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©Mike Ham, 2002. All rights reserved. No reproduction without, at least, tacit approval. ;-)
Will Weissman Survive more than six months?
President Weissman has stepped into a legacy of short-lived Presidents, both
with high hopes and a strong desire to reform the country, but both brought low by popular
opposition; one by people-power after the Penyassa assassination, and the other by the
ballot box. Zeitgeist Magazine looks in this article at the keys to his predecessors'
downfalls and asks the question: what will make Weissman different?
President Weissman has been a busy man. In only two weeks he has brought together
ten political parties to act as a cohesive whole, as a centrist (and virulently
anti-communist) government. Will he survive? His two predecessors did not serve their
entire terms. They were ousted within months. What will stop Weissman being the third such
Determination is not enough, for President Kope was the king of determination. In
his acceptance speech in September last year, the President stood, his chest puffed in
defiance, and dared the communists or the militarists to *try* and take the country from
the grasp of the people. He understood more clearly than his predecessor, the mood of the
country. They were sick of the factions playing a tit-for-tat war against eachother. It
had to stop. Because he succeeded in stopping it, is that why Kope is now languishing on
Keeping the dogs happy: Kope's failure
President Kope understood the people's needs, but he didn't balance the play. He
played too much offence, to use the sporting analogy, and not enough defence in his home
court. He didn't play politics, didn't smooth the political path. He was a man of action,
a man of few but very well-placed words, and effectively told the politicians he didn't
need them -- the people were on his side. His popularity is still a strong 66% (total
approval), compared to President Weissman's 40%, and remains the strongest of all
potential leaders. Yet, when the politicians got together to discuss who would be team
captain, Kope was out on his own. Even his own party (the Peoples Party of Gvonj (PPG))
was reluctant to suggest him.
Part of this has much to do with whom he was elected by. President Kope was backed
by the communists, and no one backed by the communists can EVER be any good, goes the
anti-communist rhetoric. Certainly Weissman seems to believe it, forever alienated from
Kope by the fact that the latter apparently betrayed the "moderate's cause" by seeking
power by being backed by the enemy. No one can be completely sure why Kope sought
communist support for his candidacy, but certainly the politicians have never trusted him
since, and he has never felt the need to explain himself. Afterall, who are they, these
mere politicians, for him to justify himself to? The People were on his side.
Another possible reason President Kope was forced to the backbench is that he was
too clearly focused on one goal: an end to the war with the communists. He had no "beyond"
agenda, no plan for the economy, no plan to revitalise industry, to export the country to
a happier future. Upon his election he listed only three very short-term goals to complete
-- elections, seeking peace by halving the size of the military, and finding Penyassa's
assasin -- as though he was willing the electorate to see him as a "fill-in President".
Who wants a single minded President?
Certainly, his dogged pursuit of the military, at the risk of the country's
security, while cosying to the communists deeply biased many conservatives and centrists
So, will President Weissman fair better? He has certainly played better politics,
making sure that all parties in his very broad coalition feel accepted and a part of the
cabinet. He has certainly proven his credentials as an anti-communist, using the bogey as
the reason for the coalition in the first place. And his goals for his administration are
certainly broader than Kope's: economy, unemployment, peace with Patak, and an end to the
persecution of the military. This latter point goes a long way toward proving his
commitment to defending the country, and to being prepared to fight the communists again,
to having some leverage to apply on them.
So, he is no President Kope, in fact, much the opposite. And if he is Kope's
opposite, he must be like the hapless President K'yonte?!
President K'yonte II?
When President K'yonte arrived in office he committed himself to three primary
tasks, much like President Weissman: the economy, and sharing it fairly, development of
the country's infrastructure and peace with the communists, but not at any cost. Sounding
"I will commit myself to the task of revitalising the national economy, and
expanding the wealth that this brings, so that all may share in it." said President
Weissman a few days ago, just over a year after President K'yonte pledged to do the same.
Like K'yonte, he has also promised to talk with the communists, and will make some
concessions -- such as a general amnesty and improved social services nationwide so that
the Pataki, who enjoy excellent services under the communists, do not lose out -- but
will not concede their equality with the Haastadt government.
In addition, President Weissman has the same concensus approach of his
second-to-immediate-predecessor: keeping the politicians happy will keep the people happy.
So, can we expect President Weissman to fall in July to an angry population tired
of the lack of progress?
Well, unless the demoralised military is planning another assassination of another
"Rhosei Penyassa" figure, then perhaps the conditions will not be brought about. But, the
angry protests of a million people or more were not as much about the injustice against
Penyassa, as the stagnation of the government.
Weissman appears to be solving that problem with a far more active inner cabinet,
filled with "go-getters" and potential leaders. He seems readier to dispose of those who
fail to act, too. In addition, his Finance/Economy Minister, Adolph Gottlieb, is a real
find, a man with sound skills to tackle the rapidly deflating economy.
So, will President Weissman succeed where Kope and K'yonte did not?
It is the considered opinion of this magazine to say, unequivocally, "perhaps".
Perhaps... Weissman's REAL problem
The real trouble for Mr Weissman lies not in his cabinet, nor his own skills or
characteristics. It would appear that he has focused appropriately on the failures of his
predecessors, and learned from their mistakes. He is a strong but firmly diplomatic
leader, and has assembled a crafty, skilled cabinet.
It's his "Green Coalition" that will be his "Achilles Heel" for the duration of his
government. How focused on the "big picture" will they remain? How long will it be before
they start asking for their own "special considerations", their own pet expenditures? How
long before the miniscule Independence for the Pataki Party (IPP, 8 MNAs) demands
concessions of its own, or a special R100 million spending package, and threatens to
withhold support from the coalition?
The "Green coalition" is so finely tuned that it could take only one party, one of
the ten, to bring the whole government down. And heaven forbid that it should be one of
the four main parties, stretching from the leftist PIMR to the conservative DUP.
President Weissman will have to devote significant time of his own to nurturing
that coalition, and not "play a Kope", taking the various factions for granted. One slip
could bring his whole card-house down, and with it, the possibilities his government
So, watch this year for the cracks to appear, and then watch Weissman closely. His
ear should be close to the ground, and his hearing finely tuned to keep this train on the
tracks. If he fails to keep the factions tightly in place, predict failure ahead. His
diplomacy will keep the country on track.
Yet, should he fail, the only alternative, much to Weissman's disgust, is a
communist-lead coalition with the PIMR. Perhaps Kope will get a second shot? Unlikely.
One reserve power, one bullet, remains in Weissman's Presidential crown that might prevent
that: he alone has the power to call an early election. If pushed between the prospect of
a communist government and fresh elections, there should be no debate as to which
President Weissman will choose.
Here's to hoping this is one silver bullet he never has to use. External confidence
in the country cannot take too many more beatings.
Stocks continue to stagnate - when will the Govt. release cash controls?