The Pardee Perspective: April 19th, 2018

Photo by American Public Power Association

Middle East

Syria – The United States, United Kingdom, and France conducted a joint airstrike on the night of April 13th on three sites identified as integral to the Syrian government’s production of chemical weapons. This attack was meant to act as a deterrent in response to a suspected chemical attack just outside of Damascus last weekend. Calling Syrian President Assad a “monster,” President Trump stated that the U.S. and its allies are “prepared to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents.” This stands in stark contrast to President Trump’s comments last week, when he indicated that he planned on pulling American troops out of Syria. The Russian Ambassador to the United States issued a statement following the strikes stating that Russia is “being threatened” and that “such actions will not be left without consequences.” Despite the strong rhetoric, it is suspected that the “likelihood of a direct, military response… from Russia is very low.” There have been no major changes to the fighting throughout Syria since the airstrikes.

Turkey – President Erdogan on Wednesday called for snap elections to be held on June 24th of this year. Previously scheduled for November of 2019, Erdogan moved up the date citing an urgent need to make the switch to a presidential system. This change from a parliamentary to a presidential system, resulting from a referendum held in 2017 in which the “yes” votes won by a small margin, will grant the president sweeping new powers and abolish the office of prime minister following the next election. That election is now to be held just prior to the two year anniversary of the implementation of the ongoing state of emergency, one that the European Union says has “curtailed civil and political rights.” The state of emergency began following a coup attempt in 2016. Erdogan has a clear advantage in the upcoming vote—he has already made alterations to electoral rules in an attempt to boost his chances. Amidst conflict and uncertainty in Syria, there is a significant chance that the same sentiment that won Erdogan the referendum will return to Turkish voting booths and extend his power in only two months time.

The Americas

Puerto Rico – The island of Puerto Rico suffered another complete blackout on the morning of Wednesday, April 18th – one that could take up to 36 hours to resolve. The electricity system in the U.S. terrority evidently remains fragile almost seven months after the devastation of Hurricane Maria. The September storm killed 64 Puerto Ricans. It is estimated that another 1,000 people – people who hold American citizenship – have died in the months since due to disaster relief failure. The poor response has led several leading figures at the United Nations to criticize the U.S. government’s inaction. President Trump has responded to his critics through Twitter, stating that the administration has done “a great job with the almost impossible situation” and dismissing criticisms as politically motivated and negative media coverage as “Fake News.”

Europe

Montenegro – On April 16th, Milo Djukanovic, leader of the pro-EU ruling party in Montenegro, won the country’s presidential election with 54 percent of the vote. That majority enabled him to bypass the runoff vote that would have been held between him and Mladen Bojanic, the largely right-wing, anti-NATO candidate. Left-leaning citizens throughout the region let out a sigh of relief; this election came just one week after Hungary’s, in which Viktor Orban, the anti-immigrant, right-wing prime minister was re-elected – one of many such populists elected throughout Europe in recent years. Djukanovic called the victory a confirmation of his country’s “determination to continue on the path of European Development.” Despite accusations corruption levied against him, the prime minister hopes to be able to complete talks for EU membership while in power.

France – Riot police have been deployed in several French cities in the past few weeks as President Emmanuel Macron faces backlash against the policy reforms his new party, “En Marche!,” has begun to implement. This period of unrest may prove to be a decisive moment in Macron’s presidency, and possibly European politics as a whole. Macron has come to embody the pro-EU political center that has arisen in response to the rising popularity of nationalism and populism throughout the continent. Should he successfully push past and ignore the demands of the protestors, his market-oriented liberalism may rise to be the new dominant European ideology. Ranging from railway workers to students, the protesters show no signs of resignation. The coming weeks may reveal whether the change President Macron desires will come to fruition.