17 January 2010

Election Day is Here!

Polls are opening in two pretty momentous presidential elections in Chile and Ukraine today. Both of these elections have the potential of significantly affecting the course of each of those two states, so they're definitely worth paying some attention to.

In Chile, it looks like there's a decent chance that the right may come to power for the first time since the days of Pinochet, under the leadership of billionaire Sebastian Pinera. It's unclear to me why the center-left Concertacion coalition would be voted out, given the high level of success they have enjoyed under its control and the high popularity of the departing President Bachelet, other than the fact that they simply ran a lackluster candidate in former President Eduardo Frei. Hopefully, this won't be similar to the 2000 US election, where a pretty successful governing center-left party is voted out for no particular reason by a non-threatening right candidate who proceeds to steer the country straight off a cliff.

In Ukraine, the candidate accused of chicanery by the pro-Western Orange Revolution in 2004, Viktor Yanukovych, seems poised for a victory over the now-much-less-heralded former heroine of that revolution (and hottest world leader), Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Current President and Orange Revolution figurehead Viktor Yushchenko had a very lackluster showing in the first round of votes and didn't even make it into the runoff. Most of the analysis I've read on this election suggests that the predictions of a drastic pro-Russia shift in Ukrainian foreign policy following a Yanukovych victory are probably overblown. For instance, one of the first things that he is expected to do is re-negotiate energy deals with the Kremlin that are seen as unfavorable to Ukraine. At the same time, Tymoshenko has recently made overtures to Russia on some issues.

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