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Friday, September 8


Friday, September 8

German Defence Minister von der Leyen chats with soldiers during a visit of the German Armed Forces Bundeswehr at the air base in Incirlik


German lawmakers permitted to visit troops in Turkey

German Defence Minister von der Leyen chats with soldiers during a visit of the German Armed Forces Bundeswehr at the air base in Incirlik
Photo: Reuters/Tobias Schwarz

Today, German officials will visit their country’s soldiers stationed at the NATO air base in Konya.

Tensions between the two states have been mounting. Berlin has criticised the increasingly autocratic government in Ankara and has refused to extradite numerous Turks who are accused of having played a role in last year’s coup attempt. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was particularly incensed when Germany barred Turkish officials from campaigning there ahead of April’s constitutional referendum; he called German leaders “Nazis” in response.

Conversely, Turkey, under protest from Berlin, is holding a German journalist on terror-related charges. In May, Turkish officials denied German lawmakers permission to visit troops stationed at the Incirlik air base; Berlin recalled its forces from the base and moved them to Jordan.

Despite Ankara’s allowing German lawmakers to visit their troops, do not assume this move represents any significant thawing of tensions between Turkey and Germany. To Erdogan’s chagrin, both candidates for chancellor, Angela Merkel and Martin Schulz, have championed halting Turkey’s EU accession bid. In a debate, the heavily favoured incumbent gave her timetable for Turkish membership: “never”.

Delve Deeper: Playing Hardball: Turkey-West Relations


New premier in Taiwan as president’s popularity plummets

William Lai will become Tsai Ing-wen’s new second in command in Taiwan
Photo: Craig Ferguson/LightRocket

Two days after the resignation of Lin Chuan and his cabinet, Taiwan gets a new premier today. William Lai, the high-profile mayor of Tainan, will assume the second most powerful office, tasked with boosting President Tsai Ing-wen’s popularity.

Poll numbers paint an ugly picture for the pro-independence president. Her approval ratings fell below 30% in August amid controversial pension cuts, a massive power outage and tensions with China.

A fresh face to lead the cabinet, William Lai will push to implement infrastructure projects and stimulate Taiwan’s ‘pillar industries’—the Internet of Things, biotechnology, green energy, smart machinery and defence.

But Mr Lai has little control over foreign policy, an arena in which President Tsai is all powerful. Her refusal to acknowledge the one China principle last year resulted in Beijing cutting communication with Taipei.

If Tsai proves unable to turn around dismal approval ratings, the new premier may well find himself as a favourite to contest the pro-independence DPP ticket for the 2020 elections. While this may be good for DPP’s election prospects, such an outlook suggests infighting between the president and her own deputy, which threatens to stall the domestic reform agenda.

Delve deeper: Tsai tests waters of cross-strait relations


Hurricane Irma threatens to push impoverished Haiti over the edge

Hurricane Irma is threatening impoverished Haiti
Photo: AFP

For the second time in less than two weeks, a major hurricane is hurtling towards the American coastline. A category 5 storm, Hurricane Irma packs devastating winds of over 280 kilometres per hour which have already ravaged the Caribbean islands of Barbuda, St Bart and St Martin, killing at least nine.

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By Friday morning, Haitians are likely to wake up to discover their country has fallen victim to a natural disaster once again. The Caribbean country has been hit by a string of calamities in the past decade, including drought, a devastating earthquake in 2010 and two hurricanes. Less than a year ago, the country was picking up the pieces from Hurricane Matthew, which killed 550 and left one in ten Haitians in need of assistance.

Haiti’s northern coastline will be lashed by devastating winds and receive almost double its monthly rainfall in just a few hours, devastating crops in the western hemisphere’s poorest country. More than half of Haitians live below the poverty line and many rely on subsistence farming to get by.

This latest disaster may well push Haiti’s basic services over the edge, resulting in a resurgence of cholera—which infected 6% of the population in 2010 and killed 9,500. In a country rife with political instability, such a result would be no help.


Indonesia’s Islamists to rally at Buddhist holy place

Indonesian Islamists rally
Photo: AFP

Indonesian Islamist groups have planned to stage pro-Rohingya protests outside the Borobudur Buddhist temple in central Java. Security forces say they will stop the group from congregating outside the holy site. Some 1.7 million Buddhists call Indonesia home—around 1% of the population. Buddhist nationalist groups have been blamed for much of the violence against Myanmar’s Rohingya minority, which intensified in late August.


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