John Howard was reelected in Australia to an unprecedented fourth term a couple of weeks ago. What was expected to be a close vote turned out to be a strong win for Howard. Apparently Howard's strong emphasis on national security helped him. While involving Australia in the second Iraq invasion was unpopular, views about terrorism became more pronounced when violence hit closer to home. The vicious Bali bombings and the more recent attack on the Australian embassy in Jakarta have pushed the vote in the direction of the right wing Liberal leader.
Speaking of right wing liberal leaders (what kind of oxymoron is that?) Blair has come under some harsh fire recently, from within his own caucus. Blair has agreed to send the Black Watch battalion to a location near Baghdad; trasferring them from their current location near Basra. This was criticized as a favor to his friend President Bush that will compromise the safety of British troops and calls in to question British independence. Blair has insisted this was a request of the US Army not Bush (British troops are under US command in Iraq), and that it's the right choice because it will help ensure the safety of the Iraqi elections in January. Blair seems to be relying on the lack of a viable opposition to his leadership because, with the elections set for next year in Britain, he seems to be digging his own political grave just to help out Bush. He must be getting some really nice kickbacks to put himself through the wringer and repeat the lies and mistakes to the British people that Bush promoted to the American people.
But enough about Blair, Indonesia has a new president. Megawati Sukarnoputri lost to the favoured former general Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Yudhoyono has a reputation of integrity for reportedly refusing to declare a state of emergency at the behest of former president Wahid during calls for his impeachment. Supposed integrity and reputation as a reformer aside, Yudhoyono is a protege of former general Wiranto (accused of war crimes by the UN). Yudhoyono was also involved in the Indonesian military action in East Timor which lead to the slaughter of over 100,000 people in the tiny half island.
The real kicker in this was some political commentary I saw on BBC about the elections. Some pundit was saying that Bambang Yudhoyono would benefit from his military reputation. Because of the recent spike in terrorism associated with Indonesia, having a strong leader would be a change for the better. After all, he said, things weren't so bad under Suharto. That's what got me... things weren't so bad under Suharto? WHAT? Suharto started his term as president through a coup, elminated free press and, with the help of the CIA, conducted a mass expulsion of anyone considered a communist or political dissident. In fact the CIA provided the list of names, and checked them off as the people were captured or eliminated. Thousands were murdered under his military regime that lasted 30 years; and he drove the Indonesian economy into the ground while amassing a personal fortune of some $15 billion US. Suharto was a horrendous human rights violator and that destroyed the economy of what should be a very wealthy country (Indonesia is awash in valuable resources, including oil). And this guy was stating the comparison between Suharto and Yudhoyono as a positive thing?
One final note, Iran has given their endorsement to George Bush to win the US elections. Aside from being pretty funny, this actually has some sense behind it; but that will have to wait for my next post.