This roundup covers news summaries across six regions: Africa, the Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Middle East, North America, and South America. Wherever possible I draw links to Singapore, but I think it is more important to understand geopolitical developments around the world, to draw attention to meaningful news stories, and to highlight both positive and negative events.
Around the world, I rely primarily on the email newsletters from “The Economist“, “Foreign Policy“, “Muck Rack“, “The New York Times“, “The Wall Street Journal“, and “The World Post“. In Singapore, the weekly digests from the European Union Centre and the Middle East Institute are handy. Do send me recommendations of news outlets or articles too, to jinyao.guan.yin.miao[a]gmail.com!
April 17 to 22, 2017
The announcement by Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Theresa May – calling for a general election in June – surprised many, but her Conservative Party is likely to significantly increase its parliamentary majority, and Labour Party is headed for a crushing defeat. In Indonesia, former cultural and education minister Anies Baswedan is projected to have won the gubernatorial election in Jakarta, defeating incumbent governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, or “Ahok“. Governor Ahok’s chances were adversely affected by a blasphemy scandal. In Turkey, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan declared victory in a referendum which would replace his country’s parliamentary system with a more powerful presidential office, though the opposition has vowed to challenge the very close results.
And in the United States, a special election in Georgia is headed to a run-off, after Democrat Jon Ossoff came close to winning 50 per cent of vote. This comes a week after a special election in Kansas emerged to be much closer than expected.
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- Scores of mass graves were unearthed in DR Congo, a sign that the political violence will get worse before it gets better.
- At least 97 people are missing off Libya, “after their Europe-bound boat sank in the Mediterranean Sea“. The boat was packed with African nationals who were seeking asylum in Europe, and those who were missing are most likely dead.
- Nearly five million people in South Sudan – or 40 per cent of the population – are facing extreme hunger. Civil war rages on.
- Sustained gunfire broke out at the Manus Island detention centre, one of the two offshore Australian immigration detention facilities. The asylum seekers “came under sustained assault from outsiders intent on attacking the refugees“.
- In ultra-conservative Chechnya – a Russian republic – where having a gay relative is not only taboo, but seen as a stain on the entire extended family, there are reports of “a shocking anti-gay campaign … involving over a hundred and possibly several hundred men“. Human rights activists are now trying to get gay Chechens out of Russia, and away from reprisals.
- North Korea launched a missile in defiance of admonitions from major ally China, a day after it held a military parade marking the birth anniversary of its state founder. The missile, however, “blew up almost immediately” on its test launch.
- With 51.5 per cent of the vote, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan declared victory in a referendum which would “replace Turkey’s parliamentary system with an all-powerful presidency and abolish the office of prime minister“. The opposition has vowed to challenge the results. During the campaign, relations with Germany and the Netherlands turned sour.
- Tougher border checks within the European Union – as part of an anti-terrorism policy – caused traffic chaos. “The task is indeed challenging with more than 200 million border crossings at the external borders of the Schengen area in 2015“.
Days before the first round of the French presidential election, one policeman was killed and two others were wounded in a shooting incident. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria claimed responsibility for the attack.
- A pair of teenagers in Slovakia organised protests against the country’s interior minister and against corruption.
- Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Theresa May called for a general election in June, after claiming that “opposition parties were jeopardising … preparations for Brexit“. She is likely to increase her party’s 17-seat parliamentary majority.
The Middle East
- After the poor turnout in the legislative elections of 2012, when only 42.9 per cent of electors voted, the Algerian government is “increasing initiatives to raise awareness among voters on the importance of [the] ballot“.
- Marwan Barghouti is seen as a future Palestinian leader, and on Monday “more than 1,000 Palestinians in Israeli prisons joined in a hunger strike … demanding better conditions“.
- President Bashar al-Assad of Syria denied that his government had used a chemical bomb, instead “suggesting that child actors had staged death scenes to malign him and that American warplanes had bombed a terrorist warehouse full of poison gases, killing hundreds of people“. Russian President Vladimir Putin also rejected the American assertions.
- About 100 people in Syria were killed in a car bomb explosion “targeting pro-regime evacuees leaving besieged Syrian towns“. The explosives-rigged car was packed with children’s food supplies, and no group has claimed responsibility.
- Canada became the second country – after Uruguay – to legalise the recreational use of marijuana.
- Thousands in the United States marched “to call on President Donald Trump to release his tax returns“.
- The chief federal banking regulator in the United States, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, missed opportunities to uncover the problems at Wells Fargo. The community bank was using questionable sales tactics, and after an investigation it later blamed its high-pressure sales culture and a retail executive for the controversy.
- At least 24 were killed in Mexico, after a bus collided with a fuel tanker truck, which then exploded.
- In Venezuela, where political and economic problems have persisted, a fifth person was killed in the protests against President Nicolás Maduro. These are casualties of a “regime crackdown on protesters pushing back against [the] government“.