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Month: December 2015

All I want for Christmas… is a democratic political culture in Hungary

Written by Fanni Toth.

It is that time of the year again. People rushing by with endless shopping bags hanging from their hands, Christmas music blasting in the shops, fairy lights decorating every street in sight. ‘Tis the season to be jolly, the season for love and peace on Earth. Well, maybe not everywhere on Earth; in Hungary, this Christmas the sounds of jingle bells are being drowned out by a cacophony of angry voices, shouting insults on each side, arguing – perhaps rather surprisingly for most of the Western world – about the place of women in society.

Has France really seen the back of the Front National?

Written by Paul Smith.

A week after finishing in first place in the first round of the French regional elections, leading in six regions, the Front National (FN) finds itself in control of … none, while the right-wing Republicans secured seven and the Socialists five. The “system”, as party leader Marine Le Pen likes to call it, has done its job.

And yet the far-right party can take a great deal of satisfaction from the second round. Its final total of 6.8m votes is an improvement of 700,000 on the first round, and 400,000 more than it won at the 2012 presidential election.

The 2015 Spanish General Election: How a Sea Change May Not Yet Have Reached the Shore of Spanish Politics

Written by Nathan Jones.

The 2015 Spanish general election could mark a critical juncture in Spanish politics.  Spain’s two main political parties, the PSOE (Spanish Socialist Party) and the PP (People’s Party) are, for the first time since the transition to democracy, facing the prospect of attracting less than fifty percent of the vote between them.  This is unprecedented in recent Spanish history, and has led to talk of radical change in the political landscape of Spain.

What actually happens if Britain leaves the EU?

Written by Christopher Grey.

Europe is always a heated topic at a Conservative party conference. This year much debate has focused on David Cameron’s ongoing renegotiation of terms for staying in. By contrast, relatively little has been said about the terms on which Brexit might happen. Those advocating it oscillate between – and often treat as interchangeable – quite different and incompatible scenarios.

The truth is that anyone who works for, or consumes the products of any organisation – in other words everyone – would be affected by a UK exit from the European Union. As someone who studies organisations for a living, I believe that it is strongly in Britain’s interests to remain in; it is why I am a member of the European Movement. Now, you may disagree with that view, but it is surely vital that when it comes to the Brexit referendum, voters know what happens next if Britain chooses to leave.

Obama shows the flaws in America’s efforts to combat ISIS

Written by Simon Reich.

Winston Churchill famously suggested that:

You can always count on Americans to do the right thing – after they’ve tried everything else.

Speaking with his characteristic mix of the compassionate and cerebral, the articulate and analytic, President Obama reminded Americans of the need for “strategic patience” in battling ISIS on Sunday night. He largely rejected Churchillian grand rhetoric. The nearest he got was when he said that “freedom is more powerful than fear.”

What he did was to lay out America’s policy approach. It is one that mixes the domestic and the foreign: a greater emphasis on the regulation of the visa program, community outreach and gun control at home; intensified support for the multilateral forces and the use of intelligence abroad.

Is this the end of the socialist dream in Venezuela?

Written by Iñaki Sagarzazu.

An alliance of centre-left, centrist and right-wing opposition parties has scored a resounding victory in Venezuela’s parliamentary elections – marking a seismic shift for the country.

Breaking two decades of dominance by the socialist government, the Democratic Unity alliance has won the vast majority of seats, after promising economic and social change.

The government will stay on because president Nicolas Maduro holds executive power, but the sizeable majority won by the opposition is a strong signal that a recall referendum could take place in 2016.

Why the world can’t stand by as Burundi becomes a failed state

Written by Patrick Muthengi Maluki.

The unfolding human tragedy in Burundi needs urgent intervention from the international community before it is too late. The seemingly hands-off attitude by the East African Community, African Union and even the United Nations raises many questions.

The crisis has been characterised by sporadic violence, assassinations, intimidation, and the grouping of militias along ethnic lines. The situation is eerily reminiscent of the start of the 1993-2006 civil war in which an estimated 300,000 people died. The underlying issues of ethnic balance of power, corruption and poor governance linked to that conflict appear to be re-emerging.

The current crisis began in April with multi-ethnic protests by the opposition and civil society against President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to vie for a third term.

Party mechanics: why Labour would struggle to oust Jeremy Corbyn

Written by Tom Quinn.

Despite his firm stance, Jeremy Corbyn has lost a parliamentary vote on military intervention in Syria, in no small part thanks to members of his own party voting with the government. The chaos of Corbyn’s leadership so far seemingly leaves open the question of whether he might resign or be overthrown.

Although a sizeable number of Labour MPs voted with the government over Syria, it is clear that the wider party is behind Corbyn. If moderates in the party think this vote might help them get rid of Corbyn as leader, they are very much mistaken. In fact, their options look quite limited.

Full marks for oratory, but Hilary Benn gets a C in history for Syria speech

Written by Andrew Mumford.

Now Mr Speaker, I hope the house will bear with me if I direct my closing remarks to my Labour friends and colleagues on this side of the House.

So began the final moments of shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn’s speech to the British parliament as it debated whether to enter the fight against Islamic State in Syria.

This was a speech delivered by the quiet man of the Labour frontbenches with steely determination and emotive appeal. But perhaps most importantly it was a plea to certain historical traditions designed to sway Labour colleagues to vote for the airstrikes.

Pro-Christian, Anti-Muslim or Anti-Refugee? What is behind European politicians’ statements favouring Christian refugees?

Written by Roda Madziva  and Vivien Lowndes.

In the midst of what has come to be known as the worst refugee crisis of our generation, the wrench­ing images of a toddler lying dead on a Turk­ish beach emerged as evidence of a reality that cannot just be captured in words. This has seen many calling for the need to shift the debate away from borders and security and towards asylum, solidarity and responsibility. Yet, in the midst of this humanitarian talk, a new rhetoric is emerging which suggests that the lives of some refugees have more value than others. In particular, the anti-Muslim rhetoric by some politicians in Australia and other European countries such as France, Slovakia, Poland, the UK and many others have widely been judged as discriminatory and a perversion of liberal values especially hospitality, compassion and inclusion.