Weekly Briefing: October 31, 2016

Weekly Briefing: October 31, 2016

Lebanon gets a new president, Bolivia and Peru discuss a trans-continent railway and Theresa May visits India

Monday, October 31

Lebanese parliament will elect a new president, ending more than two years of deadlock

Malaysia’s PM Razak embarks on seven-day state visit to China

Taiwanese government delegation visits Japan to discuss maritime cooperation

Nigeria’s President Buhari meets Niger Delta representatives at the Pan Niger Delta Forum

Tuesday, November 1

Trial begins against far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders for inciting racial hatred

Chinese Premier Wu Yi Wang Yan embarks for visits to Russia, Turkey

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos begins three-day visit to the UK

Deadline for Dutch PM to present proposal on EU-Ukraine association deal to parliament

Australian monetary policy statement and rate decision: unchanged at 1.5% expected

Japanese monetary policy statement and rate decision

Chinese manufacturing data released

Wednesday, November 2

Irish PM Kenny hosts all-island dialogue to discuss implications of Brexit

Meeting of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation’s Council of Heads of State in Kyrgyzstan

Pakistan’s opposition holds three-day lockdown protest in Islamabad

US monetary policy statement and rate decision: unchanged at 0.5% expected

South African finance minister appears in court on fraud charges

Thursday, November 3

Anti-government demonstrations planned in Caracas, Venezuela, could lead to violence

Banned Maoist group holds protests in five Indian states after security forces killed 30 members

Friday, November 4

President of Peru visits Bolivia to discuss railway linking Pacific and Atlantic coasts

Paris climate agreement enters into force

Tunisian lawyers march in Tunis to protest the government’s 2017 budget proposal

Peace talks between Colombian government and National Liberation Army begin in Ecuador

Russia celebrates National Unity day. Nationalist protests planned, scuffles likely

UK monetary policy statement and rate decision: unchanged at 0.25% expected

Saturday, November 5

Meeting of heads of government of Central and Eastern Europe and China in 16+1 format

Myanmar de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi concludes five-day visit to Japan

Indian and Sri Lankan foreign affairs and fisheries officials to meet in New Delhi

Sunday, November 6

UK PM May begins three-day state visit to India

Presidential and parliamentary elections in Nicaragua

Presidential elections in Bulgaria

Date Unknown

Protests in Chisinau, Moldova likely after presidential election on Sunday, October 30

Ongoing small-scale protests in Egypt over rising commodity prices and costs of living


 LEBANON GETS A NEW PRESIDENT

Photo: The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban

Photo: The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban

It his highly likely that Lebanon’s parliament will nominate 81-year-old former general Michel Aoun as the country’s 17th president on Monday. If successful, Aoun’s election will break a political deadlock that has lasted since May 2014.

Mr Aoun founded the Christian Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) in 2005, which is the second largest party in Lebanon’s parliament. The FPM is the main party in the so-called March 8 Alliance, which includes Amal and Hezbollah – the Iranian-backed Shi’a Islamist party and militant group.

While Lebanon is one of the region’s smallest countries, historical grievances among its diverse ethnic and religious communities, as well as its geographic proximity to the conflict in Syria, mean political decisions attract the interest of regional powers. Indeed, Lebanon’s political system is based on confessionals, with different religious groups being afforded different posts – the president is always a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim, and the speaker of parliament a Shi’a.

On October 20, the leader of the Sunni Future Movement, Saad Hariri, announced his support for Michel Aoun as president, somewhat of a surprise given their allegiance to opposing coalitions. It is widely believed that Saad Hariri – the billionaire son of former Lebanese prime minister Rafic Hariri, who was assassinated in 2005 – will be appointed prime minister in the coming weeks.

FAR-RIGHT DUTCH POLITICIAN FACES COURT

Photo: AFP

Photo: AFP

Outspoken Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders will stand trial on Monday for discrimination and inciting racial hatred. The case comes in light of Wilders’ remarks during a televised party rally in 2014, where he led a roomful of people to chant that they wanted fewer Moroccans in the Netherlands. He is facing a fine of up to 7400 and a year in jail.

In 2011, Wilders was acquitted of incitement of religious hatred for his calls to ban the Koran and deport ‘criminal’ Moroccans. Legal experts are more optimistic about the present case as his remarks were directed at a specific social group, not a religion.

Opinion polls show Wilders’ far-right PVV party neck-to-neck with the conservative-liberal ruling VVD party. The PVV has seen a drop in popularity since mid-year, polling in the lead with 25 per cent, down to 20 per cent. However, Wilders and his party is eager to use the trial to paint him as a martyr and to confirm supporters’ belief that he is being prosecuted by the elite.

Wilders has refused to attend the trial, which he views as ‘politically-motivated’.

IRELAND HOLDS ALL-ISLAND BREXIT TALKS

Prime Minister Enda Kenny Ireland

Photo: Reuters

On Wednesday, Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny will host business groups, NGOs, trade unions, and many of the island’s top political parties to discuss the implications of Brexit.

Although invited, Northern Ireland’s First Minister, Arlene Foster, said she would not attend the summit, saying there was “no need” for it. Indeed, while Mrs Foster is pro-Brexit, some 56 per cent of Northern Ireland’s population voted to remain in the EU.

June’s Brexit decision means that, while the southern Republic of Ireland will remain in the EU, Northern Ireland – which is part of the UK – will leave it. There remains uncertainty as to how this will work on a practical level, as the land border between Northern Ireland and its independent southern neighbour will soon become an external EU border. Local authorities in these border areas will attend Wednesday’s talks.

Both Irish Prime Minister Kenny and Northern Ireland Secretary of State James Brockenshire have insisted the island will not be divided by a ‘hard’ border.

Those in attendance will produce recommendations to London on how to handle Brexit vis-à-vis Ireland and Northern Ireland.

PERU AND BOLIVIA DISCUSS TRANS-CONTINENTAL RAILWAY

Click to expand

Click to expand

Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski will travel to Bolivia on Friday to meet with his Bolivian counterpart Evo Morales. The two leaders will focus their discussions on plans to build a cross-continental railway from the Peruvian Port of Ilo to the Brazilian port of Santos, thus linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

The 5000-kilometre line will traverse Bolivia, giving the landlocked country ready access to seaports, something the land-locked country has pushed for since losing its only sea access to Chile in the 1879 War of the Pacific.

In May 2015, a Chinese delegation headed by Premier Li Keqiang visited Peru to discuss financing the roughly $20 billion bi-oceanic project. The railway will cut the transport time and cost for shipping goods produced along the Atlantic coast to Asia and vice versa.

Talks between Peruvian and Bolivian leaders this week will focus on signing agreements on the development of roads and infrastructure for the massive project, which is expected to be completed in the early 2020s.

PARIS CLIMATE AGREEMENT ENTERS INTO FORCE

Photo: EPA

Photo: EPA

The Paris Climate Change Agreement will enter into force on November 4. On October 4, the threshold was reached after the European Union ratified the deal, thus satisfying the benchmark of 55 ratifications by countries accountable for over 55 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

The United States and China expedited the effort of bringing the Paris Agreement into force, which took just under a year – substantially quicker than the eight years between adoption and ratification of the Kyoto Protocol. Countries will now tackle the challenge of keeping global temperature increases below two degrees Celsius.

The agreement’s entry into force will trigger the authority of the CMA as governing body during the upcoming COP22 UN climate conference in Morocco from November 7 to 18. The national climate action plans submitted by countries before the adoption of the agreement will be finalised into ‘Nationally Determined Contributions’. The agreement’s implementation rule book will also be finalised as soon as possible to provide a global blueprint for reporting and accountability.

Despite broad support for the accord, experts warn that merely restricting emissions will not be enough to contain the effects of global warming. The next necessary step, according to NASA scientist James Hansen, is the extraction of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which will require the development of technology that could cost trillions of dollars.

UK PM VISITS INDIA ON FIRST TRADE MISSION

Photo: HO/AFP/Getty Images

Photo: HO/AFP/Getty Images

UK Prime Minister Theresa May will embark on a three-day state visit to India on Sunday in what will be her first bilateral trip outside of the EU and first ever trade mission.

Accompanied by her international trade secretary Liam Fox, May will send a message that the UK is prioritising bilateral trade relationships beyond the EU. A trade delegation of small and medium-sized enterprises from all regions of the UK will accompany the prime minister.

May will meet with her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi to discuss the possibility of a post-Brexit UK-India free trade deal, encourage further investment in the UK, and export movement into developing markets including India. Mr Fox’s Department for International Trade has already set up working groups in India to lay the foundations for a future free trade deal.

The two leaders are also likely to discuss the strengthening of their strategic partnership established in September 2004, particularly as disputes in and around the Indo-Pacific heat up.

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