A good day for the greens

The big surprise out of yesterday's Brazilian election was the surprisingly strong showing of Green Party candidate Marina Silva, who beat the projections by picking up 19 percent of the vote and forced a runoff between the two leading candidates. Brazil's Greens, who haven't decided which of the remaining candidates to support yet, are in a pretty good mood

Sirkis said the record vote meant the Green party would be able to force debate on crucial environmental issues in the lead up to the second round. Such issues included controversial changes to Brazil's forestry code, which environmentalists claim will further damage the Amazon rainforest, and Brazil's commitments on climate change in Copenhagen.

The O Dia newspaper in Rio de Janeiro, where Silva came second with 31.52% of the vote, described a "green tsunami" in its front-page headline.

"Marina Silva's face will not be on the ballot on October 31 but her electoral ghost will decide the second round," the newspaper said. "She has become the central figure in this campaign," said Altino Machado, an Amazon journalist and blogger who has known Silva since the late 1970s.

Silva resigned with quite a bit of publicity as Lula's environment minister in 2008 over the government's unwillingness to implement her anti-deforestation agenda. In addition to an embrace of Silva's compelling personal story -- she is the child of rubber-tappers from the Amazonian state of Acre and was illiterate until the age of 14 -- the Green's success shows the increasing political salience of environmental issues in Brazil, where 85 percent of the population views global climate change as a major problem. (Only 37 percent of Americans feel that way.)

It would be nice to think that Silva's success -- along with the recent collapse of Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's government over broken climate change promises -- is a sign that voters are starting to take environmental issues seriously at the ballot box. But it's probably a bit premature, and I somehow doubt we'll be seeing a "green tsunami" rolling across the American heartland in November. 


Medvedev scolds Lukashenko in vlog attack

In a new video blog entry, an unusually stern Dmitry Medvedev takes aim at Belarusian president Aleksandr Lukashenko for using "hysterical" anti-Russian rhetoric on the campaign trail, which according to the Russian President, "goes far beyond not only diplomatic protocol but also basic human decency." He also gets in a dig at the autocratic ruler's human rights practices saying that Lukashnko should "should concern himself with his country's internal problems, including, finally the investigation of numerous cases of disappearances."

Medvedev is responding to Lukashenko's recent accusations that Russia is meddling in the country's election. Relations between Russia and its onetime closest ally have soured in recent years, and in the last few weeks, state-controlled Russian TV stations have been pumping out anti-Lukashenko documentaries. 

A similar barrage of criticism in the state-controlled press hit Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov before his firing last week and Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev before he was overthrown in April. Lukashenko is probably right to be worried.

The last leader to receive a similar Medvedev vlog-attack was Ukrainian President Viktor Yuschenko, who is, of course, no longer the Ukrainian president.