Azov Sea’s crisis, attack in Pakistan, Turkish elections: the weekly dispatch

Europe 

Firstly, the renewed conflict in Crimea has escalated last night: grewing tensions in the Azov sea – a small part of the Black Sea with shared waters between Russia and Ukraine – were brought by an attack delivered by Russian boats, that shot and seized (and rammed Ukranian ones that were passing by: they were accused of trespassing Russian waters, a tactic already used by Russia to justify other aggressions, such as in Ceceny in 2008.

Rage rised in Ukraine in the following hours, both from the government and the citizens: the first one is about to declare the martial law, indicting a war cabinet and postponing the elections that were supposed to take place in 2019, while the second has strongly protested outside the Russian embassy, where a car has been burnt down.

The Ukranian government has stressed that the martial law doesn’t mean that a declaration of war is going to be sent.

Meanwhile, Europe is preparing for Brexit: the European Parliament has approved the deal produced and signed by Theresa May, which is being accused by her own party members of “betraying” Brexit and its principles. Anyway, Jean-Claude Juncker has declared that this is the best deal that the UK will ever get from the European Union, and the only alternative is a hard Brexit – a scary and dangerous one for Britain’s economy.

The deal still needs to pass a final check though, that could be the toughest one: Britain’s Parliament have to ratify the deal, and it could be very hard, since Theresa May is losing support every day since the deal was agreed. If it will not be ratified, it would be canceled and that would probably mean hard Brexit.

Another problem that grew in the last week for the UK has already been resolved: Gibiltar will not be subjected to the deal signed for Brexit, since it constitutes a cornerstone for international commerce, particularly for Spain. The deal has been sealed by Pedro Sanchez and Gibiltar, with Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, calling it “the best agreement for both parts”.

Last saturday, the Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte has met the European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker to discuss the recent problems linked to the Italian budget, that exceeded the terms settled by the European Commission, and has not been ratified by it. Anyway, the Prime Minister has expressed confidence on the talks between the two parts.

In the end, in France last weekend over 106 000 people have marched in Paris and other French cities to protest over excessive taxation imposed by the government. Those protesters – called “yellow jackets” – have marched through the Champs Elysees, causing partial clashes with the police and damages to the area. Emmanuel Macron has condemned the event, declaring that “there’s no place for violence in the Republic”.

(Marcello Gradassi)

Asia & Pacific

China: This week there are several stories coming out of China. Earlier this week, gunmen tried to storm the Chinese Consulate in Pakistan. The attack took place on Friday 23rd in the city of Karachi, where gunmen killed four people. Militant groups who oppose Chinese investment in the country, took credit for the attack. Of the three gunmen, two were killed in the ensuing firefight, where officers should be praised for stopping them and preventing further tragedy.

US-Chinese relations continue to take a battering, as the two countries leaders prepare to meet at the G20 later this week. President Trump has said he is likely to push ahead with further tariffs from 10% to 25% on $200 billion worth of goods. The President has also threatened even further punishment if talks at the G20 do not go well. Hindering the relationship is Chinese detention of three US citizens. The wife and children of a fugitive businessman are being held in China and not allowed to leave, in a bid to coax out the fugitive, who is wanted for fraud ($1.4 billion). The family has been held in China since June, as they are dual citizens, with Chinese and US nationality.

Taiwan:  In local elections over the weekend, the ruling party in Taiwan, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), lost in dramatic fashion to the China-friendly and former rulers, the Kuomintang (KMT). The DPP, a pro-independence party, won a landslide majority in 2016, but now have been left with just a handful of cities and counties. For China this political shift is very favourable as they increasingly flex their muscles in the region as they look to establish themselves as the regional hegemony. The DPP framed the election as an independence or ‘Chinese takeover’, which clearly did not resonate well with voters. Taiwan continues to see itself as an independent country but is claimed by the Chinese as part of China. Also, on the ballot, was a referendum on changing the definition of marriage to include same sex, but it was rejected by the electorate. The government has promised to push ahead with law changes nonetheless.

India: Last week it emerged that a Christian missionary, John Allen Chau, was killed in an attempt to contact one the last remaining uncontacted tribes. The Sentinelese live on an island off of India and are protected by Indian law. Previous attempts to try contact the tribespeople has resulted in similar attacks, that saw Chau killed by arrows. The tribe is at risk of getting infections, as they have no immune system that is used to the diseases and germs that most humans are exposed too and are considered harmless. This has led to the retrieval of the body being put on hold, as Indian authorities do not want to risk the lives of the Sentinelese.

North Korea:  A senior French official has been arrested on suspicion of spying for the North Korean state. Benoît Quennedey was arrested on Sunday evening and is currently being investigated by the French domestic security agency DGSI. Mr Quennedey works as a civil servant in the Senate’s department of Architecture, heritage and gardens. His home and family have been searched, as part of the investigation. The official has close ties to Korea, both as his position as the President of the Franco-Korean Friendship Association, which promotes closer ties, as well as his capacity as a civil servant having taken several trips to Pyongyang, meeting with officials and writing several books. Currently, no more information is being released to the public, while the investigation is ongoing, which started back in March.

Pakisatan: the leader of a far-right Islamist movement, alongside dozens of supporters have been detained in Pakistan. The arrests took place on Friday night, following orders from the new Prime Minister Imran Khan. Extreme groups have been protesting the recent acquittal of a Christian woman Asia Bibi, who had previously been on death row for the last eight years for Blasphemy charges. The arrests present a power play, as extremists try to manoeuvre to take back power in Pakistan, which has steadily become more moderate in recent years. The government has denied that the arrests are linked to the protests surrounding Ms Bibi, instead claiming safeguarding to avoid any escalation or violence.

(Andreas Candido)

Americas

House of Representatives – After another intense week of negotiations and meetings, the debate inside the Democratic Party over the next Speaker of the House is not over yet. Long-time Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi is still heavily favored for the position, even if she does not have the votes she needs yet. However, Democrats who oppose Pelosi have not presented an alternative yet: Marcia Fudge, Representative from Ohio who said she was considering a bid for Speakership, withdrew her name from consideration after a meeting with the Party’s leadership. She obtained a new subcommittee on voting rights, which she will be in charge of.

Here you can find a summary of Pelosi’s opponents (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/21/us/politics/democrats-oppose-pelosi.html).

In conclusion, “rebels” inside the Democratic Party seem to be very divided, showing very different positions: some of them declare to be ready to cut deals with the current leadership, others say they will actively look for another candidate. These divisions make the group very vulnerable, as Fudge’s quick withdrawal demonstrates; many opponents will probably throw their support after Pelosi, in exchange of some concession.

Some Democratic commentators show concern, thinking that the new composition of the Caucus is not reflected at all by the old leadership, potentially alienating a part of the more progressive, radical electorate. However, the support for Pelosi and her team is still wide, many considering their experience a key factor in effectively acting as a counterbalance of Trump’s administration.  

Immigration – During the weekend, the atmosphere has been very tense at the US-Mexico border near Tijuana. After hundreds of migrants marched from Tijuana, the border was temporarily closed, with guards firing tear gas against people who tried to cross the fence.

It will be interesting to see how Mexican authorities, in particular the President-elect, Andrés Manuel Lòpez Obrador, will deal with the issue. As reported by Financial Times (https://www.ft.com/content/814e6fc6-f178-11e8-9623-d7f9881e729f) more than 10,000 immigrants have been deported since October.

Mississippi Special Election – The runoff of the Senate special election in Mississippi will be held on Tuesday 27th . Democrat Mike Espy gained momentum in the last weeks, reducing the gap with Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith, due to the controversial comments she made about attending a public hanging. The Republican candidate is still heavily favored for the final victory; however, President Donald Trump on Monday visited the state, where he is overwhelmingly popular, in order to address Republicans’ concerns. Indeed, they want to “avoid another Alabama”, referring to 2017 special election, when Senate Republicans lost a seat in a deeply red state because of public backlash against their candidate (in that case, following sexual misconduct allegations). Democrats considered the race out of reach just a few weeks ago, but Hyde-Smith’s remarks convinced them to invest in a challenge that could make Democratic gains after midterms even more consistent. Senate is now 52-47 in favor of Republicans.

(Edoardo Gasparoni)

Turkey

Turkey is getting ready to regional elections and MHP (Nationalist Movement Party) made an amazing favour to Erdogan’s Party but not joining the elections in the major cities to support the AKP(Justice and Development Party) .
It seems like an ongoing version of the alliance they had in the governmental elections, like AKP was the only one benefitting from the alliance, although we do not know what they offered to MHP beyond closed doors.
Opposing parties seems hopeless for the elections, though they try to boost morale to their voters. Everyone gave up the fight already after the loss of opposing figure Ince in the presidential elections against Erdogan.
It is seen that there are many people who supports opposing parties, which, though, are planning to protest their parties by not voting in the elections, because they are not happy with their party leaders. It is more often seen in the most powerful opposing party CHP (Republican People’s Party) with their leader Kılıcdaroglu who has lost 9 elections in a row against Erdogan, since he came to power in the party. Yet, he argues he has been successful as he increased the votes of CHP. When people protested outside the party building after the last elections to make him resign, he said “Resignation ? I made this party successful.” It seems like CHP is not going to change its leader at least before the regional elections.
When we look at the picture now it seems like Erdogan’s government will take another win im the regional elections despite the fact that they did not even announce most of the candidates in the major cities.

(Guney Kaya)

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