INTERNATIONAL

Legal battles likely in California

Arnold Schwarzenegger speaks to reporters after filing his nomination papers for Governor of California in Norwalk on Saturday. Beside him is his wife, Maria Shriver.  

Washington aug. 10. Nearly 160 persons have filed their applications for the recall election of the Governor in the State of California, now slated for October 7 an event that could well be postponed by a maze of legal battles.

There is only one well-known Democratic contender, the Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante in the race. The Republican, Democrat and independent candidates include the well-known movie star, Arnold Schwarzenegger, newspaper columnist Ariana Huffington, the former major league baseball commissioner, Peter Ueberroth, who also was in charge of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and porn czar, Larry Flynt. Others who have filed papers come from varied backgrounds — a marijuana activist a sumo wrestler, a local radio host, a bail bondsman and a discount cigarette chain owner.

"This recall has become a circus. Everyday that goes by, we move toward more chaos and further from serious contemplation of the fundamental reforms necessary to restore our governmental systems and the reputation of the state of California," remarked the State Insurance Commissioner, John Garamendi, a Democrat who was pressured to quit the field so as to leave Mr. Bustamante as the only well-known Democrat in this race.

The campaign is for the recall of the Governor, Gray Davis, who has been in office since 1998 and was re-elected only nine months ago. But if this campaign succeeds, it will be only for the second time in American history that this has happened. In 1921, voters in North Dakota removed Lynn Frazier.

This election will cost about $70 millions and at a time when the state is literally reeling under a financial crisis.

Mr. Davis has been seeing his popularity dwindle in the state to record lows; and has been a target of voter discontent ever since the energy crisis that rocked the state in 2000-2001. Since then it has been a steady downfall with Mr. Davis seeing a steady decline in the technology sector and facing a record deficit of about $40 billions. This in turn has led to tripling of the vehicle tax, a steep hike in college fees and threatening state employees with job losses and pay cut, all of which have not gone well with voters and supporters.

The recall ballot paper will be in two parts: voters will vote yes or no on a proposal to remove Mr. Davis; and regardless of how they voted in the first instance they will get to choose a successor from the list of candidates who will be formally certified next week.

The Time/CNN poll shows the California voters would remove Mr. Davis by a margin of 54 per cent to 35 per cent if the election were held today; and Mr. Schwarzenegger leads the pack of candidates to replace him by 25 per cent. He has a 10-point edge over the closest rival, Mr. Bustamante.