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International news briefs

US general elections: recap

On Tuesday, November 7, a number of general elections took place in select areas of the U.S., spanning across states and levels of government. These elections resulted in a number of historic victories for Democratic party nominees, many of whom are members of the LGBTQ+ community and are visible minorities. This is in stark contrast to the results of last year’s presidential election, the anniversary of which was last week. Notable victories from Tuesday’s races include several from Virginia. Danica Roem is the first openly transgender person to hold a seat in any American state legislature; she follows in the footsteps of transgender representative Althea Garrison, who lost her Massachusetts seat after being outed as transgender in the 1990s. Roem’s victory also unseated the republican incumbent responsible for Virginia’s iteration of a “bathroom bill”. Virginia also saw the election of Hala Ayala and Elizabeth Guzman, the first Latina lawmakers in the state, as well as Kathy Tran, the first Asian-American lawmaker in the state, and the election of Justin Fairfax marked the second time that a Black person was elected to the position of Lieutenant Governor in Virginia. Elsewhere, Seattle elected its first openly gay mayor, and its first female mayor since 1920, Jenny Durkan. Hoboken, New Jersey elected its first Sikh mayor, Ravinder Bhalla. St Paul, Minnesota elected its first Black mayor, Melvin Carter III, while Minneapolis elected Andrea Jenkins, the first openly transgender person of colour being elected to public office in the United States. She will now serve as a city councillor for the city. This dramatic increase in support for the Democratic party, if continuous, could result in the house of representatives shedding Republican control in the 2018 midterm elections.

Catalonia and declaration of independence

Since declaring their independence in regional parliament on October 27, the Catalonian government has been struggling to bring this declaration to fruition. The government of Catalonia was dissipated by the Mariano Rajoy’s Spanish government after declaring its independence. A constitutional court ruled the declaration of independence “unconstitutional and void.” The Spanish government has called a snap regional election for December 21 while several former leaders of Catalonia are currently hiding in Belgium, or are incarcerated. Among those are deposed Catalonian president, Carles Puigdemont, and four other prominent politicians. A Spanish request for an European Union arrest warrant on these officials is pending approval. This past Wednesday in Spain saw massive pro-independence strikes occupy over sixty roads in the Catalonia region, with many routes to Barcelona being interrupted. A warning against travelling by car was the only advice given to the Catalonian people from its Ministry of Transport. Spain’s foreign minister has also put forward the idea that Spain may adopt constitutional changes to make way for regional referendums on independence. However, in the foreign minister’s referendum model, all 47 million of Spain’s citizens would be able to vote on one region’s bid for independency. The minister, Alfonso Dastis, in his remarks to the BBC said, “We acknowledge there is a political situation that deserves to be looked at but, in any case, it’s clear that the decision will be taken, will have to be taken by all Spaniards.”