As the US mid-term elections approach, the Democrats and Republicans are tied, approximately, in the opinion polls. This note brings together some polling information and summarises some of the main issues and recent news stories that may affect the result.
The Catalan Government hopes to hold a "consultation" on Catalan independence on 9 November 2014., but the Spanish Government hopes to prevent it from going ahead. This note provides an overview of the debate.
This Note explores what kind of framework might replace the Millennium Development Goals upon their expiry in 2015. It assesses reaction to the ‘zero draft’ of 17 new goals published by the Open Working Group in June 2014.
A brief profile of the far-right Front National (FN), led by Marine Le Pen, which obtained 24.9% of the vote in France in the recent European elections. This result was described as a “political earthquake.”
A few days ago, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud declared that Somalia was once again in a “political crisis”. In May, UN Special Envoy to Somalia, Nicholas Kay, said that Somalia is approaching “a danger zone”. For the first year or so after President Mohamud took office in September 2012, Western supporters of the Government put a positive spin on his performance. However, there is a growing sense that President Mohamud’s government is not turning out to be the fresh start that Somalia needed. Al-Shabaab has suffered important military reverses since President Mohamud took office and is now focusing increasingly on launching regular violent attacks on government-held areas, including Mogadishu, where security has declined markedly recently. It has also increased its attacks in neighbouring Kenya, which sent troops into southern Somalia in 2011.
In the northeast of Nigeria, an Islamist terrorist insurgency continues to rage. At the head of the insurgency is Boko Haram, which calls for the introduction of Sharia law and an Islamic state across the whole of Nigeria. There has been a state of emergency in the three northeastern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa since mid-2013. Well over 2000 people are estimated to have died in attacks by the group since the beginning of 2014.The Nigerian authorities have been heavily criticised both at home and abroad for their ineffective response to the crisis. Outrage in Western countries following the kidnapping in April of about 270 schoolgirls in Borno state has led the UK, US and French governments to make offers of assistance to the Nigerian authorities despite the poor human rights record of the security forces.
US President Obama launched the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition at the May 2012 G8 summit at Camp David. It aims to address years of underinvestment in agriculture, and to meet the financing gap for global food security, in order to help pull 50 million people out of chronic poverty over 10 years. Critics of the New Alliance question whether it will help poor farmers. and charge that the New Alliance represents a “new form of colonialism”. The UK Department for International Development (DFID) supports the scheme and has committed £600 million to it.
As so often in the past, India’s electorate has sprung a surprise. The count on 16 May gave the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its presidential candidate, 62 year-old Narendra Modi, a convincing victory in the elections to India’s lower house, the Lok Sabha. On a 66.38% turnout, the BJP won a majority of the seats – the first party to do so since 1984. Author and academic Sunil Khilnani described the outcome as “a democratic asteroid.” For the Congress Party, the result is a disaster.
On 7 May 2014, South Africa held its fifth national and provincial elections since the end of Apartheid. The African National Congress (ANC) triumphed once again, winning 62.15% of the vote - down 3.75% on its tally in 2009. The Democratic Alliance came second with 22.13%. - up 7.57% on 2009. But while there was no big opposition breakthrough, the ruling party cannot rest on its laurels - not least in Gauteng Province, the country's economic power-house, where its vote fell by over 10% to 53.59%. Debate also continues about creating a labour party to the left of the ANC.
During a three day visit to Tokyo in late April 2014, US President Barack Obama confirmed that the islands in the East China Sea known as Senkaku by Japan and Diaoyu by China are covered by 1960 US-Japan Security Treaty, under which the US has pledged to come to Japan’s defence if its territory is attacked. Some observers have argued that Obama’s statements mark the first time a US president has clearly taken Japan’s side over islands. However, President Obama stressed that this was "not a new position". His remarks come at a time of growing Japanese nervousness about the state of its longstanding alliance with the US.