Iraq is going to change. After repeated calls from governments around the world to postpone the vote, Iraqi Kurds conducted a referendum on independence and overwhelmingly backed the creation of a new state. With all precincts reporting, over 92% of residents in Iraqi Kurdistan voted to support the proposition with only 7% of voters backing continuing as part of Iraq. Overall turnout was around 72%. Although this exercise in democracy should be seen as a positive development, the other players in Middle Eastern geopolitics are not respecting the result and are now trying to coerce Kurds into remaining within Iraq.
Angela Merkel has been re-elected as Germany’s Chancellor and, at the end of her new term, shall be the longest serving occupant of that office in Germany’s post-war history. However this achievement will likely be overshadowed by the arrival of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) into the Bundestag, the first far-right party to win parliamentary seats since 1960. The centre-left SPD did poorer than expected and the results begin to show a slight fragmentation of German politics away from the two main parties, the so-called volksparteien. The implications of this fragmentation will benefit minority parties but the significant advances for the AfD may mean that future discourse will be dominated by far-right voices.
French President Emmanuel Macron has signed into law decrees that attack the rights of people to collectively bargain and organise and allows employers to more easily fire staff. Trade unions have lambasted Macron’s actions. According to France 24 Philippe Martinez, the General Secretary of the CGT, said the decrees give “full powers to employers” at the expense of workers. Although some measures will not be implemented until next year, the decrees are part of Macron’s plan to liberalise the French economy to improve productivity and cut unemployment. However the government’s blatant disregard for the concerns of working people will not be forgotten any time soon.
For a number of months I’ve been covering the ongoing situation in Kurdistan both in terms of the fight against ISIS and in regard to their desire for an independent nation-state. Opponents of the independence referendum on 25th September have sought to conflate these two issues and argue that an independent Kurdistan would only strengthen ISIS’ hand. This is patently false as a strong Kurdish state would challenge Saudi Arabia’s influence in the region therefore undermining some of the ideological foundations of groups like ISIS. Further, if Turkey continued to bomb Kurdish forces and civilians Erbil could turn to international institutions like the UN thus forcing hostile powers to refocus on the fight against ISIS. It appears, however, that the Iraqi government in Baghdad has a different view.
On 1st October the people of Catalonia will go to the polls to vote on whether or not the autonomous community should secede from Spain. There have been many challenges to this process, chief among which is that it isn’t actually legal, but the Catalan government are treating it as politically binding despite the protestations of Madrid. There has been much talk about the political divisions between both the Catalan and Spanish governments, and Mariano Rajoy and Catalan politicians in a personal capacity. However there is an important aspect of this issue that has not been considered.
In a historic move workers in McDonald’s outlets in Cambridge and Crayford have gone on strike over low wages and insecure employment. The industrial action was organised by workers and the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers’ Union (BFAWU) who have courageously taken on one of the largest companies in the world. But successes in this area from across the globe have shown that workers can successfully lobby for better working conditions. This action can bring about real change but only if the struggle of these workers is highlighted and staff at other fast food outlets unionise.
The Kenyan Supreme Court has nullified the result of last month’s presidential election result. In that election incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta won re-election much to the frustrations of Raila Odinga’s opposition. After a day of calm parts of the country, especially in opposition strongholds, erupted into violence amid calls of vote tampering. I must confess that I was skeptical of Odinga’s case because at the last election he also contested the result and the Supreme Court dismissed Odinga’s case for lacking evidence. Evidently the Supreme Court has seen compelling evidence this time around and the time has come for change.