Voters worldwide headed to the polls last week
Plus: Australia approves free trade deals, Kiribati has ambitious climate plans, and Kamala Harris visits the Philippines
Hi there Intriguer. A quick reminder that Team Intrigue will be off for the next two days. To our American Intriguers, have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and we’ll see everyone in your inboxes on Monday!
Today’s briefing is a ~4.8 min read:
- 🗳️ Election speed round: Voters worldwide head to the polls.
- ➕ Plus: Australia approves free trade deals, Kiribati has ambitious climate plans, and US VP Kamala Harris visits the Philippines.
📰 GLOBAL HEADLINES
Stories: 24 Sata, The Jerusalem Post, The Asahi Shimbun, La Nacion, RFI
🤿 DEEP DIVE
Around the world in four elections
- This past weekend saw elections in Malaysia and Nepal, as well as ‘elections’ in Kazakhstan and Equatorial Guinea.
- The results in Malaysia and Nepal are still too close to call, while Kazakhstan and Equatorial Guinea’s strongmen leaders secured resounding victories.
A busy weekend
What do Malaysia, Nepal, Kazakhstan, and Equatorial Guinea have in common?
If you correctly guessed that each of their flags has blue in them, we’re impressed by your flag expertise! (Please don’t @us that Kazakhstan’s flag is cyan which is actually more green than blue 🤣.)
All four countries also held elections last weekend, and while it’s hard to draw clear conclusions from any of them, each is worth understanding in its own right.
Election speed round!
So much to tell you, so little time…
1. 🇲🇾 Malaysia
The result: None of Malaysia’s three major coalitions won enough seats for a majority, which resulted in the country’s first hung parliament.
What’s at stake: Malaysia has suffered political instability for years, and the inconclusive election result is unlikely to bring the disparate factions together. Without a clear winner, King Al-Sultan Abdullah will have to step in and choose the next prime minister.
What the experts are saying:
“Election results clearly show we [Malaysians] are divided, worryingly along religious/racial lines. Not a surprise as it’s been obvious but results vindicate it.”
2. 🇳🇵 Nepal
The result: It’s still too early to call the election. But one smaller party (led by an ex-TV host who became famous in 2013 for hosting the longest-ever talkshow) made unexpected gains.
Why we’re telling you: Nepal is the unfortunate meat in the geopolitical sandwich of East Asian geopolitics. The next Nepalese government will have the challenging task of juggling attention from India, China, and the US at a time of heightened tensions between the trio.
3. 🇰🇿 Kazakhstan
The result: Without a real opposition to challenge him, incumbent President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev easily cruised to victory with more than 80% of the vote. The second-most popular choice in the election was the ‘against all’ option.
What’s at stake: President Tokayev promised to reset Kazakh politics after violent revolts in January. Who knew he actually meant he would ‘re-sit’ as President. Classic mix-up.
4. 🇬🇶 Equatorial Guinea
The result: President Teodoro Obiang’s ruling party won a thoroughly believable 99% of the votes.
What’s at stake: President Obiang has been in power for 43 years, and is the world’s longest-ruling head of state. Sunday’s vote will see him extend his rule over the oil-producing country. (Fun fact: Equatorial Guinea lies both north and south of the equator but does not touch it).
What the experts are saying:
“These are the type of [election] results that would make even the likes of Kagame, Kim Jong-un, and Berdimuhamedow blush. A total farce.”
2022 election season is winding down
According to the National Democratic Institute, we’ve got just two more elections in 2022: Fiji’s general election on 14 December and legislative elections in Tunisia on 17 December.
What did you think of our global election round up?
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🔦 REGIONAL SPOTLIGHT
Southeast Asia & the Pacific
Australia’s Parliament approved free trade deals with India and the United Kingdom that were negotiated under former Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
- If approved by the Parliaments of India and the UK, the deals will boost trade with Australia’s seventh and ninth-largest trade partners.
Last week, Cambodia’s ‘Phaka Lamduan’ rice won the 2022 World’s Best Rice competition in Phuket, Thailand.
- The Cambodian entry narrowly beat Thailand’s ‘Hom Mali 105’, which judges deemed slightly less fragrant.
At least 268 people were killed in a 5.6-magnitude earthquake that shook the Indonesian island of Java on Monday.
- Earthquakes are common in Indonesia; sadly, officials expect the number of casualties to climb.
Kiribati (which we are duty bound to remind you is pronounced ‘kee·ruh·bas’) is asking the international community to help it physically raise its islands by moving sand from seabeds onto land.
- Kiribati has a tiny population of only 119,000 but is among the most vulnerable nations to climate change; the highest point on its most populous island, Tarawa, is only three metres above sea level.
Temasek, which owns huge brands such as Singapore Airlines and Singtel, wrote down its US$275M investment in collapsed crypto-exchange FTX last week.
- FTX’s collapse highlights a challenge for governments in dealing with emerging financial technologies: should they regulate them and thus perhaps give them unwarranted legitimacy, or adopt a ‘buyer beware’ approach and watch as citizens lose their life savings?
🗞 IN OTHER NEWS…
Harris on tour
The news: US Vice President Kamala Harris visited the Philippines to reinvigorate the US’s relationship with one of its most critical Pacific allies.
- Harris reassured President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. that the US would help the Philippines oppose Chinese incursions into the South China Sea, which Beijing claims as its own.
A recent flare-up: Earlier this week, the Chinese Coast Guard forcibly seized debris believed to be the jettisoned stages of a Chinese rocket launch from the Filipino navy, which was in the process of salvaging it.
- According to professor Jay L Batongbacal:
“[The Phillipines should] protest [China’s] abusive behavior at sea that continues to fly in the face of international law, and evince persistent intentional irresponsible and dangerous behavior toward countries it claims to be negotiating a Code of Conduct with.”
Between a rock and a hard place: The Philippines’ relationship with the US has also been shaky in recent years.
- While Marcos’ presidential predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte, maintained good relations with President Trump, he once called US President Barack Obama a “son of a whore.”
Harris’ visit is the latest sign that a more assertive China – particularly in the South China Sea – is working to push the Philippines and the US closer together.
🦃 TURKEY TIME
As a special treat for our soon-to-be-bursting American friends, here are some interesting, fun, and gross facts about the American Thanksgiving celebration.
- The first ‘Thanksgiving meal’ took place in 1621 and lasted for three days.
- President Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a permanent national holiday in 1863.
- Americans eat ~50 million pumpkin pies on Thanksgiving.
- Jingle Bells was allegedly originally written as a Thanksgiving song.
- Norfolk Island in Australia is one of the few places outside America that celebrates Thanksgiving, a custom dating back to when American whaling ships made port calls there in the 19th century.
- Americans consume ~4,500 calories per person on Thanksgiving.
- Black Friday is the busiest day of the year for plumbers in the US (they say it’s because of clogged garbage disposals and not… 🚽)
Of course, the history of Thanksgiving is darker and more complex than the celebration lets on. If you fancy a little history lesson with your turkey this year, we recommend: