10 February 2020   Leave a comment

Irish politics took an unexpected turn as Sinn Féin, a center-left political party, took the largest number of seats (although far from a majority) in the Parliament. Sinn Féin has long been an outsider in Irish politics because of its association with the Irish Republican Army (IRA) which conducted a long-term violent resistance to British control over Northern Ireland. The victory is consistent with other elections in Europe over the lasts three years: voters went for an “outsider”. Yasmeen Serhan writes in The Atlantic:

“The party’s success can be attributed to the same forces that have propelled other populist groupings around the world: namely, a rejection of the status quo and a desire for real change. According to Eoin O’Malley, a political-science professor at Dublin City University, voters essentially said, ‘Well, if we really want change, this is the party that is most radical.’ Still, he noted that this result doesn’t necessarily represent an endorsement of Sinn Féin’s most radical goal: to seek a referendum on Irish unification. ‘I don’t think it’s huge on people’s agendas,’ O’Malley said. The nativist rhetoric that has accompanied the rise of populist parties in countries such as the U.S. and Italy barely features in Ireland, where the public are more concerned with issues such as health care and housing.

“Yet this doesn’t mean that nationalist sentiment in Ireland is weak. Indeed, the country has witnessed an uptick in nationalism in recent years, buoyed in large part by the threat Brexit has posed to the land border separating the Republic of Ireland from Northern Ireland. Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s current leader, emerged as a central character in the Brexit saga. His ability to maintain the EU’s backing and achieve an agreement with his British counterpart, Boris Johnson, on the issue of the border earned him the support not just of the country, but of his political rivals too.”

Indeed, Brexit probably played an important role in the outcome. Voters in Northern Ireland voted to remain in the European Union, unlike the voters in England who voted to leave the EU. The status of Northern Ireland remains an unresolved issue in the British decision to leave the EU, and there probably is some sentiment in Northern Ireland that reunification with the Republic of Ireland (which is a member of the EU) could be more important that the traditional connection with Great Britain.

It remains to be seen whether Sinn Fein will be able to create a majority coalition. According to TRT World: “the current government’s Fine Gael party only managed 20.9 percent of the vote and its partner Fianna Fail, 22 percent”. Both those parties have stated that they will not join in a coalition with Sinn Fein. But we shall see if the allure of power changes that point of view.

Turkey and Syria have again exchanged fire near the town of Idlib in Northwest Syria. Five Turkish soldiers were killed and five were wounded in the continuing violence. The Turkish army responded with fierce rhetoric:

“The Turkish army responded to the targets determined in the region, said the statement.

“’The necessary response was given, the targets were destroyed and the blood of our martyrs was not left on the ground. The developments are being closely monitored and necessary measures are being taken,’ said the statement.

“’A heinous attack occurred today in Idlib, where our military serves, pursuant to our rights under international law, to end the violence and mitigate the humanitarian crisis. I pray for our sons, who perished in the said attack and wish a speedy recovery to our wounded,’ Fahrettin Altun, the presidential communications director, said on his Twitter account.

“Turkey retaliated against the attack to destroy all enemy targets and avenge the fallen troops, he said. ‘The war criminal, who ordered today’s heinous attack, targeted the entire international community, not just Turkey.’

“’The Turkish Armed Forces, who tirelessly serve the cause of peace and stability around the world, will continue to crush anyone who dares to target our flag, to reassure our friends, and to strike fear into the hearts of our enemies,’ Altun noted.”

The Turks also made clear that it expected European support in the fight, threatening to release thousands of refugees if the support was not forthcoming. The fighting occurred even as a Russian delegation was trying to broker a cease-fire between the two sides. But the Turks know that Russia supports the Syrian side, and they are unlikely to trust any agreement. Meanwhile, the civilians in Idlib are facing a catastrophic humanitarian crisis. The Turkish media outlet, TRT, produced the video below.

Posted February 10, 2020 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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