October 28 roundup: Is it Brexit yet?; Global wave of protests

European flag at Downing Street

This roundup summarises the most important news stories around the world in the last two weeks (October 15 to 28, 2019).

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Is it Brexit yet?: In September, prime minister of the United Kingdom (UK) Boris Johnson – emphasising a promise to take his country out of the European Union (EU) by October 31 – said he would “rather be dead in a ditch” than to ask the EU for another delay. Yet almost two months later, even though EU and the UK finally struck another compromise agreement, ensuring that a border will not be constructed on the island of Ireland, the UK parliament, while approving Mr. Johnson’s deal in principle, withheld approval of deal by voting to delay ratification until a complex set of legislation required to enact it has been passed. In other words, it seems unlikely that Brexit will happen as scheduled in a few days.

Global wave of protests: There were protests against election results in Bolivia, against inequality in Chile, for greater democracy in Hong Kong, against corruption and the government in Lebanon and Haiti, and for separatism in Spain.

  • Bolivia: The president and the country’s electoral authority have been accused of manipulating the election results to avoid a run-off, and the president’s response to the protests have been to declare a win and to announce a state of emergency.
  • Chile: A state of emergency was declared following days of violent demonstrations and looting against the rising cost of public transportation, which has since ballooned into protests against economic inequality. At least eight people have been killed.
  • Haiti: At least five weeks of deadly protests continued, as the president resisted resignation.
  • Hong Kong: Leader Carrie Lam was forced to deliver by video – instead of in the legislature – an address promising a package of social-welfare initiatives, as the United States House of Representatives passed bills supporting the city’s demonstrators.
  • Lebanon: The prime minister agreed to a set of reforms – including a salary cut for presidents, ministers, and lawmakers – to calm thousands of protestors demonstrating against perceived corruption. These anti-government protests were the largest in more than a decade.
  • Spain: For their roles in the 2017 independence referendum, nine Catalan separatist leaders were sentenced to jail. Tens of thousands in Barcelona demonstrated.

More broadly, even though the number and frequency of protests have increased in the past decades, these protests – because of a stall in democracy growth, the liability of social media usage, increased social polarisation, and authoritarian governments learning to frustrate dissent – have also become less successful.

In other news: As President Donald Trump ordered the withdrawal of the 1,000 remaining troops from northern Syria, Turkey continued its incursion into the country. The Kurds have turned to the Russia-backed Syrian government for support against Turkey. Turkey rejected an American call for an immediate ceasefire, and later Russia and Turkey agreed to jointly control former Kurdish territory in Syria.

In Canada, prime minister Justin Trudeau is expected to lead a minority government, even though his party lost the popular vote. In Israel, prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged he was unable to form the country’s next government, leaving the opposition leader to give a shot. And in Japan, one of the country’s worst typhoons in decades killed more than a dozen people.

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