Global pulse: Rwanda’s visionary despot goes to polls, Trump’s disturbing candour

Rwanda goes to polls, and the results are already known

A strong proponent of social media and its ability to strengthen democracy, Rwanda’s president is ironically also identified as a “predator” who attacks press freedom. As Rwanda goes to polls, its president Paul Kagame is accused of brutally suppressing the opposition, and even killing some of his most vocal opponents to emerge as the latest in a long list of authoritarian rulers in Africa.

Considered a “military genius”, Kagame, a former child refugee, was once a hero for the West. He was credited for helping to bring an end to Rwanda’s bloody genocide, and under his 17-year long tenure, the Rwandan economy has improved considerably. The “doer” president has championed women’s rights in the country, with most of his MPs being women. But the results of the election, which is being held in a “climate of fear” may just be a formality, critics say and Kagame agrees. “Some people have said that the result of the election is a foregone conclusion. They are not wrong,” the visionary-cum-tyrant leader had said.

A contrite Shinzo Abe has a new cabinet

Shinzo Abe has overhauled his cabinet in the hope to regain the public trust in his government that he desperately needs. The Japanese prime minister has changed 14 of the 19 cabinet positions, bringing in a lineup of experienced political veterans to send out the message that after suffering severe blows, he is decidedly on the path of course-correction.

Yet after a series a scandals and his own alleged misconduct, a cabinet reshuffle might not be a solution to the plummeting public support. In that case, Abe may even have to leave his office, thus stripping off Japan’s negotiating power on the challenge-ridden diplomatic front. There are ever-growing nuclear and missile threats from Pyongyang. Ties with Seoul are shaky. And the territorial disputes with China and Russia remain. Analysts largely agree that Abe has handled foreign policy rather skillfully. To continue doing so, salvaging the situation back home is imperative for the second-time prime minister.

Trump is inexplicably candid with his foreign counterparts

“If you are going to say that Mexico is not going to pay for the wall, then I do not want to meet with you guys anymore because I cannot live with that”. One would not ordinarily imagine a conversation between two heads of state to sound like this, but that is exactly what Donald Trump said to his Mexican counterpart Enrique Pena Nieto. With the Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, Trump was even less reserved. “I have had it,” he said to Turnbull towards the end of the call, “I have been making these calls all day, and this is the most unpleasant call all day. Putin was a pleasant call. This is ridiculous.”

In what was a barely tenable justification, an official said, “The president is a tough negotiator who is always looking to make the best possible deals for the American people”.

Lawmakers in Chile give green light to abortion

After almost three decades of being denied the right, women in Chile may finally be able to terminate pregnancies now. Bringing a probable end to a 1989 military junta fiat, lawmakers in the country approved legislation to allow abortion under limited circumstances.

“Today, women reclaimed a basic right that we never should have lost: being able to choose when we’re living through painful moments,” Chile’s president, Michelle Bachelet, tweeted. Meanwhile, conservative abortion critics are making some predictable arguments. That the law would encourage false rape charges is one such submission. Under the new law, abortion would be authorised if it endangers the life of the mother, the fetus is unviable or the pregnancy is resulted from rape. Denying the right to abortion leads 60,000 to 70,000 women in the country to opt for clandestine abortions every year, abortion-right groups say.

 

14 more go to the gallows in Saudi Arabia

More than 300 people are estimated to have been executed in Saudi Arabia in the last two years. Fourteen more, including a teenager who planned to study English and finance in the US, will soon be added to that list. All from the country’s persecuted Shiite minority, the men are purportedly facing execution for staging protest in a country where death penalties are awarded for crimes like adultery.

As the Arab Spring erupted in the region six years ago, protests rocked Riyadh as well. The Shiites, who have consistently complained of institutionalised discrimination, mobilised themselves to demand more rights and access to government services – only to be accused of aligning with neighbouring Iran.

 

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