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!
October 23 to 28, 2017
37-year-old Jacinda Ardern is set to be the next prime minister of New Zealand, after her party successfully formed a coalition government. This comes a week after 31-year-old Sebastian Kurz of the Austrian People’s Party – now the incoming Chancellor of the country – propelled his party to victory, in a parliamentary election which also reflected gains made by the political right in Europe. This week too, far-right and far-left anti-[European Union] parties made gains in the elections in the Czech Republic, and this also comes a month after the right-wing populist party Alternative for Germany secured enough votes, to enter the parliament as the first far-right party in more than 50 years.
- Elections in DR Congo are long overdue, and the United nations has now activated its “highest level of emergency [to] allow life-saving resources to be channelled to the under-funded crisis“. The country joins Iraq, Syria, and Yemen in this category.
- People have been accused of vampirism in Malawi, with six people already killed in the attacks by vigilante mobs.
- The death toll of the truck bombings in Mogadishu, Somalia last week has increased to over 350.
- China’s ruling Communist Party, at the party’s congress, added leader Xi Jinping’s name and ideology in an amendment to the constitution. This puts Mr. Xi’s status on par with leaders Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping.
- Four women in India died, “after being struck by a train while crossing railway tracks“.
- Two explosions at a fireworks factory in Jakarta, Indonesia, killed at least 47 people.
- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe won the snap elections, winning 281 of 465 contested seats.
- A landslide at a housing construction site in Penang, Malaysia, left at least three people dead.
- Later, eight factory workers in Penang, Malaysia were killed, after a three-vehicle accident.
- Prime Minister of New Zealand Bill English of the National Party won the general election in September this year, but his party failed to secure a majority. Instead, the second-place Labour Party – led by three-month-old party leader Jacinda Ardern, also set to become “the world’s youngest female leader” – has now formed a coalition government.
- Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej – the world’s longest-reigning monarch – died at age 88 in October last year. A year later, his body was created, after an elaborate send-off with a “collage of Buddhist rituals and palace protocol“.
- The ruling party in Timor Leste won the country’s first parliamentary election in July this year, but now the opposition parties have vetoed its five-year strategic plan, which “could see the impoverished young democracy return to the polls“.
- Last week, Austrians elected a new parliament in an election dominated by the immigration issue and concluding with a political shift to the right, which also saw 31-year-old Sebastian Kurz of the Austrian People’s Party propel to victory.
- Voters in Catalonia, in a referendum, voted to secede from Spain. After Catalonia insisted upon the result, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy then said he would “curb the powers of the parliament of Catalonia, sack its government and call an election within six months“. These proposed measures must be approved by the country’s Senate.
- Following the elections in the Czech Republic, billionaire populist Andrej Babiš’s party won with 29.7 per cent of the vote. “Far-right and far-left anti-[European Union] parties made gains“, with nine parties in parliament jostling to form coalitions.
- A knife attack in Munich, Germany left at least eight people lightly injured. The police have ruled out terrorism as a motive.
- Lawmakers in Italy’s Senate approved a new voting system – “a mix of proportional representation and first-past-the-post” – which is expected to handicap prospects of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement in the upcoming national election.
- Transportation networks in Ukraine – including the airport and the metro – were hit by cyber-attacks.
- An exploding bomb in Kiev, Ukraine wounded a prominent politician and killed his bodyguard. It is the latest “in a series of elaborate assassination plots“, which authorities have blamed the Russian secret services for.
The Middle East
- A suicide bomber in Kabul, Afghanistan killed at least 30 people inside a Shia mosque. In August this year, in a similar attack against worshippers, at least 29 people were killed by suicide bombers, who opened fire before blowing themselves up.
- Bodies of 67 Syrian civilians – said to be summarily killed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) – were discovered. These “apparent revenge killings” come after ISIS lost ground in both Iraq and Syria.
- The wildfires in California have strained firefighting and healthcare agencies, with at least 8,400 homes and buildings destroyed.
- President Donald Trump announced that the country’s opioid crisis will be declared a public health emergency.
- A shooting by a young student in Brazil left at least two other children dead.
- With a three per cent approval rating, Brazilian President Michel Temer was shielded – for the second time in two months – “from standing trial on obstruction of justice and corruption charges“; charges, which he had previously called “weak and inconsistent“. Impeachment calls against him have persisted, since former President Dilma Rousseff was ousted last year.
- Four million people in Colombia lack access to potable water, and also because “soda has long been a strong part of Colombian culture“, locals turn to carbonated beverages, the regular consumption of which could negatively impact health outcomes in the future.
- In Venezuela, political and economic problems have persisted, and the protests against President Nicolás Maduro have not changed the status quo. Thousands of Venezuelans have fled across Latin America, even as the government slows passport processing.