- Former U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was chosen by his Conservative Party to be the new Prime Minister of Britain.
- He now has until Oct. 31 to pass a Brexit deal and has many hurdles to overcome.
- Johnson has promised that the U.K. will leave the E.U. by that date, even if it means a no-deal Brexit.
- Johnson is a polarizing public figure who has made a number of controversial remarks. The news of his election sparked a wide range of responses from Members of Parliament and world leaders.
Boris Johnson Elected as PM
Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has been elected to succeed Theresa May as Prime Minister of Britain.
The decision came nearly two months after May announced she was stepping down from her role amid stalled Brexit negotiations. When a prime minister resigns, their party is tasked with electing a new leader, rather than holding entirely new national elections.
In this case, the Conservative Party held the election, and overwhelming voted for Johson.
According to local reports, Johnson received 92,153 votes – almost twice as many as his opponent, current Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt, who received 46,656 votes.
Johnson is set to meet with the Queen Wednesday, who will ask him to form a government with the other parties in Parliament. Once that is complete, he will officially be prime minister.
Though the Conservative Party’s working majority is small, Johnson is still expected to successfully form a government and take over as the leader.
Future of Brexit
The election, which Johnson was expected to win, was the easy part. Now, he has to take charge of Brexit.
After three years of failed negotiations that eventually lead to May’s resignation, Johnson now has just three months to get the deal through by Oct. 31. Johnson addressed the urgency during his acceptance speech.
“I think we know that we can do it, and the people in this country are trusting of us to do to it, and we know that we will do it,” Johnson said, before going on to recite his campaign motto. “Deliver Brexit, unite the country and defeat Jeremy Corbyn.”
“And that is what we’re going to do,” Johnson added. “We are going to energize the country, we’re going to get Brexit done on October 31, we’re going to take advantage of all the opportunities that it will bring in a new spirit of can-do, and we’re once again going to believe in ourselves.”
Johnson also pointed out that while the task is daunting, he believes he is up for it. It appears that the Conservative Party thinks he is the best person for the job too.
Johnson was one of the leading voices for the pro-Brexit campaign back in 2016 and essentially became its unofficial leader. However, there is still a world of obstacles he has to overcome.
Even though Parliament has a new prime minister, the same old divisions are still there.
Problems With Negotiations
When it comes to Brexit, there are huge divisions both in Parliament and among the Conservative Party itself.
Johnson not only has to unify his party, but he also has to unify a Parliament that voted down May’s Brexit plan three separate times this year.
Parliament is still divided over a Brexit deal. However, May’s original agreement is still the only one that E.U. leaders are offering.
Johnson has said he will renegotiate May’s deal. The E.U. has said that they will not. Additionally, some of Johnson’s plans to get more Members of Parliament on board have already been rejected by the E.U.
Specifically, Johnson has said he wants to get rid of a provision in the current version of the deal known as the Irish backstop.
Currently, Ireland and Northern Ireland have a seamless border where goods and services can flow with few restrictions.
When and if the U.K. leaves the E.U., Northern Ireland would come with while Ireland remains a member. That would make the trade between with Ireland subject to E.U. trade regulations and taxes that the U.K. is not currently subject to as an E.U. member.
The Irish backstop would essentially keep the seamless border, but it would require the U.K. to have a close relationship with the E.U., making the provision controversial with MP’s who do not want such a deep relationship with the E.U.
In fact, the backstops opposition was one of the main reasons May’s deal was voted down all three times. However, the backstop is one of the E.U.’s biggest sticking points, and E.U. leaders have insisted that a Brexit deal needs to have it.
Johnson has also promised that the U.K. will leave the E.U. on Oct. 31, even if there is not a deal, which is known as a no-deal Brexit. A no-deal Brexit, however, is highly unpopular, even among some staunch Brexit supporters.
That is because it would be incredibly disruptive to both the U.K.’s economy and the global economy.
Parliament has actually been relatively unified in their opposition to a no-deal Brexit, even voting on nonbinding motions against it.
Johnson as a Controversial Leader
In addition to the more technical aspects of the deal, there are also some questions around Johnson himself and his ability to bring together an already divisive Parliament.
While the Conservative Party seems to overwhelmingly believe that Johnson is their best chance, he is a highly polarizing political figure. Johnson is charismatic and blunt, but he also is known for his controversial views and statements.
He is a populist who supports controlling immigration and more isolationist policies. He is often in the public eye, and his opponents have criticized him for making factually incorrect statements, especially concerning Brexit.
Johnson has also been criticized for making contentious remarks in the past. When he was appointed as Foreign Minister in 2016, a letter he wrote in 2002 circulated where he used racist slurs to describe people in Africa.
Last year, he wrote a column in The Telegraph where he said that while he did not support banning burqas, he did think they were “ridiculous” because they make women look like “letter boxes” and “bank robbers.”
In 2005, he said that Islamaphobia is “natural,” and amid the London bombings, Johnson infamously said, “Islam is the problem.”
Johnson has also made comments about women that many have criticized as sexist. He has been a vocal opponent of gay marriage in the past and has used homophobic rhetoric. He compared homosexual sex to bestiality in his 2001 book Friends, Voters, Countrymen.
Response From MP’s & World Leaders
Members of Parliament and many world leaders had mixed responses to Johnson’s election.
Some expressed hesitant optimism about his leadership, like Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage, who wished Johnson well in a tweet, but also wondered, “Does he have the courage to deliver?”
The chief EU negotiator for Brexit, Michel Barnier said he looked forward to “working constructively” with Johnson.
President Donald Trump tweeted his congratulations, adding, “He will be great!”
Speaking at a Turning Point USA event Tuesday morning, Trump complimented Johnson and compared the new prime minister to himself.
“We have a really good man who’s going to be the prime minister of the UK now, Boris Johnson. Good man. He’s tough and he’s smart,” Trump said. “They call him Britain Trump. And people are saying that’s a good thing, they like me over there. That’s what they wanted. That’s what they need.”
Others, however, were less pleased. Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister also congratulated Johnson in a tweet and said that she would do all she could to work collaboratively.
“However, it would be hypocritical not to be frank about the profound concerns I have at the prospect of his premiership,” she continued. “I am certain that the vast majority of people of Scotland would not have chosen to hand the keys of No 10 to someone with his views and track record.”
Other’s echoed that sentiment. Labour Party MP Andy McDonald also tweeted, “Boris Johnson is dangerous, reckless, incompetent & can’t be trusted.”
Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn told BBC that his party is already planning a vote of no confidence to oust Johnson from office.
See what others are saying: (Vox) (The Guardian) (The New York Times)
Brazil’s Secretary of Culture Fired Over Speech Reminiscent of Nazi Rhetoric
- Brazil’s Secretary of Culture Roberto Alvim was fired on Friday after he appeared to paraphrase Nazi propaganda in his announcement of a national arts initiative.
- Several of Alvim’s sentences were strikingly similar to those of Joseph Goebbels, who served as the Reich Minister of Propaganda of Nazi Germany.
- Additionally, the music playing in the background of Alvim’s address was from an opera that Adolf Hitler found imperative in his life.
- After much backlash and call for the culture secretary’s termination, President Jair Bolsonaro announced that he dismissed Alvim from his position.
Brazil’s Secretary of Culture was terminated from his role on Friday after an official video was released of him seeming to paraphrase Nazi propaganda remarks.
Roberto Alvim, who was appointed to his position by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, announced a new initiative for increased funds dedicated to national art awards. In the 6-minute video, which has now been deleted from all Brazilian government official pages, Alvim was seen sitting at a desk beneath a portrait of Bolsonaro, a wooden cross to his side.
“The Brazilian art of the next decade will be heroic and national,” he said to the camera in Portuguese. “It will be endowed with great capacity for emotional involvement, and it will also be imperative since it will be profoundly connected to the urgent aspirations of our people — or it will be nothing.”
Parts of Alvim’s phrasing was almost identical to those of Joseph Goebbels, who served as the Reich Minister of Propaganda of Nazi Germany. The similarities can be seen in a speech of Goebbels’, quoted in a biography by historian Peter Longerich.
“German art of the next decade will be heroic, steely but romantic, factual without sentimentality,” Goebbels said in 1933. “It will be nationalistic, with great depth of feeling; it will be binding and it will unite, or it will cease to exist.”
The music playing in the background of Alvim’s address was also noteworthy. It came from Richard Wagner’s opera “Lohengrin,” which Adolf Hitler described in his autobiography, Mein Kampf, as being decisive in his life.
Reactions to Alvim’s Speech
It wasn’t long before people began to notice the likeness of Alvim’s rhetoric with the Nazi propaganda, and individuals across the political spectrum expressed outrage. Some — including prominent Brazillian politicians — publicly called for Alvim’s immediate professional termination.
Alvim first defended his speech in a Facebook post, saying, “what the left is doing is a remote association fallacy.” He called his controversial sentences a “rhetorical coincidence.”
But a few hours later, Alvim softened his defensive stance with an apology to the Jewish community. In another post, he claimed that the speech was brought to him by advisors who pulled various ideas tied to national art and that he had no idea of the fascist origin of those few lines. Alvim called the criticized phrases an “involuntary mistake” and said he was sorry from the bottom of his heart.
President Jair Bolsonaro announced on his official Twitter page that he had dismissed Alvim from his position on Friday. Bolsonaro wrote that despite Alvim’s apology, his remarks made his tenure “unsustainable.”
The Brazilian leader emphasized his “rejection of totalitarian and genocidal ideologies” and expressed full support for the Jewish community.
See what others are saying: (New York Times) (BBC) (Washington Post)
Pope Francis Names First Woman to Senior Vatican Diplomatic Role
- Pope Francis appointed a woman to a management role in the Vatican’s most powerful department for the first time on Wednesday.
- Dr. Francesca Di Giovanni, a Vatican official of 27 years, will now serve as the undersecretary for multilateral affairs in the Secretariat of State.
- Among other duties, Di Giovanni will oversee the coordination of the Vatican’s relationships with multilateral organizations, including the United Nations.
- While several other women hold high-ranking positions in the city-state, Di Giovanni’s leadership role in the Vatican’s most powerful branch is unparalleled.
Appointment of Di Giovanni
Pope Francis made an unprecedented move on Wednesday by appointing a woman for the first time to a managerial position in the Secretariat of State, the most powerful department of the Vatican.
Dr. Francesca Di Giovanni, an Italian lawyer and Vatican official of 27 years, was named the undersecretary for multilateral affairs in the Secretariat of State. Among other responsibilities, Di Giovanni will oversee a division that coordinates the Vatican’s relations with multilateral organizations, including the United Nations.
“The Holy Father has made an unprecedented decision, certainly, which, beyond myself personally, represents an indication of an attention towards women,” Di Giovanni told the Vatican’s in-house media.
“But the responsibility is connected to the job, rather than to the fact of being a woman,” she added.
Milestone for Women in Catholic Church
Several women hold leadership positions in other Vatican offices, but the Secretariat of State is the most powerful branch, making Di Giovanni’s career shift extra significant.
Pope Francis’ appointment of Di Giovanni is the latest development in his ongoing open support of women having more say in the Roman Catholic Church. Currently, women cannot be ordained as priests and the Church’s leadership is almost entirely male-dominated.
On New Year’s Day, the pope expressed praise for womankind.
“Women are givers and mediators of peace and should be fully included in decision-making processes,” Pope Francis said. “Because when women can share their gifts, the world finds itself more united, more peaceful. Hence, every step forward for women is a step forward for humanity as a whole.”
Di Giovanni referenced these words in her interview with the Vatican News calling them the pope’s “tribute” to the role of women.
“A woman may have certain aptitudes for finding commonalities, healing relationships with unity at heart,” Di Giovanni said. “I hope that my being a woman might reflect itself positively in this task, even if they are gifts that I certainly find in my male colleagues as well.”
See what others are saying: (Vatican News) (NPR) (BBC)
Protests Erupt in Iran After Military Admits to Shooting Down Plane
- Protests broke out across Iran over the weekend after the military admitted that it shot down a Ukrainian airline’s passenger jet, killing 176 people when mistaking it for a hostile aircraft.
- Officials originally said there was no evidence of the plane being struck down by one of their missiles but ultimately admitted fault three days later.
- Protesters are demanding leaders be held accountable.
- There are reports of tear gas and gunfire being used against demonstrators, but Tehran’s head of police has denied claims of shots being fired.
Backlash from the Plane Strike
Monday marked the third straight day of Iranian protests since Iran’s military admitted it shot down a passenger jet last week, mistaking it for a threat and killing all 176 people on board.
Videos emerged on Sunday of protesters running from tear gas and in others, which could not be immediately verified, gunfire could be heard.
It has been a tumultuous couple of weeks for Iranians—last week, hundreds of thousands were rallying in the streets to publicly mourn Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s Quds Force commander who was killed by a U.S. drone strike on Jan. 3.
During those rallies, cries of hate against the United States and Donald Trump—who ordered the strike— were heard. This week there is a sharp contrast, as protesters seem to be targeting the Iranian government and military.
According to The Washington Post, demonstrators were filmed late on Sunday in at least two locations ripping down posters of Soleimani. In Iran’s capital, Tehran, a billboard mourning the victims of the plane crash replaced one of the deceased military leader.
In retaliation for Soleimani’s death, Iran fired missiles at an Iraqi military base that houses American troops on Wednesday. The plane was shot down by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps just hours later after taking off from Tehran.
After maintaining for days that there was no evidence the aircraft was struck down by one of their missiles, Iran admitted that its military had shot down the jet by mistake.
The military initially claimed in a statement that the plane took an unexpected turn that brought it close to a sensitive military base, but an Iranian official later backtracked on that notion.
“The plane was flying in its normal direction without any error and everybody was doing their job correctly,” Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ airspace unit, said on Saturday. “If there was a mistake, it was made by one of our members.”
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called the incident an “unforgivable mistake” and said that investigations are continuing to “identify and prosecute this great tragedy.”
A mix of individuals from multiple countries was onboard the aircraft, including dozens of Canadians. Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the incident “a national tragedy” and publicly called for further investigation.
“I want to assure all families and all Canadians: We will not rest until there are answers,” he said at a memorial event on Sunday.
Protesters are demanding that leaders be held responsible for the fatal mistake. Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency reported that up to 1,000 people were protesting at various points in the capital city. Some videos posted to social media show crowds demanding the resignation of Ayatollah Khamenei, the country’s supreme leader.
One of the scenes of protest was the Sharif University of Technology in Tehran, which said that 13 of its students and alumni were killed in the plane crash. Iranian security forces stepped in and escalated the demonstration.
They “started dragging people away. They took a number of people and put them in cages in police vans,” said 35-year-old Soudabeh told The Washington Post, keeping her full name anonymous.
“At one point, the protesters freed one of the men who was detained. I saw his face and it was covered in blood — his family carried him away,” she told the news outlet.
Iran’s security forces have a history of taking extreme action to contain protesters. In November, after protests broke out in response to the spike in Iran’s gas prices, about 1,500 demonstrators were killed by security forces, according to the Trump administration.
Iranian media quoted Brig. Gen. Hossein Rahimi as saying “Police treated people who had gathered with patience and tolerance,” according to reports by the Associated Press.
Rahimi denied claims that police were shooting at protesters and said that tear gas was only being used in certain areas.