Macron reelected for a second term. UK plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda: summary of the two previous weeks

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France

Emmanuel Macron wins office for five more years. Leader of centrist-right La République en marche, Emmanuel Macron was re-elected President of France on Sunday 24 April, 2022. With 58.5% of the vote, he defeated his far-right opponent Marine Le Pen (Rassemblement national) scoring 41.5% despite the highest abstention rate since 1969 (28%). Several world leaders have congratulated him on his victory. Charles Michel, president of the European Council was among the first to praise the incumbent. US President Joe Biden then called France a “key partner in addressing global challenges”. UK Prime minister Boris Johnson posted a tweet hoping for “work together” between the two nations. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky followed suit, calling Macron a “true friend”. Russian President Vladimir Putin also congratulated his French counterpart on Monday.

Emmanuel Macron celebrated his victory with his closest allies and supporters at the Champ de Mars in Paris. Photo : Charles Bury/EPJT
Macron’s New Term: reducing carbon, increasing spending power, reforming pensions. After his victory in the Presidential elections Sunday, 24 April, re-elected French President Emmanuel Macron is now focused on the reforms he plans to put forward. The centrist-right President announced that his main priority would be environmental issues. During his campaign, he announced that his new Prime minister would be directly in charge of “ecological policy-making”. The incumbent also promised he would vote on a new law this summer, dealing with pensions, social benefits and civil servant pay. He also declared his intent to raise the pensionable age to 65, a widely controversial project. Macron has additionally promised to involve citizens through public consultation.

2017, 2022 : same victory, different result. With Emmanuel Macron and his centrist-right LREM party winning the Presidential election for the second time, the outcome shows the progress of the far right in France. For the second round of voting in 2017, Marine Le Pen and her far-right Rassemblement national party lost the election with 33.9% of votes, contrasted with 2022 having lost with 41.5% of the ballot. The results also point to the division between different regions and how the RN has won over the electorate in many departments versus Macron’s party. Le Pen conquered overseas territories in the French West Indies departments of Guadeloupe (69.6%) and Martinique (60%) where Macron was largely in the lead in 2017, along with French Guiana (60.7%).

Infographie: Alexane Clochet/EPJT
Protests in several French cities following election results. 23,000 protesters took to the streets on Saturday, 16 April, one week after the first round of the elections and the victory of the centrist-right French president Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen, far-right candidate. Sunday night, 24 April, after the results of the second round and the re-election of incumbent Emmanuel Macron, demonstrations took place right across France at the call of trade union CGT. Some protests, in Paris for instance, turned violent. While the first mobilisation was focused on calling voters to rally against the far-right, Sunday’s chant was “Ni Macron, ni Le Pen, révolution” (Neither Macron nor Le Pen, revolution). For many, it was the only way to make themselves heard as they felt the election was not a choice.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of La France insoumise, called voters to choose the far-left alliance, the Union populaire, for the legislative elections in June. Photo : Clément Mahoudeau/AFP
Legislatives: tricky negotiations for a left-wing union. Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the candidate of the hard-left party, La France Insoumise (LFI), obtaining 22% of the first round vote during France’s Presidentials called for a union on the left for the upcoming legislative elections of 12 and 19 June. Mélenchon expressed his desire to become Prime minister. Negotiations between LFI, the green party (EELV), the anti-capitalist party (NPA) and the communist party (PC) have already begun. The main debating point is on climate issues: LFI wants out of nuclear power by 2045, while the PC is in favour of nuclear energy. The socialist party (PS) is currently excluded from negotiations but, if included, a new debate could emerge on pensions. But, LFI is not yet open to an alliance with the PS.

INTERNATIONAL

UK’s plan to send asylum-seekers to Rwanda. April 14, Priti Patel, UK Home Secretary, announced a new partnership with the east African republic. The agreement states that, from January 1, Rwanda would rehouse anyone entering the UK illegally, and manage the asylum process from Kigali. London will pay €145m to Kigali to finance the plan. Several organisations defending human rights have called it “illegal” and a violation of the Geneva refugee convention. Rwanda has recently accepted tens of thousands of refugees from Burundi, Libya, Afghanistan and elsewhere. But, the NGO, Human Rights Watch, said that Kigali has violated their fundamental rights, including abuse and kidnapping. For PM Johnson, since Brexit, there has been pressure to reduce immigration. Last year, 28,000 migrants crossed the Channel from France.

Russia-Ukraine: key news over two weeks. Russia’s war in Ukraine has got bogged down since the start of the invasion on February 24. About 15,000 Russian troops have been killed in two months. One of the hotspots is Mariupol, where tensions have increased. Putin claimed Thursday April 21 that his forces have “liberated the port city”, but US officials have dismissed this allegation. In the countryside, there have also been mass killings. Claims of rape are increasing. Some leaders, such as US President Joe Biden, has talked of “genocide”. Facing this situation, the President of the European Commission has urged member states to supply Ukraine with weapons systems “quickly”. April 26, about 40 countries led by the US gathered at Germany’s Ramstein airbase for discussions focussing on how to arm Kyiv to face Russia. More and more countries are sending heavy weapons to Ukraine.

Ukraine-Russia: Internal and external impacts (late April 2022). Infographie: Léo Berry/EPJT

Elon Musk closes $44bn deal to buy Twitter. Initially Twitter’s Board of Directors was sceptical, but the transaction was ultimately approved unanimously. Musk, the world’s richest person, has called for a series of new policies from relaxing its content restrictions to eradicating fake accounts. In a tweet, he pushed for more free speech, stating it “is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated”. Many employees already seem worried about being led by the head of electric car firm Tesla – they fear in particular his vision for free speech, considered absolutist. The tech company, launched in 2006 by Jack Dorsey, Evan Williams, Biz Stone and Noah Glass, has grown to 217m active daily users.

Sri Lanka gripped by ongoing month-long street protests. The country has endured its worst economic crisis since its independence in 1948. Protesters are calling for Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to resign as they claim he is responsible for the economic freefall. The country’s reserves are so low that it cannot afford food and fuel. In healthcare, surgeries have been cut, vital medical supplies are running out and politicians are warning of starvation. Sri Lanka is seeking $3bn to stave off the crisis. The government has appealed to multiple countries and multilateral organisations for bridge financing. On Tuesday, April 26, the World Bank agreed to provide $600m in assistance.

Protestors calling for Gotabaya Rajapksa, Sri Lankan President, to resign on April 28, 2022. Photo : Ishara S. Kodikara/AFP
Central African Republic adopts bitcoin as official currency. The government announced on April 27 the new official tender, bitcoin in addition to its CFA franc, making it the first African country to do so. One of the economic benefits is that the cryptocurrency is not subject to tax. Last year, El Salvador was the first nation to embrace the cryptocurrency. The International Monetary Fund was concerned for the country’s finances. Bitcoin depends on the market and with the Ukraine conflict, the value of the tender is fluctuating dangerously. Consequently, San Salvador is waiting for more favourable conditions in the financial market and postponed the adoption of bitcoin to September 2022. Adopting bitcoin as official tender is an economic gamble for developing countries, one that has not yet yielded concrete results.

Historic hearing in Colombia. Several retired soldiers, including one general, four colonels and five officers, recognised on April 26 and 27 their role in the murder of 120 civilians between 2007 and 2008. During  the “false positives” attacks, the military tried to claim murdered civilians, aged mostly between 25 and 30, were enemy rebels, leaving weapons by the bodies. The hearing took place in front of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, created in 2017 to judge the crimes committed during the Colombian conflict. Starting in the mid-60s, it has more recently been fought out mainly between the FARC, a communist guerilla financed in particular by drug trafficking, and governmental forces. A peace agreement was signed in September 2016. Families of the deceased were present at the hearing in Ocana, where the fatalities had occurred.

CULTURE & SPORT

Rio Carnival, Coachella: Festivals return after two years of pandemic. For the first time in two years, The Carnival in Rio  is being held from 20 to 30 April. “It means the return of normal life. There’s no greater triumph than that”  Marquinho Marino explained, director of one of Rio’s top samba schools. On average, one million people attend this event. In the small city of Indio in California, the music festival Coachella welcomed again a massive crowd. From 15 to 24 April, numerous globally-renowned artists performed on stage. Meanwhile, the 75th edition of the Cannes film festival will also take place from 17 to 28 May. The event which was broadcast online in 2020 and scaled-down last year, will be chaired by Pierre Lescure for the last time.

From 20 to 30 April, Rio’ Carnival will take place for the first time in two years. Photo: Mauro Pimentel/AFP

Wimbledon 2022: Russian and Belarusian players banned from tennis tournament. Last week Wimbledon organisers announced that these players will not be allowed to compete this year, from June 27 to July 11, because of the war in Ukraine. Russian and Belarusian competitors are also barred from playing any of the UK court tournaments. Daniel Medvedev, from Russia, men’s world n°2 and Aryna Sabalenka, from Belarus, women’s world n°4, are the highest-ranked players affected by this exclusion. ATP said that they would still be allowed to play under a neutral flag. Novak Djokovic, men’s top-ranking player also reacted, “the athletes have nothing to do with war. When politics interferes with sport, the result is not good.”

Kyiv city hall has announced the destruction of a Soviet-period monument celebrating friendship between Ukrainian and Russian people. Kyiv Mayor, Vitali Klitschko, declared on Telegram that the Russian bust of the monument had been destroyed first, before his complete destruction occurred on April 26. The eight-metre statue was installed in 1982 to celebrate the “reunification of Ukraine and Russia”, Klitschko recalls. Kyiv’s Mayor justified his decision by saying that Moscow wanted to “destroy the State and Ukranians”. According to him, 60 monuments associated with the USSR or Russia will be taken down and more than 460 streets will be renamed. This policy aims at removing all Russian references in the country since the invasion.

200,000 fewer subscribers for Netflix in Q1 2022, a first for the streaming giant. Infographie: Clémentine Louise/EPJT

Two weeks of cycling. The Belgian racing cyclist Remco Evenepoel won Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday 24 April, a 257-km-long classic race. The 22-year-old cyclist is the first Belgian to win one of the longest-running races in eleven years. Fellow Belgians, Quinten Hermans and Wout Van Aert had podium wins. Julian Alaphilippe, the French double-world champion, was brought off his bike in an incident and had to give up the race because of his injuries. Romain Bardet added a new trophy to his list of hits by winning the Tour of the Alps, on 22 April. Sunday 17 April, Dutch cyclist, Dylan van Baarle, won the Paris-Roubaix race. The day before, Elisa Longo Borghini made it to the top of the podium for the second edition of the women’s race.

175 cyclists from 25 different teams were at the departure of the classic race Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 2022. Photo: Eric Lalmand/Belga/AFP

Florida announces law ending the special status of Disney World. In 2023, the tax exemption from which Disney has benefited will no longer exist. The cause: Bob Chapek, CEO of Walt Disney Company, had declared himself against the “Don’t Say Gay” Act which bans the teaching of sexual orientation or identity in schools. In turn, Ron DeSantis, Florida’s Governor, decided on April 22 to repeal the tax break. The CEO was torn between his donations to Republican congressmen in Florida and the pressure of Disney’s employees to take some progressive positions. The theme park has benefited from a special status since 1967 and, in turn, has had to take charge of some public services such as firefighters, rubbish collection or water treatment.

Women’s Six Nations: France to face England for title. On Saturday 30 April (Super Saturday), the tournament will come to its end with an exciting last game between France and England in Bayonne. At the moment, the French team is leading the ranking by one point ahead of England. The English captain, Sarah Hunter, picked up a rib injury last weekend during the winning match against Ireland and will miss the showdown with France. England, having been crowned champions in the previous three years, heads to Bayonne as favourites for the title. In their last Women’s Six Nations stand-off, France lost 13 to 19. 

Emily Scarlett of England is tackled by Neve Jones from Ireland on 24 April 2022 during the Women’s Six Nations match between England and Ireland. Ireland lost 0 to 69 and England will face France in the last game on Saturday 30. Photo: Damien Meyer/AFP

Sante Fe sheriff releases footage of Alec Baldwin practising with gun just before employee’s death on film set last October. The actor was handling a gun when rehearsing a scene of the film “Rust”. A shot fired killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injured the director Joel Souza. Footage shows chaotic scenes after the fatal shooting and police interviews with Baldwin. A recent report exposed that “the firearm safety procedures were not being followed”. After six months of investigation, the Rust movie production was fined $136,793, the maximum permitted by state law in New Mexico. Baldwin’s lawyers said that report “exonerates” the actor but lawsuits are still ongoing.

OFFBEATS

Queen Elizabeth gets her own Barbie doll. On Thursday April 21, the American toy maker Mattel said it was commemorating the Monarch’s 70 years on the throne (Platinum Jubilee) with the making of a Barbie doll. Elizabeth II’s was crowned in 1953, aged 25. The announcement occurred on her 96th birthday and is part of the Tribute collection which pays homage to great women. For those wishing to become an owner of the Barbie Queen, they will have to fork out $75 – the most expensive Barbie of the collection.

A French nun becomes the new dean of humanity at 118 years and 2 months old. Sister André whose birth name is Lucile Randon now claims to be the world’s oldest person after the death of Kane Tanaka, aged 119. Born in Alès near Marseille on 11 February 1904, she survived the two World Wars and she recovered twice from Covid-19. Sister André now lives in a nursing home in the south of France in Toulon. The new dean is known to have kept her habit… of eating a square of chocolate and of drinking a glass of wine on a daily basis. When asked what her secret for living so long was, she answered “Only the good Lord knows”.

The French nun Sister André became the world’s oldest person at 118years old. Photo: Nicolas Tucat/AFP

Quebec Health Ministry tweets a link to Pornhub instead of Covid-19 portal. This slip-up surfaced on April 14 and provoked a range of reactions among the 1,000,000 followers of the account. Users were surprised to end up on a page containing explicit adult-only content, featuring foot fetishes, instead of the number of Covid-19 cases. The Ministry was quick to react, deleting the post and explaining in a Tweet: “due to a situation beyond our control, a link with inappropriate content was posted on our Twitter account. We are looking for the causes”. In the meantime, a UK MP has been accused of watching porn during a parliamentary session. Influenced by the tweet?

THE WIRE

France. The trial of the 2013 train accident in Brétigny-sur-Orge, that resulted in 400 wounded and three fatalities, started on Monday 25 April. Salah Abdeslam, the only surviving member of the November 13 Paris attacks, apologised to the victims for the first time during the hearing on April 15. Deliveroo was condemned by the Magistrates’ court of Paris, on April 20, for “off-the-books” work. After the Orpea scandal last February, the manager of care-home group, Bridge, is also accused of “significant shortfalls” in its care of residents according to a Radio France investigation. ◊◊◊ International​. India and Pakistan swelter in heat wave with temperatures encroaching 50°C. EgyptAir Paris-Cairo 2016 flight crash reportedly caused by pilot smoking cigarette. Aung San Suu Kyi sentenced to five more years in prison for corruption. ◊◊◊ Culture & Sport . French actor and comedian Michel Bouquet died on April 13, aged 96. After years of being the principal dancer, French dancer François Alu became danseur étoile of the Paris’ opera on Sunday 24 April.

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