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Nov 9: Biden wins the presidency, China suspended Ant Group’s IPO listing, Saudi Arabia abolishes key restrictions on foreign workers, a civil war brewing in Ethiopia

North America

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden has been elected the 46th president of the United States (US). The 2020 US presidential election kicked off last Tuesday (Nov 3). While vote count between President-elect Biden and President Trump began toe to toe, President-elect Biden’s win in Nevada and key state Pennsylvania handed him the presidency. President Trump was last seen playing golf in Virginia, refusing to concede defeat and continued to make baseless accusations of election fraud. Meanwhile, Georgia is heading towards a recount due to the slim election margin in the state. 
  • The Trump campaign and allies continue to assert baseless claims that the elections were being stolen. Amidst the ongoing pandemic, pro-Trump demonstrators have taken it onto the streets while social media giants such as Facebook and Twitter scrambled to take down violent-inciting groups as well as far-right radicals. Senior Republicans struggled to support the President’s unsubstantiated allegations of the 2020 elections and some have distanced themselves from the President. 
  • Although President-elect Biden has won the 2020 Presidential elections, the Biden administration would have to face a Republican-controlled Senate. The 2020 Presidential elections have been polarising and experts said that President-elect Biden would face many challenges to pass his stimulus package due to a divided government. Democrats and Republicans alike would be looking to judge the effectiveness of his bipartisanship strategy, a unique quality of Mr Biden.
  • New York representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted last Saturday (Nov 7) asking if anyone was keeping a record of complicit sycophants of President Trump, and predicted that they would cover up their tracks once President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in. Michael Simon, a former Obama administration official, replied to her tweet, introducing the Trump Accountability Project. The project seeks to record the details of these individuals on a Google sheet, in the name of transparency and accountability. Mr Simon has since locked his Twitter account and deleted his tweet.
  • Oil prices fell sharply due to the highly contested US Presidential elections and a wave of lockdowns in European countries, further dampening the demand for oil. Greece declared a national lockdown last Thursday (Nov 5) and a surge in virus cases in the US risked the trigger of more restrictions in the country. As of last Saturday (Nov 7), Brent crude prices were down  3.62 per cent, settling at US$39.45 a barrel, while US West Texas Intermediate dropped 4.25 per cent to settle at US$37.14 a barrel. OPEC+ is now facing a difficult decision on whether to move forward with a planned oil output increase.
  • Whole Foods Market, the luxury grocery chain owned by Amazon.com Inc, faced a backlash in Canada over their ban on wearing poppies to commemorate Remembrance Day. Poppies is a type of small, red flower that is also used as a symbol of the Canadian soldiers’ sacrifice in the wake of World War I. Politicians and activists actively showed their displeasure online towards the Whole Foods’ ban, along with the hashtag #LestWeForget.

South America

  • Panama’s President Laurentino Cortizo is in self-quarantine after a close coworker tested positive for the coronavirus. In a tweet posted last Monday (Nov 2), Cortizo had taken two coronavirus tests that both came out negative but said that he would continue to isolate and repeat tests in the coming days.
  • Peru’s Congress approved a motion last Monday (Nov 2) to initiate impeachment proceedings to remove President Martín Vizcarra from office, just a month and a half after he survived a prior impeachment trial. This follows a corruption allegation, where the president allegedly accepted bribes when he was the governor of the southern region of Moquegua. President Vizcarra has repeatedly denied the allegations against him.
  • The congress of the conservative Mexican state of Puebla voted to legalise same-sex marriages in an overwhelming majority last Tuesday (Nov 3). This is a huge step for the predominantly Roman Catholic Latin American country, joining the majority of Mexico’s 32 states in recognising same-sex marriages.
  • Chilean President Sebastian Pinera announced last Wednesday (Nov 4) that the country’s health regulator had given the go-ahead for clinical trials of AstraZeneca PLC’s Covid-19 vaccine. He added that Chile signed a purchase agreement with Pfizer Inc and Germany’s BioNTech SE for 10 million doses of vaccine, and was working on similar agreements with AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Sinovac.
  • Colombia’s lower house abruptly ended its session last Thursday (Nov 5) and asked lawmakers to quarantine after member Alejandro Carlos Chacon tested positive for coronavirus. At least 150 lawmakers could have potentially been exposed to the virus, as reported by the chamber’s press office.
  • A statement released last Friday (Nov 6) reported that at least 100 people have died from landslides, with 150 homes being buried in a Guatemalan village as a result by the torrential rainfall from Hurricane Eta. The category 4 hurricane has battered Central America, triggering mudslides and flooding. Hurricane Eta is predicted to slowly move towards Cuba and Florida in the next five to seven days.
  • The former economy minister, Luis Arce, 58, was inaugurated as Bolivia’s president last Sunday (Nov 8) after a landslide win during the Presidential elections earlier in October. With tensions high in the country, the then-president-elect was attacked with dynamite in a meeting at La Paz City last Thursday (Nov 5), with no injuries reported. President Arce prospered the country’s economy for over a decade under former leader Evo Morales, who resigned last year.

Asia Pacific

  • The Hong Kong police arrested a journalist who reported on allegations that law enforcement failed to protect civilians from a group of thugs. This followed the arrest earlier in the week of eight pro-democracy politicians, including five lawmakers for obstructing a legislative council meeting early in May this year. Since the new national security law was enacted by Beijing, local authorities have been accelerating their crackdown on opposition political figures and supporters of anti-government protests. Media stations and journalists stated that they can no longer produce high-quality news like before.
  • China suspended the US$37 billion listings of Ant Group, which was set to be the world’s largest IPO. This came one day after state regulators summoned Jack Ma in for questioning about Ant’s IPO. The suspension of an IPO at this stage is seen to be disruptive and could potentially result in damages for retail investors. The Ant Group was founded by Mr Ma in 2004, initially as Alipay, an arm of Alibaba before being rebranded as Ant in 2014. 
  • Huawei is developing a roadmap for a dedicated chip plant in Shanghai that would not use American technology. This plant would allow the company to produce supplies for its telecom infrastructure in the face of American sanctions. It has been said that the plant would be run by Shanghai IC R&D Center, a chip research company with the backing of the Shanghai Municipal government. While there might be higher production costs incurred and operational inefficiencies, industry experts said that Huawei should be able to tolerate this whilst removing its dependency on foreign chips technology and developing its technology power simultaneously. 
  • Myanmar voters headed to the polls last Sunday (Nov 8), marking the country’s second democratic elections ever since the end of military rule. The National League for Democracy is expected to win with a reduced majority. While most citizens had the right to vote, Myanmar’s election commission cancelled voting in conflict areas and denied voting rights to many minorities, such as the Rakhine. Several Rohingyan candidates were also disqualified to run for elections. 
  • Pakistani prime minister, Imran Khan, declared the border territory of Gilgit-Baltistan as the country’s fifth province. This announcement incited fresh disputes from India. Gilgit-Baltistan is a strategic area as it forms part of the Pakistan-administered Kashmir – an area claimed by Pakistan and India but has been controlled by Pakistan ever since the war of independence in 1947. This announcement by Khan is also seen to be a move to win voters as his party is facing criticisms over the country’s economic collapse and high levels of inflation. 
  • The US approved the sale of four sophisticated drones to Taiwan last Wednesday (Nov 4), which will help the country spot any Chinese preparations for an attack. Under the Trump administration, Taiwan received a substantial amount of political and military support from the US in recent years. The drone sale became even more critical to Taiwan after the Hong Kong crackdown and as China continues to pose several threats to attack the country if Taipei refuses unification indefinitely. 

Europe

  • A 20-year-old man went on a deadly rampage in the Austrian capital, Vienna, last Monday (Nov 2), killing at least four and leaving seven victims in critical condition. The Islamic State terrorist group supporter had fired into crowds in bars with automatic rifles for nine minutes before being fatally shot by the police. The Islamic State claimed responsibility on Tuesday after releasing a picture and video of the gunman on Telegram. Since then, Austrian authorities have shut down the Twehid Mosque in Vienna and the Melit Ibrahim Association last Friday (Nov 6), previously frequented by the perpetrator. 
  • The European Union is set to impose tariffs on US$4 billion of US imports, in retaliation to US subsidies for the planemaker Boeing. The decision has been backed by the majority of EU governments and expected to be implemented in the coming week.
  • A strain of mink-related coronavirus has infected 214 people since June, according to a report published by Denmark’s State Serum Institute. In response, Denmark decided to cull all 17 million mink at the country’s estimated 1,200 fur farms as a precautionary step. Denmark is one of six countries that have reported coronavirus cases linked to mink farms, along with other nations such as the US, Italy, Netherlands, Spain and Sweden. 
  • Former Kosovo President Hashim Thaci, resigned last Thursday (Nov 5) after being indicted of war crime charges. He is currently detained in the Kosovo Tribunal at The Hague, but the wartime hero denied any wrongdoings. Allegations held against him include holding him responsible for nearly 100 murders of civilians during the 1998-99 war when he was a Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) commander.
  • Poland witnessed its biggest mass protests in decades as more than 15,000 people turned out to protest in its capital, Warsaw, against the court’s decision to ban nearly all abortions. The Oct 22 court ruling prompted nearly two weeks of protests.
  • The Chinese telecoms equipment maker Huawei appealed against Sweden’s decision to exclude them from 5G networks. Sweden, joining other European nations, has banned Huawei and ZTE from its 5G network after allegations that Huawei equipment could be used by Beijing for spying purposes. Huawei has repeatedly denied being a national security risk.
  • England entered a second countrywide lockdown last Thursday (Nov 5), which is expected to last for four weeks until Dec 2. This was in response to the surge in cases during the country’s second wave of coronavirus, as its highest daily record of Covid-19 cases hit 26,287 on Oct 22. However, scientists have argued the potentially economic-crippling lockdown might not have been necessary, as evidence points to the UK have already passed its peak before the lockdown.
  • Greece entered a second nationwide lockdown last Saturday (Nov 7), which is expected to last for at least three weeks. Retail shops, supermarkets and pharmacies would be forced to close and travel between regions would be banned. In addition, authorities reintroduced a text messaging system which grants people permission to leave their homes only for essential purposes.

Middle East

  • The Trump administration imposed Treasury sanctions on Gibran Bassil, one of Lebanon’s most influential politicians while it attempts to aggressively defang the militia and political powerhouse Hezbollah, a Shia Islamist political party and militant group based in Lebanon. This decision would derail attempts at preventing an economic and social freefall in a country where poverty and uncertainty are on the rise every day. Bassil is known for his corrupt acts throughout his political career and has facilitated a system of political patronage in the government. He responded to the sanctions on Twitter saying, “sanctions didn’t scare me and promises didn’t tempt me”.
  • Jordan reported a record death toll last Saturday (Nov 7), bringing the overall total to 1,029 and a total number of infections to 91,234. At the same time, the country is heading towards a parliamentary election next week, but the government decided not to postpone Tuesday’s election. The government is also looking to lift the current night-time curfews until after the results are announced on Wednesday afternoon, despite mounting concerns of the widespread virus. 
  • Anwar Gargash, the UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs, came out to support Emmanuel Macron on his call for greater integration of Muslims last Tuesday (Nov 3). Mr Gargash continued to blame Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan for inciting religious discord amidst terrorist attacks in France last month. In recent years, the two countries are more aligned on issues such as the growing threat of Islam and its potential to radicalise their people. They also share similar criticisms against Mr Erdogan and have publicly accused him of advocating radical Islamic movements in other countries. 
  • Saudi Arabia allowed 10 million foreign workers to change jobs and leave the country freely without being subjected to their employers’ approval. This is an act by the kingdom to modernise its kafala system, diversify its overly oil-reliant economy and create more jobs for its citizens. This pledge by the kingdom is seen to be a move in the right direction as foreign workers were always tied to their sponsor. Their sponsors are in turn responsible to grant them legal rights to work in the country. Known as the kafala system, this system has long been criticised for exposing workers to abuse by their employers. 
  • Qatar announced that the country will hold elections for its Shura Council, the legislative branch of its government, in October 2021. This is a remarkable move as it has been rare for the public to participate in political activity in one of the world’s wealthiest countries. Case in point: During the Arab Spring, the state was not affected by the democratic uprisings. Qatar has always been seen as a leader in backing Islamic movements around the region. However, the country is now looking to develop its political system and processes through the widening of public participation. 

Africa

  • Ethiopian prime minister Abiy Ahmed, a Nobel peace prize winner, released a statement last Saturday (Nov 7) in which he declared that he launched military operations in Tigray, in response to an allegedly deadly attack on a government military base from the region. The TPLF denied the attack and accused President Abiy of concocting the story to justify deploying the military, which has led to a bloody civil war. President Abiy also pushed to replace the local leadership with a new centrally imposed administration. 
  • Guinea’s constitutional court confirmed President Alpha Conde’s victory in last month’s disputed election, rejecting allegations of fraud and allowing him a third term, which his opponents deemed unconstitutional. This came after President Conde’s campaign to change the constitution earlier this year in order to bypass a two-term limit. 
  • Ivorian prosecutors arrested Ivory Coast opposition leader and former Prime Minister Pascal Affi N’Guessan last Saturday (Nov 7) for creating a rival government after President Alassane Ouattara’s election victory. Pascal Affi N’Guessan served as prime minister from 2000-2003 under President Laurent Gbagbo, whose refusal to concede defeat to Ouattara after the 2010 election sparked a civil war that killed 3,000 people.
  • Ugandan opposition leader and popular singer Bobi Wine was arrested last Tuesday (Nov 3), after registering his candidacy to challenge President Yoweri Museveni in next year’s election. The musician turned presidential hopeful described attacks from the police such as using a hammer to break the windows of his vehicle and being dragged out and tortured by police officers for several hours in a police van. He has since been cleared to run in the elections on Monday.
  • South Africa’s department of home affairs announced that they have started deporting 20 migrant workers and its courts oversaw the deportation process. Earlier in October 2019, hundreds of refugees and asylum seekers protested in Cape Town to be relocated to another country outside of South Africa, but not be sent back to their countries of origin. Migrant workers and refugees said they were experiencing discrimination and no longer felt safe in South Africa. South Africa is expected to deport more migrant workers. 
  • Hopewell Chin’ono, Zimbabwe’s anti-corruption campaigner and journalist, was detained again for allegedly breaking bail conditions amidst the current crackdown on dissent in the country. He was arrested by the police from his home in the capital, Harare, last Tuesday (Nov 3). Chin’ono was first arrested for publishing his findings from his investigation into the country’s corruption. Zimbabwe is facing a severe economic crisis, with inflation rates at more than 800 per cent. 
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The IAS Gazette is a news site run by undergraduates from the Singapore Institute of Management’s International Affairs Society (IAS). Founded in 2018, it traces its roots to The Capital, a now defunct bimonthly magazine previously under the IAS.

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