Sunday, December 4, 2016

Foreign Digest: Gambian Presidential Elections; Italy’s Constitutional Referendum Is Rejected and the Prime Minister Has Resigned

Gambian Presidential Elections
            Gambia’s autocratic leader conceded the presidential elections to the victor a few days ago.  Twenty-two years after seizing power in a coup, the President, after not accepting the election results, surprised his countrymen with his concession.  He lost to a coalition of the democratic opposition led by a businessman.  The new Gambian leader plans to return the former British colony to the International Criminal Court and the British Commonwealth

The concession and the peaceful transfer of power are part of a recent trend away from authoritarianism in Africa, in contrast to the global trend toward it, as I noted in a post from March of this year, Foreign Digest: Elections in Benin and Senegal, Update on Burma, Karadzic Conviction,  It is hoped that the transfer will remain tranquil and that the Gambian people may enjoy peace, liberty and representative government. 

Italy: the Constitutional Referendum Is Rejected; the Prime Minister Has Resigned
            The Italian Government’s constitutional referendum was rejected today.  Center-left Prime Minister Mateo Renzi afterwards announced his resignation.  The proposed constitutional amendments had not been approved by Parliament by the requisite majority to avoid a constitutional requirement of a referendum. 

            The referendum would have amended the constitution to end parliament’s perfect bicameralism by limiting the Senate’s lawmaking powers only to constitutional matters, reduce the size of the upper chamber to less than a third, with only 5 seats appointed by the President and the rest held by regional governors and mayors of major metropolitan areas, while transferring some regional powers to the national government.  The changes were intended to expedite lawmaking and to reduce costs.  There was some concern among opponents about consolidating too much power with the prime minister and in the loss of federalism. 

            Renzi earlier in the campaign made the error of effectively making the referendum a plebiscite on his rule by threatening to resign if the referendum is rejected.  His center-left party, which has a governing majority with small center-right and centrist parties, has only a plurality of popular support.  The main opposition parties are the populist party, followed by the anti-immigrants, then by the conservatives.  There are various other parties from the far-left to the right and regional parties.  Renzi became prime minister in 2014 after his party elected him leader over premier Enrico Letta in order to expedite reforms, which his government was successful in adopting. 

           With the opposition divided, the center-left party is likely to remain in power after it chooses a new leader, with another coalition.  Elections are not scheduled until 2018, but could occur sooner.

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