Category: Current affairs

Iranian and Russian differing political & geographic interests in Syria?

  • Both want Syria falling under their sphere of influence.
  • Political interests: Russia supports the core, secular base of the Assad regime (and the army), while Iran supports pro-government militias.
  • Geographic interests: Russia focus on the western coast where it has a port and airbases, while Iranian interests are in the south (wants to keep supply corridor open to Hezbollah in Lebanon).

National Front defeat in France local elections?

  • Marine Le Pen's far right National Front (FN) performed badly in 2nd round of local elections, failing to gain control of any regional governments, despite a very strong showing in the first round.
  • Voting surge + Socialists (under Hollande) withdrawing candidates (to avoid diluting opposition to the far right) ensured success for Republicans (under Sarkozy).
  • But despite the lack of success here, the FN still gets stronger every election as French society shifts to the right.

Is censorship in China getting worse?

  • Yes - now the new normal in China.
  • Tighter restrictions on expression widespread.
  • Old habits returning - businessmen and the press now face choice between ideological conformity or punishment (censure/jail/being fired/humiliation).

Broader rightward shift in French society?

  • Yes - desire for order, feeling that society has gone too far to the side of liberalism & individualism.
  • Roots lie in economic woes of former socialist president François Mitterrand's two terms (1981-1995).
  • Amplified by recent terrorist attacks and fears of immigrants.

Is Poland a worry for Europe?

  • Yes.
  • Populist, nationalist party in power, rewriting constitution, backtracking on commitments to the EU.
  • New leader admires Hungary's right wing PM Orban, who aspires to "illiberal democracy".

Why has South Africa’s currency fallen so precipitously?

  • President Zuma seems to be messing things up.
  • Recently fired respected finance minster and replaced him with an inexperienced yes man, thus putting under question the independence of the country's financial & macroeconomic policy-making institutions.
  • Backdrop a trajectory corruption, cronyism, weak economic performance and sovereign credit rating downgrades.

Is Latin America moving to the right?

  • Seems that way - Pink Tide ending.
  • New Argentina PM Macri is right-wing, recent success for centre-right UMD in Venezuela.
  • Brazil's populist president Rousseff seems doomed.
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