With just two weeks left before the United States chooses its new president, Republican incumbent Donald Trump returned to election campaigning earlier this week (October 12) after testing negative for the coronavirus. After early polls indicated Trump trailing behind Biden, the Republican leader has taken to rallying in states that he won in 2016 in a final rush to garner support before election day.
Meanwhile, opposition parties in Pakistan have hit the streets against the Imran Khan-led PTI government, alleging that Khan was not so much elected as he was “selected” in the 2018 election by the Pakistan Army.
In New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern won a historic second term at the office as voters rewarded her for a decisive response to Covid-19.
This, and more from the world this week:
US & Canada
The second presidential debate between Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden might have got cancelled, but the two leaders continued to trade barbs at each other on televised town halls. While Trump focused on coronavirus, defending his administration’s handling of the pandemic, Biden attacked the Republican over the death of over 2 lakh Americans and the resulting rate of infection, one of the highest globally.
Meanwhile, social media giants Twitter and Facebook garnered headlines after they decided to limit links to a New York Post article critical of Joe Biden. The New York Post reported that it had obtained a computer abandoned by Biden’s son Hunter linking the former vice-president to Ukrainian energy company Burisma, where Hunter served as a board member. President Trump and the Republicans decried the decision as “censorship”.
After receiving criticism, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey admitted on October 16 that it was wrong to block weblinks to an “unverified political story”. The platform also allowed its users to post the link thereafter.
Twitter further invited the US Conservative’s ire after it temporarily suspended Trump’s re-election campaign’s Twitter account, causing an outcry from Republican lawmakers who accused social media companies of acting like “speech police” and vowing to hold Twitter responsible.
On October 16, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government would not stop standing up for human rights in China. His statement came after Chinese ambassador to Canada said if the nation cared about 300,000 Canadian citizens in Hong Kong — and Canadian companies doing business there — it should support efforts to fight “violent crime”.
Armenia Azerbaijan conflict
After a failed first attempt, Armenia and Azerbaijan tried to reach a ceasefire deal amid clashes over the Nagorno-Karabakh region. The new truce deal, brokered on Saturday, October 17, fell out the very next day as both the countries accused each other of firing at each other’s military enclaves.
Iraqi militias backed by Iran have agreed to temporarily halt attacks targeting the American presence in Iraq on the condition that US-led coalition troops withdraw from the country in line with a parliamentary resolution, three militia officials said.
The Israeli government unanimously approved the country’s recently signed normalisation agreement with the United Arab Emirates on October 12 ahead of a ratification vote by parliament. Israel also signed a joint communique with Bahrain to formalise ties during a visit by an Israeli and US delegation to Manama on October 18 to broaden cooperation that Washington has promoted as an anti-Iran bulwark, Reuters reported.
Fresh Covid-19 wave strikes EU nations, many revive curfews
France imposed curfews while other European nations closed schools, cancelled surgeries and enlisted student medics as overwhelmed authorities faced the nightmare scenario of a Covid-19 resurgence with the onset of winter. With new cases hitting about 100,000 daily, Europe has by a wide margin overtaken the United States, where more than 51,000 COVID-19 infections are reported on average every day.
France: Teacher beheaded in Paris; Macron calls it ‘Islamist terrorist attack’
A history teacher in Paris was beheaded by a man for discussing caricatures of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad with his class, authorities said. His attacker, an 18-year-old Chechen, was shot and killed by police.
French President Emmanuel Macron denounced what he called an “Islamist terrorist attack” and urged the nation to stand united against extremism.
In a potential threat to the Imran Khan government and Pakistan Army’s role in national politics, four of the biggest opposition parties in Pakistan — the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Fazlur), and the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party — held two back-to-back joint rallies attracting crowds of tens of thousands despite the Covid-19 pandemic. The alliance, being called the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), wants the Imran Khan government to step down.
Meanwhile, in an unprecedented move, former PM Nawaz Sharif has made two blistering attacks against the Army’s role in the politics of the country, and against Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa by name, accusing them of his ousting and calling the Army “a state above a state”.
Tens of thousands of protesters defied emergency rules in Bangkok on October 14 in rare scenes openly defying members of the royal family. The protests, which have been continuing in the country for over three months, have called for a reduction in the powers of King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s monarchy as well as the removal of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha.
The government called an emergency meeting later on Friday after which Prayuth said he was not quitting.
South and Central America
Despite Covid-19, new wave of Venezuelan migrants heads to Colombia
Facing an increasingly dysfunctional economy, Venezuelans are hoping to reach Colombia in search of livelihood, Reuters reported. The increasing dollarisation of basic goods in Venezuela makes them inaccessible to the vast majority of the population, who get paid in local currency.
Colombia’s migration agency has said Venezuelan migrants started trickling back in via informal crossing points around a month ago.
New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern delivered the biggest election victory for her centre-left Labour Party in half a century on October 17 as voters rewarded her for a decisive response to Covid-19. Ardern, 40, won over 49 per cent votes in the general elections.
In the run up to the elections, Ardern had promised supporters she would build an economy that works for everyone, create jobs, train people, protect the environment and address climate challenges and social inequalities.
Don’t miss from Explained: New Zealand’s election results and the enduring popularity of Jacinda Ardern
The fledgling travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand hit an early snag after 17 passengers who flew into Sydney on Friday, October 16, caught a connecting flight to Melbourne in an apparent breach of the rules.
Amid protests, Nigerian army plans nationwide exercise
The Nigerian army would begin a two-month national exercise called Operation Crocodile Smile, it said on Saturday, October 17, while denying the move was part of any security response to recent widespread demonstrations against alleged police brutality, Reuters reported. The move comes just days after the army said it was ready to step in and restore order, but army spokesman Sagir Musa said in a statement that the exercise “has no relationship with any lawful protest under any guise whatsoever”.
Guinea military base attacked two days before election
Armed men attacked a military base in western Guinea overnight, killing the camp’s commander, the defence minister said on Friday, October 16, two days before the West African country votes in a bitterly-disputed presidential election, Reuters reported.
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