YGA’s international extravaganza: no. 1

Afghanistan after America
by Theo Mitchell

Image credit: Bluuurgh

Western coverage of Afghanistan has, since the American withdrawal announcement, been filled with panic about the Taliban’s return; but is it truly inevitable?

There is reason to believe the Taliban may return to power. The Afghan military is corrupt, the government fails to deliver services or security, and it lacks legitimacy in rural areas. Whether the Taliban could actually seize Kabul, however, is a more complex question.

President Ghani is deeply unpopular, but the Taliban is not unstoppable. It faces a diverse coalition of enemies and still has to melt away from the frontlines in daytime. Furthermore, the logistical limitations and social fragmentation of Afghanistan means that the central government has only a tenuous grip outside the cities.

The Taliban has the potential to return to power, but its path back is rife with more difficulties than western media realises.

A blow to democracy: Corruption and election fraud in Albania
by Orestis Sechas

image credit: NATO

The electoral campaign of the Socialist Party of Albania saw authorities taking advantage of public functions and allegations of persuasive vote buying, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe said in its report.

Although the legal framework formed an adequate basis for democratic elections to take place, major concerns were raised such as the misuse of state resources and the predominant claims that the ruling party distributed money in exchange of votes. The report of the Council of Europe evidently stated that the Socialist Party exerted pressure on civil servants and voters, and it was observed that citizens were forcibly pulled towards the polling stations and instructed how to vote. Further, the Council of Europe revealed that the public administration in Tirana published a database containing the personal data of over 900,000 citizens and linked the Prime Minister Edi Rama to organised crime and drug trafficking.

Hirak protest movement
by Tiffany Choong

image credit: Steve Eason

Algeria’s on and off protests began in 2019 when hundreds of thousands of its citizens flooded the streets to call for the then-president to resign due to corruption and elitism affecting governance. Since then, the Hirak had continued protests each Friday, prior to Covid restrictions halting the movement, to push for a transition towards more democratic rule and government.

The large-scale protests have been quite peaceful – even leaders praised the movement for its nonviolence; yet, over dozens of activists have been jailed under blatant and far reaching charges. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have reported on these obstructions to the rights of freedom and expression.

Andorra’s unorthodox easing
by Harry Padoan

image credit: Lmbuga

Andorra, a nation of less than 80,000 people, is showing innovative and original tactics in easing their lockdown restrictions. For instance, citizens can only leave their homes on even dates, such as the 30th day of the month if their house number is also an even number; odd numbered dates work in the same fashion.

Another strange strategy concerns walking speeds. Andorrans can only walk fast or run between the hours of 6am and 9am or 6pm and 9pm to reduce the chance of multiple trips outside of the house. The landlocked nation has ranked among the highest in the world in the Covid deaths per million statistics, with an economic crash likely imminent. Andorrans will be hoping for a seismic revival of their tourism industry in the coming years to rescue the dire financial situation.

The end of Angola’s Kleptocracy?
by Max Bedford

image credit: bmadeira (pixabay)

“Operation Crab”, run by Angola’s State Information and Security Services, has seen the detainment of Head of House Security, Pedro Sebastiao and army Major, Pedro Lussaty. Accused of embezzlement, these figures were detained in May 2021 as further suspects in a push against Political Corruption and Cronyism that has been a major part of Angolan politics for decades. It’s alleged that security forces found 800 million Kwanzas in Lussaty’s apartment, approximately £8,891,378.

Following the ‘Luanda Leaks’ of 2020, Isabel Dos Santos has had her assets frozen and been taken to courts across the world. The leaks have seen courts demand payments in the hundred millions in response to embezzlement and the Kleptocratic governance of Angola with her father and husband. It is expected that Dos Santos will continue to be called to court as more evidence emerges.

Laws affecting LGBTQ+ community in Antigua and Barbuda unlikely to change

by Gracie Daw

image credit: Andrea Starr

The Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Browne, has said that he wants to ensure that his country’s laws towards LGBTQ+ people are non-oppressive. Currently, Antigua and Barbuda’s laws towards the LGBTQ+ community are discriminatory: same-sex acts can be punished with 15 years in prison, although this is not enforced; there are no anti-discrimination laws for LGBTQ+ individuals and same-sex partnerships are not recognised by the law.

It is unlikely that this brief statement by the PM will lead to a change in the law. He has been PM since 2014, and there have been pressures on the government since 2016. The UN advocated for full human rights for LGBTQ+ individuals in 2016 and there was a legal challenge, which hoped that the sodomy ban would be declared unconstitutional in 2019. This comment by Browne was likely just to please the voter he was speaking to, rather than an announcement of a major policy shift.

Argentina withdraws diplomatic envoys from Nicaragua
by Jessica Pender

image credit: Vick Bufano

Argentina released a joint statement with Mexico on 21st June announcing the removal of their ambassadors from Nicaragua. This withdrawal was in response to the Nicaraguan government’s treatment of the opposition and political arrests in the lead up to elections. Detained members of the opposition included journalists and potential presidential candidates.

Argentina’s statement detailed that the actions of President Daniel Ortega and his government “have put the integrity and freedom of various opposition figures (including presidential candidates), activists and Nicaraguan businessmen at risk.”

However, Argentina has been criticised for its lack of action beyond the withdrawal of envoys. In recent weeks it has received accusations from human rights watch groups such as Amnesty International for not backing legislation to stop these illegal arrests. A resolution to condemn harassment and restriction of political candidates and media groups was proposed to the Organisation of American States (OAS), which Argentina chose not to endorse.

Armenia: The uncertainty of the election
by Samiha Hamze

image credit: Majid Naghdoust

After a war with Azerbaijan last November, the questioning of Pashinian’s role as Prime Minister began to rise inevitably, resulting in a snap Parliamentary election. The election took place in June, with Pashinian’s Civil Contract Party once again claiming an election victory of 53.9%. This result was not necessarily greeted with open arms as the Armenian Alliance announced a plan to take the results to the Constitutional Court. The claim was that the authorities supported keeping Pashinian in power, however when the voting was assessed by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, it was concluded that it was transparent and with no issues.

This leaves concerns for the future of Armenian politics. Another round of Pashinian as Prime Minister raises questions which leave Armenians uncertain about the future: will he approach Azerbaijan differently this time? Will the Armenian Alliance succeed in taking the election results to the Constitutional Courts?

Barnaby Joyce’s return to power
by Connor Crout

image credit: Bidgee

Barnaby Joyce is returning as Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister after winning the National Party leadership contest 12-9 against incumbent leader Michael McCormack. Joyce was the former leader of the National Party and Deputy Prime Minister before resigning in February 2018 after public pressure caused by an extra-marital affair.

Last week, members of the National Party opposed the Liberal-National coalition government’s indications that it would set a target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050. McCormack was criticised for not asserting the National Party’s view on this, leading to the leadership contest. Joyce is expected to oppose the government’s unpopular climate policy, which could have massive implications for the Australian federal election coming up next year.

Austria lifting restrictions, but imposing vaccine passports
by Josh Chapman

image credit: Tmaximumge (PxHere)

Austria is set to lift most of its remaining Covid restrictions on 1 July. Capacity limits will be lifted, and bars and restaurants will no longer have to shut at midnight, allowing nightclubs to reopen.

However, with less than 30 percent of the population fully vaccinated, the Austrian government has imposed legislation requiring documentation to enter restaurants, hotels and to attend events. The legislation requires either proof of vaccination, a negative test or the presence of antibodies. The Austrian government is currently providing physical documentation although a digital passport will be available from 1 July.

Whilst this relaxation is promising, the imposition of vaccine passports shows that the Austrian government sees freedom of movement as a privilege rather than a right. The documentation facilitates the removal of restrictions but could in time be the source of their return.

Tensions still simmer between Azerbaijan and Armenia
by Joe Mawer

image credit: faiknagiyev (Pixabay)

After the latest flare up in the long running dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh, also known regionally as Artsakh, Azerbaijan took large swathes of land which was previously internationally recognised as being Armenian.

Since this conflict came to an end last autumn, Azerbaijan has claimed victory and even the Turkish President Reccip Tayyip Erdogan has recently visited the captured city of Shusha to sign agreements with the Azerbaijanis. Looking forward, Georgia has pledged its services to try and mediate the release of 15 Armenian captives, similar to the success in June that saw 15 Armenian captives being returned for information on Armenian minefields.

Special economic zone planned for southern Bahamian islands
by Luke Jones

image credit: Fernando Jorge

Most of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas’ economic activities are concentrated in the country’s main island, New Providence, which contains more than 70 percent of the total population and the capital city Nassau. Outlined in the Accelerated Bahamas Recovery Plan, Prime Minister Hubert Minnis has set out plans to create a special economic zone for the southern Bahamas islands.

Free National Movement (FNM) MP Adrian Gibson is a fervent advocate of this decision, declaring that it will be an “economic shot in the arm” for his constituency, Long Island. Gibson and others hope that it can emulate the successes of the free trade zone, or ‘freeport’, located on Grand Bahama, one of the first of its kind created in 1955. For the British reader, this policy is perhaps most comparable in Britain to the Johnson government’s levelling-up agenda.

Bahrain to execute two despite UN concerns
by Frank Roberts

image credit: Jacobs – Creative Bees (Flickr)

Two Bahraini prisoners are set to be executed despite UN concerns. Mohamed Ramadhan and Hussain Moosa were found guilty of murdering a police officer as part of a 2014 terror attack. The UN and Amnesty International both consider their confessions to have been obtained via torture. Although the death sentences were initially suspended in 2018, new judges found the pair guilty again in 2020.

Bahrain has the highest incarceration rate in the Middle East, around 60 percent of whom are estimated to be political prisoners. Moreover, recent protests have erupted in the village of Diah following the death of a prisoner from Covid, although the government have only admitted three Covid cases within the prison system.

Private sector reform: The future of the Bangladeshi economy
by Owen Buchan

image credit: rahmatulla77 (Pixabay)

Bangladesh’s economy has been steadily growing. The only country in South Asia to avoid a recession saw its GDP grow last year despite Covid. With this good news, leaders are looking at how to build off this previous success. A recent report by the International Finance Corporation and the World Bank believes the private sector is the future of Bangladeshi’s economy.

The private sector accounts for 70 percent of all investment in Bangladesh. The report claims that this investment coupled with a strong financial sector will allow for further growth in exports and jobs. Thus, suggested reforms in the report include creating more favourable trade and investment environments for investors and the expansion of the financial sector. With a global pandemic still to overcome, it is unlikely that any major economic reform will be on the table for the foreseeable future though.

Brits to begin boarding in Barbados
by Rachael Ward

image credit: denisbin (Flickr)

Malvern College, an English-owned independent school, is set to open in Barbados in 2023. The announcement tallies towards the growing total of these overseas schools with several already situated in Hong Kong, China, Egypt, and Switzerland. As the first British Boarding School in the Caribbean, it has a primarily colourful agenda, with its most prominent pigment being green.

The school is placing particular emphasis on environmental sustainability with the promise of an on-site Environmental Studies Centre and a hopeful ambition to instil a life-long sense of environmental responsibility in its students. Aligning its actions with its educational aspirations, the school will be constructed with added emphasis on sustainability and mindful of the goal to go carbon neutral. Pledging to offer students ample learning opportunities, parents in the region have expressed keen interest, before the first bricks have even been laid.

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