Foreign Policy Blogs

The Effect of Being Popular and a Populist: Personal Illness and Political Risks

Jack LaytonThis week Canadians of all political views are mourning the death of New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton. Mr. Layton ran a historic campaign only a few short months ago, bringing the Orange of the NDP party and support for social democratic values into every region of the country. Mr. Layton did not only get the most seats ever for his party in its history, but displaced Canada’s natural governing Liberal party, and even displaced the separatists party in its home province of Quebec. While campaigning, he was recovering from cancer, but over the last few weeks a new form of cancer took hold of his body and Jack Layton passed away this week.

While all Canadians will miss Jack Layton, the victory of Mr. Layton had a lot to do with his personality and charisma and his move to turn the NDP into a strong mainstream centre left party. In 2011 it can be argued that it was Layton and his strength that created what in Canada is called the “Orange Crush”, a well known soda drink in Canada, but also referring to the colours of the NDP party and the recent enormous support many in Canada and Quebec have for Mr. Layton himself. The popularity of Jack Layton will never be replaced, and the party that he took to its heights will be without a soul with the loss of Mr. Layton. Jack Layton will become one of Canada’s best known national heroes.

The downgrading of the US after political infighting, even after the debt ceiling was raised, was a direct result of Congress’ indecisiveness. The downgrade was the investor response, reacting poorly to the political divisions between Democrats and Republicans. While in Canada the passing of Mr. Layton is mourned by those on the left and right, Americans along with S&P have lost their confidence for their government due to their inability to work for a consensus for all Americans.

Hugo Chavez of Venezuela has also been dealing with similar issues since he publicly announced he has been diagnosed with cancer. While maybe not as popular in the same way as Mr. Layton, Mr. Chavez is a populist leader who is at the centre of his political party and controls much of the actions of Venezuela as a whole. With recent moves to repatriate Venezuela’s gold reserves, arbitrary and non-transparent laws and the poor health of Mr. Chavez, S&P downgraded Venezuela as well. The long term health of Hugo Chavez remains unknown, even to himself, but with the control over the Venezuelan state resting heavily in the office of the president of Venezuela, the fate of his revolution to change the political system of his country is tied in his ability to continue his reforms. While support from all Venezuelans does not come easily to Hugo Chavez, there is no question that his reforms depends greatly on Chavez and his own health to continue his revolution.



Richard Basas

Richard Basas, a Canadian Masters Level Law student educated in Spain, England, and Canada (U of London MA 2003 LL.M., 2007), has worked researching for CSIS and as a Reporter for the Latin America Advisor. He went on to study his MA in Latin American Political Economy in London with the University of London and LSE. Subsequently, Rich followed his career into Law focusing mostly on International Commerce and EU-Americas issues. He has worked for many commercial and legal organisations as well as within the Refugee Protection Community in Toronto, Canada, representing detained non-status indivduals residing in Canada. Rich will go on to study his PhD in International Law.

Areas of Focus:
Law; Economics and Commerce; Americas; Europe; Refugees; Immigration