Thursday, February 8

Thursday, February 8

GERMAN POLITICS Angela Merkel’s conservatives clinch grand coalition with Social Democrats After four long months, Germany will wake up to

GERMAN POLITICS

Angela Merkel’s conservatives clinch grand coalition with Social Democrats

Angela Merkel coalition deal

Photo: AFP/Tobias Schwarz

After four long months, Germany will wake up to a proposal for a new government today.

The CDU has sought a coalition since the September 24 vote. Early this year they settled their last hopes on the Social Democrats, with a bid to continue the parties’ “grand coalition”.

Working late into Wednesday morning, party representatives hammered out the last details of their plan. The SPD seems to have made major political gains — it is now set to take control of six ministries, two of the most crucial being finance and labour. With these branches under the centre-left’s control, expect a push to end fixed-term contracts while implementing worker-friendly policy in the years to come.

Additionally, pro-EU SPD leader Martin Schulz is expected to become foreign minister. If he does, expect Germany to provide further bailouts for struggling countries, and possibly taking steps towards French President Macron’s desired Eurozone reform. However, nothing is certain until the coalition is approved by 460,000 SPD members in the coming weeks, a decision that is strongly contested within the party.

MALDIVES IN CRISIS

Domestic disputes surface once more in strategic island chain

Maldives crisis

Photo: Reuters

It has been seven days since the Maldives’ top court ordered the government to reinstall ousted opposition MPs and release political prisoners. But instead of complying, President Abdulla Yameen immersed the Indian Ocean archipelago in crisis mode by declaring a 15-day state of emergency and sending troops to arrest a former president (his half-brother).

In power since 2013, critics accuse Yameen of undermining democracy and cracking down on dissent by jailing opposition leaders. Under Yameen, Mohamed Nasheed — the country’s first democratically elected president — was imprisoned in 2015 on terrorism charges. Yameen recently sent security forces to blockade the Supreme Court building as well.

A career politician, Yameen has been highly criticised by Maldivians for allegations of corruption. He is widely suspected of making illegal financial deals with foreign companies in an effort to boost the Maldives much-valued tourism industry. Such critics point to his strong promotion of Chinese investment as the major source of these alleged illicit deals.

Yameen’s most recent actions point to an immediate fear for his own political security. Look to the extent that Yameen continues to take quasi-totalitarian actions to secure his political survival in an environment he perceives as threatening.

BANGLADESHI POLITICS

Opposition leader faces bar from political office in today’s verdict

Bangladesh opposition leader zia

Photo: AFP/Mehedi Hasan

A verdict is expected today in the corruption trial of two-time prime minister and head of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party Khaleda Zia.

The state-run Anti-Corruption Commission filed charges against Zia, her son and four others for allegedly misappropriating $260,000 from the Zia Orphanage Trust. BNP leaders claim that the ruling Awami League of PM Sheikh Hasina is using the charges to intimidate the opposition. Although only the orphanage trust case will be decided today, Zia and her powerful son have been charged in more than 100 combined criminal cases that range from money laundering to arson.

If convicted Zia and her son could be disqualified from holding political office, seriously jeopardising the political fate of the BNP ahead of next year’s election. Guilty verdicts could push the centre-right party with Islamist ties to seek more forceful means of exerting their political sway, perhaps through encouraging public protesting and strengthened ties with Islamist groups.

Despite a ban on street protests effective today, watchers should look out for massive public gatherings in Dhaka, which run a three-way risk of violence between BNP supporters, Awami League followers and the police.

NORTH KOREA STANDOFF

US vice president to announce “toughest” North Korean sanctions

Pence North korea

Photo: Reuters

Today, Vice President Mike Pence will arrive in South Korea for the Olympic opening ceremony. His visit comes soon after a declaration of aggressive new US sanctions on North Korea.

The country already faces a long list of economic sanctions from the US, EU and UN which aim to significantly inhibit nuclear progress and choke the regime. Among these are trade bans on industrial equipment, resources, and luxury goods.

These sanctions have seen mixed results over the years, some having been evaded through underground markets. China, which makes up 90% of North Korea’s trade, has also been accused of weak enforcement. However, a recent ban on textile exports by the UN has the potential to cost the regime $800 million annually.

Although the specifics of these new US sanctions are unclear, by again putting North Korean abuses into the spotlight the US is likely hoping to undermine recent diplomatic progress made by South Korea. Expect Trump to make an announcement on the sanctions in the coming days to further shift the spotlight.

Delve deeper: Beyond Armageddon: US policy options on North Korea