The Polifix: 2nd – 8th July

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 The Polifix loses its satirical tone for a week to discuss Mexican elections, faux terrorism alerts and a potential tipping point for Assad and Syria. 

The Electronic Cigarette

In the last week, 14 people have been arrested on suspicion of terrorism in what was one of the biggest crackdowns since the 2005 7/7 bomb attacks.

Authorities have claimed that the arrests are nothing to do with the upcoming Olympics Games. Such a claim seem dubious considering the increase of anti-terrorism activity and three of the arrests occurring in an address located close to the Olympic Stadium.

A New Form Of Terrorism?

In reality, these arrests – alongside news of roof missiles – clearly show Britian’s security jitters ahead of the Olympics, which has been widely regarded as the most high-profile terrorist target since 9/11.

Indeed, last week, the M6 was closed down for four hours after a terrorism alert on a coach. Armed police, helicopters and bomb disposal experts all surged onto the scene after a passenger had spied vapor from another passenger on the vehicle

The cause; a man was smoking an electronic cigarette, a quitting device for smokers. Perhaps a slight overreaction.

Mexico Goes To The Polls (& Back Again)

It seems election galore at the moment and Mexico was the latest nation to join the roster. Early results showed that Enrique Peña Nieto, leader of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), had won the election.

Speedy Is Quite Happy With The Election Result

It is an incredible turnaround for the the PRI party, who ruled Mexico for 71 autocratic years through corruption and patronage. Or is it?

Observers have claimed the election was neither free nor fair, with widespread allegations of vote-buying and coercion against the PRI by opposition parties, especially the leftist candidate Manuel Lopez Obrador.

A recount was taken at over half of the polling stations during the week after these fraudulent allegations, though results still show Nieto as the winner. Yet, it is not an ideal start for a candidate who wants his party to be given a clean slate and who 60% of the population voted against.

And it is unsurprising there continues to be widespread skepticism over the result. In 2006, now-outgoing president Felipe Calderón won the election by 0.58% and despite large-scale adding-up issues and a partial recount (which results were never released), the election authorities refused to do anything. 2012 looks to continue this democratic deficit.

Syria On The Rocks

Hilary Clinton has come out this week to declare that the Syrian regime’s “days are numbered.” While such a statement may be overly bold and premature, there is no doubt that the pressure is creeping up on Assad.

With the shooting down of a Turkish Jet last month and the implementation of large-scale military exercises – in order to stimulate defence operations from “outside aggression” – it is clear that Assad’s paranoia is growing.

This was no doubt helped by the news that General Manaf Tlass, a member of Assad’s inner circle, has defected. The General, son of former defense minister, was a major component behind the security forces and is one of the highest-ranking members to abandon the regime. It is particularly a major blow due to the fact that Tlass was one of the few Sunni’s in the government, with the desertion removing more legitimacy from the country’s 75% Sunni community.

Tlass during a ‘Che Guevara style’ Photo Shoot

While Tlass has been gaining all the headlines, it is believed there is a growing number of silent objectors in the Syrian Army who are no longer cooperating with the government. Experts believe that 80,000 young men were expected to show up to military service this year with barely any responding.

Yet, it is important to not overstate these desertions. Many believe Tlass’ defection was not of a political motivation, with the Republican Guard remains intact and many officers and soldiers remaining neutral due to the salaries and pensions they still draw from the government.

Moreover, Human Rights Watch published a report this week claiming that Syria is running a torture chamber network of 27 detention centres where people that oppose Assad are intimidated, tortured and punished; beaten, electrocuted and nail pulling to name just a few weapons. Let’s not get too hasty then Mrs. Clinton.

The 16-month long conflict rumbles on.

A Modest Proposal

An Argentina Court has sentenced two former dictators, Jorge Videla and Reynaldo Bignone, for a systematic baby-stealing programme. The dictators, who are both in prison for previous human rights abuses, were sentenced to 50 and 15 years respectively for their crimes.

The two men are accused of stealing babies from imprisoned leftist activists during the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. The military Junta, at the time, were running a dirty war against dissidents in order to remove the armed opposition guerrilla movement. Official documents showed that 13,000 people were killed over the period, with pregnant woman ‘disappearing’ after birth and over 500 babies stolen from their parents. Justice has been done.

To Save Or Shave

The slacktivists had Kony2012; football Fans had EURO2012; and Britain has the upcoming London2012.

You would think that was enough for one year, but in the town of Murray, Utah, the residents have had a hairy event of their own, dubbed ‘Decision2012’.

The residents of this town went to the vote as to whether the Mayor of the town, Dan Snarr, should shave his 18-inch long moustache. Surprisingly, the opponent in the ‘shave it’ corner is Snarr’s wife, who has complained that she would like to kiss the mayor, but “can’t find a way in”.

In fact, one night it is believed she said “its either me or the stache” with the Mayor replying “C’mon April, it’s been nice knowing you”. Banter; and it seems like the Mayor had the last laugh again with the residents voting to save the Mayor’s incredible handlebar facial hair.

In Other News…

Whistleblowers WikiLeaks has begun to release emails from Syrian government officials which will be “embarrassing” to both Syria and Syria’s external opponents.

The Libor Scandal continues with Barclay chairman Marcus Agius stepping down quickly followed by chief executive Bob Diamond. Diamond is walking away with a £2 million payoff, though has voluntarily deferred £20 million of shares and bonuses. Diamonds aren’t forever then.

And lastly, Libya went to the polls in landmark parliamentary elections. The liberal Alliance of National Forces have claimed victory, though this has yet to be unconfirmed (and going on recent Egyptian & Mexican elections, it could be a long time in waiting)

Tune in next Sunday for your weekly political news fix…

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