The political scene in Iceland in 2019 was chaotic like it most often is. Even though the political scene isn’t large by any means, with 63 MPs in the Icelandic Parliament and 23 seats in the Reykjavík City Council, the close quarters lead to intense fighting. Often, the only saving grace for Icelandic politicians is the fact that Icelanders move on to the ‘next scandal’ extremely quickly. Yesterday’s news becomes yesterday’s news in a matter of days. That’s why we have a recap such as this one. From Eurovision scandals and Mike Pence’s controversial visit to nefarious Namibian dealings, and everything between. Step into the tumultuous political scene in Iceland with us.
Fallout from Klaustur
The year started with the fallout from the Klaustur Scandal, where six MPs made sexist, ableist, and homophobic remarks about their colleagues at the Klaustur bar in downtown Reykjavík. Even though the scandal took place in 2018, the case rattled Icelanders so that ripples were felt through the new year. The court case of whistle-blower Bára Halldórsdóttir came to an end as Miðflokkur (The Central Party) MPs had charged her for invasion of privacy. Bára was made to delete the recordings. Meanwhile, The Central Party became the second-largest party in Iceland, polling at 14.8% of voters in October.
Third Energy Package
The Third Energy Package sounds like something you would guzzle down while running a marathon, but it’s anything but. The matter split opinions at the beginning of the year as politicians and the public alike debated it hotly. The Third Energy Package was approved by the EU in 2009, and was to be adopted by EU and EEA member states. Ten years later, Iceland was the only country not to have approved the package. Many believed Iceland would give up a part of its sovereignty, and force Iceland to build up a power link to the EU. Eventually, the package was approved in September by a Parliamentary vote of 46 to 13.
Strikes, strikes, strikes
The gap between the lowest and highest earners of society has led to wage disputes and strikes. The spring of 2019 saw tourism industry workers strike for higher wages, with hotel staff striking and bus drivers following in their wake. Later in 2019, journalists striked to demand fair wages. That debate is currently still ongoing, but newspaper Morgunblaðið saw it fit to have part-time staff members violate the strike as well as laying off fifteen journalists.
On a happier, yet still, somewhat grim, note – the youth in Iceland took part in the global youth climate strike movement led by Greta Thunberg. Minister of Environment Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson met with protesters.
Flags and dishwashing brushes
Anti-capitalist, BDSM wearing, industrial techno band Hatari represented Iceland at the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest in Israel and managed to stir the pot. Band members held up banners bearing the Palestinian flag during the revelation of the votes, much to the displeasure of Israeli officials. Eventually, national broadcaster RÚV received a fine and the flag-scene was removed from the official Eurovision DV.
In June, a dishwashing brush and an airport wait strained the diplomatic relationship between Turkey and Iceland. A Belgian man stuck a dishwashing brush in star players’ Emre Belozoglu’s face like a microphone while he was being interviewed by reporters. This happened following an unusually long wait at the airport. The Turkish government issued a diplomatic note to Iceland denouncing what it is calling “disrespectful” and “violent” behaviour against the country’s men’s national football team. Iceland won 2-0, but Turkey has not lost a single match since then.
Bills, bills, bills.
Bills, bills, bills is not only a Destiny’s Child song but also what the Parliament started to approved in droves in the spring- and summertime. A new plan was approved to build up tourism infrastructure, while a plan to ban single-use plastics was approved, a widely supported move.
In May, the Government passed an abortion bill which legalises the termination of a pregnancy within the first 22 weeks regardless of circumstances. Abortion was previously legal within the same timeframe, however, a person’s decision to terminate a pregnancy after the 16th week required approval by a committee. That decision is now solely in the hands of the pregnant person.
This June, the Directorate of Health proposed a sugar tax on soft drinks and sweets to work towards long term goals in public health. The Icelandic Dentist’s Association has yet to release a statement on the matter. Later that summer, calls for stricter regulations on foreign land ownership started to rear their head. It’s an oft and long-discussed subject which appears to be stuck in political purgatory. But what should be done, and who’s land is it anyway?
USA – Iceland and Mike Pence
This summer, the Iceland – USA relationship was a hot talking point. US military presence is returning to Iceland, as the US Air Force and US Navy will construct facilities at Keflavík airport. The Air Force had facilities there from 1946 to 2006 and is going to spend ISK 7 billion ($56.2 million/€49.5 million) on military infrastructure. Meanwhile, Iceland increased its defence budget by 37%, due to “…increasing temporary presence of NATO forces at Keflavík Airport due to worsening security conditions in Europe, including in the North Atlantic.”
Vice President’s Mike Pence’s official visit to Iceland in August hit the news. Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir originally intended to miss the meeting due to commitments at the convention of Nordic trade unions. Eventually, Pence extended his stay to speak to Katrín about Arctic issues as well as defence matters. His visit was controversial and proved to somewhat unpopular with road closures, high cost and last but not least it was protested by numerous organizations due to his pro-war and anti-LGBTQ+ agenda.
The public has called for the government to make major improvements to the handling of asylum seekers in Iceland. In August, authorities’ handling of two Afghan families seeking asylum in Iceland were heavily criticized. Later, in November, the Directorate of Immigration deported an asylum seeker who was just shy of 36 weeks pregnant. Both cases were met with outrage, as they were considered inhumane.
Move the clock – or not?
Few issues have garnered as much attention – and feedback – as the contentious suggestion to move the Icelandic clock back one hour to better align with solar time. Should Iceland move the clock?
Last but not least are the Fishrot Files. Icelandic fishing company Samherji is accused of tax evasion and bribery in Namibia to ensure access to fishing quotas in the country. Samherji is one of Iceland’s biggest companies and the fallout has been according to that. The government issued additional funding to investigate Samherji’s wrongdoings, and Icelandic tax authorities have opened an investigation into the case. Namibian ministers have resigned, as well as the CEO of Samherji. The case is still being resolved.
Explainer: Malaysia's political maneuvering, next episode – TheChronicleHerald.ca
KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – A year of Malaysian political maneuvering has taken another turn with opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim saying he now has enough support in parliament to be able to form a government and replace Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.
DOES THIS MEAN ANWAR BECOMES PRIME MINISTER?
No. It’s far from certain Anwar will take the position he has tried to get for more than two decades.
Anwar’s first step needs to be convincing the king he has the support of the majority of lawmakers. To do that he would need to see the king, who is currently hospitalised, though not for a serious problem.
The king could make him premier if he is convinced Anwar can command a majority, or he could dissolve parliament and trigger elections on the prime minister’s advice.
So far, no major political party has come out in support of him.
Major parties in Muhyiddin’s coalition dismissed his claim as “cheap publicity” and said they firmly supported the premier.
Anwar’s own party only has 38 lawmakers – which means he would need to win over other parties or factions within them to get majority support from the 222-seat parliament.
HOW DID IT GET TO THIS POINT?
Malaysian politics tumbled into turmoil in February when Anwar’s perennial rival, nonagenarian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad resigned in a growing power struggle within their alliance that won a surprise victory in a 2018 election.
Both ended up sidelined while Muhyiddin emerged as prime minister of a government in which the biggest party is the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) – which ruled Malaysia for decades until 2018 and to which Anwar, Mahathir and Muhyiddin all once belonged.
But Muhyiddin’s position has remained precarious with a single digit majority in parliament, while UMNO withdrew some of its backing after former leader and former Prime Minister Najib Razak was found guilty of corruption in the multi-billion 1MDB scandal.
The opposition, including Anwar and Mahathir, had vowed to oust him, saying he won power by shifting alliances instead of earning it at the ballot box.
HOW DO THE POLITICAL FORCES STACK UP?
Malaysian politics revolves around coalitions, but the strongest single party is likely to be UMNO – which stands for the interests of majority Malays in the multi-ethnic country.
Although it was voted out amid anger over the 1MDB scandal in 2018, it has improved its showing at more recent by-elections. Many Malays were unhappy with what they saw as too much focus on non-Malay interests, and particularly those of ethnic Chinese, under the Mahathir-Anwar coalition. Anwar remains allied to a largely Chinese party.
Kingmakers in any coalition, whether through elections or not, could well be the parties from Sabah and Sarawak on the island of Borneo – who have long asked for more autonomy and a bigger share of oil and gas revenues from state oil giant Petronas.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR THE ECONOMY?
Malaysia’s economy plunged into its first contraction since the 2009 global financial crisis as a result of the impact of the coronavirus on trade and tourism.
While all governments are likely to promise large stimulus packages, political turmoil could hold up prospects for delivering on them and being able to find the financing for them.
If whoever forms a government is beholden to the Borneo parties, that could also mean that central government revenues take a heavier knock as they could end up getting smaller revenue from Petronas.
Muhyiddin, whose coalition relies on the ruling coalition from Sarawak for support, had already agreed to pay a sales tax they demanded and had shown willing to give them a bigger share of revenues.
(Writing by Matthew Tostevin; Editing by Martin Petty)
In US, Attention to Politics Shows Typical Election Year Surge – Gallup Poll
- Percentage of Americans following news on national politics is back to 2008 high
- Democrats are following national political news more closely than Republicans are
- Older Americans are most likely to follow news on national politics “very closely”
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Less than two months from the presidential election, 42% of Americans say they follow news about national politics “very closely,” similar to the 39% to 43% who paid this close attention in each of the prior three presidential election years since 2008. Today’s level is a bit higher than in 2004, when 36% followed national political news very closely. Attention was far lower in 1996, at 27%.
Line graph. Rate of those following news about elections closely typically rises prior to election. The current rate matches 2008 record high of 42%.
Since 2006, about a third of U.S. adults have closely followed political news in non-election years. That figure ticks up sharply in presidential election years, only to recede the following year. While Americans’ attention didn’t fall much in the first year after President Donald Trump was elected, it did dwindle to 32% by 2019, only to spike 10 percentage points this year.
In addition to the 42% of Americans saying they follow national political news very closely in the Aug. 31-Sept. 13 poll, 38% say they follow it “somewhat closely,” 14% “not too closely” and 6% “not at all.”
Partisans Most Attentive to Political News
Partisan differences in attention to news have not been large in presidential election years, but to the extent there is a difference — as in 2008 and 2012 — Republicans have been the ones more likely to pay close attention. By contrast, today, Democrats are now slightly more likely than Republicans to say they are following news about national politics very closely (51% vs. 45%, respectively).
In line with prior election year polls, independents are significantly less attentive than either major party group, with about a third (34%) saying they are following news on national politics very closely.
Line graph. The percentage of Americans paying very close attention to national political news, by political affiliation. 51% of Democrats now say they are paying very close attention to national political news, compared with 45% of Republicans and 34% of independents. Unlike previous election cycles, Democrats now most likely to say following political news very closely.
Age Disparities in Focus on National Politics
Older Americans are typically more likely than younger adults to say they are following news on national politics very closely. However, unlike their two age cohort comparisons, older Americans are the only age group to be more likely this year (56%) than in 2008 (50%) to say they are following political news very closely.
Adults aged 18 to 34 are the least likely to say they are following news on national politics very closely this year, at 23% — a significantly lower figure than the 32% of 18- to 34-year-olds who said the same in 2008, when the nation witnessed a historic turnout of young voters.
Four in 10 middle-aged Americans (aged 35 to 54) say they are following political news very closely, just shy of the 44% high for this age group that Gallup recorded in 2008.
Line graph. The percentage of Americans paying very close attention to national political news, by age group. 56% of those aged 55 or older now say they are paying very close attention to national political news, compared with 40% of those 35-54 and 23% of those 18-34. As with previous elections, older respondents more likely than younger ones to say following national politics closely.
With just six weeks until the Nov. 3 contest, Americans are relatively focused on national politics, as is typical in presidential election years. Compared with their interest in 2008, a year with record-high voter turnout, Democrats are more attentive today, a finding that could bode well for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.
When Gallup last measured the amount of thought Americans are giving to the presidential election, Republicans and Democrats were about equal. That situation could have changed since mid-August and the political conventions, but given Republicans’ usual advantage on that measure, a tie between the parties may suggest a stronger Democratic positioning than usual. Gallup will update its “election thought” measure in the coming weeks.
Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.
Learn more about public opinion metrics that matter for the 2020 presidential election at Gallup’s 2020 Presidential Election Center.
The one thing that matters to stocks more than politics
The presidential election is mere weeks away on Nov. 3 and the Supreme Court is also now under a microscope after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg upset the court’s delicate political balance.
<p class=”canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm” type=”text” content=”All of this has been featured in copious pundit commentary and research notes — especially as the market turmoil that surrounded 2016 proved to be a huge boon for some savvy investors like Carl Icahn, who left a Trump election night celebration to buy stocks and make $1 billion.” data-reactid=”17″>All of this has been featured in copious pundit commentary and research notes — especially as the market turmoil that surrounded 2016 proved to be a huge boon for some savvy investors like Carl Icahn, who left a Trump election night celebration to buy stocks and make $1 billion.
But in a fresh note from Capital Economics, economist Oliver Allen points out the obvious point many forget during election season: the economy is “probably more important than politics.”
<p class=”canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm” type=”text” content=”Politics, Allen writes, is still moving the market. The death of Ginsburg was the “final nail in the coffin” for more fiscal stimulus that millions of Americans need to stay afloat. It also has bearing on what may happen on Election Day, as the Supreme Court may eclipse the pandemic and the economy as key voting issues.” data-reactid=”19″>Politics, Allen writes, is still moving the market. The death of Ginsburg was the “final nail in the coffin” for more fiscal stimulus that millions of Americans need to stay afloat. It also has bearing on what may happen on Election Day, as the Supreme Court may eclipse the pandemic and the economy as key voting issues.
Despite the impact that politics has on the stock market, Allen warns investors not to get ahead of themselves. It’s the economy that matters most, and most importantly, how the long-term coronavirus vaccines and eventual recovery unfold.
Though Allen says to look at the economy more than the election, Capital Economics doesn’t offer more than a vague “the S&P 500 will climb further over the next few years, as major economies eventually get their coronavirus outbreaks under control, and central banks keep monetary policy exceptionally loose,” which seems wise, given how silly 2019 predictions look now.
Many people remember how the disrupted Bush-Gore election in 2000 hurt equity markets, causing them to drop around 8%, but the turbulence cleared up relatively quickly, resulting in no long-term damage.
“Provided any dispute over this year’s election is also eventually resolved, we find it hard to see [the election] having a lasting impact on US equities, even if it could cause a spike in volatility following Election Day,” Allen writes.
The fact that politics is secondary to the economy when it comes to stock prices isn’t a controversial take. Plenty of analysts point to uncertainty as being the chief problem. But the political implications for the stock market are frequently discussed by market strategists.
<p class=”canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm” type=”text” content=”Many financial pundits have said Trump is better for the stock market and economy, citing deregulation and market performance after his election amid dire predictions from some. And Allen notes that “a second term for President Trump would probably be a better outcome for US equities than a win for Joe Biden,” because of corporate taxes.” data-reactid=”36″>Many financial pundits have said Trump is better for the stock market and economy, citing deregulation and market performance after his election amid dire predictions from some. And Allen notes that “a second term for President Trump would probably be a better outcome for US equities than a win for Joe Biden,” because of corporate taxes.
<p class=”canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm” type=”text” content=”At the same time, Trump’s late and weak coronavirus response led, in part, to 200,000 deaths, skyrocketing unemployment, dampened earnings, and a recovery that is still trying to get off the ground. And though some stock prices (mostly tech stocks) are doing well — driving the S&P 500 (^GSPC) back to pre-coronavirus levels after a huge plunge — many companies are still in tough situations.” data-reactid=”37″>At the same time, Trump’s late and weak coronavirus response led, in part, to 200,000 deaths, skyrocketing unemployment, dampened earnings, and a recovery that is still trying to get off the ground. And though some stock prices (mostly tech stocks) are doing well — driving the S&P 500 (^GSPC) back to pre-coronavirus levels after a huge plunge — many companies are still in tough situations.
Source:- Yahoo Canada Finance
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