International leaders to keep an eye on as the year unfolds
As all fans of flat or National Hunt racing will know, the “Ten To Follow” is an integral part of the beginning of any season. A selection of horses that are worth keeping an eye on over the new season and that are thought likely to progress is presented for the perusal of the reader. Closer to home, the Politicalbetting Ten To Follow is run by Peter the Punter and his able lieutenants, and the progress updates on the PB TTF are eagerly awaited by those in the syndicate. As an aside, a special thanks to PtP and his team for all the work they do in looking after the Ten To Follow, which is very much appreciated.
Having ten leaders to keep an eye on would make for rather a long article, so these are my opening four to follow in 2009 – but this may well become an occasional feature to which further leaders may be added. With nothing bigger than gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia in the US, and the likelihood of no UK GE until 2010, 2009 won’t have quite the frantic electoral pace of 2008, but there is still plenty to keep international enthusiasts busy, with Israel, South Africa, India, Iceland, the Euros, Japan, Norway, Germany, and the Irish referendum already scheduled for the year ahead.
1. Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beiteinu, Israel)
Israel’s election is just two days away now, and it might be thought that the obvious choice here would either be Benjamin Netanyahu or Tzipi Livni, one of whom will almost certainly become the next Prime Minister. My selection however is the controversial leader of Yisrael Beiteinu, who could well lead his party into third place ahead of Ehud Barak’s Labor at the election, and may thus emerge as kingmaker when it comes to determining the makeup of the new government. Whatever the outcome of the election, Lieberman looks to have been the winner of the campaign with his outspoken views on the place of Arabs within Israeli society.
He may be thought to be a natural coalition partner for Likud – but it’s important to note that YB, while being an ultranationalist party, is a secular one – and thus not necessarily an automatic choice to be in government alongside possible allies for Likud such as Shas and United Torah Judaism. Also, beyond the 2009 election, can YB and Lieberman cement their place in the top three in Israeli politics and thus become a major force for the future and continue the long-term eclipse of the once-dominant Labor?
2. Michael Ignatieff (Liberal, Canada)
In horseracing terms, Ignatieff is not so much a “maiden” as unraced – although he has already seen some political action early this season as Canada’s budget passed through Parliament following a seven week suspension, which proved to be a wily move by PM Harper, facing the prospect of being toppled by a Liberal-NDP coalition in the autumn. Ignatieff sits for the Toronto riding of Etobicoke-Lakeshore and secured the Liberal leadership (still strictly speaking an interim one) fairly easily after the party’s calamitous defeat in October under the hapless Stephane Dion – surely on the shortlist for the Liberals’ worst ever leader. Ignatieff will be better known to British readers, especially those of a cultural hue, as presenter on BBC arts programme The Late Show in the 1990s.
He’s presided over something of an improvement for the “Grits” in Canadian polling, the only way being up, and chose not to oppose the government over the recent passage of the Budget, earning immediate brickbats from erstwhile coalition possibles the NDP and leaving the Harper government to fight another day. There’ll probably only be a new Canadian election if either the Conservatives think they can secure a majority or the Liberals at least a minority government. Ignatieff has chosen to keep his powder dry to let the Liberals rebuild after October’s disaster – will they be battle-ready by autumn 2009 or will Ignatieff end up following Dion into the footnotes of history?
Part 2 of article to follow
Finally, the Israel election game is still available if anyone would like to take part – entries close 5am Tuesday – please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.