24 November 2016
Week in Brief: International
In the first round of elections for the leadership of the Republican party, Francois Fillon (former prime minister) came first with 44%, Alain Juppé (the favourite, former prime minister, former deputy mayor of Paris, mayor of Bordeaux) came second with 28%, and Nicolas Sarkozy (former president) came third with 21%. Any adult French citizen could register to vote by paying €2 and endorsing “the Republican values of the right and centre”. There were seven candidates; all but the first two are knocked out, so Fillon and Juppé will go face to face next Sunday in the second and final round. Sarkozy announced his retirement from politics.
Emmanuel Macron launched his bid for the presidency as an independent. Elections will take place next year. Mr Macron is a former banker, and has been an advisor to President Hollande and economy minister in the Socialist government. He has not been an elected politician, but hopes to occupy the centre ground between the Socialists and the Republicans.
A court in Nanterre upheld M le Pen’s exclusion from the NF, but confirmed that his position as honorary chairman could not be withdrawn. Prime Minister Manual Vals warned about the dangers of an NF victory in next year’s presidential elections.
President Obama flew to Berlin after Athens, on his final visit to Europe as president. He met Chancellor Merkel, and spoke in defence of liberal values and democracy.
Angela Merkel announced that she would stand for a fourth term as chancellor in next year’s elections.
The number of migrants arriving on the islands is increasing, with almost 200 landing each day. The agreement with Turkey is under strain, and anti-migrant demonstrations and violence are growing.
Prime minister Matteo Renzi criticised the EU’s austerity rules and threatened to veto the EU budget. Italy faces a referendum next month about Renzi’s plans to reform the constitution. Polls suggest that he will lose, which may trigger a general election (Renzi would resign), which could be won by the anti-establishment, anti-Euro Five Star Movement.
The foreign minister announced that Russia is withdrawing its signature from the International Criminal Court’s founding statute, criticising it as one-sided. Russia has never ratified its membership of the ICC.
The Supreme Court overturned the fraud conviction against Alexei Navalny, the opposition and ant-corruption activist. Earlier this year, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that he had been denied a fair trial.
The state communications watchdog, Roskomnadzor, banned the use of LinkedIn, under a law passed in 2014 insisting that data about Russian citizens must be kept on servers in Russia.
The Kremlin announced that the Iskander and S-400 short-range ballistic missiles deployed last month to Kaliningrad (the Russian enclave between Poland and Lithuania) are to remain there permanently. It said they were there to counter the danger posed by the US missile defence shield being put up in eastern Europe.
Bastion and Bal short-range anti-ship ballistic missiles systems have been deployed to two of the Kuril islands in the Pacific, which are also claimed by Japan.
Russia accused Ukraine of kidnapping two Russian soldiers from Crimea. Kiev said that the two men were deserters from the Ukraine army and were detained at the border between Ukraine and Crimea.
A new investigation is to be launched into the death of prime minister Olaf Palme, who was murdered in 1976.
Middle East and Africa
A suicide bomber killed 32 people and wounded more than 50 inside a Shia mosque in western Kabul.
Iraqi forces are engaged in street-fighting as they continue the battle to recover Mosul from Isis. Isis is fighting back with suicide bombs and rooftop snipers, and is using a 45 mile network of tunnels to move around the city. US Green Berets and the UK’s SAS are supporting the Iraqi forces.
Shia militias are cutting off Isis escape routes west to Syria; they captured the air base at Tal Afar, near the Syrian border, and declared that they will go to Syria to fight for Assad once Isis have been defeated.
Deteriorating weather has seen the drowning of hundreds of migrants this week.
Five days of fighting between rival clans in the southern city of Sabha have left at least 20 people dead and over 50 wounded.
Russia has fired P-800 Onyx cruise missiles from a land base and Kalibr cruise missiles from an Admiral Grigorovich class frigate, as well as flying jets from the Admiral Kutznetsov aircraft carrier. Syrian jets and helicopters are bombing Aleppo; hospitals have been hit (a childrens’ hospital was hit twice in three days) and none are now in operation. Over 300 civilians have been killed and over 1000 injured this week. There are reports of chlorine bomb attacks.
The Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army has driven Isis from the town of al-Bab north of Aleppo, and is now threatening to attack the nearby town of Manbij, which was taken from Isis by the mainly Kurdish SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces) three months ago. This risks conflict between Turkey and the USA (which supports the SDF) and also with the Assad regime.
As relations with the EU continue to deteriorate, President Erdogan has suggested that Turkey might turn to the SCO (Shanghai Co-operation Organisation – China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, plus India, Pakistan and Uzbekistan) instead.
Far East, Asia and Pacific
A train crash killed at least 146 people and injured many more. The train was travelling from Indore to Patna, and jumped the track near Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh state.
Three Indian soldiers were killed (and the body of one of them was mutilated) on the border dividing Indian-administered Kashmir from Pakistan-administered Kashmir, according to the Indian army.
The cash crisis continues, two weeks after the two highest-denomination banknotes were withdrawn. Reports claim that more than 50 people have died in crowds outside banks. See comment Readies Under The Bed.
Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, the first Christian governor of Jakarta, is to be charged with blasphemy, following mass protests about references he has made to the Koran.
Questions are being asked about the disappearance of Gulnara Karimova, the daughter of the late President Islam Karimov. Some reports claim that she was arrested three years ago and held under house arrest. Other reports claim that she was killed and buried in an unmarked grave earlier this month. Swiss and US authorities have been investigating money-laundering allegations made against her. Her father died two months ago; elections for a new president will be held on December 04.
Police arrested the former governor of Rio de Janeiro state on suspicion of corruption linked to the construction of the 2016 World Cup football stadium. Another former Rio state governor was arrested on suspicion of voter fraud. Thousands of anti-austerity protesters clashed with police in Rio, and right-wing protestors stormed the Congress in Brasilia. Protestors stormed the Rio state’s assembly last week.
Vice-president elect Mike Pence has replaced New Jersey governor Chris Christie as head of Donald Trump’s transition team.
Lieutenant General Michael Flynn has been chosen as Donald Trump’s national security advisor, and Senator Jeff Sessions as his attorney general.
Concerns have been voiced about the potential conflict of interest between the president-elect’s business ventures and his political position.
Donald Trump told The New York Times
that he won’t seek to prosecute Hilary Clinton. He confirmed that he will tear up the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.
See comment Bad Hair, Good Hair
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