PSR: May 25, 2018

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May 19 – May 25
This week at IPSI

This week in:

 IPSI | Africa | Americas | East Asia | Europe & Central Asia | Middle East | South Asia

Symposiums - 20.04.18

This week in Sub-Saharan Africa

BURUNDI: Government says more than 73 percent of voters backed proposed constitutional changes


On Monday, Pierre-Claver Ndayicariye, the electoral commission chief, announced that more than 73 percent of the 4.7 million voters backed the constitutional proposals in last week’s referendum. The proposed amendments could now allow President Nkurunziza to run for two more terms and stay in office until 2034, as well as boost his powers. Mr. Ndayicariye said only 19 percent of the 96 percent turnout voted “No.” More than five million people registered to vote in the referendum on May 17. Comment: The referendum came three years after Nkurunziza won a controversial third term as president during a 2015 election, which was boycotted by the opposition. (Al Jazeera, The Citizen,  IOL)


SOUTH SUDAN: Warring parties reject a proposed peace deal

  South Sudan

On Wednesday, opposition groups rejected a proposed peace deal, while the government said it partially agreed with the proposal. The warring sides met in Addis Ababa this week in a renewed attempt to end South Sudan’s civil war. The opposition specifically said the proposal from the East African Development block, IGAD, does not address the root cause of the conflict nor did it consider their proposed deal. Kwaje Lasu, the spokesman for the South Sudan Alliance – a coalition of nine opposition groups – said the proposal is the “position of South Sudan government” trying to “maintain the status quo.” Comment:  IGAD is helping to mediate and persuade South Sudan’s warring parties to agree again on power sharing and security arrangements. (VOA, AfricaNews, TheNewArab)


ZIMBABWE: Government distances itself from deputy finance minister’s controversial comments


On Wednesday, Zimbabwe’s government distanced itself from its Deputy Finance Minister Terence Mukupe, who said on Monday that the military would not allow the opposition to rule if it wins the election this year. Mr. Mukupe’s comments provoked outrage on social media and forced the government spokesman to describe the comments as a threat to national security. Simon Khaya Moyo, acting information minister, said in a statement that the comments did not represent the position of the ruling Zanu-PF party, the government, or the army. Comment: In an online video, Mukupe is seen telling a rally in Harare on Monday that the army would not let opposition leader Nelson Chamisa take power if he defeated President Emmerson Mnangagwa. (Newsday, VOA, EWN)

                                                                                     Researched/Written by Edgar Peter Mutta

Sarajevo - 26.03.18

This week in the Americas & Caribbean

CHILE: All Chilean bishops resign over sex abuse scandal


On Friday, all 34 Chilean bishops resigned after an emergency meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican, regarding the sexual abuse scandal in the country. Those resigning included 31 active bishops and three retired bishops. In a joint statement, they asked for the victims’ and Church’s forgiveness for their “grave errors and omissions.” This is believed to be one of the few mass resignations in the Church’s history. Comment: Pope Francis appointed Bishop Juan Barros, despite claims that Barros covered up sexual abuse cases. After receiving a 2,300-page report regarding the abuse, Pope Francis admitted to “grave errors in judgment” for defending Barros, but it remains unclear whether the Pope will accept their resignations. (The Santiago Times, Reuters, CNN, BBC)


NICARAGUA: Inter-American Commission on Human Rights condemns Nicaragua’s handling of protests


On Monday, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) released a preliminary report condemning Daniel Ortega’s government’s response to anti-government protests. The IACHR reported 76 deaths and 868 injuries – citing grave human rights abuses collected from audiovisual evidence and personal testimonies. The Nicaraguan government accepted 15 recommendations from the IACHR, including investigating and prosecuting those responsible for human rights abuses in the country. Additional recommendations included guaranteeing freedom of expression and establishing an organized information system of all those treated at hospitals for injuries. Comment: The report follows the beginning of a national dialogue between the Nicaraguan government, student groups, and civil society organizations amid anti-government protests of the Ortega government. (Today Nicaragua, Havana Times, The Seattle Times, Reuters)


VENEZUELA: President Maduro re-elected


On Sunday night, incumbent candidate Nicholas Maduro won Venezuela’s national presidential election. The National Electoral Council (CNE) reported that Maduro won his second term with 5.8 million votes, approximately 68 percent of the vote. Opposition candidate Henri Falcón followed with 1.8 million votes, approximately 21 percent of the vote. Voter turnout was 46 percent according to the CNE, only half that of the 2013 election. Two opposition candidates, Henri Falcón and Javier Bertucci, are calling for a new vote after alleging that the election was illegitimate. Comment: Many are calling the legitimacy of the election into question, claiming the election was “rigged” in Maduro’s favor due to a high number of Maduro loyalists in the CNE. Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, St. Lucia, Spain and the United States are calling for the suspension of the election, according to Reuters.  (telesur, BBC, PBS, Reuters 1, 2)  

                                                                                             Researched/Written by Abigail Gress


This week in East Asia & Pacific

CHINA: U.S. uninvites People’s Liberation Army due to South China Sea disagreements


On Wednesday, the U.S. formally uninvited the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to the biennial Rim of the Pacific naval drills because of American apprehension toward China’s continued militarization in the South China Sea. Examples cited include China’s air force performing a training exercise by landing bombers on disputed islands and reefs in the area. Filipino President Duterte and the country’s Department of Foreign Affairs are monitoring the area and independently verifying the bombers’ movements. The PLA asserted that these measures were purely for defense and that the United States is taking unconstructive measures that are detrimental to building positive bilateral relations between the nations. Comment: China has already participated in the naval drills twice; however, increasing disagreements between the U.S. and China about China’s claims on the South China Sea have, at the very least, temporarily ended the tradition. (POLITICO, Reuters, SCMP, Stars and Stripes)


KOREA: Kim Jong Un to shut down key nuclear test site


On Tuesday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un announced that reporters from the United States, Russia, China, Britain, and South Korea would be allowed into North Korea to witness the demolition of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site.  Punggye-ri served as the location of all North Korean nuclear tests conducted since 2006 with the strongest test having taken place last September.  No foreign nuclear weapons experts or pro-nuclear ban associations such as the UN-backed Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization were allowed to attend, raising concerns on how transparent Kim is regarding his vow to denuclearize the country.  Comment: Though the site is now destroyed, the knowledge gained from the multiple tests is a point of concern.  Satellite images will help provide information on North Korea’s nuclear testing future.  (BBC, Kyodo News, Washington Post)


THAILAND: Explosions detonate near ATMs and bank in southernmost provinces


On Sunday, suspected Muslim insurgents used more than 20 explosives to destroy ATMs and electricity poles, as well as damage bank buildings in the southernmost provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat. No one sustained injuries from the explosions. The Thai government believes the attackers intended to undermine government authority and protest recent talks between the insurgents and government regarding amnesty for ex-insurgents and supporters. Comment: Muslim separatist insurgents killed more than 6,500 people since the fighting in southern Thailand began in 2004. Malaysia began mediating between the insurgents and the Thai government in 2015. (Reuters, Channels TV, Washington Post)

                                                                                            Researched/Written by Nida Kuruvilla

DC - 22.03.18

This week in Europe & Central Asia

ITALY: Giuseppe Conte chosen as Italian prime minister


On Wednesday, following 11 weeks of political deadlock, Italian President Sergio Mattarella approved political novice Giuseppe Conte to lead Italy’s new populist government. Leaders of the Five Star Movement (M5S) and the League, both anti-establishment and euroskeptic political parties, picked the former law professor who has never held political office and is not affiliated with any party. In his first speech as prime minister, Conte attempted to reassure international allies wary of western Europe’s first populist government; he reaffirmed Italy’s place in Europe and the EU. Comment: Conte, a former law professor, will now begin to choose a list of cabinet members and submit his appointments to President Mattarella. (ANSA, NYTimes, Reuters, BBC)


UNITED KINGDOM: Lawmakers warn of Russian “dirty money” undermining UK security


On Monday, the UK Foreign Affairs Committee published a report warning the British government of the security risks associated with laundering Russian money through British financial institutions. The report asserts that the Kremlin uses London’s markets as a channel for the corrupt finances of its oligarchs and officials; it states that tolerating their business undermines Britain’s efforts to combat Russia’s “aggressive foreign policy,” as well as Britain’s own institutions. The Kremlin said on Monday that the report was evidence of anti-Russia hysteria and unfair competition toward Russian businesses. Comment: London has been a popular investment hub and travel destination for Russian oligarchs and officials since the fall of the Soviet Union. Relations between the countries have chilled in recent months after a Russian spy and his daughter were poisoned in the English city of Salisbury. (Moscow Times, NYTimes, Reuters, BBC)


TURKEY: Falling Turkish currency threatens Erdogan’s campaign


On Wednesday, the Turkish currency fell to record lows after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan refused to raise central interest rates; Erdogan overrode the advice of financial officials and the Central Bank for what analysts suspect to be political reasons. Analysts argue that Erdogan intends to keep interest rates low to facilitate economic growth and win votes before the upcoming snap elections in June. Financial experts counter that raising rates is necessary to strengthen the lira and keep the economy afloat. Comment: The lira lost nearly 20 percent of its value in 2018 alone. (Hurriyet Daily News, NYTimes, Reuters, Bloomberg)

                                                                                                 Researched/Written by Abby Fram


This week in the Middle East & North Africa

IRAQ: Coalition government negotiations taking place after parliamentary election results released


On Friday, the election commission officially announced that Muqtada al-Sadr’s Shi’ite bloc won the most seats in the parliamentary elections held on May 12. Although no bloc won a majority, al-Sadr’s Sairoon bloc acquired 54 seats, Hadi al-Amiri’s Iran-supported al-Fattah bloc won 47 seats, and current Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s bloc procured 42 seats. Al-Sadr met with al-Amiri and al-Abadi, and other bloc leaders, in Baghdad following the election results to begin negotiations on a potential coalition government. Al-Sadr said he wanted to create a “caring and inclusive” government, and all three stated that they plan to cooperate, but observers expect negotiations to take at least a few weeks. Comment: Parliamentary coalition negotiations have lasted as long as nine months in the past. (Al-Bawaba, Al Jazeera, Reuters)


SYRIA: Damascus back under full control of government after victory against self-proclaimed Islamic State fighters


On Monday, Syrian state media announced that Syrian government forces took back control of the last two remaining self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS)-held lands near Damascus – al-Hajar al-Aswad and Yarmouk. The victory was a result of a large bombing campaign executed by the Syrian military. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and BBC reported that more than 30 buses took 1,600 fighters and their families toward eastern Syria where IS still controls some territory, but state media denied that a deal had been brokered. Comment: Iran-supported militias, including Hezbollah, and Russian air campaigns have helped the Syrian military re-gain areas surrounding Damascus. (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Al Jazeera, BBC, RFE/RL


YEMEN / SAUDI ARABIA: Houthi missiles target Yemeni and Saudi Arabian cities


On Monday, Houthi rebels targeted the Jazan region of Saudi Arabia and, on the next day, the Yemeni city of Marib with ballistic missiles in their fight against the government of Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. Saudi Arabia intercepted the missile in Jazan without incurring losses, but the missile in Marib killed at least five people and injured 22 others. This was the third missile attack by the Houthis since the beginning of Ramadan last week. Analysts condemned Iran for its alleged supply of missiles to the Houthis, although Iran denies supporting the movement. Comment: In September 2014, violence began in Yemen when the Houthis captured Sanaa and pushed the government out. Since 2015, the Houthis launched more than 100 ballistic missiles toward Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is fighting alongside Yemen, conducting large military campaigns against the Houthis. (Al Jazeera, Al-Bawaba, Asharq al-Awsat, The National, Reuters)

                                                                                          Researched/Written by Daniel Boerger


This week in South Asia

AFGHANISTAN: Taliban kills 14 policemen in launch of spring offensive


On Tuesday, Afghan officials claimed that 40 people, including 14 policemen, died in the Ghazni province. The Taliban attacked numerous districts in the province on Monday, specifically targeting police and government security forces. A Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, claimed responsibility for the attacks. Comment: Ghazni is a traditional stronghold of the Taliban, and as the fighting resumes, residents are expressing dissatisfaction with government assurances for peace. The U.S. refuses negotiations with the Islamist group that, in turn, continues to demonstrate resolve to fight. (Reuters, Daily Sabah, Al Jazeera, Bloomberg)


INDIA: Police fire on anti-mining protests, nine killed


On Tuesday, police killed at least nine people protesting about a copper smelter run by Vedanta Resources in Thootukudi, Tamil Nadu. Residents of this port city perceive the smelter as a major source of pollution, potentially harmful to fisheries. Protesters waved black flags, stormed government and residential buildings, and set vehicles on fire. While the chief minister says the firing was warranted, opposition leader Rahul Gandhi condemned the killings as a “massacre” by the government. Comment: Vedanta Resources is a British mining conglomerate with a stated ambition to capitalize on India’s growing resource demand. The protests, now in their third month, demand a shutdown of the Thootukudi smelter, though, on Wednesday, the company said it is working with environmental regulators to quell environmental concerns. (Reuters, India Today, Economic Times)


SRI LANKA: Heavy monsoon rains and landslides disrupt power and water supply

Starting Monday, heavy monsoon rains hit the western and central regions of the country. Lightning, landslides, and falling trees killed at least 5 people. Water purification plants shut down and local electricity boards cut off power in certain districts. The army evacuated around 1,000 people into temporary shelters. Comment: May to September is the wettest time of the year for Sri Lanka; last year, monsoon rains killed 100 people. Heavy rains and intermittent droughts also affected tea plantations – Sri Lanka’s main export industry. (Al Jazeera, Reliefweb, Reuters)

                                                                                            Researched/Written by Kritika Kapoor

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