Last Week in Foreign Affairs (November 26 - December 2)
Vox Party Picks Up Seats in Spain
Andalusia, an autonomous community in southern Spain, on Sunday elected a far-right party to their regional parliament for the first time since the death of right-wing leader Francisco Franco in 1975. Running on a populist platform analogous to President Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan, the Vox party gained 12 seats when it was only projected to take five. Their hard-line stance on immigration and revanchist rhetoric on Gibraltar resonated with the residents of largely rural Andalusia, who feel they have been left behind in an increasingly globalized world. This victory is yet another example of the far-right reactionary wave sweeping across Europe, but it is important to understand the results in context. While it is indeed the first far-right victory in Spain, it also occurred in one of the most active migration points in Europe. Furthermore, the ruling socialist party still won 33 seats. While they do not necessarily have a ruling majority, they can still form a coalition with other center-left parties with moderate concessions.
Qatar Leaves OPEC
After 60 years of membership, Qatar is leaving OPEC in favor of producing more natural gas, an area in which it already produces 30% of the global demand. While Qatar doesn’t necessarily produce much oil relative to other OPEC members, the move comes at a complicated time for the organization. The tiny, wealthy nation has been under embargo from its fellow members Saudi Arabia and the UAE after those nations accused Qatar of aiding Iran-backed terrorists. Adding to the situation is the fear that there is a global surplus of oil. This, coupled with falling demand and the threat of recession, has led OPEC to consider cutting production, which would lessen the monetary impact of leaving the association. This economic reality, in addition to the diplomatic crisis with no end in sight most likely lead to the decision by Qatar to leave. How this will affect oil production and relations in the region remains to be seen, but a split among the Sunni world would certainly be in Iran’s best interests.
Mexico Swears In a Socialist
On December 1st, Mexico swore in its new president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, marking the beginning of a six-year presidential term. Often referred to as “AMLO”, López Obrador first ran for president in 2006, and again in 2012, falling first to former President Felipe Calderon and then to Enrique Peña Nieto. AMLO cited corruption and unfair voting practices as the reasoning behind both losses, but this time, he won by a landslide. This victory was largely thought to result from the failures of his two predecessors. Both former presidents failed to address massive institutional corruption and drug violence plaguing the country. Nieto was especially unpopular due to his economic programs that failed to revive the economy after the Great Recession, and Mexicans have seen their country fall behind most developed nations economically over the same time period. AMLO, with his populist rhetoric and anti-establishment persona, was thus an attractive alternative to the mainstream PRI and PAN candidates. His presidency, however, was plagued with controversy before he even took office. He called for an unpopular referendum on a desperately-needed airport in Mexico City that he deemed was corrupt. Many of his detractors boycotted the vote, and due to the rampant false information about the project, the 1% of Mexicans who did vote weren’t even sure what the referendum was considering. If this is a sign of things to come, Mexico could be in for a tumultuous six years.
Yellow Vest Protests Extend Into Third Week
The “yellow vest” protests across France, where crowds consisting mostly of blue-collar workers have worn yellow vests and demonstrated against the government, entered their third week on Saturday. While numbers have dwindled to 36,000 from 200,000 during the first week, violent incidents have risen since the start of the protests. Those involved originally mobilized to protest a gas tax increase and a president who seems increasingly out of touch with his constituents. Now, the movement has turned into a broader protest on French identity, nationalism, and the role of the government in everyday life. The French are well-known for their capacity for civil unrest against government overreach, but the sheer size and animosity involved in these protests have evoked memories of May 1968 and even the French Revolution. President Macron has asked the Prime Minister to meet with the organizers and requested his Interior Minister to draw up police plans to combat any violence.