Feb. 18, 2014, 2:55 p.m.
India: Members of the Lok Sabha, the lower house of Parliament, voted on Tuesday to create the new state of Telangana. The vote was greeted with celebration in Telangana, currently a region in the state of Andhra Pradesh, but met with vociferous opposition in the parliament chamber and outside on the streets of New Delhi. Critics accuse the Indian Congress Party, which spearheaded the bill, of having ulterior political motivations for creating the new state, and accuse the party of rushing the bill through parliament without proper debate. The bill must now be passed by the upper chamber of the parliament before the current session adjourns on Friday. If passed, the new state will account for 17 seats in Parliament and Hyderabad, currently the capital of Andhra Pradesh but in Telangana territory, would remain a joint capital for 10 years.
Italy: President Giorgio NAPOLITANO has given Matteo RENZI of the Democratic Party (PD) permission to form a new government. RENZI is set to replace Prime Minister Enrico LETTA after a party vote last week. RENZI has criticized his rival LETTA for the slow pace of economic and political reforms and vows to tackle tax, labor, and institutional reforms in the coming months. RENZI has outlined an ambitious agenda of job creation, electoral reform, and a reduction in taxes and bureaucratic burdens to business, yet he will likely face the same unwieldy coalition that slowed his predecessor’s progress on these same issues. RENZI plans to seek a vote of confidence next week after his coalition is formalized.
Thailand: The National Counter-Corruption Commission is bringing charges against Prime Minister YINGLUCK Shinawatra related to her involvement in covering up corruption in Thailand’s rice subsidy program. YINGLUCK already faces major challenges to her legitimacy as violent protests against her administration continue throughout Bangkok. Protesters claim she is a puppet for her brother THAKSIN, who was ousted and exiled in 2006. They are calling for an unelected “people’s council” to replace parliament and cleanse the Thai political system’s corruption and dysfunction. Violence in the capital took a turn for the worse this week, killing 4 and wounding an additional 64.
Ukraine: Violence in Kiev has reached its worst levels since the demonstrations against President Viktor YANUKOVYCH began last November. A record 9 protesters were killed on Monday 17 February as protesters and riot police battled on the streets outside of the parliament building and near Independence Square, where thousands of protesters remain encamped. While the Interior Ministry and security services issued a threat to clear these camps by force, their offensive has remained limited so far. This most recent escalation of hostilities comes after the speaker of parliament, a member of the President’s party, refused to allow constitutional amendments that would limit YANUKOVYCH’s powers to be debated. Meanwhile, the Russian government has bought an additional $2 billion of Ukrainian bonds as part of a $15 billion loan which pro-Europeans see as political support for the YANUKOVYCH administration’s actions and an attempt to sway Ukrainians toward further integration with Russia.
Venezuela: Venezuelan police have raided the headquarters of the opposition Popular Will Party, after a week of violent student protests. The leader of the Popular Will Party, Leopoldo LOPEZ, has been one of the protesters’ most vocal supporters and stands accused by the government of inciting violence and terrorism. LOPEZ willingly surrendered to security forces at an opposition rally in Caracas on Tuesday 18 February, maintaining his innocence and criticizing the judiciary as corrupt. Violent clashes with police have resulted in nearly 100 people being arrested this week, including 11 journalists. The protesters are demanding the removal of President Nicolas MADURO, who won a narrow and controversial presidential election last year, as well as an end to the inflation, corruption, and shortages that have marked his first year in office.
(Image Credit: reuters.com)