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Global News: Entering a New Political Era
Marco Marsans '18 Associate Editor
January 27, 2017
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By means of a historic referendum, Britain chose to secede from the European Union this past June. Britain’s exit, or “Brexit,” sparked a series of EU secessionist conversations.

Credit: Valerie Ma

Spencer Rosen ’18, an American student who grew up in London, believes that despite greater responsibilities, the benefits the U.K. enjoyed as a part of the EU were far greater than the drawbacks.

“My concern [with Brexit] was [one of] freedom of trade… the devaluing of the British economy… the lack of freedom of movement for workers…and immigration,” Rosen commented.

Rosen saw some similarities between the nature of Brexit and Trump’s electoral victory. “People compare [Brexit] to Trump’s election because of the way both  played on immigrant fear,” Rosen explained.

In the six months since the referendum, some of the greater consequences of the decision have surfaced.

Now that Britain no longer has the power to facilitate trade among European countries, its economy is the lowest it has been in thirty years. Similarly, The Bank of England has cut interest rates in hopes of stopping an economic crisis from occurring.

Additionally, because no one under eighteen can vote, many Millennials grew wary of an outcome that solely reflected the opinion of the elderly. Their fears were confirmed by post-referendum polls, which showed that most individuals under twenty-five voted ‘stay,’ while a majority of people over sixty voted ‘leave.’ Their sentiments were clear: “Why should the [older generations] be able to dictate our future, our careers, when they’ve already had theirs?” Rosen explained.

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On December 9, 2016, South Korea voted to impeach its President, Park Geun-hye. The vote to begin President Park’s impeachment trial was a historic landslide, with 234 members of parliament voting for her impeachment, and only 56 against.

After the vote, Park’s powers were suspended, pending her trial. The Constitutional Court has begun hearings, and will determine whether she will be required to step down from office.

Korean student Ashley Chang ’18 is particularly concerned with the repercussions of Park’s impeachment. “[I] and many others fear there will never be another female Korean president,” Chang commented.

Credit: Valerie Ma

Indeed, many Korean citizens are forced to consider the possibility of such a scenario. The impeachment of the first female president in Korean history is a blow to Korean feminists..

Korea’s political transition has reignited previously unaddressed controversy. Park’s father served as President from 1961 until his assassination in 1979. Park’s mother was killed in 1974, during an attempted assassination of her father.

Park took office following her father’s death. However, she allegedly conspired with an old friend, Choi Soon-sil. to extort $69 million from South Korean businesses. Choi’s father, Choi Tae-min, the leader of a pseudo-Christian cult, claimed to be able to communicate with Park’s dead mother. As a result, Choi’s family  held significant influence over Park. Choi Soon-sil has been indicted for abuse of power, extorting bribes, and leaking classified documents.

Park faces prosecution on charges of coercion and abuse of power. Groups across the country organized demonstrations throughout November and December, demanding Park’s resignation.

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Following Italy’s constitutional referendum on December 4, 2016, Matteo Renzi, who served as prime minister for two-and-a-half years, officially resigned from office. The bill, which was open to every Italian citizen above eighteen years old, proposed to reorganize the distribution of power within Italy’s government by decreasing the size of the senate, and by implementing a four-year presidential term.

Renzi put his political power behind the bill, so when the people of Italy voted down his proposal, he was forced out of office by his political opposition.

Credit: Valerie Ma

Federico Ferragamo ’19, an Italian student, supported the efforts put forth by Renzi and the Democratic Party. “A yes vote would change the law that allows any prime minister to be overthrown by the parties,” Ferragamo explained. “As a result [of the current law], we’ve had 68 prime ministers in 71 years… It’s hard to get things done because of the constant exchange of power,” he added.

The vote also threatened to take away much of the Senate’s power concerning impunity. Ferragamo believes that while it was a righteous effort on Renzi’s part, it ultimately made him a lot of enemies. He explained, “The [senators] have so much power that they shouldn’t have, and there’s way too many of them, and we pay them way too much.”

Ferragamo stated, “No one was actually looking at the referendum. It had nothing to do with the politics… power-hungry politicians who didn’t want [Renzi] in office, didn’t consider what the bill was saying…they just voted no to get him out.”

Ferragamo added, “This happened twenty years ago…but just with different parties…I hope the next time [the constitutional referendum] comes up, it’ll come into fruition.”