Global Review – 20th December

Leftist Boric wins Chile presidential election

Chileans have elected Leftist candidate Gabriel Boric as their president. His far-right rival, José Antonio Kast, conceeded defeat barely 90 minutes after polls closed, and with around half of ballots counted. With most of the votes counted, the former student activist won 56% of the votes and Kast trailed with 44%. Large crowds gathered in the capital Santiago with supporters waving flags and honking car horns. Addressing a victory rally, the president-elect said Chile’s market-oriented economic model had to change. At 35, Boric will become one of the world’s youngest political leaders, and the youngest president in Chile’s history.

Record low turnout in Hong Kong vote

Pro-Beijing candidates swept to victory in an overhauled patriots-only legislative election in Hong Kong that was deemed regressive by critics, with turnout hitting a record low of 30.2%. Latest results show almost all of the seats have been taken by pro-Beijing and pro-establishment candidates. Pro-democracty activists had called for a boycott of the poll in which all candidates were approved by Bejing.

Domestic violence ‘almost satanic’ says Pope

Pope Francis said that men who commit violence engage in something that is “almost satanic”. He made the comment, with. some of the strongest language he has ever used to condemn such violence, during a TV programme broadcast on Italy’s TG5 network in which he conversed with three women and a man, all with difficult backgrounds. “The number of women who are beaten and abused in their homes, even by their husbands, is very, very high. The problem is that, for me, it is almost satanic because it is taking advantage of a person who cannot defend herself, who can only (try to) block the blows,” he said. The Pope also listened to a homeless woman speak of life on the street and a man trying to get back on his feet after 25 years in jail.

Europe braces for energy crunch

Europe is bracing for energy shortages this week as freezing weather is set to boost demand at a time when supply just can’t keep up. Temperatures are forecast to fall below zero degrees Celsius in several European capitals, straining electricity grids already coping with low wind speeds and severe nuclear outages in France. Energy prices have spiraled out of control this year, with European gas prices surging some 600%. In France, power for delivery on Monday rallied to the highest level since a rare spike in 2009, while in Germany prices were the third highest on record.

Fauci warns against Christmas travel

The leading infectious disease expert in the United States, Dr Anthony Fauci, said Christmas travel would increase the spread of the Omicron COVID-19 variant, already “raging around the world”. He told NBC that on current trends, the spread of Omicron would put serious stress on US hospitals. He urged more Americans to get the vaccine and booster shots. He said research has shown that a booster shot can provide about 85% protection against severe illness from Omicron.

Italy considers new restrictions to avoid closures

Italy is reviewing a package of new measures to slow a surge in COVID-19 cases during the Christmas holidays in a bid to avoid drastic measures taken by other European countries. Italy reported 24,259 new cases and 97 new deaths Sunday. Mario Draghi’s government will meet on Thursday to discuss possible options as the highly-transmissible Omicron variant is expected to become dominant in Europe in the coming weeks.

UK: COVID-19 rules could tighten by Christmas

Britain’s health secretary has refused to rule out imposing tougher COVID-19 restrictions before Christmas amid the rapid rise of infections and continuing uncertainty about the Omicron variant. Sajid Javid said Sunday that the government was assessing the fast-moving situation and urged the public to be cautious as UK cases tripled in a day and London declared a “major incident” due to the spread of Omicron. Meanwhile, thousands of protesters rallied across Europe this weekend, including Brussels, Paris, London, Barcelona, Turin, the Hague, and Vienna.

New UK chief Brexit negotiator

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday appointed Foreign Secretary Liz Truss to take on Lord Frost’s responsibilities as lead Brexit negotiator. Lord Frost resigned on Saturday as the UK’s chief Brexit negotiator in dramatic fashion over the latest round of COVID-19 restrictions.

Russia cannot ‘dictate’ to NATO

Germany’s new Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht said Sunday that NATO allies were willing to discuss a raft of demands put forward by Russia, which has massed troops along the Ukrainian border, but would not allow Moscow to “dictate” to the alliance or its partners. The demands, put forward by Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ryabkov, include the withdrawal of NATO’s forward operating battalions from Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, and firm commitments that Ukraine and Georgia will never join NATO.

Peng Shuai denies making sexual assault allegation

Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai on Sunday denied ever making sexual assault allegations against a former Chinese government official. Peng, a former doubles champion, has made few public appearances since writing a now-deleted social media post accusing former Chinese vice premier Zhang Gaoli of forcing her to have sex with him despite repeated refusals following a round of tennis. In a video posted by Singapore media outlet Lianhe Zaobao over the weekend, Peng said she never made sexual assault accusations against anyone and that a previous social media post that rocked the global sports world had been misunderstood.

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