- Deadly clashes erupt in Gaza
- Ruling coalition defeated in Malaysia election
- Severe weather in South Asia and East Africa
- Venezuela’s Maduro reelection
- Kilauea volcano eruption in Hawaii
Deadly clashes erupt in Gaza as US opens embassy in Jerusalem
The opening of the relocated US embassy in East Jerusalem turned into a chaotic affair as Palestinians clashed with Israeli security forces in Gaza. The move by the US President Donald Trump has long courted controversies when it was confirmed in December 2017 that Washington will recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Adding insult to injury, the ceremony also came on Nakba Day, or the Day of Catastrophe, where Palestinians commemorate lands they either fled or were evicted from amidst the creation of the state of Israel. The latest round of violence that left at least 55 people dead was however the culmination of the longstanding stalemate in the Middle East that had only aggravated since Trump took over the presidency in 2017.
For the Palestinians, the opening of the US embassy meant that Washington can no longer be an honest broker in the peace process as the move was akin to ending the former’s quest to make East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state. Despite this, it is important to note that Trump was not the first president to moot the idea of moving the US embassy to Jerusalem as it had been proposed to a certain extent during the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations. With the latest move however, the peace process in the Middle East seems to be once again hanging in the balance while unrest in Palestinian areas will most likely to continue.
Ruling coalition in shock defeat following Malaysia election
The 61-year old ruling Barisan Nasional (National Front) party of Malaysia was ousted following a crushing defeat at the polls on 9 May. In what was being referred to the “Mother of all Elections”, the coalition under the helm of scandal-hit Prime Minister Najib Razak saw a tight contest from its arch-rival, Pakatan Harapan that was led by his mentor, Mahathir Mohamad as well as reformist, Anwar Ibrahim. Apart from the challenge put up by the opposition coalition, Najib’s downfall also came at a time of public discontent over the 1MDB issue, corruption, economic mismanagement, rising cost of living as well as a crackdown on dissent throughout his nine-year in power.
As admitted by some of the ruling party leaders later, the result was also a rejection of the racial-based politics that has long been dominating the Malaysian political scene. The victory of Pakatan Harapan was also a sweet comeback for the country’s strongman, 92-year old Mahathir who quit the ruling coalition to lead the opposition parties he once despised while he was in power. While the sense of euphoria on the streets of Kuala Lumpur slowly evaporated, Dr Mahathir’s team is already hitting the ground by promising to reform key institutions that he claimed were tainted under the previous administration. For Najib; although his party’s dismal performance did not completely end his political career, the ongoing investigation on the 1MDB funds by an anti-corruption agency will likely to raise more doubts about his future in the Malaysian political arena.
Severe weather in South Asia and East Africa
Parts of East Africa and South Asia were hit by severe weather throughout May. In Kenya and Somalia, severe flooding lashed through many communities, killing dozens of people as well as displaying thousands more. Agricultural lands were also completely destroyed with many infrastructures requiring urgent repair works. Apart from that, there were also fears that diseases such as cholera and malaria could spread as access to clean waters and toilets were severely hampered by the flooding. As for South Asia, it was a contrasting situation in both Pakistan and India in less than few weeks amid a heatwave and severe thunderstorms. In India, at least 71 people lost their lives after severe thunderstorms lashed through Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and Delhi. The areas were also hit by dust storms that killed dozens more at the beginning of the month. It was an exact opposite situation in Pakistan’s Sindh province where a sweltering heatwave lashed through many cities including the main commercial hub of Karachi. The heatwave left as many as 65 deaths with most of them being working class factory workers in the low-income areas of Korangi and Landhi.
Venezuela’s Maduro reelected for second presidential term amid controversial election
The President of Venezuela Nicolas Maduro was reelected for a second term in office in mid-May following a highly controversial election. The election result that gave him 67.7 percent of total vote was however largely shambolic as turnout was only 46.1 percent, a major drop from the previous vote in 2013. More importantly, there was also hardly any serious contender as key opposition candidates were banned from contesting. Despite Maduro’s claim of “fiesta of democracy”, the reality on the ground remains bleak with the country’s economy in a freefall while inflation soared to record high.
Not only that, civil unrest has also been common occurrences in major cities and towns and they are unlikely to abate as the government struggled to keep the economy moving. The election also isolated Venezuela further with US opting to impose more sanctions on the country while its neighbors such as Colombia, Brazil and Panama among others took diplomatic measures by recalling their ambassadors in Caracas. Across the Atlantic, the European Union has also moved to impose sanctions on Maduro’s administration following the election. Although it is unlikely that Maduro will budge at least for now, the ongoing economic malaise could eventually force him to rethink his position by probably allowing reforms in some critical areas.
Kilauea volcano eruption triggers evacuation in Hawaii
The Kilauea volcano erupted in early May, sending many on Hawaii’s Big Island to evacuate their homes. Following the eruption, an earthquake measuring 7.5 on the Richter-scale hit the southern part of the volcano, becoming the most powerful tremor to hit the island since 1975. Smaller earthquakes followed shortly though they did not cause any casualties. Apart from that, the eruption also spewed lava into several residential areas namely Lanipuna and Leilani estates, forcing 1,700 people to flee while destroying a number of houses. The threat from the volcano remains active as of late May and the lava has also threatened to overrun a geothermal plant that supplies 25 percent of electricity to the island. Kilauea is one of the world’s most active volcanoes in the world, continuously erupting since 1983.