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-->DAYBOOK updated on 24 January 2015

THE INTERNATIONAL OBSERVER

and

GLOBAL SURVEY

            

 

 

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Our 33rd year of publishing The International Observer

The Latest Issue

December 2014: Burkina Faso remains under semi-military rule

Mozambique rejects RENAMO proposed caretaker government

Guyana president suspends parliament when faced with no-confidence vote

Japanese election date advanced

Prime Ministers changed in Mongolia and Taiwan

New European Commission in place

Nicolas Sarkozy returns to UPM helm

No progress in Lebanese presidential election

Yemen forms government with rebel help

Solomon Islands government head changed

 

 

Current Concerns

Ebola

The health emergency continues as a total of  20,206 (Nov. 2014: 15,351) confirmed, probable, and suspected cases of Ebola virus disease (EVD) have been reported in nine affected countries (Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Spain, United Kingdom (new), and the United States of America), by the World Health Organization (WHO) on 28 December. There have been 7,905 (Nov. 2014: 5,459) reported deaths. [December 2014]

 

 Climate change

On the heels of international meetings in Lima and New York to energize efforts to reverse global warming, the accelerated melting of ice in West Antarctica reported in December is alarming the scientific community, reports The Washington Post. In September, Australia’s Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre (ACE CRC) in Hobart, Tasmania, had already noted that Antarctic sea ice — from melting glaciers — had reached record levels. [December 2014]

 

 The Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria

Aside from local gains and losses, leadership and supporters of the Islamic caliphate are not weakening and the attraction for foreign would-be fighters is not diminishing. There are daily reports of arrival of men — and women from Western Europe, Turkey and now from Pakistan. Outside support for the fight against IS consists of attacks by aircraft and missiles, shipments of some arms, and the beginning of modest training in Iraq [November 2014].

 Ukraine and Russia

Russian intervention in Ukraine

The ceasefire has been broken, rebels are receiving heavier weapons, and there is proof that Russian troops have entered eastern Ukraine. Equally disturbing are new Russian provocations in the Baltic, the growing military presence in the Black Sea, and aggressive aerial patrolling on the borders of Europe and the United States of America [November 2014].

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Noticed and Noted

 Arctic draws renewed diplomatic and strategic attention

Interest in the High North by non-Arctic nations whether for commercial or transportation reasons is building up but during the recent months, military and strategic plans by border states have caught international attention.

Russia’s concern and great interest in land and sea above the Eurasian landmass has never been in question. But except for some naval activity, including once planting the Russian flag at the bottom of the North Pole by submarine, military presence has been sporadic. That changed with the announcement from the Kremlin on 24 November that a new strategic military command would begin directing operations in the Arctic on 1 December from headquarters at Severomorsk, Murmansk Oblast. Russia’s seriousness about the area was further underlined when the deputy prime minister confirmed on 20 December that the country’s strong presence in the Arctic was a matter of national security.

Canada has always maintained little defined claims to areas above the North American continent. To further protect its sovereignty, the government extended its Arctic territorial claim in early December. It has requested additional work on a 10-year project of mapping the continental shelf and made a formal scientific submission to the United Nations Commission on the Limits (CLCS) of the Continental Shelf. Specifically it argues that the 1,800-km long Lomonosov Ridge is an extension of Canada’s landmass and even includes the North Pole. When the US State Department was asked about the Canadian plan it only confirmed that it was aware of the CLCS submission.

Reacting to Canadian and Russian moves, the foreign minister of Denmark on 14 December announced that it will deliver its claim to the North Pole to the Commission on the next day, Associated Press reported. According to him, scientific data shows that Greenland, a Danish dependency, is connected by its continental shelf to a ridge beneath the Arctic Ocean. [December 2014]

Norwegian prime minister heads NATO staff

Jens Stoltenberg (born 16 March 1959), former Norwegian prime minister (2005-2013), assumed the office of the 13th Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) on 1 October. He succeeds Anders Fogh Rasmussen (born 26 January 1953) who has held the office since 1 August 2009 after serving as Denmark’s prime minister from 2001 until 2009. In December 2013, his NATO term scheduled to be completed in the summer of 2014 was extended until 30 September 2014 in order to end after the summit meeting on 4-5 September in Newport, Wales, United Kingdom. During his term he oversaw the NATO intervention in Libya in 2011. [November 2014]

Rivaling legislatures and government heads delay return to normalcy in Libya

The United Nations (UN) and several major countries are trying not only to end strife continued by numerous militias and tribes but help the country to return to rule by one government and one legislature.  The new House of Representatives which was elected on 25 June and replaced the General National Congress opened its first session in Tobruk on 4 August. On the following day it elected Aguila Saleh Issa (born 1944), Independent, as its President by 77 against 74 votes. He succeeds Nuri Abu Sahmein who has held the office since 25 June 2013. But the former General National Congress (GNC) in Tripoli elected Omar al-Hassi Prime Minister on 25 August (On 23 July, the GNC had declared that it would hand over power the new Parliament on 4 August.). When the Cabinet of ‘Abdullah al-Thani (born 1954) resigned on 28 August, the House in Tobruk, on 1 September, reappointed him by a vote of 64 of 106. After submitting his proposed cabinet on 17 September, the House of Representatives rejected it on the following day. Meanwhile al-Hassi’s government was installed on 6 September after its presentation on 2 September. [September 2014]

European Union (EU)
Leadership trio in place

The special meeting of the European Council—heads of member state or governments—on 30 August was overshadowed by the issues of the Islamic State (IS), Ukraine, Palestine, Libya, and Ebola but it also completed forming the EU’s executive arm for the new term.  It elected the President of the European Council for the period from 1 December 2014 to 31 May 2017 and appointed the Union’s “foreign minister,” the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy to serve until 31 October 2019.

After consultations among member governments, former Prime Minister of Luxembourg Jean-Claude Juncker (born 9 February 1954) of the Christian Social People’s Party (CSV) became the first President of the new European Commission (EC) to be elected by the European Parliament. Although he was deemed too pro-European and federal-minded by some, especially in the British government, he was chosen by 422 against 250 votes on 15 July. There were 47 abstentions and 10 invalid votes. He succeeds José Manuel Durão  Barroso (born 23 March 1956) of the Social Democratic Party (PSD) who served as 11th President since 22 November 2004 after holding the office of Prime Minister of Portugal (2002-2004).

The Prime Minister of Poland Donald Franciszek Tusk (born 22 April 1957) of the Civic Platform (PO) was elected by the European Council as its next President on 30 August. He will succeed Herman Achille Van Rompuy (born 31 October 1947) of the Christian Democratic and Flemish (CD&V) party who assumed the office on 1 December 2009 after serving as prime Minister of Belgium (2008-2009).

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Italy since February 2014, Ms. Federica Mogherini (born 16 June 1973) of the Democratic Party (PD) was appointed High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy with agreement of the incoming Commission President on 30 August. Her selection, actively promoted by the Italian Prime Minister, had run into some objections from the Baltic States and Poland who feared she may not pursue a strong and determined approach when rejecting Russian support for Ukrainian rebels. She is probably more engaged in Islamic and Middle Eastern affairs but since she was politically active in communist youth and later socialist causes and has followed the less assertive Italian government role when dealing with Russia, these concerns arose. (It is ironic, given that the former  prime minister did not stop  cozying up to the Russian president and praising him. To the embarrassment of other Western leaders, he never tired of speaking of his Kremlin friend and seeking him out.) The current High Representative—and 1st Vice President of the European Commission (EC)—Baroness Ashton of Upholland, the former Ms. Catherine Ashton (born 20 March 1956) of the Labour Party assumed the position on 1 December 2009 after serving as European Commissioner for Trade and Labour Leader in the House of Lords (2007-2008).

 Not part of the executive branch of the Union but a leader in European affairs is the President of the European Parliament (EP). Martin Schulz (born 20 December 1955) of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) of Germany and EP Member since 1994 was reelected President by 409 of 612 votes on 1 July 2014 after holding the office since 17 January 2012. [August 2014]

Opposition BJP ends 2-term Indian Congress rule

Controversial Hindu nationalist heading government

The overwhelming election victory of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) or Indian People’s Party was not a surprise. Long before the elections started on 7 April, commentators, media, and pollsters had predicted hard going if not outright defeat for the governing Indian National Congress (INC) party and its United Progressive Alliance (UPA). Stunning, and shocking for Congress was its measly return of 44 of 543 seats in the lower House of Parliament, the Lok Sabha or House of the People.

Neither the unchallenged decency and integrity of Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh nor the remaining appeal of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty and its leadership of Congress averted the debacle.

 Singh’s second term was marked by several major cases of corruption by government ministers that clearly lost him popular support and the Gandhi family was seen as preoccupied with personal health issues and lack of engagement by its younger members. The prime minister took himself out of the campaign when he announced his retirement on 3 January and his support for Rahul Gandhi, the son of the INC leader.

 The Prime Minister

The 15th Prime Minister Narendra Modi (born 17 September 1950) (BJP) was appointed on 20 May and assumed office on 26 May. He succeeds Dr. Manmohan Singh (born 26 September 1932) who had served since 22 May 2009 until his resignation on 17 May. Before moving up to the national level, the new head of government was Chief Minister of the State of Gujarat from 7 October 2001 until his resignation on 21 May 2014. A committed Hindu and interested in politics, he joined the nationalistic right-wing Hindu Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) or National Volunteer Organization. Frequently it went beyond its educational mission, assumed paramilitary character, and took part in anti-Muslim violence—riots which in 2002 in Gujarat also seriously tarnished the reputation of its chief minister. This explains why Modi while receiving credit for his approach to economic development—the BJP supports free markets—is seen as polarizing and criticized for not being energetic enough to advance human development, especially those of minorities. Muslim Indians are watching closely for signs that the BJP will move the country away from the secular idea and from pluralism.

Elections

Before the five year term of the 15th Lok Sabha expired on 31 May, general elections were held from 7 April until 12 May 2014 in 28 States and 7 Union Territories (Creation of the new 29th State of Telangana did not become effective until 2 June. Voting was marked by a record turnout of 66.4 percent.

The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) obtained 336 of 543 seats (BJP 282) while the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) of the Indian National Congress (INC) dropped to 61 seats (INC  44) after holding 206 seats in the 2009 elections and continuing governing for a second term. [June 2014]

 

 

 

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