economy, europe, World Politics

Greece will recover if the EU is realistic and pragmatic

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Violent protests are choking up streets, almost a quarter of the nation is unemployed, and taxes are at unprecedentedly high rates. A country which has faced economic despair for over eight years, Greece is still in need of a realistic, long-term, and sustainable plan in order to rejuvenate its ailing economy. It is time that the European Union accepted that it should not bring Greece to adhere to unrealistic conditions. Instead, it is in the Union’s interests to – albeit begrudgingly – hand the Greek people the support they need.

Greece’s economy has barely improved even with international ‘aid.’ There must be something going wrong with the present strategy. Greece’s level of debt is eating away at the livelihoods of ordinary people, sitting at around 180% of output. It is estimated that as much as 75% citizens’ earnings is being taken in tax revenues, alongside other harsh, EU-imposed austerity measures. Greece’s unemployment is now more than double that of the EU average. Austerity is not working, and the lives of citizens are not improving. It may, in the long-run, make a stronger economy, looking at only the macroeconomic situation. But for the average Greek, their personal income and quality of life will not markedly improve. Surely this should be the primary goal of the EU.

The national economy can only recover through investment and employment, in the same way that many of the world’s greatest economies started. The Greek parliament last week was backed into approving €5.4bn of controversial budget cuts. For a nation that voted “oxi” – or “no” – to extensive budget rescaling last year, this is surprising. But is it that surprising, really? The international press and our leaders will keep telling us that Greece has no other option. But really, this is just highlighting the crippling monopoly of the European Union.

The time for a review of the supposed Greek recovery has come, but quarrels between the European Central Bank, Eurozone, and International Monetary Fund are continuing to stall any workable progress. The EU has the chance to serve one of it’s most important functions – to uphold its true values of solidarity, and support its member states in calamities. With particular reluctance on the part of the German government, it seems that Greece and its people will not come back to life unless a form of compromise is made. A harsh economic dictatorship, being orchestrated by Merkel, is neither an intelligent nor viable strategy for a Greek recovery. Amidst worrying social unrest, the Greek government simply has no choice but to succumb to the rigid conditions of troika.

This week, Christine Lagarde of the IMF has reported a significant contraction in the Greek economy, and that the aspirations of the EU for Greece are largely unrealistic. In order to progress to the next stage of bailout, the Greek government must repay €3.5bn by July. But achieving any form of budget surplus means harsh austerity measures, passed as parliament grit their teeth. The only option which could lead to true stability and progress is if member states contribute to a stronger Greek economy, by aiding with debt relief, and if the EU’s expectations are reduced.

Selfishness from the European Union will only lead to increased calamity, and not only financially. Supporting Greece is in member states’ interests. Economic solidarity is necessary in multiple respects, and is what the European Union ought to stand for. Without true moderation and aid, Greece will decline in many ways. Less investment and support will mean more unrest. Greece’s streets have already become increasingly violent, and there is no sign of the chorus of opposition waning. Does Merkel really want to lug around a socially unstable state? Furthermore, chances of tyranny and political instability would only grow.

Unless the EU comes truly to the rescue, the current left-wing government will grow more unpopular, and the anti-establishment, austerity-defending hard right will succeed. Without a good cash flow from Brussels, economic growth will never be high again for at least the next decade. The lives of Greek citizens will become arduous and their prospects weak. There is no denying that it will be a long, hard slog. Choosing to ignore Greece to the furthest extent possible is not a realistic or pragmatic option. Money must be used as an incentive for growth and rejuvenation, not just something to tick a box. The focus must turn to getting people back into work, and reducing austerity to a more acceptable level. Only with a long-term plan which combines components of balance and sustainability will Greece be able to emerge re-energised.

No decision will be favourable, and no form of austerity desirable. But at the moment, the EU is in its own bubble. Christine Lagarde and the IMF have the power to pop it. The creation of a realistic plan should be fast sought. There is no quick fix, but if the government can present a collective strategy with visible, incremental improvements, Greece will be slowly reincarnated. The European Union needs a reality check. It is undermining its own principles of solidarity, support and prosperity. When realistic and pragmatic strategy emerges, with a plan spanning the next decade, the Greek people may finally be a little more content. By ignoring the seriousness of the Greek crisis, the EU is only creating more problems for itself. Unrest will plague communities, government popularity will further decline, the hard-right may well conquer another European region, and individuals will become tired. Surely the nurturing of economic demise is not something the EU wants to credit itself with.

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human rights, UK Politics, World Politics

The Tories’ Saudi arms trade is killing innocent civilians

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With a regular dosage of stories on the destructive consequences of Western interventions in the Middle East recently, it seems that civilian deaths have become something normal. A plethora of extremist groups has taken global governments of late by storm, provoking drastic defence measures involving all the superpowers. Dangerously dispersed power amongst tyrannical factions like Islamic State and al-Qaeda has emphasised the strong need for protecting the global community. But the airstrikes and artillery supported and, in some cases, provided by states like the United Kingdom, is having a detrimental effect on innocent civilians.

Since Saudi Arabia’s recent intervention in the tempestuous Yemeni civil war between rebel and president forces, the United Kingdom has rabidly supported its destructive defence policy. David Cameron’s conservative-led government has been pivotal in building Saudi military strength, rather controversially. Whilst the marginalising and weakening of barbaric terrorists is essential, coining the UK’s operations wholly as ‘efforts’ would be a huge overstatement.

Whilst the Saudi defence tactics supported by the UK have had successes, their impact has fostered desolation, death and detriment on a vast scale. Our terrorist methodology is becoming similar to that of medieval times. It was reported in April that a cumulative $6bn has been spent on UK arms production for Saudi Arabian use since the Saudis’ entry into the conflict.  David Cameron has scandalously authorised the provision of astronomical quantities of weaponry produced by UK companies for Saudi Arabian use. It is our government which is in control of the Yemeni people’s fate, and it is our leaders who are choosing not to provide constructive humanitarian aid.

Until very recently, the damaging civilian impact of Britain’s violent strategy has been less reported. Whilst combatting extremism to an extent, civilisations are becoming obliterated, children have been displaced, and essential services have ceased to function. Easy come, easy go. Towns and villages are coming to a standstill, and vital support organisations’ hospitals are failing to cope. David Cameron, alongside an army of MPs, is the pioneer of a crusade massacring millions at the expense of erasing only a handful of brutes. It was estimated a few months ago by the World Health Organisation that around 6,400 civilians with no militant motivation have been killed by western weaponry. Further to this, around 2.5m people have had their livelihoods stripped of them, bearing no possessions nor a roof over their head. Médecins Sans Frontières have had countless facilities reduced to rubble. Instead of bringing political stability, the Tory administration are nurturing a mammoth humanitarian crisis across Yemen. How can our leaders stand by such brutality, which is damaging communities?

Akin to the actions of Tony Blair in regard to the pain of the Iraqi conflict, Cameron is in danger of committing atrocious war crimes. Many Westminster MPs have already condemned the government-supported attacks. This comes alongside criticism from organisations like the United Nations and pressure groups Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. Our nation is defying vital human rights convention. Many innocents are having their livelihoods instantaneously stolen from them. Such criticism should be setting the alarm bells ringing. If Russia were collaborating with Saudi Arabia, orchestrating attacks such as those that the UK support, there would be international outcry. The Tories’ reprehensible hand in the arms trade is thus the source of great hypocrisy and deceit.

Once again, the moral case has been outdone by the political and economic cases. The prospect of large sums of money from the Saudis is the true power supply of such careless warfare, as one British government inquiry termed it. Our government has proven that it is morally and politically weak. With growing pressure from US Secretary of State John Kerry, David Cameron and his Atlantic allies have chosen to play into the hands of just a few businesses rather than tread the moral high ground of stamping out such demoralising attacks. Large profits have triumphed over more attentive soft power, destroying the chances for dialogue and collective humanitarian action.

Perhaps in a couple of years, when the flame of the harmful Yemeni conflict dies, will a viable solution to the civil war be found. Hunger, poverty and ill health are continuing to prevail throughout the nation, thanks to British bombs. The United Nations is only 40% towards sourcing the $703m needed for reconstructing the Syrian nation, and it looks like the West would be reluctant to help after recent events.

We have to be hard on extremism, but it is clear that the United Kingdom’s interventions are just too much. The civilian loss is huge. Communities will never be the same. Detriment of this type has been felt before in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt and Afghanistan, alongside a great deal of other regions. Where will be next? If our answer to extremism is blood and bombs, the world will fail to increase in political sustainability? Through the United Kingdom’s current methods for defeating such tyranny, terrorism will grow more commonplace, and our international relations will become more brittle. The Yemeni people need humanitarian support, and it is time that our approach focused on teamwork, peace, and sustainability.

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society, UK Politics

Sadiq Khan’s victory shows that Londoners are not naïve

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In his inauguration speech at Southwark Cathedral this morning, Sadiq Khan revelled in the possibilities of a London for all. The son of a Muslim bus driver who grew up on a London council estate has proven that Europe’s largest city is now an epicentre of inclusive and progressive politics. The ten week campaign for the London mayoralty between Khan and his Tory rival Zac Goldsmith has certainly shown that Londoners are not naïve. Instead, the realpolitik Khan has triumphed. Running a campaign which categorically marginalised those of ethnic minorities, the trajectory of Goldsmith’s popularity continued to plummet throughout the campaign. Khan’s unarguable success has punctuated the huge failings of the racially motivated Tory campaign, and has laid the foundations for a city of increased unity.

Branding Khan as a supporter of Islamic extremism and consistently scaremongering the city is what fundamentally caused Goldsmith’s campaign irreparable damage. The Conservative campaign within London this year was unforgiveable, and taught a hard-hitting lesson to those who seek to abandon political pragmatism. A racial crevasse in London would serve to diminish chances of prosperity and unity across London, instead of nurturing the accepting and just culture upon which the city prides itself.

One of the most incomprehensible failings of the Goldsmith campaign is that the Tories never sought to please all Londoners, with marginalising policy. Instead of adopting an ideologically driven, resolute campaign, Khan’s strength was his ability to focus on the real issues concerning the majority. His motto ‘a mayor for all Londoners’ only accentuates this. It seems that through such blatant flaws over the party’s isolating campaign, the Conservatives were always doomed. Their game of unfairness and backward politics meant that a Labour victory was effortless. David Cameron’s willingness to endorse such a divisive standpoint during Prime Minister’s Questions is nothing short of mindless. Cameron’s ease in remarking that Britain would “pay the price” for the election of Khan, whilst the Conservatives insist on supporting a “big society” is scandalous. Marginalising the chances of Conservative gains with even the most successful and high-earning minority ethnic citizens is a foolish move. And the fact that the Conservative party failed to realise its shortcomings with regard to such racially divisive politics is ludicrous. It is further atrocious that many Conservatives themselves refused to condemn Goldsmith’s brutality en masse.

The fact that Khan capitalised on the failings of Goldsmith is not the only reason for his landmark win. As a true Londoner, many believe that Khan will not only seek political advantage through the mayoralty. Freezing Transport for London fares, keeping rents low, and raising the profile of environmental sustainability are issues important to one and all. One of his greatest assets is his status not as a star or a personality, but as a genuinely ‘normal bloke.’ Khan understands the real issues affecting Londoners. His ability to take everyone into account and defy the divisive politics of Goldsmith has led to an unquestionable victory.

In a political world where populist politics from the right of the spectrum is becoming the norm and achieving great support, Sadiq Khan’s natural, left wing win must be refreshing for many. It is a resonant statement that loud-mouthed politics such as those of Trump or Farage have not succeeded within London. Perhaps this is due to Goldsmith’s persona, never really presenting himself as someone who is casually outspoken like many right-wing populists. Or perhaps such divisive politics have failed within a city as multi-cultural as London purely because of its cultural smorgasbord. It is clear, though, that the Tory campaign has taken its focus on defying extremism too far this time. Khan’s politics of optimism have clearly trounced those of hatred. We must be always heavy-handed on dealing with extremism, but presenting such an controversial campaign in a patchwork city like London has fallen monumentally flat.

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society, UK Politics

Nationalist and unionist feelings prevented Labour wins in Scotland

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Would you call yourself a unionist or nationalist? Did you side with Salmond or Darling in the independence referendum? Yesterday, did you give a vote to the nationalist SNP or the unionist Tories? The pivotal 2014 referendum over Scottish independence heated discussions of political identity. Few previous events had seen Scots passionately side with a political campaign so decisively. This morning’s Scottish Election results have shown that nationalist and unionist sentiment spurred by the referendum has little chances of waning in months – and inevitably years – to come. The extensive and somewhat surprising gains of Ruth Davidson’s Scottish Conservatives have proven that capitalising on the fears of independence and the growth in pro-union feeling will bring in easy seats. Similarly, whilst Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP has lost a few of its hotspots, it is clear that the heartfelt politics of many who yearn for increased decentralisation are still alive. Enhanced commitment to political identities is transforming Scottish politics and is becoming crucial in deciding the futures of our political parties.

The most profound change within the Holyrood establishment revealed this morning has to be the demise of Scottish Labour. The party, once dominating Scottish politics, has entered into a stark and likely prolonged decline. With left-wing feeling traditionally widespread across Scotland, and Scottish Labour gaining the most seats in Holyrood in 1999 and 2003, many hardcore supporters of the party would be most surprised at last night’s results. Labour prepared itself yesterday for a kick thanks to eternal issues surrounding anti-Semitism arguments, divides between Corbyn supporters and old Blairites, and the SNP’s storm in the polls. But one of the main weaknesses of the Scottish Labour party which has come to light in the wake of Ruth Davidson’s largely unforeseen triumph yesterday is that the Scottish Labour party does not have a strong political identity. Having likeable and well set out policies is undeniably paramount. But the other main parties within the Scottish parliament are taking a more decisive line over identity and nationality, as well as asserting their authority as issue-based movements.

Scottish politics has seen a well-established two party dominance emerge at Holyrood in recent years – something the AMS voting system was, in fact, designed to prevent. The rise of the SNP has seen a marked transformation from the consensus politics which prevailed in the earlier years of the Scottish parliament. The SNP has succeeded in dominating devolved decision making since its time in government from 2007, a political monopoly fostered by unquestionable leftist history throughout Scotland.

Last night’s election results in Scotland, however, further accentuated the SNP’s already strong nationalist identity. The rise of the Tories also, rebranding themselves in 2014 with heavy emphasis on the unionist element of their politics, marks a real change in direction for Scottish politics. The fundamental questions of identity, which surrounded the independence referendum two years ago, are evidently still hot on the minds of much of the electorate.

A survey carried out by What Scotland Thinks in March 2015 put Scottish nationalist sentiment amongst Scots at 62%, and British feeling on 31%. Whilst this may not exactly correlate with yesterday’s election results, the almost two-fold increase in the SNP’s gains from 2011 looks as if it may go hand-in-hand with the party’s victory this morning.

When the new Scottish parliament sits for the first time in a few days’ time, not only austerity, tax, and public services will place Sturgeon and Davidson at loggerheads. The new Conservative opposition and old timer SNP government will sit in their nationalist and unionist blocs. Whilst many believe that Labour’s demise is due to indecisiveness and leadership disputes south of the border, perhaps its lack of nationalist standpoint is really its Achilles heel.

The referendum is now over, although the SNP continue to angle for another which would take place in just a few years. It seems that the legacy of hyped patriotism and focus on national identity has largely changed the 2016 election’s course. The SNP and Conservatives are the parties for nationalists and unionists, respectively. Of course, a large majority are still issue voters. But Labour’s inability to decisively condemn or endorse another independence referendum may well have contributed to Kezia Dugdale’s fate. Those adamant about protecting the union could safely vote for a strong opposition led by Davidson, keen to protect relations with Westminster, in the same way that hardcore nationalists just know that Sturgeon’s team would never wholly backtrack on independence.

The Labour party is the odd one out when it comes to a focus national identity. The Labour party’s instability rests on its short-lived leaders, racial controversy, and a turf war between the grassroots members and the party’s elected MPs. In Scotland, however, the referendum has not at all diluted impassioned nationalist and unionist sentiment, which will, judging by yesterday’s election, continue to influence our nation’s politics. Stuck in between the fervent debate, Labour has fallen hard, failing to take a form of loyalist standpoint. It seems that the divisive referendum and its focus on identity has created clear-cut sides. The conundrum surrounding the still contentious ‘Yes or No?’ question is still alive. Whilst independence does not look imminent, there is still growing support both for and against such constitutional change. The possibilities for such a transformation are boosting identity-based politics, as well as gains for both the SNP and the Scottish Conservatives as decisive nationalist and unionist movements.

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human rights, society, UK Politics

Young people are being forgotten during UK election campaigns

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Over the days leading up to today’s Scottish General Election, I asked many of my fellow students whether or not they would be voting. Many responded enthusiastically, enfranchised for the first time – disregarding the Scottish referendum – as 16, 17, or 18 year-olds. But a large proportion of the answers I received were gravely worrying. Many told me that they didn’t feel educated enough, that they simply had forgotten to change to their new constituency, or that they hadn’t had time to register for a postal vote. The Electoral Commission’s social media drive and overhead billboards have failed to entice voter registration amongst citizens young and old. It seems that our system of electoral registration is failing to inspire many in society – especially students, as well as those who travel regularly.  A boost in electoral bureaucracy, spearheaded by the Tories thanks to recent reform, is making our electoral system more deceptive, and is resulting in the creation of a relaxed political culture. The principles of our nation’s democracy are under threat.

There must surely be something wrong about a society which does encourage people to vote, but makes it increasingly difficult to. Several months ago, Tory legislation removed the ability for collective voter registration, and thus made it less easy to become enfranchised. Due to these new government moves, households and organisations such as universities can no longer place large numbers of individuals on the electoral register at once. To top this, electoral participation is alarmingly low. Around a third of voters – and regularly more – failed to turn up to their local polling station last May.

The fact that such large numbers of people choose not to exercise their right to vote, or are missing – either deliberately or accidentally – from the electoral register is a serious threat to the United Kingdom’s political society. How can governments be held to account? Why should David Cameron and his party be allowed to create such a political monopoly, making it easier for the older and more geographically anchored individual to vote? It is abominable that the government is willing to sit back whilst its agencies fail to make registration an effortless exercise.

As many as 800,000 previously eligible citizens were deleted from the register several months ago. It was further revealed that the electoral register has shrunk by 1.6 million since 2012. In no way have the Tories’ electoral register changes been beneficial to the UK’s democracy. Instead of being a source of inspiration and empowerment, the Electoral Commission has become growingly bureaucratic.

The worst part of the government’s changes is the disrespect for some of the most influential groups of society. Students, many of whom will have to register to vote for the first time, are being failed. Moving between multiple addresses, the government has not provided an effortless registration process for young people. Without the participation of young adults, results of past elections would be markedly different. Voting amongst those aged between 18 and 24 saw a 20% decrease between 1990 and 2010. Perhaps the government is willfully ignoring the youth vote, knowing that their increased enfranchisement would diminish chances for Tory victories. Either way, such blatant disrespect for mass enfranchisement is a crime against democracy.

Besides the Tories’ tactical registration reform, there are other reasons why the youth vote, in particular, is becoming increasingly smothered by those above. Party efforts for encouraging student voting seems very weak. At my student flat in Glasgow during this election campaign, I received a puny supply of direct electoral information. The provision of three leaflets from the Scottish Green Party was very acceptable. However, besides this delivery, as well as one mailshot from UKIP and another from Solidarity, I received nothing else. The fact that a number of the main parties in Scotland – the SNP, Labour, the Conservatives and Lib Dems – were not interested in attracting the student vote through direct canvassing shows that more must be done to sell the pros of enfranchisement to young people. Don’t get me wrong – a large number of young adults are very politically engaged. But those who lack in political knowledge and experience are being forgotten. Surely it is the duty of our governments to promote the excitement and empowerment which comes with electoral participation.

There are several quick and effective fixes to the seemingly increasing threat to our democracy and the UK’s political culture. It is clear that the Tories’ new enfranchisement regulations are having a seriously negative impact on participation, and excluding vast populations from political engagement. Along with increased direct support from individual parties, a perhaps if universities, colleges and other institutions – as well as households – had power to enfranchise people en masse returned, our nation’s democratic foundations would be stronger than ever. On top, huge registration campaigns must become the norm. An inspiring Electoral Commission should be built up, ready to promote the benefits of participation to all. In addition, the lack of direct canvassing towards young people is shameful. An increase must be seen.

It is therefore clear that the political parties of the UK are in danger of becoming complacent. Party leaders do not seem to want to talk to young people as much as they perhaps once did. It seems that the 1920s struggles for suffrage have not ended, and will not end soon. Next year’s Scottish local elections will inevitably receive markedly less attention than this May’s general election. A new era of democratic encouragement must come into being. The Tories’ recent electoral reforms are damaging the chances for strengthened British democracy. Elections should not be made difficult to take part in. For if this is the case, Britain is simply not a democracy. Only tomorrow will we find out how exactly Britain’s young people have exercised their votes in one of the several elections taking place today. Call me a cynic, but I fear that the figures for youth turnout will not be as high as they could be. Of course, those who are politically engaged will certainly be rampant supporters of their chosen party. But without stark rejection of the government’s new registration obstacle course, we will be quietly submitting to the removal of our greatest democratic rights.

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europe, human rights, World Politics

Refugees, extremism, and the EU do not justify curbed press freedoms

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It seems that the existence of our free press, liberal social networks, and a largely unrestricted internet maze are the foundations of our societies that we are failing to appreciate. Recent months have seen a draconian crackdown on countless activists and journalists worldwide, most notably throughout Turkey, Poland, and Middle Eastern nations. Without giving citizens the ability to criticise their leaders, only tyranny and inequality will prevail. As governments are placed under mounting pressure to restore public order and dissolve the marked threats of rampant extremism, global populations are at risk of viewing an independent media as a more sporadic luxury.

Headlines in past months have seen the stringent curtailing of speech freedoms in myriad nations. More and more, the rights of citizens to criticise from the interior of controversial regimes are declining.  Turkey’s government, led by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is on a rights rampage, crushing protests over intense media regulation, and closing numerous media outlets which actively speak out against the government. March saw the Committee for the Protection of Journalists declare Turkey as “under siege” in the war against its free press. Further punctuated by the prosecution of a German comedian for his outspoken poem tormenting President Erdoğan, and the government’s new control of multiple private news agencies, perhaps there will soon be no robust check on the Turkish government. The situation is all too similar worldwide, especially in Poland and Egypt. In January, President Andrzej Duda similarly moved a large proportion of the country’s media under state control. The February murder of Reuters journalist Giulio Regeni in Cairo shows that the suppression of our global media is fast mushrooming.

The sad reality is that the above examples are only a small fraction of the assaults carried out against international media. The EU and the UN, two of the most authoritative rights organisations in the world, have declared the right to freedom of speech and the existence of a free press are essential human rights and key pillars of liberal democracies. Denying citizens this liberty should is a crime. Without a free press encircling our societies the significant corruption which riddles too many communities would not have been exposed. Last month’s Panama Papers scandal is just one of the many underhand operations that  came to light thanks to a co-operative, forceful global media. With harsher press clampdowns, similar discoveries will only become fewer and less frequent. Our governments are in real danger of becoming despotic and unaccountable.

The laxity of many global leaders is coming at a hefty price. Many nations may, in just several years, have no real accountability mechanisms in place. Whilst the eternal struggle against extremist militants across the world continues, the European influx of refugees fleeing war-torn states becomes greater, and the European Union becomes closer to tipping point, it is vital that political solutions are, of course, sought. But we absolutely cannot concede press freedoms for increased peace. The shutdown of our media outlets will only increase the toil and the danger.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, portrayed as the queen of Europe and pioneer of one of the world’s greatest democracies, is one leader who has unforgivably succumbed to such pressures. In an attempt to prevent the break up of the European Union, and to save the German export economy, Turkey has been urged to take the brunt of the continuing refugee crisis. Some form of payback is absolutely right. But the accelerated EU membership process of Turkey will threaten the core principles of the Union, including those of our societies’ press freedoms. Accepting Turkey into the EU whilst it fails to comply with several of the 72 membership pre-requisites, is certainly not a master stroke. Coercing Turkey into housing a large proportion of Middle Eastern refugees is all for political advantage. Turkish membership will make the existence of weak political freedoms somewhat acceptable, and Germany, one of the biggest promoters of such democratic principles, is shamefully abandoning its national morals. One of the largest world democracies has now authorised Turkey’s lax political society, which will now allow the replication of weak media regulation in nations elsewhere.

Our leaders’ ploys of taking reduced press freedoms for increased political advantages will not work eventually. Without strong opposition to these moves from global powers, such media suppression will become more commonplace. Our inability to crackdown on blatantly harsh regimes is fostering a rise in authoritarianism as people yearn for some form of immediate stability. One recent report showed that civilians caught up in the Arab Spring would forego democracy in return for increased stability. Whilst vehement authoritarianism will, in several cases, bring stability in the short term, a reduction in the ability to speak out will create internal opposition and unjust dictatorships. The promotion of truly democratic principles is the only way of tackling political problems in Middle Eastern states, as well as nations such as Turkey and Poland.

The most worrying prospect is that such democracy-threatening politics could become the norm in our societies. As citizens look for solutions to political instability, as well as an end to prevalent barbarism – and quite rightly so – we can’t just forget our democratic morals in return for a quick and short-term remedy. The removal of a vibrant, challenging press is criminal, and will result in the eventual explosion of pent up fury, restarting the vicious circle. The only solution is for our Western leaders to demonstrate their solid grip on democratic principles. A free press is essential, but by no means existent in many societies. Without fast-paced, immediate action, global citizens’ voices will become increasingly drowned out, and tyranny will triumph.

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World Politics

Brazil’s democracy is working, but Rousseff should trigger a new revolution

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Whilst Brazil has been widely criticised in recent months over its preparations for the imminent summer Olympic Games, its astonishing poverty rates, and now exposed political corruption, there is at least some form of silver lining to its storm clouds. This week, Brazil’s congress voted in favour of impeaching its President, Dilma Rousseff, who is currently embroiled in an alleged corruption crisis. A still infant democracy, Brazil is far from what political spectators would call perfect. But the fact that nearly four million citizens have mobilised en masse, kindling the next chapter of Brazil’s transformation, must be pleasing.

At least, not for the incumbent President. Recent political events have seen an unsuccessful attempt to cover former President Lula from prosecution for corruption. Furthermore, allegations of fiscal wrongdoing in order to boost Rousseff’s government’s approval ratings are amongst the grounds for her elimination. But now, mass protests are making Rousseff’s impeachment an increasingly legitimate outcome.  If the President is wholly overthrown in a dramatic coup d’état in coming months, it will no doubt mark huge changes for Brazil’s political culture. However, the removal of just one corrupt leader must not mark the end of this stimulating shift.

With a leadership that is seemingly riddled with corruption, many argue that it would be very fair for the frontrunner of Brazil’s political network to be ousted from office. As many as 200 politicians are currently accused of fiscal malpractice, accepting bribes for political acts and strategically evading legal action. Whilst Brazil seems to be taking its new democracy in its stride, those all important qualities of a modern state simply cannot be put into practice with such underhand tactics from the nation’s politicians. How can a rule of law exist, and how can the 52 million people whom voted for Rousseff see their decisions truly implemented?  It is right that Rousseff’s powers of government are removed. Where democracy seems to be on the path towards success, albeit a system which remains very brittle in Brazil, the next stage of the nation’s revolution should be the renouncement of such abominable corruption.

It would be wrong to assume that the instantaneous removal of Rousseff will see the political system quickly fixed. If the Senate does vote in favour of impeachment and a legal committee finds Rousseff guilty, current Vice President Michel Temer would assume power, though himself facing allegations. The grave issues regarding the increasingly susceptible Rousseff should serve to continue Brazil’s transformation. It has been estimated that as many as 3.5 million citizens took to the streets in protest over Rousseff’s shady administration and her corrupt Worker’s Party. Brazil’s overhaul must now become wide-ranging. If Temer is to assume office, the only hope is that 2018’s newly elected government may impose a stringent crackdown on wrongdoing within the political sphere. Many administrative bodies of Brazil’s regime remain substantially politicised, an overwhelming flaw that will prevent the nation’s prosperity and success. The deposition of Rousseff, and perhaps many of her colleagues, must now bring increased political transparency, and a vast purge of other officials involved in such immoral behaviours.

One thing must be comforting though. Over 25 years ago, Brazil’s commitment to democracy was reinstated, and 2016 has further accentuated the nation’s hunger for political progress. The resonant yearning for transparency and accountability has reinforced that Brazil’s society is politically engaged for change. 2016 will see the Olympic Games visit Brazil, another still developing nation, following on from China in 2008. It is said that the Games are the greatest showcase of a nation’s soft power – something that Brazil has, and of good strength. Perhaps its place on the global stage as the epicentre of culture, sport and unity will set it in good stead politically, too. With pressure from international neighbours, and an evidently citizen-driven political culture which is continuing to damn the Rousseff administration, Brazil has better potential for full democracy than ever before. Whilst causing considerable instability and frustration nationwide, the chance of ousting the nation’s malfunctioning government will only aid its transition to fairer and more open politics. The revolution must not stop here. Its people have shown that unfairness in politics is no longer a plausible set up. Society has the power to shake up the nation’s culture, government and identity for the better, and it must grasp this thrilling opportunity for deep-rooted change.

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UK Politics

Inner party rivalry is widening the gap for more united centrists

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Last May’s general election delivered a surprising result, with the potential for refreshed British politics. For many, though, the two largest Westminster parties have grown increasingly tiresome. Their petty infighting has continued to dominate headlines and manifest political stalemates. Despite a clear leadership mandate from Labour’s members, Jeremy Corbyn and his socialist team endure a seemingly eternal tug of war with hardcore Blairites, clashing over spending, defence and cuts. Moreover, the complacency derived from the Tories’ May result has come back to kick them. Its right-wingers who long criticised Labour’s disarray have now become aware of their own party’s disharmony. In much the same way as Labour, David Cameron’s Conservative party has become increasingly fragmented, jarred in dispute over Brexit, Boris and budget cuts. The surprise resignation of Iain Duncan Smith has further highlighted such divides. The next few weeks, which centre around the Welsh, Scottish, Northern Irish and Greater London Assembly elections, as well as the pivotal EU referendum, could pose problems for both main party leaders.

If anything, the months following May’s election have shown that British politics is becoming increasingly polarised, and is perhaps in need of new players. The disillusion with Labour and the Tories has opened a gap in the political market. An alternative is needed, and a political entity which has solid policy and loyal supporters could exploit this opportunity for an effortless advance. A force willing to drop strict ideological rules, and instead stand as a united, pragmatic movement could come to the fore.

One particular force does come to mind. In May, the Liberal Democrat party was dealt a blow by the electorate for indecisiveness and coalition pitfalls – a development that many would consider just. The decline the party has suffered since 2015’s general election must now have hit home. After months of lamentation, it is time that the near-destroyed party arrived re-energised at the political scene, ready to exploit the gap in British politics created by endless rivalry by Labour and the Tories. Perhaps the Liberal Democrats could become the true party of welfare, promoting a more centrist, balanced policy for which much of the electorate seemingly yearns. A decisive Tim Farron could start to command unity, strict policy and wholehearted support. With these qualities and intelligent strategy, Farron’s party could, if he chooses, turn into the movement of welfare and social justice that both Cameron and Corbyn’s parties have failed to become.

And what about the possibilities of such an hypothesis becoming a reality? Staunch divides over Brexit, a damaging budget, striking junior doctors, and quarrels over Cameron’s successors may well pave the way for an alternative party like the Lib Dems. Similarly, Labour’s tribulations over nuclear weapons and public spending, making it a dysfunctional force, could soon contribute to the fall of Corbyn. Political discontent is growing, as shown by one stark Ipsos MORI survey carried out recently. It was revealed in February that a surprising 60% are dissatisfied with the Conservative government, and that 51% feel the same with regard to Jeremy Corbyn. These numbers can only have increased by now, given recent developments, and show that the small Conservative majority government has failed to stabilise British society.

The nation’s archaic voting system will also continue to block a centrist revival. First Past the Post has fallen short of adapting to the effects of issue voting and personality politics which may otherwise give voice to smaller political entities. With Britain’s two main parties in a mess, an SNP whose Westminster voice seems marginalised, and modest Plaid Cymru, DUP, Green and UKIP forces, it is time that Westminster became pluralistic and representative.

Perhaps the electorate will soon give way to an alternative after such disorganised politics from all areas of the political spectrum. Maybe Tim Farron’s cleared-up Liberal Democrats are ready to reclaim their positions as kingmakers and moderators, placing themselves closer to the centre of political gravity. Ignoring this chance for political reincarnation would be a missed opportunity. Whilst not at all numerous in parliament, and let alone in government, operating from the sidelines by positively criticising current disarray would be a highly intelligent move. Amidst such chaos, a more coordinated movement, which the Liberal Democrat party has the opportunity to become, could make it a genuinely representative voice within UK politics.

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American Politics, Analysis, World Politics

Don’t shrug off Trump as just another short-term right-winger

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Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump speaks at his South Carolina campaign kickoff rally in Bluffton, S.C., Tuesday, July 21, 2015. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

With his forthright politics, Donald Trump has recently captivated not only citizens across the United States, but spectators the world over. As one of world’s most successful businessmen and an opinionated conservative, this is hardly surprising. His policies of closing United States borders towards Muslims, the restarting of controversial torture methods and extensive military rejuvenation have, as predicted, whetted Republican appetites. But haven’t we seen similar radical movements in other nations, and don’t they just fade away with time?

It doesn’t seem this way. Trump has become a huge threat to left-wing politics. As the gap in opinion polls narrows between himself and leading Democrat Hilary Clinton – and now this election’s wild card, Bernie Sanders, too – Donald Trump’s chances of striding into the Oval Office next January seem better than ever. Many of his policies, whilst sparking outrage on social media platforms, have suited the blend of patriotism, independence and superpower from which the Republican ethos feeds. However, this new Republican faction does indeed echo political feeling of other nations – most notably the EU’s recently emerged body of Euroscepticism.

Across several nations across the pond, right-wing populist parties have nothing but triumphed. America has, of course, had a long history of such impassioned right-of-centre politics which has fostered under strong patriotism and resulted in the creation of an unrivalled political force. But the US right-wing is running its campaigns this year on issues which are increasingly similar to those targeted in European right-wing bids. Not only low taxes, gun freedoms and lower immigration are on the cards for Republicans, but also military attacks on militant groups in Africa and the Middle East, strong border responses to surges in immigration and the implementation of controversial punishment methods.

In Europe, right-wing populist groups standing for policy similar to Trump’s have swelled in terms of their overall vote share, but their successes have come in only small doses at first-order elections. There is a broad trend showing that these groups seem less likely to lead their nations’ governments and are only ad-hoc, issue-based entities. But America seems different. Donald Trump is running a highly successful campaign, with recent polls showing that there is only 4% between he and Clinton, who was at one point said to be the only one likely to win in November.

So, why is Trump working in the States? It is clear that external issues must be coming into play. After increased attacks from various groups on the American people and in other states, it has become easy for Trump to argue in favour of increased security measures, including the development of extremely controversial policy to restrain various individuals from movement into the country.

It is clear that one of Trump’s most successful tactics is proclaiming controversial policy in order to get the electorate talking. When Trump announced his proposed shutdown of America towards Muslim immigrants, Facebook and Twitter were captivated and became nuclei of debate. Whilst many agree with Trump, the views of those in opposition have furthered conversation of his campaign. This tactic of being frank and ‘straight talking’ is a ploy seen in campaigns by the likes of the United Kindom Independence Party’s (UKIP) Nigel Farage. UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn rose to fame in the same way, presenting controversial left-wing policy and adopting a more outspoken stance than his predecessors did.

Like the strategy of the above two British campaigns, Trump has been successful in saying what the average citizen is scared to. And this similar straight-talking is something Americans are buying into in the same way that European parties, many of whom small in size, have fast appealed to mass numbers of voters. But in America, the political system does give a larger platform to such views. November’s election is not a parliamentary election, but a presidential election. In parliamentary elections, more controversial parties have been pushed to the side. But as a Presidential candidate, and representing such a large proportion of American voters, Trump possesses astonishingly wide scope of influence.

So, isn’t this just going to be another short lived campaign? No, America is different. This populist right-wing surge is being taken on by hordes of impassioned voters who are keen to protect their beloved nation. The cult of Donald Trump is working. Over the past couple of months, Trump has emerged as a very serious contender, and a serious threat to the Democrat Party’s liberal politics. Possibly, some opponents would be reluctant to use the term ‘politician,’ but the business tycoon who is now set to dominate decision making may well in fact storm the White House in a year’s time.

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