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Sri Lankan President bans face veil; Socialists win Spanish snap elections- Current Affairs

Under the new order, any garment or item that obstructs the identification of a person’s face would be barred.

Apr 29, 2019 14:20 IST
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Story 1- Sri Lankan President announces ban on face veil after Easter attacks

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena on April 28, 2019 announced a ban on covering of the face with burqa, veil or in any manner that prevents identification of the person.

The order comes a week after coordinated blasts hit three churches and three luxury hotels in the nation, killing over 250 people and injuring more than 500 others.

Key Highlights

The new regulations were announced by President Maithripala Sirisena, using his emergency powers. The order comes into effect from April 29.

Under it, any garment or item that obstructs the identification of a person’s face would be barred.

With this, Muslim women will not be allowed to wear any form of face veils in public until further notice.

The move comes days after local Muslim organisations urged Muslim women not to cover their faces with burqa to help stabilize the security situation.

Objective

The President’s office said in an official statement that the ban is to ensure national security. The order clarified that face covering is an obstacle to ensure the identity of the people.

The President took the decision to establish a peaceful and cohesive society, which does not inconvenience any community as well as ensures national security.

Background

Sri Lanka has a population of 21 million, which is a mix of various ethnicities and religions, dominated by the Sinhalese Buddhist majority.

The Muslims account for 10 per cent of the population and are the second-largest minority after Hindus. Besides them, around seven per cent of Sri Lankans are Christians.

On April 21, on the occasion of Easter, nine suicide bombers carried out a series of blasts that tore through three churches and three luxury hotels in Sri Lanka, killing 253 people.

The Islamic State has claimed the responsibility of the attacks, but the government has blamed the local Islamist extremist group, National Thowheeth Jamaath (NTJ).

Sri Lanka has banned the NTJ and a splinter group linked to the ISIS.

Counter-Terrorism Law

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has urged the parliament to speed up the enaction of law against terrorist activities.

Sri Lanka's existing anti-terrorism laws were enacted in 1979 to combat domestic activities and a new bill was presented to parliament in 2018, but it has not yet been approved by the committee in charge.

The third article of the new bill prevents any individual or group that threatens or acts against the laws of a foreign government or its operations.

Story 2- Ruling socialist party wins Spain’s snap elections!

Spain’s ruling center-left socialist party has won the snap elections that were held on April 28, 2019. The opinion polls had predicted a victory for outgoing socialist premier Pedro Sanchez.

With 99 percent of the ballots counted, the Socialists led by Prime Minister Sanchez has won 29 percent of the vote, capturing 123 seats in the 350-seat Congress of Deputies. As predicted, the Socialists must seek backing from smaller parties to maintain power, as it has not got a clear majority. Sanchez announced post victory that he would soon open talks with other political parties.

Key Highlights

Pedro Sanchez’s Socialist Workers’ party (PSOE) won 123 seats, the conservative People’s party (PP) won 66, the centre-right Citizens party won 57, while the anti-austerity Unidas Podemos and its allies won 42 seats.

The new far-right Vox party made its national breakthrough by capturing 10 per cent of the vote, which would give it 24 seats.

Despite it being the country’s third general election in under four years, the voter turnout was 75.8 percent, well up on the 66.5 percent two years ago.

Sanchez hailed the result and the high turnout as proof of Spain’s desire to move forward and reject the reactionary policies of some of his rightwing opponents.

However, the PSOE will still need to seek the support of other parties to reach the 176 seats necessary to form a government in Spain’s 350-seat congress of deputies.

Rise of Vox: Significance!

The far-right party Vox, which burst onto the scene in December regional polls in southern Andalusia, will be making its first-ever entrance into the national parliament with these snap polls.

The party has been founded by a former member of the conservative Popular Party (PP). It is known for its hardline stance against feminism, illegal immigration, Muslims and the rights of LGBTQ people.

According to the party’s beliefs, men and women are viewed as not necessarily being the same, and should not be treated as such and while Muslim immigrants are said to be incompatible with Spanish culture.

 The party’s leader, Santiago Abascal, characterizes Vox not as extremist or fanatical, but rather the party of “common sense”.

The party talks of expanding gun rights and fighting ‘elites’ and ‘globalists’ and majorly focuses on highlighting Spanish identity and nationalism.

Background

Pedro Sanchez called the snap elections in February, after Catalan separatists joined rightwing parties in rejecting his 2019 budget.

Sanchez came to power, after his party tabled a no-confidence motion to oust the then corruption-ridden government headed by Mariano Rajoy. The motion won the support of 180 MPs, four more than the 176 needed in the 350-seat parliament. There was one abstention and 169 MPs opposed it.

But Sanchez’s minority government struggled to advance its legislative agenda as it held only 84 of the 350 seats in congress.

The prime minister’s opponents accuse him of being weak and too indebted to the Catalan independence parties that supported his successful no-confidence motion.

The opposition leaders argued that Sanchez should take a stronger stand on the Catalan independence issue, which has dominated Spanish politics since the regional government’s secession attempt in autumn 2017.

Catalan Independence Issue

The Catalan independence movement is a social and political movement, which seeks the independence of Catalonia from Spain. The movement began in 1922, when Francesc Macia founded the political party Catalan State. In 1931, Estat Catala and other parties formed Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC).

Macia proclaimed a Catalan Republic in 1931, subsequently accepting autonomy within the Spanish state after negotiations with the leaders of the Second Spanish Republic. During the Spanish Civil War, General Francisco Franco abolished Catalan autonomy in 1938. Following Franco's death in 1975, Catalan political parties concentrated on autonomy rather than independence.

The modern independence movement began in 2010 when the Constitutional Court of Spain ruled that some of the articles of the 2006 Statute of Autonomy, which had been agreed with the Spanish government and passed by a referendum in Catalonia, were unconstitutional and others were to be interpreted restrictively.

Protests against the decision quickly turned into demands for independence. Over 550 municipalities in Catalonia held symbolic referendums on independence between 2009 and 2011. All of the towns returned a high "yes" vote, with a turnout of around 30 percent of those eligible to vote.

Catalan president Artur Mas called a snap general election, which resulted in a pro-independence majority for the first time in the region's history. The new parliament adopted the Catalan Sovereignty Declaration in early 2013, asserting that the Catalan people had the right to decide their own political future.

The Government of Catalonia announced a referendum on the question of statehood, to be held in November 2014. The referendum asked two questions: "Do you want Catalonia to become a state?" and if so, "Do you want this state to be independent?"

The Government of Spain referred the proposed referendum to the Constitutional Court, which ruled it unconstitutional. The Government of Catalonia then changed it from a binding referendum to a non-binding "consultation".

Despite the Spanish court also banning the non-binding vote, the Catalan self-determination referendum went ahead on November 9, 2014. The result was an 81 percent vote for "yes", with a turnout of 42 percent.

Elections were called in September 2015, in which, the pro- independence parties fell just short of a majority of votes with 47 percent votes. The new parliament passed a resolution declaring the start of the independence process in November 2015.

The following year, new president Carles Puigdemont, announced a binding referendum on independence. Although deemed illegal by the Spanish government and Constitutional Court, the referendum was held on October 1,  2017.

In a vote where the anti-independence parties called for non-participation, results showed a 90 percent vote in favour of independence, with a turnout of 43 percent.

Based on this result, in October 2017 the Parliament of Catalonia approved a resolution creating an independent Republic unilaterally, by a vote considered illegal by the lawyers of the Parliament of Catalonia for violating the decisions of the Constitutional Court of Spain.

While Catalonia has its own language and distinctive traditions, it is also a vital part of the Spanish state. Barcelona, one of the EU's best-loved city-break destinations, falls under the Catalan region.

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