New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

The Soapbox: Presidential primary in Ghana, climate protest in London, diplomacy between Australia and China

The Soapbox is a weekly column by WSN covering major news developments at NYU’s campuses and study away sites abroad. Global consciousness for a global university.
Max Van Hosen
The Soapbox is a weekly news column rounding up stories worth reading for a global university. (Illustration by Max Van Hosen)

In Ghana, vice president wins presidential nomination

The New Patriotic Party of Ghana nominated current Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia as its presidential candidate on Saturday. He will face off against former President John Mahama in the upcoming December 2024 election. 

Bawumia currently serves the NPP administration under president Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, who will step down in January 2025 after serving in the role for an eight-year term. Bawumia has become the face of the government’s economic policy, which has struggled under the weight of COVID-19 and the Russia-Ukraine war. The West African nation requested a $3 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund last year, and saw its inflation rate reach a record 54% last December. Bawumia, however, has committed to strengthening the country’s economy. 

“I want to lead a nation that improves and unleashes the talents of our youth and offers good jobs with good pay and sustainable growth with macroeconomic discipline,” the economist and former central banker said in his acceptance speech.

His optimism was reflected in the polls — Bawumia finished ahead of his three challengers with a convincing 61.47% of the vote.

While Ghana has a multi-party political system, two parties have remained dominant since the country’s democratization in 1992. The liberal-democratic NPP retains a stronghold in the southern Ashanti Region, while Mahama’s National Democratic Congress party draws much of its support from the Volta and Northern regions.

Bawumia’s candidacy breaks from these traditional ethnic and geographic party divisions — he is the first Muslim and northerner to receive the NPP’s nomination. The party hopes this will earn them broader political support across the country.

“We are a party of different people from different backgrounds with different preferences. But in our differences we are indivisible,” Bawumia said in a speech last week. “With this in mind, I have been presenting a message that fosters unity, inspires hope and confidence and positions the NPP as the best to lead Ghana.”

In London, climate demonstrators arrested for criminal damage

Two climate protestors were arrested on Monday after damaging the glass panel on Spanish painter Diego Velázquez’s painting, “The Toilet of Venus,” at London’s National Gallery. The demonstrators were members of  the climate-focused civil resistance group Just Stop Oil — whose acts of disruption have garnered attention this year in the United Kingdom.

The activists smashed holes in the painting’s glass shield with small hammers, and then turned to the gallery, saying, “If we love history, if we love art, and if we love our families, we must just stop oil,” according to Reuters

This is not the first time “The Toilet of Venus,” one of Velázquez’s most famed pieces, has been the target of activist groups. In 1914, the painting was slashed by a member of the suffragette movement advocating for women’s right to vote. The climate demonstrators acknowledged this shared history, saying, “Politics is failing us. Politics failed women in 1914.”

The disruption was part of a larger protest on Monday, with at least 40 climate activists slow-marching down Whitehall, a major road neighboring the gallery. The protest was held in response to the U.K. granting 100 new domestic oil and gas licenses, an attempt to reduce the country’s dependence on foreign energy.

This demonstration was one of several organized by Just Stop Oil this year. In July, climate activists interrupted play at Wimbledon, a prestigious tennis tournament, by releasing ticker-tape and jigsaw puzzle pieces onto the court. The protestors were arrested for aggravated trespass and criminal damage. 

Along with many other civil resistance groups, Just Stop Oil is financed by the Climate Emergency Fund, a group dedicated to disruptive activism. 

“Action moves public opinion and what the media covers,” the CEF executive director Margaret Klein Salamon said to The New York Times. “The normal systems have failed. It’s time for every person to realize that we need to take this on.”

In Beijing, a historic meeting between Australian and Chinese leadership

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese arrived in Beijing on Saturday, ahead of a three-day visit with Chinese leadership. The trip marks the first time in seven years that an Australian leader has met with China on the country’s home turf. 

Relations between the Oceanic and East Asian powers have destabilized in recent years. In 2018, Australia barred Huawei, a Chinese manufacturing company, from building a 5G wireless network in the country, citing international security risks over espionage. In 2020, the country accused China of political interference, and following the COVID-19 pandemic, demanded an investigation of the virus’s origins. In retaliation, China has blocked a variety of Australian imports, including coal and wine.

Tensions lessened with Albanese’s election in May 2022, as the country’s Labor Party regained control of the executive office after years of conservative leadership. The prime minister prioritized mending the countries’ relationship, meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping during the G20 Summit last November. China has since lifted some trade restrictions between the nations.

Monday’s meeting was a largely symbolic gesture of goodwill — the leaders discussed the relative cuteness of Tasmanian devils and pandas, along with the quality of Australian wine. On policy matters, Albanese confirmed that he had discussed the status of Australian democracy blogger Yang Hengjun. The blogger has been detained in China on espionage charges since January 2019 with little transparency about the state of his health. Albanese did not relay Xi’s response to the situation, but did address the need for better transparency in his opening remarks.

“Where differences arise, it’s important that we have communication,” the prime minister said. “From communication comes understanding.”

While the meeting signals a mending of the countries’ relationship, there is still reason for skepticism. Australia recently rejected China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, a critical trade route between Australia and its allies Japan and South Korea. China has also raised concerns over AUKUS, a security agreement between Australia, the U.S. and the U.K. that would introduce greater Western influence to the Indo-Pacific region.

Australia’s foreign affairs minister Penny Wong said that this recent diplomacy represents a breakthrough between the two nations, saying that “the ice thaws, but slowly.”

Contact Anna Baird-Hassell at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Anna Baird-Hassell
Anna Baird-Hassell, Copy Chief
Anna Baird-Hassell is a junior studying Sociology with a minor in Irish Studies. She is an at-home barista fond of hugs, meditation, speaking her limited Irish Gaelic and reviewing films on Letterboxd @abairdhassell. You can also find her on Instagram @annabairdhassell or email her at [email protected].

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