Iran’s Presidential Election: Intense Competition and High Stakes
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27 Jun 2024

Iran’s Presidential Election: Intense Competition and High Stakes

Iranians are voting in a snap presidential election on June 28, following the sudden death of President Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash in May. This situation is not unprecedented for the Iranian regime, which has faced similar scenarios. In 1981, Iran’s first president following the Islamic Revolution Abolhassan Banisadr, was removed from office by the Islamic Consultative Assembly for political incompetence. Later that year, his successor, President Mohammad-Ali Rajai, was killed in a suitcase bombing. Thus, the current political and constitutional vacuum is not new to Iran. This pattern of instability has occurred twice before during significant periods of political upheaval.   Ebrahim Raisi was one of the few figures who enjoyed the trust of the security establishment and the regime's cleric guards. He was expected to oversee the rise of a new supreme leader after the death of Ali Khamenei or perhaps become the supreme leader himself. Therefore, Raisi's death poses a significant challenge to the mullahs' regime, especially given the internal and external challenges that Iran has faced recently.   On the other hand, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei paved the way for the presidential elections by selecting only six candidates who passed the examination conducted by the Guardian Council. This council, comprising 12 clerics appointed by the Supreme Leader, nominated by the judiciary chief, and approved by parliament, filtered the candidates based on loose criteria that it interprets and explains. Out of 80 candidates who applied for the position, only these six were allowed to run, with the Guardian Council having the final say in choosing or excluding candidates.   For instance, while the Iranian Constitution does not explicitly bar women from running for president, the Guardian Council effectively prevents them from doing so. Despite four women registering candidacies in the current and past 13 presidential elections, none have been approved.   Article 115 of Iran’s Constitution requires the president to be “a politician and cleric of Iranian origin, an Iranian citizen, a director and a wise man, who enjoys a good reputation, honesty, and piety, and believes in the foundations of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the official religion of the country.” Additionally, criteria related to administrative capabilities are considered. Beyond these criteria, it is widely believed that Khamenei favours a loyal and conservative president who aligns with his views and adheres to the principles of the regime, including obedience to the Supreme Leader.   Therefore, this analysis aims to clarify the significance of these elections, the management process, and the priorities that voters and the regime seek in the next president.
France’s Parliamentary Election: What is Going on in Paris?
Programmes
27 Jun 2024

France’s Parliamentary Election: What is Going on in Paris?

In a surprising move, and after the far-right National Rally (RN) party dominated in the European elections in France, French President Emmanuel Macron announced the dissolving of parliament and called for snap elections. The move is seen as very risky, with many believing that it will further embolden the far-right whose chances of winning a parliamentary absolute majority exceeds that of Macron’s coalition. Nevertheless, Macron’s decision is not without some strategic planning. Nonetheless, whether the French president succeeds in his plan or not, watching French politics for the upcoming three years will be definitely be interesting.
Migrants Not Welcome: The UK’s Safety of Rwanda Bill
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11 Jun 2024

Migrants Not Welcome: The UK’s Safety of Rwanda Bill

This article was originally published on Ahram Online on June 11, 2024.   In April 2022, then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda under the newly enacted "Safety of Rwanda Bill." This bill generated significant controversy and was described as incompatible with the U.K.'s legal obligations. Both the British Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the bill violated legal obligations and was incompatible with international conventions to which the U.K. is a signatory. In June 2022, the first flight carrying asylum seekers from the U.K. to Rwanda was cancelled minutes before take-off after the European Court of Human Rights issued last-minute commands to stop it. Two years later, with a new Prime Minister in office and despite international legal pressure, Parliament has finally passed the bill. However, the controversy has not ended. The high economic costs and concerns over human rights continue to render the Safety of Rwanda Bill contentious and problematic.
Migration: An Everlasting Variable in European Politics?
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27 May 2024

Migration: An Everlasting Variable in European Politics?

This June, citizens of the European Union will head to the ballot boxes for the highly anticipated parliamentary elections. Migration has always been a significant issue for both voters and candidates. However, several commentators, citing opinion polls, argue that migration may no longer be a top concern, overshadowed by issues such as economic turmoil, COVID-19, and climate change. Despite this, further analysis suggests that migration continues to be an important issue. While respondents might not explicitly mention migration when asked about their concerns, it remains significant, as evidenced by the attitudes of candidates and their emphasis on the topic. This underscores the continuing importance of migration in the upcoming elections and its significance to the results.
ASEAN’s Lessons: A Blueprint for Peace in the Middle East
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22 May 2024

ASEAN’s Lessons: A Blueprint for Peace in the Middle East

This article was originally published on Ahram Online on May 21, 2024.   Southeast Asia's history, marred by prolonged conflicts since the 1950s, offers pertinent lessons for strife-torn regions seeking stability. The spectre of the Cold War transformed countries like Vietnam into battlegrounds for over two decades, pitting communist and capitalist ideologies in a gruelling contest. Laos, too, bore the scars of proxy warfare, enduring a protracted struggle between the communist Pathet Lao forces, backed by a sizable contingent of North Vietnamese troops of Laotian descent, and the royal government, in a conflict that spanned more than two decades.
The Politicisation of EU Corruption
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The Politicisation of EU Corruption

The European Parliament (EP) has been embroiled in a series of corruption scandals, raising questions about the integrity of EU institutions. These events have led to increased scrutiny of lobbying activities, conflicts of interest, and the "revolving door" phenomenon. As the June EP election approaches, the scandals have further fueled anti-establishment sentiments and could potentially impact the election outcome.   “I appeal to you to resist the temptation to exploit this moment for political gain.”   A statement made in December 2022 by Roberta Metsola, President of the European Parliament (EP), in response to one of the bloc’s biggest corruption scandals, reveals a larger story about the politicisation of corruption in European politics.
Has Moscow’s Control Over Europe Become Uncontrollable?
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8 May 2024

Has Moscow’s Control Over Europe Become Uncontrollable?

It appears that Russian influence has been steadily spreading across Europe, stretching from the eastern regions of the continent to its central and western borders. Moscow's reach isn't confined solely to nations within its sphere of influence; it also affects broader European foreign policy and the trajectory of the bloc's future.
The War on TikTok: Security Concerns and Anti-Semitism
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22 Apr 2024

The War on TikTok: Security Concerns and Anti-Semitism

Social media has played a pivotal role in reshaping the narratives of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict since the outbreak of Oct. 7. The dissemination of news and information now extends far beyond traditional media outlets. Instead, social media platforms have emerged as potent influencers, surpassing the resonance of weapons and delineating a global divide between Israel and Palestine. These platforms have become arenas of contention, with users segregating into supporters and opponents, rendering them susceptible to content-related pressures amid the war. The war on Gaza has once again thrust TikTok into a heated discourse regarding the application's dangers and impact as a global forum for ordinary individuals to voice their opinions while also serving as a battleground for political factions to vie for narrative control. This debate assumes added significance as the audience of traditional news outlets continues to dwindle.   Recently, numerous TikTok videos concerning the war on Gaza garnered widespread attention, accompanied by pro-Palestinian hashtags, prompting Israeli President Isaac Herzog to engage in discussions with TikTok executives in February 2024. Expressing apprehension over the surge in antisemitic content on the platform since the onset of the Israeli war on Gaza, they assured President Herzog of their commitment to address the issue in the future. In a related context, social media companies based in the United States have already demonstrated a readiness to censor pro-Palestinian content. Human Rights Watch, in its December 2023 report, documented over 1,050 instances of content removal and suppression on Instagram and Facebook by Palestinians and their supporters between October and November 2023.   In this context, U.S. legislators, conservative activists, and technology investors have voiced calls to ban TikTok in the U.S., citing escalating concerns. These calls gained significant traction on March 13, 2024, when the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted in favour of a bill. The bill places ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, with two options, both fraught with implications: either sell the application to a U.S.-based company or confront a ban on distribution through significant platforms and application stores. President Joseph Biden voiced his backing for the bill and signalled his readiness to sign it into law pending Senate approval. However, the U.S. initiative this time brings forth broader concerns beyond national security, encompassing the application's ramifications on Israel's reputation. The country's standing has been damaged due to the swift dissemination of content depicting Israel's crimes against civilians in the Gaza Strip.   This analysis aims to elucidate the reasons behind the shift in the U.S. perspective on TikTok, moving from security concerns to the perception of promoting antisemitism. What repercussions would the embargo have on both the United States and Israel?
The Fallout of Escalating Iranian-Israeli Tensions
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The Fallout of Escalating Iranian-Israeli Tensions

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard's Air Force made a historic move by launching a direct assault on Israel in an operation dubbed "The True Promise," marking the first instance of such an attack originating from Iranian territory. Late on Saturday, April 13, 2024, Israeli cities were subjected to a relentless barrage of drones and ballistic missiles, signalling a significant escalation in tensions between the two nations. This offensive action follows Iran's earlier pledge to retaliate against Israel for its targeting of the Iranian consulate in Damascus, an incident that resulted in the deaths of seven Revolutionary Guard members, including two high-ranking leaders, on April 1.   This calculated escalation underscores Iran's unwavering commitment to defending its sovereignty and national interests while bolstering regional security. The global spotlight now shifts to the scale, sophistication, and broader implications of Iran's strike against Israel.   The Iranian assault on Israeli soil marks a pivotal moment in the ongoing conflict between the two adversaries, thrusting their hostilities from the shadows into the open arena of direct confrontation.   Against this backdrop, the Israeli response hinges on several key factors. Firstly, the extent to which Iranian proxies, such as the Houthis and Hezbollah, may actively participate in the conflict will influence Israel's strategic calculus. Secondly, the response will be shaped by the presence or absence of casualties among Israeli forces, as well as the effectiveness of its defence systems, bolstered by support from the United States, in mitigating potential damage. Lastly, how Israel opts to retaliate will be of paramount importance in determining the trajectory of the conflict.   Consequently, this analysis aims to elucidate the attack's ramifications and its economic repercussions on the parties involved in the conflict.
Will Netanyahu Conscript the Haredim?
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22 Mar 2024

Will Netanyahu Conscript the Haredim?

This article was originally published on Ahram Online on Mar. 22, 2024. The question of conscripting Ultra-Orthodox Jews, commonly known as Haredim, into the Israeli military has once again taken centre stage. This resurgence in debate follows calls by secularists, supported by several war cabinet members, including Defence Minister Yoav Gallant. During a press conference on Feb. 28, they advocated for amending conscription laws to include the Haredim.   The urgency behind these calls is fuelled by various challenges Israel currently faces. These include a labour shortage exacerbated by the ongoing Israel-Hamas War and tensions along the northern border with Hezbollah. The potential inclusion of Haredim in military service has sparked significant controversy within the Haredi community. Chief Sephardi Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef even issued a warning of a mass exodus of Haredi Jews from Israel if conscription becomes mandatory.   This latest call reignites an enduring conflict within Israeli society, rooted in the exemption privileges historically granted to Haredim. The issue remains unresolved due to the influence of religious parties, the political considerations of prime ministers, and the social dynamics within Israeli society. The exemption policies have long been a contention, particularly among secular citizens. Tensions escalated during the costly mobilisation efforts for the Israel-Hamas War, with over 66,000 Ultra-Orthodox youths exempted from military service in 2023 alone. This disparity has led to increased demands for the inclusion of Haredim in the military service, especially given the multiple security threats faced by Israel since Oct. 7.   Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's return to power in late 2022 alongside the right-wing bloc underscored their determination to challenge conscription policies. Netanyahu's efforts to amend the Judicial Authority Law, dubbed "judicial reform", were met with widespread opposition from the secular community, leading to massive demonstrations.   These amendments aimed to circumvent a 2017 Supreme Court ruling that invalidated legislation preventing Haredim's conscription. Despite government concessions, including multiple deferments of recruitment deadlines, the issue remains unresolved. As the latest extension is set to expire on Mar. 31, a looming question remains: Will Netanyahu conscript the Haredim?
Macron’s War Rhetoric and his Desperate Quest for Prestige
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10 Mar 2024

Macron’s War Rhetoric and his Desperate Quest for Prestige

“Nothing should be ruled out” said French President Emmanuel Macron when asked about possibilities of sending troops to Ukraine. By speaking about going to war, Macron may have aimed to dispel a long-standing joke about the French always surrendering. However, both French and NATO leaders have publicly rejected the idea of sending European or alliance troops to Ukraine. Prominent figures such as U.S. President Joseph Biden, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, and others have asserted that such action is not on the table. The widespread domestic and regional opposition implies that even if Macron was genuinely considering sending troops to Ukraine, he would not receive the necessary support for such a radical decision.
How Europe Alienated Farmers and Revived Populism
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5 Mar 2024

How Europe Alienated Farmers and Revived Populism

This article was originally published on Ahram Online on Mar. 4, 2024.   Farming and food have become two of Europe’s most emotionally charged issues. The farmers protests that have been erupting across the EU this year are finally getting much sought after attention. But farmers have been expressing their discontent with EU policies for years and now, with a broader cost-of-living crisis, the discontent is spreading as European’s socio-economic anxieties rise. From favouring corporate interests to mishandling crises, European policies have presented populist and far-right forces with a new opportunity to pull in more voters —and it’s proving successful.