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Month: January 2017

Benoît Hamon wins French socialist nomination as party sees a reassuring bump in the polls

Written by Paul Smith.

Benoît Hamon has been officially named as the Socialist Party’s candidate for the 2017 presidential election. His path to victory has appeared fairly secure for a while. He recently secured 36% of the vote in the first round before this latest vote, finishing ahead of his main rival, the former prime minister Manuel Valls on 32%. But the real clincher was the declaration by Arnaud Montebourg (17%) that he would support Hamon in the second round. In the end, Hamon took 58.7% of the vote to Valls’ 41.3%.

Donald Trump’s presidency may lead to a reassessment of the “American Empire”

Written by Andrew Mumford.

In what was seen as one of the starkest inaugural addresses ever delivered by a new president, Donald Trump’s focus was predominantly a domestic one, promising to end what he labelled the ‘American carnage’ of job losses, welfare dependency, and gang violence. Yet there were a few intimations as to how he intended to conduct America’s foreign policy for the duration of his four year term. He stated that: ‘We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to follow.’ This implied a distinct turn in American engagement with the world, hinting at a retreat from the interventionist stance of administrations for the past few decades. The wider question that Trump’s foreign policy platform creates is what this does to depictions of American power at home and abroad.

Trident missile failure: just how safe is the UK’s nuclear deterrent?

Written by Robert J Downes.

The Sunday Times has caused a furore by reporting that a 2016 test of the UK’s submarine-borne strategic nuclear deterrent ended in failure. After the submarine HMS Vengeance returned to sea following a £350M refit, it tested a Trident-II D-5 missile off the coast of Florida. Immediately after launch, the unarmed missile reportedly veered off course and flew towards the US mainland rather than following its planned trajectory towards a sea target near West Africa.

Details of the technical aspects of the failure have not been released for reasons of national security, and aren’t likely to be. But the political fallout has already begun.

Milos Crnjanski’s Migrations and the New Borderlands of Europe

Written by Mladen Pupavac and Vanessa Pupavac.

 He was tired of migrating, tired of the restlessness that plagued the people he led as much as it plagued him. If he left the army, he would have to join his brother and travel as a tradesman from town to town, his daughter in tow; if he remained in the army, he would still be forced to travel, his duty being to pacify the migrating populations. (Crnjankski, 1994, [1929], p. 196)

So reflects Vuk Isakovic in the 1929 novel Migrations by the Serbian writer Milos Crnjanski (1893-1977). Crnjanski, leading writer of Serbian modernism, was born just north of what is now the Serbian-Hungarian border. Crnjanski’s novel is set on the Hapsburg military frontier in the 1740s, an area which is now part of the Western Balkans migrant route north to Germany and other northern European Union countries.

Behind the bravado: why Theresa May has to play hardball on hard Brexit

Written by Simon Toubeau.

Even prior to the formal start of what is likely to be a long tournament, the players are taking their seats at the poker table. They’re puffing their chests, turning stone-faced, sternly glaring at each other in the eye. They’re looking at the hand they’ve been dealt and deciding what strategy to pursue. Winning does not depend on having a strong hand but rather on persuading your opponent that you do.

And so, as Theresa May delivered the final few sentences of her speech on her plan for Brexit, the thinly veiled threat was issued: “No deal for Britain is better than a bad deal for Britain.”

High stakes as West Africa prepares military action against Gambia’s Jammeh

In further escalation of the post-election crisis in The Gambia, President Yahya Jammeh declared a state of emergency just a day before his official mandate was due to come to an end. The announcement followed reports that a Nigerian warship was deployed off the Gambian coast while a regional military force was being assembled in neighbouring Senegal for possible military intervention. The events are the clearest signs that the regional Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) could act militarily to remove Jammeh from power. Abdul-Jalilu Ateku examines the prospects for intervention in Gambia.

Lotte in Weimar – Thomas Mann’s Hope for a Humanist Culture against Barbarism

Written by Vanessa Pupavac.

Just a few steps farther, Frau Councillor! Down this corridor, no distance at all from the stairs. We have had to renovate very thoroughly, since the visit of the Don Cossacks, at the end of 1813: stairs, chambers, passages, salons, and all. Maybe the renovation was long overdue; anyhow, it was forced upon us by the violent, world-shaking course of events. They taught us, perhaps, that it is precisely violence that is needed to produce all memorable and historic moments. Yet I should not give the Cossacks all the credit for all our improvements. We had Prussian and Hungarian hussars in the house as well – to say nothing of the French who came before them! (Mann, 1968, [1939], pp. 17-18)

2017: Where do the U.K.’s political parties stand now?

Written by Glen O’Hara.

So, it’s the New Year, and there’s a long, long list of things to get through. There’ll be the French and German elections, the onset of the Trump administration in the US, and policy questions galore. Will the UK be able to disentangle itself from the European Union without a great deal of economic pain and wasted bureaucratic energy? Will Russia be happy to trade a more muscular American foreign policy for a more semi-detached stance from Uncle Sam in Europe? Will rising interest rates slow growth? How long can China continue to fuel the world economy? All these questions will be to the fore in 2017. For now, let’s kick off the year with a review of where British politics stands right now, shall we? We can take each party in turn if you’d like.

Yemen: a calamity at the end of the Arabian peninsula

Written by Vincent Durac.

At the tip of the Arabian peninsula, Yemen’s disastrous war has been raging for nearly two years. Somewhat overshadowed by the devastating crisis in Syria, it is nonetheless a major calamity: according to the UN, more than 10,000 people have lost their lives, while more than 20m (of a total population of some 27m) are in need of humanitarian assistance. More than 3m people are internally displaced, while hundreds of thousands have fled the country altogether. There are reports of looming famine as the conflict destroys food production in the country.

So how did Yemen get here – and what are the prospects for turning things around?

A new law in China is threatening the work of international NGOs

Written by Andreas Fulda.

A controversial new law regulating the activities of foreign non-profit organisations (NPOs) in China came into effect on January 1. Under the Overseas NGO Law, foreign NPOs will have to meet very stringent registration and reporting guidelines, which raises concerns about China’s lack of progress towards good governance and the rule of law.

Critics have taken issue with the fact that the law brings foreign NPOs and their operations under the jurisdiction of the Chinese Ministry of Public Security. This leads to an over-politicisation of the civil society sector in China. Chinese officials seem to consider foreign NPOs and their Chinese partners as potentially undermining the authority of the Chinese Communist Party.