The rest of the world

Worsening food insecurity

The United Nations World Food Programme reports that even before Russia invaded Ukraine the number of people facing acute food insecurity and requiring urgent life-saving food assistance and livelihood support has been growing: Global Report on Food Crises - 2022. Climate-related shocks, conflict, and the disruptions of Covid-19 have all played their part in rendering 193 million people experiencing acute food insecurity at crisis or worse levels.

Food insecurity is concentrated in Africa – The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Sudan – but is also at crisis point in some middle eastern countries – Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria and Pakistan.

Other countries’ elections

Philippines: family values trump memories of a past dictator

In 1986 the brutal regime of Ferdinand Marcos ended. After massive “people power” demonstrations he, his wife Imelda and 22 crates of cash valued at $US700 million (only a small fraction of what they had stolen), were evacuated from their palace by a US helicopter and taken out of the country in an inglorious exit. (Imelda’s 3000 pairs of shoes were left behind.) The 21 years of Marcos’s presidency, mainly under martial law, saw widespread corruption and murder of his political opponents.

Now his son Ferdinand Marcos Jr has been swept into power with 59 percent of the vote. His vice-presidential running mate, Sara Duterte-Carpio, daughter of outgoing president strongman Rodrigo Duterte, has done even better, with 61 percent of the vote.

The theatrics of the election are well-covered in the media, but a little history helps us understand the politics of this election. Last weekend, before the election, Manila-based academic Richard Heydarian was on the ABC’s Saturday Extra explaining the Philippines’ recent political history: The Marcos comeback. Although there was a transition to democracy after Marcos’s departure, it has never been complete, and the shadow of Marcos Sr still hangs over the country. The politics of the country is best understood in terms of rivalry between dynastic families, rather than class, identity, or other groupings as we observe in other democracies.

Writing in Foreign Affairs just before the election Sheila Coronel of Columbia University also takes us through the background to the election: The Philippines’ strongman problem: why political dynasties are dominating the presidential election. Duterte’s strongman extra-judicial approach to crime, and his rhetoric against US imperialism, have proven to be popular. “Marcos and Duterte have capitalized on their fathers’ allure, money, and dense political networks”. Like so many strongmen, Duterte won support from the masses by ridiculing those who were concerned for democracy and human rights, by portraying them as “effete, elitist, and pathetically out of touch”.

The enthusiasm with which many young people have welcomed Marcos Jr reminds us of the importance of a nation learning its own history. It is chilling to imagine where Germany would be today, for example, had not its school history curriculum been a major aspect of its postwar reconstruction. It’s also a reminder of the danger in the common refrain that we should “move on”, or “just get over it” when we recall past abuses.

Ireland: a step closer to re-unification

Writing in The Guardian Fintan O’Toole explains the implications of Sinn Féin’s victory in Northern Ireland’s assembly elections: Sinn Féin’s victory won’t bring a united Ireland right away – but it’s getting closer. Support for the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has been declining for many years, and has fallen more sharply as the consequences of Brexit, which the DUP had strongly supported, come to be realized. In this election its vote has fallen by 7 percentage points, to 21 percent, while the vote for Sinn Féin has crept up by 1 percent to 29 percent.

The old Northern Ireland’s settlement, which O’Toole describes as a mechanism “to allow as many Protestants as possible to stay in the UK and exclude themselves from the emerging Irish state”, is well past its use-by date. (It’s strange that the UK, which is justifiably taking a strong stance against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, is oblivious to its hypocrisy in relation to Ireland.)