EsadeGeo Daily Digest, 13/01/2020

South China Morning Post – Sarah Zheng / Where to for the KMT after Han Kuo-yu’s failed bid for Taiwan president?

  • Uncertainty  hangs over the political future of Kaohsiung mayor Han Kuo-yu and the embattled Kuomintang (KMT) party after their heavy losses in Taiwan’s election, according to analysts. He lost the presidency by a 20-point margin to incumbent Tsai Ing-wen, from the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). Moreover, the  KMT also failed to break the DPP’s hold on the island’s legislature, securing just 38 of the 113 seats compared to the DPP’s 61. Taiwan’s electorate voted in great numbers, with turnout at 74.9 per cent.  
  • KMT chairman Wu Den-yih and other top leaders resigned late on Saturday to take responsibility for the losses, despite Wu’s promise to take back the legislature. Wu said the KMT had failed to meet its expectations and needed to improve.
  • Political analysts stated that Han’s campaign was undermined by divisions within the KMT, Han’s personal blunders and pro-Beijing image, and the KMT’s controversial list of candidates. The party needed to reach out to younger voters, who mostly turned out for Tsai, energised by issues such as same-sex marriage and her support for Hong Kong protesters, they said.
  • South China Morning Post – Kimmy Chung / Hong Kong protesters feel new burst of hope as Tsai Ing-win sweeps to resounding victory in Taiwan elections
  • Foreign Affairs – Rush Doshi / China steps up its information war in Taiwan

Financial Times – Jim Brunsden & Michael Peel / Malta changes leadership in wake of Daphne Caruana Galizia probe

  • Malta’s new prime minister Robert Abela will be sworn in on Monday after the deepening scandal of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder forced a change in the country’s political leadership. Mr. Abela won the election to lead the ruling Labour party in a vote on Saturday. He is the son of a former Maltese president, and campaigned on a platform of social reforms that appealed to party members.
  • Vera Jourova, the EU’s justice chief, warned Malta last month that Brussels expected “a thorough and independent investigation, free from any political interference”, of the murder scandal. She complained of “a lack of significant progress” in essential anti-corruption reforms. “The latest developments show that no further time should be lost.” A recent fact-finding mission by the European parliament also raised concerns about the state of the rule of law in the country.
  • Caruana Galizia’s car-bomb killing shocked Europe and fed into broader concerns about declining respect for the rule of law within the EU. The new European Commission, led by Ursula von der Leyen, has vowed to create a new “mechanism” for monitoring and enforcing the rule of law. 
  • Reuters – Graham Fahy, Mark Potter & Pravin Char / Ireland’s PM sets stage for possible February election
  • EURACTIV – Philipp Grüll / Austria’s new conservative-Green coalition enthusiastic about climate and Europe

The New York Times – Declan Walsh / Libyan rivals announce a truce in the battle for Tripoli

  • Libya’s opposing parties have agreed to a cease-fire that took effect after midnight on Saturday, stoking fragile hopes for an end to months of escalating foreign-backed fighting around Tripoli, the capital, that has threatened to push the country into a major conflagration. The agreement was defended by the Turkish and Russian presidents at a meeting in Istanbul last week, ostensibly to end a surge in fighting that had caused thousands of deaths and displaced 300,000 civilians, according to the United Nations.
  • However, there were signs that some officials believed the truce might not last long. In fact, each side soon accused the other of breaking the cease-fire, amid reports of continuing fighting around Tripoli. Many Western officials took Mr. Putin’s cease-fire effort as an attempt to undermine faltering European and United Nations-led efforts to broker a political settlement in Libya. But on Sunday, the UN mission to Libya welcomed the truce.
  • International attention to Libya has grown in recent weeks as other countries have taken a greater role in the fight. Mr. Hifter’s campaign to capture Tripoli is backed by the United Arab Emirates, which launched airstrikes by warplanes and drones, and by a contingent of Kremlin-backed Russian mercenaries that arrived last fall.
  • Al-monitor – Fehim Tastekin / Ankara divides Syrian rebels on fighting in Libya

Brookings – Bruce Riedel / Remembering Oman’s Sultan Qaboos, a critical interlocutor for the US in the Middle East

  • The Omani Sultan Qaboos ruled the country for five decades, shepherding its transformation from a medieval backwater in the Arabian Peninsula to a modern country with good relations with all its neighbors. Oman has modest oil reserves, and Qaboos invested wisely in infrastructure and development. Schools, hospitals, and modern facilities were brought in to the nation. Women can vote and be candidates for office. But 55% of Omanis are under the age of 25, and the country has witnessed serious protests in 2017 and 2011.
  • The presence of American troops in Oman date back to 1980, when the abortive hostage rescue mission in Iran was staged from Oman. Ironically, despite his close relationship with the United States, Qaboos only made one state visit to Washington in 50 years.
  • Qaboos was the 14th generation of his family ruling Oman. His shoes will be difficult to fill. No successor has the decades of legitimacy and leadership that Qaboos enjoyed, nor the training needed. The disruption in the region due to the crisis over the killing of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani adds to the concerns about the future of the sultanate.
  • The Washington Post – Brian Murphy / Sultan Qaboos, who transformed Oman into a regional power broker, dies at 79

The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and EsadeGeo. The summaries above may include word-for-word excerpts from their respective pieces.

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