Saturday, 17 December 2016

DR CONGO: Kabila's ''Kleptocracy''

It is widely understood that corruption is pervasive problem in many societies and undermines public confidence in the political system and government institutions. The scrounge of corruption is generally viewed as symptom of larger problem of the failure of judicial, media, and other institutions of accountability in view or developing democracies.

In Kleptocracies, which is the term used to designate government by thieves, corruption is the lifeblood of the system and therefore the heart of the problem. In Kleptocracies risk is nationalized and rewards are privatized. Participation in the spoils of kleptocracy is organized and controlled by top political elites, who raid state resources with immunity and impunity.

Unlike ordinary corruption, which has generally been considered a problem that corrodes developing democracies from within, Kleptocracies export their corrupt practices beyond their national borders with an ever increasing impact felt in new and established democracies alike. The taking of money out of corrupt countries by kleptocrats is long- standing practice. But in the present hyper globalized era, the scale and sophistication of this activity presents new and serious challenges to democracy. In this sense, modern kleptocracy thrives by crossing borders, in the process projecting a wider, corrosive threat to democracy and its institutions.

Kleptocracy is a key pillar of resurgent authoritarian regimes that are exercising  growing influence around the world. Other definitions characteristics of such regimes include a crackdown on civil society, the rise of extremist movements, the failure of governance in many new democracies, the assault on democratic norms in the international system, and propaganda campaigns that are lavishly funded by international media enterprises. Simply put, these regimes are trying to reshape the rules of the game.

The challenge presented by regimes in Africa, Moscow, Beijing, and elsewhere is being taken to an entirely new level by virtue of their projection of illiberal values and standards beyond their own national borders. Just a decade ago, few political observers could have imagined such a development. It is especially troubling that this growth in authoritarian ambition is taking place at a time when malaise seems to grip the world's leading democracies.

No country has suffered more from kleptocracy than Democratic Republic of Congo. Deeply entrenched and , indeed institutionalized corruption has been an extraordinary challenge since DR Congo achieved its independence, 56 years ago. But in the last 15 years that president Kabila has been in power, he has taken the country's corruption to new heights, enabling the theft of nearly $10 billion of Dr Congo public wealth. This massive corruption funneled wealth primarily to the president, his relatives, and a limited circle of businessmen around the president.

Kabila's corruption has ruined Dr Congo, dooming a generation of Congolese to poor education, unsafe streets and blighted careers. This ravaging of Dr Congo's economy and society have brought about the ''Bye Bye Kabila'' and '' Enough is Enough Kabila'' campaigns, calling millions of Congolese to rise up to extract their country from the grip of the kleptocrat-president and to try to chart a more democratically accountable course.

The Democratic Republic of Congo's  Kleptocrat-president, Joseph Kabila, has taken personal control of virtually all the country's public wealth derived from minerals and, more recently, from massive investments by China. The DR Congo's kleptocrat-president does not simply deprive his country of critically needed resources for improving health, education and infrastructure, but uses this wealth beyond national borders to acquire an influential hand in media and financial institutions around the world.

So far Joseph Kabila who promised to curb corruption, has found himself entangled in corruption scandals and turned out to be more crooked than Mobutu. From 2001 to 2016, Kabila's regime transferred ownership of at least $10 billion of assets from the state-mining sector to private companies with no compensation or benefit for the State treasury. And those companies had links to Kabila and his siblings. Kabila and his siblings have assembled an international business network stretching across at least 70 companies, according to a Bloomberg investigative journalists.

Furthermore, Joseph Kabila, the man who came in Dr-Congo in 1997 without a suitcase, let alone a wallet, has now taken the No. 1 spot on People with Money's top 10 highest-paid political figure for 2016 with an estimated $95 million in combined earnings, thanks to corruption, while an average Congolese citizen lives on less than a dollar a day; unemployment is 77%; basic services like roads, hospitals and schools are still absent; conflict and instability persist;

The fact that Kabila's authoritarian regime is also kleptocratic makes the challenge facing democracy activists in Congo even more difficult because he established an objective alliance with banks and other institutions that make up the global financial system. These institutions readily accept deposits of stolen funds after being laundered through offshore structures. With these assets safely invested and protected within the global system, Kabila and his family are then free to use their stolen wealth to increase their domination at home and purchase influence abroad, all the while expanding their massive business networks in the World and buying extravagantly priced properties in London, New York, Miami, Seychelles, Cayman Island, Panama, Singapore, the British Virgin Islands and other global capitals.

The purchase of multimillion dollar properties, the arrangement of opaque offshore financial instruments, and laundering of Kabila's public image, do not happen by accident or its own. Professional intermediaries in the established democracies are critical links for venal Kleptocrats, like Kabila, who seek to move ill-gotten gains from authoritarian systems into democracies and the international finance system, where rule of law offers their ill-gotten wealth a safe and respectable haven.

The irony is that while the rule of law prevails in Britain, over the past couple decades, London's accountants and lawyers have helped launder billions of dollars of stolen money through the British Virgin Islands overseas territories. Their complicity in Kabila's kleptocracy has corroded the legal integrity of British system. What Western enablers do is in a sense more egregious that what Kabila and other kleptocrats do, because in the west we have a genuine institutionalized rule of law, while kleptocrats, like Kabila, operate in systems where no rule exist. The result is that Western enablers effectively undermine democracy in foreign countries (DR Congo), even as Western governments lecture those same countries about civil society and the rule of law.

A critical element necessary for combating Kabila's kleptocracy will be bringing the professional intermediaries in the West, the enablers, out of the shadows and into sunlight. Kabila's Kleptocracy is not just a pillar of modern authoritarianism but also a serious and urgent global threat. Because it is a global challenge, it requires a response that takes transnational nature of this problem into account. It is therefore critically important to end the symbiotic relationship between Kabila and the international financial system.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
International Affairs Expert
Political Analyst/Author

Photo Credit: Bloomberg Photo of DR Congo's president, Joseph Kabila and hsi wife, Olive Lemba.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

SOUTH KOREA: Ms Park's downfall

The photos of tens thousands protesters, honking, chanting have become the image of South Korea since October. On Saturday in Seoul, the scene of huge demonstrations in recent weeks, tens of thousands of protesters demanded that Ms Park resign immediately.

Last week lawmakers pressed the conglomerate's heads over their links to Ms Park's confidante Choi Soon Sil, who used her presidential ties to shake down the country's biggest business groups for donations.

Prosecutors claimed that Mr Choi used aides from presidential Blue House to squeeze the conglomerates, known as ''Chaebols'', including the Samsung, Hyundai and LG business groups, for donations to two foundations she allegedly controlled. Prosecutors say Ms Park helped Ms Choi in the scheme.

Both Ms Park and Ms Choi denied the allegations but the scandal has dragged down Ms Park's approval ratings to historic lows to her impeachment and driven millions of demonstrators into the streets of Seoul, calling for her to resign over the past six weeks.

Ms Park's downfall complicates life for South Korea's sprawling conglomerate, whose alleged involvement in the scandal has led to fresh calls to curb their power.

After the impeachment vote, Ms Park's powers were suspended and acting Prime Minister Hwang Kyo ahn, a staunch ally, was made acting president. In a public address, Mr Hwang said the government would strive to maintain rock solid security readiness against North Korea and reaffirmed the alliance with the US. Two thirds of the 300 member National Assembly voted to impeach Ms Park.

In the coming months, South Korea's Constitutional Court will consider whether to endorse Ms Park's impeachment and remove her permanently. If it votes to do so, South Korea will have 60 days to hold an election for a new president.

The impeachment marks a dramatic downfall for a leader that took office in 2013 pledging to break from the frat-tinged administrations that preceded her. It also adds uncertainty for its US ally as new administration in Washington reconsiders its relationships in Asia, especially with China.

The impeachment leaves Ms Park in limbo, not able to exercise her executive powers but not losing her title, until the country nine members Constitutional Court rules on validity of the impeachment vote. The Court has 180 days to decide but it is likely that the Court would decide within days or weeks.

If six members of the Constitutional Court assent, Ms Park would be forced to step down and a new election would be required within 60 days. If six members fail to assent, then the National Assembly's vote would be overturned and Ms Park would be reinstated as president.

During the last impeachment crisis in 2004, the National Assembly's vote against then President Roh Moo Hyun was overturned by the Constitutional Court. In that case, the impeachment over a relatively minor technicality was met with anger by a public that sympathized with Mr Roh.

This time around, Ms Park's near universal unpopularity would likely put pressure on the Court to assent to the legislature's vote. But the Constitutional Court's deliberations are complicated by the impending retirements of two judges in January and March, It is unclear whether those vacancies could be filled by Ms Park or an acting president.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
International Affairs Expert
Political Analyst/Author

Photo-Credit: AFP-photo of Ms Park 

Monday, 12 December 2016

WORLD: Women Terrorists

When we think about terrorism, we think about men. But there is an increasing number of women taking up arms and bombs. The prevailing accounts of these women— radicalized by Islamist ideologues and enjoined into revolutionary violence— have dangerous precedents that call for our attention. 

From Hayat Boumeddiene, the woman who helped in the recent Paris attacks, cloaked in a niqab and brandishing a crossbow and Sajida al-Rishawi, the Iraqi suicide bomber, opening her coat to show explosives duct-taped to her body to nameless female suicides bombers of Nigeria's attacks, last week, who blew themselves up in bustling market, killing more than 50 people, terrorist groups are more and more using their female members.
These attacks are prime feed for sensational media. They illustrate the seductive narrative that Muslim women, beneath their veils, are forces of radical evil. But in order to understand and counter the real dangers of Islamism, we need to dispel this myth. We need context and analysis. We need to see alternatives.
Based on Finn Church Aid report, mass media has done little more than speculate that women like Boumeddiene, Rishawi and nameless Nigeria's attacks female suicides bombers are “reactionary” or “emotional,” that they are lured into jihad and used as pawns by men who want to keep them submissive. If we rely on such conventional thinking and fail to examine the deliberate choices that each of these individuals has made, we will miss key lessons about the development of political identity. Instead, we should revisit the histories of earlier women who joined and, in several cases, led some of the most brutal terrorist campaigns in recent memory.
Americans of a certain age won’t forget the iconic pictures of Patty Hearst with a machine gun slung across her shoulder, taken during a San Francisco bank robbery staged by the Symbionese Liberation Army in 1974. But a better figure of comparison is Ulrike Meinhof, a founding member of the Red Army Faction, or RAF, the left-wing organization that terrorized West Germany from 1970 until 1998. Over the course of four years, Meinhof was involved in multiple terrorist actions, including the 1972 bombing of the Springer Press Headquarters in Hamburg, which injured thirty-eight people, some gravely. Her goals: to resist the genocide of the Vietnam War, and through this resistance, to avenge Nazi genocide.
Meinhof, a journalist and filmmaker, had abandoned her career and children, committing herself to a program of subversive violence. Publishers and producers ran every shot they could find of her. She committed suicide in prison in 1976, but second and then third waves of RAF militants rolled out and carried on with a terrible hijacking in 1977 and a string of assassinations into the nineties.
Images of radical women are unusually potent. Broadcasters derive enormous leverage from them. At the same time these pictures also attract women to extremist organizations like the RAF, al Qaeda, IS and Boko Haram. They give Muslims a false sense of escape from the strictures of Islamic fundamentalism. They eclipse the important counterexamples of Muslim women who shape the public sphere through their careers in fields ranging from domestic work, to law, to architecture.
The spectacular footage of female militants also makes it hard to see the particular predicament each faces. But we do have fragments of their back-stories. Rishawi lost her closest family in the Iraqi-American conflict in Anbar Province. Records of her trial in 2006 indicate that she expressed no remorse for her victims. Perhaps her personal grief made this impossible for her. In a 2010 interrogation, Boumeddiene, a French national of Algerian origin, condemned “the killing of innocents” by American military campaigns. Before turning to terrorism, both women had bleak work prospects. Nigeria's attacks female suicide bombers are believed to be illiterate, possibly kidnapped by Boko Haram, easily brainwashed and embrace the Islamic ideologies of their captors. These contexts shape political identity and compel some women to make radical, but nevertheless deliberate choices about how to lead their lives.
To be sure, there are substantial differences between the trajectories of Ulrike Meinhof, Rishawi, Boumeddiene and those women used by Boko Haram, in Nigeria. They were born generations apart and into different social classes. There are also distinctions to be made between the organizations each represents. The RAF and Boko Haram inflicted their violence domestically, while IS’ jihadists train their weapons on the global horizon. And yet there are crucial links among the women who were drawn into these movements.
Comparing these militants, we can investigate the conditions that produce political conflict. This line of inquiry will break new ground. It will help us to understand the choices of a good number of Muslim women, who, like Rishawi, Boumeddiene and Nigeria's female suicides bombers, have limited opportunities in the working world. Fortunately, a number of grassroots initiatives have already responded to this need. 
In the Paris metropolitan region, a woman-led agency called “Emplois Soeurs Musulmanes” helps jobseekers overcome the professional discrimination that keeps too many women of Northern African origin at home. And in Lebanon, the NGO“Basmeh wa Zeitooneh” trains Syrian female refugees to produce and market fine embroidery work. These alternative agendas are underreported.
More attention must be paid to the specific factors that attract women to terrorist groups and the roles they play once there. For example, European women in the Islamic State have spoken of how alienation and restrictions on their religions practices back home, like France's ban on wearing burqas in public, helped push them into the group. African women in Boko Haram, who are illiterate or less educated, once kidnapped can easily embrace their captors's Islamic views.
Efforts in educating girls, women in Africa need to address such grievances. The strong influence of social media and peer networks also points to including more young women in these efforts, as well as female community leaders and family members.
Alice Schwarzer, a prominent German writer and publisher, has been central to the effort to distinguish feminism from terrorist revolt. In an editorial reflecting on Ulrike Meinhof and other extremists of the 1970s, she raised an important point: Women were already marginal in the male-dominated societies of postwar Europe. Why would they want to give up any of that agency by becoming fugitives? Women’s prospects have brightened, but still the struggle for equality continues across all walks of life, from the secular to the strictly observant, and from the native-born to the immigrant.
The stories of Rishawi and Boumeddiene prompt us to reconsider Schwarzer’s argument and ask how Muslim women might move from the margin to the center of power. There are other avenues to sovereignty, ones that don’t involve taking up arms. But in order to see those possibilities, we need to demand new images—in fact, a whole new vision—from our media.
Terrorists groups are strategic about using women, in increasingly chilling ways. To fight them, we have to move beyond simplistic assumptions about gender and terror and get serious about helping women and girls who are on the deadly path, as well as their would be victims.
By Guylain Gustave Moke
International Affairs Expert
Political Analyst/Author

Photo Credit: AFP photo of Nigeria's terrorist attacks perpetrated by Boko Haram female suicide bombers

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

BRAZIL: Protesting Austerity

In Rio de Janeiro, on Tuesday, police used tear gas to disperse state workers demonstrations outside the state assembly where lawmakers were voting austerity measures aimed at rescuing the state from a debilitating fiscal crisis. This anger is exacerbated by a state government financial crisis that has seen thousands of state employees and retirees not getting paid for months.

Brazilian's government has been a on a drive to fix Brazil's troubled economy through austerity measures. But austerity does not appear to be working. Austerity policies not only generate substantial welfare costs due to supply-side channels, they also hurt demand, and thus worsen employment an unemployment. Brazil's public debt has snow reached alarming levels. Rising unemployment and inflation are slowly undoing the gains of Brazil's boom year

In January 2015, Brazil started to implement a fiscal policy based on austerity, following with some years of delay the path that many European countries, such as Greece, Spain and Portugal had entered into right after the 2008 financial crisis. In Europe, the results of this policy choice are well known. As the ''TROIKA'' started insisting on more and more austerity, the economies got weaker, tax revenues went down, and years later the fiscal position of those countries, the debt sustainability is even worse than when they began.

Europe may have provided a pedagogical experience for other countries, such as Brazil, but Brazilian policymakers neglected all the lesson the Eurozone crisis teaches us about austerity and its consequences. After nine quarters of economic depression, the Brazilian administration of Michel Temer is reinforcing austerity as the medicine to treat the Brazilian economic crisis.

At an empirical level, the European experience clearly shows that fiscal austerity is a descent to the abyss of economic recession, On the theoretical front, recent macroeconomic works are openly challenging this view, and we are not talking about works of heterodox economists.

In practice, as Brazilian and recent European experience show,  fiscal austerity only makes things worse. Ex President Dilma Roussef's attempt to promote a consolidation at the start of her second term only contributed to the deterioration of the Brazilian's government fiscal position and of economic activities levels.

In addition, a fiscal adjustment that comes with a pension reform will certainly increase the population's vulnerability without any foreseeable growth benefit. Social security benefits are relevant not only in their economic rationale, but also in setting people's standards of living, helping to reduce poverty and increase social mobility.

While the US and Europe are flirting with zero interest rates, and other countries are crossing the zero boundary and practicing negative rates, the Monetary Policy Committee of the Central Bank of Brazil keeps a 14% per year nominal rate.

Brazil's GDP is falling, unemployment is climbing and the Central Bank insists on a very conservative policy, providing no monetary support to the economy. But inflation is high, one might say. Yes, the consumer price index is now around 8% taken over 12 months. Nevertheless, there is no case to support demand-pull inflation in a depressed economy, in which the GDP has contracted in the last six quarters. Inflation in Brazil is a mix of indexation mechanisms and cost-push inflation, so one can argue there is space to reduce interest rates.

Lower interest rates might help reviving aggregate demand growth, though their effects are more relevant in other aspects: a smoother trajectory of public debt might follow, thereby improving the Brazilian government's fiscal picture, and Brazilian firms could benefit from better financial conditions, allowing them to restore their cushions of safety on terms that are more favorable.

By Jennifer Birich

Photo-Credit: AFP: Brazilian President Michel Temer

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

FRANCE: Valls' Resignation

On Monday, France's Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, announced that he would step down and run in primary contest to be the Socialist candidate in next spring presidential election. This morning, Valls officially tendered his resignation. The president rapidly announced that Bernard Cazaneuve would replace him as Prime Minister.

Mr Manuel Valls was expected to announce his candidacy after Mr Hollande said last week that he would not seek re-election. Polls predicted that Mr valls would fare better in the elections than Mr Hollande, who has been battered by high unemployment and record low approval ratings.

Valls will first have to win his party's ticket by winning a primaries in January, where he faces a tough contest against more traditional leftist.The most recent polls predicted that Mr Valls would lead in the first round of voting in the primaries, to be help next month. 

If valls wins the Socialist primaries in January, he will face a tussle for Left wing votes with two independent candidates, Emmanuel Macron, reform-minded former economy minister and Jean Luc Mélenchon, a charismatic hard-left. He will also face a delicate task of wining over the Left wingers suspicious of his pro-business stance and strident views on law and order and Islam.  

They are suspicious of Valls because one source of his popularity is his general disregard for the traditionalist mainstream of the French Left. Many Socialists doubt that he is even one of them in spirit. Valls, on the other hand, sees himself as a hands-on politician, especially when it comes to dealing with immigration. Indeed, with his tough stance on immigrants, he often sparks disagreements. In many respects, he differs only slightly from his conservative predecessors.

Perhaps one reason Valls is so uncompromising toward immigrants is that he is one himself. He was born in Barcelona to a Catalan father and a Swiss mother from the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino, and he only became a French citizen at 20. Thanks to his parents and the French republican school system, he learned to be a Frenchman, and he doesn't stop declaring his love for his adopted country. As mayor, he introduced ceremonies for new citizens in which the French national anthem, "La Marseillaise," was sung.

Despite his patriotism, Valls is proud of his origins and doesn't try to hide them. Unlike other French politicians, he also gives interviews in Spanish and Catalan. When he was recently asked on a Barcelona radio station whether a Catalan could become France's president, he replied that "it is possible" although the question isn't being raised. He did note, however, that Nicolas Sarkozy "was of Hungarian origin."

Valls is often compared with Sarkozy, and some even call him the "Leftist Sarko." They both have foreign roots and a penchant for law and order in common. But they also share another important trait: Both launched their careers without having attended France's elite École Nationale d'Administration (ENA). When Valls was once asked what he and Sarkozy had in common, he replied: "Energy."

Although an Ifop opinion poll published today as the new Prime Minister was named echoed previous ones that suggested no candidate from the Socialist party would make it to the run-off of the presidential election next spring, (the poll had Valls scoring only 10 percent in April), Valls nevertheless embarks on a new beginning.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Political Analyst/Writer
Investigative Journalist

Photo-Credit: AP-Photo of: Manuel Valls-Francois Hollande

U.K.: Brexit Court Case

The British government launched a Supreme Court battle on Monday over who has the power to trigger the formal process of leaving the European Union, seeking to overturn a legal ruling that could derail its Brexit strategy. The Hearing is due to last four days and for the first time in the Supreme Court's seven year history all 11 justices are sitting.

The High Court ruled last month that Prime Minister, Theresa May, could not trigger ''Article 50'' of the ''Lisbon Treaty'' and begin the sunset period of 2 years of Brexit talks with the 27 remaining EU members without parliamentarian backing. If the government wins at the Supreme Court, Prime Minister, Theresa May, could invoke ''Article 50'' by the end of March as planned. But if government loses, parliament could delay or put conditions on the process, and in theory even block it.

The government's lawyers started arguing that the High Court ruling was wrong that parliament had accepted before the referendum that ministers would use ''prerogative'' powers to implement its result. But the government's lawyers accept that Article 50(1) allows the UK to withdraw from the European Union with its own constitutional requirements. 

The government argument fails to establish the relationship between the Crown's prerogative, i.e. the residue of monarchical authority that is now exercised by ministers, and the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty. On the one hand, it is an established feature of the UK constitution since 1688 that an Act of Parliament cannot be supplanted by the exercise of prerogative power. On the central issue, settled since 1688, the Crown cannot use prerogative to remove an Act of Parliament. On the other hand, it is equally established that the prerogative powers of the Crown cover international relations and the conclusion of treaties.

The government wishes to argue that the Crown has a prerogative power to authorise the UK's withdrawal from the EU, and that this power can only be taken away by express terms in an Act of Parliament. In the absence of express statutory words, the prerogative powers of the Crown over Article 50 remain intact. This argument is correct, but only with respect to rights and obligations created as matter of international law. As soon as individual rights protected by domestic law are affected, Parliament must be involved.

In relation to individual rights protected in domestic law that could be affected by the EU withdrawal, there are three categories: 1. Rights that were capable of replication in domestic law, 2. rights enjoyed by the UK nationals in other Members states, 3. rights that cannot be replicated in UK law and would be lost upon withdrawal.

In regard of the individual rights protected in domestic law that could be affected by the EU withdrawal: rights that capable of replication in domestic law and rights enjoyed by the UK nationals in other members states, there is nothing in principle to stop Parliament from enacting its provisions in domestic law. In regard of the individual rights protected in domestic law that cannot be replicated in UK law and would be lost upon withdrawal, the government agrees that those rights would irretrievably be lost upon withdrawal.

Many legal experts have predicted that the government would lose its appeal. First, the notification of the European Council under Article 50 could be reversed, then the Parliament must be involved. And since the question involves a question of the EU Treaty law, the final answer could only be given by the Court of Justice of the EU. Second, by agreeing that the Article 50 notification would inevitably lead to the loss of some individual rights, rights that cannot be replicated in domestic law, the government has already lost its appeal.

Last month High Court ruling did throw a spanner in the works of the government's Brexit strategy. But its focus was strictly constitutional, not political. The court expressed no opinion on whether Article 50 should be triggered. The only question it examined was whether, as matter of the UK constitutional law, the Crown acting through the government, is entitled to use prerogative powers to trigger Article 50 in order to cease to be a member of the European Union.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
International Affairs Expert
Political Analyst/Author

Photo Credit: AFP-London photo:

Monday, 5 December 2016

ITALY: Renzi's Resignation

The resignation of Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi after his heavy defeat in a referendum over constitutional reform is a concern for Europe as it adds to the instability that the continent is currently facing.

''No'' won an overwhelming 59 percent of the vote. About 33 million Italians cast ballots following months of bitter campaigning that pitted Renzi against all major opposition parties. The ''No'' campaigners had divergent reasons for their objection to the constitutional  reform referendum. But they were united in their verdict that the new constitution, promoted as the key to slimming down the state, would damage Italy's democratic foundation..

Under the reforms, Italy's upper house of parliament would be trimmed from its current 315 members to 100. Furthermore, they would no longer be directly elected and their rights would be limited. But the constitutional reform, in combination with the planned new election law, would have granted the country's strongest party and its prime minister an unknown amount of power.

The resignation of Renzi 41, who took office in 2014 promising to shake up hidebound Italy and presenting himself as an anti-establishment demolition man determined to crash through a smothering bureaucracy and reshape creaking institutions, paves the way for elections in early 2017, a year ahead of schedule, for a new prime minister, who will have to draw up a new electoral law and the possibility of the opposition 5 Star gaining power in the heart of the single currency area.

Renzi's resignation opens a period of uncertainty that would hit highly indebted Italy, a core EU member state at a sensitive time. Italy's gross domestic product (GDP) remains at 8 percent below its pre-crisis level. Bank are struggling to survive, with a total of 360 billion euros of bad loans on their balance sheets. Even though the country's national debt is 40 percent greater than it was 10 years ago, Italy now pays one third less interests, thanks to ECB purchases of 240 billion euros worth of Italian government bonds.

Renzi's resignation could also open the way for a referendum on whether Italy should remain a member of the common currency. If Italy, the third largest economy in the currency union, were to leave, it would mean doom not only for the euro. It could put the entire European Union at risk. The Italian central bank in Rome has already registered s strong increase in uncertainty on financial markets.

Italy's economic output is nine time greater than of Greece, Due to its sheer size, the European Stability Mechanism, the euro backstop, would be unable to bail out. The country is too big to fail and systemically relevant. If Italy fails, so too will the euro. And if the euro fails, then Europe will fail, too.

Sunday's referendum was over government plans to reduce the powers of the upper house senate and regional authorities but was viewed by many people as a chance to register dissatisfaction with Renzi, who has struggled to revive economic growth, and mainstream politics.

Sunday's referendum could have been Matteo Renzi's crowning achievement. However his economic policies have made little impact, and the ''5 Star Movement'' has claimed the anti-establishment banner, tapping into a populist mood that has seen Britons vote to leave the European Union and Americans elect Donald Trump president.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
International Affairs Expert
Political Analyst/Author

Photo Credit: AFP photo of Italian Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi

Saturday, 3 December 2016

GAMBIA: Yahya Jammeh's Defeat

Yahya Jammeh, the Gambia's president, has been defeated in his bid for re-election, a stunning turn for a nation that has lived for more than two decades under what human rights groups have described as repressive regime.

The electoral commission officially declared Adama Barrow the winner on Friday morning, the day after voters cast ballots, in an upset victory that astonished observers. According to the electoral commission Adama Barrow received 263, 517 votes while Jammeh 212, 098. Speaking to the public on Gambian television on Friday, Jammeh congratulated Barrow for his clear victory.

Mr Barrow led a coalition of opposition groups that gelled in the final days of the campaign. This week, enthusiasm swept the streets of Banjul, the capital, as people gathered for peaceful protests, crying out for the end to what they describe an ''oppressive regime''. 

Mr Jammeh's defeat is a rare turn for longtime leaders on the continent. Many leaders have amassed so much power, and often, wealth through decades of incumbency that they manage to stay in office until death. Other so called presidents for life have interfered with elections to cling to power.

In previous elections, Gambia president Yahya Jammeh benefited from a strong media bias and greater financial resources than his rivals to secure elections victory. The gross imbalance in the financial and material capability of the candidates resulted in the lack of adequate visibility of the United Democratic Party(UDP) and the Independent candidates. But this time around, Yahya Jammeh decided, long before the election to loosen up his grips. There are several reasons for that change of heart.

In Africa, rights advocates have increasingly lamented a plague of ''third termism'' as more and more leaders move to scrap constitutional limits in order to remain in power. But in Gambia, Jammeh could probably have cruised to a fifth five years term if the unprecedented wave of protests that began last week did not boil over into a full fledged popular revolt. The popular revolt brought to the open the oppressiveness of his regime and made him vulnerable.

Since taking power in a bloodless coup in 1994, Yahya Jammeh has presided over the worst dictatorship in Africa. The eccentric Gambian president rules his country through a mix of superstition  and fear, State-sanctioned torture, enforced disappearances, and arbitrary executions.

Two opposition protesters have died in custody. Mr Solo Sandeng, the leader of the youth wing of Gambia's main opposition movement, the United Democratic Party, was allegedly tortured to death while in state custody. After news of Sandeng's death broke, the UDP rallied, marching peacefully through the capital to demand answers. Riot police rushed to the scene, arresting Ousainou Darboe, secretary general of the UDP and other senior members of the party....

But also, part of the reason Jammeh became vulnerable, weak is that he lost the full support of many governments and electoral commission ooficials and african allies since a coup attempt. In December 2014, an unlikely band of diaspora members, including two US army veterans and a Minnesota businessman, staged an assault on the presidential palace while Jammeh was outside the country. The putsch failed and the regime responded with fury, sentencing eight alleged coup plotters to death amd indiscriminately jailing scores of Gambians suspected of being associated with them. But the truth is, Jammeh was no longer in total conytrol of his security apparatus. 

The crackdown drew harsh rebukes from rights activists, but it was later revealed that the United States may have indirectly tipped off the Gambian's government that a coup was in the works. The FBI had been monitoring some of the plotters communications and the State Department later informed another West African nation that one of them had left the Unites States in the hopes it would intercept him. Despite Jammeh's egregious rights records, the US government has largely refrained from speaking out against him over the years.

Finally, international isolation has made Jammeh only more vulnerable at home. Since 2011 election, Yahya Jammeh lost the support of Economic Community of West African States, which refused to send observers. The European Union has suspended $186 million in aid while the Unites States made Gambia ineligible for the African Growth and Opportunity Act, a trade preference program that provides duty free treatment to US imports from sub-Saharan Africa, making it the only nation besides Swaziland and South Sudan to lose eligibility because of its dismal human rights record. 

Nevertheless, a new page of Gambia's history has started with Adama Barrow. It would be interesting to see how the new Gambia's president will deal with widespread corruption, chronic food shortage, and terribly mismanaged economy. Gambia ranks dead last in Africa in terms of GDP per capita, the only country to experience a decline since 1994.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
International Affairs Expert
Political Analyst

Photo Credit: AFP-photo of : Mt Adama Barrow, campaigning in Banjul

Friday, 2 December 2016

FRANCE: Francois Hollande's Presidency

Francois Hollande, France's first Socialist president in 17 years, has announced he will not run for a second term in office. Never before has a French president fallen in public sentiment as quickly as François Hollande. Since taking office, Hollande has experienced the fastest drop in popularity ever seen in French presidential politics. 

After Hollande became the Socialists' candidate for president -- in the party's first-ever direct primary election -- he relished the public strolls that brought him closer to his supporters. They were scheduled at every campaign event, and Hollande was happy to take the time for them. So many elderly women wanted kisses on the cheek from him that, shortly after his election, he jokingly called himself le président des bisous, or "the president of kisses." But 4 years gone, Hollande's trips across France become shockingly PR disaster. 


The first year of his presidency saw his popularity sliding in inverse proportion to the rise in unemployment, which has climbed as high as 10 per cent. A series of mishaps, from a barrage of tax rises to a very public falling out between his ex-partner, Ségolène Royal, and his then partner, Valérie Trierweiler, heaped ridicule on the president, and by the end of that first year, Hollande had become, in record time, the most unpopular leader France has ever known.

He and his advisers made every effort to start year two on a sounder footing. He told his ministers to stop arguing and to clear press interviews with his office. They were to take only very short holidays and preferably in France. His then prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault and he would take their short breaks in turn so the state didn’t close down for the summer as it has a tendency to do. The government team was seen to be making every effort to put France back on its feet again. None of it worked. Even the apparently successful military action in Mali in January 2013 allowed Hollande but a brief moment of respite in the polls. 

Francois Hollande's biggest problem is that he's not just unpopular in one political demographic, but in many. That's true as much among parts of the Socialist Party base, which has already labeled light reforms and minimal budget cuts as betrayal, as it is among many centrists, who had expected more pragmatism from him. That's not to mention the right, which is just as incensed by Hollande's economic policies as it is by his decision to legalize same sex-marriage.

Hollande struggles also to find convincing counterarguments as unemployment has risen to 11 percent, economic data looks more dismal by the week, industrial output is taking a nosedive and national debt is 90 percent of gross domestic product, the economy is barely growing and public spending is at 57 percent of GDP.  As long as the economy doesn't improve, nothing could boost Hollande's popularity.

Few pundits in France are wholeheartedly defending Hollande. Even in the left-wing media, which had previously been inclined to grant him favorable coverage, commentators are now accusing him of having no vision, doing too little, speaking publicly too seldom and leaving his government muddling through.

During his presidential campaign, Hollande often made it sound as if he could reform the country effortlessly, talking of "renewal" rather than of the painful measures that would be necessary to achieve it. Many of his campaign promises gave the impression that there was money available, just waiting to be given out. But 4 years gone, he has done nothing at all.

Socialist of the classical, orthodox and anlytical variations argue that because social democratic programs retain the capitalist mode of production, they also retain the fundamental issues of capitalism, including cyclical fluctuations, exploitation and alienation. Social democratic programs intended to ameliorate capitalism, such as unemployment benefits, taxation on profits and the wealthy, create contradictions of their own by limiting the efficiency of the capitalist system by reducing incentives for capitalists to invest in production.

Here, perhaps, lies the greatest dilemma of Hollande's presidency. In the midst of the economic crisis, Francois Hollande was confused. France was calling for nationalization of some industries and ''deglobalization'', but the president shies away from necessary structural reforms. Failing to walk on his shoes of ''reformer'' and ''leaning toward ''Left-wing'', the French Socialist President in 17 years, has abandoned his Social Democrat stance and become more of a liberal capitalist.

The Fifth Republic element

The problem of Hollande's presidency is not just the economy, the rocketing taxes, the cuts, the unemployment and the social divisions. It is about the nature of the Fifth Republic and Hollande’s failure to grasp the exigencies of presidential office. There is a general sense that not only does he not know what to do in terms of governmental policy, but doesn’t know how a president is supposed to behave, what he is supposed to be. And it was on this “question of character” that he was elected president in May 2012.

During the presidential campaign of 2012, Hollande was right to attack Sarkozy’s brash, bling, in-your-face style; but in the hyper-personalised presidential system of French politics, you cannot be a president without a character and a perceived relationship to the French, because that character is on show and in action all the time, and in a permanently evolving relationship to public opinion.

In the run up to his election and for a while after, Hollande revelled in his reputation as “Mr Normal” but normal does not actually mean anything; and he has gone zigzagging between ordinary – catching trains instead of planes (that didn’t last long), to trying belatedly to sound “presidential” and just seeming in turns bombastic and banal, such as when he threatened Syria with imminent punishment and then ultimately did nothing. The irony is that Hollande is as much in the spotlight as Sarkozy ever was, but without a defined personality or purpose or sense of direction.

The rather jolly optimistic personality he does have (and it is his real one) is utterly out of touch with the mood of the time right now, and simply infuriates people. It is as if he is in a kind of psychological denial, unable to see the realities of the crisis. The result has been a public reaction that runs from indifference to anger. Every intervention he makes sees his opinion poll ratings fall even further and he now finds himself on the edge of the abyss.

This is partly because the Fifth Republic is personalised to the point of being dysfunctional. Each new president enters into a highly complex relationship with French public opinion. It is a relationship that can be calm and reassuring, but can also be highly volatile. It manifests the range of emotions that we find in real personal relationships, from admiration and respect to the exasperation.

And because the regime is so personalised, all political competition in the regime is too. In its ten years in opposition after 2002, the Socialist Party spent so much time squabbling amongst itself, it forgot to develop any policies. When it regained power in 2012, its members had no idea how to govern, hence the current chaos in every government department.

Now in power, little of the government’s legislation – apart from the tax rises – seems to have had any effect apart from irritating people, whether it is in education, housing, pension reform, health, the civil service or justice. No bold decisions have been taken on anything, so fearful are the Socialists of upsetting their disintegrating electoral base, and none of the structural reforms that other European countries are putting through have been replicated. Even the gay marriage bill brought the country to the verge of civil strife. In the UK, the same bill took an afternoon to pass.

Hollande's decision ( not to run for the second term in office) leaves the way open for a bitter Socialist primary race in January to decide who will run in his place. Manuel Valls, the ambitious prime minister who is tough law and order voice and pro-business reformist on the right of the party, could now decide to run to become the Socialist candidate.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
International Affairs Expert
Political Analyst/Author

Thursday, 1 December 2016

MYANMAR: The ethnic cleansing of ''Rohingya''

Myanmar has made some impressive and unprecedented changes, including the release of many political prisoners, the rolling back of censorship and the lifting of restrictions to allow opposition political parties, including Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy's win in the last parliamentarian election.

However, it is far too early to say whether Myanmar will continue to make progress, stall, or even fall back into a vicious circle of ethnic and sectarian violence that derails the efforts of reformers and empowers vested interests in the new leader. In fact, some of the most important signs are currently pointing in a distressing direction. The grim fact is that Burmese authorities and local groups have engaged in a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the country's Rohingya Muslims that has left that community devastated. .

Last month, Myanmar's army has carried out a bloody crackdown in the western state of Rakhine and thousands of Rohingya have flooded over the border into Bangladesh this month, making horrifying claims of gang rape, torture, and murder at the hands of security forces.

Analysis of satellite images by the Human Rights Watch found hundreds of buildings in Rakhine state have been razed. Myanmar has denied allegations of abuse, but has also banned foreign journalists and independent investigators from accessing the area. Myanmar de faco leader Aung San Suu Kyi has faced growing international backlash for what a UN official has said amounts to a campaign of ethnic cleansing.

Abdul Razal Ali Artan, the somali-born student accused of carrying out a car and knife attack in Ohio State University this week, reportedly protested on his Facebook page about the killing of minority Muslims in Myanmar. Malaysia has abruptly cancelled two under-22 football friendlies against Myanmar to protest at the bloody crackdown on Rohingya Muslims.

There has been great disappointment that Nobel laureate Aung Suu Kyi, whose political party took power in Myanmar this year after a decade of military rule, has failed to ease the plight of Rohingya, despite her reputation as fighter of human rights. However, Suu Kyi's government in August appointed former UN Secretary General, Koffi Annan, to head an advisory panel aimed at finding lasting solutions to the conflict in Rakhine state. he is scheduled to visit Rakhine state on Friday.

The Rohingya are a Muslim ethnic minority of one million people that has lived in Rakhine state for centuries. But they face systematic religious and ethnic discrimination because under Myanmar’s constitution, they are not classified as one of 135 legally recognized ethnic minority groups with Myanmar citizenship. Ethnic Burmese consider the Rohingya as “illegal immigrants” from Bangladesh. But Bangladesh does not recognize the Rohingya as its citizens.

But despite Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy's win in the last parliamentarian election, many things inside the country have not changed. Burma's abusive military is still involved in perpetrating serious offenses -- including war crimes and crimes against humanity -- with impunity, as evidenced over the past two years in its war with the Kachin Independence Army in Kachin State that has displaced over 80,000 civilians, and its role in stoking and perpetrating crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State.

The army still enjoys complete immunity from civilian control, justice and any oversight in its affairs. It maintains a bloated budget that crowds out spending to address the massive poverty and social problems caused by its long period of misrule.

There are reports that the perpetrators of these massacres are well-organized, and that the police usually stands by and watches as killings are carried out in broad daylight. Such reports lead to accusations of official complicity in the massacres. Suspicion is prompted by belief that elements within the government or military view communal unrest as a cue for the reinvigoration of a military whose overarching power in Burma is fading away.

If the army may have helped to ignite the Rakhine massacres, the fuel, in the form of anti-Muslim sentiment among Burmese, has been stored up over decades, born of propaganda campaigns in the 1960s that triggered pogroms against Indian Muslims, and later the Rohingya in  Rakhibe and Arakan states, and the historic conflation of Buddhism with Burmese nationalism.

The situation in Rakhine appears to lend weight to claims by some observers that an ethnic cleansing campaign is underway in parts of the country. There, the town's once sizeable Muslim population has been driven into camps which journalists are barred from entering; a similar campaign of cleansing has occurred in Sittwe in Arakan state.

The geographical reach of the campaign goes beyond just areas with a high Muslim presence. In the Shan state town of Namkham, anti-Muslim posters begin appearing on lampposts, even though only several hundred Muslims live among the population of 100,000. Locals there, who have resisted a lucrative China-backed oil and gas pipeline that passes close by, have questioned whether the sudden threat of religious unrest in a town where the two religions had coexisted peacefully could be used as a pretext by authorities to crack down on anti-pipeline activities.

This then appears to be a campaign that benefits two powerful forces in Burma: ultra-nationalist civilian groups and hard-line elements in the government and military. If both are strengthened as a result, this will have far-reaching repercussions for the development of democracy in Burma.

By Prof Guylain Gustave Moke
International Affairs Expert
Political Analyst/Author


Wednesday, 30 November 2016

FRANCE: In search of ''A True Leader''

If polls reflect the pulse of a people, the French appear to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
The Center for Political Research at Sciences Po released the findings of a nationwide public opinion study.

More than half the respondents think that France is now locked into an "irreversible decline," while three out of five fear that globalization threatens France. Two-thirds describe France's democracy as "malfunctioning," while an even greater proportion insists that politicians seek only their own personal gain -- a revelation, perhaps, on the order of Captain Renault's shocking discovery in the film Casablanca that gambling was going on at Rick's.

Yet there is one finding less easy to dismiss: Nearly nine out of 10 respondents lament the absence of "authority" in France and think that the country needs a "vrai chef," or real leader, to "re-establish order." The survey contains all the necessary ingredients for making the volatile brew of populism. For this reason, the poll's results are unfortunately far from groundbreaking: France's past is littered with ligues, or movements, that have sought to harness the power of popular disenchantment with politics.

The tinder for the cauldron is plentiful. Jacques Chirac, who served as president from 1995 to 2007, was found guilty in 2011 of diverting public funds for political purposes while he was mayor of Paris in the 1980s. His successor, Nicolas Sarkozy, is enmeshed in a number of corruption cases that include, among other juicy details, thick envelopes of cash exchanging hands at the mansion of the L'Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt. Perhaps even more importantly, critics have accused Sarkozy of playing the populist card by repeatedly raising the issue of national identity and enflaming the French public's fear of Islam.

President François Hollande has proved immune to such politics, he has also left the impression that he is not à la hauteur, or equal to the challenge, of events. Hollande's rating in public opinion polls seems locked in a death spiral. For many French, it seems that the president's nickname, "Flanby" -- a custard desert popular with children -- is all too apt. Many French think that Hollande is not capable of making the right decisions for France and he can not  unite the nation. For these reasons, French voters are desperate to try something new, a new kind of ''vrai chef'' (true leader) to restore France's clout.

It comes as no surprise that Francois Fillon, a free market social conservative,  who won France's center right primary by a landslide, positioning him as the leading mainstream candidate to take on National Front leader Marine Le Pen in the presidential election next year, a political has been, to be seen as ''the man'' to restore France's standing.

Despite the fact that a Fillon's victory in the spring could usher in a ''Conservatism Revolution'' via a Gallic brand of Thatcherism mixing economic liberalism with social conservatism, the likes of which France has never seen, French are nevertheless drawn by Fillon's message that the entire system is morally and ideologically bankrupt.

The Center for Political Research at Sciences Po's findings agree with trends in France dating back to the early 1990s that reveal both a growing distaste for the individualist ethos of 1968 and a "growing demand for public order." In fin-de-siècle France, there was a deepening of what Chirac called la fracture sociale, or social inequality, provoked by persistently high levels of unemployment, particularly among the beur population -- youths whose families are of North African origin -- along with growing unease over the place in French society of its 5 million or so Muslims. With the explosive wave of riots that swept the cités, or suburbs, in 2005, the fracture sociale appeared unbridgeable.

Yet, at the same time, the poll raises not just fears, but questions. Clearly, the French are desperately seeking a real leader. Less clear, though, is precisely what kind of leader they want. France's past, it turns out, offers more than one candidate.

The best known, perhaps, is the Bonapartist model. When the smoke and confusion settled in the wake of 18 Brumaire Year VIII -- or Nov. 9, 1799, for those unfamiliar with the French revolutionary calendar -- Napoleon Bonaparte bequeathed France, and the world, a certain idea of leadership. His successful coup against the First Republic inaugurated the opening phase of a dictatorship that convulsed the West's physical and political landscapes. No less importantly, the Napoleonic experience forged a new type of leader, one who embodied the nation's destiny and bridged its political and ideological divisions.

Half a century later, Napoleon's nephew, Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, re-enacted the 18 Brumaire. When he overthrew by force in 1851 the Second Republic that he had served as president, Napoleon III launched what scholars identify as the chief ideological vehicle for political populism. It was an authoritarian movement that adapted democratic practices like universal manhood suffrage and referendums, all with the goal of legitimating the rule of a charismatic leader who stood above mere politics.

At the end of the 19th century, Bonapartism morphed into a more toxic movement, Boulangism, that heaved a different model of the vrai chef into the world. In fact, this year marks the 125th anniversary of the stunning rise and flaming fall of the man who bequeathed his name to this ideology.

In many ways, 1888 seems a rehearsal for France's current predicament. The fledgling Third Republic was lurching from one political scandal to the next, anxious over its ability to compete in a new global marketplace, preoccupied by the influx of immigrants, and prey to racist demagogues whose target was not the Muslim, but the Jew. Public disgust with politics was widespread, as were doubts about the very viability of the republican model.

At that moment, Gen. Georges Boulanger strode across the national stage -- or, more accurately, rode across it on his white steed. Hailed by many on the left as well as right, seen as the guarantor of national glory and restorer of political authority, the general, who cut a dashing figure on horseback, handily won a series of national elections. By the end of the year, Boulanger's popularity seemed so great that many observers waited for him to simply claim power by marching on the National Assembly. He failed to do so, but he had nevertheless united for a brief moment a remarkably varied collection of groups united only in their desire for a strong leader, their hatred of traditional democracy, and their readiness to overthrow the established political order.

This has since become the standard French model of populism: nationalistic, anti-liberal, and anti-democratic. And it was the very model that many believed Charles de Gaulle revived when he came to power. The extraordinary presidential powers he placed at the heart of the Fifth Republic -- an authoritarian presidency based on the Bonapartist tools of universal suffrage and referendums -- were designed to institutionalize the sway of a vrai chef. But it turned out that Gaullism without de Gaulle was mostly an empty ideological shell, while even the monarchical powers of his republic were unable to resist the social and economic changes sweeping across his country.

In turn, de Gaulle leads us, quite literally, to a third kind of leader. In 1946, he made a pilgrimage to a village in France's Vendée region. At a modest gravestone, the leader of the Free French paid homage to the great republican leader Georges Clemenceau. Defender of Dreyfus and enemy of the church, Clemenceau is most famous, or infamous, for his authoritarian policies when he was in office. Although a republican, he fiercely suppressed massive labor strikes in 1905 to restore public order, and his near-dictatorial rule as prime minister in 1917 yanked France from its growing defeatism and pulled it to victory.

Whereas Clemenceau was an atheist and man of the left, and de Gaulle was a Catholic and man of the right, the two men shared a few crucial traits that suggest what a vrai chef means for most French. They were equally indifferent to their own wealth, equally  scornful of party politics, equally committed to the greatness of France, and equally convinced that they alone could guarantee that grandeur. These qualities are always unusual, to be sure. But their absence is felt with particular anguish today.

Clemenceau once remarked that war is too important to be left to the generals. But as France's past reminds us, this does not mean politics is too important to be left to politicians -- or, put differently, that real leaders cannot be politicians.

Unlike the men of the Bonapartist or Boulangist tradition, Clemenceau and de Gaulle were supremely political and selfless. The frame of their political vision dwarfed their own ambitions. Both men saw themselves as leaders not of a party, but of the nation; as guarantors not of their private fortunes, but of France's republican fortunes. The frame for Clemenceau and de Gaulle, in a word, was France. It may well be that this is the sort of vrai chef the French are seeking today.

Prof  Guylain Gustave Moke
Political Analyst/Author
International Affairs Expert

Monday, 28 November 2016

FRANCE: Francois Fillon's surge

Francois Fillon, a free market social conservative, won France's center right primary by a landslide, positioning him as the leading mainstream candidate to take on National Front leader Marine Le Pen in the presidential election net year.

Mr Fillon, a former prime minister who compares himself to Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, resoundingly defeated Bordeaux Mayor, Alain Juppé, in the runoff of the ''Républicains'' primary yesterday, garnering 66% of votes according to counts from 96% of polling stations.

The upset forces France's mainstream parties to rethink their approach to Marine Le Pen, an anti-immigrant euroskeptic, who polls show would easily reach the second round of next year presidential election. With the more staunchly conservative, Mr Fillon as the center right's standard bearer, the party will come under more pressure to drive turnout among right-leaning voters.

Francois Fillon's victory presents the ''Front National'' with a strategy problem. He calls for deep spending cuts, loosening labor laws that protect workers and tax breaks for business and the rich. If elected in the spring, Monsieur Fillon would slash half a million public sector jobs and $106 billion in public spending, abolish the 35 hour workweek and raise the retirement age and roll back parts of same sex couple's adoption law.

The ''Front National'' has reason to fear Fillon. His traditionalist and socially conservative line on family values and the Christian roots of France, his emphasis on French national identity, sovereignty and patriotism, his hard line on immigration and Islam as well as pro-Putin foreign agenda against ''America Imperialism'' all overlap with some of Marine Le Pen's key ideas.

This could potentially see Fillon steal some of Marine Le Pen's most socially conservative voters, particularly right wing elderly people, who always have a big turnout to vote but remain skeptical about the ''Front National''. However, Fillon might struggle to appeal to the lower middle class and working class voters who are afraid of losing their jobs.

This leaves Marine Le Pen a wide margin in which to go for Fillon's jugular as she fights a campaign centred on the people versus the elite. The Front National has already begun attacking Fillon as snobbish, political has been. It argues that Fillon, as Nicolas Sarkozy's prime minister, was responsible for the failures of the Sarkozy era and cares more about the rich, globalized elite than the working class who have faced decades of mass unemployment.

On the economy:  Fillon has promised a radical shock for France with free-market reform, major cuts to public sector jobs and reducing public spending. Le Pen claims to represent the forgotten French underclass and has economic line that is essentially left wing: she is anti globalization and favors protectionism and state intervention.

On the eurozone, Fillon has backed the creation of a  common eurozone treasury and the establishment of an independent ''general secretary'' divorced from the European Commission to lead on governance matters in the single currency area. Marine Le Pen has by contrast called for France to leave the eurozone and promised a series of reflationary economic measures, including reviving France's declining heartlands.

A Fillon's victory in the spring could also usher in a ''Conservatism Revolution'' via a Gallic brand of Thatcherism mixing economic liberalism with social conservatism, the likes of which France has never seen.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
International Affairs Expert
Political Analyst/Author