The Turning of the Sphere

Baghdad closes the KRG’s airspace to international flights

Baghdad imposed a ban on international flights over the Kurdistan Regional Government’s airspace in northern Iraq on Friday in response to the Kurdish independence referendum.  Flights to and from the KRG via other locations in Iraq are still possible, however.  In a separate move to pressure the KRG to abandon its quest for independence the Turkish government threatened to shutdown oil pipeline that runs from the KRG through Turkey.

French senatorial elections

In the French senatorial election of 2017, about 75,000 elected officials (mostly local council members) voted for candidates for about half of the Senate’s seats.  Gerard Larcher is the current president of the Senate.  The Senate will vote for its next president on October 2.

The composition of the French senate after the election of about half of its rank is as follows:

LR Group:  149

SOC Group:  76

UC Group:  48

REM Group:  28

CRC Group:  12

RDSE Group:  11

RASNAG Group:  9

DVD:  10

DVG:  5

DIV:  1

The Kurdish independence referendum outcome

The independence referendum held in KRG governed portions of northern Iraq produced an overwhelming “yes” result of 93%.  The result is unsurprising in light of the longstanding opinion in favor of independence in the region, although a transition to independence may prove to be rocky as Baghdad has so far rejected the vote and called for it to be “cancelled.”  The government of Turkey is not enthused about the plebiscite either due to the long running internal conflict between the state and much of the Kurdish population of the country, though Ankara had cultivated ties with Erbil in recent years.  Barzani and his administration in Erbil hope that the independence vote will give them a mandate to negotiate with Baghdad over a withdrawal of the Kurdistan region from Iraq.

German federal elections

The German federal elections of 2017 produced a plurality for the Christian Democratic Union and the Christian Social Union, despite seat losses.  The Social Democratic Party, in light of the losses it suffered, has declared against returning into a coalition government with the CDU and prefers to take on the role of an opposition party.  The Free Democratic Party, which made gains, is likely to take part in the next government, although there seats are not enough to form a majority with the CDU and CSU.  Thus, a coalition between the CDU/CSU, FDP, and the Greens is likely to be tested as the first resort, although the FDP and Greens hold substantially differing views on a variety of issues.

The popular vote results are as follows:

CDU and CSU:  32.93%

SPD:  20.51%

AfD:  12.64%

FDP:  10.75%

Die Linke:  9.24%

Grune:  8.94%

Others:  4.99%


New Zealand election

The New Zealand general election of 2017 produced a parliament without a majority, but a substantial vote plurality (46.03% and 58 seats) for the National Party, led by current Prime Minister Bill English.  Bill English became New Zealand’s prime minister after John Key resigned from that position in December of 2016.  The Labour Party, headed by Jacinda Ardern, obtained second place with 35.79% of the vote and 45 seats in a test of “Jacindamania.”  NZ First, headed by Winston Peters, and the Green Party, led by James Shaw, came in third and fourth places, respectively.  No party has enough seats to form a majority on its own, but the center-right National Party is in the best position to do so with external support.  If National forms the next government then the upcoming administration will be the fourth consecutive term for the party.

The share of the vote by party for the election are as follows:

National:  46.03%, 58 seats

Labour:  35.79%, 45 seats

NZ First:  7.51%, 9 seats

Green:  5.85%, 7 seats

Maori:  1.08%

ACT:  .51%


Myanmar crisis surges

Violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state has recently flared up, amid concerns that an ethnic cleansing operation is underway.  A longstanding conflict involving the Myanmar state and the Rohingya ethnic group has flared up over the decades since Myanmar became an independent state.  The recent spurt of violence follows a previous round in 2016, but the roots of the conflict go back much farther, including a 1991 operation by the military junta that evicted or displaced between 200,000 and 250,000 civilians in northern Rakhine.  The Rohingya primarily live in Rakhine state, which is located in south-west Myanmar and contains a collection of other ethnic groups also.

On August 25 members of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army attacked twenty five police and army posts.  Shortly after, Myanmar’s military and vigilante groups began attacking and burning Rohingya villages and created a massive exodus of more than 125,000 Rohingya out of Myanmar.  The army has set landmines in parts of Rakhine state.

The violence has tarnished the transition to democracy currently transpiring under Aung San Suu Kyi’s leadership.

Kurdistan independence referendum

The Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq intends to hold a referendum on independence on September 25.  This vote has been long anticipated, but in all previous cases the decision to hold a referendum on the matter always was ultimately deferred to a future date due to difficulties of circumstance.  A yes outcome or independence is the probable outcome of this referendum.  The impetus for the referendum is, in large part, due to the Kurdistan region receiving less than the 17% of the national budget, to which it is entitled, for more than three years.  This shortfall has hampered the KRG administration’s ability to pay government workers and its Peshmerga forces.

International reactions to the referendum have varied, but substantial opposition has appeared to move, particularly from Turkey, which has the largest Kurdish population in the world and a vexed relationship between Kurds and the Turkish state.  The regional governments with large Kurdish populations are fearful that if the referendum produces a yes vote then Kurds beyond Iraq will be emboldened to seek independence referendums or press for greater autonomy and representation via other means.  The parliament of Iraq rejected the impending referendum and there are many regions, including the city of Kirkuk, that are disputed by Baghdad and Erbil.

Campaigning for the referendum began on September 5 and the vote may lead to renewed negotiations between Erbil and Baghdad over a host of issues.