Europe and Central Asia
President Macron of France has recently publicly condemned domestic violence in the nation and reaffirmed his commitment to improving gender equality and making France safer for women. His denunciation came as an address on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and harkens back to his campaign’s emphasis on the issue. He spoke to the shocking statistic that every three days a woman was killed by her spouse in France, 2016, calling it “France’s Shame.” In response to this, Macron announced the launching of several new protection services for women, including a on-demand bus stops and 24-hour hotline for victims, and the introduction of new laws and campaigns to address a culture of domestic abuse and victim silence.
There has been questions raised over the Northern Irish border, namely them seeking assurance from England that there will not be a hard border put into place once Brexit is finalized and is no longer part the customs union and single, unified market. The discussion has ruffled Ireland who has to this point been dissatisfied with its options after the UK has left the EU. It was determined that a definitive border cannot be named until a trade agreement has been reached UK-EU, which is set to take place some time in December.
Last weekend, Chancellor Merkel’s attempts failed when she began to explore opportunities to form a coalition. Merkel, part of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), was met with difficulty in the topics of migration and energy during talks with the FDP and the Green Party. The breakdown of the discussion and failure to land upon common ground pose serious concerns for the future of Merkel and her party. She may still be able to form a minority government but the future is uncertain as the AFD continues to gain power as Merkel’s struggles to find its place in a changing Germany. The failure of the talks showcases Merkel’s diminished authority in the government and has raised comparisons with the Weimar Republic.
Both candidates have claimed victory following the Honduran presidential vote. Current president, Juan Orlando Hernández and his oppositional rival, Salvador Nasralla, have both declared Sunday’s election vote a victory. Both candidates’ supporters have taken to the streets in celebration.
As of late Sunday, only 57% of the votes have been counted giving Nasralla a 5% edge over Hernández with 45% of the votes to Hernández’ 40%. To the surprise and dismay of some, the U.S.-allied, crime-fighting incumbent has fallen short of October polls that projected him holding a double-digit lead over Nasralla. By running for a second presidential term, President Hernández made an unprecedented move that was previously prohibited by the Honduran constitution until overruled by a 2015 Supreme Court Ruling.
Prior to the electoral tribunal’s announcement of the partial results, President Hernández told supporters he was “certain of victory.” Similarly, in a gesture of confidence, Mr. Nasralla publicly told supporters “We are winning!” Six million voters turned out this cycle. While the results are not yet clear, it is clear that neither party is ready to accept defeat just yet.
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has appointed Major General Manuel Quevedo as the head of the state oil company, PDVSA. In an attempt to fight corruption, Maduro claimed the appointment was part of “a new oil revolution.” The move comes just one week after Citigo, PDVSA’s US refining subsidiary, executives were arrested on corruption allegations.
Maduro’s government blames Venezuela’s economic woes on “enemies in the US,” but his opponents cite mismanagement as the primary cause of the financial crisis.
PDVSA and Venezuela were recently declared to be in selective default, a rating given when the obligor (Venezuela) has selectively chosen to default on a specific issue or class of obligations while will continuing to make payments on other obligations. PDVSA bonds currently represent 30% of Venezuela’s external debt and 95% of the country’s annual export earnings; however, analysts say that output has declined recently and several factors have damaged the country’s oil industry.
President Maduro has expressed that increased productivity is of paramount importance, but it is unclear how General Quevedo will work to increase production and help restructure that nation’s debt in order to minimize crises. Some believe that Maduro has been working to shift the nation’s economic shortfalls from the opposition to oil industry officials. Roughly 50 PDVSA managers have been arrested since August in Maduro’s attempt to purge the company of corruption. General Quevedo has no significant prior experience in the energy sector.
The Middle East and North Africa
Over the weekend, food aid was allowed into Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen after three weeks of a Saudi-led blockade. On Saturday and Sunday, both vaccines and an estimate 25,000 tonnes of wheat entered into Yemen. The World Food Program has stated that this recent influx of aid was not enough, but a good start. The United Nations is calling the crisis in Yemen one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.
Russian military airstrikes killed an estimated 53 civilians yesterday. The Russian military was targeting militant strongholds, which Russia confirmed that they hit. Shortly afterwards, the Syrian regime conducted airstrikes in another rebel-held area outside of Damascus. This attack killed an additional 23 civilians. These airstrikes took place a week before peace talks are to resume in Geneva.
Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri has postponed his resignation at the request of Lebanese President Michel Aoun. Prime Minister Hariri stated that Lebanon should remain neutral in regional chaos. Hariri has left Saudi Arabia and returned to Lebanon last Tuesday. His return has brought some stability back to Lebanon.
Also over the weekend, an attack occurred at a Sufi mosque in the Sinai region. Explosions took place at the mosque and gunmen fired on those escaping. The current death toll is at 305 people; this is believed to be the deadliest terrorist attack in Egypt. The mosque was the birthplace of Sheikh Eid al-Jariri, who is considered the founder of Sufism in the Sinai. While ISIS or an ISIS-affiliate have not taken responsibility for the attack, survivors reported at least one of the attackers holding an ISIS flag.
Events to watch this week include the inauguration of incumbent Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto on Tuesday, November 28th. This comes after the Kenyan Supreme Court dismissed two petitions that were filed disputing the outcome of the October 26th elections.
Also happening this week is the fifth African Union-European Union summit November 29-30. The summit will take place in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, and participants will discuss “investing in youth for a sustainable future.”
Further showing that 2017 has been a rough year for strongmen in Africa, Robert Mugabe was forced out of power in Zimbabwe. The recently ousted vice president, Emmerson “The Crocodile” Mnangagwa, was inaugurated as the interim president on November 24th, and will hold the position until elections can be held next year. The question now on everybody’s mind is if President Jacob Zuma of South Africa will learn from the events in Zimbabwe. Mugabe was pushed out by the military in large part because he was trying to bestow the presidency on his wife. President Zuma is trying to the same thing with his ex-wife. Unfortunately, if the actions in Zimbabwe are repeated in South Africa, there is a much higher chance of violence erupting because and ANC does not hold as firm a grip on power as the Zanu PF in Zimbabwe. But lessons are being learned by other leaders as well. Last week Yoweri Museveni, who has been in power for 31 years in Uganda, promised a pay raise to his armed forces.
Pope Francis has arrived in Myanmar. The 80-year-old pontiff has become known for his willingness to denounce global injustice. The country is widely accused of ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims. The Pope will meet de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, as well as the army chief. He is then due to visit Bangladesh, and meet a small group of Rohingya refugees there in a symbolic gesture. Bangladesh and Myanmar signed a pact on November 23rd agreeing that the return of the Rohingya should start within two months.
Many countries canceled flights to Bali, as Indonesian authorities closed the island’s airport, and raised the alert on Mount Agung volcano to the highest level, amid fears a significant eruption could be imminent. Indonesia is the world’s most volcanic area. More than 40,000 people have been evacuated over fears of an imminent volcanic eruption at Mount Agung, with many stranded on the island. Indonesia’s Tourism Minister, Arief Yahya, is urging hotels and airlines operating in Bali to give special discounts to tourists who have been stranded at the popular tourist destination.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte vowed to correct “historical injustice” in a speech to Muslim rebels, as his government seeks to reignite a stalled peace process in the nation’s troubled south. The 10,000-strong MILF signed a peace deal in 2014 that would give the nation’s Muslim minority self-rule over parts of Mindanao, but the proposed law to implement the pact has not managed to get through Congress. The immediate objective of Monday’s rally was to build support for the proposed law. Duterte said he would work for the law’s passage, even calling Congress to a special session where Muslim leaders could explain their plans to the legislators.
The revived Quad security arrangement could be a first step towards an Asian NATO. The new strategy to confront China head on with a unified front underscored a growing regional competition between Beijing and Washington. The Quad meeting came as the US appeared to be shifting strategic focus. As Trump was visiting East Asia, he referred to the region as the “Indo-Pacific” rather than the “Asia-Pacific”, signalling stronger ties with India. The grouping has said its aim is to promote freedom, liberty and democracy and to make sure liberalism prevails over totalitarianism in the region.
Pope Francis will begin his six-day trip to Myanmar and Bangladesh on next Monday, Dec. 27, 2017. The purpose of this trip to aiming to address the Rohingya refugee crisis, meanwhile the trip is holds a significant importance for tiny Catholic communities in both countries. Pope Francis received no invites from India.
China has signed a deal with Pakistan to build a nuclear reactor, and China wants to get a fifth of its electricity outputs from the reactor by 2030. The deal servers as a crucial component of the “China-Pakistan Economic Corridor”. China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) and the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) have signed a cooperation agreement for the construction of a 1,000 megawatt (MW) HPR 1000 “Hualong One” reactor at the Chashma nuclear power plant in Punjab.
Nepal votes in landmark poll, the first parliamentary polls since 1999. The historic election will complete Nepal’s long journey from a monarchy to a federal republic. Nepal hopes to achieve political stability and seek for more economic development after a decade long civil war with Maoist guerrillas.
Featured Image: Emmanuel Macron by Kremlin.ru, Wikimedia Creative Commons