Upcoming Events and Latest Political News

Welcome to my latest edition for the PIR Society blog. I hope you are all doing very well indeed. This is a brief summary of what we as a society are planning in the next short while, and the latest events in the world of politics internationally.

Society Events:

On the 27th of September, we will be holding our first academic event of the year, which will be a talk with the youngest ever elected Member of the Scottish Parliament: Ross Greer, who represents the Scottish Green Party. The talk will commence with Mr Greer discussing his work as an MSP and in the Scottish Parliament, followed by a conversation regarding the Green Party, including its politics and aims for the future. Afterwards, the event will conclude with a Q&A session with Mr Greer, giving you the chance to ask about his life, his path into politics, and the importance of the Green Party in this day and age. We are really looking forward to our event with Mr Greer, so do join us for the talk at NK11 at 14.00 on Friday the 27th!

Also, as a quick reminder, for first year students hoping to become the First Year Representative on the society committee, remember to submit your application to our email address by midnight on Sunday, the 22nd of September. As part of your application, please submit a photograph of yourself and a personal statement in regards to why you think you should be elected. We all look forward to seeing you at the EGM on the 24th!

Here is a round-up of the latest news in politics domestically and around the world.

Political News:

In one of the most important and controversial legal cases of contemporary British politics, the Supreme Court is currently presiding over a court hearing in regards to the legality of the proroguing of Parliament by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in late August. Johnson claims that he advised the Queen to suspend Parliament in order to clear the way for a new legislative agenda for his government, but his many critics inside and outside Parliament have argued that he has sought to hinder the ability of MPs to block a no-deal Brexit and force the government to seek a new extension for the Article 50 process of leaving the European Union before the UK’s current departure date of the 31st of October. The proponents of the court case, who include anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller and former Prime Minister Sir John Major, are claiming that the Prime Minister misled the Queen by requesting for a suspension of Parliament for reasons different compared to what they say was an attempt to stymie debate regarding Brexit. Thereby, they argue that the proroguing of Parliament was unlawful, and that MPs should be recalled as soon as possible. Lawyers for the government have refuted these claims, and have warned against the judiciary becoming excessively involved in political decision-making. The Supreme Court is expected to make its ruling on this case this coming Tuesday, and could determine whether the UK ends up leaving the EU by the 31st of October or not.

Meanwhile, the campaign in the Canadian federal election has begun, and it is already shaping up to be a tough contest between the incumbent Liberal Party and the opposition Conservative Party. Current polling suggests a tight race between the two parties, with different polls indicating that one party or another has a small lead over the other. In light of this, there is little room for error for either of the main two parties, and already the Liberal leader and current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is facing criticism in regards to a series of incriminating photographs showing Trudeau wearing brown face makeup at past social gatherings. Trudeau has publically apologized for his conduct at the time, claiming that it was seen as more acceptable at the time, and that he had only realized that his actions could potentially be seen as racist with hindsight. Nonetheless, this controversy has proved highly damaging to a leader who prided himself as opposing racism and intolerance, with both Conservative leader Andrew Sheerer and the leader of the New Democratic Party, Jagmeet Singh, publically condemning the Prime Minister for what they regard as, intentionally or not, condoning racism in Canada. Whether this controversy harms the electoral prospects of the Liberals remains to be seen, but it has already demonstrated the risk to political leaders when their actions fail to live up to the standards of what they preach.

Also, this week saw the state funeral for the former President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, who died at the age of 95 two weeks ago. Mugabe, who had led Zimbabwe since its independence from British colonial rule in 1980 until his overthrow in a military coup in November 2017, was praised by his successor, Emmerson Mnangagwa, and a number of other African leaders attending the service for standing up for national and pan-African interests. Yet the largely empty stadium where the funeral was held betrayed the widespread resentment felt by many Zimbabweans towards the late president’s rule. Robert Mugabe first became notable as one of the main leaders of the armed resistance movement to white minority rule in Zimbabwe in the 1960s and 70s, then known as Rhodesia. Upon independence in 1980, Mugabe was elected as Prime Minister of the newly-independent Zimbabwe, before becoming President in 1987. During the early years of his time in power, he was widely praised for the strong performance of the economy and the establishing of a highly effective education system. Overtime however, he became increasingly authoritarian, beginning with the massacre of thousands of his fellow citizens in the region of Matabeleland in the 1980s, along with widespread voter intimidation during elections and his support for the often violent seizure of white-owned farms. The latter action, combined with a wider faltering of the economy, proved to be highly damaging for the nation, with hyperinflation and food shortages severely impacting the lives of Zimbabwean citizens. Although a power-sharing agreement with the opposition MDC party from 2008 to 2013 brought about a degree of stability, Zimbabwe’s economic ruin continued, and members of his ZANU-PF party began to have reservations regarding his leadership, especially in the wake of rumours the he was planning for his widely unpopular wife Grace to replace him. These tensions finally came to a head in November 2017, when Mugabe fired his then-deputy Emmerson Mnangagwa, which prompted the national military to carry out a coup d’état and place the President under house arrest, demanding that he step down. Mugabe initially refused, but after the beginning of the impeachment proceedings in the legislature, he finally resigned, to the joy of his party and most Zimbabweans. Mnangagwa soon succeeded him as President. The Mugabe era will therefore be remembered as a complicated one; the saga of a ruler who led his country to independence, only to impoverish and oppress his people to the point that he could only be removed from power by force.

Finally, fears regarding energy security around the world have grown in the wake of the bombing of two major oil refineries in Saudi Arabia on the 14th of September. The Abqaiq and Khurais refineries, which respectively represent 7% and 1% of the world’s total oil production, were attacked in an airstrike by unmanned drones, with severe damage being inflicted on both facilities and the suspension of operations at each site. In aftermath of the attacks and the temporary pause in oil production at both sites, international oil prices jumped by nearly 15%, the highest increase in around 30 years, which could have an impact on international consumers in terms of increased fuel costs. This has subsequently prompted the United States to release some of its oil reserves in order to mitigate the effects of the bombings in terms of consumer cost and energy security. In regards to the perpetrators of the drone attack, the Houthi movement in Yemen, who have been engaged in a bloody civil war with the Saudi-backed Yemeni government, claimed responsibility for the attack, and stated that it was retribution for a military intervention and blockade carried out by a Saudi-led military coalition in support of the Yemeni government. Despite this, Saudi Arabia and the United States have accused Iran – who support the Houthi rebels – of perpetrating the attack, claiming that the drones and missiles used in the bombings were of Iranian origin, and that no evidence suggests that the attack originated in Yemen. Iran has strongly refuted these claims, and has accused the United States of deceit. In any case, the attack on the two refineries is another clear example of the geopolitical tensions in the Middle East, and demonstrates how global energy security is vulnerable to disruptive events in specific regions of the world.

That is all for now. I hope you have enjoyed this article. I will be releasing my next article in the coming week.

This Next Week

Hello and welcome to the latest article for the PIR Society blog. We hope that you had a great time at our fresher’s events, and that you are all settling into your studies. Here is a quick roundup of the upcoming events we as a society are holding in the next few days.

This coming Thursday, we are holding our Games Night at the Bridge Street Social Club from 19.00 to 21.00 in the evening, where we will have a selection of games for you to enjoy, including Jenga, playing cards, Cards Against Humanity and Uno. As a further incentive, any member who has yet to collect their ATIK, AAA and Vodka Rev cards will be able to do so on the same night! We all look forward to seeing you there!

Also, on the 24th of September we will be holding our EGM and Trips Information Session from 17.30 to 19.30 at NK14 at New Kings. At the EGM, society members will elect our First Year Representative for the Committee. The First Year Representative will represent the views of first year students on the Committee and will provide support to the other Committee members with matters important to the society, as well as contributing to organization and decision making of the society during committee meetings. If you are interested in becoming a candidate for this position, you will have to be a first year student and you have until midnight the 22nd of September to submit your application to our society email address at: pirabdn@gmail.com. Please provide a photograph and a personal statement. You will then provide a brief presentation of yourself and your candidacy at the EGM, before we move on to a vote. We wish all the candidates the very best of luck!

And to coincide with the EGM, we will hold our Trips Information Session, where we will provide the details of the two overseas trips we as a society have planned for this academic year, which will be a trip to Latvia and Estonia in January and to Turkey in April. At the information session, we will go over what we will do whilst there, what the travel arrangements are, and the costs for each trip. We look forward to seeing you all there that evening.

That concludes this blog post. I will provide an update in regards to the latest news in national and global politics in the next few days.

Freshers' Week Programme for 2019

Hello and welcome to my latest article for the Politics and IR Society Blog. I hope you have all had a fantastic summer holiday! As a society, we would like to say welcome to all new students, and welcome back to all returning students. Here is a quick update about the events we will be holding during Freshers’ Week and shortly afterwards.

Tomorrow, we will be promoting our society at the Freshers’ Fayre at the marquee on the King’s Pitches. At our stall, we will help to inform new students about our society, including what interests us and what you can look forward to as members. We will be happy to address any questions that you may have.

Following this, on Thursday the 5th of September, we will be proudly hosting our Information Session and Cheese and Wine Evening. Our Information Session will begin at room NK1 in New Kings at about 17.00, where we will formally introduce ourselves and cover our programme for the academic year, including the trips that we will be organising in the winter and in the spring. Following this, at around 18.00, we will welcome you to join us for a selection of complimentary cheese and wine. We all look forward to seeing you there and hope that you have a great time!

Lastly, we hope that you join us for our Come As Your Country Pub Crawl on the 10th of September, which will take us to a variety of bars, starting from 19.30 at the Vodka Revolution on Belmont Street, before ending the night at the Bridge Street Social Club. As it is country-themed, we hope that you represent your nation well dress-wise on the evening!

That is it for now. I hope you have found this information helpful, and we look forward to seeing you all at our events soon. Enjoy your Freshers’ Week!

Bye For Now!

Welcome to my final article for this summer. Here is a quick update of the latest events in politics both domestically and internationally, starting with the latest events in UK politics.

The race to become leader of the Conservative Party has culminated in the nomination of the final two candidates; Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt. From an initial total of ten candidates who met the necessary level of nominations to enter the contest, the field has rapidly been reduced in a series of secret ballots of Conservative MPs, with all except from the final two being eliminated or dropping out. The final two candidates will subsequently be voted on by Conservative Party members between now and the 22nd of July, with the winner becoming leader of the party and Prime Minister. Boris Johnson, who ultimately accumulated 160 out of 313 Conservative MPs, is regarded as the clear favourite to win due to his popularity amongst much of the party membership due to his colourful personality and staunch support for the UK leaving the European Union, especially in the case of his stated willingness to carry out Brexit on the 31st of October without a formal exit deal. By contrast, Jeremy Hunt, who narrowly beat fellow cabinet member Michael Gove by 77 votes to 75 in the most recent ballot on Thursday, is regarded as a more conventional candidate who is presenting himself as a safer pair of hands to negotiate with the European Union, although he also has stated that he is prepared to leave the EU with no deal if necessary. Despite this, owing to his initial support for remaining in the EU during the 2016 referendum, he is considered to be the underdog compared to Johnson, who was ultimately a de facto leader of the Vote Leave campaign. There is however deep concern amongst many both in the Conservatives, as well as in other parties and the wider country of a Boris Johnson premiership owing to a number of provocative comments in regards to race, gender and other areas, as well his questionable record to deliver on what he promises, and his commitment to a potential no-deal Brexit. In regards to the latter point, opposition to a no-deal Brexit under either of the two potential Prime Ministers is so strong amongst some Conservative MPs, and due to the very small majority that is shared between the Conservatives and Democratic Unionist Party, the Labour Party’s intention to hold a vote of no-confidence in the government, if held, might succeed. In turn, that would likely herald an early election this year and thereby add to the uncertainty facing the UK as it tries to leave the EU. The fluidity of British politics looks set to continue for the foreseeable future.

In regards to American and Middle Eastern politics, the on-going tensions between the United States and Iran nearly reached boiling point on Friday, with US President Trump approving military strikes against Iranian targets, only to abort them minutes before they were due to take place. In a Twitter comment on Friday, Trump stated that he approved strikes against three targets and that the US aircraft and ships taking part in the planned action were ready to fire their weapons, but called the attacks off due to concerns over civilian casualties. This near-outbreak of military conflict between the two states comes in the wake of the downing of a US Navy drone on Thursday, which in turn follows a series of attacks against oil tankers in the Persian Gulf, which the United States blame on Iran, who has in turn strongly denied the accusations and stated that is prepared to resist any military aggression from the US, as illustrated by the shooting down of the drone. Trump has come under heavy criticism from a number of critics, who consider him responsible for initiating the crisis through his decision to withdraw the US from the 2015 treaty signed by the US, the EU and Iran that placed limits on Iran’s nuclear programme in return for the lifting of sanctions, and for his re-imposing of sanctions, which has been argued by some as having encouraged Iran to increase its nuclear stockpile and behave more assertively in the region. Whilst both nations have stated that they seek to avoid a military conflict, there is widespread concern that a miscalculation from either side could inadvertently lead to one, especially in the wake of the aborted airstrikes and the build-up of military forces in the region preceding that. In light of this, many have called for de-escalation, with the UK dispatching a Foreign Office minister to Iran to engage in talks with the Iranian government, whilst the United Nations has called for the recent attacks in the Gulf to be investigated. For now, the risk of a military conflict in the Middle East continues to haunt the international community, who appreciate how destructive and destabilizing such an event would be, and are thereby seeking to prevent this outcome through any available diplomatic means.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong has been rocked by mass protests, mainly held by student demonstrators, against a highly controversial bill that would allow for extradition to mainland China. The Hong Kong Executive, which governs the Special Designated Region of China, attempted to implement the bill, arguing that it was necessary in order to safeguard the security of Hong Kong residents and business interests. This argument has been rejected by many others however, who argue that the Executive, which is comprised of parties supportive of Beijing, is attempting to undermine the liberties and freedoms that residents of Hong Kong have enjoyed since the territory was handed back to China by Britain in 1997, in order to align Hong Kong with the rest of China. The demonstrations are estimated to have been attended by hundreds of thousands of residents, with many surrounding the legislature building, where protesters demanded that the Executive abandon the proposed law and protect Hong Kong’s liberties. Initially the demonstrations were resisted, with police firing tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowds, but this failed to end the protests. Eventually, Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced on Saturday that the implementation of the extradition bill would be delayed and the following day apologised for what was described as the flawed introduction of the proposed law. This has not been enough to dissuade demonstrators, as the policy has not been formally abandoned, and instead the protests have continued, with roughly two million people attending a mass gathering last Sunday, not only demanding that the extradition law is scrapped, but also calling for Carrie Lam to resign as Chief Executive. The pressure on the Hong Kong Executive continues, as much of the population attempts to assert their territory’s autonomy.

In regards to Latin American politics, Honduras has experienced violent civil unrest against the government of President Juan Orlando Hernandez. For the last few weeks, protests have centred on a proposed restructuring of the nation’s health and education ministries, which have been argued by the government to lead to savings worth $300 million dollars that would be used for the construction of new hospitals and investments in neonatal care and primary education, whilst opponents fear this is the first step towards the privatisation of the nation’s education and health services. Moreover, many of President Hernandez’s opponents fear that his government is becoming increasingly authoritarian, a charge that has been strongly rejected by the government. Initially civic in nature, demonstrations have recently become notably more violent, with widespread looting, as well protesters establishing roadblocks in the streets of the capital Tegucigalpa and exchanging projectiles with riot police. Ultimately, two people have been killed and more have been injured as a result of the unrest so far. This violence adds to the political, economic and social instability that has plagued Honduras in recent years, which has in turn encouraged many Hondurans to attempt to emigrate to the United States in order to seek a better future for themselves and their families. This demonstrates how internal issues within a state can contribute to widespread phenomena that can impact a wider region.

Finally, the West African country of Mauritania has staged what has been regarded as the first democratic hand over of presidential power since it gained independence from French colonial rule in 1960. Incumbent President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, who has held office since a military coup in 2008, is stepping down after serving two terms as President to make way for an elected successor. Six candidates are contesting the presidential election, with defence minister Mohamed Ahmed Ould Ghazouani – a close ally of the President – considered to be the front runner, whilst former Prime Minister Sidi Mohamed Ould Boubacar and anti-slavery activist Biram Dah Abeid are also seeking to be elected by the Mauritanian electorate. It is hoped that this election will be the start of a new, democratic chapter for Mauritania, which has consistently been governed by authoritarian regimes that came to power through military coup d’états.

That is all from me for now. If any of the subjects covered in this article are of interest to you, we would very much welcome further contributions to the blog in regards to what has been discussed or indeed on any other major development in global politics. I hope everyone has a lovely summer holiday, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the latest news in the world of politics and international relations.

Society Plans and Latest Political News

Hello and welcome to the third news article for the PIR Society for 2019-20. In this article, I have provided an update of the latest news in the world of politics, and an initial insight into the programme planned by the committee for this coming year.

Society Plans:

For this coming academic year, the Society has a number of special events planned for members and non-members to enjoy from Fresher’s Week onwards. Beginning on the 4th of September, we will have our stand in the Society Fair on the sports field, where incoming and current students can visit to find out about the PIR Society and our programme for the year. Then on the 5th of September, we will have our Information Session beginning from 17.30, where students will be introduced to this year’s committee and be informed of the values of the society, what issues are of interest to us, the trips we have planned and much more. Following the Information Session, we will hold our Cheese and Wine Evening from 19.00 onwards at the Bobbin bar, where everyone attending can enjoy a variety of complimentary wine and cheese, and have a wonderful start to the academic term. In regards to the trips being planned by the society, there will be a European trip in early January next year, followed by an international trip in early April. The committee will make a decision in regards to the destination of each trip in the next few weeks. I will provide an update on the decisions of the committee in regards to the trips and other upcoming events as soon as they are made. I can also confirm that the charity the society will be sponsoring for this year will be Shelter, in which we will be supporting the campaign against homelessness and poor housing within the UK.

I hope this information has been helpful and interesting. The following is an update on the latest news in politics in the UK and around the world.

Latest Political Developments:

For those that were hoping for a period of political calm in the UK, the 2019 elections for the 73 British Members of the European Parliament will surely disappoint. The elections, which were not originally intended to take place due to the UK’s initial deadline to leave the European Union on the 29th of March, but were ultimately held on the 23rd of May due to the extension of the Article 50 process of the UK’s departure from the bloc, have completely upended the British political party system with humiliating defeats for the established Conservative and Labour parties to insurgent pro and anti-Brexit parties. The Brexit Party, which advocates the UK leaving the EU without a formal deal, emerged as the largest single party by a significant margin, winning nearly 31% of the vote and 29 seats, whilst the Liberal Democrats, who oppose Brexit and advocate a confirmatory referendum on whether voters support the negotiated deal between the UK and the EU or the UK remaining in the EU, came second with 19% of the vote and 16 seats. The remarkable success of these two parties is in stark contrast with the drubbing experienced by the governing Conservatives, who fell from 24% of the vote and 19 seats in 2014 to just 9% and four seats in their worst nationwide election result ever, and also in the case of Labour, whose attempts to reconcile the desires of both its pro-remain and pro-leave voters failed with the party falling from 25% of the vote and 20 seats to 15% and 10 seats. Other anti-Brexit parties such as the Green Party and the Scottish National Party also did well, whilst UKIP and Change UK both polled only 3% of the vote and failed to win any seats. The collapse of support for the Conservatives and Labour is particularly noteworthy, as it demonstrates that voters are increasingly voting in accordance with their views on Brexit rather than on traditional party loyalties, which in turn suggests that Brexit is accelerating the fragmentation of the two-party system that has dominated British politics since the end of the Second World War.

Coinciding with the European elections is the beginning of the contest to succeed Theresa May as Conservative leader and Prime Minister, after May announced her resignation as party leader on the 24th of May. In an emotional address outside No.10, Mrs May stated that she had tried her hardest to negotiate a Brexit deal with the EU and to persuade Parliament to approve it, but had ultimately failed in her objective, and a new leader was required to implement Brexit. A total of 13 serving and former ministers have nominated themselves for the party leadership so far, including Boris Johnson, Jeremy Hunt, Michael Gove, Dominic Raab, Esther McVey, James Cleverly, Rory Stewart and others. Boris Johnson is currently the favourite to win the leadership due to his popularity with Conservative grassroots over his charisma, strongly pro-Brexit position and his status as a figurehead of the Vote Leave campaign that successfully persuaded a majority of voters to vote in favour of leaving the EU in the 2016 referendum. The latter point however is however a double-edged sword for Johnson, as he has been summoned to court to answer questions in regards to his frequent claim that membership of the EU costs the UK £350 million a week, a figure that has been widely discredited by statistical analysis but was nonetheless a decisive factor in persuading undecided voters to back leaving the EU in 2016 as Johnson and Vote Leave argued that this sum could be spent on the NHS instead. The court case, which is the result of a private prosecution case launched by campaigner Marcus Ball, is attempting to determine whether Johnson deliberately misled the electorate in regards to the economic cost of EU membership for the UK, which if proven would render him guilty of committing misconduct in public office, which can carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. The court proceedings, currently being held as a preliminary hearing, will be forwarded to the Crown Court where a formal trial will begin. While it will be premature to speculate the verdict of the trial, the very fact that Boris Johnson is under investigation for allegations of such an offence poses a potentially existential risk to his leadership campaign and raises serious questions in regards to his suitability to be UK Prime Minister. The upcoming Conservative leadership contest is likely to be a remarkable one, and not for the right reasons.

Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump is once again facing calls to be impeached in the wake of the conclusion of the Mueller Report into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. In a press conference on Wednesday, Special Counsel Robert Mueller provided a summary of his long investigation in stating that whilst the report had not definitively proven that the President had obstructed justice during the investigation, Trump could not be declared innocent of the offence either. Moreover, Mueller stated that the President could not be charged with an offence whilst in office even if the investigation had accused Trump of obstructing justice, and that it was not the responsibility of the report do so in any case. The comments made by Mueller has provoked a wide variety of claims from both sides of the political spectrum, with Trump stating that the investigation had cleared him of any offence, and some Republicans stating that the investigation has been motivated by opposition to Trump within the Democratic Party. A number of Democrats meanwhile have taken Mueller’s report and comments as sufficient grounds to begin impeachment proceedings against Trump to remove him from office so he can face justice for any crimes he may have committed both during the 2016 election and his term, as well as removing an administration they regard as detrimental to US interests domestically and internationally. The Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has cautioned fellow Democrats in regards to impeachment, noting how it is unlikely to succeed due to the Republican majority in the Senate, and advised that defeating Trump in next year’s presidential election would be the best method to remove him from office. Polling has indicated a mixed response of the American public towards the report findings, with a majority stating that they believed Trump had committed an offence, but also being opposed to impeachment proceedings. This demonstrates how the US public remains polarized on the Trump administration, and sets the scene for an extremely bitter presidential election next year, in which the conduct of the Trump administration may be a decisive factor in determining the outcome.

Turning to Indian politics, the governing BJP party is celebrating a historic landslide re-election victory, in which it has become the first party in over 30 years to win back to back majority governments. The BJP, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modhi, won over 37% of the national vote and 303 out of the 545 seats in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of the Indian Parliament, and the overall National Democratic Alliance bloc of parties, of which the BJP is the leading party, ultimately won a combined 45% of the vote and 353 seats, thus ensuring an even larger parliamentary majority compared to what it won in 2014. In contrast to the jubilant celebrations of the BJP, the opposition Indian National Congress, the party that has traditionally been the party of government in India, barely improved upon its disastrous 2014 election defeat, winning only 18% of the vote and 52 seats, which is less than the 55 seats it needed in order to become the official opposition party, thus leaving India without a formal party of opposition. The triumph for the BJP has been argued by a number of political scientists and journalists as representing a transformation of India from that of a secular state partially underpinned by socialist principles, which has been associated with the Congress Party having regularly formed the government since independence, to that of a state more supportive of free market economics and conservative social values in line with the Hindu nationalism of the BJP. Predominant issues during the election campaign included the state of the economy and recent tensions between India and Pakistan within the disputed region of Kashmir, which has even escalated into military skirmishes between the two nations. While India has experienced strong economic growth in recent years, the opposition attacked Modhi over the perceived failure to implement a number of his economic policies. He was able however to successfully present himself and his government as providing India with the necessary leadership against actors hostile to Indian interests. This demonstrates how economic issues, contrary to what has often been assumed, do not always prove to be decisive in determining the outcome of elections, and voters are increasingly likely to vote along nationalist and social lines.

And in terms of African politics, the most notable development was the coming into force of the African Continental Free Trade Area, or AfCFTA. This free trade area came into force on the 30th of May, after being signed by 44 out of the 55 nations that are members of the African Union, which in turn brokered the agreement, on the 21st of March last year, and has so far been ratified by 22 states, thereby meeting the minimum number of states for the agreement to come into force. In total, 52 out of 55 African Union states are now party to this agreement, thereby rendering AfCFTA as the largest free-trade area since the creation of the World Trade Organization. The agreement will initially require its members to remove tariffs from 90% of goods, and is planned to eventually evolve from its current form as a free trade area to that of a single market, which will in turn be followed by the introduction of free movement of people and the creation of a single currency. This has striking resemblance to that of the European Union, and indicates that whilst some countries such as the UK and the United States have been affected by nationalist movements that are sceptical of globalization, African governments are increasingly regarding economic integration as invaluable for the long-term economic well-being of their nations. This is particularly in the case of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa estimating that the agreement will boost intra-African trade by 52% by 2022. Hurdles still remain in the path of the viability of the agreement however, as Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, has yet to sign the agreement as President Muhammadu Buhari expressed concerns over the potential negative consequences for local manufacturers and entrepreneurs, whilst trade unions have also expressed concern over the agreement potentially encouraging greater migration within the continent. Nigeria is currently in a process of consultation in regards to potential membership of AfCFTA, with the government hoping to eventually join once outstanding concerns have been addressed. In spite of this, the enactment of the African Continental Free Trade Area demonstrates how globalization and integration between nations is an on-going process that is likely to continue, as most governments regard the benefits as greater compared to the potential disadvantages, despite the protests or concerns of individual countries.

That concludes this latest blog. If you have strong interest any of these subjects, and would like to offer your own analysis, myself and the entire committee would strongly welcome additional contributions to the blog, so we can all engage in an interesting and passionate debate.