Zia conviction leaves opposition leadership void
Today, protests demanding the release of Bangladeshi opposition leader Khaleda Zia are expected in the Bengali capital of Dhaka.
The two-time prime minister and head of the centre-right Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) was convicted on corruption charges two weeks ago. Sentenced to five years in prison, Ms Zia continues to claim that her arrest and trial were politically motivated by PM Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League (AL). News of the verdict prompted a mix of nonviolent and violent protests among BNP protestors, counter-protestors and police.
The future of the BNP remains uncertain. While Ms Zia is expected to appeal her conviction, her son, Tarique Rahman—who fled the country in 2008 and has since resided in London—has been found guilty of “involvement” and a slew of conspiracy related charges.
With two major party leaders effectively removed from the political playing field and PM Hasina’s government very unlikely to pardon Zia, a leadership vacuum has opened in the BNP. However, to what extent the AL will capitalise on the opposition’s leadership absence is under serious question, as the AL too suffers from corruption allegations and holds a relatively poor legislative track record.
German federal court passes judgment on diesel car ban
The German federal court will today rule on an appeal by the states of Baden-Wurttemberg and North Rhine-Westphalia over the legality of a diesel car ban in their respective capitals.
Local courts ordered the bans in 2017, after environmental group DUH sued the cities of Dusseldorf and Stuttgart for exceeding EU mandated pollution limits. The ban targets diesel vehicles that emit more than 0.08 grams of nitrogen oxide per kilometre on days when pollution is heaviest.
Faced with the threat of a ban, demand for new diesel passenger vehicles has dropped from 45% in January 2017 to 33% last month. A mere 5% drop in the value of the diesel market could cost up to $1.9 billion across EU and US car makers—impacting employment for over 800,000 Germans and 12.6 million Europeans.
Upheld or not, the trend is away from diesel passenger vehicles. By 2025 diesel passenger cars are expected to make up only 15-32% of new sales, with states expected to follow the lead of Britain and France banning new diesel cars completely by 2040.
Top US communications body to release report on net neutrality
Following a successful 3-2 vote last December, the FCC will today officially publish its proposal to overturn net neutrality.
A policy implemented in the Obama era, net neutrality ensures that internet service providers must allow access to all online content. While many regard this as a bulwark against corporate censorship, others like FCC commissioner Ajit Pai claim the regulation hampers investment and competition.
With the proposal on the Federal Registrar, opponents will now be able to sue. Attorneys general of 22 states has already formed a coalition to file a lawsuit and block the order. Congress will now have 60 days to vote on overturning the decision, an opportunity which will surely be seized by Senate Democrats who claim they are only one vote shy of a majority.
Congress might have the best shot as net neutrality remains rather popular among voters. If repealed, Americans could potentially see a pay-to-access system; that outcome would benefit the telecom industry while damaging popular internet companies such as Facebook or Google.