- The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom unanimously voted Tuesday to rule Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s suspension of parliament unlawful.
- Lawmakers will return to parliament on Wednesday to continue talks concerning Brexit ahead of the country’s current Oct. 31 deadline.
- Several major lawmakers in the U.K. have called upon Johnson to resign.
Parliament Suspension Ruled Unlawful
The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom ruled Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s suspension of British Parliament unlawful on Tuesday, making it “void and of no effect.”
The ruling follows a similar decision made by Scotland’s Court of Session following Johnson’s announcement of the suspension, or prorogation. After losing in Scotland, Johnson’s government appealed to the U.K. Supreme Court.
“This was not a normal prorogation in the run-up to a Queen’s speech,” Lady Brenda Hale, president of the Supreme Court, said in its decision. “It prevented parliament from carrying out its constitutional role for five out of the possible eight weeks between the end of the summer recess and exit day on the 31st of October.”
“Parliament, and in particular the House of Commons as the elected representatives of the people, has a right to a voice in how that change comes about,” she continued.
The Supreme Court issued its ruling on the basis that Johnson made a political move to attempt to stop other lawmakers from debating Brexit. When Johnson first announced the suspension, those lawmakers condemned the action because it would mean they had less time to reach a deal. They then accused Johnson of attempting to secure a means to execute a no-deal Brexit, if necessary.
Johnson has repeatedly stated that he will take the country out of the European Union by its current Oct. 31 deadline with or without a deal, even after lawmakers passed legislation barring him from taking the U.K. out of the EU without a deal.
In addition to being hailed as unprecedented (U.K. courts generally do not rule on government decisions unlike in the United States), the verdict suggests Johnson misled the Queen when he asked her to suspend the government, per tradition.
Johnson Responds to Suspension
Johnson is currently in the United States at the United Nations Climate Summit in New York, but he will be leaving early Tuesday night to return to the U.K.
“I strongly disagree with this decision of the Supreme Court,” he said, “I have the utmost respect for our judiciary. I don’t think that this was the right decision.”
At the same time, Johnson said he would respect the court’s decision; however, he suggested potentially proroguing parliament again. If he were to seek another prorogation, it would likely only be for a few days to prepare for a Queen’s speech, which would outline the government’s proposed domestic policy.
Parliament Reconvenes Wednesday
Also following the decision, Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow said parliament will reconvene Wednesday, with members of parliament expected to hold emergency debates.
Johnson and opposition Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn are also expected to spar at the dispatch box, with Corbyn asking Johnson to resign.
Also of note, the suspension would have essentially deleted any pending bills that weren’t passed before lawmakers left, but now, those bills are back on the table. Some of those include Brexit-related legislation concerning immigration, fisheries, and agriculture.
Calls for Johnson to Resign
Tuesday also brought forth a fresh wave of backlash directed at Johnson, with #BorisLiedToTheQueen trending on Twitter.
More notably, multiple lawmakers called on Johnson to resign, including Corbyn who said he was inviting Johnson to be the U.K.’s shortest-serving prime minister.
“It demonstrates a contempt for democracy and an abuse of power by him,” Corbyn said. “I will be in touch immediately to demand that parliament is recalled so that we can question the prime minister, demand that he obeys the law that’s been passed by parliament, and recognize that our parliament is elected by our people to hold our government to account.”
“I invite Boris Johnson, in the historic words, to consider his position and become the shortest prime minister there’s ever been,” he continued.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and leader of the Liberal Democrats, Jo Swinson, also called Johnson unfit to serve as prime minister. On the other hand, Brexit Party Leader Nigel Farage said the suspension was the “worst political decision ever,” though he stopped short of calling for Johnson to resign. Instead, he said Johnson should fire his most senior aide who is suspected to have been behind the prorogation idea.
Ahead of Tuesday’s ruling, Johnson said he would not resign if he lost the case. It is possible if Johnson refuses to step down tomorrow, lawmakers will attempt a vote of no confidence against him.
See what others are saying: (The Independent) (The Guardian) (Wall Street Journal)
First Person Charged Under Hong Kong National Security Law Found Guilty of Terrorism and Inciting Secession
Dozens more are awaiting trial for breaking the controversial National Security Law, which is aimed at protecting Chinese sovereignty at the cost of basic freedoms within Hong Kong.
First Conviction Under National Security Law
The first person to be charged under Hong Kong’s extremely controversial National Security Law was found guilty of his crimes Tuesday morning.
A judge ruled that Tong Ying-kit was guilty of both terrorism and inciting secession after the 24-year-old failed to stop at a police checkpoint while on his motorcycle last July, which resulted in him eventually riding into police. At the same time, he was carrying a flag that said “Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of Our Times.”
According to Justice Esther Toh, that phrase alone was capable of inciting others to commit succession, she also that added that Tong understood that the flag had secessionist meaning in an effort to set aside doubts that Tong understood the flag’s inherent meaning.
Yamini Mishra, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Regional Director said,“The conviction of Tong Ying-kit is a significant and ominous moment for human rights in Hong Kong.”
“Today’s verdict underlines the sobering fact that expressing certain political opinions in the city is now officially a crime, potentially punishable by life in jail,” she added.
More Convictions Expected Sparking Fear Over Erosion of Rights
A long string of convictions will likely follow Tong’s, as over 100 people have been arrested under the ambiguous law that criminalizes many forms of freedom of expression under the guise of protecting Chinese sovereignty. Of those arrested, 60 are currently awaiting trial, including dozens of pro-democracy politicians who have been accused of subversiveness for their calls to block the government’s agenda in the legislature.
That has drawn particular concern among international critics who fear the precedent that will be set once it’s clear to politicians that failing to rubber-stamp the Communist Party’s agenda will result in prison terms.
It’s widely expected that as more people are found guilty, the few remaining protections of the city’s Basic Law, a British common law-inspired mini-constitution, will be completely eroded.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (CNN) (BBC)
Tunisian President Fires Prime Minister, Suspends Parliament Over Deadlock and COVID-19 Response
President Kais Saied claims his actions are constitutional and have the support of the military, which has already blocked off government buildings. His opponents, however, call the move little more than a coup.
President Makes Massive Changes to Government
Tunisia’s government received a major shakeup after President Kais Saied fired the Prime Minister and froze parliament late Sunday.
The move, according to Saied, was meant to break years of parliamentary deadlock between Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and various political parties that have sturggled to find common ground. However, the timing comes just after a massive protest over how the government has handled the COVID-19 pandemic turned violent earlier on Sunday.
Either way, the move risks sparking a confrontation between Saied —who is backed by the army — and various political parties that view his actions as a coup.
The President’s actions have proven cotnroversial. Despite that, he has widepsread support after being elected in 2019 on a platform to fight corrupt politicians.
After the announcement, tens of thousands have taken to the streets in support of his decision to dismiss the Prime Minister and parliament, with many cheering as he appeared among the crowd Sunday night.
In recent months, anger at the ruling government has only increased as many feel the ruling coalition, largely made up of the Islamist Ennahda (“Renaissance”) party, have been ineffective.
It’s a common belief in Tunisia that Ennahda’s rule, alongside its tenuous coalition, helped exacerbate problems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to the economy shrinking by 8% as tourism plummeted.
One of the President’s supporters told Reuters and other outlets during Sunday’s demonstration, “We are here to protect Tunisia. We have seen all the tragedies under the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood.”
He mentioned the Muslim Brotherhood, which had a strong presence in Egpyt after the Arab Spring, becuase Ennahda has longstanding relationship with the group, although it has sought to distance itself as a more moderate political group over the last few years.
Now, for their part, the ruling coalition has argued that Saied’s move is clearly unconstitutional. Rached Ghannouchi, leade of Ennahda and Parliamentary Speaker, said that he is “against gathering all powers in the hands of one person.” His position isn’t without supporters eithers. Both sides have already gathered throughout the capital and have thrown rocks at each other.
Legalities of Article 80
The question across many minds is whether or not Saied’s actions are actually constitutional.
He claims that under Article 80 of the constitution, he can fire the Prime Minister, suspend parliament for 30 days, and appoint a premier to rule — all of which is true.
However, in order to do that, the Prime Minister and the Parliamentary Speaker need to be consulted; something Parliamentary Speaker Ghannouchi said was never done. It’s unclear what Mechichi’s position is as he’s stayed inside his home all day, though the army says he is not under any kind of arrest.
In addition to those requirements, a Constitutional Court needs to approve the move, and one hasn’t been set up. As the German Foregin Office put it on Monday morning, it seems like Saied is relying on “a rather broad interpretation of the constitution.”
International observers hope a solution will soon be made to keep what seems to be the last functional democracy to come from the Arab Spring from devolving into civil war or dictatorship.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Reuters) (BBC)
South Korean President Makes BTS Official Presidential Envoys
The position is largely ceremonial but will be used by the government to help give a friendly and popular face to national and international initiatives spearheaded by Seoul.
The K-pop band BTS will be adding to its list of global impacts this year after South Korean President Moon Jae-in appointed its members as Presidential Envoys on Wednesday.
The role will include attending international conferences such as the United Nations General Assembly in September.
At these events, BTS will perform “various activities to promote international cooperation in solving global challenges, such as improving the environment, eliminating poverty and inequality, and respecting diversity,” according to Park Kyung-mee, a Blue House spokesperson.
The band has already appeared at U.N. conferences multiple times over the last few years.
Just last year, the group gave a message of hope and reassurance through the U.N. during the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior appearances at the U.N. have been either as part of U.N. organizations or as private citizens.
Wednesday’s appointment will make them official representatives of South Korea, although they won’t actually engage in any direct diplomacy and instead will be used to promote the country’s ongoing efforts in youth-related projects.
BTS’ success, alongside prior and current K-pop groups, has remained a masterclass of soft diplomacy by the Korean government. For decades, the Korean government has cultivated promoting cultural aspects abroad in the hopes of generating more interest in the country. There are hopes that such efforts will encourage more tourism as well as an elevated image when consumers consider Korean-made products.
Such efforts, beyond cultivating K-pop and raising its stars as semi-official government symbols, also include helping fund Korean restaurants abroad as well as free Korean-language classes taught by Professors of some of Korea’s most prestigious schools.
The news comes as BTS’ newest single, “Permission to Dance,” quickly took the #1 spot on the Billboard top 100. BTS is also partnering with YouTube to promote a Permission to Dance challenge on YouTube Shorts that will begin tomorrow and end on August 4.
Fans will be encouraged to replicate dance moves from the music video, and the group’s favorite clips will be put into a compilation made by them.