Never mind the U.S. leadership crisis: Which countries have bigger presidential problems than ours?
Though final results won't be in until Tuesday, there won't be any dispute that former Haitian PresidentJean-Bertrand Aristide was returned to power. Victory is more certain when the opposition boycotts the election. Also boycotting is the U. S. State Department, which questioned the legitimacy of the election, refused to send observers, and announced an Aristide government will not receive direct U.S. financial aid. Aristide, once a Catholic priest, has given up his vows of chastity and poverty; he's married and become rich, although the source of his wealth is unknown. Besides the fact that Aristide ran unopposed, turnout was depressed due to fear--the election was preceded by a week of bombings, and Aristide himself barely left his walled compound to campaign.
Philippine President Joseph Estrada, who as a B-movie actor in Philippine films played a man of the people who stuck it to the powerful, is facing a Senate impeachment trial Dec. 7 after a November impeachment conviction in the House. Estrada, who often issued presidential decrees during all night karaoke-bar sessions, has been accused of raking in millions from illegal gambling and skimming of tobacco taxes. The already shaky Philippine economy is in a free-fall as a result of Estrada's troubles. Estrada has denied the charges against him but has happily acknowledged (unlike some American presidents and would-be presidents) that he is a womanizer and heavy drinker.
Perhaps Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori could trade places with the recently deposed president of Peru, Alberto Fujimori. Fujimori, while visiting Japan, resigned. (The Peruvian Congress refused his resignation and instead removed him from office for corruption and authoritarianism.) Fujimori, who is of Japanese ancestry, says he plans to stay in Japan. It's hard to imagine that Peruvians could be more hostile to Japanese Prime Minister Mori than his own countrymen. Mori, only seven months in office, barely survived a parliamentary ouster attempt this month. Since he has approval ratings at about 20 percent, a reputation for making embarrassing statements, and no clear plans for reviving the economy, Mori's reprieve is seen as temporary.
Robert Mugabe, for 20 years the president of Zimbabwe--he is the only president Zimbabwe, formerly Rhodesia, has ever had--leads a country in which three-quarters of the people believe he should step down before the end of his term in 2002, in which people gather for prayer vigils to end his presidency, and in which the speaker of parliament said he would consider a motion to impeach. You know you're not popular when the Washington Post quotes a University of Zimbabwe political science professor describing you as "Africa's Slobodan Milosevic."
Taiwan's President Chen Shui-bian, in office for just six months, is dealing with a plunging economy, a vice president who has accused him of having an affair with a young staffer (he denies it), and an opposition party that is waiting until his approval ratings fall below their current 50 percent to bring a recall motion.