The World in a Flash
The Round-Up this week tries to understand Trudeau’s broken campaign promise on electoral reform, the confirmation of Trump’s cabinet picks, the corruption scandal gripping France’s presidential race, and a massive protest in Romania over the decriminalization of corruption.
Canada’s photogenic Prime Minister is under fire this week for breaking a promise to replace Canada’s first-past-the-post electoral system. The PM has been flip-flopping about this since his election, and as recently as two months ago he stated that he knew Canadians wanted a better system of choosing their government. In the wake of various town hall meetings, findings of a House of Commons committee, a ministerial tour, and public consultations, Trudeau and many of his supporters seem to have concluded that Canadian’s simply aren’t interested in electoral reform. Nevermind that save for the ridiculous MyDemocracy.ca “survey” that was sort of circulated and definitely criticized, the government has yet to ask Canadians what they would prefer to FPTP. The move to abandon reform has been called a “betrayal” by the NDP and Interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose told Canadians to think twice about what the PM says.
Former Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson was confirmed, with significant opposition, as Secretary of State for the United States this week. Secretary Tillerson has strong ties to Russia, highly connected to the oil industry, and a serious dearth of foreign policy or public experience. This news came with the concurrent news that the US had repealed an SEC regulation that forces oil companies to publicize the money they invest in foreign countries. A fairly standard and vital regulation to discourage corrupt practices in the extractives sector. While Secretary Tillerson faced significant opposition, Betsy DeVos who is up of Secretary of Education, is on incredibly thin ice as Trump’s weakest cabinet pick. DeVos is woefully unqualified for the position and, although Republicans are signalling confidence that she will be confirmed, there is pushback. With the vote split 50-50, if nobody budges it would be up to Vice President Pence to come and break the tie on the floor and would be the first time in history of the Senate such a move would be necessary for a cabinet pick.
Started because of a comment Penelope Fillon made in a 2007 interview, Penelope-Gate now threatens the career or French Presidential hopeful Francois Fillon. He is under investigation for allegedly giving his wife about €900,000 while claiming she was working for him as a parliamentary aide. The former socially conservative Prime Minister swept the primary, campaigning on a platform for integrity, promises to remove 500,000 public servant jobs, cut benefits, and claims that Russia poses “no threat.” Fillon has argued that he is the victim of a plot, and has accused the current left-wing government of attempting an “institutional coup d’état.” Though his part, Les Républicains, aren’t officially looking for a replacement, it is expected in the coming weeks.
An estimated 150,000 people gathered to protest outside the government headquarters in Bucharest on February 1st in response to the government’s emergency decree to decriminalize official misconduct passed the previous day. This is a massive setback for the country that has been fighting corruption, and had been making some progress over the past year. The decree puts aside criminal punishment for abuse of power in cases where the financial windfall is less than $47,800 USD. There is no justifiable reason for the move and some have called it a day of mourning for the rule of law. Several strategic allies including the US, Canada, and Germany have called for the government to repeal the emergency decree.