In the latest news and analysis…
Agence France-Presse reports that the National Front’s Marine Le Pen finished third with nearly a fifth of all votes cast in the first round of France’s presidential election, the highest total for the “anti-immigrant, anti-European, far-right party” in its 40-year history.
“Calling for ‘economic patriotism’ and vowing to leave the eurozone, she railed against globalisation and the ‘Islamisation’ of France, initially gaining some ground with attacks on the production of Islamic halal meat.
[French President Nicolas] Sarkozy sought to steal her thunder on two key issues for the far-right — immigration and security — with his calls for fewer immigrants and his handling of deadly attacks lat month by an Islamist extremist in Toulouse.
Analysts see [Marine Le Pen] as part of a new age of far-right leaders across Europe seeking to shake off the fascist stigma of their predecessors.
Like her father, Marine Le Pen has not avoided causing outrage with outspoken comments. Last year she compared Muslims praying in the streets outside overcrowded mosques in France to the Nazi occupation.”
Turning IMF conditionality on its head
Reuters reports that the International Monetary Fund has secured nearly half a trillion dollars in new funding from G20 nations but in return, emerging economic powers are demanding more say in how the institution is run.
“The battle over the next round of voting reforms begins with the elaborate formula for setting the quotas that determine each nation’s voting share, how much it must contribute to the Fund and how much it can borrow. The formula takes into account the size of each economy, foreign-exchange reserves and trade.
The current formula fails to capture the massive changes that have taken place globally since the IMF was founded after World War Two, especially the rise of emerging economic powers. Now that emerging markets are being asked to bulk up the Fund’s coffers to battle a crisis centered in Europe, their leverage to push for more change has increased.
‘Our demands are mostly for reforms, and those reforms are always finding obstacles,’ said Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega. ‘It’s very easy for the Europeans to get the money and not do any reforms.’ ”
Reuters also reports that a Kenyan court has ruled the country’s lawmakers must ensure efforts to crack down on counterfeit drugs do not impede access to generic drugs.
“Generic medicines constitute the lion’s share of medicines used in Kenya, and have enabled poor people in the developing country to get the necessary treatment for various ailments.
A previous court order issued before Friday’s ruling had blocked the act from coming into force, and Friday ruling means lawmakers will now have to amend the bill to clearly distinguish between generic and counterfeit drugs.”
Lobbying against transparency
ProPublica reports that media companies behind many of America’s top news organizations are fighting against greater transparency of US political funding.
“The corporate owners or sister companies of some of the biggest names in journalism — NBC News, ABC News, Fox News, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Politico, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and dozens of local TV news outlets — are lobbying against a Federal Communications Commission measure that would require broadcasters to post political ad data on the Internet.
In a speech this week at the National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski excoriated the broadcasters as working ‘against transparency and against journalism.’ ”
Improving mining contracts
The BBC cites Guinea as an example of the growing number of African countries that are renegotiating what they view as “abusive” mining contracts with foreign companies.
“The Guinean state will now receive a 15% free stake in all mining projects for the country’s flagship minerals – bauxite, iron, gold and diamonds.
The secretary general of Guinea’s mining ministry, Guillaume Curtis, says the new legislation was a response to ‘mining contracts with abusive clauses that made it impossible to increase the state’s revenue’.
Export taxes are now indexed on global metal prices and fiscal exemptions have been cut.
‘Yes, there are heavy investments, but the eight-to-12-year tax holidays given by our countries are exaggerated,’ Mr Curtis says.”
The Guardian reports that the head of the UN Conference on Trade and Development – an organization it describes as “an intellectual counterweight to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank” – has criticized the international community’s apparent unwillingness to undertake fundamental global financial reforms.
“As for reforms, [UNCTAD secretary general Supachai Panitchpakdi] identified as key greater disclosure of information from the likes of hedge funds on the kinds of financial instruments they were trading.
At a time of austerity, Supachai said it was time to move beyond official development assistance from rich countries, which has declined for the first time in 15 years. He argued a financial transactions tax, or Tobin tax, would achieve a dual function, helping to curb the power of international finance while also providing funds for developing countries.
‘It would not be expensive for the financial services industry,’ he said. ‘That argument is an excuse for masters of the universe to remain masters of the universe.’ ”
Open Society’s James Goldston writes that despite the international community’s rhetorical enthusiasm for the “rule of law,” there remains much disagreement on the concept’s meaning and how it should be implemented.
“Many developing countries want more ‘international’ law to restrain the U.S. and other veto-wielding Permanent-5 powers on the UN Security Council, a body sorely in need of reform. By contrast, western donor governments are keen to focus on ‘national’ rule of law needs in conflict regions of Africa and the Middle East.”
South African satirical newspaper Hayibo reports that Africans have been shocked by recent “uncivilized antics” by Europeans.
“Africans say they have little hope that Europe will ever become civilized, after a week in which Spain’s King Carlos went on an elephant-killing spree and the Swedish Culture Minister was entertained by a racially offensive cake.
‘I don’t want to sound racist, and some of my best friend are white, but let’s be honest: violence is hard-wired into their DNA,’ said [Libreville resident August] Mwanasa. ‘I mean, Europeans killed over 20 million other Europeans in the 1930s and 1940s. That’s barbarism on a scale unprecedented in history.’ ”