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World Report: Second Edition

Important Updates

Ex-Japanese PM Shinzo Abe assassinated, LDP succeeds in House of Councillors (Sangiin) election

On the 8th of July, former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was assassinated while giving a campaign speech for an LDP Sangiin candidate. The assailant, a 41-year old ex-soldier using a modified weapon, targeted Abe because he considered the erstwhile LDP leader connected to the Unification Church. Abe was the longest-serving Prime Minister in Japan’s post-war history, holding office from 2006-2007 and later from 2012-2020.

Although the Liberal Democratic Party’s long-time figurehead was martyred just two days before voters went to the polls to decide the triennial upper house elections, the party’s subsequent electoral performance lined up with expectations. It picked up 6 seats net, allowing the faction in the chamber supportive of constitutional revision (LDP, Komeito, Innovation, DPP) to retake the 2/3rds majority that it had lost in 2019.

Interestingly, a 63-15% majority of surveyed voters said that Abe’s murder did not lead them to change their votes ahead of the election. Polling had shown the ruling LDP favored to come out on top.

How do the upper house elections work? Members serve six year terms, with half of the incumbents coming up for election triennially. Councillors are selected by the voters through a mixture of direct election and proportional, party list allocation.

More attention is traditionally paid to the country’s lower house, which the conservative LDP has run for most of Japan’s post-1955 existence. Despite suffering a net loss of 25 seats in 2021, Fumio Kishida’s LDP should be favored to retain control of the chamber in the next election cycle.

UK PM Boris Johnson to resign – Who will replace him?

Prime Minister Boris Johnson helped to deliver the Conservative Party a significant general election victory in 2019, just three short years ago. His subsequent tenure focused on asserting the U.K.’s role in foreign affairs, finishing Brexit, and mitigating the spread of the coronavirus.

Despite those goals, the Johnson Premiership will be remembered by most foreign observers for its populist tilt, raucous relationship with the media, and crippling scandals. Particular focus should be given to the latter instances of wrongdoing, both of which contributed to Johnson’s recent resignation announcement.

The first scandal, Partygate, alleged that parties were held at 10 Downing Street during the pandemic. At the time, the United Kingdom was overwhelmed by strict lockdown measures that prevented families from interacting with friends and relatives outside of their households. The PM’s lack of judgement led his opponents to excoriate him as a hypocrite. Despite the national outcry, Johnson survived a June no-confidence vote with 59% of the Conservative caucus on his side.

But his reprieve was short-lived. In July, reports revealed that Johnson had known about, and ignored, sexual assault allegations against former Deputy Whip Chris Pincher. The revelations triggered the largest series of ministerial resignations in British history. Eventually, the combined pressure of both incidents forced Johnston to announce that he would step down as Conservative Party Leader but remain as Prime Minister until a successor could be named.

How and when will his replacement be determined? The process is not as complex as it might seem. First, a series of preferential votes are held among members of the Conservative parliamentary majority. Newly-enacted rules stipulate that each candidate must have at least 30 votes from Conservative MPs to survive the first round. The contender receiving the fewest votes is eliminated in each round thereafter until just two remain. At the end of the process, those two finalists face a national vote of Conservative Party members. The U.K.’s new PM will be announced on the 6th of September.

Who is favored to win? The contentious race began with 11 candidates, but only 5 remain in play as of this writing. Round 1 (July 13) saw the elimination of committee chairman Jeremy Hunt, the runner-up to Johnson in the 2019 leadership election, and Exchequer Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi. The next day, Round 2 (July 14) ended Attorney General Suella Braverman’s campaign.

Round 3 (July 18) will occur this coming Monday. There are five remaining hopefuls: Ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, State Trade Policy Minister Penny Mordaunt, Foreign Minister Liz Truss, MP Kemi Badenoch, and committee chairman Tom Tugendhat. At the moment, Sunak and Mordaunt seem poised to potentially advance to the members’ vote, though the first two rounds were more divided this year than they were back in 2019. Ultimately, the ongoing race to determine the new Conservative leader is one that requires calculation and time to become fully clear.

Chaos in Sri Lanka – Where does the future stand?

Months of political dissent on the island of Sri Lanka came to a head earlier this week after protestors stormed the palace of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, a wartime hero-turned villain who fled the country amid great uproar. Following his departure, Rajapaksa, the scion of a dominant political family, announced his long-awaited resignation. His temporary successor is Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. The new acting President has been PM multiple times since 1994, taking office most recently in May of this year after Mahindra Rajapaksa resigned.

Pursuant to Sri Lanka’s constitution, a special election will be held in Parliament on the 20th of July to fill the Presidential vacancy. Wickremesinghe is representing the center-right United National Party (UNP), the main opposition faction in the 2019 Presidential contest.

Other candidates in the running include ex-UNP nominee Sajith Premadasa of the progressive United People’s Power movement, Anura Kumara Dissanayaka of the communist National People’s Power movement, and Dullas Alahapperuma of the Rajapaksa-connected Sri Lanka People’s Front.

The chaos in Sri Lanka can be directly traced back to the economic turmoil that the country has been embroiled in since earlier this spring. Inflation, blackouts, and supply issues for critical resources affected citizens of all backgrounds and classes to some degree. On the international scene, the country has been bankrupted by its massive debt. COVID-19’s impact on tourism and the economic policies of the Rajapaksa Government have been blamed for the now-uncertain fate of this island nation.

It seems probable that the SLPP’s once-golden reputation will be greatly scathed over the next few elections because of the party’s association to the recently-resigned President. Sri Lanka has showed the world that political approval is both temporal and wanklemoody. Economic collapse is all that it takes for civil war heroes like Mahinda and Gotabaya Rajapaksa to rapidly become arbiters of evil in the eyes of the public.

The end of the Bennett Coalition – Another Israeli election imminent

On November 1st, Israel will elect the 120 seat Knesset for the fifth time in four years. The most recent period of political instability began in March 2021, when Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling Likud Party lost 7 seats. Shortly after, leaders Naftali Bennett (Yamina) and Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) formed a rotating-coalitional government reliant on the backing of 8 separate parties.

The ensuing unity government barely met the 61-seat threshold needed for a majority, leaving it vulnerable to collapse. Following an April defection, which cost the government its majority, and weeks of legislative dysfunction, Bennett and Lapid announced the dissolution of the Knesset. Pursuant to the structure of the 2021 coalitional agreement, Lapid replaced Bennett as Prime Minister.

Netanyahu’s Likud leads in current polls just as it did in 2021, but it will be almost impossible for any single party to take the 61 seats necessary for an outright majority because the Israeli political scene is so divided. However the election turns out, history suggests that its governing coalition will be fraught with discontent and altogether short-lived.

Five Star’s Draghi has an uncertain future in Italy

Mario Draghi of the Five Star Movement became Prime Minister of Italy in February 2021 as the head of a “unity government” designed to resolve a political crisis culminating in the resignation of incumbent Giuseppe Conte.

The post-2018 government initially existed as a coalition between Luigi Di Maio’s 5SM and Matteo Salvini’s League, leaving Matteo Renzi and the Democratic Party in opposition. In 2019, the League revoked its assent to Conte’s governing coalition. To break that impasse, the 5SM formed a second coalition on the left with the Democrats and Pietro Grasso’s Free and Equal faction. This band lasted until 2021, when its failure precipitated Conte’s departure.

Despite being chosen as an independent voice who could appeal to all sides while stabilizing a raucous Italian political situation made worse by the economic effects of COVID-19, Draghi now finds himself in hot water.

After the 5SM sabotaged its own government over an economic stimulus measure, Draghi announced his intention to resign. His will was wholeheartedly rejected by President Sergio Mattarella, bathing Italy in political chaos once again. The next general election is scheduled to occur no later than the 1st of June, 2023.

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