Watchlist: Upcoming Thai Elections
Week of February 4th, 2019
Current Thai Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha (center)
(Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Former Côte D'Ivoire President Granted Stay in Belgium After Acquittal
Laurent Gbagbo, former President of Côte D’Ivoire, has been granted temporary stay in Belgium after his ICC trial ended in acquittal. Gbagbo faced charges of murder, rape, persecution and a slew of other atrocities committed by his supporters attempting to keep him in power after disputed elections. Despite witness testimony against Gbagbo, the International Criminal Court freed him to live in a third-party country—a role taken up by Belgium. Under his acquittal agreement, he is forbidden from contact with witnesses in the Ivory Coast and required to relinquish all travel documents while ICC prosecutors attempt to appeal the court’s decision. Prosecutors have suffered many similar losses in recent years, as in the cases of Bemba and Kenyatta; to overturn this most recent ruling would set a new precedent in the prosecution of violent political uprisings. ANNA HAYNES
Thailand Begins Preparations for First Democratic Elections Since 2014 Military Coup
Monday marked the first official day of candidate registration for Thailand’s general elections, which are scheduled to take place in March of 2019. The upcoming elections are particularly significant in that they will mark the nation’s first democratically held elections since its violent military coup in 2014. Thailand has since been under harsh military rule; in addition to rewriting the nation’s constitution and appointing military allies into the bureaucracy, military leaders have issued harsh crackdowns on dissenting voices. While some express hope for a changing political situation, others have expressed concerns that the elections will not be free and fair due to concerns of increasing censorship by the state, including the censorship of political activities and key political candidates.Thai politics since 2014 have been marred by instability and whether the March elections will present the nation with an opportunity to move toward a more democratic political environment remains to be seen. SELIN LEVI
The People v. Nicholas Maduro: A Venezuelan Crime Story
As the head of the democratically-elected National Assembly - Juan Guaido - declared himself interim president in accordance with the Venezuelan Constitution, no one expected tensions to cool. The past week has seen the political situation rapidly develop as Guaido, Nicolas Maduro, and the United States have raised the stakes.
Guaido, head of the democratically-elected National Assembly that Maduro stripped of its legislative power, has engendered the first serious opportunity for the Opposition to overthrow Maduro and his authoritarian government. Guaido has aggressively targeted the single remaining pillar that is supporting Maduro - the military. He has targeted the high-ranking generals by throwing out hints of amnesty while pressing the rank and file, who have largely suffered the same poor living conditions as the people, to reconcile their support of Maduro with the direction the country appears to be turning. So far, one air force general in Venezuela and a handful of diplomatic and military officials stationed in the U.S. have defected, but they have not captured any military bases or territory. Furthermore, Guaido, in collaboration with Western countries, has called for humanitarian assistance to concentrate in areas surrounding Venezuela to where millions of Venezuelans have fled. This has angered Maduro, who has routinely accused the West of plotting military interventions under the guise of humanitarian aid.
In an increasingly poor outlook, Maduro has refused to capitulate to foreign and domestic pressures and has doubled down on his determination to fulfill his new six-year mandate. While Maduro is no stranger to bombastic rhetoric vis a vis the West’s Latin American policy, he has seemed to increasingly attack those within Venezuela. Most recently, he has warned of civil war within the country, further escalating the situation. While reports vary as news inside the country struggles to disseminate, many estimate that as much as 40 protestors have died in clashes with the military and police in the last few weeks of protests. Maduro has had plenty of options to get out before the situation deteriorates, but he has made it absolutely clear that he will not leave office willingly.
The U.S. has taken substantial action in the last few weeks to undermine the Maduro administration and support the interim president Guaido. On January 28th, the U.S. imposed crippling sanctions on the Venezuelan-state oil company, PDVSA. The U.S. import stoppage, of which it is a large recipient of Venezuelan oil, which will certainly hurt an administration facing major cash flow problems. However, there is strong criticism from many in the West that while the sanctions may hurt the elite who benefit from PDVSA, they will be able overcome the adversity while the poor may not. Furthermore, as mentioned above, the U.S. has seized Venezuelan government assets and is attempting to redirect them to Guaido. Finally, both U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton, Vice President Mike Pence, and the President himself have all made clear that a U.S. military option in Venezuela remains an option as the political, economic, and humanitarian crises continue to worsen. JALEN ZEMAN.
Russia and US Suspend Participation in INF Treaty
Citing Russia’s violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and a lack of signature from China, the Trump administration announced on Friday that the U.S. would be withdrawing from the treaty. Following the U.S. withdrawal, President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia would be suspending its observance of the treaty while also stating that Russia would begin to build weapons once banned under the pact. The treaty, signed in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev, was enacted to prohibit the use of land-based missiles, weapons capable of triggering a nuclear war within 10 minutes. The recent decisions of both countries have been met with outcry from several European nations as well as China, citing the potential danger of a new nuclear arms race. MEGAN ROSSITER
Yemen Government, Houthi Rebels Resume UN-Sponsored Peace Talks
After continued delays and disputes between the two sides, representatives of the Yemeni government and the Houthi rebels met on a UN chartered ship, anchored in the Red Sea near the port city of Hodeidah. The meeting marked the first time in over a month that the two sides were able to reconvene to resume peace talks, in a step towards developing a lasting truce. This development comes at a critical time as the two groups seek to build off of a ceasefire agreement which was signed in December of 2018, but which has not been implemented effectively. The ceasefire agreement was meant to neutralize the port city of Hodeidah, pulling out Houthi rebel fighters and allowing a new security task force to step in to enforce stability; the establishment of a peace in a Hodeidah is a crucial step towards ending the conflict in Yemen, as the port city serves as the entry point for the majority of humanitarian aid into the nation. However, the truce has yet to play out as it was initially envisaged, as both sides have accused the other of violating the ceasefire agreement. Thus the UN-led talks have resumed in order to reestablish an effective agreement and will be important to watch in the coming weeks. SELIN LEVI