Thailand stepped back from the brink of a constitutional crisis when the Election Commission rejected the candidacy of Princess Ubolratana Mahidol for prime minister in next month’s election. The princess had been nominated by a party tied to Thaksin Shinawatra, a populist prime minister who was ousted by the army in 2006 amid clashes between his “red shirt” supporters and “yellow shirt” backers of the elites. See article.
Maria Ressa, a journalist in the Philippines and forceful critic of Rodrigo Duterte, the president, was arrested under the country’s “cyber-libel” law over an article that was published on Rappler, the online news site she manages, before the law in question was passed. See article.
South Korea agreed to increase how much it pays to keep American troops in the country, but by less than what America wanted. A desire to show a united front ahead of a forthcoming summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s dictator, lent urgency to the negotiations. See article.
The Australian parliament passed a bill to allow a few asylum-seekers held in offshore detention centres to enter the country for medical treatment. The home affairs minister called this a “disaster for our country”. See article.
Turkey protested about China’s persecution of Uighurs, Muslims who live mostly in China’s western region of Xinjiang and speak a Turkic language. Perhaps 1m Uighurs are held in “re-education” camps. Turkey noted reports that Abdurehim Heyit, a musician arrested for endangering state security with his poems, had died in one. China aired a video apparently showing him alive. Relatives of other Uighurs who have vanished into the camps asked if they, too, could see videos of their loved ones.
Trials and tribulations
Snap elections looked likely to be called in Spain after the minority socialist government led by Pedro Sánchez lost a vote on its budget. Also in Spain the trials began of a group of politicians from Catalonia, who were jailed after the region held an unauthorised referendum on independence. See article.
Italy’s populist leaders, Matteo Salvini and Luigi Di Maio, spooked markets by appearing to threaten the independence of the country’s central bank.
Anti-Semitic incidents in Germany rose by 10% last year, according to media reports. Some blamed the rise of the far-right Alternative for Germany party, which denies it is anti-Semitic. Others pointed to a sharp increase in immigrants from Arab countries.
A long stretch for Shorty
A jury in Brooklyn found Joaquín Guzmán, better known as El Chapo, or “Shorty”, guilty of helping to run Mexico’s Sinaloa drug gang. The trial revealed the inner workings of the gang, including murder, bribery and the use of boats to move cocaine after Mr Guzmán discovered that drug agents were tracking his planes. Witnesses described his private zoo, which housed panthers and crocodiles. Mr Guzmán, who twice escaped from Mexican jails, is expected to remain in an American prison for the rest of his life.
At least eight people were killed in protests against Haiti’s president, Jovenel Moïse. The protests began after the court of auditors said that officials in a previous government had stolen money from a programme through which Venezuela supplied cheap oil to Haiti. The protesters were also angry about high prices.
Jody Wilson-Raybould, a central figure in a scandal involving allegations that Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, had pushed for the settlement of a criminal case against an engineering firm, quit the cabinet. The parliamentary ethics commissioner has said that he will investigate claims that Mr Trudeau had put pressure on Ms Wilson-Raybould when she was the justice minister to settle the case against Montreal-based SNC-Lavalin.
It’s a tough job…
Abdelaziz Bouteflika, the president of Algeria, is to seek a fifth term in office, despite ill health. Mr Bouteflika, who has run the country since 1999, is rarely seen in public and is rumoured to have lost the ability to speak after suffering a stroke in 2013. Yet he has the backing of the ruling elite because it cannot agree on a successor.
Officials from 65 countries met in Warsaw to discuss Middle East security. America, one of the organisers, had hoped to use the event to rally European support for sanctions against Iran. But several European countries, including France and Germany, sent only junior officials, signalling their unease over America’s unilateral withdrawal from an agreement that eased Iran’s isolation in exchange for the country restricting its nuclear activities.
In the week that Iranians celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, a Sunni militant group claimed responsibility for a suicide-bombing in the south-east of Iran that killed 27 members of the Revolutionary Guard.
American-backed Kurdish forces began an attack on the last bastion of Islamic State in Syria. The jihadist group is surrounded and confined to an area of about one square mile. See article.
As regular as clockwork
Facing yet another government shutdown (the most recent one ended just three weeks ago) negotiators from both parties in America’s Congress thrashed out a deal that would provide money to build part of Donald Trump’s border wall in return for reducing the number of illegal immigrants who are incarcerated. See article.
Mike Pompeo, America’s secretary of state, denied a claim from Tim Kaine, a senator, that the Trump administration was helping the Saudi government cover up the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a dissident journalist who was killed by Saudi agents in Istanbul. The administration had declined to meet a congressional deadline to say whether it thinks Muhammad bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince, was behind the death. Senators from both parties want answers.
Opportunity, an American Mars rover, is officially defunct. Contact was lost last June, after a dust storm. More than 1,000 subsequent attempts to re-establish communications have failed. The craft was designed to last a mere three months, but it trundled on for 15 years.
Amy Klobuchar entered the race to be the Democratic candidate for president. The senator from Minnesota is a centrist by comparison with her rivals, and reportedly stern with her staff. In 2011 she helped block a rule that would have stopped pizza served in school canteens being counted as a vegetable portion, thus protecting jobs at a school-pizza caterer in her state. See article.
This article appeared in the The world this week section of the print edition under the headline “Politics this week”