After a bitter election campaign rife with accusations of racism and corruption, Justin Trudeau eked out a second term as prime minister this week but fell short of a majority in Parliament. His Liberals won 157 seats, down from the 184 they took in the 2015 election; the Conservatives won 121 seats. But the Conservatives prevailed in the popular vote, 34.4 percent to the Liberals’ 33.1, and they dominated in western Canada. The results were a remarkable tumble for Trudeau, and they show that he was hurt by the scandal around his interference in the prosecution of a construction giant and the revelation that he had worn blackface on multiple occasions. To shore up his minority government, Trudeau will likely seek the support of the leftist New Democrats, who came in fourth after the Quebec nationalist Bloc Quebecois.
As daily protests continue to bring thousands of people into the streets of Catalonia, the Spanish region’s president is calling for another independence referendum. “If they convict us to 100 years for going to the polls for self-determination,” said Quim Torra, “then the response is clear: Self-determination should be put back on the ballot.” The protests began last week after nine separatist leaders who helped organize a 2017 independence referendum deemed illegal by Madrid were sentenced to up to 13 years in prison for sedition. Some protests have erupted in violence: Madrid said 288 police officers had been injured, while Catalan authorities said four demonstrators had lost eyes to plastic bullets fired by police.
Protests flared across Bolivia this week as international observers accused the country’s leftist leader, Evo Morales, of trying to steal the presidential election. Crowds torched election offices in Sucre and other cities and burned piles of ballot boxes. Preliminary results released just after the polls closed showed a slight lead for Morales over former President Carlos Mesa, his chief rival in the field of nine, and a runoff between the two was expected. But later in the night, the electoral authority said Morales was leading by more than 10 percentage points, making a runoff unnecessary. Manuel González, an observer from the Organization of American States, said the vote tally was “inexplicable.” Mesa called on supporters to “battle in defense of the vote.”
Chile was shaken this week by violent protests over economic inequality that left at least 15 people dead, 200 injured, and more than 1,500 under arrest. Rioters looted shops and set fire to subway stations and government buildings across Santiago. The protests were sparked by a hike in subway fares in the capital but mushroomed into a broader uprising against the country’s soaring cost of living and an economic system that Chileans say rewards only the richest. The protesters’ fury is aimed at billionaire President Sebastián Piñera, who has pushed reforms that lower taxes for the wealthy. Piñera called out the army to quell the protests. “We are at war against a powerful enemy, willing to use violence with no limits,” he said in a televised address.
Abortion and same-sex marriage are now legal in Northern Ireland, and local politicians didn’t get a say in the matter. The U.K. province’s power-sharing government collapsed in 2017 amid a dispute between Sinn Féin, which wants a united Ireland, and the pro-British Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). The province is now effectively governed from London. In July, British lawmakers added the two reforms to a bill on Northern Ireland, to bring it into line with the rest of the country; those reforms became law this week. The protestant DUP tried to revive the power-sharing government to stop the laws, but Sinn Féin refused. Most Northern Irish supported lifting the near-total ban on abortion.
Oil defiles beaches
Praia dos Carneiros, Brazil
The Brazilian government this week bowed to a mounting public outcry and sent 5,000 more troops to help clean up an oil spill that is polluting the country’s northeastern coast. More than 600 tons of crude have been recovered since the sludge started washing up on beaches in September. The government had deployed 1,500 soldiers to various locations, but activists and local municipalities said that was woefully insufficient for a crisis affecting nine states and some 1,300 miles of coastline. President Jair Bolsonaro, who took office in January, has gutted the environmental enforcement agency and dismantled two interagency committees that handle planning for oil spill cleanups. Nobody knows the source of the spill, but environment minister Ricardo Salles said the crude “very probably” came from neighboring Venezuela.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has again failed to form a governing coalition, so the mandate now passes to Benny Gantz, leader of the opposition Blue and White party. Last month’s election was a near repeat of the April vote: Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party and its allies didn’t win enough seats to assemble a majority in the Knesset. This time, Netanyahu tried to form a unity government with the centrist Blue and White. But Gantz says he won’t share power with someone facing criminal indictment—the attorney general will decide next month whether to indict Netanyahu on corruption charges. Without Likud, Gantz will need the backing of ultranationalist and Arab parties, which are loath to join forces. If Gantz fails to form a coalition in 28 days, Israel will have another election—its third this year.
Zimbabwe declared a public holiday this week to protest U.S. sanctions. President Emmerson Mnangagwa blames the U.S. for his country’s economic crisis: Inflation now tops 300 percent, and Zimbabweans are struggling with acute shortages of fuel and electricity. The U.S. sanctions, first imposed in 2003, don’t target Zimbabwean businesses but only the specific government and military leaders—including Mnangagwa—the U.S. says are responsible for human rights violations during disputed elections and for seizing white-owned farms. The government appealed to all Zimbabweans to march through Harare on Anti-Sanctions Day, saying they’ll be treated to a free concert and a soccer match between two top teams. “It is unnecessary, but it is welcome,” said an office worker in the capital. “Who doesn’t love a holiday?”
The Iraqi government has fired 44 military and police commanders over a bloody crackdown against mass protests last month, and some of those dismissed may face prosecution. Security forces repeatedly fired on demonstrators who were rallying against corruption and unemployment, killing at least 149 civilians and wounding some 3,000 others. A government investigation found that 70 percent of the victims were shot in the head or chest—suggesting deadly force was used intentionally—and that commanders failed to control their men. Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi has promised reforms to address the protesters’ demands, but the unrest looks likely to continue. Populist Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who wasn’t involved in the earlier protests, is now calling for anti-government demonstrations.
Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn has stripped his royal concubine of all titles for trying to “elevate herself to the same status as the queen.” The 67-year-old king appointed the 34-year-old Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi—a trained pilot, nurse, and bodyguard, and his partner of several years—official consort in July, just two months after he married his fourth wife. Wongvajirapakdi was the first to hold the title of consort since Thailand became a constitutional monarchy in 1932. The king has a fraught history with women. He denounced his second wife in 1996 and disowned their four sons; in 2014, he stripped his third wife of her titles and had members of her family arrested.
Tension in Kashmir
India and Pakistan blamed each other this week for cross-border shelling that killed 10 people in divided Kashmir. Each side said the other fired first. India said Pakistan killed two Indian soldiers and a civilian and that India retaliated by firing on “terrorist camps” in Pakistani-administered Kashmir, while Pakistan said Indian troops deliberately targeted civilians, killing six plus a soldier. It was the deadliest violence since India revoked the autonomy of Indian-administered Kashmir in August, jailing hundreds of political and civil society leaders in the Muslim-majority region. The U.S. State Department told India this week that it was “concerned” about the continued detention of Kashmiri leaders, and it urged authorities “to respect human rights.”
Newspapers go dark
Australian news outlets across the political spectrum united this week to protest the country’s national-security laws, which they say squash press freedom and create a “culture of secrecy.” The largest newspapers ran blacked-out front pages, while online and on the air, prominent journalists called for change. Australia’s secrecy laws allow the government to withhold information that is only tangentially related to national security, and to prosecute and imprison some whistleblowers and reporters. In June, police raided a journalist’s home and a broadcasting office, confiscating computers and documents, in retaliation for stories that had come out months earlier. “Every time a government imposes new restrictions on what journalists can report,” said Michael Miller, executive chairman of News Corp Australia, “Australians should ask, ‘What are they trying to hide from me?’”
Getty, Newscom, AP (2), Reuters ■