News

Conservatives lose absolute majority in UK / Kurds to vote in independence referendum

2 to 8 June

Theresa May.
Theresa May. Author: Number10 @ Flickr
WEEKLY ROUNDUP. UK prime minister Theresa May was seeking to strengthen her negotiating position with the EU as regards Brexit when she decided to call an early election to the House of Commons. May failed in her attempt, as the Conservative Party has lost its absolute majority and now needs a deal with at least one other party to remain in government. In South Kurdistan (Iraq), the Kurdish autonomous government has announced the holding of a referendum on independence on 25 September. Meanwhile, arrests of members of the Rif protest movement are ongoing at the hands of the Moroccan police.

 NEWS HIGHLIGHT

Hung Parliament in UK. The Conservative Party has won the 8 June snap election, with 318 seats (down from 329), which means it has lost the absolute majority it used to have. Prime minister Theresa May now finds herself in the need to strike a deal with at least another party in the House of Commons in order to form a new government. Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour has won 261 seats (+29) while the Scottish National Party remains the third largest group in Parliament, even it has lost ground (35 seats, down from 56 in 2015). The Liberal Democrats gain some ground: with 12 MPs elected (+4) could be in the position to form a majority with the Conservatives. The same goes for the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), with 10 seats (+2). The remaining seats in the House of Commons have been won by Sinn Féin, with 7 MPs elected (+3), Plaid Cymru (4, up from 3), the Green Party (1 seat) and Northern Irish independent unionist Sylvia Hermon.

In Scotland, the SNP is again the largest party, with 35 seats. But this also signals a loss of 21 seats and 13 percentage points from the party's all-time-record result in 2015, when it got 56 MPs elected. Scotland's deputy first minister John Swinney (SNP) has admitted that “the question of a second independence referendum was a significant motivator of votes against the SNP in this election and we have to be attentive to that point.” Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has said the results mean a second referendum on independence is now “dead”.

MOREOVER

Kurdish government announces independence referendum. As confirmed by Kurdish parties and Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) president Massoud Barzani, the vote will take place 25 September. The referendum is not agreed with the Iraqi government. The Kurdish government plans to hold the vote in all territories currently under control of Kurdish armed forces (Peshmerga), including those areas that Baghdad does not regard as KRG territory. Therefore, the vote will also be organized in hot spots such as Kirkuk, the Yazidi-majority Sinjar region, or the Assyrian regions of the Nineveh plains. The KRG has not detailed how it intends to implement effective independence in the case that the “yes” option —as it is likely— wins. The Kurdish government has recently been hinting that it is more inclined to negotiate independence with Baghdad rather than unilaterally declaring it. Some analysts think that Kurdish leaders want to use a massive “yes” vote as a bargaining chip in Baghdad to ensure Kurdish recognition of control over oil-rich Kirkuk in post-ISIS Iraq.

Puerto Rico heads to polls in status referendum. Sunday 11, Puerto Ricans are called to the polls for the fifth referendum in history on the island’s status. The vote is not binding, but the Puerto Rican government hopes that a clear majority of votes supportig annexation to the US will move Washington towards accepting the Caribbean island as the union’s 51st state. Main opposition party PDP is calling to boycott the vote, arguing that the process leading to the referendum is invalid. An El Nuevo Día opinion poll forecast a couple of weeks ago that US statehood would get an absolute majority of votes.

Protests, arrests continue in Amazigh-majority Rif. Over the week, another two leading members of the Riffian Hirak movement —Nabil Ahamjik and Silya Ziani— have been arrested by the Moroccan police. More than 20 people, including the movement’s leader Nasser Zefzafi, continue to be under arrest. Protests target Moroccan authorities over Rif’s social, political and economic marginalization. Meanwhile, the World Amazigh Assembly has called for a statute of autonomy for Rif.

Thousands rally for Scottish independence. According to organizing group All Under One Banner, at least 17,000 Scots marched through the streets of Glasgow. It is the largest demonstration in the history of Scotland, the group has said. Buses carried people from several parts of Scotland to the march.