Category: Politics

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".

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.

What was Latin America’s Pink Tide?

  • Recent dominance of left-wing politics.
  • Argentina (2001-15), Brazil (since 2003), Venezuela (since 1999), Bolivia (since 2006), Ecuador (since 2007).
  • Seems to be ending.

Brazil still in a quagmire?

  • Yes - economic crisis continues.
  • Political crisis continues too - Rousseff hugely unpopular.
  • Petrobras corruption scandal moving closer to her as investigators arrest corporate, financial, judicial & political grandees.

Macrosnap Russian & Turkish leaders, Putin & Erdogan?

  • Both are authoritarian, populist leaders with big egos, thrive on confrontation, and are preoccupied with national pride.
  • Not a lot of warmth between them (publicly or in private).
  • Differing Syria strategies - Turkey wants Assad removed, Russia wants him to stay.

Explain EU’s wooing of Turkey in attempt to stem refugee flow?

  • EU wants Turkey (which currently has 2.5m refugees on its soil) to become a migrant buffer, instead of a gateway.
  • So Brussels is ignoring Erdogan's autocratic drift, and is showering Turkey with political and financial favours.
  • In return, Turkey would stem the flow by providing job and education opportunities for refugees, and tighten border controls.
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