Perspectives Magazine Edition 39

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EDITORS' NOTES Since the last edition of the Perspectives Magazine in September, our team has expanded and so, therefore, has the quality of this magazine. The addition of four new Deputy Editors - Lily, Shu, Ravi and Surina - has made all of our work from our website to our podcast far more fun and enjoyable and I hope that rubs off on this edition. As we produce this magazine, it seems the world is very much at a crossroads point and this edition very much reflects that. For our Europe section we cover how Victor Orban, one of the world’s foremost populist and authoritarian leaders, appears to be facing his biggest political threat in years from a united opposition, while we also look at the risk to democracy and freedom in Ukraine with Russian troops stationed at the border, at Putin’s behest. After a perhaps meagre COP26 summit result in November, the magazine features the ongoing despicable famine in Madagascar and how it reminds us all that so much more needs to be done to avert the suffering of millions, now. Our feature article is a brilliantly-written piece by Sara Kende about our age of social media, misinformation and its effect on global politics. It wonderfully sums up how, unchecked, the industry has threatened dictators, and enhanced them, made millions question truth and push an uncomfortable number to political extremes. All the while the world battles over authoritarianism, climate change and our polarised digital world, the covid pandemic rages on. We have a timely debate about vaccine mandates, potentially a route out, to finish off. It’s a debate over individual freedom versus social responsibility, as so many debates over public health in the last 18 months have reflected. In all these battles, I hope those fighting for the common good of all, win. We hope you enjoy reading this magazine as much as we did creating it. Thank you.

Even though this is now the second edition that I have been able to partake in as Editor-in-Chief, the experience has been no less amazing! This time Ben and I also received the assistance of our wonderful Deputy Editors - Lily, Shu, Ravi, and Surina - ensuring the creation of another great edition! As always, this edition is filled with incredibly well-written articles on a wide range of topics, dealing with elections in Australia, Hungary, and Brazil, tense relations between Iran and Israel, as well as Russia and Ukraine, the climate crisis resulting in famine in Madagascar, a monumental child marriage case in Iraq, and the precarious situation in the South China Sea. Additionally, we review Biden’s presidency one year in, assess the situation in Myanmar almost a year after the military coup, and inquire into who the newest Prime Minister of Barbados is. Closer to home, we look at the current state of the NHS, and debate over vaccine mandates and their feasibility. And of course, we finish this edition off with two incredibly intriguing book reviews. Our feature in this edition delves into one of the most prominent issues of the 21st century, social media and how it has fractured politics around the world, leading to the title of our edition “The Age of Misinformation”. Social media has proven itself to be a double-edged sword, providing people globally with the means to organize, protest, inform themselves and others en masse. However, it has also led to the deterioration of democracy, and assisted in the rise of authoritarianism and the alt-right with its ability to disseminate ‘fake news’ and create echo chambers. In this age of not just misinformation, but of authoritarianism, climate crisis, and a global pandemic it is more important than ever to be informed on what is going on around the world, and play your part wherever you can in the fight for social, environmental, and all other forms of justice! A massive thank you to the writers and thanks so much for reading! Enjoy!




COVER IMAGE: Unsplash/ Koshu Kunii




Lily Meckel - 2nd Year PAIS student from Frankfurt, Germany

Surina Rumpal - 1st Year PAIS and GSD student from Buckinghamshire, UK

Lim Shuyu - 1st Year PPE student from Singapore

Ravi Maini - 1st year PAIS and French student from Leicester, UK

Visit our webiste at for articles on the latest stories from across the globe. Plus, access our latest podcasts as well as old editions of our magazine.



January 2022


CONTENTS Profile: Dame Sandra Mason by Lily Meckel Famine in Madagascar: The Developed World Must Wake Up to the Climate Crisis by Ben Morley

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Biden’s Presidency: One Year In by George Miles


Social Media: How it has Fractured Global Politics by Sara Kende


Olympic Boycott Little More Than Gesture Politics by Laura Howard


Military Rule in Myanmar is Back and is Here to Stay by Charlotte Earl


Hungary 2022 Elections: The End of Orban? by Hanna Bajwa


From Russia With Love: Putin Eyes Ukraine by James Baldwin


Need to Know: The South China Sea by Yit Xiang Wong


Bolsonaro or Lula De Silva: How will Brazil Choose the Best of a Bad Bunch? by Lim Shuyu


Child Marriage in Iraq: A Political Point Scorer? by Surina Rumpal


The Treacherous Waters of the 2022 Australian ‘Pandemic’ Election by Sebastian Rees-Ewald 18 Iran and Israel’s Strained Relationship by Jhanvi Mehta


The State of the NHS: Why it’s Dying, and Not Going to Get Any Better Soon by Zach Roberts


Book Reviews by Niall Hawkins and Susbin Shrestha


For and Against: Vaccine Mandates by Catharina Schaufler-Mendez and Jamie Spratt 22






Dame Sandra Mason is the first-ever president of the island nation of Barbados, the world’s newest republic after removing Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state. This is a step towards cutting ties with the nation’s colonial past and transitioning from a constitutional monarchy to an independent republic. She previously served as Governor-General, a role appointed by the Queen, from 2018 until 2021 before being nominated as presidential candidate by the government of Prime Minister Mia Mottley and securing parliament’s vote in October of 2021. She officially took office on November 30th, 2021, making her the first president of Barbados on the date of the island’s 55th anniversary of independence from Britain.


The continued role of the British Crown beyond independence shows that the removal of the Queen as head of state to not just be symbolic, but essential for self-governance. Barbados’ step towards becoming a republic has been a long time coming and follows the course of many other former British colonies in the Caribbean, including Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, and Dominica, and may see more to follow in the near future. In her swearing-in ceremony, Dame Sandra Mason reiterated Barbados’ first prime minister’s statement that Barbados should no longer “be found loitering on colonial premises”, and that the country needs to redefine itself on its own. Thus, her position as president is a step in reclaiming and redefining Barbados on its own terms, distancing itself from its colonial past and the monarchy.

EARLY LIFE AND CAREER Ms Sandra Mason was born in St. Philip, Barbados, in 1949. She studied at the University of the West Indies and from after which she obtained her law degree from Hugh Wooding Law School in Trinidad and Tobago, being the first female Barbadian attorney to do so from this school. She also became the first woman admitted to the bar in Barbados before venturing into multiple career paths, working as a teacher, at a bank, as a magistrate, and as an ambassador to several South American countries, including Colombia and Venezuela. She also worked at the Supreme Court and became the first female judge to serve on the Court of Appeals before being appointed Governor-General in 2017, and elected president in 2021.

BARBADOS' FUTURE Replacing the Queen with a president as head of state is a major step towards becoming a republic. Under Prime Minister Mottley’s plan, the creation of a new constitution at the start of 2022 is up next. As for now, Dame Sandra Mason’s appointment as president comes at a time of economic hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, with tourism, one of the main industries, and other sources of revenue disrupted. Effects of the climate crisis and labour shortages are among other issues the country is grappling with. What is now certain is that Barbados will be led into a new era, by both a female Barbadian prime minister and president, as an independent republic.

HISTORICAL CONTEXT Whilst the position of president is largely ceremonial, having a Barbadian as the head of state is a statement of independence and self-governance after centuries of foreign influence from the UK. Barbados was a British colony for almost 400 years, from 1627 to 1966, and faced exploitation and oppression, with enslaved Africans brought to the island to work on sugar plantations. The island gained a reputation as a centre of the transatlantic slave trade under British rule. After Barbados declared independence, the Queen remained the head of state, retaining the role of making political appointments, such as ambassadors or the governor-general, showing that despite the ceremonial role, Britain continued to exert influence even after 1966.

Lily Meckel is a second-year PAIS student from Frankfurt, Germany.

January 2022

IMAGE: Flickr / Prachatai





In the West today we are all too oblivious of the real-world realities of climate change that are happening right now. Our understanding has increased in recent years, as our attention has shifted to the crisis, but, in part thanks to lack of media coverage, we do not fully grasp, as we must, what climatic change is doing to parts of the world not that far away. Despite contributing only a tiny fraction to the problem, the region of the world receiving the hugely disproportionate brunt of this crisis is the Global South. Developed states, superpowers, and regional heavyweights have to wake up to this now and make change occur. In recent months, a famine has been occurring on the African island of Madagascar, one that scientists and the UN have dubbed the first ever to be climate-change-induced. It follows over three years of drought that has seen farmland become fruitless and food run dry. Typically, Madagascar rather stably grows rice, sugarcane, and sweet potatoes, among other foods. But failed harvest after failed harvest have led to low yields and drained the food supply. Drought is not rare to Madagascar, but the intensity of this one is thought to have been caused by increased emissions and global temperatures. The result is nothing but dire. The UN has warned that up to one million people are at risk, and the World Food Programme is trying to supply 700,000 people with emergency food. The stories of those struggling captured by journalists visiting the country are nothing but desperate and heart-breaking. Sky News met village elders begging for help while their babies were slowly dying and toddlers were forced to eat cactus leaves. ITV News have reported seeing crop failures all around, and vast numbers of children with extremely thin arms and bloated stomachs. Aid groups have 6


struggled to get to villages thanks to the country’s dire transport infrastructure – in one mountainous village, over 50 people died before aid workers arrived. One mother told BBC News that she and her children had only been eating locusts to survive for eight full months. Rather frankly, this is the result of unchecked emissions into the atmosphere and unregulated profiteering at the expense of the environment, and this is only the start. Famine in any part of the world in the 21st century should be out of the question; it should be a ridiculous idea but yet somehow it exists. Often, conservative climate action, or little to none, has been adopted by states because of a fear of deficits or budgets and loss of economic growth. It is too much of a political hit to take. In comparison to the cost of the climate crisis being undertaken by Madagascans right now, these concerns seem like petty excuses. What we have known for a long time, and know better now than ever before, is that the cost of inaction

on the climate crisis is exponentially larger than the physical cost of action. This famine began several months before the start of COP26 – built up to be our last great chance to fix the problems we have created on our planet. It should have inspired the world to redouble its efforts, but COP26 largely failed. The larger states, including Saudi Arabia, India, and Russia, announced net-zero targets that scientists say are far too conservative. Efforts to agree to the phasing out of coal also failed at the eleventh hour. While developed states, including the US, UK, and Canada, announced rises in their climate funding for developing states, there are still doubts that the $100bn a year figure agreed to be given to developing nations by developed states by 2020 will even be delivered by 2025. With COP26 been and gone, and the world’s attention once again drifted away from the climate crisis, so much more is still needed to help save those like in Madagascar in the future. There is no other option or path to take. We all have to become much more aware of climate disasters happening in other states across the world. Nations need to rectify their efforts on climate and swap their rhetoric for bold, assertive, and impressive action. Future generations will look back at episodes like the Madagascar famine as warning shots, as needed reminders, and they will judge if the privileged few in the world, from developed state citizens to world leaders, stood up and fought for the change that was so obviously needed.

Ben Morley is a second-year PAIS student from Bedfordshire, UK.

IMAGE: Unsplash/ Dan Gold





of the biggest talking points for Republicans. The Taliban, harbourers of Al-Qaeda prior to 9/11, swept to power following the announcement of America’s withdrawal. Biden was adamant that the US would withdraw; it wasn’t going to fight in a war that the Afghan people were not willing to fight themselves, even if 45,000 members of the Afghan security forces died between 2014 and 2019. However, he did admit the withdrawal had been ‘far from perfect’ and acknowledged that criticism was inevitable. What ought not to be forgotten is that Biden was implementing a Trumpera deal, however the new administration was responsible for the consequences. As a result, he will be remembered as the President whose actions resulted in the return to power of a terrorist-harbouring group, that shot girls, like Malala Yousafzai, for wanting an education. Domestically, Biden has managed to pass almost $3 trillion dollars of new spending. This has been described as “Marxist” by Senators such as Florida’s Marco Rubio, but passed with some Republican support. Biden believed this ended gridlock in Washington over infrastructure, and claimed victory. Nevertheless, the President’s poll ratings have remained low following the bill’s passage, and whilst not the only indicator of success, such ratings will be the determining factor in his ability to win a second term, should he decide to run. It could be argued that the benefits of infrastructure will not be seen for a long period; it could take years for some of the bigger projects to start. However, if the public aren’t enthusiastic about the bill shortly after passage, then it will be difficult to persuade people that the huge cost is worthwhile during the bill’s five-year period. Both Virginia and New Jersey are considered Democratic states, with Biden winning both by double

digits in November 2020. However, the Democrats only just held the New Jersey governorship and lost in Virginia. When Biden visited Virginia, a portion of his speech was dedicated to attacking Trump and the Republican Party. This implies that the Democratic mantra of ‘we are bad, but they are worse’ isn’t working, as this has resulted in the party losing a governorship in a ‘blue’ state. If Biden is unable to convince those in the Democratic heartlands, winning over those in swing states will prove even more of a challenge. If recent election results are to be the judge, the Biden presidency has been a failure as the Democrats cannot even retain control in their ‘safe states.’ However, it is important to note that these do not always correlate to the success of a President, but they can demonstrate the impact of the President’s policies on the electorate. In conclusion, the Biden presidency has so far not been a success. Whilst stimulus and infrastructure bills have been passed, the Afghanistan withdrawal was a failure according to Biden himself, and his poll ratings have plummeted, with the Democrats unable to win even in their heartlands. Therefore, it is clear to see that Biden’s presidency has been a disaster in the eyes of many Americans. However, if history is anything to go by, the Biden presidency may still be a success. During the same time in the Obama Presidency, the Democrats lost a Senate seat in Massachusetts, but went on to pass a landmark healthcare bill and win re-election. Yes, the Biden administration has struggled so far, but all is not lost.

IMAAGE: Flickr/ Maryland GovPics

When inaugurated on January 20th 2021, Joe Biden had a +17% approval/disapproval rating, according to FiveThirtyEight. However, this has now fallen to -9% (at the time of writing), implying that his presidency has been a failure thus far. The period since his inauguration has been consequential, with deaths from COVID-19 almost reaching 800,000, the end of US involvement in Afghanistan, a $1 trillion infrastructure bill, and a $1.9 trillion stimulus package all occurring under Biden’s watch. In addition to the political twists and turns of his term so far, the Democrats have lost the Virginia governorship and only barely managed to retain the same position in New Jersey. There is now a sense of inevitability that the Republicans will regain control of at least one House of Congress, with a belief among commentators that they will take control of both chambers by 2023. Joe Biden announced US withdrawal from Afghanistan with broad public support, however it is now one

George Miles is a second-year PAIS student from Nottinghamshire, UK.

January 2022




SOCIAL MEDIA: HOW IT HAS FRACTURED GLOBAL POLITICS formation, and raise awareness during the Arab Spring uprisings in the early 2010s. More recently, social media helped connect pro-democracy activists and protesters in Hong Kong, Thailand, and Taiwan. The ‘Milk Tea Alliance’ started in April 2020, when Chinese social media users attacked a Thai celebrity couple for expressing support for the Hong Kong and Taiwan independence movements, which led to an online ‘battle’ between Thai and Chinese social media users. Since then, the Milk Tea Alliance, named after popular drinks in the region, has evolved from an online meme to a leaderless pro-democracy protest movement across Southeast Asia, spreading to Myanmar, South Korea, the Philippines, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Iran, and even Belarus. The pro-democracy, youth-led movements in these countries share knowledge, inspire one another, and stand in solidarity with each other online in their similar struggles against censorship and authoritarianism. There are also other, less direct ways in which social media fosters democracy and the freedom of information. Social media can be used to spread or fact-check information in environments where elites aim to stifle critical voices or deceive the public. In China, where censorship of both online and offline media is notoriously strict, social media users resort to using code words or images to replace

prohibited words and phrases. Critical social media users in China used code words, such as WH (replacing Wuhan), or F4 (the name of a Taiwanese boy band, but also used mockingly to refer to the four politicians who were in charge of the initial cover-up of the coronavirus outbreak), to discuss Covid-19, which was extensively censored on Chinese social media at the beginning of the outbreak. They also use emojis, for example the rice (pronounced “mi”) and bunny (pronounced “tu”) emojis to address the #metoo campaign and issues of sexual harassment. Bellingcat, the online investigative website specialising in open-source intelligence, is the prime example of ‘online sleuthing’: the practice of making use of social media to verify claims made by powerful actors. Open-source investigators use publicly available data on the Internet, including photos and videos shared on social media, to fact-check official narratives. Bellingcat attracted attention with its investigations into the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian Civil War, the Skripal poisoning in Salisbury, and the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in Ukraine. In all of these cases, Bellingcat investigators worked with open-source information, such as pictures and videos uploaded by protesters and soldiers, satellite imagery, and public databases, to identify who was responsible for the attacks and to debunk disinformation campaigns aimed at covering up these attacks. However, social media is just as often used with anti-democratic intentions. This came to light most prominently following the 2016 US Presidential elections. In the run-up to the elections, from June 2015, approximately 11 million American social media users were exposed to Facebook advertisements generated by Russian agents who aimed to influence the outcome of the elections. Facebook’s advertising tools, which collect and aggregate data about users’ habits and interactions online, allowed Russian agents to target American citizens with specific messages appealing to their values and identities.

IMAGE: Flickr/ Alisdare Hickson

“Zuckerberg was an incel at 19 and now we can’t have democracy apparently” – reads a post from December 2020, which was liked by 58 000 users on Tumblr, one of the few social media platforms not owned by Facebook. The post refers to how the social media giant, which started in 2003 as a site for ranking Mark Zuckerberg’s female classmates by their looks, has since become a powerful force for shaping international politics. Is the relationship between social media and the erosion of democracy that straightforward? Reality might be a bit more complicated. Around the time of its inception, social media was celebrated as an “inherently liberating” technology: free from centralised control its communicative power enabled easy access to information, political mobilisation, and free speech. Mass communication, which in its traditional form was controlled by elites who decided what information the public would receive and have access to, was transformed completely when the Internet gave everyone the power to create, share, and find content relevant to them. Conventional wisdom held that the free and open information environment, brought about by social networking technologies, would promote democratic outcomes and enhance a liberal, deliberative democracy. Initially, this seemed true. Social media helped protesters organise their activities, mobilise support, disseminate in-




values or political ideology. Engagement-based ranking creates an environment that is especially favourable to sensational, extreme, or polarising content. Engagement-based ranking of content and one-sided opinions can be a dangerous combination, as Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen warned in her testimony to US Senators in October 2021. Haugen accused Facebook of fanning ethnic violence in Ethiopia and Myanmar, where posts inciting and glorifying violence against ethnic minorities gained traction and led to real-world violence. She claimed that the social media giant’s strategy for combating misinformation was ineffective because 87% of the funds were spent on monitoring English-language content, even though only 9% of the site’s users are English speakers. Shortly after Haugen’s testimony in December 2021, survivors of the Rohingya genocide sued Facebook for facilitating violence by allowing its algorithms to amplify hate speech and failing to delete posts calling for violence. Facebook has admitted in 2018 that it had not done enough to prevent violence against the Rohingya minority, stating that “Facebook has become a means for those seeking to spread hate and cause harm, and posts have been linked to offline violence”. States have delegated significant power to companies to moderate

speech and information online for the past two decades. The growing concerns over the spread of disinformation, propaganda, extreme and polarising content, and online hate, as well as the recognition of the immense power social media platforms have in shaping the global flow of information might make them want to reassert their authority in this space. Though this will not be without problems. States regulating what can and cannot be posted online is a slippery slope towards censorship. However, it is also clear that without any regulations, social media is a breeding ground for radicalism, fake news, and conspiracy theories. One possible solution could be content labelling. In 2018, YouTube was the first social media platform to introduce a label for state-sponsored media channels. During the 2020 US Presidential elections, Twitter also introduced a label for posts containing misleading information with a warning sign and a link to further information. To curb the rapidly spreading misinformation around the Covid-19 pandemic and vaccine scepticism, Instagram also labels posts that contain these keywords with a link to information confirmed by the WHO or the CDC. This is a good start, although, it may still leave social media platforms with too much power to regulate information. There is draft legislation in the EU that would require platforms to assess and mitigate their algorithms, while the UK’s Competition and Market Authority proposed a requirement for Facebook to give users a choice on whether to accept targeted advertising. The Covid-19 pandemic, among other examples mentioned in this article, has shown that online misinformation has grave consequences in real life, and thus there is an increasing push for change. It remains to be seen whether social media can be reformed in a way that allows democracy to flourish.

IMAGE: Flickr/ Anthony Quintano

Even more significant was the impact of the free posts and pages created by agents and bots, which reached more than 126 million users on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. The case underlines how social media platforms are designed in a way that makes them vulnerable to exploitation for spreading propaganda; Russian agents did not need to hack any of these sites, they simply exploited the infrastructure already in place. The 2016 election is not the only example of social media being used to push fringe political ideologies and populist ideologies. By now, it is common knowledge that the algorithms underlying the most popular social media sites nurture addiction to ensure that users spend as much time online as possible. To maximise the time users spend on the sites, social media algorithms track what content users engage with and how they engage with it: what photos they like and comment on, who they follow or view, and even how long they spend looking at certain videos or posts. Algorithms gather this information, rank what content is most ‘relevant’ to an individual, and deliver tailored content based on the user’s preferences. This creates ‘echo chambers’ or ‘filter bubbles’, where users are exposed to more people, news, and information that conforms with what the algorithm has identified to be their pre-existing

Sara Kende is a third-year PAIS student from Budapest, Hungary.

January 2022







boycott and remove their chance for success in a high-profile competition that only occurs once every four years? The nature of the offences China is committing surely justifies any degree of action against them. Sanctions against genocide must be seen to extend beyond what constitutes political posturing and rather a necessary step to protect the lives of those unjustly subject to such atrocities. Whether the US and other nations in the boycott are solely motivated by opposing genocide is difficult to ascertain, such is the cynicism with which international relations can be judged given nations’ self-serving propensities. The measure to not send diplomats and leave athletes unaffected certainly mitigates the argument of unfairness to competitors who will see little to no impact on their chances of success and ability to compete. Whilst those involved in this form of boycott are unlikely to promote the games as much as they otherwise would, this seems an understandable trade for those competing, who must recognise the appalling nature of offences committed by China. However whether these actions to boycott, which on the surface represent little impact, can be viewed as anything more than gesture politics is questionable. This is, after all, an Olympic Games that was already expected to gain less attention - coming so close after the summer Olympics, seeing few high-profile athletes from countries like the US competing, and the Covid pandemic still ongoing, causing limits to travel. The boycott will thus do less to apply international pressure because the event already lack attention. Hence, it appears the US, along with the UK, Canada, and Australia, as well as other nations expected to follow their lead, have merely taken measures that allow administrations to register their disapproval without too much impact on things that

really matter to them. These being trade and the economy rather than an effective defence of human rights. Whilst China has responded to the announcements of diplomatic boycotts by saying they will take ‘resolute countermeasures’, the repercussions are unlikely to be too significant. Authoritarian states such as China have tended to use events like the Olympics as propaganda tools to legitimate their administration to a global public, and thus cede accountability for atrocities being committed. Whilst Beijing 2022 may have less attention due to international circumstances, the boycott will contribute relatively little to this lacking attention and still not do enough to stop its use for legitimation in the ceremonial aspects of the games, as happened in 2008. It is thus apparent that not sending an official delegation to an ill-attended and ill-publicised games is completely inadequate to stop abuses on the scale of the genocide of Uyghur Muslims.

Laura Howard is a second-year History and Politics student from Nottingham, UK.

IMAGE: Unsplash/ Zhang Kaiyv

The ongoing debates over the effectiveness and impact of boycotting sporting events have recently come to a head, as states, including the US and the UK, have made statements about their intentions for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics. The discussions come due to concerns over China’s human rights abuses, with accusations of the ongoing genocide of Uyghur Muslims. This is alongside other issues, such as worry over the safety of tennis player Peng Shuai, who has not been seen in public since accusing Vice Premier Zhang of sexual assault. In this context, it appears necessary that countries take action against a state that is seen to be guilty of crimes against humanity. Yet, is the Olympics an effective arena to voice protest against these actions? On Monday, December 6th, the US announced that they would not be sending official delegates to the Olympics commencing in Beijing in February 2022. This, however, does not constitute a full boycott, as their athletes will still be allowed to attend and will be supported by the government in doing so. It simply means that US government officials will not be present at the games. China has responded by accusing the US of politicising a sporting event that is meant to remain separate from any political arena. They have also suggested it is unfair on athletes, and that US delegates had not even been invited yet. Canada, the UK, and Australia have all announced similar measures of refusing to send diplomats to the games. Boris Johnson commented at PMQs that he does not “think that [full] sporting boycotts are sensible and that remains the policy of the government”. They draw upon a familiar canon of reasoning that emerges from this debate. Should the Olympics be an event devoid of any degree of ‘political posturing’? And is it simply unfair on athletes whose careers this affects to



MILITARY RULE IN MYANMAR IS BACK AND IS HERE TO STAY ual introduction of democratic reforms in Myanmar, and eventually in 2015, democratic elections were held, resulting in a landslide victory for the National League for Democracy (NLD) and the ascension of Aung San Suu Kyi to the position of State Counsellor. The years of democratic government did little to reduce the immense instability and division the country faces. Ethnic conflict and civil war continued. Suu Kyi has overseen oppression and ‘crimes against humanity’ against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state, and the government is known for its prosecution of journalists. Whilst it is tempting to celebrate Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, as an inspiring political leader and reformist that led Myanmar out of decades of military rule and spearheaded democratic change, the legacy of her short rule is much darker. Since the February military coup, civil resistance has been rife. Methods of disobedience against the military regime are diverse. Workers in state-run hospitals have gone on strike. Many have started wearing red (the colour of the NLD) ribbons as a symbol of resistance. The government went as far as to ban Facebook to hinder organising power. It is difficult to measure the true extent of how many people have died or been arrested in military crackdowns, however estimations at the time of writing place the figure at roughly 1,300 deaths and 10,000 arrests. The outlook is bleak for peaceful protestors. Though civil disobedience has had a significant impact on paralysing the economy and limiting the financial resources available for the new government, the military have succeeded in completely seizing control of the country’s infrastructure. They are a well-organised force unafraid to use the harshest tactics to solidify their control of the country. Peaceful protest and civil resistance can only go so far; protest leaders in the country have

themselves recognised its limits. The military government will inevitably find ways to adapt and respond to the problems created by continued action. A UN special envoy to Myanmar has reported that the country is on the brink of full-scale civil war. The international community has largely forgotten about the country, and Russia and China would likely block further intergovernmental action regardless. Some reports suggest that people are training for guerrilla warfare against the military government. Myanmar is unlikely to see another peaceful return to democracy anytime soon. It’s increasingly likely that the tensions that have plagued the divided nation for so long will simply continue to expand, with civil disobedience potentially evolving into violence. Civil war in Myanmar is here to stay, and if anything seems increasingly likely, it’s that everything is about to get a whole lot worse.

Charlotte Earl is a third-year PAIS student from Croydon, UK.

IMAGE: Flickr/ Utenriksdepartementet UD

You would be forgiven for completely forgetting about the military coup in Myanmar that took place in February 2021 and restored full military rule in the country. The Western mainstream media were quick to report on the coup in the immediate aftermath, yet coverage is largely non-existent now. Many major Western democracies, including the United Kingdom, were quick in their condemnation of this clear deposition of a democratically- elected government. The intergovernmental response was also swift, with a British-drafted resolution condemning the military’s action introduced at an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council. Yet, the reluctance of Russia and China to act meant that the draft press statement was not released, nor any sanctions imposed. Since then, both governmental and intergovernmental responses have been largely insubstantial. Has this cataclysmic coup in Myanmar been largely forgotten about? What’s happening domestically? One thing is certain, the outlook is bleak for those wishing for a return to democratic government. Before analysing what’s happening now, it’s important to discuss Myanmar’s turbulent history of military rule and the recent democratic reform that precedes these events. Myanmar gained its independence from the UK in 1948. A period of immense political turmoil, driven by a weak government and ethnic tensions, followed. A military coup in March 1962, inspired by political infighting and the countless country-wide insurgencies, brought an end to democratic civilian government. The political landscape in Myanmar remained chaotic throughout the succeeding decades, with several intense military power struggles altering the nature of military rule. Ethnic-based conflict and civil war also continued throughout the period (and do to this day). It’s the world’s longest ongoing civil war. The 21st century saw the grad-

January 2022






Yet, Orbán is not without challenges. In an effort to safeguard next year’s election, the opposition coalition aims to recruit 20,000 civilian vote counters to be present at every polling station 12


in the country. Orbán’s handling of the pandemic has also turned voters against him, and the EU is finally restricting the flow of funds to his corrupt government. But is this enough? Only time will tell. Advocating for strategic voting since 2018, Márki-Zay became the symbol of a united opposition, proving a one-to-one candidate strategy might be the way to defeat Fidesz. His non-party background might have been one of his biggest appeals, he is untainted by the pre-2010 Socialist Liberal coalition nor mainstream parties established since the fall of communism in 1989. Despite this, his determination to stay independent is also Marki-Zay's biggest setback. He is currently trying to remain non-party affiliated and anti-establishment while needing the opposition parties’ structure and resources for campaign support, the lack of which may undermine the opposition’s chances. A further problem that Márki-Zay may later regret is his vow to tackle corruption, whether it was committed by Orbán’s government or by the earlier Socialist-led governments that are now in opposition. This could possibly lead to a divide within the six-party coalition as it is a potential threat to them. Moreover, Hungary’s media is now producing vast amounts of pro-Fidesz media and conspiracy theories about Márki-Zay, including that he is a puppet of Ferenc Gyurcsány, the country’s socialist former prime minister. Orbán is clearly not giving up without a fight. According to the latest polls from November 2021, the United Opposition is currently leading ahead of Fidesz by around 1-4%, depending on the polling - 41% for the former versus 37% for the latter. But will this momentum last until April 2022? Márki-Zay's longterm success will depend on his ability to present a coherent programme, cooperate and negotiate with other opposition parties, and mobilise opposition voters. If Márki-Zay does win, he has said he will reverse the closer ties Orbán

has created with Russia and China, and also seek to improve his country’s relations with the EU and other Western allies. Orbán has compared the EU to the Soviet domination Hungary faced for 40 years, which has significantly weakened Hungary’s geopolitical position, something Márki-Zay wants to reverse. Winning the election is only half of the challenge though, the other half would be reversing Hungary’s democratic decline. The opposition does not wish to go back to the Hungarian democracy it had pre-2010 but rather go forward and create an entirely new system. If the opposition wins the election, it is also quite significant for the right-wing parties of Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia, who have received Orbán’s support over the years. Orbán has been spreading his ideology and working on creating a bubble of influence among nearby countries, which Márki-Zay has the possibility of bursting if elected.

Hanna Bajwa is a third-year Politics and Sociology student from High Wycombe, UK.

IMAGE: Flickr/ OECD Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, his ruling party - Fidesz, and his brand of national conservatism has been shaping Hungary’s politics since he came to power in 2010. Since then, Hungary has been moving away from progressive values, including liberal democracy, secularism, LGBT+ rights, and gender equality. Finally, his opponents have had enough. The six opposition parties, tired of the anti-Fidesz vote-splitting, have recently pledged to work together. The alliance of socialists, social democrats, greens, liberals, and former farright parties have united with a single joint candidate to challenge Orbán – Péter Márki-Zay. Márki-Zay is the best chance in 11 years to get rid of Orbán. Encouragement for change can be traced back to Hungary’s nearby neighbour, the Czech Republic, where a five-party ‘Democratic Bloc’ toppled the populist Prime Minister, Andrej Babis, earlier this year. Despite the Czech elections providing inspiration for the Hungarian opposition, numerous challenges face the united opposition party and Márki-Zay that the Czech Republic did not. Firstly, Babis was only in power for one term and was the head of a minority coalition, giving him very little wiggle room to tilt the Czech electoral or judicial systems. On the other hand, Orbán has remained in power for the last decade, has a handy two-thirds parliamentary majority, and has weakened the judiciary and civil society during this time. Secondly, although Babis is the proud owner of major media assets in the Czech Republic, the press is still much more open than that of Hungary.



FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE: VLADIMIR PUTIN EYES UKRAINE ly that Moscow is bluffing again, as an invasion has more costs than benefits. Russia could be subjected to American economic sanctions and the suspension of Nord Stream 2 – a new gas pipeline running directly to Germany. In any case, Mr Putin may recognise it to be wiser to hold off invading and look to the future installation of a Russian puppet in Ukraine. Nord Stream 2 would allow him to deprive the country of natural gas, as supply will no longer have to travel through Ukraine to reach Europe. Provoking unrest from within seems to give the Kremlin a safer bet.

THE SITUATION HAS BEEN TENSE SINCE 2014 But this does not rule out the potential of a part invasion. Luhansk and Donetsk are evidently favourable to the Kremlin and an invasion there would not be enough to warrant American deterrence. Should Russia conquer all of Ukraine, strong economic sanctions will be inevitable. Although sanctions on banks and oligarchs, as well as bond markets, will effectively hurt the Russian economy, they would not be sufficient. There are two ways financially that the US and NATO could immobilise Russia further. The first would be the suspension of Nord Stream 2, making Europe somewhat less dependent on Russian natural gas. The second, the so-called ‘nuclear’ option, would be to cut Russia off from SWIFT – the dominant financial transfer system between worldwide banks. This has harmed Iran greatly and would do the same to Russia. Direct military response is out of the question. Such action would almost undoubtedly lead to a worrying scaling-up of war. But the supplement of help to Ukraine will most likely be secured and the growth of NATO presence on the eastern flanks would be wise. This will deter Russia from any

further action, which no one would be wise to rule out. An expansion of the Kremlin’s sphere of influence may mean they begin to size up the Baltic states. With that, NATO member states should also begin taking their contributions to NATO's budget more seriously. Mr Biden should not concede too much in negotiations, certainly not in terms of any reduction in his or NATO’s support to Ukraine. Russia has much to lose from war and this may just be another bluff from Mr Putin. In fact, in provoking unrest in Ukraine when Nord Stream 2 gets up and running, Mr Putin may well be rewarded with the installation of a pro-Russian president anyway. Nonetheless, the West should certainly be concerned about the general movements of the Kremlin. If not, the annexation of the East is impending. Preparations for that, and more, should begin: indirect support to Ukraine should continue, and a bumping up of NATO presence in eastern Europe should commence. If not, Russia will be sending their love from a lot closer.

James Baldwin is a second-year PAIS

IMAGE: Flickr/ Nea Ahmokpatia

The fall of communism provided many with the hope that Russia would incorporate itself with the West. However, since Vladimir Putin’s tenure starting in 2000, he has presided over rising tensions between the two sides, and his next move could surmount that further. Nearly 100,000 Russian troops, alongside tanks and artillery, have amassed at its border with Ukraine, facing the regions of Luhansk and Donetsk. This is an unusually large-scale movement of battalions, which has prompted wide-ranging concerns in the West. Joe Biden has already held calls with Mr Putin to try and gauge his aims. The situation has been tense since 2014, when Mr Putin launched an annexation of Crimea in response to the ousting of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych. The southernmost point of Ukraine is now subjected to Russian rule as a republic, with the city of Sevastopol a federal city. This fast annexation was vastly condemned – leading to a deterioration of Western-Russian relations, and the latter’s suspension from the G8. Ukraine’s east has been a host to violence. Separatists, backed by Moscow, began occupying territories in April 2014 in response to the increasingly apparent dichotomy between the pro-European West and pro-Russian East. Whilst they have essentially made the region ungovernable, the territory has nonetheless remained Ukrainian for the past seven years. Mr Putin claims that his scaling-up efforts are largely in response to the “dangerous attempt” by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) to take over Ukrainian territory. Ukraine is not a part of NATO, but they have received help from them when it comes to supplying weapons and training troops. An amassing of troops is not a rare occurrence. In April, Russia earned a conference with Mr Biden after he began a separate move to the border. Russia subsequently backtracked. It is like-

January 2022




THE SOUTH CHINA SEA - MILITARISATION OF ISLANDS AND TERRITORIAL DISPUTES YIT XIANG WONG The South China Sea (SCS) lies in the Western part of the Pacific Ocean, with Southern China to the North (giving the sea its name), mainland Southeast Asia to the West, Taiwan and the Philippines to the East, and Borneo and other islands to the South. On a geopolitical level, it is an economic haven - responsible for trillions of US dollars in trade, ripe with unexplored oil reserves, and heavily tied to food security for its fishing industry. When academics speak of the SCS dispute, it is a blanket term that encompasses multiple disputes of archipelagos and islands between various stakeholders. The main countries concerned are China, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Malaysia. Recent tension in the SCS arises from China’s claim to ownership over the vast majority, if not all, of it.


Most territorial disputes arise from historical claims towards the land or grey areas in maritime law. However, the Chinese claim to what they infamously draw out as the ‘NineDash Line’ utilises the concept of an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) to justify its claims. An EEZ is an area of the sea in which a state has special rights over the region. This region is defined by 200 nautical miles from the coast of the state. China has created man-made islands in order to extend their EEZ. Additionally, China sends coast guard and marine survey vessels into disputed areas, disrupting other countries’ projects - such as the oil exploration project of Petronas, a Malaysian oil and gas company.

WHAT IS SOUTH EAST ASIA'S RESPONSE? China’s influence in the SCS is one of many political influences it exercises over the region, and thus cannot be viewed independently. Most academics have shown that the Southeast Asian nations affected by the territorial disputes have responded in a ‘hedging’ manner. As explained by Kuik Cheng-Chwee ‘hedging’ is “a behaviour in which a country seeks to offset risks by pursuing multiple policy options that are intended to produce mutually counteracting effects, under the situation of high-uncertainties and high-risks.” For example - Vietnam directly criticises China’s involvement in the maritime disputes in SCS, but refused to form any formal military relationship with the US and refrained from joining Western powers in condemning China’s handling of the pandemic. 14


WHAT'S THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY'S RESPONSE? Although the Southeast Asian nations refuse to align themselves with the US, as doing so would signal a strong opposition to China, the US has taken a more confrontational approach in recent years against Chinese encroachment. It has conducted Freedom of Navigation Operations, sending aircraft strike carriers and navy ships to the region as a show of military strength, to remind China that these are international waters. Many outside nations have called for the use of international arbitration through the International Court of Justice, and to establish a temporary code of conduct within the region. So far, talks about establishing such a code with China have always fallen short.

PREDICTIONS FOR THE FUTURE The future of the SCS dispute hangs by a thread. A wrong decision by any state could lead to an all- out war. We must also consider that the recent escalations in the region are a result of China’s quick recovery from the pandemic, and its ability to gain leverage through the donation of vaccines. This makes it more difficult for Southeast Asian nations to oppose its influence. As the global economy recovers, China will gradually lose its leverage over the region. In the meantime, it is unlikely any nation will take drastic measures, instead only continuing to cautiously navigate these dangerous waters. Yit Xiang Wong is a first-year PPE student from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

IMAGE: Flickr / U.S. Pacific Fleet







resources, Bolsonaro may hasten Brazil’s progress towards authoritarianism, eventually bypassing elections altogether. However, there might not be enough time for Bolsonaro to achieve such an ambitious objective. Authoritarianism is often opportunistic and takes many years to take root. Brazil is currently stuck in the limbo of pseudo-representative democracy. Even if Bolsonaro has secured an internal base of supporters, he needs the electorate’s support, however his inability to kickstart the economy has contributed to his unpopularity. Whilst his COVID welfare payouts to poor voters were generous, it also showcases his underlying intentions of boosting political popularity. Short-term relief might provide a once-off stimulus for the poor, but does nothing for their future. Brazil’s crippling debts have been rising to a record high of almost 100% of its GDP - a figure that will only continue escalating to frightening amounts. Bolsonaro currently walks on a tightrope between balancing longterm economic security and short-term political popularity. If he spends more on social services, this increases national debt, resulting in a hike in interest rates, causing things to become more costly. Yet, taxes are politically fraught, especially as Brazil desperately needs to provide incentives for private investment. This is the conundrum of the century that plagues Bolsonaro – and any politicians participating in the upcoming elections. Bolsonaro faces strong competition from Lula De Silva. Brazil’s former President Luiz Inácio Lula de Silva is considering ex-rival Geraldo Alckmin as a centrist running mate for the 2022 elections. This is a ‘unity’ ticket for a divided country and could ease some resistance from Brazil’s business community, which has grown disillusioned with President Bolsonaro but still distrusts Lula’s Workers Party and its social policies. Geraldo Alckmin could be the

bridging factor for Lula and the disenchanted populace. He’s expressed keen interest in running alongside Lula and could potentially be his winning ticket. However, Lula may not be the silver lining that Brazil needs. Even though he currently leads the polls, his rejection rates remain around 40%. Supporters highlight Lula’s policies and increased investment in social programs that helped lift millions out of poverty, while critics accuse him of overseeing rampant corruption. Prosecutors have uncovered scandals that ran through the heart of government during the 13 years his party was in power. Lula was jailed on bribery charges, but this was annulled by the Supreme Court. He has always denied any wrongdoings and said the charges were politically motivated. Brazil has long been plagued with corruption; even Bolsonaro, who once championed a corruption-free Brazil, is now embroiled in an ugly mess of scandals concerning his politician sons. Could this be a sign that Brazil can no longer change to progress towards a corruption-free country? Without an upheaval of the current socio-economic environment and a president that isn't solely focused on perpetuating his agenda, it will be near impossible for Brazil to progress.

Lim Shuyu student

is a first-year PPEfrom Singapore.

IMAGE: Unsplash/ Maria Fernanda Pissioli

In Brazil’s upcoming elections, on October 2nd, 2022, Bolsonaro faces steep competition from former President, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. It’s expected that Bolsonaro’s government will try to boost social spending to attract voters, however spectators question if social spending is what Brazil wants. Will that be sufficient to hide the failures of Bolsonaro’s government, or will Brazilians be tricked by Bolsonaro’s rose-tinted lenses? Bolsonaro has a centralised and unified base of political supporters that solidify his mandate to rule. Bolsonaro’s tiny Alliance for Brazil has teamed up with the centrão, a big bloc of centre-right parties. This is an alliance that helps Bolsonaro maintain unchecked power in Congress, and at the same time provides centrão politicians with desirable government jobs. This helps the government pass legislation and shields Bolsonaro from impeachment. Effectively, the Brazillian President has created an impenetrable fortress around his position that prevents anyone from eroding his mandate to rule. This also prevents checks and balances from other parties to call out Bolsonaro’s unsound fiscal and monetary policies. Internal support is essential for Bolsonaro to pass legislation that aids him in reelection. Bolsonaro will do anything that will guarantee his success in the 2022 elections. The measures are there mainly for public appeal - but may not be financially or politically sound. Brazil’s erosion of democracy makes internal checks and balances evermore important. Since taking office, Bolsonaro has joined demonstrators calling for military intervention in Brazil’s politics and the closure of Congress and the Supreme Court. He’s also promoted the large-scale militarisation of his government, and systematically undermined public trust in the country’s voting system. With unrestrained power and abilities to discredit, disclaim and direct all of Brazil’s




NO SANE GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL WOULD ARGUE THAT THIS IS LEGITIMATE. horror and disbelief. Surely a 12-yearold child is not mature enough to willingly accept a marriage to a 25-year-old man, and no sane government official would argue that this is legitimate. Without stating the obvious, there are several reasons why child marriage is extremely dangerous. Girls who enter child marriage are vulnerable to physical health risks, including sexual assault, early pregnancy and delivery, as well as increased chances of miscarriages, which are particularly harmful in rural areas with less than adequate healthcare. There are also mental health risks due to the premature ending of their childhoods, risks of domestic violence, and separation from their families. This leads on to why this marriage could potentially be legitimated in the first place. In 2014, a new law was proposed in the build-up to the elections, which would legalise mar-

riage for children as young as nine. The law would also restrict women’s rights in terms of inheritance, parenting, and divorce. Many protested heavily against the bill. Saud Abu-Sayyeh of Equality Now told the Guardian: “This bill contradicts international conventions and the national law in Iraq. If it is approved, in effect, each and every religious sect will follow their clerics. It will be catastrophic for women’s rights”. The fact this law was proposed in the build-up to the election indicates that a large chunk of the electorate would favour this law and vote for the party proposing it. This is partly as some religious sects in Iraq believe the wife of the prophet Muhammad was nine, meaning children can marry at this age. Whilst this bill was not made law, it highlights the issue that women and children’s rights can be used to score political points. The current court case reinforces this. The fact that a male judge will decide the fate of a 12-year-old girl emphasises how catastrophic child marriages are for women’s rights. In the words of a protestor, “children should be at home watching cartoons, not be married.” One can only hope that the judge will make the right decision and deny the two to marry, otherwise there could be heavy implications on other children. Once the door is opened, it will be difficult to close it, and many other parents could use this girl’s case to justify marrying off their children. Despite protests and criticism by human rights activists, there are few

Iraqi officials who will help deconstruct this cruel system, mainly as this would lose them electoral support. There are organisations like the UN who are trying to fight child marriage, for instance with the 2016 Global Programme to End Child Marriage, which has assisted 7.9 million girls from 2016-2019. This program has increased education and healthcare access for young girls, as well as helped educate families about the risks of child marriage. However, child marriage is still rampant in Iraq, with 24% of marriages being child marriages in 2016, compared with 9% in 1997. FEW IRAQI OFFICIALS... WILL HELP DECONSTRUCT THIS CRUEL SYSTEM Whilst there are international laws, such as The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which states that marriage under the age of 18 is a form of forced marriage, Iraqi law conflicts with this, with Article 8 of Iraq’s Personal Status Law stating that a judge can authorise underage marriage if they can conclude the action is urgent, or if the father gives their approval. So, what can be done to stop this? It will take years of deep-rooted reforms, starting with an increase in female education, in order to get more women in positions of power where they can then instigate urgent change. Corruption lies at the heart of this cruel system, so more checks and balances must be implemented in order to check the power of current political officials. Whilst protestors and human rights activists can raise international awareness, change must start from within the broken system in order to stop the injustice that is child marriage.

IMAGE: Flickr/ US Army

For most 12-year olds, marriage is a thing of the distant future. This is not the reality for hundreds of young girls in Iraq. Currently, there is an ongoing court case in Iraq where a judge was asked to legitimise a marriage between a 12-year-old girl and her 25-year-old stepfather’s brother. This sparked protests in the Kadhamiya neighbourhood of Baghdad, ignited by the girl’s mother who used social media to implore local authorities to help her daughter. The mother explained that her daughter had been sexually assaulted and forced into the marriage. However, a government department that deals with violence against women said in a statement that after meeting with the girl, father, and husband, they were confident that she had not been coerced into marriage. Most people would read this in pure

Surina Rumpal is a first-year PAIS and GSD student from London, UK. January 2022




I was recently discussing the Australian Election with my flatmate, a classically charismatic chap. I cruelly quizzed him on who the current Australian PM was, and he replied “not sure, don’t know much about Australian politics.” It was a good point. Why should we care? COVID-19 has had a tendency to dominate newsreels, with stories of chaos and worldwide confusion petering in slowly, painting the world in a grim light and leaving one wondering whether there’s anything else. Melbourne, Australia has had the world’s longest lockdown, ranging just under a year. Initial restrictions were praised for reducing cases (at one point) to zero. However, part of this has come as a response to sluggish vaccination rollouts and an overburdened health system, tarnishing the government's reputation. One might almost be forgiven for forgetting ecological disasters and migrant/refugee (depending on who you ask) detention camps that have previously occupied public discourse. Unsurprisingly, the 2022 election so far has not centred on these issues. Instead, COVID-19 has dominated the headlines. Australia’s Labor Party have been attacking incumbent Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s Liberal Party on accounts of slashing medicare (the free healthcare system) viscerally in time for a pandemic. Labor was previously defeated in 2019 with a similar strategy of negative campaign ads, brutally targeting marginal constituencies to great effect. Social media is of course being harnessed more than ever, with the United Australia Party spending 2.5 million AUD on Google adverts alone in the last year. The political arena has been socially distanced for too long; one does not have to wonder whether the spectators are hungry for blood. If time is money, then the six 18


months until voting day on the 18th of May is a goldmine. Anything can change. The Prime Minister, known by most as ScoMo, is running up against the key problem of being in government: having to defend his actions, on the brighter side, with government comes resources unparalleled. For example, campaign spending has been dwarfed by a 13-million-dollar federal advertising campaign on the ‘Positive Energy’ initiative: reducing carbon emissions. Whilst ScoMo won the day in 2019 on a conservative stance on climate, even with 2019 being deemed the Climate Election, issues around climate change remain important to Australian voters across party lines. COVID-19 remains a thorn in ScoMo’s side, but neither has he been as outspoken nor polarising as his US counterpart Trump. With a federal system, a massive landmass, and a tete-a-tete with China, one cannot fail to draw comparisons with the US. The recent election in the US hinged around COVID-19 and Trump's ineffective handling. Similarly, polling data from YouGov taken across the last two years has shown a similar trend against the Australian Government the longer the pandemic has gone on. Of course, COVID played a huge role in the US election, but, on a wider scale, there is a global trend of elections being influenced, if not determined, by COVID-19. New Zealand saw an increased majority return to Jacinda Arden, whereas in Germany the CDU/ CSU fell out of office with Merkel stepping away. In the UK, the July by-election for

Chesham and Amersham saw a historic loss for the Conservative government. It’s difficult to predict that COVID alone can sway the electorate, though my crystal ball has revealed the word Omicron is on the horizon. A strong response could reaffirm voters’ trust in their government in a similar fashion to the beginning of the pandemic, when calls of national unity surged support, whilst ineffective measures could nail the coffin shut. I began by asking whether there was anything else apart from COVID-19 to discuss, and have subsequently spent the majority writing about COVID-19. But beyond COVID-19, the next leader of Australia has many problems, including the climate and refugee crises that predominated the news preCOVID. It is of crucial importance that COVID-19 does not become the lynchpin of elections, however emotive it may be to voters, because there is more than pandemic management at stake. The fine line between managing diplomatic and economic relationships with China and standing up for democracy is one that any PM shall have to walk. A recent survey found that 49.6% of voters consider Australia too dependent on China, but this hard-line rhetoric on China has had drastic effects on the significant Australian-Chinese community. In a changing globalised environment, it is more important than ever to have leaders with vision and intelligence to face a variety of increasingly more difficult and interconnected problems. Peaking through COVID-19, there is an iceberg beneath the water that Australian voters have to navigate, and definitely should.

Sebastian Rees-Ewald is a fourth-year PAIS student from Essex, UK.

IMAGE: Unsplash/Liam Pozz




IRAN AND ISRAEL’S STRAINED RELATIONSHIP in 2020 under American patronage has permitted the openness of greater military cooperation with the Arab world. This is causing a diplomatic crisis with Iran, as Israel seeks to prevent its allies from international talks with Iran, as these would be unproductive without forcing the end of its nuclear program. Israeli officials are increasingly relying on the US and European nations to put forward an emergency motion to the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) board, in the hope to brand Iran as breaching its obligations, based on the non-proliferation treaty (NPT) and the 2015 nuclear deal. This motion, planned for December 2021, would initiate a broader process to compel Iran to alter its conduct on the nuclear issue. However, this may not be enough, as Russia’s power revival and China’s rise threatens the unipolarity of the US. With Russia and China obtaining profound diplomatic and economic interests in Iran, the US has to carefully consider their involvement in Iranian-Israeli tensions. Additionally, Iran seeks to bolster ties with Israel’s key partner in the Gulf region, the UAE. In late November 2021, Iran signed an economic cooperation agreement with the UAE and Turkey, which laid out conditions for trade and simultaneously set a timeframe for future discussions on Tehran’s nuclear goals. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has sought to tighten relations with Gulf nations following his election in June, which opened up the prospect of cooperating closely with the global oil market. This diplomatic move by Iran highlights their intentions to avoid the revival of the nuclear deal. Although Israel has repeatedly stated it wouldn’t tolerate Iran acquiring nuclear weapons, Iran is at best disinterested in reviving the 2015 nuclear deal. Deputy Foreign Minister of Iran, Ali

Bagheri-Kani, stated that Iran’s negotiations with external powers would be directed towards lifting sanctions against the country rather than agreeing to renew the nuclear deal. Israel is concerned with Iran’s new alliance with the UAE, and fears that an American relaxation of sanctions on Iran may result in Tehran receiving billions of dollars to finance its proxy allies in the Middle East. This could then strengthen the political influence of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. Clearly, Iran’s attitude has been visible through walking away from talks, now suspended, on restoring the 2015 nuclear deal. By Iran failing to modify their stance and demands on the regulations being imposed on their nuclear programme, the country risks aggression from Israel. Though Iran has agreed to permit UN inspectors to reinstall cameras at their Karaj centrifuge facility, they refuse to compromise on nuclear discourse in their pursuit of power projection in the Middle East. Israel has attempted to diplomatically influence America’s stance on Iran amid an impasse on nuclear negotiations in Vienna, and is content with this deadlock, as long as Iran faces the brunt of sanctions. It seems like a relaxation of tensions is far from feasible, however if something does not change fast, it may not be long before something snaps.

Jhanvi Mehta is a second-year History and PAIS student from Leeds, UK.

January 2022


IMAGE: Unsplash/ Levi Meir Clancy (Israel Flag Image) and Unsplash/ Seyed Gholamreza Nematpour (Iran Flag Imaage)

Iran and Israel’s relationship has become enormously strained in recent months. The collapse of the Iran nuclear deal and Iran’s quest for nuclear powers has complicated affairs between the two Middle Eastern powers. Israel regards Iran as posing an existential threat to its armed and nuclear prestige, and has warned that it will act with military force to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, Iran insists its nuclear programme exists only for peaceful rationales, and is set on continuing the development of nuclear weapons, following the collapse of the 2015 accord to halt its nuclear programme due to US withdrawal in 2018. This strained relationship has meant that an escaltion of conflict between Iran and Israel, whether direct via proxies, has become a growing possibility. Israel sees another nation in the region acquiring or developing nuclear technology as a direct threat. General Aviv Kohavi has insisted that in November 2021 the Israeli military was “speeding up the operational plans and readiness for dealing with Iran and the military nuclear threat.” Kohavi’s remarks follow a series of reported airstrikes by Israel within Syria, which come in addition to hundreds of strikes on Iran-linked military targets over the last decade. Additionally, Israel’s recent international recognition from oil-rich Arab nations, particularly the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain, has further inflamed tensions. Naval forces from the UAE, Bahrain, and Israel, alongside the US, began a five day stretch of joint naval exercises in the Red Sea on November 10th, in preparation for a potential confrontation with Iran. Lt. Col. Shahar Shoshanna of the Israeli army’s Foreign Relations Unit, remarked that Israel’s normalisation of ties with the UAE and Bahrain






members from councils, charities, trusts and local authorities, the controversy surrounds the fact that they will also include representatives of private health firms. The Government plans to be very hands-off with these boards, stating that they will only intervene and potentially block an appointee if “they could reasonably be regarded as undermining the independence of the health service.” The fear then, of course, is that without ample state oversight the private interest stakeholders on these boards can act as backdoor gateways for more privatisation of certain sectors of the NHS. Admittedly, the impacts of the COVID 19 pandemic mean that the NHS needs money that doesn’t presently exist, more than ever because of the unprecedented demand on the heath service over the last 2 years. Privatisation may be able to restore the finances of the health service, but it would also do irreparable damage. Corporate monopolies would drive the price of basic health care and drugs through the roof, to levels comparable to that of the United States in worst case scenarios. Moreover, this bill has the potential to entrench the role of private sector firms into the health service, and once they are no longer needed for financial support, they won’t be simple to get rid of. Additionally, this bill gives huge amounts of power to the Health Secretary. They will seize the power to overrule any decisions, mergers or appointments made by an ICS and have absolute power over final decisions on appointments of directors that will sit on the ICBs. Not only does this plan allow for unprecedented corporate control of the NHS, but also cronyism through the Health Secretary. The Tories have been bombarded with numerous accusations and revelations that cronyism has been rife throughout their approach towards combatting the pandemic. Contracts have been handed out to

friends, family and donors of the party and its MPs and this new bill would mean that there is nothing to stop this leaching into the core of the NHS too. Tory Ministers have tried to ease fears, with reassurances about appointments, with health minister Edward Argar arguing that “no one will be appointed to an ICB who would undermine the independence of the NHS” - but forgive us if public trust in the Conservatives is not at an all-time high right now. The most important fact, however, is that this does not seem to address or offer solutions for the real problems present in the NHS right now. There are serious staffing shortages, with thousands that leave the sector every year, and that turnover of staff is a major crippling factor right now. It also does not specifically address funding, rather the finances are a sort of afterthought, with ministers hoping that the increased inclusion of the private sector = plenty of money for the NHS. Sadly, despite even some Tory rebellions, this bill will likely be passed, and so now all that can be done is to remain observant and wary of how our NHS is evolving and doing all that we can to protect something so fundamental to British society, be it at the ballot box, or on the street (Provided we don’t get arrested under the new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill!).

Zach Roberts is a second-year Law and PAIS student from Aylesbury, UK.

IMAGE: Unsplash / Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona (left image) and Flickr/ Tim Green (right imnage)

As of this year, NHS waitlists have hit over 6 million, with the pandemic doing no favours for this figure. This is all down to a decade of cuts that has left NHS funding increases at their lowest ever levels, far below what is necessary for our growing, elderly population. As a result, 17,000 beds have been cut and there are over 100,000 unfilled vacancies. The initial attempt at a solution? A pitiful 1% pay rise, that was only altered to 3% after a mass public outrage. The health budget has been decimated 24% since 2015, and with this Conservative government now collecting an unimpressive record of failed promises, it's about time they fulfilled their pledge to restore proper funding for our NHS. The Tory plan to do so starts with a restructuring of the way in which regions have control over their local part of the NHS as part of the new Health and Social Care Bill. 42 newly established Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) will each oversee a local NHS service that spans an area of 1-2 million people. These ICSs will include ICBs (Integrated Care Boards), and they will be “accountable for NHS spend and performance” according to the Government plans. While these boards will include

(left image) and Flickr/ Tim Green (right imnage)


BOOK REVIEWS NIALL HAWKINS REVIEWS THE BOOK OF TRESPASS Rarely does a book with such an overt political message as this one succeed in telling a story that is both coherent and able to dazzle the reader with its prose. Nick Hayes can go from recalling the often-well-trodden history of enclosure in England to detailing the psychological effects of such unfettered capitalism, but at no point does he stray, remaining original. This book is not written in the stuffy office of an Oxbridge college or under the harsh lighting of a Think Tank meeting room. It is written in and for the countryside of England, and it is the land as much as the people that Hayes considers in his work, as the illustrations prove. Never have I read so compelling an argument for taking drugs whilst simultaneously trespassing on private land! With each chapter Hayes explores some new place, often enclosed in the centuries gone by, and nowadays likely owned by a company registered somewhere tropical. Encounters with gamekeepers are dealt with cordially, but always Hayes must confront the trajectory and conflict of ideas and history that has rendered his simple act of ‘trespass’ a serious crime. You could read this book with a steaming mug in hand and some lo-fi beats in the background. Or, more appropriately like Hayes himself, after you have just hopped some barbed wire and are ready to set up camp within the bounds of some old manor. After reading it, that will be the only thing on your mind. “The Book of Trespass” is a manifesto for a wholesale confrontation of the historic narrative that has, over centuries, justified slavery, colonialism, and the absurd idea that land can be owned. More than the reading experience though, what is most exciting about this book are the possibilities for what might come next.

IMAGE: Bloomsbury Publishing / The Book of Trespass

Niall Hawkins is a third-year History and Politics student from Berkhamstead, UK.


Despite the title, “Doughnut Economics” is not just about economics and Kate Raworth is more than an economist. The book challenges the highly insular nature of the discipline by adopting an interdisciplinary approach guided overwhelmingly by planetary science. What results is a strand of economic thought that overturns several of the most sacrosanct assumptions underpinning the standard account of economics. In its current state, the world economy is predicated on principles of infinite growth. Instead, Raworth argues, we must envision an economy that meets the social needs of people whilst also operating firmly within earth’s planetary boundaries. When modelled, what this ends up looking like is a doughnut. Supplementing this further, the economy must be embedded within society and nature rather than the closed-loop the current economic paradigm supposes; taking from the work of feminist economists as well as political economists such as Karl Polanyi. Likewise, changes must translate from the macro to the micro. Homo Economicus must reflect humanity's social and interdependent nature if it is to survive the Anthropocene. Although the familiar curves of supply and demand are relegated to introductory economics classes, economic modelling must be built upon a more dynamic system if it is to deal with the complex systems over which it presides. Contemporary economics finds the answer to inequality in economic growth, but as the work of Thomas Piketty has already shown, this is not enough. The economy must be distributive by design, as must it be regenerIMAGE: Chelsea Green Publishing / Doughnut Economics ative - green growth or traditional concepts of sustainable development will not save the planet. Susbin Shrestha is a first-year In sum, economists and politicians alike must shift from ‘growth addicted’ to ‘growth International Political Economy agnostic’. For too long societal progress has been linked to economic growth. Only through deMasters student from Aldershot, coupling the two can the world hope for an economically and ecologically viable future. UK. January 2022




On November 19th, 2021 Austria announced its fourth lockdown, as well as the intention to implement a comprehensive Covid-19 vaccine mandate. Everyone aged 14 and above, with certain people eligible for exemptions, will have to be vaccinated, or start facing up to 3,600€ (around 3000 pounds) in fines every 3 months from February 1st, 2022. These harsh measures come in response to Austria having the second-lowest vaccination rate in Western Europe, with only 68% of the population being fully vaccinated. However, Austria is not the only country considering a vaccine mandate, although it is the first EU country to announce a nationwide Covid-19 mandate, following nations like Indonesia. WHO Europe director Hans Kluge has said that “mandates around vaccination are an absolute last resort” and that all other options must be exhausted first, however with an EUwide vaccination rate of only 66%, cases continually rising, and the emergence of Omicron, it seems like all the recourses that have been taken over the past almost two years have failed. It’s no wonder that countries like Germany, Italy, and France, as well as the US, are contemplating following suit with the implementation of partial vaccine mandates. Although vaccine mandates may seem unheard of, they are common throughout history, and even in the present day. Compulsory vaccines aided in the suppression of diseases that have plagued humanity for millenia, including polio, measles, chickenpox, tetanus, etc., as well as the complete eradication of smallpox in 1980. In 1853, the smallpox vaccination became mandatory in England, decreasing the deaths tenfold, and in 1905, in response to smallpox vaccine skeptics, the US Supreme Court 22


ruled that personal liberties can be trumped for the public good in regards to health and welfare, and that the state can “enact a compulsory vaccination law”. Even nowadays, universities and other educational institutions around the globe often demand inoculation records, and international travel can also require certain vaccines. The point of this being that vaccine mandates are neither anything new, nor are they unheard of in the present day, and considering the fact that Covid-19 is ranked among the 10 deadliest pandemics in human history, it isn’t too extreme to believe mandates might need to be implemented. Even so, many anti-vaxxers or vaccine skeptics believe that such a drastic measure is incompatible with fundamental human rights. Specifically, the right to bodily autonomy, as an obligatory vaccine intrudes on a person's right to make that decision for themselves. However, it can be argued that this sort of intrusion can be justifiable in certain cases, namely when the choice not to be vaccinated inflicts harm on others. Our rights to personal and bodily autonomy are not absolute, and considering that people with disabilities, fragile immune systems, and children who are too young to be vaccinated are adversely affected by the decision of healthy people not to become vaccinated, their rights to life trump the ‘right’ of not being vaccinated. Especially since the Covid-19 vaccine has been proven to be safe and effective, and the risks of contracting the virus are much worse, in the worst case lethal, than any side effects from the vaccine. Nevertheless, it is important to remember it is not the unvaccinated vs the vaccinated, regardless of how hard governments are trying to push that narrative. Throughout the entire pandemic, governments in the West have fueled distrust amongst their populations by implementing contradictory measures. Instead of actually caring about the health of their people and

adequately dealing with the pandemic, they aligned themselves to the interest of businesses and corporations, putting profit over people again and again. And now, instead of taking accountability for the vast distrust they themselves sowed in the masses, they are attempting to divide the people by placing the blame fully on the unvaccinated. Not on the austerity the healthcare budgets have been subjected to for decades, not on their initial mismanagement and failure to contain the virus, not on Europe’s botched vaccination efforts. Instead it is the fault of individuals. Regardless, mass vaccination is incredibly crucial to finding a way out of the Covid pandemic. Health care systems across Europe are in fear of collapsing again and that must be prevented. So although the way in which governments have acted throughout the pandemic is despicable, vaccination rates must increase. National vaccine mandates may be too extreme, but a vaccine mandate for certain professions, for instance care home workers, hospital workers, public servants, etc., as some countries are considering or have already implemented, would be a step in the right direction.

Catharina Schaufler-Mendez is a third year PAIS and GSD student from Vienna, Austria.

IMAGE: Unsplash/ Daniel Schludi




Ross Clark recently wrote in The Spectator; ‘It can be puzzling to work out why anti-vaxxers should get so worked up against a medical intervention that has saved many millions of lives over the past couple of centuries.’ This is a good way to start a discussion about this increasingly heated topic. It is very important to be clear here: I am not against vaccines in any way, shape, or form, and in fact believe that the speed at which the COVID-19 vaccines were produced is quite remarkable. Having said that, the recent push to start talking about mandatory vaccinations in the UK simply doesn’t make any logical or scientific sense. Why would you make it criminal for someone to not be vaccinated? SARS-COV-2 is not comparable to (say) Polio, which was eradicated through vaccination. COVID-19 jabs do not prevent transmission. Is the reasoning that it reduces pressure on ICU beds? Forcing unwilling individuals to take a medical intervention, so they don’t get sick and take up the space of a bed? Okay, what about drinking and smoking? Or speeding on the motorway? Why should a lung cancer patient who hasn’t smoked a cigarette be denied a bed that has instead been given to a chain smoker of 20+ years – it’s their choice to smoke, right? You can’t blame a small section of the population (aka the ‘unvaccinated’) for overwhelming the health system when the latest tests are saying that around 95% of adults in En-

gland are estimated to have antibodies, from either vaccination or prior infection. It is quite simply incorrect, not to mention immoral in its scapegoating. The question to ask is when does individual choice get usurped by social responsibility? With a question as deep as this one, there needs to be some ‘lines in the sand’ and those need to be stated very clearly. The line in the sand here is bodily autonomy. I am not sure, in all honesty, if this falls under the umbrella of the abortion debate (prochoice vs pro-life), but the principles are undoubtedly similar. Does the State get to decide what goes into your body, or what medical procedure you have?

It seems the slur ‘anti-vaxxer’ is being used as a weapon by certain parties. It is a clever tactic – as soon as someone is lumped into this category it becomes increasingly hard to get away from the assumptions that you are irrational and ‘anti-science’. There are many different reasons to not get a vaccine. Ideology is just one reason. A recent study showed that the main reason for not wanting the Covid vaccine [in particular] was worries about the ‘rushed’ nature of this vaccine’s approval. Religious beliefs and objections are another. Leading on from that, can you compel someone to take a medical intervention that goes against their religious beliefs? Would these people be exempt? If so, how would you be able to prove it? Government authority is going too far and has been for the past few months. Temporary government powers are never temporary, and crises rarely recede when they should, largely due to

the ‘ratchet effect’ of government bodies/bureaucracy remaining in place long past their sell-by date (e.g. NHS Test and Trace). The precedent for a lockdown has already been set – we were repeatedly promised by our leaders that after everyone who wanted/needed to be vaccinated has been vaccinated, life would return back to normal. But anyone who noticed their failure to relinquish their emergency powers (Coronavirus Act) knew it was simply a matter of when, not if, restrictions would be reintroduced. Knowing this, why on earth would we give these same leaders the authority and power to decide what goes into our bodies? Trust is far lower than it was even 2 years ago, and this is simply a line we should not cross because it will be a lot harder to turn back. This all stems from tunnel vision. When we are given Covid death stats, they are never in context - a sense of perspective is rarely given with regards to the total daily death toll in the country from any cause. The media is driving society towards a tunnel vision, which is prompting and pressuring politicians to do things they wouldn’t previously consider.

Jamie Spratt is Economics and from Durham, UK.

a second-year PAIS student

IMAGE: Flickr / GoToVan, Flickr/ Ivan Radic and Unsplash/ Mat Napo


January 2022