from The Water's Edge

The World Next Week: Kenyans Vote, Italy Awaits a Government, and the Sixtieth Anniversary of Stalin’s Death Is Marked

Eight Kenyan presidential candidates participate in the second presidential debate at Brookhouse School in Nairobi (Joan Pereruan/Nation Media Group/Courtesy Reuters).

February 28, 2013

Eight Kenyan presidential candidates participate in the second presidential debate at Brookhouse School in Nairobi (Joan Pereruan/Nation Media Group/Courtesy Reuters).
Blog Post
Blog posts represent the views of CFR fellows and staff and not those of CFR, which takes no institutional positions.

The World Next Week podcast is up. Bob McMahon and I discussed Kenyan elections, the scramble to assemble a new government in Italy, and the sixtieth anniversary of Stalin’s death.


The highlights:

  • Kenyans go to the polls on Monday to elect a president, a parliament, and a bevy of county representatives. This is the first election to be held under the constitution that Kenyans drafted in in 2010 in a bid to prevent a replay of the 2007 election. The violence that erupted during that election took nearly two months to end and left 1,300 Kenyans dead and more than half a million displaced. Numerous efforts have been launched to keep the elections peaceful, but persistent tensions among Kenya’s major tribal groupings has many experts worried about renewed violence. Public opinion polls have the Jubilee Coalition led by Deputy Prime Minister Jomo Kenyatta, a Kikuyu, leading the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy headed by Prime Minister Raila Odinga, a Luo, on the eve of the vote. A factor complicating the election is that Kenyatta, whose father Jomo is a national hero for serving as Kenya’s first prime minister and president, is under indictment by the International Criminal Court for helping foment the violence that gripped Kenya after the 2007 elections. If Kenyatta wins, countries that are signatories to the ICC may reconsider their relations with Nairobi and possibly arrest him if he goes abroad.
  • Italy is looking to form a new government after last week’s election resulted in a three-way split among parties critical of Italy’s austerity plans: Pier Luigi Bersani’s center-left coalition, Silvio Berlusconi’s center-right alliance, and Beppe Grillo’s populist Five-Star Movement. The coalition led by former prime minister Mario Monti, who had championed austerity and whose decision to resign triggered the election, finished a distant fourth. The Italian public’s rejection of fiscal belt-tightening spooked the financial markets, which worry that the Eurozone crisis may flare up yet again.
  • Tuesday marks the sixtieth anniversary of Joseph Stalin’s death. He maneuvered his way into power after Vladimir Lenin died in 1924 and then ruled the Soviet Union with an iron fist for nearly three decades. Russians have mixed feelings about Stalin, who was Georgian by birth and not Russian. His fans applaud him for transforming the Soviet Union into an industrial power and for leading the Red Army to victory over Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany in the Great Patriotic War. His detractors point to how he ruthlessly suppressed all opposition to his rule, killing millions of his countrymen in his lust for power. Stalin has few friends in the West today, but during World War II he was known to many as “Uncle Joe.”
  • Bob’s Figure of the Week is Miguel Diaz-Canel. My Figure of the Week is 58. As always, you’ll have to listen to the podcast to find out why.

For more on the topics we discussed in the podcast check out:

Kenyans vote: BBC News has a Q&A covering the basics of the election. The Guardian reports on the failures of Kenya’s presidential debates. Human Rights Watch explains Kenya’s history of electoral violence. CFR has a Contingency Planning Memorandum on the potential for electoral violence in Kenya.

Italian elections produce a stalemate: The Washington Post covers the economic shockwaves that the election has produced. The New York Times explains the comeback of scandal-ridden former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. CNN has more on Beppe Grillo, the election’s dark horse candidate.

 The sixtieth anniversary of Stalin’s death: The Telegraph discusses the mixed feelings that Russians have about Stalin. The Moscow Times analyzes the debate over Stalin’s legacy.  Reuters reports on disagreement over Stalin’s legacy in neighboring Georgia, Stalin’s birthplace. BBC News covers the seventieth anniversary of the Battle of Stalingrad, earlier this year. Forbes reports on the problems Russia faces today.