Brazilian politics had a turbulent year with President Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment proceedings rolling over from 2015. Rousseff had been accused of administrative misconduct and disregarding the federal budget, through manipulating budget figures to make it look like the economy was doing better than it was in the run up to the election. Rousseff was also tied, with many other politicians to the scandal and corruption of Brazilian petroleum company Petrobras who had been bribing members of the government to award contracts at inflated prices and then taking a cut of the profits. Though Rousseff was not linked to the Petrobras scandal she failed to distance herself from former President Luiz Lula da Silva who was implicated. She had offered him the job of Chief of Staff which would mean only the Supreme Court could investigate the former President. On April 17th the Chamber of Deputies voted in favour of the impeachment process 367-137 referring the case to the senate. In May Eduardo Cunha, the President of the Chamber of Deputies was forced to step down from his post by the Supreme Court because he himself was facing corruption charges and was in the line of succession. Cunha was later ousted from the Chamber of Deputies. Rousseff was suspended from office following the Senate’s vote of 55-22 to impeach. The suspension would last 180 days and conclude with the trial of Rousseff. The Vice President Michel Temer was to serve as acting President in this period. Temer himself was also deep in controversy with a tape leaking which hinted that he had a hand in the organising of the impeachment of Rousseff. On the 9th August a Senate session lasting 16 hours approved the findings of the impeachment committee and voted 59-21 to uphold the indictments against Rousseff the Senate later voted on 31st August finding Rousseff guilty of administrative misconduct and removed her from office 61-20 however the Senate did not vote to bar Rousseff from office for eight years after a 42-36 vote, this means Rousseff could run for office again at the next election in 2018. Temer ascended to the Presidency where he will serve the remainder of Rousseff’s term until January 1st 2019, however he himself has received an eight year ban from running for office and thus can’t seek re-election in 2018 having been convicted of electoral violations. Needless to say the writers for House of Cards have been watching this saga with great interest and someone has even spoofed the Brazilian version of the show.
Brazil isn’t the only country to have impeachment proceedings against their President. A scandal has engulfed South Korean President Park Geun-Hye. In October it was alleged that President Geun-Hye’s aide Choi Soon-Sill who has no official position in government was able to use her influence to seek out funds from several businesses including Samsung and Hyundai to two foundations she controls. It is also alleged that Choi has also had access to Geun-Hye’s personal and work life and has directly influenced and interfered with matters of state. Choi has been arrested and Geun-Hye has apologised to the country and her government but her popularity was as low as 4% with a reported 78% of South Koreans supporting impeachment. On December 9th the President was suspended from office following a vote of 234-56. Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn becomes acting President with Impeachment proceedings expected to last until June 2017.
A ground-breaking story which revealed a client list of the rich, famous and powerful who used this firm in Panama to set up off shore companies. The 11.5 million leaked documents revealed information for over 200,000 offshore firms. Reporters identified some individuals who had used this legal offshore business to launder money, fraud, tax evasion and avoid international sanctions. The papers were leaked to German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung who then shared the documents with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists which included the UKs Guardian newspaper. Named individuals included Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, King Salman of Saudi Arabia, family members of Chinese Premiere Xi Jinping, Kojo Annan the son of former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, Mark Thatcher son of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, British Prime Minister David Cameron’s father and close friends of Russian President Vladamir Putin. The papers gave a glimpse into the dark shadowy world of offshoring. Only Iceland’s Prime Minister Gunnlaugsson became a direct casualty of the leak after national protersts outside the Icelandic parliament forced Gunnlaugsson to resign.
Just to prove how ineffective polls and pundits can be Donald Trump pulled off the unexpected in November by winning the White House. Up against former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton it looked like this was Clinton’s election to lose. In this election between the two most unpopular candidates in recent history the worry was whether the public would even get out and vote. We had seen the candidates go head to head in three televised debates. Clinton faced an invasive investigation into deleted emails off a private server whilst Trump faced a PR disaster when audio was leaked with Trump saying how his wealth meant he could grab any woman he wanted, wherever he wanted. Clinton was the qualified, skilled politician, whereas Trump was the opposite, a political outsider, a business man and reality TV star. Come election night Clinton had a 90% chance of winning, but as the night went on those odds were slipping, and slipping fast. Key battleground states were too close to call with states that had previously backed Clinton’s Democrats under President Obama switching to Trump. Clinton narrowly took the state of Virginia, whilst Trump took the big-ticket prize of Florida, a state with a high number of Latino voters, experts thought this had to go to Clinton. The key bellwether state of Ohio went to Trump, the old saying of “as Ohio goes, so goes the nation” started to show truth and with the shock swing of Michigan, Wisconsin adding to the battleground win of Pennsylvania Trump had secured the 270 Electoral College votes required with room to spare. What’s interesting about this election is, though Trump won the College he did not win the popular vote. More people voted for Clinton, in fact 2.7 million more people voted for Clinton than Trump, the biggest popular margin of any candidate. There were attempts to get recounts but they swung the states further in Trump’s direction, there were calls for the Electoral College to vote with the popular vote, a move never carried out before. There were concerns the Russians had hacked the election to tip the result in Trump’s favour yet nothing could be done. As of 20th January Donald Trump will ascend to the most powerful office. This ensures that 2017 will be a strange year.
Happy 90th Mam
2016 marks the 90th Birthday of Queen Elizabeth II, and becomes Britain’s oldest Monarch in history. The woman who was never meant to be Queen as a little girl but due to her Uncle’s abdication the duty of monarch would fall on her shoulders after her fathers. At 21 she had promised “That my whole life whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service.” The Queen is still active, reading her Red Boxes from government, riding horses (yes at 90!) and continues with her national and international engagements. The Queen also became the longest-serving head of state in the world following the death of Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej in October of this year.
I know, you might say that Eurovision isn’t exactly a big news story as it happens every year. However this year’s contest hosted in Stockholm, Sweden saw the introduction of a new voting system aimed at breaking up the block voting of countries. An issue which has plagued the contest for years, an issue that saw the late Sir Terry Wogan resign as BBC commentator in 2008. Previously the national jury votes were merged 50/50 with those of the national tele voting which often lead to neighbours awarding each other the maximum 12 points. Following the success of the voting system used in Sweden’s national selection contest Melodifestivalen the voting would be split in two. The national Jury would award their votes and these would be announced by the individual country’s representative. The votes from the national tele votes would come through with the most popular song gaining 12 points from each country and so on. These would then be tallied together and announced in reverse order. This year’s bookies favourite was Russia’s Sergey Lazarev with his song “You’re my only one”. However the national Juries placed Australia (yes they were allowed to return) in first place with “Sound of silence” by Dami Im. The public tele votes placed Russia in first but when the two totals were added together it was Ukraine’s Jamala with her song “1944” that took the title. Winning with 534 to Australia’s 511 and Russia’s 491. The UK came third from bottom with 62 points ahead of Germany and the Czech Republic.