Issue 1146 (General Election extended edition) - Monday 2 December

Page 12

12 POLITICS In other news...

Hong Kong election turnout breaks records

Turnout in the Hong Kong local elections was at over 70% resulting in a victory for pro-democracy candidates

Alex Payne Contributor

In the United States, billionaire and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has joined the 2020 presidential race. Despite previously being a Republican, Bloomberg will stand to be the Democratic Party presidential nominee. His wealth is likely to prove controversial inside the Democratic party.

Uruguay has gone back to the polls for a second time to elect their next president. In the first round, no candidate secured enough votes to win outright, but Daniel Martínez leader of the centre-left Broad Front Coalition had the most votes. He will now face Luis Lacalle Pou of the conservative National Party.

13 French soldiers have died after two helicopters collided while on operation in Mali. It is the biggest single loss of life for the French military since the 1980s. The French military has been present in Mali since 2013 after Jihadists took over the north of the country. France now has 4,500 troops to support the forces of Mali against the fight of the Jihadists.

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ocal Hong Kong media outlets are reporting that pro-democracy candidates have made unprecedented gains in the District Council elections on November 24. Significantly, the election experienced the highest turnout yet with a record 71% of the electorate voting compared to just 47% in 2015, and nearly 400,000 voters adding to the electoral roll in last-minute registrations. Fears that the election would be either disrupted or cancelled were not realised, as it was the first weekend in months without the police deploying tear gas against protesters, and with one exception, it was largely conflict-free. While in Hong Kong the District Council only directly deals with public facilities and services such as bus routes and waste collection, it’s impossible not to view this election result in the context of the continued protests that have dominated the region’s politics since last summer. Pro-democracy supporters initially protested China’s decision to pass legislation that would allow the Beijing government extended powers to extradite residents to the mainland. Critics have highlighted the dangers this will introduce to dissidents of Beijing, and the potential to un-

Albania has been hit by a 6.4 magnitude earthquake, killing at least 13 people. The earthquake hit 21 miles north of the capital Tirana. More than 600 people are being treated in hospitals. The Government has brought in the army in order to help residents caught under the rubble.

ua Wong, have described the result as “historic” and highlighted how it shows that public support for protestors remains strong. Going forward, the rise in prodemocracy District Councillors increases the chance of a pro-democracy Chief Executive in the future, as the 117 District Councilors form a part of the 1200 member committee responsible for their election. However, it’s clear that the real power of this election has been symbolic as it has largely been seen as

a referendum on Lam’s handling of the protests, simply because it has been the first opportunity for citizens to vote since China announced its controversial bill last April. This crushing defeat for the establishment, which has been described by some as “democratic tsunami”, is contrasted by the Beijing Communist Party’s apathetic response. Only time will tell if the result will have a practical impact or if it will simply be a significant display of resistance for the people of Hong Kong.

Hong Kong: Protests against the extradition bill began in March 2019. Source: Studio Incendo (via Flickr)

Iraqi protests intensify as death toll rises Government forces have been reported firing on protestors with live ammunition and tear gas canisters

Hallum Cowell Politics Editor

P The Maltese Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat is facing public backclash agaisnt the murder of journalist Daphane Caruana Galizia. Muscat’s Chief of Staff, Keith Schembri has resigned, but he is assisting with the police inquiry. The journalist was murdered in a car bomb in 2017, after writing a series of blogs about corruption in Malta.

dermine Hong Kong’s judicial independence. With the ejection of all but 10% of the pro-Beijing politicians from their seats, it clearly challenges Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s previous refusal to acknowledge the protestor’s “wishful thinking”, stating that she was supported by a “silent majority”. Lam’s reaction to the result has represented progress, as she says she will “listen humbly” to the views of the public. However, it appears that this subdued response is not one that’s strongly shared by her pro-Beijing party. Junius Ho, a controversial politician who vocally shares her proBeijing stance, suffered a shock defeat in what was traditionally a safe seat, and described the experience as “heaven and earth have been turned upside down”. Pro-Beijing lawmaker Alice Mak, who has been a District Councillor since 1993 and has previously strongly criticized Lam in leaked reports, blamed Lam’s administration for the influx of pro-democracy support. Indeed, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, stood firm during a visit to Japan, claiming: “Whatever happens, Hong Kong is always a part of China and any attempts to create chaos … will not be successful.” However, pro-democratic voices, such as Josh-

rotestors in Iraq have been continuing their anti-government marches as government forces have begun using force. On the weekend of November 23, five people were shot dead and 90 injured after government forces opened fire on protestors. Since unrest began in October

more than 300 people have been killed and thousands injured. Protestors have also been setting government buildings on fire and blocking bridges and roads. The government, on Sunday, November 24, issued a directive to reopen schools (Sunday is the first day of the Iraqi working week) however protests have continued, and this directive has been largely ignored. People’s anger is focused on the

Protests continue in Iraq: Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi’s prom-

ises have not been fulfilled. Credit: Wikicommons

government and Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi who took office just over a year ago. The Prime Minister promised reform but these changes have not yet materialised. The protesters are demanding an end to corruption, better public services and more jobs. Mr Abdul-Mahdi, promised after the first week of nrest that he would reshuffle his cabinet, cut salaries of high-ranking officials and announced schemes to tackle youth unemployment. Protestors argue that these promises have gone unfulfilled and so more and more take to the streets to voice their unrest. Many protestors also want a complete re-work of the government. Protests have largely been seen in the south of the country and in the capital, Baghdad. This wave of protests is the largest in the country since the end of the US occupation. Yassin, a 27-year-old doctor who leads a triage centre in the country told the Guardian “we received 50 injuries from direct hits from canisters and two dead, who were hit in the head”. In the early days, the protestors’ actions were largely peaceful with politicians promising reform however since those in power began to scale back their reforms, protests have

turned into riots. The protest now also transcends class lines with working-class and middle-class people taking to the streets.Who is the most aggressive is a matter of controversy in the country, with some accusing government soldiers and others accusing Iranlead Shia militia. Hussein, organiser of a makeshift tent-camp told the Guardian: “We are here to remind the government of the law, it is clear that militias are illegal and that political parties are urban militias who are looting this country”. Protesters have also claimed that tear gas canisters are being fired directly into protestors, causing blunt trauma. Iraq’s top Shia cleric has also given his support to protestors and calls for an end to corruption and mass unemployment. Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani said “If those in power think that they can evade the benefits of real reform by stalling and procrastination, they are delusional,” adding that “What comes after these protests will not be the same as before, and they should be aware of that.” This show of support gave a major boost to protestors and it is clear that the unrest gripping the country will not come to an end any time soon.