Elections to the Generalitat have thrown up a result that will only continue the ongoing political crisis. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy dissolved the Catalan parliament back in October by invoking Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution. Regional elections were scheduled to take place as a result of this invocation and Rajoy hoped that this would undermine the ability of separatists to claim that they were acting on behalf of the Catalan people. The election results, however, have thrown a spanner in the works as the Catalan people have endorsed parties opposed to the status quo.
In September the Kurdish people held a peaceful vote on independence and the result was an overwhelming majority in favour of creating a new nation-state. The final vote was 92.7 in favour of secession and 7.3% opposed. The independence vote was not legally permitted by the Iraqi government but due to the country’s current security situation Baghdad was unable to prevent the vote from taking place. Since this vote an economic blockade has been imposed by Iran and Turkey and flights into Kurdistan have been diverted to other parts of Iraq. Amid these tensions the government in Erbil has said that they are seeking to negotiate with Baghdad about Kurdistan’s future, and they have reiterated this stance in the face of continued pressure.
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.
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.
Labour has long claimed to be active in every community up and down the country and whilst this is not an untrue statement, there are many parts of Britain where the Labour Party is exclusively encountered in the press. For many citizens political activity is something that is people want to do but do not know how to get involved with issues they care about. My suggestion would be to make the Labour Party into a grassroots movement that is active at a level that is much more localised than just parliamentary constituencies. Empowering local people should be the future of the party and this requires a new approach to party organisation.
There is much discussion in Labour Party circles about the merits and pitfalls of mandatory reselection. The opponents of this idea are exclusively in the more moderate wing of the party and these individuals fear that if primaries were to be held for all Labour candidates for Parliament, the party would swing to the left. This is a well-founded fear as if left-wing membership were truly empowered to take these decisions, as opposed to a moderate group of party insiders, Corbyn’s leadership would be secured for the foreseeable future and his successor would likely oppose any attempt at modernisation, which is simply a euphemism for moving Labour away from socialist roots. But nevertheless, mandatory reselection should be introduced.
Iraqi Kurdistan is an autonomous region in the north-east of the country and has a somewhat fractured relationship with the government in Baghdad. Relations between the two authorities is much better than under Saddam Hussein, although this is a very low bar, but there remains a perception in Erbil that the Iraqi central government is both corrupt and incompetent. It is this perception that last week resulted in leading politicians announcing that the region would hold a referendum on independence from Iraq. This development is something that I have long argued for and could be a game-changer for the Middle East.