Following are some of major events that have been dominating the global headlines in the month of May:
Cyclone Fani wreaks havoc in Bangladesh and India
The first cyclonic storm of the season lashed through Bangladesh and India in early May, causing severe damage along its path. Dubbed as “Fani”, the cyclone made landfall in the India state of Odisha, cutting power to thousands of residents while flooding a number of towns and villages. At least 1.2 million people were evacuated in anticipation of its arrival and the efforts were thought to have minimized the number of casualties to just 64 in the state. Relief efforts were launched in light of the material damage caused by the cyclone while Prime Minister Narendra Modi also pledged financial aid to rebuild destroyed infrastructures including homes. In Bangladesh, the cyclone also made its way through Khulna, Chittagong and Barisal divisions. The most affected districts were Lakshmipur, Bhola and Noakhali where a total of 14 deaths was recorded. Power supply was also disrupted while trees were uprooted in many areas. At least 500 houses were damaged due to the powerful cyclone. As the cyclone moved further inland into Bhutan, it also weakened significantly.
Riots engulf Jakarta amid declaration of final election results
Violence erupted on the streets of Jakarta as Indonesia’s election commission announced the final results of the presidential election that gave the incumbent leader, Joko Widodo (Jokowi) a victory. Although unofficial results since the conclusion of the elections in April have pointed to a win for Jokowi, his closest rival, Prabowo Subianto’s continuous refusal to admit defeat by claiming irregularities was thought to have sparked the riots. Tension that has been building up in the country for weeks finally came to a blow despite the commission’s unusual move to announce the results in the early hours, at about 02:00 (local time). Supporters of Subianto massed near the commission’s headquarters in Jakarta and unrest continued throughout the night and the days that followed. At least eight deaths were recorded with more than 700 others injured as security forces deployed rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons to disperse the rioters. Parts of Jakarta were also brought to a standstill while social media access were limited to prevent spread of misinformation. Jokowi has appealed for calm but also warned those who used violence will be dealt with severely by the security forces. Prabowo also made similar appeal but stopped short of accepting the legitimacy of Jokowi, in a move that was likely to do very little in abating the anger among his supporters.
Landslide victory for Narendra Modi following marathon India election
Narendra Modi secured a second term as the Prime Minister of India following a landslide victory in the country’s marathon election that lasted for a more than a month since April. Modi’s resounding victory was greeted with cheers among members of his party, Bharatiya Janata (BJP) as it was expected to gain a larger share of seats compared to the 2014 election. His victory also appeared to indicate that his strongman image was still vital in cultivating voters’ support for the BJP despite the setbacks his government faced in managing the world’s sixth largest economy. Joblessness, plummeting farm incomes and a slump in industrial production that were thought to have generated a certain level of anti-incumbent feeling did very little to dent Modi’s chance as he successfully made the election all about himself. The rhetorical statements combined with nationalistic sentiments as well as welfare program announcements in the run-up to the voting also augured well with the voters who clearly had yet to blame him for the various shortfalls. His second term is likely to see more focus on reducing unemployment, especially among youths as well as efforts to narrow down income inequality. While it was all about celebrations for the BJP, its closest rival, the National Congress (INC) will likely to continue do some soul-searching after failing to improve on its continuous dismal performance this time around.
End of the road for UK PM Theresa May amid Brexit impasse
The premiership of embattled UK Prime Minister Theresa May finally came to an end following the announcement that she will step down as Conservative Party leader on 7 June. In an emotional speech, May said she had done her “best” to deliver Brexit though she acknowledged that her efforts have failed, and it will always be a matter of “deep regret” to her. A Conservative leadership contest will start shortly after her tenure as party leader ends though she will most likely be the caretaker prime minister until the process is completed. May would also be welcoming US President Donald Trump during his state visit in early June. Few names have been tipped to take over the helm with ex-foreign secretary, Boris Johnson among the favorites. Regardless of the person who succeeds May, the road ahead is nothing but easy as he or she will have the unenviable task of reaching out to a deeply divided British parliament to avoid the country crashing out of the European Union (EU) on 31 October without a deal. For May, taking the UK out of the EU is perhaps one of the most overwhelming tasks she did not see it coming when taking over from David Cameron in 2016. Despite this, her determination in hammering out a deal despite continuous setbacks has also earned praises from some Conservative colleagues upon her resignation.
European Parliament elections see mainstream parties losing out to smaller counterparts
People in the European Union went for the polls in May for the bloc’s parliamentary elections. While traditional mainstream parties dominated by centre-left or centre-right groups saw their influence diminished, the surge of smaller but passionate parties including populist ones has emerged as one of the key takeaways of the elections. Share of votes of Eurosceptics and populist parties saw an increase of about 5% compared to the previous time though it stopped short of creating the so-called “wave” touted by Matteo Salvini of Italy and Marine Le Pen of France. The populist parties appeared to do well in Poland, Hungary and Italy where they are in power. The elections also saw the rise of liberals in which there is a likelihood that they will co-operate with centrist parties such as the European People’s Party group, and the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, to create a working majority. Another grouping that saw a gain in seats was the Green Party, which is likely to make climate change the top priority of the EU.