Vladimir Putin with Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban
In the West, Vladimir Putin is often viewed as something of an international pariah. Shift your perspective, however, and it is quite striking how many international friends, the Russian president has cultivated.
Mr Putin, who enjoys posing bare-chested, is particularly good at making friends with other “strongmen”. His roster of special friends include Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the president of Egypt, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the president of Turkey, Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, and Jacob Zuma, the president of South Africa. This week, Mr Putin has also been demonstrating that he is capable of finding pals even inside the “enemy camp” – the European Union. The EU may have imposed sanctions on Russia over Ukraine, but that has not stopped Viktor Orban, the prime minister of Hungary – and another self-styled strongman – from rolling out the red carpet for Mr Putin. Read more
The recent Sri Lankan presidential election was remarkable for several reasons.
First, Mahinda Rajapaksa, the over-confident incumbent, lost the vote, despite a booming economy. Second, Mr Rajapaksa – who was often accused of authoritarian and dynastic tendencies – seems to have accepted the voters’ verdict without a fight. His best riposte to those who accused him of not being a democrat may turn out to be the way in which he accepted unfavourable election results, and allowed his rival, Maithripala Sinisena, to assume power. The change of government in Sri Lanka also has a wider geopolitical significance. Read more
Historians may record that Brics mania reached its height during the 2014 football World Cup in Brazil. President Dilma Rousseff used the occasion to host a summit of the leaders of the five Brics: Brazil itself, Russia, India, China and South Africa. The formation of a new Brics development bank was announced, with its headquarters in Shanghai.
A spike in the cost of government borrowing is raising the spectre of Venezuela defaulting on its more than $80bn of sovereign debt
Italy’s anti-euro, anti-immigrant Northern League party is seizing on the Scottish referendum to relaunch calls for secession of the north of Italy
A meeting between the leaders of China and India next week underscores the slow thaw in the countries’ relations as their economic links strengthen
Isis is recruiting in Istanbul‘s impoverished suburbs, often through religious study groups, to boost its ranks of fighters and populate its self-declared caliphate. Read more
If Narendra Modi has as much impact on the real economy as his march to the premiership has had on market sentiment, then things are about to get considerably better for many Indians. Of course, it is not likely to be quite that simple.
In the past three months, during which the so-called “Modi wave” has rolled over virtually every corner of the country, Indian equities have risen nearly 20 per cent. The rupee, which came under speculative attack last summer, has been one of the best-performing emerging market currencies this year. Read more
India’s exit polls are notoriously unreliable. However, barring what would now be a major upset, it looks as though Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata party will form the next coalition government.
If the BJP does as well as many of Monday’s competing polls suggest, then Mr Modi will take over from Manmohan Singh as prime minister of the world’s biggest democracy. Read more
If you want the best case for Narendra Modi, you can do no better than read my colleague Gideon Rachman’s latest column – India needs a jolt. After a decade of prevarication under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (to put it politely), India’s economy is languishing and investors have lost confidence in its reform story. Delhi is almost permanently mired in corruption scandal and politics has turned into a national joke. India desperately needs a change. Who better than Gujarat’s chief minister to give the subcontinent the decisive governance it craves? Read more
By Gideon Rachman
There is something thrilling about the rise of Narendra Modi. Indian politics has been dominated by the Gandhi dynasty since independence. In India’s current elections, the standard-bearer of the Congress party is Rahul Gandhi – whose father, grandmother and great-grandfather were all prime ministers. Mr Gandhi, an insipid figure, was truly born to rule. By contrast, Mr Modi, prime ministerial candidate of the Bharatiya Janata party, comes from humble origins in small-town India. As a teenager he ran a tea stall at the local bus terminal.
India goes to the polls
India, the world’s largest democracy, is in the midst of conducting its general election. Voting has started and is set to go on for several weeks, with the result declared in mid-May. That result could be dramatic, with polls and pundits predicting the end of a long period of rule by the Congress party, and that a new government could be headed by Narendra Modi, the controversial leader of the BJP. To discuss what we can expect from these elections, Gideon Rachman is joined by Victor Mallet, Delhi bureau chief, and James Crabtree, Mumbai correspondent
What is it about the last week of May and elections? I already have the elections to the European Parliament marked in my diary. They are scheduled to take place in 28 EU nations between May 22 and May 25, and the European Parliament has modestly billed them as the “second biggest democratic exercise in the world”. The biggest, obviously, is the Indian elections – the results of which will have been declared just a week earlier. The Indian and European elections were scheduled some time ago. But we now also have the Ukrainian presidential election - an event that has taken on global significance – scheduled to take place on May 25. Meanwhile, Egypt has just announced that it too will hold a presidential election on May 26-27. Read more
By Gideon Rachman
In 1996 a friend of mine called Jim Rohwer published a book called Asia Rising. A few months later, Asia crashed. The financial crisis of 1997 made my colleague’s book look foolish. I thought of Jim Rohwer (who died prematurely in 2001) last week as a I listened to another Jim – Jim O’Neill, formerly of Goldman Sachs – defending his bullish views on emerging markets in a radio interview.
It’s no secret that the US is at the centre of global trade. But how is what it trades with the world changing? The US International Trade Commission, the independent government agency which investigates anti-dumping cases in the US and also acts as a trade data clearinghouse, this week put out its annual “Shifts in US Merchandise” report. Here’s four things in the report worth thinking about:
1. Americans love their cars and their iPhones. They were the biggest contributors to the $10bn widening of the US trade deficit in 2012. Read more
Currency jitters in India and emerging markets
India was once seen as a rising superpower and one of the world’s most dynamic economies, but now its rupee is plunging and the economy is stalling. What’s more, this seems to be part of a broader problem in emerging markets, as Indonesia, Turkey, South Africa and Brazil all experience currency jitters. Gideon Rachman is joined by Victor Mallet, New Delhi bureau chief and Ralph Atkins, capital markets editor, to discuss what’s going on and how deep the problems are.
By Catherine Contiguglia
♦ Emerging market currencies are sliding as the beginning of the end looms for the US Federal Reserve’s ultra-loose monetary policy, and economic growth continues to stagnate while current account deficits grow. India’s rupee is leading the drop after a clumsy policy response spooked investors. Though policy makers are now focused on reducing the current account deficit and foreign currency reserves are much stronger than they were before the 1991 balance of payments crisis, the size of India’s economy means any downturn could have a significant impact on the global economy.
♦ Saudi Arabia is backing Egypt’s military rulers with oil money and diplomatic might and that could well undercut US and European efforts to apply pressure by cutting aid to Cairo following the bloody crackdown by Egyptian security forces on Islamist supporters of deposed president Mohamed Morsi.
♦ “It may not be long before it will be impossible for journalists to have confidential sources,” writes the Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger, reflecting on the recent detainment of a reporter’s partner in connection with the paper’s publication of information from US National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.
♦ A detail not often noted about Turkey’s Gezi protests is that many of the frontline protesters have been women, whose situation has lagged far behind international standards on almost every measure in the ten years Prime Minister Recep Tayppid Erdogan has been in office.
♦ The economic gap between blacks and whites in the United States has not budged for 50 years, the Washington Post points out in a set of charts that show how “yawning” disparities have persisted since 1963.” Read more