Leadership Crisis in The World
It’s a strange coincidence that since February 2021 world has seen disturbances and turbulence both to leadership and state of nature in many parts of world as a result of which normal development works are receiving a certain setback.
WRATH OF NATURE
Mostly nature has been furious in terms of WILD FIRES in Australia, USA, U.K., Spain, Portugal, France, Greece, Turkey etc. It has ravaged thousands of hectares of land in addition to killing a large number of people. While 38,000 hectares of land has been burnt in U.K., five hundred people have died in Spain and fourteen thousand people had to be evacuated in France.
In the same way, EXTREME HEAT has affected sizeable parts in USA, U.K., France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany and Denmark. Maximum temperatures have been ranging from 37 degree to 40 degree celcius in many cities. Unprecedented heat of this kind, presumably due to Climate Change has not been experienced in these countries earlier.
In same way, FLOOD and LANDSLIDE have affected seven provinces of Phillipines, Maluku island of Indonesia, seven provinces of Thailand, Kedah area of Malaysia and Sichuan and Gansu areas of China. Flood havoc has been also reported from Ecuador, Niger, Nigeria, Sudan and USA.
PROCESS OF POLITICAL INSTABILITY
The process of political instability began with the seize of power by Military in Myanmar, running away of elected President of Afghanistan, followed by ouster of democratically elected PM in Pakistan. Disturbances have been also occurring in Sri Lanka for over three months due to mismanagement of the economy and heavy dependence on foreign exchange reserves by the successive governments.
Less said about periodic change of government in the fragile democratic situation in Nepal would be better. In Myanmar ,there seems to be no possibility of a democratic revival as Military rule is strengthening its hold with the support from China which has it’s own sea trade plans through Myanmar.
Before we attempt analyzing a few country wise Leadership disturbances , it may be heartening to note that New Zealand, Germany, Australia and France have seen, at the same time, peaceful change of leadership together with emergence of young politicians, many of whom happen to be women. Also knocking of doors by Indian diaspora in some countries is being noted in a big way.
Since its Independence in 1948, Myanmar has been under the clutches of Military rule for maximum period. A.S. Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace Prize Winner has been struggling for a long period for restoring democracy. Her National League For Democracy Party had a landslide victory in General elections held in February 2020. But military, led by Gen. Auang Hlaing seized power from her in a coup in February 2021. She had a similar setback after her notable performance in 2015 elections.
The Military government has levelled election fraud charges against her. Earlier Election Commission ,however, felt otherwise. A new Commission constituted by the Military Junta has supported the viewpoint of current Government. A conviction in the case could lead to Suu Kyi’s party being dissolved and it may not be in a position to take part in the elections “promised” by the Military rulers in 2023.
The U.N. has warned of a deepening humanitarian crisis in Myanmar, with an intensification of violence and rapid rise in poverty. Also as on 30th May, 2022, there were estimated 1,037,800 internally displaced persons, including 6,91,200 newly displaced persons since 1st February 2021.
Truth does not come out from this country due to stern censorship measures and Rohingya refugees continue to flood India every now and then.
A monarchy till 1946, Italy became a Parliamentary Republic with multi party system on 2nd June,1946. Since it has a history of short-lived coalition governments, it was once called an example of flawed democracy. While from 1861 to 1946, there were thirty Prime Ministers heading sixty five governments in total, there have been twenty nine PMs since 1946 (all men). And in last eleven years and nine months, the country has seen six prime ministers.
S. Berlusconi, former media magnate was the PM for altogether nine years in three spells between 1994 and 2011. Infamous for controversies, scandals and sex scandals, he proved to be a great survivor in a land that has seen variety of coalitions: from Rightists to Leftists to Liberals to Radicals to Reformists and Fascists.While for a few years, Italy had mixed coalition governments, on five occasions governments could not secure a vote of confidence. Twice the country has been ruled by Military.
In this backdrop, resignation by the last PM, Mario Draghi, a technocrat, only after one year and five months is not surprising in a country notorious for hung Parliament, corruption, organized crime, economic disruptions, largest number of Covid deaths (at one time) etc.
Despite all this, Italy is supposed to be the third biggest economy of Europe.A highly developed country, it prominently figures in the G-7.
Israel is another country which despite being ahead of many developed countries in many respects, is lacking political stability, having seen four elections in four years: April 2019, September 2019,March 2020 and March 2021. Fifth election is scheduled to be held in November 2022.
Leader of Likud Party, Benjamin Netanyahu, has served maximum as P.M.for fifteen years in different spells.
Present PM is Y. Lapid, who took over as fourteenth PM on 1st July 2022 after one year ‘rotation’ term of earlier PM Naftali Bennett ended.
In a Parliament (Knesset) having only 120 seats, most of the political parties have been failing to secure even 61 seats on their own to form a Government. In the September 2017 elections Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party failed to secure a majority but he managed to run the show. Decisions of the Knesset to dissolve itself have not been free from controversies.
Elections in this multi party country like Italy have seen malpractices and controversies many times. Despite all this, Israel continues to be a force to reckon with.It ranked 19th out of 189 countries on the 2019 U.N. Human Development Index. Considered to be a high ranking country by the World Bank, it has also secured 17th rank in Global Innovation Index. Its recent initiative to establish diplomatic relations with Morocco, Bahrain and UAE may go a long way in ensuring more peace in the Middle East.
LEADERSHIP CRISIS IN U.K.
Of all the countries, it is the dramatic developments in U.K. which is baffling everyone at present. In 2019 parliamentary elections, Boris Johnson (BoJo) led the Conservative Party to the largest ever election victory in three decades. A message of political stability was given when they won 358 seats out of a total of 650 seats. The main opposition, Labour Party had to be satisfied with only 200 M.P.s.
The flamboyant former Mayor of London and former Foreign Secretary in Teresa May’s government sporting an unusual hair style, defeated Jeremy Hunt in the leadership run off. Hunt was offered a Cabinet position but he turned it down. A great deal was expected from this young Tory leader but he went on getting involved in one controversy after another since November 2021 even after managing an honourable Exit for U.K. from the European Union and raising the level of confidence of Ukraine vis a vis Russia during the ongoing war.
Following mass exodus of his cabinet, BoJo decided to quit as PM on 7th July after three years in office against the backdrop of many scandals, including a party at 10 Downing Street which violated Covid-19 protocol ,no confidence vote and a matter of sexual misconduct against a senior Tory M.P.
With his resignation, race to replace him has picked up momentum.Taking due note of high inflation and rising cost of living in the country, most of the initial eleven contenders, had pledged to lower taxes and begin with a clean start.
Ms. Priti Patel, former Home Secretary was the only one out of race as her priorities were reported to be country’s unity and security.
After rounds and rounds of internal voting, Rishi Sunak, 42 year old former Chancellor of Exchequer having Indian origin is being seen as a credible contender even though he is facing a tough competition from Ms. Truss at the time of Parliament going into Summer Recess. Although he has taken a pledge to restore trust, rebuild the economy and reunite the country, his foreign origin and rather late entry into House of Commons as compared to Truss may not appear convincing to a large number of Conservative party members who are yet to open their cards.
Hence in all probability it may be Truss who may become eligible to succeed Boris Johnson on September 5.Only factor which goes against her, is her disagreement on Brexit.
Since new PM is unlikely to take over before first week of September, for the next two months, BoJo will have to act as a Caretaker PM, which has been opposed by John Major, a former PM.
Incidentally, such a phase in U.K.Parliament system could be compared to Code of Conduct period ahead of Assembly and General elections in India when no major policy decision can be taken for about two months.In Italy also, now similar situation may prevail. In Sri Lanka, however, with swearing in of new President followed by appointment of a new PM and eighteen Ministers, things may become somewhat normal as the present incumbents may have full powers unlike caretaker heads of governments in U.K. and Italy.
PATHETIC CONDITION IN SRI LANKA
Having discussed the ongoing political developments in the country of erstwhile Colonial rulers, let us shift our focus to Sri Lanka, one of the former colonies of erstwhile British empire.
Apparently, due to the misdeeds of Rajapakshe “dynasty”, the island nation has become bankrupt in the words of former Caretaker PM Ranil Wickeramsinghe, now elected as President by the country’s Parliament. Incidentally, this was the second time in nation’s history when Parliament of the country had to exercise its power to break the leadership deadlock. Exercising his powers, Wickramsinghe has appointed Dinesh Gunawardana, a former Education & Foreign Affairs Minister in Gotabaya’s government as the country’s new PM together with eighteen Ministers.
Widespread disturbances due to power, food, fuel and fertiliser shortages have become every day affair for now over 105 days.Twice the ‘ Government had to declare a state of Emergency and imposed Curfew to suppress the agitation by the common man and Buddhist Monks, a decisive group in influencing public opinion in Sri Lanka. Agitators have been refusing to give up despite having only one meal a day.
Responding to humanitarian issues, India while standing with people of Sri Lanka has so far given a loan assistance of $3.5 Billions to pay for vital supplies. In addition, supply of rice and P.O.L. continues to pour in from India in a regular way.
While people were dying of hunger and fuel issues, the former President Gotabaya Rajapakshe was adamant not to resign before 13th July. After fleeing to Maldives, he sent his resignation by e-mail from Singapore, only after securing a safe place for himself.
For Sri Lanka, very much under the debt trap diplomacy of China like Maldives, Nepal and a few African countries, crisis period is not yet over. In view of the fact that Parliamentarians themselves are a divided lot, prospect of an all party government appears dim. Rather, it may continue to face an uncertain political future.
The European Union and USA governments have urged Sri Lanka government to co-operate, focus and work quickly to achieve a peaceful and orderly transition.
While talks are being held with IMF for over two months for a rescue package (presumably on the lines of Pakistan), fact remains that present government will have to take some strict fiscal measures to cut down expenditure and explore ways and means to raise resources. The Government now headed by President Wickeramsinghe continues to face the wrath of protestors. Regaining their confidence may not be easy.
It’s high time from a humanitarian angle, some members of G-7 come forward to bail out Sri Lanka. But no one can possibly extend a helping hand in settling their huge debt issue with China.
(The author is former Chief Secretary, Sikkim)