Hello and Welcome!

Hello and welcome to the inaugural blog post of the Politics and International Relations Society Committee for 2019-20. As your Blog Officer, I shall be regularly updating everyone with the latest news in the world of politics and the upcoming events of the society, and I hope to encourage everyone to participate in an interesting and passionate political debate on the blog. This inaugural article is a summary of major events in international politics, starting with this week’s developments on Brexit.

In the wake of continued deadlock in Parliament and in her cabinet, Prime Minister Theresa May has finally been forced to seek a further extension to the Article 50 process for the UK’s departure from the European Union beyond the current default exit date of the 12th of April and to enter into negotiations with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. This has occurred in the wake of three consecutive defeats for the controversial Withdrawal Agreement negotiated by the British government and the European Union in the House of Commons, and the subsequent failure of MPs to agree on an alternative solution in a series of indicative votes, in which a proposed Customs Union, ‘Common Market 2.0’, a second referendum and a cancellation of Brexit in the absence of an approved deal were all rejected. The decision of Theresa May to finally enter into a dialogue with the opposition to arrive at a common agreement has been met with strong anger amongst many of her pro-Brexit MPs, who have derided the Labour leader as unfit for any role in the political decision making of the UK and fear that Brexit will either involve much closer ties to the EU compared to what they have sought. Should this negotiation fail, May has further promised to respect future indicative votes held in Parliament before the UK leaves the EU. This therefore demonstrates the fluidity of British politics, in which nothing can be taken for granted.

Turning to international politics, the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has expelled two former members of his cabinet from his governing Liberal Party in the wake their whistleblowing of alleged impropriety within the Canadian government. Jody Wilson-Raybould, the former justice minister and attorney general, and Jane Philpott, formerly the president of Canada’s treasury board, both resigned from their government posts earlier this year over Wilson-Raybould’s allegation that Trudeau pressured her into abandoning the prosecution of the Quebec-based firm SNC Lavalin, which has been fighting bribery and corruption charges in relation to construction projects it undertook in Libya during the regime of Col. Gaddafi. Trudeau has publically warned against legal action against SNC Lavalin on the basis that the loss of contracts could threaten jobs in Quebec, which is a key state for his party to win in order achieve victory in the federal election this October. The decision of Mr Trudeau to remove the two MPs from the Liberal group in the Canadian parliament came after Wilson Raybould leaked a recorded phone call between herself and senior public servant Michael Wernick in which Wernick pressured her on behalf of the Prime Minister to defer the prosecution of SNC Lavalin; this action was denounced by Trudeau and several MPs as improper. Although Trudeau has denied any wrongdoing, the expulsion of the two MPs may come across as suspicious to the Canadian electorate, who polls suggest are increasingly favouring the opposition Conservatives. The Trudeau government therefore faces an increasingly difficult battle to win re-election this year in the aftermath of the scandal.

Meanwhile, the long-serving President of Algeria, Abdelaziz Bouteflika has resigned in the wake of popular demonstrations against his rule. Bouteflika, 82, has governed Algeria since 1999 and has been credited with re-establishing order in the country after the devastating civil war between 1991 and 2002, and for an era of strong economic growth that has left the Algerian economy as one of the most dynamic African economies. The President was however under increasing pressure to step down in light of his age and increasingly frail health, and a general desire for change amongst the Algerian public. After he announced his intention for a fifth consecutive term in February, his immediate resignation was demanded by tens of thousands who participated in peaceful protests, which were not quelled by his offers to step aside at the end of his term on the 28th of April. Finally, military leaders appear to have forced his hand in taking the side of the demonstrations, hence the resignation of President Bouteflika on Wednesday evening. Despite the departure of the President, the demonstrations have continued as protesters seek to establish a wider overhaul of the political system. Ultimately, Algeria faces an uncertain future in the absence of the leader that has governed the state for 20 years.

And finally, one of the most significant political developments this week is the introduction of the death penalty for those convicted of homosexuality and adultery in Brunei. This is the latest stage in the introduction of Sharia law in the Islamic-majority country in 2014 by the government of the Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah. From what has been argued by a number of political commentators, including the founder of human rights group The Brunei Project, Matthew Woolfe, the penal laws are intended to boost the popularity of the Sultan’s government amongst religious conservatives at a time when Brunei’s economy is in decline. These new laws have sparked international outrage, with calls from public figures such as Sir Elton John and George Clooney to boycott establishments with connections to the country, including the Dorchester hotel in London, and multiple governments have urged the Brunei government to reconsider its decision. Moreover the University of Aberdeen is currently reviewing the honorary degree that it awarded to the Sultan of Brunei in 1995 and may rescind the reward, demonstrating the international level of opposition against the measures.

That concludes this inaugural article for the blog under the committee for 2019-20. I hope you have enjoyed this article, and I will be back shortly for more coverage on the major political events shaping our world.