Sunday, August 1, 2010

Oz elections

From IDSA: Julia Gillard’s Political Moves
Linky

Observers of Australian politics will agree that the country is going through a unique and never before phase of history. A phase where for the first time a Prime Minister had to leave office prematurely due to pressures from within his own party, which was concerned about Kevin Rudd’s falling popularity. This is coupled with the fact that a range of fundamental debates concerning the economy, polity and the very nature of society are hovering in the minds of policy makers and the common man alike. Under these circumstances, Prime Minister Julia Gillard is poised to tread the road less travelled by way of going for elections; which has the potential to ‘make or break’ the Labor Party in the years to come.
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While discarding the conventional middle path, Gillard has also taken the opposition by surprise. Her move to advance the elections has been motivated by the results from a recent opinion poll in which the Gillard-led Labor was ahead of the Liberals, and Gillard does not want to miss the chance by giving the Liberals an opportunity to prepare for elections.

The debate between Tony Abbott and Julia Gillard saw a massive win by TA, and what was a (questionably ambiguous) 10 point lead for JG became a 4 point slide in the gallups. Kevin Ruud, the now dismantled ex-PM, who had promised to give in his full support to JG has come out ambiguous on JG's campaign. In fact, he is now put up in the hospital ward for a gall bladder emergency that might give him and the Labor party enough excuses to ensure that he does nt derail JG's campaign anymore. One really cant blame KR, as JG's late-night machinations inside the Labor camp ensured that once indomitable and smart Kevin Ruud who led the 2008 APEC meet with a clarion call to Hu Jintao in Mandarin nonetheless, became a sorry smart-arse even in his own camp. Further, KR's smart-alecness got the goats of many an Australian voter, as wearing the intellectualism on the sleeve never buys anyone much. For that, the famous Oz intellectual PM Bob Hawke, who could speak in Mandarin too as fluently if not better than most chinese themselves, never made a pomp and show of it like KR did. The now-behind Labor is going on an attack (negative) strategy for the August 21 vote.

But the real subtext to this elections is whether Oz is man enough to elect its first woman PM? We have seen women PMs in many parts of the world that the US and the Oz seem to sound far anachronistic than their less-than-regal-democratic-cousins elsewhere. While women voters seem to be bipartisanly excited by the idea of Oz's first woman PM, snide campaign on JG's marital status (she is an immigrant, unmarried, lives with her partner Tim Mathieson, and is childless) that shows her unempathetic and unAustralian side (sic!) have appeared a dime a dozen in Conservative outlets. In fact, TA went so far to suggest in the debate that her gender gave her an unfair advantage and conservative columnists are thundering about the support she gets from "the sisterhood." Not to mention that among men over 65, JG gets an approval rating of 35% and a disapproval rating of 58% (7% undecided). The wide chasm can explain the anachronism in these democrazies.

Gillard appears as a promising leader for India because of her leanings towards India. On the other hand, the Liberals too are reassuring in their own way as they have been supportive of uranium supply to India, which India has been keen on for a long time now. For India, the Australian general elections and the outcome thereof will be particularly interesting for several reasons including the issue of supply of yellowcake as well as the safety and security of its Australia-bound students.

Tony Abbott has promised to cut down massively on immigration to the Hi-Tech sector, which means a cut on Indians indirectly. But the trade-off to the Liberals conservatism in race matters is that they tend to be more liberal on capitalism, meaning U-235 possibilities. The Liberals' climate-action plan and mining super-tax related overtures could also mean some camping on the Indian side (quite a bit of the coal mined in Oz comes to India). On the other hand, the Liberals dont seem to have a counter-plan on either the economy or maternity pay issues, except to call the Labor policies of the past (and proposed) as downright BAD. In fact, TA's WorkChoices plan was roundly criticized. All in all, sets the stage for an interesting elections. If there are any googlies in the campaign trail, I will keep you posted. Else ciao till the election eve from Down Under.

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