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Trudeau Wins Reelection But Loses Majority

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  • Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau won his reelection, though his Liberal Party suffered significant blows, losing its majority in Parliament.
  • Now, Trudeau will have to work closely with other parties as he leads his new minority government.
  • While many experts believe the Liberals will easily form alliances with other parties, many have also pointed out that minority governments in Canada historically do not last longer than two years.
  • Many viewed the election as a referendum on Trudeau’s character following a corruption scandal and the surfacing of black and brownface pictures.

Canadian Election

Justin Trudeau was reelected as Canadian Prime Minister Monday after his Liberal Party won the most seats in Parliament, but stopped short of keeping its majority. 

According to election results from CBC, Trudeau’s Liberal Party won a total of 157 seats, while the Conservative Party took home 121 seats and smaller parties grabbed the rest.

Source: CBC

While Trudeau and his party won the most seats, they stopped short of receiving the 170 seats necessary to have a majority in Canada’s 338-seat Parliament.

In addition to not getting a majority, the Liberal Party also lost seats that they had previously held as the Conservatives gained more. In 2015, Trudeau was first elected Prime Minister after his party won 184 seats. Conservatives, by contrast, won 99 seats the same year.

As a result, the Prime Minister and his party come out of this election significantly weathered.

Trudeau’s win comes after the embattled leader’s future was jeopardized by separate incidents involving a corruption scandal and leaked photos where he was featured wearing black and brownface.

Past Controversies 

Trudeau first found himself embroiled in corruption accusations in February.

Former justice minister and attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould, an Indigenous woman, accused the Prime Minister and his aides of pushing her to settle a criminal case with the Canadian engineering and construction firm SNC-Lavalin.

Trudeau argued settling the case would save thousands of jobs because the criminal case against SNC would have prevented it from getting government contracts.

But many Canadians saw the incident as Trudeau— a self-described feminist who has claimed to be an advocate of Indigenous rights— bullying an Indigenous woman to protect a company that financially benefited his own Liberal Party.

Others also felt it was a bad look for Trudeau, who has pushed for government transparency, especially after Parliament’s ethics commissioner found that he broke conflict-of-interest laws.

Then, in September, a series of three black and brownface photos of Trudeau surfaced. That incident drew widespread criticism and prompted many to speculate about his chances in the election.

The leader’s future as Prime Minister seemed up in the air as his Liberal Party polled neck-and-neck with the Conservative Party when voters cast their ballots Monday.

Next Steps

While Trudeau and the Liberals came out on top, the battle for power is far from over.

Unlike some parliamentary systems such as Israel’s, Trudeau does not need a majority to lead the government, meaning he does not need to formally build coalitions with other parties to get that majority. Instead, he will just lead a minority government.

While minority governments are not uncommon in Canada, it still puts Trudeau in a pretty dicey position.

As many have noted, minority governments in the country often do not last for longer than two years, so Trudeau will have to fight hard to maintain power.

It also means that he will need the support of other parties to pass legislation— something he did not necessarily need before when he had an outright majority.

That said, because the Liberals are only 13 seats short of a majority, Trudeau would really only need the support of one of the other mid-sized parties to pass legislation. As a result, many experts believe that the Liberals should be able to find allies.

“He should be able to put together some kind of agenda where he can get the support he needs on an issue-by-issue basis,” Lori Williams, a political analyst at Mount Royal University in Calgary told The Wall Street Journal.

Potential Alliances

Arguably the most logical partner for the Liberals is the left-wing New Democratic Party (NDP), which won 24 seats.

Though further to the left than Trudeau’s party, the NDP has a history of working with the Liberals to keep power. In 2005, the NDP helped prop up a Liberal minority government to prevent being defeated by Conservatives.

Now, the two parties again have a vested interest in working together to keep conservatives out of power. The NDP additionally has a big incentive to prevent another election because they lost nearly half their seats in this election.

Speaking to supporters Tuesday, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh said his party would play a “constructive and positive role in the new Parliament.”

Trudeau could also find an ally in the Bloc Québécois, a party that promotes Quebec’s independence from Canada, which went from just 10 seats to 32 this election.

The Bloc’s leader, Yves-François Blanchet, also said Tuesday that his party would be open to working with the Liberals. 

“If what is being proposed is good for Québéc, you can count on us,” he said.

Notably, both the Bloc and the NDP are generally in line with one of Trudeau’s biggest legislative issues: climate change.

Speaking Monday night in his acceptance speech, Trudeau thanked Canadians for their votes.

“From coast to coast, tonight, Canadians rejected division and negativity. They rejected cuts and austerity, and they voted in favour of a progressive agenda and strong action on climate change,” he said.  

“I have heard you, my friends. You are sending our Liberal team back to work; back to Ottawa with a clear mandate,” he continued. “We will make life more affordable. We will continue to fight climate change. We will get guns off our streets and we will keep investing in Canadians.”

Despite their win, the election has taken a big toll on the Liberal Party and put Trudeau in a fragile situation. Already, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer seems to be eyeing Trudeau’s spot.

“Conservatives have put Justin Trudeau on notice,” Scheer said in a concession speech Monday night. “And Mr. Trudeau, when your government falls, Conservatives will be ready and we will win.”

See what others are saying: (CBC) (The Wall Street Journal) (The New York Times)

International

Myanmar Soldiers Claim in Confession Video They Were Ordered to Kill and Rape Rohingya

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  • Two Myanmar soldiers have appeared in a confessional video claiming to have been ordered to kill and rape Rohingya in 2017.
  • These are the first two first-hand accounts from Myanmar soldiers confirming widespread accusations that the Myanmar military partook in potential genocide against ethnic Rohingya.
  • However, the veracity of the claims hasn’t been confirmed, nor has whether or not the soldiers gave their confessions under duress by the rebel Arakan Army, who released the video.
  • Both men are currently at The Hague being interrogated by investigators at the International Criminal Court.

Genocide in the 21st Century

Two members of the Myanmar military appeared in a recently released video where they seemed to admit that they were ordered to pillage, kill, and rape Rohingya Muslims in 2017. The confessions appear to match accounts of the situation in Rakhine given by Rohingya survivors.

The Rohingya are a prominent ethnic group that live in the Rakhine state in western Myanmar, which borders the sea and Bangladesh. They have been described by the Myanmar government as “illegal aliens” despite having been in the region as far back as the 15th century. 

Over the decades, the Rohingya have been persecuted by the Myanmar military, which has demanded that they “return” to neighboring Bangladesh. In 2017, those tensions escalated when the military heavily cracked down on the Rakhine state and engaged in what human rights have described as having the “hallmarks of genocide.” Not only were Rohignya targeted, but many other people across the region.

At the time, video and satellite images of the areas showed large scale destruction, with many villages completely burned down. Tens of thousands fled their homes to refugee camps in Bangladesh.

According to Private Myo Win Tun and Private Zaw Naing Tun, the two men seen in the confessional video, “We destroyed the Muslim villages near Taung Bazar village. We implemented the clearance operations in the night-time as per the command to ‘shoot all that you see and that you hear.’ We buried a total number of 30 dead bodies in one grave.”

Pvt. Myo Win Tun and Pvt. Zaw Naing Tun

Justice Being Sought

The two soldiers are said to have fled Myanmar last month and arrived in Bangladesh, from where on Monday they were transported to The Hague, home of the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands. 

As for the veracity of the video, that is harder to determine. It is unclear if the soldiers are giving this confession under duress, or if they surrendered as deserters. The video was filmed by the Arakan Army, the largest and most organized militant group in Rakhine state, who represent a coalition of various ethnic groups in the region against the central Myanmar government. 

This lends to the possibility that the men were coerced to confess under duress. Yet, the Arakan Army has a long standing feud with the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, the main militant group representing the Rohingya,who would benefit the most from admissions of genocide.

However, many Human Rights Groups think the confessions are legitimate. 

“This is a monumental moment for Rohingya and the people of Myanmar in their ongoing struggle for justice,” said Matthew Smith, chief executive officer at Fortify Rights. “These men could be the first perpetrators from Myanmar tried at the I.C.C., and the first insider witnesses in the custody of the court.”

The Myanmar government continues to deny any wrongdoing in Rakhine, stating that the operations there were to clear out terrorist elements. Any footage of burned down villages has been waived away as Rohingya burning down their own villages for sympathy. Since 2017, only a handful of soldiers have been punished with short prison terms for “isolated” incidents.

The two soldiers held at The Hague are not under arrest, but are effectively in custody awaiting a potential trial. Lawyers and investigators have already spent weeks investigating their claims, and their testimony will likely be used by prosecutors at the International Court of Justice. 

There, Myanmar is being accused in a filing by Gambia of trying to “destroy the Rohingya as a group, in whole or in part, by the use of mass murder, rape and other forms of sexual violence, as well as the systematic destruction by fire of their villages.”

See What Others Are Saying: (CNN) (New York Times) (Reuters)

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Large Fire Erupts in Beirut’s Port, Weeks After Massive Explosion

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  • A large fire erupted in Beirut’s port Thursday, triggering panic among residents who are still traumatized by last month’s massive explosion. The Aug. 4 blast of nearly 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate left 190 dead, more than 6,000 injured, and 300,000 displaced from their homes. 
  • It’s not yet clear what caused the fire and crews are working to put it out. Residents have been warned to stay clear of the area in the meantime and no casualties were immediately reported. 
  • This is the second fire to break out at the port this week and it comes about a week after Lebanon’s army discovered four tons ammonium nitrate stored near the port.
  • Some believe the fire was set intentionally to hide evidence related to the explosion. For now, residents continue to live on edge as their distrust in the country’s management grows.

Fire Breaks Out 

A huge fire broke out in Beirut’s port on Thursday, terrifying local residents who are still recovering from the last month’s devastating explosion. 

Video posted online shows people running from massive flames and thick black smoke, which can be viewed from miles away. 

The fire was said to have started in a warehouse of a private company that imported cooking oil. It then spread to a separate stock of rubber tires, but as of now, there’s no information about what caused the blaze. 

No casualties were immediately reported, though we some reports of people with shortness of breath. According to the state-run news agency NNA, Beirut’s governor told residents to stay clear of the port area “for their safety” and to allow firefighters to perform their duties unhindered. All roads leading into the port are blocked off, and the Lebanese Army is currently working to help firefighters by dropping water on the flames from helicopters.

Trauma From Last Month’s Blast Lingers 

The fire broke out near a major highway known as a free zone, where companies store goods that have yet to clear customs. That area, like much of the port, was heavily damaged in the Aug. 4 explosion. That explosion was caused by a 2,750-ton stock of ammonium nitrate that was improperly stored for years. Records later showed that government officials knew of the dangerous chemical stockpile but failed to act. 

The blast ultimately left 190 dead, more than 6,000 injured, and 300,000 displaced from their homes. For many, that explosion was the last straw, prompting major protests against longrunning corruption in the country, which was already suffering through its worst economic crisis in decades.

The protests eventually pushed the Prime Minister of Lebanon and his cabinet to resign, though many have still called for widespread reforms that will bring more meaningful change. 

Still, even with the government resigning, fear within the community has persisted. Just last week, the Lebanese Army said it had found more than four tons of ammonium nitrate stored near the port. They disposed of it, but it was a chilling discovery that made many uneasy. 

Then a smaller fire broke out earlier this week, which also caused a scare but was eventually put out by firefighters. This latest fire just builds onto the existing panic. People at the port and nearby neighborhoods have been scrambling flee or hide out of fear that this fire could cause a new explosion.

One local whose car and apartment were destroyed in the last month’s explosion told The New York Times, “I’m telling myself that nothing’s going to happen and it’s probably not a big deal, but you can’t fight the anxiety of opening all the windows, sitting inside a corridor or being jumpy all the time and having people call you, telling you to leave the area.”

Another person who was leaving the area with his wife and kids told Reuters, “I am forced to get them out of Beirut from the smoke and the fire that is happening at the port again.”

With a large fire so close to the original location of the explosion, some have speculated that it was deliberately set to destroy evidence. Others believe it’s just another example of what the country’s mismanagement brings. 

Some, like Lebanese MP Rola Tabsh, are calling for an international investigation into the Beirut port fires.

Beirut has suffocated from the smoke of your oppression. Beirut has burned from the fires of your corruption and arrogance,” she tweeted.

An international investigation now and not tomorrow.”

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (CNN) (BBC)  

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Thousands of Refugees Displaced After Fire Blazes Through Europe’s Largest Migrant Camp

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  • A fire raged through Europe’s largest migrant camp on Wednesday, displacing around 12,000 refugees in a camp meant for 3,000.
  • The fire reportedly began overnight on the Greek island of Lesbos, but its cause remains unknown.
  • The fire follows reported clashes within the camp after 35 refugees, who recently tested positive for COVID-19, refused to isolate themselves and their families. It is still unconfirmed if those families actually refused to isolate or if this is what led to the fire.
  • Following evacuations, police blocked off roads leading to nearby towns, and locals attacked and prevented migrants from passing through a nearby village.

Fire Breaks Out 

A massive fire almost completely destroyed Europe’s largest migrant camp, leaving 12,000 migrants without shelter. 

The fire began overnight Tuesday. It originally started off as a series of small fires that broke out at the Moria Refugee Camp, located on the Greek island of Lesbos. Those fires became so large and destructive that within a matter of hours, they had reportedly left the entire camp unusable. 

Outside the scope of the fire, the situation has exposed a host of other serious issues faced by the Moria camp migrants. While an estimated 12,000 migrants had been sent to the camp to await updates on their asylum applications, it was only built to accommodate between 2,000 to 3,000 people. 

Human rights groups have criticized poor conditions at the site for years. In April, the Human Rights Watch even said that Greek authorities hadn’t done enough to tackle overcrowding, warning that the camp was not prepared to handle a potential coronavirus outbreak. 

The situation has also seemed to only widen the divide between migrants and locals in the area. For example, as migrants fled the scene, police blocked off roads leading from the camp in order to prevent them from entering nearby towns as authorities scramble to find them housing.

According to reports, some locals have even attacked migrants and prevented them from passing through one nearby village.

Because of that, the United Nations Human Rights Council has attempted to address the tension by urging people to “exercise restraint,” asking anyone who had been at the camp “to restrict their movements and stay near [the site], as a temporary solution is being found to shelter [migrants].”

What Led to the Fire?

It is unclear what directly led to the fires, but they came after a series of confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Last week, authorities placed the camp under quarantine after a Somali migrant tested positive. By Tuesday, the number of cases had jumped up to 35. 

The Greek news agency ANA reported that the fires broke out after some of the 35 refused to isolate themselves and their families. According to CNN, some migrants on the ground said the fires were started by refugee protesters when a demonstration erupted over lockdown measures; however, both accounts have yet to be officially confirmed, and there are actually other fires also burning on the island because of strong winds.

Michalis Fratzeskos, deputy mayor for civil protection, told Greek state television that the fire was “premeditated,” and that migrant tents had been empty, with arsonists “[taking] advantage of strong winds.”

A local fire chief said that when firefighters rushed onto the scene, their efforts were hampered by protesting migrants,

However, many migrants have lodged much different claims. Some told a reporter for the BBC Persian that the fire had broken out after scuffles between migrants and Greek forces at the camp. Several even blamed “far-right Greeks” for setting the fire after those coronavirus cases were announced. Those migrants also provided photos of what they claimed to be canisters that were used to set the fire.

“It’s a time bomb that finally exploded,” Marco Sandrone, the Lesbos project coordinator for Doctors Without Borders told the BBC, adding that the migrants had been kept in “inhumane conditions” for years.

Axel Steier, co-founder of aid group Mission Lifeline, also told CNN that “the people in Moria are exposed to extreme psychological stress.”

“The lockdown of the camp has now been the final straw,” he added. “The refugees in Moria are not treated as humans.”

A government spokesperson has confirmed that reports of arson are under investigation. The government itself has also declared a four-month state of emergency.

International Response

Internationally, the European Union has offered help, with EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson saying on Twitter that she has “agreed to finance the immediate transfer and accommodation” of “400 unaccompanied children and teenagers.”

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has also expressed interest in transporting refugees onto mainland Europe.

“In cooperation with the EU Commission and other EU member states willing to help, we need to sort out as quickly as possible how we can support Greece,” he said. “This includes the distribution of refugees among those in the EU that are willing to take them.”

According to The New York Times, Armin Laschet, a governor in western Germany, has also said he’s willing to admit up to a thousand refugees from the camp.

See what others are saying: (BBC) (CNN) (ANA)

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