A pro-democracy protester holds a placard with picture of blind Chinese legal activist Chen Guangcheng outside China's Liaison Office in Hong Kong. Photo AP
First Wang Lijun. Now Chen Guangcheng. If anybody else sneaks into a US diplomatic mission in China we might really have a story on our hands.
The events that have electrified China over the past few months come safely under the category of things you couldn’t make up. In February, Mr Wang, chief of police of Bo Xilai, China’s most charismatic politician, turned up in the US consulate in Chengdu. He brought with him piles of documents, including what is said to be evidence of the murder of a British businessman, allegedly by Mr Bo’s wife. Read more
Campaigning for the second round of the French presidential election, Nicolas Sarkozy has justified his attempt to reach out to the 18% of the electorate who voted for the Front National, asking rhetorically – “Are 6.5m French people fascists?” One assumes that the answer to that is, clearly, not. And, certainly, watching Le Pen give a speech in Paris last week, I didn’t feel that I was watching the performance of a fascist. A nationalist certainly; a xenophobe, possibly. But we weren’t talking Mussolini or Hitler.
On the other hand, before one dismisses the links between the FN and the extreme right too hastily, it is worth looking at who the Front National regard as their sister parties in Europe. In the case of Britain, it is the British National Party – as this press-release from the BNP makes clear. Read more
Austerity backlash in Europe and UN monitors in Syria
As the Dutch government falls, a socialist wins the first round of the French presidential election, and the UK slides back into recession, Brussels bureau chief Peter Spiegel and Europe editor Ben Hall discuss the backlash against Europe’s austerity politics. Read more
Charles Taylor in 1990 (Getty)
Update: Charles Taylor, the former Liberian president, was found guilty of aiding and abetting 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sierra Leone, the first head of state to be convicted by an international tribunal since the Nuremberg trials at the end of the second world war. Read more
The FT’s Westminster Blog ran live coverage of James Murdoch’s appearance at the Leveson inquiry in media standards and journalistic ethics. Read more
By Gideon Rachman
The battle for France has a couple of weeks to run. After that, the battle for Europe will begin. Both Nicolas Sarkozy and his challenger in the French presidential election, François Hollande, are promising to save the “French exception” by radically changing the direction of the European Union.
Welcome to our rolling coverage of the day’s developments in the eurozone.
Today the live blog comes from Paris, as France digests a surge of far right support in the presidential election, but we’ll also be updating you on news from around Europe. All times Paris time.
By Tom Burgis in Paris and Esther Bintliff in London with contributions from FT correspondents around the world.
17.27 That’s about it for our live coverage from Paris today. A quick round-up of the day’s developments.
We leave you with news of a rare moment of accountability in said crisis:
Geir Haarde, the former prime minister of Iceland, has been found guilty of one count of negligence in the run-up to the country’s 2008 banking crash but will receive no punishment. The FT’s Michael Stothard reports from Stockholm:
Geir Haarde, the former prime minister of Iceland, has been found guilty of one count of negligence in the run-up to the country’s 2008 banking crash but will receive no punishment.
A special court of impeachment designed to deal with criminal charges against Icelandic government ministers found Mr Haarde guilty of failing to hold dedicated cabinet meetings ahead of the crisis.
But the court cleared him of three more significant charges that could have carried a sentence of up to two years in jail.
The full story is here. À la prochaine… Read more
The initial reaction of many pundits to the first round of the French presidential election was that the vote was very bad news for President Sarkozy. No sitting president has ever failed to win the first round of voting – yet Sarko is trailing François Hollande. Only around one-in-four French citizens have voted for the incumbent president, which is a bit of a slap in the face. The mood for change is clear. Jean-Marie Le Pen, the father of the Far Right (literally and metaphorically), put it with characteristic brusque brutality, when he told French television – “Sarkozy is beaten.”
And yet, as the night has worn on, I have begun to wonder. Partly this is because the results have narrowed, as the votes have been counted. Initial projections put Sarkozy more than three points behind Hollande. In the end, the gap may be two points or less. Then, if you start adding up the votes of the minor parties, it looks as if it might be easier to construct a right-wing than a left-wing majority. Read more
Nicolas Sarkozy’s legacy in French politics
With the first round of the French presidential election upon us and the second round just around the corner, the FT’s Hugh Carnegy, Ben Hall and John Thornhill join Shawn Donnan to discuss the legacy of president Nicolas Sarkozy and his chances of reelection.
France's Socialist Party candidate François Hollande greets supporters after a campaign speech in Bordeaux. Getty Images
For a man who stands on the brink of the French presidency, François Hollande is remarkably low-key, as I discovered tonight at his last campaign rally before the first round of voting on Sunday.
Over the weekend President Sarkozy staged a big campaign rally in the Place de la Concorde and Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the far-left candidate, spoke in Marseilles before a crowd estimated at around 100,000. By contrast, tonight Hollande spoke at a suburban park in Bordeaux, before a crowd of just a few thousand. His reception was warm, but there was no sense of fervour. And yet the opinion polls suggest that Hollande will win the decisive second round on May 6th – beating Sarkozy by a wide margin. Read more
CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP/Getty Images
If the latest polls are to be believed, Nicolas Sarkozy will be a one-term wonder. A president who has broken with convention throughout his career will likely do so once again: only one other president of the fifth republic - Valéry Giscard d’Estaing – has tried and failed to be re-elected for a second term.
The man likely to topple Sarkozy is an affable creature of the French elite. He’s had a long career traversing the backrooms of politics, yet never held ministerial office. So who is François Hollande? Read more
The scandal of the 20 US secret service agents who cavorted with prostitutes in Cartagena before Barack Obama’s visit to the Summit of the Americas last weekend has become a national issue in the United States. Republican presumptive nominee Mitt Romney is the latest to weigh in on the topic. Read more
If nothing else, the far right should be able to organise a good mass rally. But I found Marine Le Pen’s last public meeting, before the first round of the French presidential election on Sunday, a slightly flat occasion. Of course, it had its moments of whipped-up enthusiasm. If a bunch of nationalists can’t give a raucous rendition of the world’s most stirring anthem (the Marseillaise) – then there is something badly awry. But although the Le Pen rally in Paris finished with the anthem, flag-waving and fireworks, the candidate’s big speech took a long while to get going. Read more
Cristina Fernández holds a sample of the first petroleum extraction in Argentina as she makes the YPF announcement (Getty)
On Monday Cristina Fernández, Argentina’s president, announced the renationalisation of the oil company YPF, ousting the Spanish group Repsol as majority owner and prompting a furious response from Madrid. With Spain and the European Union pondering how best to respond, we cast an eye back at ten of the most momentous nationalisations of resource/commodity institutions. (We are omitting the across-the-board, everything-must-go nationalisations of Russia and China after their respective Communist revolutions, for reasons of space). Read more
I don’t think I have ever seen the British newspapers quite so interested in Chinese politics. Even the tabloids in London have the Bo Xilai story on their front pages. Of course it is not so much the power struggle at the top of the Communist Party that interests them. Rather it is the salacious details of the case: a murdered old Harrovian in a hotel room in China; hints of a sex scandal; allegations of corruption; a son who went to Balliol College, Oxford and enjoyed parties and fast cars.
Amidst all this, however, the chosen narrative of the Chinese Communist Party seems to be prevailing. Bo Xilai was dangerous, corrupt and brutal – he had to go. It certainly seems clear that the crackdown on crime in Chongqing was extremely brutal, and the Bo family were clearly wealthy. But then again, the Chinese system as a whole is not noted for its respect for human-rights. And there are other top political families in China who have accumulated great wealth. Read more
You wait ages for a powerful and influential person to be caught trying to hide an extremely expensive watch – and then two come along at once.
Patriarch Kirill (AP Photo/Patriarchia.ru)
First it was Russian Patriarch Kirill I, whose photograph on the church’s website was digitally altered to erase a $30,000 Breguet watch from his wrist — except whoever made the change forgot about the clear reflection of the timepiece in the mahogany table. This did little to enhance the patriarch’s reputation or that of his church, which faces increasing allegations of corruption and criticism for interfering in Russian politics. Read more
There may not be another Summit of the Americas – at least as we know it. Would that matter? Maybe not. The sixth summit, which ended on Sunday, was supposedly riven by intractable issues. Cuba’s absence was one. The Falklands another. But that was pretty much it, despite the many headlines about inter-American discord.
Elsewhere, the US and Canada saw eye-to-eye with most of Latin America. The region’s biggest and fastest-growing economies – Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Peru to name just four – all agreed on their desire for more cooperation and closer integration with North America, not less. Read more
Catherine Ashton arrives at a press conference on April 14 in Istanbul. BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images
Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, has long endured a mixed press in Britain for the way she handles her considerable portfolio.
But it would be wrong not to note the genuine plaudits she received from a number of diplomats over the weekend for the way she managed Saturday’s talks between Iran and world powers in Istanbul.
As co-ordinator of the six powers which negotiate with Iran over its nuclear programme (the US, UK, France, Germany, Russia and China), Ashton has a difficult role.
These six countries have long had differing views over how to treat Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Read more