Theresa May’s Brexit deal suffered a crushing defeat in the British Parliament. Leavers who think the deal does not go far enough in disentangling Britain from the European Union joined Remainers in voting against the government by a majority of 230, the largest defeat of a government on record. Hoping to trigger an election that it thinks it can win, the opposition Labour Party called for a motion of no confidence in the government, which it survived as Tory rebels returned to the fold. Mrs May will have to return to Parliament with a new Brexit blueprint on January 21st. See article.
Macedonia’s parliament voted to approve the change of the country’s name to North Macedonia, part of a deal that is meant to see Greece lift its opposition to the country’s membership of the EU and NATO. The agreement still needs to be approved by Greece. The odds for that improved after the prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, narrowly saw off a vote of no confidence. See article.
The mayor of Gdansk, Poland’s sixth-largest city, was murdered by a knife-wielding assailant in front of a horrified crowd at a charity event. Pawel Adamowicz had been one of the country’s most prominent liberals. See article.
The rambling man
Nicolás Maduro was sworn in for a second term as Venezuela’s president. In a speech that lasted nearly four hours, Mr Maduro promised to quadruple the monthly minimum wage, which would bring it to $7 at black-market rates, and said the distressed economy would boom. Agents of the country’s intelligence service briefly detained the newly elected speaker of the opposition-controlled national assembly as well as two journalists. The national assembly declared Mr Maduro a “usurper”.
Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s far-right president, signed a decree that eases gun-control laws. Brazilians without a criminal record will be able to buy guns more easily and to keep them at home. Mr Bolsonaro said the measure would give Brazilians a “legitimate right of defence”. In 2017 the number of murders in Brazil reached a record of nearly 64,000.
Upping the ante
A court in northern China sentenced a Canadian to death for smuggling drugs. Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, said this was a matter of “extreme concern” and accused China of “arbitrarily” imposing the death penalty. Relations between the two countries have been tense since Canada’s detention in December of a senior Chinese executive of Huawei, a technology company. See article.
China approved the building of a large new dam on the Jinsha river, as the upper stretch of the Yangzi is known. The Lawa hydroelectric project, on the border between Sichuan and Tibet, is expected to cost more than 30bn yuan ($4.6bn) and have a total capacity of two gigawatts.
Thai officials said that a long-awaited election to restore democracy, scheduled for February 24th, would be pushed back again. But the prime minister and leader of the country’s military junta promised that the ballot would take place before May.
Protests against official corruption gathered strength in Mongolia. Perhaps 20,000 people gathered in Ulaanbaatar, the capital, despite the winter freeze to denounce the conduct of the country’s two biggest political parties. More demonstrations are planned. See article.
The latest eruption of Mount Merapi, a volcano in central Java, intensified, sending lava down its slopes. The Indonesian authorities have not yet issued an evacuation order, but are rushing to repair damaged roads in case of an exodus.
No safe place to hide
Members of al-Shabab, a jihadist group with ties to al-Qaeda, attacked a hotel and office complex in a normally secure neighbourhood of Nairobi, Kenya’s capital. At least 21 people were killed, including several foreigners. The assailants were armed with grenades and guns; one attacker was a suicide-bomber. See article.
The government of Zimbabwe launched a crackdown on protesters after widespread unrest linked to a rise in fuel prices. Access to the internet was blocked, as soldiers patrolled the streets of big cities, arresting and beating young men. At least eight people were killed and hundreds injured. NGOs reported human-rights violations across the country. The government blamed the unrest on the opposition. See article.
The International Criminal Court at The Hague took another knock when its judges acquitted Laurent Gbagbo, a former president of the Ivory Coast, who had been charged with crimes against humanity. Last year a Congolese former vice-president, Jean-Pierre Bemba, was also acquitted, and a case against Kenya’s current president, Uhuru Kenyatta, had been dropped four years earlier. The court’s authority is increasingly questioned, especially in Africa.
A suicide-bomb attack in northern Syria killed at least 15 people, including four American servicemen and civilians. The attack was claimed by Islamic State, just weeks after Donald Trump said the jihadist group was defeated and that he would begin withdrawing American troops from Syria.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said his troops would create a 32km-deep “safe zone” in northern Syria to protect civilians. The announcement came after Mr Erdogan held a phone conversation with Mr Trump, who had threatened to “devastate Turkey economically” if it attacked America’s Kurdish allies, whom Turkey considers to be terrorists.
The impasse over funding for a wall on the Mexican border, which has led to the suspension of some public services in America, entered its fourth week, becoming the longest-ever government shutdown. The Council of Economic Advisers said the shutdown was having a worse effect on the economy than it had expected. Opinion polls showed that voters blame the president for the shambles. See article.
The Senate held a hearing on whether to confirm Donald Trump’s choice of William Barr as attorney-general. Although he has argued in favour of expansive powers for presidents, Mr Barr promised to allow Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian provocateurs to proceed unhindered. He also said that Mr Trump had not sought any “assurances, promises or commitments from me of any kind, either express or implied.” See article.
Kirsten Gillibrand, a senator from New York, became the second heavy-hitter to enter the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.
This article appeared in the The world this week section of the print edition under the headline “Politics this week”