World View: France's President Francois Hollande Suffers Election Debacle

World View: France's President Francois Hollande Suffers Election Debacle

This morning’s key headlines from

  • Thailand approaches a crisis point in anti-government riots
  • France’s president François Hollande suffers election debacle
  • Russia, U.S. remain deadlocked over Ukraine after 4 hours talks
  • Michael Lewis: How the stock market is rigged

Thailand approaches a crisis point in anti-government riots

Thailand’s “red shirt” supporters of prime minister YingluckShinawatra have remained relatively quiet, in the face of “yellowshirt” anti-government protests that have been going on sinceDecember. But on Monday Yingluck will have to defend herself againstcorruption charges before a National Anti-Corruption Commission(NACC), and if the commission recommends impeachment, then it couldtrigger counter-protests and riots by the “red shirt” supporters.

The anti-government protesters are demanding that prime ministerYingluck Shinawatra resign, and allow the protesters to appoint anunelected “People’s Council” that will rule in place of the electedgovernment. The Bangkok protests are a clash between two ethnicgroups: the “yellow shirt” market-dominant light-skinned Thai-Chineseelite minority, vastly outnumbered by the “red shirt” dark-skinnedThai-Thai who do most of the menial labor, and who continue to supportthe Yingluck’s Pheu Thai political party. Because of the Thai-Thaimajority, the Pheu Thai have won the last five elections and cancontinue to do so. That’s why the elite Thai-Chinese anti-governmentprotesters want to throw out democracy and replace the electedgovernment with their own People’s Council that they can control.

There are fears that any red shirt march on Bangkok could end in abloodbath, similar to one that occurred in 2010. Reuters

France’s president François Hollande suffers election debacle

Sunday’s nationwide municipal elections in France have dealt astunning blow to president François Hollande and his governingSocialist party. Turnout was low, and it’s thought that the reason isthat his supporters, furious that he’s not left-wing enough andembarrassed by his scandals, stayed home without bothering to vote.

France’s economy has been tanking. The number of people out of workis at a record high, and earlier this month, the European Commissionwarned that France’s debt is going out of control, blaming it on lackof competitiveness in the unfavorable business environment:

“France is projected to miss both headline deficit andstructural adjustment targets over the entire forecast period.

Despite measures taken to foster competitiveness, so far there islimited evidence of rebalancing. While wages have developed inline with productivity, the labor cost remains high and weighs onfirms’ profit margins.

The unfavorable business environment, and in particular the lowlevel of competition in services, further aggravate thecompetitiveness challenge. In addition, rigidities in the wagesetting system result in difficulties for firms to adjust wages toproductivity.”

Further, President Hollande has been through two recent scandalsthat would be fit for a televised situation comedy.

The first occurred in January, when Hollande called a reporterand announced:

“I wish to make it known that I have ended mypartnership with Valérie Trierweiler.”

Trierweiler was his 48 year old girlfriend, who had lived with him inthe Élysée Palace since he took office last year. But a reporter haddiscovered that Hollande was sneaking out of the Palace and spendingnights with a 41 year old actress, Julie Gayet.

The second recent scandal occurred earlier this month, over aninvestigation in the wiretapping of the phone of Hollande’spredecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy. Hollande denied that this governmenthad anything to do with it, and France’s Justice Minister ChristianeTaubira gave a press conference denied knowing anything about it.During the press conference she held up two documents, assuming thatno one could read them. But Le Monde was able to zoom in and read thedocuments, and the documents proved that she was lying, as she had toadmit the next day.

Beyond the theatre, French voters were looking for a change. Many hadexpected Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Front party would scorewell in the elections. The National Front did well, though not nearlyas well as they had hoped. The big winner was the center-right Unionfor Popular Movement (UMP), which is headed by Nicolas Sarkozy.However, Sarkozy himself is also under investigation, for involvementin irregular party funding practices (which is the reason why hisphone was being tapped in the first place). BBC and Reuters and Reuters

Russia, U.S. remain deadlocked over Ukraine after 4 hours talks

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russia’s Foreign Minister SergeiLavrov talked for four hours on Sunday, with no agreement. At theend, according to the BBC, Lavrov looked “satisfied,” while Kerryreporter actually say, “Awwww. Couldn’t they reach any agreement?That’s a shame.”) Lavrov denied that Russia has any plans for aninvasion, but continued to lay the groundwork for such an invasion, bycalling the government in Kiev “fascists,” jeopardizing the safety ofethnic Russians and Russian speakers. Russian troops massed onUkraine’s borders will not be pulled back. The impression, accordingto the BBC, is that the U.S. is “bending over backwards” in the hopeof getting a diplomatic solution. The meeting had been arranged onFriday, when Russia’s president Vladimir Putin telephoned PresidentBarack Obama. BBC

Michael Lewis: How the stock market is rigged

Most people who are active in the stock market these daysare large hedge funds and institutional investors, who runcompanies have invested millions of dollars in software algorithmsand high-speed networking to be able to make dozens of stocktrades in a second.

So it won’t come as a surprise to anyone that the wealthiest investorshave rigged the stock market so that they can make unethical profitsat the expense of less fortunate investors. According to best-sellingfinancial investigative reporter Michael Lewis, they use a techniquecalled “front running.”

The way it works is that if you buy a million shares of something,then your order will go through another company’s computer. Thatcomputer will allow only half your order to go through. Then it willpurchase the other half of your order, and resell it to you at ahigher price. All this goes on in a fraction of a second on acomputer server in New Jersey linked to the NY Stock Exchange.CBS News 60 Minutes

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