International Headlines: Politics

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FARC, Colombia Sign Historic Accord on Justice for VictimsTelesur TV September 23, 2015

The head of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri (aka Timochenko) and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos signed an agreement for transitional justice and the rights of victims of the internal conflict in Havana, Cuba. Transitional justice was considered the most sensitive and contentious topic during negotiations. FARC maintained that they would not lay down their arms only to go to jail. Colombian President Santos emphasized that there would be no amnesty or pardons for war crimes or crimes against humanity. Therefore, a special peace tribunal will be created (including a minority of foreign experts) to try guerrilla members, military officials, and those who provided funding to the armed actors. The negotiating parties will now discuss the end of the armed conflict, which will include an agreement on a bilateral cease-fire. The final deal will be subject to a referendum in Colombia.

 

Venezuela, Colombia Agree to Address Border Closure Dispute TeleSur

September 21, 2015

To resolve border disputes between Colombia and Venezuela, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa and Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez, under the auspices of the Latin American regional blocs,  the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), facilitated a meeting between Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and Colombian President Juan Santos. Following the mediated closed-door meeting,  Correa read a statement agreement on Monday that stated that Venezuela and Colombia would reinstate their ambassadors, carefully investigate the border situation, while working to progressively normalize the border. The two countries will also continue talks on September 23.

 

Greece Election: Alexis Tsipras Hails “Victory of the People BBC

September 20, 2015

With 60% of votes counted, Syriza is projected to have a majority if the Independent Greeks join a coalition, which they have said they would do. The latest figures give Syriza a 35% majority , compared with New Democracy's 28%. The far-right Golden Dawn is set to be the third biggest party, with 7.1%. The election was called after Syriza lost its majority in August. This followed the signing of an unpopular new financial September 9, 2015 bailout deal with international creditors. Turnout for this poll was just over 55%, down from 63% in January and low by Greek standards. Tsipras told thousands of jubilant supporters in central Athens: "In Europe today, Greece and the Greek people are synonymous with resistance and dignity, and this struggle will be continue for another four years.”

 

The latest projection gives Syriza 145 seats in the 300-seat parliament, with New Democracy on 75. This is only four fewer than Mr Tsipras's victory in January, but again leaves him just short of an absolute majority. The Independent Greeks are likely to get 10 seats.

 

Four Elections Could Decide the Future of Europe

Foreign Policy in Focus

September 9, 2015

Between now and next April, Portugal, Greece, Spain, and Ireland will hold national elections that will impact the economic model of the European Union (EU) . The left has to fight against the policies of the troika and against a rising tide of right-wing movements   that have opportunistically added anti-austerity rhetoric to their racist, xenophobic, and increasingly violent stances.

Portugal’s election on October 4 is currently dominated by the conservative People’s Party-Social Democratic Party coalition. The left-wing United Democratic Coalition (an alliance of the Communist Party and the Greens) and the Left Bloc will likely pick up deputies. There is also a strong possibility that the conservatives will fall, and that the center-left and left will form a coalition government. Together the latter parties control 98 seats. They need 116 to form a government.

The political situation in Spain is fluid (election on December). The ruling right-wing People’s Party has been rocked by corruption scandals, and it is in trouble because of its support for austerity. The Socialist Party has recently increased its popularity, but they instituted the austerity policies in the first place. Support for the left-wing anti-austerity Podemos Party appears to have stalled, although the mayors of several major cities, including Madrid and, Barcelona have been elected on their ticket or with their support. There is the center-right Ciudadanos Party which has espoused a few populist-leaning positions, and did well in spring elections, but its economic program is opaque so they are not likely to see major electoral gains. There is  also the new Citizens Security Law, which the People’s Party rammed through parliament. It’s aimed at suppressing demonstrations, criticism of the government, and free speech to  shut down Podemos.

The Irish Republic polls are shifting from month to month prior to the April elections. The economy is growing, but the troika’s austerity regime is still raw: Over 100,000 mortgages are underwater, and some 40,000 people, mostly young professionals, have fled to Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States, inflicting a crippling brain drain on the island. The centrist coalition of Fine Gael and Labor rules, but that’s likely to change after the election. Polls show Fine Gael at 28% and Labor at 7%. At 21%, the left-wing, anti-austerity Sinn Fein Party is number two, and  leader Gerry Adams’s popularity, has been climbing. There is also a mix of independent parties, ranging from greens to socialists, supported by 24% of voters. Most are anti-austerity and potential coalition partners if the ruling parties fall.

Japan Passes Controversial Security Laws

Al Jazeera

September 9, 2015

When World War II ended, allied forces made it a condition of surrender for Japan to have a military limited only to self defense. Now Japan says it needs a stronger military and has passed a law that could lead to its forces being deployed abroad. The issue has sparked protests, debate and even a scuffle in parliament. Backers of the legislation argue Japan's backyard has become a dangerous place. There have been missile tests in North Korea as well as Chinese challenges to Japanese sovereignty over remote islands. Opponents say the conditions are too vague and give future governments too much leeway for interpretation.