UK ELECTION – On December 12th 2019, a general election took place in the United Kingdom. The Conservatives, led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, managed to secure an absolute majority (365 seats) in the House of Commons. The Labour Party, after having obtained its lowest amount of seats since 1935, will have to elect a new leader in the first few months of 2020, as Jeremy Corbyn has announced his resignation, taking responsibility for his party’s defeat.

BREXIT UPDATE – The UK election was followed by a new vote on an adapted Withdrawal Agreement Bill, which would result in the incorporation of the withdrawal agreement negotiated with the EU into British law. The bill was ultimately adopted by the House; 358 MPs voted in favour of it. The UK is now expected to leave the EU by the end of 2020.

US-IRAN TENSIONS – Tensions between the United States and Iran arose on January 3rd 2020, after an Iranian military general had been killed by a US drone strike. Immediately after the killing Iran announced that it would retaliate against the US, leading many to speculate about a possible global conflict.

FIREWORKS – In the Netherlands, the new year started off with a debate about a possible ban on (explosive) fireworks. Johan Remkes (VVD), speaking as acting mayor of The Hague, announced his support for such a prohibition during an episode of Buitenhof. Afterwards it became apparent that there was a majority for said ban in the House of Representatives, as multiple political parties indicated that they were in favour of it.

MALTESE PROTESTS – Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat announced on December 1st 2019 that he would leave office on January 12th 2020. He expressed his desire to resign amid protests which were ignited by the murder of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who revealed several instances of corruption within the Maltese government during her career, back in 2017. Many believe that Muscat played a role in either the journalist’s murder or the cover-up of the crime.

TURMOIL IN VENEZUELA – On January 5th 2020, self-declared interim president Juan Guiadó was replaced as the speaker for the Venezuelan National Assembly by Luis Parra, who received support from socialist MPs. Guiadó called his replacement a parliamentary coup, as he was denied access to the assembly at the time of the vote. The speakership is an important function in Venezuelan politics, because the country’s constitution states that the speaker must take over the presidency when the National Assembly concludes that the sitting president has been neglecting his or her responsibilities. Guaidó’s claim to the Venezuelan presidency is based on such a conclusion.

SPANISH GOVERNMENT FORMATION – After months of negotiations between various left-wing parties, a first investiture vote was held in the Spanish Congress of Deputies on January 5th 2020. The purpose of the vote was to approve or reject PSOE leader Pedro Sánchez as (definitive) Prime Minister. Sánchez narrowly lost the vote in the end, because an absolute majority of 176 votes was not achieved. Sánchez did however win the second vote, as he received enough votes to achieve a simple majority (for which more votes in favour of his candidacy than against are needed). His cabinet was subsequently sworn in.

PROTESTS IN INDIA – On December 11th 2019, the definitive adoption of a new citizenship law sparked mass demonstrations in India. The law provides a pathway to citizenship to non-Muslim illegal immigrants who fled persecution in neighbouring Muslim-majority countries and took refuge in India before 2015. Opponents describe the law as discriminatory, because it does not give Muslim immigrants the possibility to become citizens.