We're getting into the spirit of March Madness (as the annual U.S. collegiate basketball tournament is affectionately called, for our international readers) here at Foreign Policy -- and trying to find a bit of distraction in an otherwise distressing news month. Here then, we present our First Annual World Leader March Madness tournament bracket.
We've broken it down into two divisions: the democrats (with a couple of multilateral bigwigs thrown in for good measure) and the dictators. Obviously, there are plenty more presidents and prime ministers we could have included -- Japan's Naoto Kan gets a pass from mockery this week, Afghanistan's Hamid Karzai is too ambiguous to fit in either category, and Russia's Dmitry Medvedev was going to be included but senior United Russia party officials insisted on the last-minute substitution of Vladimir Putin.
Here's how it all works: For each round of games we'll preview the matchup and let you -- the readers -- make your arguments for why each leader should move on to the next round. The criteria for "winning" are up to you. Should Silvio Berlusconi's bunga-bunga prowess get him the win over David Cameron's slash-and-burn governing style? Does Vladimir Putin wear his baldness better than erstwhile ally Aleksandr Lukashenko? Or, if you're a numbers person, perhaps it's all purchasing power parity? It's your call. (And ours, since a panel of FP judges will ultimately decide who wins.) One hard-and-fast rule, though, in these momentous times: A contestant will be automatically eliminated if their government is overthrown during the tournament.
This is all in good fun, so let's avoid nationalist grudge matches in the comments. Obviously, some of these leaders have done some not-so-funny things in their day, but sometimes mockery is the best response to a bad guy.
Of course, it wouldn't really be March Madness without a competition for the fans. So we're inviting you to submit your own completed brackets to FPMarchMadness@gmail.com. Simply click the image above to print out the tournament bracket form, and write in the leader you think will win each game in the space provided. Then either scan your filled-out version of the bracket and email it to us, or fax it to +1 202-728-7234. Or, if that seems like too much trouble, send us an email with your picks for each round (as in Game 1: Obama, Game 2: Merkel, and so on).
We will accept submissions until Monday, March 21 at 12pm EDT. As in the standard March Madness basketball brakets, correct answers for each round will receive points (weighted for the later rounds) -- so, 1 point for first round games, 2 for the Sweet 16, 3 for the Elite Eight, 4 for the Final Four, and 5 for the Championship.
The ten readers with the most points will each receive a free one-year subscription to the print edition of Foreign Policy. And if you're really that good at picking winners, perhaps we'll introduce you to some friends at the State Department -- they could definitely use the help!
Let's get to the first round of matchups: