This week we focus on the results of the Polish elections, which in all likelihood could point to one of the most consequential European political turnarounds of recent years.
In other news, we outline some new developments in the Israel-Hamas conflict, Russia is denied a seat on the U.N. human rights council, and China appears to have deported a “large number” of North Korean defectors.
All this and much, much more in our newest issue. Have a read to start your week well informed.
Spotlight: Polish elections point to right-wing populists defeat in consequential European political turnaround.
A feud of spectacular dimensions could be seen unfolding over the past months, but in particular this weekend, as Polish voters headed to the polls on Sunday. The Polish parliamentary elections in question had facing off two leading figures that have been at the center and shaped Polish politics for the past 20 years: Jarosław Kaczyński and Donald Tusk. The former, the incumbent deputy prime minister of Poland and former prime minister, with a political career that began in the 1980s, co-founded the Law and Justice (PiS) party, of which he is now the most senior figure, with his twin brother in 2001. The latter, with a similarly extensive political presence, was Polish prime minister between 2007 and 2014 and afterwards European Council president for five years. The two men have viciously campaigned, trading all kinds of accusations in matters of authoritarianism, nepotism, and spying. In an increasingly vicious and personal feud, Kaczyński referred to Tusk as a Russian spy, an “enemy of the nation . . . A traitor who must be morally exterminated.” While Tusk, heaped on warning that Kaczyński would replace Poland’s EU membership with an authoritarian state modelled on Putin’s Russia.
On Monday morning, exit polls put the PiS on 36.6% and the Civic Coalition (Ko), led by Tusk and formed specifically with the aim of opposing Kaczyński’s right-wing ruling PiS party, on 31%. Nonetheless, the Civic Coalition with the support of two other opposition parties should have a way to parliamentary majority. This confidence was carried on by Tusk, who almost immediately after polls closed on Sunday night, adopting remarkable theatrics, declared: “It’s the end of the evil times, it’s the end of the PiS rule[…] We won democracy, we won freedom, we won our free, beloved Poland.” Significantly, a return of power to Tusk could mean restoring EU-Poland relations that had unraveled under the PiS behind the guise rule of law issues with the EU, while most of Polish society remains pro-EU. The end of PiS rule is also largely seen by progressives as a promising step for the rights of women and LGBTQ+ people.
Around the World
Residents flee Gaza City as Israel tells 1.1 million to leave. On Friday evening, Israel’s military continued the attacks against the Hamas controlled enclave and warned that bombardments would get more serious in the next few days. The UN, as well as other international human rights have critized Israel’s evacuation order, with UN Secretary General calling it “dangerous-and in some cases, simply not possible”.
Israel announces national unity government as it tightens Gaza siege. Benny Gantz, leader of the Israeli center-right opposition National Unity party, joined the emergency war cabinet and unity government formed by the Prime Minister Netanyahu. The two parties guaranteed that the emergency government will last only until the war ends. Gantz and Netanyahu lead the war cabinet with the defense minister Yoav Gallant, from Netanyahu’s party. The first two had already co-operated in a short-lived government in 2021 that ended as a result of the disagreements between their parties. After the demands from opposition figures to drop far-right parties of his coalition, Netanyahu agreed that 5 members of Gantz’ party would join the cabinet, without anyone leaving it.
Elon Musk’s vision for free speech on X tested by Israel-Hamas war misinformation. An unprecedented wave of disinformation regarding the Israel-Palestinian conflict has swept across Elon Musk’s social media platform X, prompting fresh scrutiny from EU regulators. EU commissioner Thierry Breton, in a letter addressed to Musk, made clear that the European Commission had “indications” that the X was “being used to disseminate illegal content and disinformation” in the aftermath of Hamas’s attacks on Israel. Despite confirmed claims that illegal content is circulating on the platform without being correctly dealt with, Musk responded on X: “Our policy is that everything is open source and transparent, an approach that I know the EU supports. Please list the violations you allude to on X, so that that the public can see them. Merci beaucoup.”
China deported ‘large number’ of North Korean defectors – Seoul. On Monday night, a not-yet confirmed number of North Korean defectors were put on trucks and sent from their detention centers to North Korea. Sources in China and South Korea confirmed the validity of the information and say hundreds were involved. Human Rights Watch expressed their concerns, since the defectors, most of whom have appeared to be women, could face death, sexual violence, or imprisonment once back. UN special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea estimates that 2000 people are held in China for crossing without permission. South’s Unification Ministry has reminded China that forced repatriation is against the international principle of non-refoulment but China claims that they are not refugees but economic migrants. Asked about the reported repatriations, China’s foreign ministry said there is “no such thing as ‘North Korean defectors’ in China”.
Human rights experts warn against European crackdown on climate protesters. Human rights experts warn against the severe sentences, passing of new laws and mass arrests of non-violent protestors for climate in Germany, France, Italy, Sweden, the Netherlands and the UK. In April, while Amnesty International was investigating on how Italian authorities have used anti-organized crime laws to punish Ultima Generazione protesters, the Digos unit justified themselves saying that the activists’ actions were not taken spontaneously but were organized by a hierarchal organized group.
Fears of more casualties as further earthquakes hit Afghanistan. On Wednesday morning, another powerful earthquake struck areas already devastated by last week’s 6.3-maginitude quake in Afghanistan. More than 2,000 villages across the Herat province, with a population of about 3 million people, have been evacuated since the last weekend. It is believed that 3,000 people have been killed by the disasters. “People have suffered losses, and there are additional villages completely levelled,” a senior Taliban official said. “There are fears that more people would be under rubble. More than 400 houses are crumbled in just one village.”
FGM ban in the Gambia under threat as calls grow to repeal law. In November 2015, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), practice that affected three-quarters of women in Gambia, was banned as a result of a global advocating campaign. On Wednesday, a large number of National Assembly members expressed their support during the debate to a colleague’s call for repealing the law criminalizing Female Genital Mutilation while the Supreme Islamic Council called for the government to reconsider the law. The procedure is usually performed for cultural and religious reasons and in some communities, it could be a prerequisite for marriage. The practice is still popular in 30 countries in the Middle East and Africa, although the UN had passed a resolution in 2012 to ban it and recognized it as a violation of women’s and girls’ human rights.
International Court hears Syrian torture case. On Monday, world court judges heard the first testimonies against Syria in a case against the country’s detention practices. The case was brought forward by Canada and The Netherlands, both of which claim the Syrian government has engaged in serious mistreatment of its detained citizens. The two countries have also urged Damascus to open up their prisons to external inspectors and inform families of their loved ones’ status. The case could take years to wrap up, but in the meantime the court can order legally binding “provisional measures”.
Severe debt burdens thwarting progress on climate and poverty, says World Bank. Ajay Banga, the new head of the international body, claimed the goal of reducing widespread poverty is being pushed back by the heavy debts accumulated by developing nations. Additionally, he pointed to the aggressive rising of interest rates as a reason behind several countries’ bankruptcies. These comments came as the US treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen, announced she would meet with the head of the Chinese Central Bank to discuss potential common projects to alleviate debt.
Russia is denied a seat on the U.N. human rights council. Russia failed to regain a seat in the U.N. Humans right council after a majority of the General Assembly voted against it on Tuesday. What the results of this vote represent on an international scale is still unclear. On the one hand, Russia lost the vote for the two allocated Eastern European seats to Albania and Bulgaria, both Ukraine supporters, which would indicate that global sentiment still remains with Kyiv. On the other hand, after being voted of the council 20 months ago with only 24 votes in its favor, this time Russia saw much increased support with 83 votes in favor of it rejoining the council. As the war stretches on Russia’s economy has proved resilient while the toll of international support has begun to weight on Ukraine’s supporters. For all we know, this could be the start of a new chapter of this war that was not foreseen to arrive this soon.
Allarme terrorismo, misure rinforzate in Italia: controlli nelle città e alle frontiere. L’aggressione di Hamas a Israele ha innescato meccanismo di allerta massima in Italia. Le misure di sicurezza sono state rafforzate attorno a più di diecimila obbiettivi sensibili, di cui 4 mila a Roma, in quanto sede di istituzioni nazionali e diplomatiche straniere. Continuano accertamenti fra coloro inseriti in elenchi di foreign fighters, che nel 2022 erano 146.
Saviano condannato per diffamazione, multa da 1.000 euro per l’insulto a Meloni. Multa di 1000 euro a Roberto Saviano per aver pubblicamente diffamato Giorgia Meloni durante una trasmissione televisiva nel 2020. Il giudice ha però riconosciuto all’imputato delle attenuanti, decretando la sospensione della pena. “Sono abituato a pagare per ogni parola” esordisce Saviano, “Impedire il dissenso significa colpire a morte il cuore pulsante della democrazia”.
Nel trilogo niente intesa sul provvedimento tra Parlamento, Consiglio e Commissione Ue: Salta l’obbligo di case green. Il Parlamento europeo e il Consiglio dell’Unione europea non sono riusciti a raggiungere un accordo per quanto riguarda la ristrutturazione delle case inquinanti. Il testo approvato dal Parlamento europeo prevedeva un miglioramento in questo campo entro il 2033, tuttavia l’obbligo è saltato e ci si aspetta una revisione dei testi per dicembre. I nuovi accordi potrebbero stabilire una nuova data di scadenza e ogni stato sceglierà individualmente le misure più adatte per ridurre il consumo energetico nel campo dell’edilizia.
As exam session nears, here are some opportunities to get your mind off exams for a brief while:
Monday 16th October at 6:15 PM – Première Année directed by Thomas Lilti, in French with French subtitles – Room Zappa (University Building of via Sarfatti 25, ground floor). You can book your seats until 12th of October from the link here.
Thursday 19th October at 9 PM – Isole sonore: Piano con le parole. Original compositions alternated with readings of literary pieces dedicated to the piano and its greats in a grand concert performance full of emotions, with Debora Mancini and Daniele Longo. You can register here.