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!
May 6 to 11, 2019
In Panama, centre-left candidate Laurentino Cortizo beat his centre-right rival by two percentage points, in South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa is set to retain power, albeit in his party’s worst electoral showing in 25 years, and in Thailand Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is likely to retain his position with a slim majority. The results in Panama and Thailand have also been contested respectively for reports of voting irregularities and for a controversial formula for apportioning parliamentary seats.
- In Burkina Faso, the rescue of four hostages by French armed forces led to the deaths of two soldiers.
- 894 children in Nigeria who were recruited by the Boko Haram militia were released.
- The party of President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa – who was elected leader of the ruling African National Congress in December 2017 – is set to retain power, albeit with less than a 60 per cent vote share, its worst performance as a government in 25 years. Voters “had expressed frustration at rampant corruption, high unemployment, and racial inequalities that remain deeply entrenched“.
- Two months after it announced imposition of a strict version of Islamic law – including the stoning of gay people to death, Brunei “extended a moratorium on the death penalty to incoming legislation prohibiting gay sex“.
- A dormitory fire in China – sparked by electric scooters – killed five university students.
- Despite having their appeal rejected by the Supreme Court of Myanmar, two Reuters journalists – who had been charged under the Official Secrets Act for covering the situation in the Rakhine state – were pardoned by the president and released after 500 days in jail.
- North Korea is alleged to have fire a short-range missile, which appears as a warning of the country’s “frustration at the state of talks with the [United States]“: The first in Singapore last year, and the second in Vietnam this year. Later in the week, according to the South Korean military, the country fired a second projectile.
- A blast in a Pakistani shrine killed at least four people. “Sufi worshippers, who follow a mystical strain of Islam, have frequently been the target of bloody attacks in Pakistan by Islamist militants“.
- Following official elections results in Thailand, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is likely to retain his position with a slim majority. The military appointed election commission had used a controversial formula for apportioning parliamentary seats, leaving “an anti-military coalition just short of a majority in the lower house“. A legal challenge is now expected.
- The party of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan – which had reportedly lost in mayoral races in Ankara and Istanbul – had challenged these results. The country’s top election authority has now ordered a re-run of the mayoral election in Istanbul.
- The European Union (EU) Summit in Sibiu, Romania, was initially planned as the first post-Brexit meeting of the remaining 27 EU member states, though the focus turned to citizen protection, economic development, future prospects, and global European promotion.
- In the Vatican, Pope Francis imposed the Catholic Church’s first worldwide law mandating officials to report sexual misconduct.
The Middle East
- An attack by Taliban fighters in Afghanistan killed five people. They targeted an aid organisation based in the United States.
- Iran later announced that it would partially withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal, escalating a confrontation with the United States.
- A school shooting in Colorado killed at least one person. The suspects are two male students of the school.
- Georgia passed one of the country’s most restrictive abortion laws, banning abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected. It is one of at least 15 states to have passed similar legislation this year, and is likely to be met with legal challenges.
- Lyft and Uber drivers across the United States went on a 12-hour strike to protest their pay and status as independent contractors, days before Uber became a publicly-listed company. Drivers in the United Kingdom had a similar boycott too.
- On Twitter, President Donald Trump said he planned to impose tariffs and to raise levies on Chinese imports this week. Overall, there is a great deal of uncertainty surrounding the final stage of the trade negotiations.
- For refusing to comply with a subpoena seeking an unredacted version of the Mueller report and its evidence, Attorney General William Barr is likely to be held in contempt. President Donald Trump had also asserted executive privilege over all requested materials.
- A shooting outside parliament in Buenos Aires, Argentina, left a civil servant dead and a lawmaker seriously wounded.
- The crash of a private jet in Mexico is likely to have led to the deaths of all 14 people on board.
- Elections in Panama resulted in the victory of centre-left candidate Laurentino Cortizo, who beat his centre-right rival – who cited reports of voting irregularities – by two percentage points.
- Following a failed uprising against Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro last week, the vice president of the National Assembly as well as a close aide of self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaidó were arrested.