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 1 to 6, 2019
There were electoral and political surprises in Algeria, Turkey, and Ukraine, as long-term leaders witnessed challenges to their tenure. In Algeria, despite announcing that he will not seek a fifth term, having named a new government, and saying that he would step down by the end of his term, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika stepped down as protests persisted. In Turkey, party candidates of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan lost in mayoral races in Ankara (the capital and political centre) and Istanbul (the country’s biggest city), even though the Justice and Development party claimed an overall victory in local elections. And in Ukraine, a comedian with no political experience advanced to a runoff in the country’s presidential election, defeating a field of political elites.
- Despite announcing that he will not seek a fifth term, having named a new government, and saying that he would step down by the end of his term, Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika stepped down as protests in the country persisted.
- “For the forced removal of thousands of children born to mixed-race couples during its colonial-era rule” (towards the end of its rule, from 1959 to 1962), Belgium – taking official responsibility for the first time – apologised to Burundi, DR Congo, and Rwanda.
- Mozambique, struck by Cyclone Idai two weeks ago, is struggling to stem the fast spread of cholera.
- In China: A forest fire killed 30 firefighters, while two children were killed in a freak weather event.
- With one of the world’s most expensive housing market and where “the median cost of a home is 18 times the median household income“, Hong Kong is planning to build artificial islands – through land reclamation – in the South China Sea.
- In March, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that his country shot down a low-orbit satellite with a ballistic missile. In its aftermath, NASA is saying that the blast created hundreds of orbital debris which could threaten the International Space Station.
- Ahead of an imperial succession on April 30, the name of the new Japanese imperial era “gengo” – comprising of the two characters “rei” and “wa”, which respectively and ostensibly mean order and good fortune as well as peace and harmony – was announced.
- President of the Maldives Ibrahim Mohamed Solih is set to win a historic landslide victory in the country’s parliamentary elections.
- A freak storm in Nepal killed at least 27 people. “Every year, hundreds die in landslides and floods during Nepal’s monsoon season, but storms causing such high casualties in spring are rare“.
- Clashes between Filipino government troops and pro-Islamic State in Iraq and Syria militants left seven people dead.
- A fire in South Korea left at least two people dead.
- In Turkey and “in a blow to his 16-year rule“, party candidates of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan lost in mayoral races in Ankara (the capital and political centre) and Istanbul (the country’s biggest city). The results in both cities are now challenged by Mr. Erdoğan’s Justice and Development party, which claimed an overall victory in local elections.
- Following Macedonia’s name change to the Republic of North Macedonia in January, Prime Minister of North Macedonia Zoran Zaev met with Prime Minister of Greece Alexis Tsipras, signing an agreement to expedite European Union membership talks for North Macedonia.
- In Ukraine, a comedian with no political experience – famed instead for playing a school teacher – advanced to a runoff in the country’s presidential election, defeating a field of political elites.
- The United Kingdom (UK) continues to limp towards the April 12 Brexit deadline, as lawmakers failed again to come up with an alternative to the plan by Prime Minister Theresa May, which has been defeated three times.
- Later, the prime minister said she would seek a second Brexit delay and would work with the opposition Labour Party.
The Middle East
- The Arab League rejected President Donald Trump’s recognition of Israeli sovereignty of the Golan Heights. This follows a large-scale protest in Gaza against Israeli blockade, which prompted a strong Israeli response.
- Major floods in the past two weeks in Iran killed at least 62 people.
- There are fears of a renewed civil war in Libya, after a renegade general ordered his forces to march on the capital.
- An explosion and a fire at a chemical plant in Houston, Texas killed one person.
- Following similar moves in London, Singapore, and Stockholm, New York is set to implement the country’s first congestion pricing.
- In what is being investigated as a multiple homicide, four people were found dead in North Dakota.
- In a reversal of policies and to be more compassionate to the LGBTQ population, the Mormon church “repealed rules that banned baptisms for children of gay parents and that labeled same-sex couples as sinners eligible for expulsion“.
- Severe flooding caused by heavy rains in Paraguay have affected more than 20,000 families.
- In Venezuela, where a political stand-off continues and where the Red Cross was just allowed to deliver aid, the United Nations has estimated that 94 per cent of the country’s population are living in poverty.