Saturday 29 October 2016

Human race eclipsed by race for the White House

World peace hinges on a lot more than the US presidential circus, writes Rachel Lavin

Rachel Lavin

Published 07/02/2016 | 02:30

Dispute: Under the constitution written by the army before it ceded power, Aung San Suu Kyi cannot rule as president. Photo: PA
Dispute: Under the constitution written by the army before it ceded power, Aung San Suu Kyi cannot rule as president. Photo: PA

All eyes were on Iowa last week with the majority of America, and possibly the rest of the world, holding their breath in fear Trump might come out on top as the preferred Republican nominee. It came with great relief then that the man who shocks, appalls and enthralls in equal measure only won 24pc of the republican vote, losing out to Ted Cruz who won 28%.

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Rubio came third at 23pc and poor Jeb Bush came in at a pitiful 3pc, effectively knocking him out of the race with the rest of the unimpressive Republican candidates.

Meanwhile, things are heating up on the Democratic side, with Hillary only just pipping Sanders to the post with 49.9pc of the vote compared with Sanders' 49.6pc. It was certainly not the big achievement she painted it in her victory speech, especially considering many of the democratic voting groups at the Iowa caucus were tied over who to pick, leaving their decision to the flip of a coin.

Of course, the Iowa result could still be contradicted in New Hampshire. The Washington Post reported an interesting theory last week, speculating that Trump and Sanders' failure was the result of "independents who might otherwise be drawn to Sanders choosing to vote in the Republican primary because they are disgusted by Trump".

Perhaps this is true. Trump and Sanders were after all leading in opinion polls in the aftermath of Cruz and Clinton's win.

Add to this the fact the actions of the independent voters in New Hampshire are notoriously unpredictable and generally emotive late-deciders, according to the Washington Post. It seems it's all still to play for as New Hampshire draws near.

While the presidential office of the US has been hotly disputed this past week, more quietly the Myanmar's miltary is said to be considering finally allowing opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to take presidential office, after her party overwhelmingly won the first democratic elections last November following half-a-century of military-dominated rule. The Nobel Peace Prize laureate has been barred from becoming president due to a constitutional rule, written by the military, which stipulates that anyone with children who are foreign citizens cannot act as president. Suu Kyi, who has two sons who live abroad and a husband who passed away while she was held under house arrest, is therefore effectively banned from taking office. She can however nominate a proxy from her loyal following within the party but two senior party members revealed last week that the military were considering changing the constitution, in a possible deal that would allow Suu Kyi to be president while also allowing the military to retain some senior government posts.

Meanwhile, as Myanmar and the US battle it out for presidential roles, Russia's President Putin found himself further embattled in his role as president this week, as his old nemesis, feminist punk group Pussy Riot, released a biting satirical music video. The song criticises Putin's administration and particularly his prosecutor general Yury Chaika, who has been embroiled in corruption allegations.

In prison uniform and fishnet stockings, the face of the band Maria Aloyhnika - who spent 21 months in prison following a protest by the band in a Moscow cathedral - mocks Putin as her bandmates play out torture and murder scenes, in reference to the allegations against Chaika's imprisonment and mistreatment of business and political opponents.

Of course, a feminist punk band is the least of Putin's opposition at the moment. Geneva peace talks aiming to bring peace to Syria were brought to a halt after three days last week, due to the suspected Russian-backed regime's aerial bombardment of Aleppo that killed an estimated 21 people and has forced thousands of refugees to flee from the city over Turkish borders - with Turkey warning last Thursday that up to 70,000 people might be heading to its border from Aleppo. Allegations of a lack of commitment to peace resound on both sides.

While the Syrian government deflects blame onto the Saudis, Qataris and the Turks, many feel Western coalition forces should be doing more to achieve peace.

With Russia the only world power directly involved in the Syrian conflict, with a military base in the country, it could exert significant pressure on President Bashar-al Assad's regime to achieve peace.

But there is also a limit to what the US is prepared to do, as Al Jazeera argued last week, reporting that a senior US Department of State official told an Al Jazeera journalist "We are not ready to go to World War Three to solve this."

While Russia and US deliberate, Saudi Arabia announced last week that it is prepared to deploy ground troops to Syria to fight with the US-led coalition against Isil if they agree to the offer.

Lawrence Korb, a former US assistant secretary of defence, said Saudi Arabia's potential intervention would be a "very significant escalation", but that it might force Russia to reconsider getting involved again in the peace talks.

Peace in Syria and Iraq now might also save further expansion of the violence in Libya, where Isil is gradually gaining prominence, having seized the city of Sirte and an adjoining length of Mediterranean coastline.

While the numbers of fighters in Syria and Iraq has fallen from 30,000 to an estimated 19,000 to 25,000, it was estimated last week that about 5,000 fighters are now in Libya, double earlier estimates.

Sunday Independent

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