Sunday, March 25, 2012

Amadou Toumani Toure in Modern Mali Politics

He was once the “soldier of democracy”, an anti-thesis of the typical African military man. He ushered democracy to Mali and later returned to lead it. He was immensely popular then, although the latter years of presidency was marred with trouble. Just a month before he was to step down, he was deposed in a military coup, although the future of the military rule of Amadou Sanogo remains uncertain.

At the confluence of the rivers Niger and Bani in central Mali lies Mopti, a city inhabited by around 115,000 people, sometimes called the “Venice of Mali”. This name is used as Mopti is a city formed of three islands connected by dykes. It was here that Amadou Toumani Toure was born in November 1948.

At the time, Mali was called French Sudan. In June 1960, the short lived Mali Federation emerged as an independent state, with Senegal and the Sudanese Republic (former French Sudan) as constituent parts. The Federation was to disintegrate in September and the Sudanese Republic was renamed Mali. The president of the ill fated Federation, Modibo Keita, now became the president of Mali.

Amadou Toure joined the Army of Mali not long after Moussa Traore had deposed Keita in a coup in November 1968. He rose in ranks as a member of the Parachute Corps, and received training in France and the USSR.

Generally, the people of Mali are known to be patient. However, a people with even high level of tolerance have a limit of patience and that limit with respect to the Traore regime had crossed the line by 1991. In March, a huge protest was crushed by the military, which was also becoming disillusioned with Traore who was ordering the soldiers to shoot their own people. A military coup followed which deposed Traore on March 26. Amadou Toumani Toure led the coup.

Amadou Toure was however, not the typical soldier who leads a coup. He re-established the democratic process which will survive for two decades. Just fifteen months after the coup, he stepped aside for the president elect, Alpha Konare to take office. For this role of Toure, he was referred to as the “soldier of democracy”. Alpha Konare was re-elected in 1997, and served both five year terms allowed constitutionally.

Amadou Toure retired from the military in 2001 and announced his intention of running for presidency in 2002. Some of his admirers criticized him for entering politics, but he remained as an independent. He won the presidency in a landslide. Five years later, he returned with even a larger majority at the presidential elections of 2007.

Amadou Toumani Toure was criticized for some extravagant spending and recently, for the handling of the most recent Tuareg rebellion. But he was scheduled to step down after the elections in April 2012, and had no intention of unconstitutionally keeping the presidency. Just a month before the elections were held, he was deposed by a military coup. His whereabouts are unknown but he has been declared to be safe, protected by his loyalists.

While there is some truth in Toure’s inefficiency in handling the Tuareg rebellion, there was no need for such drastic measures such as a military coup to remove him at this juncture. It has only made the situation highly volatile as the new regime is finding hard to control the situation. They are also challenged by rumors of a counter-coup and imminent international isolation. The African Union has suspended Mali, and Canada has suspended aid. Further measures to isolate the new Bamako regime are likely to be taken.

It is an irony that Amadou Toumani Toure, who ushered in democracy to Mali, has been undemocratically deposed in a military coup. But, the story is far from over and the people of Mali are waiting anxiously, uncertain of the outcome of the power struggle.

Image: Amadou Toumani Toure, president of Mali, visiting the Mali Village crafts and culture exhibit during the 37th Annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, June 2003. By Barry Fitzgerald, US Department of State. (From Wikimedia Commons)

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Political Polarization of the Republican Party in USA

Mitt Romney has once again reaffirmed his popularity among the more moderate Republicans in the Illinois primary on March 20. Meanwhile, Rick Santorum has also reaffirmed his popularity among the more conservative elements. While Romney won the contest in urban areas which are generally Democratic strongholds, Santorum won in other regions which are generally Republican. Throughout the Republican race, Santorum has been performing well in the South while the North has generally been better for Romney. The results of Republican primaries have once again highlighted the differences between the conservative and moderate camps in the GOP.

The polarization of the American society has been a feature of Barack Obama presidency. It was anathema to the conservatives who always attempted to undermine the White House. The rise of the Tea Party movement was a clear manifestation of the polarization within the Republican ranks. Also, even outside the GOP, many far-right groups have appeared during the last few years. While some of them have entered the democratic political stream, others remain outside of it and are potentially more dangerous to the security of the country.

However the rise of the conservative element within the Republican Party is vital for the future of the USA and also of the world. It is these conservatives that support Santorum candidacy and are driving Santorum on a protracted primary race with Romney. The fact that Romney is also unable to appeal effectively to this conservative element gives hope to the Santorum campaign, which may clinch the candidacy under Romney’s nose at the Republican Convention in August.

Whoever wins the candidacy of the Republican Party will however face difficulties in uniting the conservative and moderate groups within the party. This will be a most welcome advantage to the incumbent president, Barack Obama. Even if the eventual candidate of the GOP wins the presidential election in November 2012, he will have to find a way to accommodate all factions in the new government.

Image: Illinois Republican Primary, March 20, 2012. (Yellow-Won by Romney; Green-won by Santorum). Gage, Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Romney Hopes to win Primary in Illinois, Land of Lincoln

After the one horse race in Puerto Rico during the weekend, Mitt Romney has high hopes of the Illinois primary, courtesy of big spending and Rick Santorum.

Santorum's comments about not giving priority to economy or unemployment has hit him badly despite all the rectification measures taken by him afterwards. Romney, coming from a business background can easily score political mileage from such weak points. This has cleared his path in a race which otherwise could have been a close one.

Even without the negative comments, Santorum may have lost in the race for the delegates as his campaign had not done their homework properly. Due to lapses in submission of documentation, he would have been unable to claim about 10 delegates. As this is not the first time this happened (Ohio was another notable example) it showed an unpreparedness on Santorum's side. This lapse would have given Romney a lead in that aspect even if he had narrowly lost in the popular vote.

Yet, Romney was never going to give up despite this. He and his allies are the big spenders in Illinois also. Romney, who now seem to be the most likely candidate in the November 2012 election would like to show his strength to President Obama. Illinois, while being the "Land of Lincoln" is also the State of Obama. While Democrats including Obama have managed to convert the state to the Democratic camp in recent years, the GOP is gaining lost ground as it was seen in the mid term elections of 2010.

The Republican race has now becoming largely a battle between Romney and Santorum. Gingrich is doing a great service to Romney by staying on to split the conservative vote and Ron Paul is destined to be the permanent underdog. Although Romney may not still have the mettle to deliver the "killer punch" he may hit a few good blows if he win convincingly in Illinoi.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Romney fails to Deliver the Crucial Blow in the South

The Republican presidential primaries are far from over. Admittedly, Rick Santorum was playing some “away games” in the conservative south and mid-west of America. He opted, and could afford to let the contest in Kansas go by. There, the conservatives picked Santorum overwhelmingly over Gingrich. This gave the former Pennsylvania Senator a huge win there.

In the Southern states of Alabama and Mississippi, it was a three way battle. Admittedly, Romney would have been soundly defeated if there was only one conservative against him. Gingrich, who is stronger in the South did well by coming second, narrowly edging past the moderate Romney while, Santorum recorded slim victories.

This has been a considerable setback to the former Massachusetts governor who is leading the Republican race. The fact that the conservatives still believe in Santorum’s ability to defeat Romney is an important aspect seen in this outcome. The conservatives are still reluctant to accept defeat. However, they will still have to long way to go, as there were a considerable number of delegates won by Romney even in the two states he lost, Alabama and Mississippi. In Alabama, he won 10 delegates while Santorum and Gingrich ended up with 17 and 12 respectively. In Mississippi, it was much closer with Romney and Gingrich getting 12 delegates and Santorum finishing with 13. Meanwhile, Romney has won convincingly in the caucuses in Hawaii. Once again this is an indication of the moderate-conservative contest within the party.

Santorum, speaking in Louisiana, which is the next Southern state to hold its primary declared, "the time is now for the conservatives to pull together". The results show that while Romney can conserve his energy and funds by letting go some contests, as he chose to do in Kansas, his challengers will have to fight for every inch to be in a position to ultimately derail him from the contest. To do that, the conservatives will have to pull together at once.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sarkozy Adopts a Right-wing Line as Francois Hollande Leads French Presidential Race

Nicolas Sarkozy is fighting to stay on the job after the upcoming April-May, 2012 Presidential elections in France and he finds it a very uphill battle. He has been challenged from both the right and the left of the political spectrum. Socialist Party candidate Francois Hollande is now leading Sarkozy in opinion polls by around 3%. If a Sarkozy-Hollande second round is to be held, the incumbent is expected to lose badly.

As in 2007, he is hoping to convince as much as possible right-wing voters of France to vote for him and thereby win the round 1 of the election. Nicolas Dupont-Aignan of Arise the Republic and Dominique de Villepin of United Republic will attract small numbers of the voters. The real contest in the right wing camp is between Sarkozy and Marine Le Pen of the National Front (FN). In 2007, Sarkozy was able to attract some voters from the ultra-right wing Jean-Marie Le Pen of the National Party. Five years later, Sarkozy wants to do the same to Le Pen’s daughter, Marine. This has created an atmosphere where Sarkozy is tilting more to the right and as a result is at loggerheads with Ms. Le Pen.

For instance, Sarkozy has declared that the integration of immigrant communities has not been successful in France. As such, he wants to cut the immigration to France by nearly half. Ms. Le Pen is accusing Sarkozy of stealing liberally from her program.

Furthermore, Ms. Le Pen claimed that Halal and Kosher food were sold in French supermarkets with no notification, Sarkozy declared that all such products should be accordingly labeled. Sarkozy’s own foreign minister Alain Juppe has declared that the debate over this matter is a “false problem”. However, the fact remains that Sarkozy, in a bid to woo extreme right wing voters, is just borrowing points from the National Front candidate. It seems that, at least in some aspects, Sarkozy’s campaign is run by Ms. Le Pen.

As opinion polls show, more than one tenth of the voters will support the FN candidate in the upcoming elections. If Sarkozy is able to get the support of some of them,

Meanwhile, the elections field a number of left-wing candidates also. Francois Hollande is leading the pack as the candidate of the centre-left Socialist Party (PS). Opinion polls show him obtaining around 30% of the votes. Eva Joly, the Green Party candidate will do better than their performance in 2007. Jean-Luc Melenchon is the candidate of the Left Front, an alliance of left wing parties led by the Communists. He may obtain around one tenth of the vote.

The extreme left is represented by Philippe Poutou of the New Anticapitalist Party and Nathale Arthaud of Workers Struggle. The former party was formed by Revolutionary Communist League and several other Trotskyist groups in 2009. Olivier Besencenot of the Revolutionary Communist League managed to obtain more than 4% of the vote in both 2002 and 2007 elections.

The remaining candidate is the centrist Francois Bayrou of the Democratic Movement. He did quite well in the 2007 election by receiving 18% of the votes in round 1. He is not expected to repeat his success five years ago and as the latest opinion polls show, is still behind Marine Le Pen.

Francois Hollande, the main challenger to Sarkozy, is aware that his popularity is more to do with Sarkozy’s unpopularity than his own program. Some government ministers of Sarkozy’s Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) are dissatisfied with some of his policies and statements. None of the candidates is expected to win 50% of the votes in the first round of the election on April 22. Therefore, it will be a head-on collision between Sarkozy and Hollande which will determine the outcome of the election on May 6. If Hollande is able to utilize Sarkozy’s unpopularity wisely, he could easily end up being the next president of the Republic of France.

Image: Francois Hollande, January 2012. Matthieu Riegler, Wikimedia Commons.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Onwards to the Sunflower State: The GOP Contest Moves to Kansas after a not so Super “Super Tuesday”

Kansas, the “Sunflower State” will hold its Republican caucus on Saturday March 10, 2012, after the Super Tuesday on March 6. Three small U.S. territories, namely Guam, Northern Mariana Islands and U.S. Virgin Islands will also hold their Republican caucuses. While these “minnow” caucuses will not be binding, the caucus of staunchly Republican and conservative state of Kansas will be. Therefore, any eventual Presidential candidate of the GOP will prefer to establish his credibility beforehand in Kansas by winning its caucus with a convincing margin.

The four contesters have a few days to campaign in the “Sunflower State” after a not so super “Super Tuesday”. The battle for 419 delegates in 10 states ended rather unconvincingly, which shows that the Republicans are still divided over who their candidate should be. Mitt Romney, as expected, did well in his home state, Massachusetts and also in Virginia and Vermont. He also came up the winner in Idaho which was not surprising. Yet, his victory at Ohio was a shock to many, not the least to Rick Santorum. The latter lost in urban areas in Ohio and even the Catholics chose Romney over him, which was rather surprising. Romney needed a surprise victory to boost his campaign and if it was to happen on Super Tuesday, Ohio was the best place to be.

Newt Gingrich of Georgia easily won the contest in his home state but has nothing else to boast of. However, he has pledged to carry on the fight, stating that he is a tortoise among some bunny rabbits in the race, who take one step at a time. Let us for a moment assume that he Gingrich be compared with the tortoise in the proverbial “tortoise versus rabbit race”. However, it is highly doubtful if the “rabbits” of this particular race will do their duty; that of falling asleep. With the three others working on the contest, the two front runners are expected to easily defeat the Georgian.

Meanwhile, the Texan Ron Paul is actually playing the role of “the tortoise”. He is fighting a losing but noteworthy battle. It shows that he wants to lose with pride if he has to lose. He pulled three delegates ‘right under Romney’s nose’ by winning the vote at the smallest Congressional District in Virginia. He has done well in several other states but lacks enough clout or popularity to make an upset.

Meanwhile, the only one who can feasibly challenge Mitt Romney is the former Senator from Pennsylvania, Rick Santorum. Newt Gingrich is making it hard for the fellow conservative to defeat Romney. If not for Gingrich splitting the conservative votes, he would have won several contests which ended up very close, such as that of Ohio. Santorum was initially leading the contest in the state but when the urban areas began reporting the results, Romney gained steadily. From 1972, the winner of the GOP contest in Ohio has gone on to win the primaries. Romney intends to keep that record as it is.

With the contest still uncertain, it has become a battle of attrition where the endurance and the financial means of the contestants become vital. Romney is by far the largest spender and will have the means to carry on. Meanwhile, the exchange of words of accusations between the contesters will be counterproductive. Even the Republicans may get tired of this long battle.

Therefore, Mitt Romney will have an important advantage over his rivals at the Kansas caucuses on March 10. Those who do not want the party to be embroiled in a long contest may chose to vote for the most probable candidate to win. This factor usually precludes the possibility of a “tortoise” chasing down some “bunny rabbits” in a presidential primary. However, a conservative Kansas may chose otherwise and vote for Santorum or less probably, Gingrich. Other advantages Romney has are his business background, which will endear him to some, and the fact that Santorum and Gingrich are splitting the conservative votes. Even though he would not mind losing Kansas, Romey would not be reluctant to accept another "Ohio effect" on March 10.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Indian State Elections: Setback for Mayawati and for Rahul Gandhi

The results of five state elections in India has been depicted as a defeat for the ruling Indian National Congres (INC). However, results show that it was not a total defeat and in some cases they have even gained ground.

The elections in Uttar Pradesh, a state with a population of 200 million, received the bulk of the attention. The people have decided to remove the government of the enigmatic and eccentric Dalit leader Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). Samajawadi Party of the ageing Mulayam Singh Yadav has swept the polls with 226 seats out of 403, much better than what the BSP won (206) five years ago. The BSP has fallen to 80 seats. The Indian National Congress has remained in fourth place with 38 seats; almost double that of their number of seats (22) in the previous assembly.

Rahul Gandhi, son of the party leader Sonia Gandhi, personally led the campaign in Uttar Pradesh for four months. He hoped that the INC would win 100 seats in the assembly. Therefore the result is seen as a personal setback for Rahul Gandhi, a fact he himself has acknowledged. He has taken full responsibility for the defeat. However, it should be noted that without a strong local organization and leadership, even a charismatic leader will not be able to create an electoral miracle. Gandhi was not contesting the election and with no credible local leadership to turn to, it is not surprising that the INC failed.

In Punjab, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alliance has won almost the same number of seats the two parties individually held before the elections and the INC has also won almost the same number of seats, winning 46. The status quo has not been changed at Punjab, the first instance where an incumbent government held on to power in the state. In Uttarakhand, the INC has inched pass the ruling BJP winning 32 seats against 31. The 7 other members will decide the government which will be formed in the Northern Indian state.

Meanwhile in Manipur, a small North Eastern state bereft with armed insurgencies, the INC has increased its share of seats, winning 42 out of 60. Earlier, it had exactly half the seats in the Assembly. This victory has been largely attributed to the popularity of the local Chief Minister, 64 year old Okram Ibobi Singh, who has been in power for 2 consecutive terms from 2002.

The election in Goa has been a setback for the INC. Their share of seats has fallen to 9 from 16 in this liberal state where a quarter of the population is Christian. Therefore, the BJP’s achievement is all the more surprising. It has won 21 seats out of 40 and therefore will be able to form a government on its own. In Goa, the INC has been dealt with the most severe blow in the State Assembly elections of early 2012.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Prince Harry Visits Belize on the Eve of the General Election

Prince Harry visited Belize, a small country of just over 330,000 people just days before the general elections to be held on March 7, 2012. His arrival was a part of the ongoing Diamond Jubilee Tour, where he will visit four countries in the region representing his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II. On the evening of Friday March 2, he was seen dancing with the locals at a “block party” in the newly named “Queen Elizabeth II Boulevard” in the capital, Belmopan. Perhaps the current government of Prime Minister Dean Barrow may have used this visit to score political mileage at a crucial period in the country.

Belize has largely been a country of immigrants with only about 10% of the population being indigenous Mayans. In the 17th Century English and Scottish Buccaneers settled there and made it a shelter from which they could attack Spanish shipping. Known as the Baymen, they also started logging in the area. Later the Baymen and the Spanish came to an agreement by which the latter pledged to let the Baymen continue logging in return for not attacking their shipping. The settlers brought slaves who over the years blended into the society. In 1862, the area was formally declared a British Crown colony and remained so until gaining independence in 1981. In the latter years, further immigration of Mestizo people from the other countries in the region transformed the Belizean society. Today, Mestizo people account for nearly half of the population and immigration is continuing. Prime Minister Dean Barrow, a Creole (known as Kriols in Belize) has begun translating some of his speeches to Spanish. English remains the official language while Spanish is now widely spoken. Other languages also are abound in Belize.

In early February, 2012, just few days before the fourth anniversary of his coming to power, Dean Barrow advised the Governor General Sir Colville Young to dissolve the Parliament. He could have stayed on for another year but chose to take the gambit of an early election. In the last general elections held on February 7, 2008, Dean Barrow’s centre-right United Democratic Party (UDP) swept the polls after being out of power for a decade. The UDP won 25 seats against out of 31 seats, the rest being won by the centre-left People’s United Party (PUP).

Prime Minister Barrow declared that his administration had been a “stellar one” and as proof cited tax reliefs, the “pro-poor initiatives” such as the food basket subsidy program, the conditional cash transfer program, scholarships and monetary grants for high school students, expansion of remedial and vocational education; new housing construction and home repairs and improvement; infrastructural improvement; the gang truce and subsequent reduction in murder rate; and “enshrined nationalism,” both in the Constitution and in Belize’s political culture by returning majority control of public utilities to the State, allowing for lower rates and improved service. The regaining of the public utilities has been described by the Prime Minister as “perhaps the greatest jewel in the crown of the UDP achievements.

The snap election can be seen as a tactic to ensure that the UDP retains power for another five years maximum. With the current situation of economic difficulties, another year in power may have eroded the popularity of the government. In a few more days, it will be possible to see if his people are still with the Prime Minister.


1. Barrow Rolls the Dice, March 7., Amandala, Belize. Feb 2, 2012. (Viewed March 5, 2012).

2. Prince Harry Boogies in Belize, AP News, March 3, 2012. (Viewed March 5, 2012)

Image: Haakon S. Krohn, Parliament of Belize, Belmopan., Wikimedia Commons.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Mitt Romney Wins Washington Caucus

Republicans in the Northern states of the United States seem to be generally endorsing Mitt Romney as their presidential candidate. Washington, the "Evergreen state" is the latest to have done so. Although non-binding, the Washington caucus has sent a clear message as to their intentions, giving the former governor of Massachusetts nearly 38% of the votes. Ron Paul has taken just under a quarter out of the 50,000 votes, closely followed by Rick Santorum. Newt Gingrich has managed to obtain 10% of the votes.

With this victory, Romney has carried the primaries/caucuses in four of the northern states in continental United States. Minnesota has been the exception, and a notable one at that, where Romney suffered an ignominious setback. He came a distant third, the only state where he fell below the second position. Rick Santorum swept the caucus there.

The continental United States has 13 states, out of which eight are still to hold the Republican primaries. Idaho, North Dakota and Ohio will hold the contests on Super Tuesday on March 6, 2012. With two days to left for Super Tuesday, Romney's victory undoubtedly gives him a further advantage. he is inching away from the other contenders. Yet, there is a long way to go as super Tuesday is also predicted to be inconclusive. Out of the three 'Northern States', Santorum is predicted to win Ohio. Romney will most probably prevail in Idaho but North Dakota is still uncertain. Romney will need all his luck to record a victory there.

Russia Decides: Presidential Election is a Referendum on Vladimir Putin

Voting has already begun in the Eastern parts of Russia in the 2012 presidential elections, where Vladimir Putin is contesting to win a six year term with four other candidates. This is the first election after the presidential term was increased to six years.

Holding an election in Russia is a mammoth process. It starts at 8 a.m. in each of the nine time zones in the Russian territory and will end 12 hours later. Therefore, when the Western city of Kaliningrad opens the voting centres, the Easternmost Chukotka and Kamchatka will be at the last few hours of voting.

Although the election fields five candidates, all eyes will be on the former President and the current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who has dominated the Russian political arena in the last dozen years. The interesting question will be whether the Russian people would give him an overwhelming majority (above 50%) or force him into a second round. This would not have been such an ‘interesting’ question about a year ago when the United Russia Party seemed invincible. Yet, with the electoral setback and allegations of fraud in the general election of late 2011, which was followed by anti-government protests, Putin’s popularity plummeted. Meanwhile, the emergence of Mikhail Prokhorov as an alternative to Putin further raised questions on the latter’s re-election as President, although a victory by Prokhorov now seems to be a distant possibility.

Prokhorov, a multi-billionaire, is by far the richest and youngest man in the election. He is also the tallest among the five candidates and the most sought after bachelor in Russia. He is, therefore, not a stranger to Russian society even though he is a stranger to Russian politics. All the other candidates have been defeated in earlier bids for presidency. Gennady Zyuganov, the Communist, has always been the second in the previous bids in 1996, 2000 and 2008. In the earlier instance he offered a credible challenge but on the other two instances he was way behind the eventual winners.

Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the eccentric Liberal Democrat leader is a veteran at Presidential elections and at losing them. He has been in the contests in four earlier elections, refusing to run in 2004. In 2008, he received just over 9% of the vote. Sergei Mironov, the leader of “Just Russia” contested the 2004 elections but supported Vladimir Putin at that election.

In the 2012 election, Vladimir Putin is expected to lead the pack by far as the other votes will be split among the four other candidates. Still it is unclear as to who will be the second best performer. However, there are indications that it would hardly matter. Opinion polls in December and January showed that Putin will not be able to win the election in first round itself. However, he has regained some lost ground and may do better than his first presidential victory in 2000, where he won just over 53% of the vote. Even if he fails to win the presidency today, he will almost certainly defeat any opponent in a head on battle in the second round, given the antagonism between some candidates in the opposition camp.

However, if the opposition forces Putin into a second round, it will be a victory in itself. It will prove that Putin does not have the support of the majority of the Russian people, something he had taken for granted in the twelve years from 2000.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Super Tuesday Expected to be Inconclusive: Republican Presidential Race May Go to the Wire

Ten states across the United States, nine in Continental United States along with Alaska, are set to hold the Republican Party presidential primaries on Super Tuesday 2012, which falls on March 6. However, the contest may not end soon as the four frontrunners are still well in the contest and the outcome of Super Tuesday is expected to be inconclusive.

Mitt Romney is arguably stronger in the three North Eastern states including his home state Massachusetts. In Virginia and Vermont also he may prevail and may take all 49 delegates in the former as only he and Ron Paul are in the contest. Romney’s victories in Arizona, Michigan and Wyoming has returned the momentum to his direction after the disasters of early February when he was defeated by Rick Santorum in three states, including the shocking defeat at Colorado.

Santorum is hopeful that he would be able to prevail in the conservative heartlands of Tennessee and Oklahoma. He is also expected to come on top in Ohio, a neighbor of his home state Pennsylvania. Meanwhile, the other conservative in the contest, Newt Gingrich, is also expected to do well in his home state of Georgia.

Although Santorum seemed to have taken up the conservative mantle from Gingrich after the victories of early February, the Georgian is, with no doubt, still in the contest. A setback at his home turf may signal the end of the road for Gingrich. But, for the time being, it appears highly unlikely.

The contests in the three states of Alaska, Idaho and North Dakota will be interesting to follow as the next few days unfold. All four aspirants have spent time campaigning in the latter two. In contrast, Alaska has been the only state where no candidate has visited during the campaign in the primaries up to date. With a sizable Mormon population, Romney has a slight edge over his opponents in Idaho.

Mitt Romney came on top in the Alaska and North Dakota caucuses four years ago, albeit with just over 35% of the votes in either of them. Also, Ron Paul got around one fifth of votes in both state caucuses. By the time the contest in Idaho came up in 2008, John McCain had already won the race for presidential candidacy and only he and Ron Paul were in the ballot. While the race in 2008 can mean nothing in 2012 as Romney's defeat in Colorado showed, it shows that the race will be too close to call in both North Dakota and Alaska once again.

During the primaries of this election campaign, Romney’s front runner status has been challenged on several occasions by some shocking setbacks, first in South Carolina, courtesy of Gingrich and then in Colorado, courtesy of Santorum. Romney has not benefitted from an unexpected victory till now. Perhaps, in his wildest of dreams, he may be hoping that Gingrich and Santorum will split the conservative vote somewhere and deliver him a surprise victory.

However, with none of the ten states being “winner takes it all” states in theory and with four contestants in the ballot in many of them, the Republican presidential primary race will have a long way to go whatever the outcome of Super Tuesday may be.