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Staying power

Afghanistan

President Karzai should face re-election in 2009 and despite his low public standing, few think he has any real rival for the hot seat. “He rarely kicks out friends who may be corrupt, which inspires a high degree of loyalty,” says Anand Gopal, Christian Science Monitor reporter in Kabul.

Low expectations

Czech Republic

As prime minister of the Czech Republic, the richer half of the former Czechoslovakia, Mirek Topolánek (above) knows more about break-ups than reunions. So he may seem a curious choice to advise Cyprus on how to unify. But Cyprus will be one trouble spot on the agenda when the Czech Republic takes over the European Union presidency for the first half of 2009.

Topolánek, however, already has his hands full with domestic problems. The country’s motto for its six-month term is “Europe without barriers” but it has not ratified the Treaty of Lisbon, which is languishing in the Constitutional Court. And Moscow is meddling in the country too, according to the Czech security service.

Topolánek, 52, is leader of the right-wing Civic Democratic Party. In government he is struggling to hold together a centre-right coalition of conservatives, Greens and Christian Democrats. There are low expectations for Prague’s term in charge, says Czech political analyst Jiri Pehe. “No one in Brussels expects the Czech Republic to provide any leadership. Topolánek and the Czech Republic are seen as troublemakers. It will be hard for him to be taken seriously.

Slovenia was the last small country to hold the EU presidency. How did it do?

Five successes:01 Diffused potential tension from nearby Kosovo’s independence.
02 Made the case for other Balkan states to become EU members in future.
03 Successfully pushed for a tacit political agreement with Serbia to bring war criminals to justice. Not long afterwards, Radovan Karadzic was arrested.
04 A Europe-wide Working Time Directive.
05 Developed a timetable for an EU energy and environmental package.

Q&A: Jagdish Bhagwati

Economist

Columbia University

Who deserves a bigger stage in 2009?
Anders Fogh Rasmussen, prime minister of Denmark. The Danish models of crisis rescue mechanics and its welfare state have attracted worldwide attention. Rasmussen is presiding over the December 2009 meeting on a new Climate Change Treaty; there could be no better choice.

And who should get off it?
I would love to see Bono get off the news and for politicians to stop making so much of him. He sings well; but his ideas about spending the aid money he collects leave a lot to be desired. Let him take a leaf out of Warren Buffett’s book, a man who gave $31bn to the Bill Gates Foundation. What a smart, and non-self-serving move!

Which nations will be on the up?
Russia, much maligned in the US and UK press, has also been putting its oil earnings to excellent use, avoiding the “oil curse” and can be expected to continue its economic progress.

And on the down?
Venezuela: Hugo Chávez has allowed his resentment of the US attempt to organise a coup against him to corrupt his policies. Iraq is a big question mark, and the success of the surge may evaporate. Iran is another, as it moves towards a nuclear arsenal with the West aligned against this

2009 defence forecast

The developments and deals to track

Land
Possible trials of the US’s new Silent Guardian “millimetre-wave area denial weapon” in Afghanistan or Iraq. It features a radar-like antenna that sends out an invisible beam causing an unbearable burning sensation under the skin, but apparently has no lasting effect or injury.

Air
Saab’s Gripen fighter may finally break out of Scandinavia and clinch export deals in India, Romania, Switzerland and maybe Brazil. This could see Gripen established as the new default option for countries who can’t afford Lockheed Martin’s fighters.

Sea
The UK’s Royal Navy will take delivery of HMS Astute in 2009, the largest and most advanced nuclear attack submarine ever. Ultra-quiet and powered by a nuclear reactor fuelled for 25 years, she will carry torpedoes and missiles, and boasts one of the world’s most advanced sonars. She can also allow swimmer delivery vehicles to be covertly deployed while submerged.

Game on

Chicago, Madrid, Rio or Tokyo

In October 2009 four cities around the world will hear if they are to host the Olympic Games in 2016. Here are our views on the shortlist:
Chicago: The US brand cannot be improved by hosting the games, but then this is Obama-town.
Tokyo: A Japanese Games could reinvigorate and reinterpret the country for a new era.
Madrid: Another European Games after London is unlikely, even though it would boost Spain’s status.
Rio: It hasn’t helped that an International Olympic Committee inspector’s wife was mugged. —

The Beetle’s return

Libya

In 2009 there’ll be major celebrations to mark Colonel Gaddafi’s 40 years in power. There’s a branding opportunity for VW here: in 1969 Gaddafi toured the country in a VW Beetle as he fomented revolt. Perhaps he’d like a commemorative edition to mark the occasion.

CLIMATE 01: THE DANISH WAY

Emission commander

Denmark

How do we control CO2 emissions, when the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012? That’s the main question to be resolved at the United Nations’ Climate Change Conference, COP15, taking place in Copenhagen in December 2009. Around 15,000 participants from 189 countries are expected to gather in the Danish capital to negotiate how the world moves toward a low-carbon economy.

And Denmark is already a long way down that low-carbon road. Through a persistently dynamic energy policy, the country’s economy has seen 75 per cent growth over the last 25 years, while keeping its energy consumption stable.

The recipe? Denmark has high energy standards for buildings; two thirds of rubbish is reused or recycled at heat and power plants (and water is recycled too, see picture below); district heating covers most of the country; and in spite of having almost no hydro power resources, Denmark is a leader in renewable energy.

Denmark shows that being green is good business too. Energy technology or “green tech” accounts for 8 per cent of the country’s exports. “Going green is not only the politically right thing to do – it’s also the economic smart thing to do,” says Danish PM Anders Fogh Rasmussen. “As the Danish experience shows, it’s not a choice between growth or climate – you can have both – combating climate change while creating new jobs.”

Q&A: Tham Khai Meng

Worldwide creative director, Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide

Singapore

Who would you like to see more of in 2009?
Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank; Nicholas Negroponte, the man behind One Laptop per Child, which provides computers for children in the developing world; architect Arata Izosaki; Colin Powell and Warren Buffett.

And less of?
Bad financial governance, and bad governments.

What themes will dominate headlines?
The development of global economic rules. Open markets need multilateral governance.

CLIMATE 02: BRAND NEW IMAGE

Host story

Denmark

The dream of every city hosting a major international congress is to derive brand benefit. There are two principles of success. The first is motive. The more authentic the reason for hosting the event, the bigger the brand boost is likely to be.

Secondly, the greater the mutuality of host city and event, the greater the chance the event’s theme sticks to the place after the tents are dismantled (as it did when climate was debated in Kyoto). What does Doha have to do with world trade? Nothing. What major brand benefit did it earn for hosting World Trade ­Organisation talks? None.

Copenhagen’s green credentials put it in good stead for the United Nations Climate Change Conference. For maximum branding effect, though, it should seek a fresh name for its pow-wow. The tag of cop15 (it’s the 15th UN climate congress) makes it sound like an Arnie movie. Designations including pact, convention, and accords are already associated with cities such as Warsaw, Geneva, Helsinki. Although it’s an obvious choice, “The Copenhagen Conference” would at least have an alliterative ring.

Keep it green: limiting COP15 emissions

01 Participants will use public transport.
02 Heads of state and ministers will be transported in green tech limousines.
03 CO2-certificates will off-set emissions.

The usual suspects

Where the UN will focus in 2009

Darfur
The world’s worst humanitarian crisis has cost hundreds of thousands of lives since spring 2003. The priority is to get UNAMID, the joint United Nations African Union Mission, up to full force. Only 9,000 troops, of a projected 26,000, have been deployed.

Israel-Palestine
The outline of a solution has long been agreed, yet negotiations are stalled. Now is the time for the UN to start flexing its diplomatic muscles.

Congo
A new upsurge in violence has seen tens of thousands displaced and threatens to destabilise the volatile Great Lakes region of Africa.

North Korea
The world’s most secretive and repressive state has one of the worst human rights records of any UN member state. But rumours that the leader Kim Jong-Il has suffered a stroke could leave room for behind-the-scenes pressures to liberalise.

Iran
A country with one of the world’s oldest and most sophisticated cultures is now ruled by a Shiite Islamic theocracy that hangs gay teenagers from cranes and stones adulterers to death. Already under UN sanctions, Iran is likely to pursue its nuclear ambitions.

Exit games

Uzbekistan

If the rumours are right, Uzbekistan’s strongman Islam Karimov is sick and may not make it to the end of 2009. He has suppressed every form of opposition and expects his daughter to keep up the good work when he is gone. Others may have different plans.

Q&A: Ritt Bjerregaard

Lord Mayor of Copenhagen

Denmark

Who deserves a bigger stage in 2009?
Citizens who are left in a difficult social situation by the current financial crisis.

And who should get off it?
Fortunately, George Bush will exit the stage.

What themes will dominate the year?
I’d like to think poverty will be at the top of the world agenda. But I doubt it will be.

Which nations will be on the up?
Nations who offer sustainable solutions.

And on the down?
The US and China should take more responsibility for the climate change challenge.

Following the leader

South Africa

What would a Jacob Zuma presidency mean for South Africa?

William Gumede, Thabo Mbeki’s biographer
“There is no guarantee he’ll get it. The crisis in the African National Congress is not going to go away – nor are the corruption charges. He has so many different ideologies and groups behind him. The glue that held them together was ­opposition to Mbeki. That’s gone now. Zuma’s individual record on all the things people criticised Mbeki for is almost the same. He’s just a much friendlier and more down-to-earth person – that’s the only thing that’s different.”

Richard Dowden, author of ‘Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles’ “Zuma is an absolutely brilliant speaker. But the problem is he tells crowds what they want to hear. When you are president you have to have one policy and stick to it. I’m not sure whether he will give his backing to the left’s agenda. He will try to keep all these different strands in the tent and keep people happy.”

Tšoeu Petlane, research fellow at the South African Institute of International Affairs
“Zuma will concentrate more on domestic issues whereas Mbeki liked to be seen as an international diplomat. In terms of substance, it won’t be that different. Mbeki leant a little towards capital, Zuma leans a little towards labour.”

New wave

South Africa

A new generation of black surfers is emerging from South African townships to tackle the mighty ocean and the status quo. After three years of bumming boards off white members of the Port St Johns Iliza Surf Academy, 15-year-old Zithobile Msesiwe is tipped to become South Africa’s first black professional surfer. Born in a home with no running water or electricity, Msesiwe is using his prize money from triumphs in regional championships in the Eastern Cape to travel to national contests and find a sponsor.

Power play

West’s foes face ballot box

Sudan
Date to be confirmed
The incumbent

Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir, could soon become the first sitting head of state charged with crimes against humanity – for allowing the killing of around 300,000 people in Darfur.
Will al-Bashir win again?
Adlan Hardallu, a University of Khartoum political analyst: “There is a strong dormant vote among the civilian population but the opposition doesn’t have the resources to mobilise it – only the ruling party does. If the elections take place, it’s likely he’ll win.”
Who would miss him?
“Nobody, except for some members of the army who benefit from him.”

Iran
12 June 2009
The incumbent

Since coming to power in 2005, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has upset the West with his nuclear aspirations and comments about wiping out Israel. At home, disaffection and inflation are growing.

Who are his main rivals?
According to Dr Laleh Khalili, Middle East politics lecturer at The School of Oriental and African Studies, London: “Probably Ali Larijani, an ally of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei [the supreme leader of Iran], and Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf, mayor of Tehran, who might have the same populist appeal of Ahmadinejad.”

Who would miss Ahmadinejad?
“At home he would be missed by the poor who see him as one of them. And abroad, by neoconservatives in the US and Israel who in him have their bogey-man.”

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