Despite finishing second in the recent general election Jacinda Arden’s Labour Party will lead the next government of New Zealand after reaching an agreement with the centre-left Green Party and the conservative populists of New Zealand First. The move will result in New Zealand’s first government not led by the National Party since 2008 and as a result much attention has been paid to what the priorities of the next administration will be. In recent days Arden has been more explicit in what her government will do and on the whole the Left should welcome the announcements, although there are some caveats that need to be added.
The European Union prides itself on emission reduction, combating pollution and generally protecting the environment. There have been countless EU directives and regulations that require member states to monitor their levels of emissions and reduce these levels by certain threshold dates. This is some of the good work of the EU and should be commended by all who want to see climate change combated. However it appears that some of the agencies backed by the EU are not on the same page as the European Bank of Reconstruction Development (EBRD) has just announced that it will loan $500 million to SOCAR, the state-run oil company of Azerbaijan.
Forces close to the de facto border between Iraq and Kurdistan have been moved from Hawija, southwest of Kirkuk, to Anbar province. The move by the US-led global coalition is important in reassuring the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) that Baghdad is not seeking to maintain the unity of Iraq by force. On Wednesday the KRG accused the Iraqi government of preparing to attack the region in retaliation for the area’s recent vote in favour of secession. These fears are justified as within days of the Kurdish referendum on independence, Iraqi forces conducted joint military exercises with Turkey and Iran. But constant state of tension points to a larger question: will Iraqi forces attack Kurdistan?
The global fight from LGBT rights has largely moved away from the Western hemisphere and is now developing countries are increasingly the battleground of equality. One such area is the African continent, where only one nation-state, South Africa, has legalised same-sex marriage. Additionally, in parts of Africa homosexual acts can be punished by execution or mob violence can spontaneously erupt against LGBT individuals. When African countries make headlines in this area we often see reports of religious fundamentalists talking about how it is unnatural to be LGBT or inciting violence against sexual minorities. However in the last week we have something encouraging from Botswana.
When the protests around the Keystone XL pipeline made headlines a year ago much was made of how the continued construction of these pipelines was a short-term business decision as renewable energies were becoming increasingly affordable. Further, as a report from the International Energy Agency said this week, renewable energy technologies are the source of most added electrical capacity in the last year. It appears that TransCanada, the company behind the Keystone XL pipeline, have accepted this premise as they have announced that the Energy East pipeline will be abandoned. This is an important decision and will hopefully snowball into a wider trend among fossil fuel companies.
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.