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The World This Week
Taiwan Election 2024

  GP Team

The World This Week #247, Vol. 6, No.2
14 January 2024

Taiwan Election 2024
By Femy Francis

What Happened?
On 13 January, Taiwan held its eighth presidential election, where the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) came out victorious, making William Lai Ching-te the eighth President of Taiwan. DPP won with 40 per cent of the total votes cast, defeating Kuomintang’s (KMT) Hou Yu-ih, who secured 33.5 per cent, and Taiwan People's Party’s (TPP) Ko Wen-je, who secured 26.5 per cent votes. While the DPP was able to form a government, it lost control over the legislative Yuan, securing 51 seats out of 113, while KMT and TPP secured 52 and 8 seats respectively. The voter turnout was at 71.9 per cent, with about 14 million Taiwanese people participating. Lai's first victory address stated that the elections "have shown the world the Taiwanese people's insistence on democracy,” and he expressed hope that “the other side of the Taiwan Strait can also fully understand such a voice." Hou congratulated Lai and the DPP, stating: "I hope all parties can unite together after the election when we face Taiwan's challenges." Ko expressed his satisfaction with TPP's performance, stating that they are now a "key opposition force" in Taiwanese politics. Lai's victory will bring the DPP back into power for the third term consecutively, following Tsai Ing-wen's two terms.

After his victory, Lai expressed that the result showcased Taiwain’s decision to choose “democracy over authoritarianism,” and its success in omitting external factors influencing the elections. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said: “The outcome of the recent leadership election in the Taiwan region also won't change the prevailing consensus of the international community on adhering to the one-China principle.” He also condemned the international community for supporting the results. Further, when the Japanese Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa congratulated Lai and described him as “an extremely crucial partner and an important friend,” Japan was warned of interfering in the internal affairs of China. The UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron sent his regards, stating: “The elections today are a testament to Taiwan’s vibrant democracy. I offer warm congratulations to the people of Taiwan on the smooth conduct of those elections and to Dr Lai Ching-te and his party on his election.” China’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) spokesperson, Chen Binhua, stated that the DPP's re-election did not represent the mainstream public opinion. Chen also asserted that "Taiwan is China's Taiwan" and that the "motherland will eventually be reunified and will inevitably be reunified." US President Joe Biden expressed that the US did not support an independent Taiwan, clarifying the American stance.

What is the background?
First, a brief note on the previous elections. In 2002, DPP’s Chen Shui-bian became the first non-KMT elected President. He lacked a majority in the legislative Yuan and the opposition formed a “Blue coalition” to form a majority. Chen remained in power till 2008, when he was defeated by Ma Ying-jeou of KMT, under whom Taiwan aimed to build better economic and social ties with the PRC. Ma stayed in power till 2016, and during his term, a Sunflower Student Movement took place, opposing the Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement with China. This led to the formation of hosts of third parties in Taiwan, which was a vital contributor to DPP’s victory in 2016. Tsai Ing-wen led the DPP and formed the government, where she  frequently visited the US and Europe, forging close relationships with the policymakers and the diaspora. Additionally, she staunchly opposed the “1992 consensus” and Xi's proposal of a “one country, two systems” policy.  In 2020, Tsai came to power again under DPP. William Lai Ching-te's win in 2024 has thus kept the DPP in power for a third term.

Second, the primary concerns of 2024. The year 2023 saw a decline in the GDP to 1.4 per cent from 2.6 per cent in 2021. An economic stagnation is internally plaguing Taiwan due to weak global demand and bare minimum capital investment. There is a gap between the wage growth and the inflationary prices. The government has been caught between providing for social development and national defence in the face of China's threat. Additionally, Taiwan’s ageing demography would be an added burden on the economy, with an increasing number of the population coming under the bracket of 65 and above. While the China issue looms large in the Taiwanese elections, an increasing number of the population, especially the youth, have expressed dissatisfaction with it overshadowing the domestic concerns of Taiwan.

Third, who wanted what. The DPP’s ultimate manifesto is the establishment of the Republic of Taiwan as a sovereign, independent, and autonomous nation. The party believes that Taiwan is not a part of the Republic of China and nor does its sovereignty encompass China. They want to reinstate their territorial sovereignty and build on Taiwanese society on the values of pluralism. The current party policy of the DPP aims to have an open dialogue with the opposition party and the external contentions while standing affirmed to its independent Taiwan vision. Hou’s KMT party was seen as more pro-China. During his campaign, Hou stressed that his party would establish dialogue in the Taiwan Strait to deter aggression, and added: “I will seek to interact constructively with Beijing in ways consistent with the Republic of China’s constitution and its laws.” He also promoted the “1992 Consensus” between KMT and CCP, which aimed to create a channel for semi-formal exchange, and had a tacit agreement over the "One China" policy, where both sides differed on the definition of what constitutes China. Ko’ TPP party, formed in 2019, called for a pragmatic solution to the challenges faced by Taiwan. TPP expressed that the two-party politics was hindering its growth, and therefore it was a third option to the citizens of Taiwan. Their campaign focused on economic, educational development and independent deterrence building, setting itself apart from the pro/anti-China narratives of KMT and DPP.

Fourth, the China factor. Chinese President Xi Jinping in his New Year's speech of 2024 expressed that China's reunification with Taiwan is inevitable. China has been a strong proponent of the "One China" policy, which sees Taiwan as a part of mainland China. For years, China has been accused of using intimidation tactics to further its agenda. Taiwan's National Defense Ministry has accused Beijing of heightening military activities in the strait by sending "spy balloons," fleets, and aircrafts, as a way of interfering with the 2024 elections.

Fifth, international stakes. The US viewed the conflict in the Taiwan Strait as a significant part of deterring Chinese aggressive postulates. Taiwan is also strategically located, as it is close to both the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea, which is one of the world's busiest shipping routes. The region is a vital link to the north of East Asia, the Middle East, and Europe for trade. Taiwan also stands within the First Island Chain, which includes the Philippines, South Korea, and Japan, which are critical US allies.

What does it mean?
First, a win for democracy. the DPP’s reelection shows Taiwan’s desire for continuity, stability and a government that is a proponent of democracy and independence. It also showcased the will of the citizens, who were seemingly unfazed by the threat of Chinese aggression if DPP was reinstated to power. The is a strong resolve observed amongst the Taiwanese citizens who want to uphold the country’s sovereignty. 

Second, mixed mandate. While Lai was able to secure the win for DPP, the party lost its control over the legislature, where they were able to secure 51 out of 113 seats. This poses a problem for the DPP's functioning as a party, as without a majority, the prospects of passing bills becomes difficult. Lai stated that they would humbly review the results, and that the DPP aims to build an environment of cooperation and consultation with other parties.

Third, TPP shifted Taiwan's political landscape. TPP's results stand to be impressive in light of how young the party is, also given the fact that it independently faced two dominant national parties of Taiwan. It has struck a chord with the younger population of Taiwan through its focus on the immediate internal economic and social. Since its inception, TPP wanted to become an alternative to the "Green" (DPP) and "Blue" (KMT) political divide. Its’ eight seats in the legislature will be significant, and its inception in Taiwanese politics has changed the bipolar dominance of DPP and KMT.  The election showcases the changing sentiments of voters, who want a more pluralistic political arena.

Third, a disgruntled Beijing. The Chinese aggression towards and in the Taiwan Strait may increase as they view Lai as "separatist." The Strait could observe heightened tensions and confrontation, as mainland China may up its ante to deter Taiwan's independent sentiments and continue to intimidate Taiwan with its reunification ambitions. China also believes that the DPP does not represent the will of its citizens.

Fourth, Taiwan’s alignment with US interests. Taiwan stands vital to the West, where it is seen asa fort of democracy in the face of authoritarianism. While the US officially has not recognized Taiwan as an independent state, it has time and again expressed its dissatisfaction with China's aggression in the Strait. The US has followed the policy of "Strategic ambiguity," where it has been intentionally vague. Meanwhile, the two have built a solid unofficial relationship, where the US aims to support Taiwan's autonomy without being seen as a party supporting the push for Taiwan's independence from China. Therein lies serious skepticism regarding US support amongst Taiwanese citizens when facing Chinese aggression.

Regional Round-ups
Akriti Sharma, Rohini Reenum, Dhriti Mukherjee, Femy Francis, Padmashree Anandhan, Rishika Yadav and Shamini Velayutham, Akhil Ajith, Arun S, Narmatha and Vetriselvi Baskaran, Navinan, Gopi Keshav.  

China This Week
China:  Calls to avoid escalation in Yemen after US and UK airstrike
On 13 January, China’s representative to the United Nations Zhang Jun expressed its serious concerns about escalating tensions in Yemen after the air strikes launched by the U.S. and the UK. He called on all parties to exercise restraint to prevent further escalation. He appealed to influential powers to maintain peace and stability in the Red Sea and the Middle East by sticking to the right direction of dialogue and consultation. The air strikes were launched in response to the Houthi group's attacks on international ships in the Red Sea. 

China: Tianzhou-6 cargo spacecraft landmark achievement of separation from China Space Station
On 12 January, China'sTianzhou-6 cargo spacecraft successfully separated from the orbiting station combination at 1602 hrs. The China Manned Space Agency (CMS) has confirmed the spacecraft will return to Earth after it re-enters the atmosphere. Most of the spacecraft's components will burn up during re-entry, with only a few remaining falling into a designated safe zone in the southern Pacific Ocean. Tianzhou-6 was launched in May and carried essential supplies, spacesuits, maintenance components, application facilities, and propellant to support the operations of the space station. Its successor, Tianzhou-7, is expected to launch from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in early 2024. 

China: urges the to stabilise the situation in West Africa and the Sahel region
On 12 January, a Chinese envoy Dai Bing called for efforts by the international community to aid West Africa and the Sahel to achieve peace and stability, fight terrorism and develop the economy. The Situation in the region continues to face multiple difficulties and challenges. With the growing social tensions internally, the political situation in some countries remains volatile. Countries in West Africa and the Sahel have long been at the forefront of international counter-terrorism efforts. Extremist and terrorist activities remain rampant while counter-terrorism cooperation in the Sahel region finds itself in a difficult situation at the moment. Dai said that through bilateral and multilateral cooperation mechanisms, China has been providing support to countries in the region to enhance capacity-building and promote inclusive and sustainable development, which will help gradually build the foundation for lasting peace and stability. 

China: Proactive engagement with the Taliban
On 10 January, according to the South China Morning Post, Beijing’s special envoy for Afghan affairs Yue Xiaoyong said China has strengthened its position in the South Asian region due to a proactive approach and accurate grasping of the issue in Afghanistan. China is one of the few countries alongside Pakistan and Russia to maintain a diplomatic presence in Afghanistan. Also, on August2021, China hosted Taliban ambassador Bilal Karimi in Beijing. According to experts, China intends to build ties with the Taliban to expand its long-term gain after the West Exit from Afghanistan.

China: Maldives President requests for more Chinese investments
On 09 January, The Straits Times reported that the Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu met Chinese President Xi Jinping and his delegation at Invest Maldives Forum to advance ties with China. He said China is one of Maldives’s “closest allies and development partners.” He Further Stated that the country is keen to boost its fisheries export and advance partnerships under the Belt and Road Initiative. According to the data from the American Enterprise Institute, after Signing the BRI agreement in 2014, Chinese firms invested USD 1.37 billion in Maldives. Additionally, the ties between Maldives and India strained as Indian tourists cancelled bookings to Maldives. 

China: Wants to stable ties with the US despite disagreements
On 05 January, The Straits Times reported that Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi emphasized that establishing a correct understanding and cooperation between China and the United States is no longer an option but an imperative for the world. He made this statement during an event marking the 45th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two nations. Wang asserted that cooperation is the correct choice, addressing the tense relations covering national security, global conflicts, trade restrictions, climate change, and Taiwan. Wang expressed China's hope for the US to respect its choices and development path while emphasizing China's commitment to building a stable, healthy, and sustainable relationship based on mutual respect. He emphasized the robust internal momentum driving China's development, underscoring the absence of any intention to pursue hegemony or act as a replacement for others.

East and Southeast Asia This Week
North Korea: Kim visits weapons factory, labels South Korea as ‘principal enemy’
On 10 January, according to the state media Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un mentioned South Korea as the “principal enemy” of his country and would not hesitate to use nuclear weapons maid the visit to the weapons factory. The report emerges after the recent military drills by Pyongyang’s military near the maritime border with South Korea. The KCNA further states that Kim Jong Yun has urged the factory workers to ramp up the weapons production. The factory tour news came amid the call by the US and 50 other countries joined to condemn North Korea’s alleged transfers of weapons to Russia for use in Ukraine, violating UN sanctions. The Straits Times reports that it is the first time that North Korea has designated such harsh reference to South Korea.

South Korean: South Korean Parliament Passes bill to ban dog meat consumption
On 10 January, according to The Straits Times, South Korean Parliament passes a bill to ban the eating and selling of dog meat to end the centuries old practice amid the calls for animal welfare. Activists argue that the practice is prevalent among the old people, but the country is making progress in making the dog slaughter more humane. Under President Yoon Suk-yeol, the country has adopted many street dogs and cats. According to the government data in 2022, one in four households own a pet dog. The bill highlights the strict punishment for its violation up to three years in prison or heavy fines. The bill was passed with rare bipartisan support with only two assentation.

Japan: Japan plans to expand its budget reserves to boost earthquake aid
On 09 January, The Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki said Japan is going to expand its budget for the 2024-25 fiscal year to support recovery form the Noto Peninsula earthquake. Japan previously approved 4.74 billion Yen (43.8 million USD) for the fiscal year 2023-24. The government intends to create a ‘realistic’ reserve pool of aid to address the damages from disasters. The budget reserve takes place amid the recent 7.6 magnitude earthquake that hit Japan’s west coast on New Year’s Eve. According to The Straits Times, the Japanese government approved total budget of 113 trillion yen ten days before the quake hit the country in which 500 billion yen was for general reserves.

Australia: Australia to create a disaster relief force despite floods hitting south-east Australia
On 09 January, according to The Straits Times, PM Albanese said the need for a disaster relief force to relieve overly stretched military in flood hit areas. Australia witnesses massive floods after the dangerous bush fires of “Black Summer” of 2019 and 2020 and the East Coast flooding in 2022. According to the Department of Defense, the deployment of 62,000 troops or half of the military personnel hampers the country’s defense. Mr Albanese further stated that the government was working towards creating a standing reserve body. He also stated that the country is witnessing an impact of climate change leading to sever natural disasters.

Philippines and Indonesia hold talks on the South China Sea and ASEAN bloc
On 10 January, to discuss developments in the South China Sea and build closer ties among Southeast Asian nations, the leaders of Indonesia and the Philippines met in Manila. The meeting follows an announcement by the Indonesian Foreign Minister, Retno Marsudi, stating that her country is prepared to collaborate with other Southeast Asian nations to finalize a long-pending code of conduct for the South China Sea. China claims the entire waterway, which is used for more than USD 3tn in annual maritime commerce. However, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam also claim parts of it. The neighbours also signed a pact on energy ties to aid cooperation between their business sectors during periods of critical supply constraints on fuels such as coal and liquefied natural gas.

South Asia This Week
Maldives: Maldives President visits China
On 10 January, the President of Maldives, Mohamed Muizzu signed 20 agreements with the President of China, Xi Jinping to bolster the bilateral relations. The agreements were related to the blue economy, green development, disaster risk reduction, media, animal welfare, rural affairs, low-carbon development, ocean resources, pest control, and cultural tourism. Additionally, an agreement on the Rasmale land reclamation project was also signed. China also agreed to look into the restructuring of loans to Maldives. Both countries also agreed to build a China-Maldives Comprehensive Strategic Cooperative Partnership from the period 2024-2028.

Bhutan: PDP makes a comeback in fourth National Assembly elections
On 12 January, Tshering Tobgay from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) won the elections with a landslide victory securing 30 out of 47 seats in the National Assembly. The Bhutan Tendrel Party (BTP) won the rest of the seats. PDP’s election campaign largely revolved around the economic concerns of Bhutan as the unemployment rate is high and the country is facing economic issues. Mass migration and power projects were some of the other issues.

Bangladesh: Sheikh Hasina sworn in as the Prime Minister
On 11 January, Sheikh Hasina was sworn in as the Prime Minister of Bangladesh for the fifth term. Her party Awami League won the elections against the BNP securing 223 seats out of 300 seats. President Mohammad Shahabuddin administered the oath of office amongst the other politicians and diplomats. She has reshuffled the cabinet with some new ministers while retaining some senior party leaders in the cabinet.

India: External Affairs Minister on a visit to Iran
On 14 January, the External Affairs Minister of India, S Jaishankar began his two-day visit to Iran. The Ministry issued a statement that said: “External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar will travel to Tehran during January 14-15 as part of the ongoing high-level exchanges between the two sides,” He will be discussing “bilateral, regional and global issues” with the Foreign minister of Iran, his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.

Afghanistan: Pakistan has effectively closed the Torkham border for truck drivers
On 13 January AP News reported that Pakistan has closed an important northwestern border crossing with Afghanistan for the truck drivers. The director of Information and Culture department in Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar province, Noor Mohammad Hanif, revealed that officials at the Torkham border crossing have started asking truckers from Afghanistan for passports and visas which was not the case earlier. This means an effective closure of the border. In response, Afghanistan has now started asking Pakistani drivers for passports and documents. 

Afghanistan: UNAMA “deeply concerned” about women’s arrests and detentions 
On 11 January, Aljazeera reported that the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) is “deeply concerned” about the Taliban arbitrarily detaining and arresting Afghan women who do not follow the dress code with regard to the hijab. A statement from UNAMA revealed that it had “documented a series of hijab decree enforcement campaigns.” It further stated that this has been happening since 01 January in the provinces of Kabul and Daykundi. These arrests were made under orders from the Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. The UNAMA also stated that in order to secure her release a woman’s male guardian, also called a mahram, had to sign “a letter guaranteeing her future compliance or else face punishment.”

Pakistan: IMF completes first review of economic reform programme
On 11 January, the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced that it had completed the first review of Pakistan’s economic reform programme and cleared the way for an immediate disbursement of SDR 528 million, which is roughly equal to USD 700 million. This latest release has brought the total disbursement under the arrangement to approximately USD 1.9 billion. The board acknowledged that the macroeconomic conditions in the country had improved and stated that “Economic activity has stabilized in Pakistan, although the outlook remains challenging and dependent on the implementation of sound policies.” It also advised Pakistan that it “requires strict adherence to fiscal targets while protecting social spending, a market-determined exchange rate to absorb external shocks, and further progress on structural reforms to support stronger and more inclusive growth”. The release of this fund will help Pakistan implement key reforms of the IMF-supported programme and in dealing with the countries various economic challenges. 

Pakistan: Imran Khan arrested with additional charges by Rawalpindi police
On 10 January, Dawn reported the former Prime Minister Imran Khan had been arrested by Rawalpindi police with additional cases amidst the previous ones. An accountability court in Islamabad filed new cases that include the attack on the General Headquarters (GHQ) and Imran Khan’s wife Bushra Bibi being involved in Toshakhana incident. According to the charge sheet, the former PTI leader during his office had retained gifts which were received from the representatives of different countries. Most notably, on 19 December 2023 the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) filed a case against Imran and his wife for holding back a jewelry set that was gifted by the Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman. Regarding the cases filed, the court decided to conduct further proceedings till 11 January 2024 and summoned twelve witnesses to report to the court. Khan apprised he was being harassed for “reining in the powerful quarters” while speaking to the media in Adiala Jail. Meanwhile, Judge Mohammad Bashir ruled out the petitions of Khan asking for post-arrest bail in the Toshakhana and Al-Qadir Trust case that involved about GBP 190 million and adjourned proceedings on the corruption case until 17 January. 

Central Asia
Uzbekistan: Shavkat Mirziyoyev establishes a unit for producing military equipment
On 12 January, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev paid a visit to the Defense Industry Agency's production cluster located in the Tashkent province. According to the presidential press service, Uzbekistan is actively modernizing and reforming its armed forces, which includes building training fields and upgrading infrastructure to enhance soldiers' combat training. The modernization of the defense industry has also been a goal for the nation. Shavkat Mirziyoyev gave the order to move the Defense Industry Agency to the Ministry of Defense and take the required steps to advance the Agency's development in January of last year in order to achieve these goals. The Agency has started a methodical effort to become proficient in producing various military-technical goods, procure and provide the armed forces with cutting-edge military gear, and update current weaponry.

Armenia: Armenia outlines its goals for expanding its cooperation with the EU
On 12 January, according to a press release from the Mission of the Republic of Armenia to the European Union, Tigran Balayan, the Armenian Ambassador to the EU, took part in a roundtable discussion alongside Permanent Representatives and Ambassadors of the EU member states, as well as high-ranking representatives of the European Commission and EEAS. The meeting was arranged as a follow-up to the attendance of Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan in the EU Foreign Affairs Council on 11 December 2023 by the Permanent Representative of Greece to EU Ambassador Ioannis Vrailas. In light of decisions made by the EU Council, Ambassador Balayan offered Armenia's perspective on new directions for strengthening ties with the EU during the conversation. In order to elevate Armenia-EU relations to a completely new plane, he discussed various concepts and recommendations for strengthening those ties.

Middle East and Africa This Week
Iran: Iran seizes American tanker carrying Iraqi crude
On 11 January, Aljazeera reported that Iran has seized American tanker carrying Iraqi crude and bound for Turkey in the Gulf of Oman. This was in retaliation to seizure of the same vessel last year and its oil by the United States. The ship was previously called Suez Rajan and had been “prosecuted and fined” by the US for carrying sanctioned Iranian oil. The Iranian news agency Fars reported that the navy has stated that “After the theft of Iranian oil by the United States last year, St Nikolas tanker was seized by Iran’s Navy.” The United States condemned the attack calling it “unlawful seizure” and demanded immediate release of the ship and its crew. 

Iran: Complaint filed against Iran at the ICJ for downing plane in 2020
On 09 January, Aljazeera reported that Canada, Sweden, the United Kingdom and Ukraine have filed a complaint against Iran with the United Nations civil aviation agency as the latter had downed a Ukraine International Airlines plane in 2020 which had people onboard belonging to these countries. The countries have accused Tehran of “using weapons against a civil aircraft in flight in breach of its international legal obligations.” The plane in question was a Boeing 737-800 and had gone down immediately after take off from Tehran on 8 January 2020 after the Revolutionary Guard had fired two missiles at it. This was in retaliation to the assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani by the United States. 176 people had been killed in the incident. Three days later, Iran had accepted that its Revolutionary Guard had mistakenly fired two missiles at the plane. It is to be noted that these countries had already filed a case against Iran seeking reparations for the families of the victims at the International Court of Justice.  In 2023, Iran had sentenced ten people being involved in the case and also awarded compensation of USD 150,000 for each of the families of the victims. Iran has also filed a counter case at the ICJ accusing Canada of violating its “international obligations” as it has allowed people to seek civil damages against Tehran.

Syria: Syria extends its permission to UN humanitarian supply
On 12 January, Syria's government has granted the UN approval to continue supplying humanitarian aid to the rebel-held northwest of the country for an additional six months through the use of a major border crossing with Turkey. Syria’s mission to the U.N. said in a statement that the Bab al-Hawa crossing need to be “effectively operationalized in a way that contributes to helping people in need in northwest Syria.” The statement further added that the permission period expires on 13 July 2024.

Mozambique: IMF's successful completion of the third review for loan program
On 09 January, Africanews reported that Mozambique's USD 456 million International Monetary Fund (IMF)-backed economic recovery program, Extended Credit Facility, received a boost with the successful completion of its third review. This allows for an immediate disbursement of USD 60.7 million to Maputo, bringing the total released funds to USD 273 million. The IMF commended the program's progress pointing to reduced inflation and a faster economic rebound. The USD 456 million package aims to support Mozambique's economic recovery, lower public debt and improve its financial stability. It also prioritises crucial public investments in human capital, climate adaptation and infrastructure.

Rwanda: Signs several deals with Jordan
On 08 January, BBC reported that in a bid to strengthen their relationship, Rwanda and Jordan signed several agreements during King Abdullah II Ibn Al-Hussein’s visit to Kigali. The deals span various sectors including health, economics, trade, agriculture and taxation, aiming to eliminate double taxation and tackle evasion. The collaboration extends to politics, defence and counter-terrorism as well. Jordan expressed gratitude for Rwanda's humanitarian aid to Gaza, highlighting the growing affinity between the two counties. 

Somalia: Said Abdullahi Deni re-elected in Puntland
On 08 January, BBC reported that Said Abdullahi Deni secured a second term as Puntland's President in a tensely contested election marred by previous disputes and violence. He won the elections securing 45 votes against Guled Salah Barre with 21 votes. Puntland carries out indirect elections where the clan leaders choose the Members of Parliament (MPs) who then elect the president. At least 26 people were killed in 2023 during clashes between Deni’s supporters and the opposition over the demand to conduct direct election. According to BBC, Deni's immediate swearing-in signals a continuation of his leadership in Somalia’s semi-autonomous Puntland region.

America and Europe This Week

Norway: Government passes controversial bill allowing deep sea mining
On 09 January, the BBC reported on the Norwegian government’s decision to allow deep sea diving, which could lead to catastrophic outcomes for marine life. By doing so, Norway became the first country enabling the action in order to extract minerals including lithium, scandium and cobalt– key to green technologies. The government stated that it would proceed cautiously especially while issuing licences, and assured that mining activities would assume only after further studies and exploration with the aid of private players, who can now bid for around 280,000 square kilometres of national waters. The government has specified that opening up didn’t imply mining. Marine biologists have expressed their concern on the detrimental effects on marine life. The UN-based International Seabed Authority (ISA) is set to finalise rules on deep sea mining in 2024. 

Europe: 2023 sets record for highest global temperatures
On 09 January, Copernicus Climate Change Service confirms 2023 as the warmest year since 1880, surpassing the 2016 peak and posing a threat to the Paris Agreement's 1.5 degrees Celsius target.  The urgency for global leaders to adopt policies combating climate change, however, seems to be lagging as the 2023 elections in the Netherlands and Argentina saw right-wing populists opposing aggressive climate action, while the possibility of former President Trump's return raises concerns about the future of U.S. climate policies. The imminent risk of irreversible tipping points, such as the west Antarctic ice sheet collapse, underscores the urgency for proactive measures given the unpredictable and long-lasting impacts of climate change. NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies climate impacts director, Alex Ruane said: “The climate system doesn’t care about politics.”

Greece: Church opposes government-backed same-sex marriage bill
On 06 January, ekathimerini reported the government’s failed efforts to reconcile with the Church of Greece on same-sex marriage and parenthood, leading clerics to urge lawmakers against supporting the impending bill in Parliament. The Holy Synod's Christmas circular opposing the legislation is believed to be linked to the government's inclination to expedite the bill rather than delay it until after the European elections. The government advised a cautious approach, emphasizing its commitment to institutionalize same-sex marriage while attempting to minimize opposition. 

Europe: Blinken visit to Turkey and Greece in attempt for regional de-escalation 
On 06 January, Deutsche Welle reported on the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken week-long tour to the Middle East, in an attempt to prevent a regional escalation of the war in Gaza. Blinken met with Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to discuss de-escalation, Israel’s aggression, establishment of the Palestinian state and uninterrupted delivery of aid into Gaza. They separately discussed Turkish approval of Sweden’s membership in NATO. Blinken later met Greece’s Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis to reiterate their alliance in containing the conflict.

About the authors
Padmashree Anandhan is a Project Associate at NIAS, Bengaluru. Anu Maria, Femy Francis, Dhriti Mukherjee, Shamini Velayutham and Akhil Ajith are Research Assistants at NIAS, Bengaluru. Akriti Sharma and Rohini Reenum is PhD scholar at NIAS, Bengaluru. Arun S, Narmatha and Vetriselvi Baskaran, Navinan, Gopi Keshav are postgraduate scholars from Defence and Strategic Studies, University of Madras, Chennai.

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