinion makers.

Movers and shakers from both the EU and Ukraine left Yalta confident that the EU’s third Eastern Partnership summit to be held in Vilnius in November will see the signature of an EU/Ukraine association agreement. Read more

By Ivica Dačić, Prime Minister of Serbia

There are some lines by Albert Camus that apply perfectly to Serbia over the past two decades. They also help to explain why I decided, without fear, to accept the position of prime minister of a country with a dark and difficult historical heritage.

The lines are: “I shall tell you a great secret my friend. Do not wait for the last judgement. It takes place every day…” Read more

By Chris Weafer

The outcome of Sunday’s election for mayor of Moscow, and similar elections held in several other Russian cities, shows that the political landscape in Russia is changing. The protests of late 2011 and early 2012 are finally starting to deliver a positive legacy. The critics will of course say that the outcome in Moscow was predictable and nothing has changed. But they are wrong. Read more

As Zimbabweans prepare to vote in Wednesday’s fiercely contested election, their neighbours in South Africa will be watching closely. Its outcome will set the scene for the development of trade and investment between the two countries. Read more

This appears to have been a kiss and make up week for Venezuela’s president, Nicolás Maduro.

First, he married his long time “compañera”, former Attorney General, Cilia Flores. Then, he announced he will meet his Colombian counterpart, Juan Manuel Santos, for the first time since a diplomatic spat in late May threatened to derail relations between the two countries. Read more

There was not a lot of public regret about the recent defenestration of the centre-right government of outgoing Czech premier Petr Necas in a sex-and-spying scandal. One reason is that his austerity policies are blamed for sinking the country into its longest-running recession – one that began in the third quarter of 2011.

The new caretaker administration of Jiri Rusnok aims to change that. But it may find it hard to do anything of substance. Read more

With violence on the streets of Egypt coming hot on the heels of the public protests in Brazil and Turkey, it takes a brave man to write a report entitled: “EM is not much riskier than DM”.

But Simon Quijano-Evans of Commerzbank has done just that – arguing that while young populations put emerging markets at greater risk of political upheavals they also provide the energy that will power developing economies into the future while the developed world is held by back by the burdens of debt and old age. It’s probably true in the long run, but for a leader like Egypt’s Mohamed Morsi it’s the next few days that matter. Read more