Saturday, July 22

Saturday, July 22

RODRIGO’S RENEWAL The Philippines set to extend martial law declaration The Philippines’ declaration of martial law on the island of

RODRIGO’S RENEWAL

The Philippines set to extend martial law declaration

Photo: Reuters/Erik De Castro

Photo: Reuters/Erik De Castro

The Philippines’ declaration of martial law on the island of Mindanao expires today. President Rodrigo Duterte has requested that a special session of Congress renew the declaration through the year’s end.

Martial law was declared in the island region in May after ISIS-affiliated insurgents seized Marawi, the mostly Catholic country’s only predominantly Muslim city. The fighting has carried on for two months; at least 98 security force members and 45 civilians have died.

The proposed renewal is not without detractors. An opposition senator called it “a whimsical misuse of power” against less than 60 remaining militants. Combined with his administration’s war on drugs, which has left more than 7,000 dead, martial law has fanned attacks on Duterte’s violently authoritarian leadership style.

Despite the opposition’s misgivings, Congress, dominated by the president’s supporters, will likely grant Duterte’s request. Indeed, his approach has earned continued public support; he is flying high with an 82% approval rating. Expect his grip on power to tighten and fears of dictatorship to grow.

Delve Deeper: “Marawi Crisis: Islamic State in the Philippines”

JUDGEMENT DAY

Albania’s top court rules on judicial reform

Photo: APA/EPA/Armando Babani

Photo: APA/EPA/Armando Babani

Albania’s Constitutional Court is expected to rule today on judicial reforms passed in May. Judges’ associations have challenged provisions to vet judges for connections to organised crime.

The reforms, necessary to open EU accession talks, preceded June 25 elections where PM Edi Rama’s Socialists won a parliamentary majority with 74 seats. With that majority, Rama has promised to test judges “for competence” and sack crooked ones (over 300 are accused of corruption).

While the election’s loser, the centre-right Democratic Party, also favours EU accession, it is seen as being more reluctant to pursue comprehensive judicial reforms, as most judges were appointed on its watch. They backed pre-election reforms, but only in return for appointing election overseers.

If the court strikes down the reforms, it will be a blow to Albania’s EU aspirations. But, if the Democrats remain divided after today’s internally controversial leadership race, Mr Rama can focus on challenging the judges without worrying about the parliamentary opposition. Expect him to continue aggressive reforms no matter the ruling.

DILIING ON

National elections in East Timor

Photo: Reuters/Lirio Da Fonseca

Photo: Reuters/Lirio Da Fonseca

East Timor will be holding its parliamentary elections today. The People’s Liberation Party (PLP) is running an opposition campaign against the two major parties, the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor (Fretilin) and the National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction (CNRT), which currently rule the country together in a political coalition.

PLP candidate and former President Taur Matan Ruak is trying to tap into the dissatisfaction felt acutely by young voters (17 to 25). The former military commander is campaigning to increase spending on education and infrastructure, fighting corruption, instituting mandatory conscription to reduce mounting youth unemployment, and diversifying the economy.

It is likely that the PLP will win a number of seats in the 65-person parliament, though not enough to overthrow the partnership between Fretilin and the CNRT. Even if not this year, East Timor could see the makings a future opposition capable of checking the power of the juggernaut coalition. Within a week of the election, over half of voters remain undecided.