Sunday, July 30

Sunday, July 30

NEW CHARTER, OLD PROBLEMS Venezuelans to elect body to rewrite constitution amid tensions Venezuelans vote today to elect a National


Venezuelans to elect body to rewrite constitution amid tensions

Photo: AP

Photo: AP

Venezuelans vote today to elect a National Constituent Assembly, which will have the power to rewrite the country’s 1999 constitution.

The Assembly is meant to help resolve Venezuela’s political crisis and stabilise a security situation marked by violent protests that have left hundreds dead. Planned constitutional changes include creating a “peace and justice” commission to target violent protestors and make them “learn their lesson” in the words of First Lady Cilia Flores. Additionally, Socialist Party Vice President Diosdado Cabello has advocated stripping legislators of immunity from prosecution.

Critics of the new body say that it’s designed to circumvent the opposition-controlled legislature and will be used as an excuse to delay presidential elections scheduled for 2018. Today’s poll has also drawn international condemnation, with Canada and the EU calling on Venezuela to halt the vote and President Donald Trump threatening sanctions if it goes forward.

The proposed assembly will likely be controlled by government loyalists as its electoral districts over-represent Maduro-friendly rural areas and the opposition has called on supporters to boycott the vote.

The government has banned protest for the day, but expect violence to escalate as the government deploys 370,000 soldiers to confront those violating the ban.


US vice president begins tour of Eastern Europe

Photo: Angela Major/AP

Photo: Angela Major/AP

Today Vice President Mike Pence embarks on a four-day trip to visit partners in Estonia, Montenegro, and Georgia. In Tallinn today he will also meet leaders from Lithuania and Latvia.

Russia is expected to be the hot topic of all of the vice president’s meetings; Eastern European states are uneasy about Donald Trump’s seeming affection for Vladimir Putin. All three countries on Mr Pence’s tour have been victims of suspected Russian aggression. Additionally, US-Russia tensions have flared after the US Congress passed new sanctions targeting Russia by overwhelming margins, sowing uncertainty in the region.

Georgia particularly has long sought security assistance from Washington following a Russian military intervention in 2008. The Caucasus state also wishes to join NATO, although membership talks have stalled over a feared Russian backlash. Talks between Pence and President Giorgi Margvelashvili are expected to focus on security cooperation, and a planned joint military exercise between the two countries will begin the day before the vice president’s visit.

With just four days, Pence will face difficulty in reassuring America’s Eastern European partners and erasing the memory of his president’s pro-Russian stances.


Ruling party runs on anti-corruption platform

Photo: Issouf Sanogo

Photo: Issouf Sanogo

The West African country of Senegal holds delayed legislative elections today. They were originally scheduled for July 2.

Ahead of the vote, government and opposition are deeply divided with President Macky Sall’s key rivals mired in a swamp of corruption allegations. Karim Wade, who held several senior government positions under his father Abdoulaye, was convicted of illegally amassing almost $200 million and currently lives in exile in Qatar. Meanwhile, Khalifa Sall Mayor of Dakar and head of the national opposition list is in custody for allegedly embezzling more than $3 million.

While the opposition claims that the charges are politically motivated, President Macky Sall’s Benno Bokk Yakaar coalition is expected to win the election comfortably. Mr Sall seems to have made good on his campaign promise of fighting corruption, with Senegal having risen to the 64th position—up 30 spots since his election in 2012— in Transparency International’s corruption perception index.

Even if Sall’s coalition manages to retain its commanding victory, the real challenge will be winning the presidential elections slated for 2019. Expect clashes between government and opposition forces to rise.