After 20 years in power and weeks of mass protests, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Algeria’s ailing president, resigned. The announcement sparked celebrations in the capital, Algiers. Some fear that the old guard will try to hang on to power. Abdelkader Bensalah, the Speaker of the Senate (and a Bouteflika loyalist), is next in line as president, according to the constitution. He has 90 days to organise new elections. See article.
The Iranian government ordered the evacuation of more than 70 villages in the province of Khuzestan because of flooding. Dozens of people have been killed in the past two weeks, during Iran’s worst rains in years. Iranian officials blamed American sanctions for impeding their aid efforts. American officials said Iran was mismanaging the crisis.
Thousands of Palestinians marked the first anniversary of an uprising along the Israel-Gaza border. Scores of activists approached the perimeter fence, throwing stones and explosives at the Israeli side. Four Palestinians were killed by Israeli soldiers. A broader ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas, which rules Gaza, appeared to be holding.
The number of cholera cases in Mozambique rose sharply in areas affected by Cyclone Idai. Over 1,400 people have been infected, up from the 249 cases reported recently. Many of the affected areas still cannot be reached by road, complicating a mass vaccination campaign.
A return to the dark ages
Harsh new penalties came into force under Brunei’s Islamic criminal code. Anal sex and sex outside marriage (including gay sex) can earn death by stoning. Thieves risk the amputation of a hand or foot. See article.
Australia approved a new law imposing severe penalties on social-media firms that fail to remove footage of crimes such as murder and rape. Singapore proposed a new law that would allow similarly harsh punishments for those disseminating fake news. See article.
Activists in Thailand questioned the opaque conduct of the Election Commission, which has not yet announced the results of last month’s election. In response, the head of the military junta, which is supposedly soon to give way to civilian government, denounced the “incorrect thinking” on social media.
A bill was introduced to Hong Kong’s legislature that would allow the extradition of criminal suspects to mainland China. Thousands of people marched against it, saying it could be used as a pretext to hand over people who are wanted for political reasons. See article.
China declared that all types of fentanyl would be treated as controlled drugs. America had appealed to China to adopt tougher controls.
America’s attorney-general, William Barr, promised to provide a redacted version of the Mueller report to Congress by the middle of April. That was not enough for the Democrats running the House Judiciary Committee, who authorised (though did not issue) a subpoena to attain Mr Mueller’s full, unredacted report into Russian interference in American politics.
Lori Lightfoot won a run-off election to become Chicago’s mayor, and will be the first black woman and gay person to hold the office. Ms Lightfoot trounced Toni Preckwinkle, a mainstay of the city’s establishment. Her victory could herald a change in Chicago’s machine politics. See article.
Making the poor even poorer
Donald Trump suspended $500m in aid to three Central American countries: El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. He complained that they were doing “absolutely nothing” to stop migrants from leaving their countries and trying to get into America. Migration from the poor, violent Northern Triangle has recently surged on the Mexican border. See article.
Venezuela’s constituent assembly stripped the opposition’s leader, Juan Guaidó, of his immunity from prosecution. More than 54 countries acknowledge Mr Guaidó, who leads the opposition-controlled national assembly, as Venezuela’s interim president. See article.
Brazil’s right-wing president, Jair Bolsonaro, ordered the armed forces to “commemorate” a military coup that took place in 1964. Soldiers marched at their barracks in honour of the occasion, but thousands of people protested.
Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, expelled two former cabinet ministers from the parliamentary caucus of his Liberal Party. He said Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott could no longer be part of a team in which they had no trust. Ms Wilson-Raybould has alleged that the prime minister’s office had pressed her when she was attorney-general to drop the prosecution for corruption of a big engineering firm. Ms Philpott quit saying the “independence and integrity of our justice system” is at stake.
Walls come tumbling down
Volodymyr Zelensky, a TV comedian, won the first round of Ukraine’s presidential election, beating more than 30 rivals. He will now face the incumbent, Petro Poroshenko, in a second round on April 21st. See article.
Local elections in Turkey delivered a humiliating blow to the president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He lost in five of Turkey’s six biggest cities, including Istanbul and Ankara, the capital. See article.
A political novice, Zuzana Caputova, handily won in the second round of Slovakia’s presidential election. It has been a bad week for Europe’s incumbents.
Britain’s Parliament was at an impasse over Brexit. Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement with the EU was rejected again, as were alternatives to her plan. The prime minister held talks with the opposition in an effort to break the deadlock. MPs voted to ask for an extension, by one vote. European politicians looked on aghast, as they pondered whether to give Britain more time. See article.
Police in Britain reported that two devices planted on rail tracks to cause disruption were related to Brexit, as one had a note attached threatening to bring the country to “its knees if we don’t leave”. The troublemaker’s plans were derailed because of EU safety regulations to detect sabotage.
This article appeared in the The world this week section of the print edition under the headline “Politics this week”