A new leader in Israel
On 13 June 2021, politicians in Israel voted to approve a new opposition-led government, with Naftali Bennett initially as prime minister. Benjamin Netanyahu is to become the leader of the opposition, after holding the office of prime minister since 2009.
Writing prior to the vote, Natan Sachs, Director of the Centre for Middle East Policy, examines the political make-up of the new coalition government and what policy aims it may push forward.
He states that the coalition is very broad, encompassing parties from the hard right, centre, left and an Islamic party, Ra’am. It has two leaders: Naftali Bennet and Yair Lapid. Bennet will serve as prime minister for two years with Lapid as foreign secretary. After two years, Lapid would become prime minister. However, the coalition is precarious, as it only holds 61 seats out of 120 in the Knesset.
The author details the political careers and ideologies of both Bennet and Lapid. Bennet is a former aide of Netanyahu and is “very, very hawkish on the Palestinian issue” but “genuinely liberal on some other issues”. Lapid is a centrist, secularist and the “successful leader of the anti-Netanyahu camp”.
Turning to the policy direction of the new coalition, Sachs believes it would look to act as a functioning government. On Palestine, the coalition would look to “freeze” any action, as Sachs believes it would not agree on any one proposal. Instead, it would want to pass a budget, invest in domestic programs, and focus on issues that affect the lives of Israelis.
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- Natan Sachs, ‘After Bibi’, Brookings Institute, 4 June 2021
Covid in Taiwan
In the early stages of the global pandemic, Taiwan achieved “remarkable success” in containing Covid-19. The island recorded no locally transmitted cases for eight months between April and December 2020. However, the situation has changed rapidly in recent days, with 1,824 domestic infections recorded in the last two weeks of May.
The article links the rise in cases to the quarantine procedures of pilots. It states that an outbreak was recorded at an airport hotel in Taoyuan. The hotel was found to have placed some pilots and crew members in the same building as domestic guests, whilst the Taiwan government reduced quarantine requirements for non-vaccinated pilots to three days.
Cases were also found at adult entertainment venues, “tea houses”, where pilots and crew members carrying the virus were also known to visit. The article states that contact tracing in these circumstances proved difficult, as people were unwilling to say that they had been there.
The author then considers the actions of the government in dealing with the pandemic. He says that Taiwan has administered few Covid tests, even among those who display symptoms of the virus. Additionally, he notes that the island has struggled to obtain vaccines and been slow to vaccinate its population.
He states that the current situation is concerning, as locally transmitted cases of Covid-19 are continuing to increase throughout the island and even spreading to hospitals. Despite this, Taiwan has said it will not yet go into a full lockdown; instead, it has introduced wearing masks in public and new restrictions on businesses and public gatherings.
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- Nick Aspinwall, ‘Taiwan’s Covid-19 spike threatens to unravel its success story’, The Diplomat, 22 May 2021
Elections in Peru
As of 11 June 2021, Peru’s electoral board concluded the results of the country’s presidential election as 50.17% to Pedro Castillo and 49.83% to Keiko Fujimori. However, Fujimori has refused to concede and the results need to be confirmed by Peru’s electoral authority. Oliver Stuenkel examines the candidates’ campaigns and what Castillo’s perceived victory means for the country’s future.
The author highlights the small margin of victory for Castillo and states that the election result “represents a broad rejection of the country’s political establishment”. Stuenkel explains that, in the first round of votes, 3 million voters chose either a blank or null vote. This exceeded the number of votes given to any single candidate.
The article gives a brief overview of the two candidates. Fujimori, the daughter of Peru’s former dictator Alberto Fujimori, has proposed a ‘hard-democracy’, which is described as a combination of democracy with “the supposedly positive aspects of autocracy”. Castillo is a former teacher and union leader who ran with a Marxist-Leninist party. He is socially conservative and opposed to gay marriage.
Stuenkel states that the country’s “highly fractured Congress” and Castillo’s small mandate may limit the extent to which he can push forward his proposals. He argues that Castillo may ultimately move towards the centre, similar to former president Ollanta Humala (who served from 2011 to 2016). However, the author argues that despite the challenges to Castillo’s rule, the results of the election itself represent a “deep malaise of democracy across Latin America”, which the president and Congress must pay attention to.
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- Oliver Stuenkel, ‘Peru’s polarized election reflects democratic malaise’, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 10 June 2021