By Adnan Khan
There were a number of events in 2014 that affected global politics. Such as the battle for Ukraine, the rise of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, the global economy struggling to grow and the reversal of the Arab spring to name a few. With this in mind, Revolution Observer highlights 10 global issues that deserve the attention of the political observer for the year 2015.
1. Egypt Parliamentary Elections – The Arab spring has been completely reversed in Egypt. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, as the sole candidate in the presidential election in May 2014, institutionalised his position as dictator of Egypt. In the midst of economic turmoil parliamentary elections will be held from February 2014 – March 2014. Sisi and the military need to find a replacement for the defunct former ruling National Democratic Party. Two camps will be the primary forces participating for this. The first camp is the al-Nour Party, which came in second place behind the Muslim brotherhood in the 2011-12 parliamentary elections, but has sided with Sisi all the way. The second camp is the country’s highly fragmented anti-Islamic camp. There is also an effort to form a centrist coalition led by former Muslim Brotherhood leader and presidential candidate Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, who is trying to gather other moderate forces.
2. Uzbekistan Elections – In March 2014 Islam Karimov made constitutional changes transferring many of his powers to the Uzbek parliament and the Prime Minister’s posts. However internal disputes within his own family and clans in the country are getting bigger as there are no clear successors to Karimov. Islam Karimov is now 75 years old and is aging and suffered a severe heart attack on 19th March 2013. His health problems have contributed to competition among different clans. Investigations into his daughter, Gulnara Karimova, by the Swedish authorities due to corruption charges has been deeply embarrassing for Karimov and the signs all point to Karimov losing control. With elections due in December 2015 it remains to be seen if Karimov really gives up power.
3. Turkish General Elections – Turkey will head to the polls in June 2015 to elect 550 new members of the countries grand assembly. A majority of 276 seats is needed to form the government and the Justice and Development Party (AKP), since it emerged in power in 2002 has won the elections well in excess of a simple majority. This allowed its leader Erdogan to push through many reforms. The rules of the AKP limited Erdogan to three terms as prime minister, which would have ended in June 2015. However Erdogan gave up the prime minister’s position and ran for the president’s position in August 2014, which was the first time the position was directly elected by the people and not parliament. The problem Erdogan now faces is his position does not possess the powers the Prime Minister’s role did. Erdogan’s supporters have talked of rewriting Turkey’s constitution to give the presidency greater powers. Erdogan has weakened the army’s grip on power and used the state security to suppress opposition to his Pro-US agenda, but with the president lacking executive power, a constitutional change will be needed. This requires the drafting of a new constitution, which has to be passed through parliament with at least a three fifths majority and then successfully passed via a public referendum. The AKP currently is 3 seats short of 330 to propose constitutional changes to a referendum without the support of other parties in parliament. All of this will take place with Erdogan continuing his efforts to strengthen his party at the expense of the secular elements.
4. Disintegration of Sykes-Picot – Sir Mark Sykes and Francois Georges-Picot were British and French diplomats who redrew the map of the region between the Mediterranean Sea and Persia after World War I. They invented countries like Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and Iraq. Some of these nation-states are in turmoil and their sustainability is now a pertinent question. With conflicts flowing across international boundaries and central governments becoming mere factions amongst among many other factions, the region is where it was 100 years ago. The Middle East as we know it was crafted to divide and weaken the Muslims. Weak groups and ethnicities that would remain loyal to the west were brought to power. This is why countries such as Kuwait, Jordan and Lebanon are artificial nations. In Syria today, Basher al-Assad is just one faction amongst many and in Iraq the government in Baghdad is struggling to be more than just another faction. In 2015 the fragmentation and the crippling of national governments will erode the Sykes-Picot Middle East.
5. Bashar al-Assad – In 2014 the uprising in Syria reached four years. The US position has been clear from the outset, the regime must survive at all costs and the uprising must be diverted, divided and thwarted. This can be seen from the rhetoric from Washington being in complete contrast to its actions. However four years on, the people of Syria continue with their uprising unabated and refuse to negotiate with the regime or put down their weapons in the face of apocalyptic conditions. US strategies of arming certain groups over others, dealing with certain factions over others and giving cover to the regime to put down the uprising have failed to stop the people of Syria. The Syrian regime despite receiving outside help is virtually bankrupt, its army has shrunk due to defections and the longer this goes on, al-Assad may come to be seen as a liability by his own people.
6. Libya Crisis – For three years, Libya has been without a functioning government, police force, or army. The country has been ripped apart by warring ex-rebels who helped oust Gaddafi. Various rival factions have emerged who are vying for control of Libya. On one side is the newly elected parliament that has been banished to the eastern city of Tobruk — supported by the fractured remains of Gaddafi soldiers who defected during the uprising. On the other side is Libya Dawn, a self-described revolutionary coalition of militiamen and politicians that originated in the Western city of Misrata. Then there is an army faction led by former General Khalifa Haftar, who has rapidly emerged as a powerful figure. In 2015 all these factions will battle it out for the country.
7. New US aircraft carrier – The first in a new generation of US aircraft carriers is due to launch in 2015. Aircraft Carriers as a part of Carrier Strike Group (CSG) are the key to US dominance of the world’s oceans. A CSG is centred on an aircraft carrier, which projects US naval and air power. The US currently has 10 active aircraft carriers, which are of the Nimitz class. The lead ship of this class, was commissioned in 1975, and USS George H.W. Bush, the tenth and last of the class, was commissioned on 10 January 2009. From 2015 this ageing fleet will be replaced by the Gerald R. Ford-class. This new class of ship includes some major improvements over previous generations. Ten carriers are commissioned in total, at a cost of $14bn each (including research and development). The 10th and final ship is scheduled to be launched by 2040.
8. The Eurasian Union – The Eurasian Union (EAU) is due to officially come into existence on January 1st 2015. The political and economic union will consist of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan. It will create a single economic market of 171 million people and a gross domestic product (GDP) of $3 trillion. The idea, based on the EU’s integration, was brought to attention in October 2011 by then-Prime Minister of Russia, Vladimir Putin, in an effort to consolidate Russia’s position in Eurasia. With the Russian economy in crisis and tensions in Ukraine, this union will play an important role in Russia’s future strategy.
9. Oil Crisis – When oil prices move in either direction, there are winners and losers. High oil prices are good for oil producers, as they make more profits, but bad for oil consumers who have to pay more. Low oil prices are good for oil consumers as they can consume more as the price of oil is cheap. But this eats into the profits of oil producers. Oil producers around the world receive most of their budget revenues from oil and energy sales and have a breakeven oil price which balances their budgets. When oil prices falls below this point, then government revenues are affected, government expenditure is affected and energy dependent economies as a whole are also affected. In the space of a year oil prices have fallen from around $130 per barrel to around $80 per barrel, a fall of over 50%. As oil is the world’s most important commodity it affects a country’s standing in the world, and as we can see with Russia it is leading to its collapse. In 2015, nations dependent on oil will need to deal with falling oil prices.
10. US Afghan Departure – After 13 years of war, nearly 2000 military deaths of its servicemen and costs of around $3 trillion, the US will end its mission on 1st January 2015. The US has failed in defeating the Taliban and subsequently stabilising the country. The Taliban still control most of the country, the Afghan central government remains incompetent and corrupt and the country’s US trained national army is in no position to maintain order. Negotiations with the Taliban never materialised and the US will leave a country that remains in disarray. To deal with this the US will leave around 13,000 troops in the country under a new two-year mission named Resolute Support, which began on January 1st 2015. It remains to be seen if the US constructed political architecture remains standing in 2015.