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INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS - May 2019

May 2019

Jun 23, 2021

Big Blow to PM Oli as SC Quashes Appointment of 20 Cabinet Ministers

  • The Supreme Court has cited Article 77 (3) in its ruling to quash the appointments. It states if the Office of the Prime Minister falls vacant after the PM fails to win a vote of confidence or resigns, the same Council of Ministers shall continue to act until another Council of Ministers is constituted.
  • The House of Representatives was dissolved by President Bidya Devi Bhandari in May on the recommendation of Prime Minister Oli.
  • The political crisis deepened in Nepal after the Supreme Court quashed the appointment of 20 ministers by beleaguered Prime Minister K. P. Sharma Oli, invalidating his two Cabinet expansions since the dissolution of the House of Representatives.

UK Pushes on with Talks to Join Pacific Trade Partnership

  • The UK launched negotiations to join a trade partnership in and around the Pacific Ocean, as it explores new opportunities around the world following its departure from the European Union.
  • The British government said that the negotiating teams will be working over the coming months to join the 11-country Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is home to around half a billion people.
  • As per the UK, joining the free trade area would deepen ties with fast-growing economies across Asia-Pacific and the Americas, including Mexico, Malaysia and Vietnam.

China to Hold Asia Pacific Ministers Meet

  • China has convened a key ministerial conference of Asia Pacific countries to discuss cooperation of its Belt Road Initiative (BRI), days after G7 countries headed by the US announced plans to 'Build Back Better World' (B3W) to counter Beijing's multi-billion-dollar infrastructure development initiative.
  • The Group of Seven (G7) comprising the US, Canada, Britain, Germany, Italy, France and Japan at their London conference on June 12 agreed to launch B3W to counter China's growing influence by offering developing nations an infrastructure plan that would rival the BRI project.
  • This is a high-level international conference on the Belt and Road Initiative with a wide range of participants, which reflects the high priority all parties attach to and support they lend to BRI.

Turkmenistan's Capital Tops List of most Expensive Cities for Expats

  • The capital of Turkmenistan in Central Asia has been named as the world's most expensive city for foreign workers.
  • Ashgabat, a city of about one million people, topped a 2021 cost-of-living survey by consultancy firm Mercer.
  • The ranking puts Ashgabat above last year's priciest city, Hong Kong, which was placed second, followed by Beirut in Lebanon and Tokyo in Japan.
  • The annual report ranked 209 cities based on the cost of expenses such as housing, transport and food.
  • Expatriates, or expats, are people who live or work outside their native countries.
  • Most of the cities in Mercer's top 10 are business hubs where economic growth has led to a hike in the price of housing and other living costs.
  • But Ashgabat owes its high ranking to economic woes rather than prosperity, making it an outlier.

Jun 22, 2021

Pashinyan's Party Wins Armenian Parliamentary Election

  • Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan's party won 53.9 per cent of the vote in snap parliamentary polls called in an effort to defuse a political crisis after a war with Azerbaijan.
  • An alliance led by his rival, ex-leader Robert Kocharyan, came second with 21 percent, according to the results based on ballots from 100 per cent of precincts counted.
  • A winning party or bloc needs to obtain at least 50 per cent of seats plus one and can be assigned additional seats in order to form a government.

Iran's President-elect Backs Nuclear Talks

  • President-elect Ebrahim Raisi backed talks between Iran and six world powers to revive a 2015 nuclear deal but flatly rejected meeting US President Joe Biden, even if Washington removed all sanctions.
  • In his first news conference since he was elected, the hardline cleric said that his foreign policy priority would be improving ties with Iran's Gulf Arab neighbours, while calling on Iran's regional rival Saudi Arabia to immediately halt its intervention in Yemen.
  • Raisi, a strident critic of the West, will take over from pragmatist Hassan Rouhani in August.

Sweden's PM Loses Confidence Vote

  • Stefan Lofven, Sweden's Social Democratic Prime Minister since 2014, lost a no-confidence vote, making him the first Swedish government leader ever to lose such a motion.
  • The vote was initiated by the small Left Party, an ally of the minority government that is not in the two-party center-left coalition.
  • It is unclear what will happen next in Sweden. Lofven wanted to wait the outcome of no-confidence vote and then think through what is best for Sweden. The Prime Minister has two options: calling a snap election or become the head of a caretaker government.

Taiwan to Maintain Hong Kong Consulate

  • Taiwan said that it will continue operating its de facto consulate in Hong Kong in spite of visa difficulties for its staffers while also providing consular services online.
  • The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Hong Kong has been unable to get new visas for its staff after the Hong Kong government in 2018 began requiring that Taiwanese personnel at the office sign a statement accepting the one-China principle, Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council said. The office currently has just one staffer left in Hong Kong whose visa is due to expire next month.
  • The one-China principle holds that Taiwan is part of China and the Communist government in Beijing is China's sole legitimate government. Taiwan has refused to sign the statement.

Jun 21, 2021

Swedish PM Set to Lose Confidence Vote

  • Stefan Lofven was set to become the first Swedish Prime Minister to lose a no-confidence vote, after failing in a last-ditch effort to secure majority support in parliament for proposed rent reforms.
  • The vote was called last week by the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats, after the Left Party, which Lofven relies on to pass legislation, withdrew its support over his plan to liberalise Sweden's rigid rent control system. Lofven's centrist Social Democrats have led a fragile minority government since poll in 2018, striking a deal on a broad reform programme with two centre-right parties. In one of many concessions to the Liberals and the Centre Party, he agreed to submit a proposal to parliament to abolish collective bargaining for rents for newly built apartments.

Ebrahim Raisi Wins Iran Presidency

  • Ebrahim Raisi Iran's hard-line judiciary chief won the country's presidential election in a landslide victory, propelling the supreme leader's protege into Tehran's highest civilian position in a vote that appeared to see the lowest turnout in the Islamic Republic's history.
  • Former Central Bank chief Abdolnasser Hemmati, a moderate viewed as a stand-in for outgoing President Hassan Rouhani in the election, came in third with 2.4 million votes. Amirhossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi was last with just under 1 million.

Jun 20, 2021

Boris Johnson's Party Loses Blue Wall Seat

  • In a surprising result, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Conservative Party was defeated in a special election for a seat that it has held for decades.
  • The Liberal Democrats, which was in a coalition government with the Conservatives between 2010 and 2015 before seeing its electoral fortunes wane dramatically, won the election in Chesham and Amersham, 57 km northwest of London.
  • Sarah Green, the Liberal Democrat candidate, picked up around 57 per cent of the vote and won a seat the Conservatives have held since it was created in 1974.

Jun 19, 2021

Antonio Guterres Re-elected as UN Secretary General for Five Years

  • UN General Assembly appointed Antonio Guterres as the UN Secretary General for a second term beginning January 1, 2022, days after the powerful Security Council had unanimously recommended his name to the 193-member body for re-election.
  • President of the 75th session of the UN General Assembly Volkan Bozkir announced that Guterres has been appointed by acclamation Secretary General of the United Nations for the second term of office beginning on January 1, 2022 and ending on December 31, 2026.
  • Bozkir then administered the oath of office to 72-year-old Guterres at the podium of the UN General Assembly hall.
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