Tuesday, October 3

Tuesday, October 3

WHAT ABE WANTS Japan’s PM seeks stronger deck of cards on foreign affairs Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party will today release its manifesto for the October 22 general election. The LDP holds a two-thirds supermajority in Japan’s lower house and is favoured to form government again given the disarray in the main opposition Democratic Party.

WHAT ABE WANTS

Japan’s PM seeks stronger deck of cards on foreign affairs

Staff member of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party walks past election campaign posters showing Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the LDP regional election office in Tokyo

Photo: Reuters/Yuya Shino

Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party will today release its manifesto for the October 22 general election.

The LDP holds a two-thirds supermajority in Japan’s lower house and is favoured to form government again given the disarray in the main opposition Democratic Party. However, a new entrant—the week-old Party of Hope led by populist Tokyo mayor Yuriko Koike—may provide a stern challenge to Abe with policies like phasing out nuclear power. One poll already has the party at 15%; the LDP sits on 24%.

Today’s manifesto will likely centre on North Korean aggression. Despite a fierce ongoing debate, Abe wants to amend Japan’s pacifist constitution to give Tokyo a first-strike option against Pyongyang. Internal debate within the LDP has mulled a first-strike capability for months—defence hawks are considering acquiring cruise missiles to strike North Korean launch sites if Japan detects signs of an imminent launch.

While the LDP is favoured to win the election, Mr Abe is likely to be denied the two-thirds supermajority he currently enjoys. If the prime minister can’t attract support from outside the LDP, his decision to call an early election may have jeopardised his desire to amend the constitution.

CAN HE HEAL DIVISIONS?

President Trump to visit devastated Puerto Rico

Hurricane devestation in Puerto Rico ahead of Donald Trump’s visit

Photo: Carolyn Cole/Getty

Today President Trump will visit Puerto Rico after Category 4 Hurricane Maria hit the American island territory on September 20.

Maria devastated the island, leaving 55% of Puerto Ricans without access to clean drinking water. The storm knocked down 80% of the territory’s power lines and 85% of its cell towers, leaving the vast majority without access to those services.

Trump’s visit is partly motivated by an effort to improve his image; he faced heavy criticism from the media and San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz over his administration’s slow response to the crisis. The ensuing twitter spat with Cruz threatens to tank the president’s low but slowly improving approval rating.

But it’s not just the White House which is slow to react. Although Speaker of the House Paul Ryan announced an additional $6.7 billion in funding for FEMA, an aid package to alleviate the estimated $30 billion in damage is not expected to be introduced for several weeks.

Even with an effective government response, Puerto Rico would still be a disaster. But on top of the island’s persistent economic and financial problems, it will be years before Puerto Rico fully recovers from the hurricane.

SECURING FRANCE

Anti-terror law goes before French lawmakers

A French soldier stands guard in Paris as part of emergency law

Photo: Getty

France’s lower house will vote on a controversial anti-terrorism law today.

The law seeks to give authorities the power to search property, shut down public spaces and put terror suspects under house arrests, effectively codifying parts of France’s emergency laws, which have been in place since November 2015.

Today’s vote comes three days after a suspected Islamist attacker stabbed two people to death in Marseille’s main train station. The attack is France’s sixth serious terror incident since the November 2015 Bataclan attack—a total of 222 people have been killed and 815 injured in the past two years.

Judges, lawyers and rights activists are concerned that the measures—which Emmanuel Macron campaigned on—will limit personal freedoms; those on the right wing of French politics say they don’t go far enough.

Despite a number of lawmakers allied with Mr Macron’s LREM dissenting, today’s vote is expected to pass.

CHOLERA CONFLICT

WHO meets to outline cholera eradication

An aid worker delivers cholera treatment

Photo: UN/Logan Abassi

Today the World Health Organisation (WHO) will outline a plan to reduce cholera cases by 90% by 2030.

The declaration comes at a grimly relevant time; a cholera epidemic in war-ravaged Yemen is on track to become the worst outbreak in recorded history. The country has seen 700,000 suspected cases, and the numbers are expected to grow as a Saudi-led bombing has left half the country’s hospitals unusable and 14.5 million Yemenis without potable water.

In addition to the outbreak in Yemen, the WTO estimates that 2.9 million people each year contract cholera, causing 95,000 annual deaths.

The WHO’s proposals call for increased access to sanitary water and hygiene services, expanded vaccination, and strengthening disease surveillance systems. But these strategies’ effectiveness can face barriers where they are needed most; a WHO plan to ship one million vaccines to Yemen was suspended in July because of the conflict.

Although the WHO may make significant progress in cholera hotspots like Haiti that suffer merely from poverty and poor governance, the obstacles to effective disease prevention in war-torn areas like Somalia and Yemen mean the WHO is unlikely to meet its 90% target.

Delve deeper: Yemen: no easy win

HAPPENING ELSEWHERE…

Catalan vote fallout, Australian interest rate decision

Catalans demostrate as riot police hold their ground

Photo: AAP

Unions in the restive Spanish province of Catalonia are expected to strike today to protest a police crackdown following Sunday’s controversial independence vote.  The regional government said 844 people had been injured in scuffles with security forces, which were deployed by Madrid in an attempt to prevent the vote from being held. Catalonia’s government said some 90% of voters backed the ‘yes’ campaign, although only one in four Catalans participated in the vote. Meanwhile, Catalan President Carles Puigdemont said his government would send the results to parliament, which had previously pledged to declare independence within two days of a ‘yes’ vote. Spain’s central government insists the vote is illegal—any declaration will have no legal force.

Australia’s central bank will almost certainly keep interest rates on hold at 1.5%—a record low that has persisted for 14 straight months. The high level of debt—Australian households are the second most indebted in the world—combined with the risk of a downturn in the property market mean central bankers will proceed with caution lest a rate hike increases defaults. Some 60% of the loans owned by Australian banks are directly linked to housing; a sudden slump would leave the financial sector vulnerable, which could have negative implications for the wider economy.

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