Italy’s general election resulted in a badly hung parliament, with none of the three main political groupings close to a majority. Populist parties did better than expected, winning more than half the vote. Weeks of uncertainty lie ahead, though either one of the two big populist parties—the Five Star Movement and the Northern League—looks sure to end up in power. See article.
In Germany the Social Democratic Party’s membership voted to approve a new coalition government with Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats, paving the way for Mrs Merkel to start her fourth term as chancellor later this month. See article.
British police said a nerve agent had been used to try to murder Sergei Skripal, a former Russian spy, and his daughter. Mr Skripal had been jailed in Russia for passing secrets to British intelligence, but he was released in 2010 under a swap arrangement for the return of Russian agents. The attack is reminiscent of the fatal poisoning in London of Alexander Litvinenko in 2006, probably on the orders of the Russian government. See article.
Time to talk?
During a meeting with South Korean envoys, Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s dictator, opened the possibility of talks with America about ending his country’s nuclear programme and suggested he would suspend missile tests once negotiations began. Donald Trump welcomed the “possible progress”. Seasoned observers poured oceans of scepticism over Mr Kim’s remarks, wondering if it was a strategy to weaken Chinese and Russian support for sanctions. See article.
In South Korea Ahn Hee-jung resigned as governor of the province of South Chungcheong after his secretary accused him of raping her several times. Mr Ahn had been tipped to run for president in 2022. The secretary said she was inspired by South Korea’s #MeToo movement, which has played a part in the resignations of several other prominent figures. See article.
An outbreak of violence directed at Muslims prompted the government of Sri Lanka to declare a state of emergency for the first time since the end of the country’s civil war in 2009. The unrest was allegedly sparked by the killing of a Buddhist man by a group of Muslims in the city of Kandy. Communal tensions have risen over the past year, fanned by Buddhist nationalists. See article.
Australia and East Timor ended a dispute over their maritime border that had carried on since East Timor’s independence from Indonesia in 2002. They signed a treaty setting the boundaries, which opens the way for both countries to share the spoils from gasfields in the Timor Sea.
Against the backdrop of maritime territorial disputes and nervousness about America’s increased focus on the Pacific, the Chinese government said it would increase defence spending by 8%, to 1.1trn yuan ($175bn). It is the biggest rise in years, though the amount China actually spends on defence is much higher than the official figure.
China set its target for economic growth this year at 6.5%. Last year GDP grew by 6.9%.
Her day in court
Judicial authorities in Argentina said Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, a former president, would face trial on charges of covering up Iran’s suspected role in the attack on a Jewish centre in Buenos Aires in 1994 that killed 85 people. Ms Fernández is not under arrest.
Brazil’s supreme court said President Michel Temer’s bank accounts could be scrutinised in an investigation into possible corruption involving port permits. Another court denied a petition by Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, a former president, to be allowed to stay out of jail while he appeals against a 12-year sentence.
Venezuela’s electoral authorities postponed a presidential election scheduled for April 22nd until May 20th. Most of the opposition intends to boycott the poll, believing it will be rigged by the socialist president, Nicolás Maduro.
Police in Honduras arrested a senior company executive in connection with the murder in 2016 of Berta Cáceres, an environmental activist. Roberto David Castillo Mejía was president of the hydroelectric company building the dam that Ms Cáceres was protesting against. Prosecutors say he helped plan her murder.
No let up
The regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria stepped up its assault on rebel-held Eastern Ghouta. The bombardment has already killed hundreds of people in recent weeks. A UN convoy, stripped of medical supplies, was allowed to deliver aid to civilians, but had to cut its mission short because of shelling. A Russian military transport plane crashed near the Syrian coast, killing 39 people.
Rex Tillerson, America’s secretary of state, tried to improve relations with Africa, two months after Donald Trump reportedly used foul language to disparage African countries. Ahead of a week-long trip to the continent, Mr Tillerson promised $533m in new aid. He also criticised China’s dealings with Africa, saying it relied on “opaque contracts, predatory loan practices and corrupt deals that mire nations in debt”.
Voters in Sierra Leone braved long queues to pick a new president. Ernest Bai Koroma, the incumbent, has completed his maximum two terms in office. Over a dozen candidates hope to replace him. The winner’s first task will be to turn around the economy, which has yet to recover from an Ebola epidemic and a commodities slump.
His next gig
The UN secretary-general, António Guterres, appointed Michael Bloomberg as his special envoy on climate change. The former mayor of New York has a brief to chivvy governments into meeting targets for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. He already jointly oversees an effort to get American cities, states and businesses to reduce their emissions in line with the Paris accord on climate change, which America is in the process of withdrawing from.
The March 5th deadline, by which time the Trump administration had wanted the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programme to end, came and went. Federal courts have put those plans on hold, leaving around 800,000 of the programme’s Dreamers, immigrants who came to America illegally as children under 16, in some uncertainty about their future.
This article appeared in the The world this week section of the print edition under the headline “Politics this week”