Watchlist: Zuma's Fate to be Decided Today


Week of February 12th

South Africans protests against Zuma (Source: Getty Images)

Africa

South African President Jacob Zuma’s Fate to Be Decided Monday

Since last year, sitting President Jacob Zuma has faced 783 counts of corruption charges. Zuma’s party, the African National Congress, has moved to deal with the fallout of the allegations. Zuma was replaced as Party President by Cyril Ramaphosa in December, and faced a vote of no confidence in Parliament which he narrowly survived. Two developments last week signaled the possible end of Zuma’s reign. First, Zuma was forced to postpone his State of the Nation Address to Parliament. Second, Ramaphosa stated that the ANC’s National Executive Committee would meet this Monday to come to a decision on whether they will ask Zuma to resign. It is unclear if Zuma will resign even if his own party turns against him; he has survived attempts to oust him before and has maintained his own innocence against any corruption charges. But, this is the most directly confrontational Ramaphosa and party leaders, who have previously spoken of giving Zuma a respectable exit, have been throughout the saga. If Zuma loses significant support within his own party he may have no choice but to resign or be forced out. Expect Zuma to agree to the demands of his party whatever way they decide. SEBASTIAN LEDER MACEK

Asia-Pacific

North Korean Officials Play Nice in South Korea

North Korea surprised the international community last month when it announced that it would send a full delegation to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang and also invite South Korean President Moon Jae-in to a summit in Pyongyang. At the opening ceremonies, Kim Yo Jong, high-ranking North Korean official and sister of dictator Kim Jong Un, stole the show with her surprising friendliness towards South Korean officials and other world leaders, as well as her frosty reception of United States Vice President Mike Pence. International relations experts have speculated that North Korea may be trying to drive a diplomatic wedge between South Korea, Japan, and the United States; the three nations have historically allied to isolate North Korea as it pursues nuclear weapons. While reports suggest these efforts may have yielded some initial success, Vice President Pence insisted there is “no daylight” between the United States, Japan, and South Korea on this matter. VINEET CHANDRA

Americas

Rio Carnival Begins with Intriguing Storylines

The carnival began on Friday throughout Brazil in the lead-up to the start of Catholic Lent and is expected to bring in 3.5 billion Brazilian reales in its first weekend alongside around 1.5 million tourists in Rio de Janeiro alone, which the nation desperately needs. This is amidst heavy fighting between rival gangs in various favelas throughout the city and an impending presidential election in one of the world’s most politically corrupt nations. The festivities have taken on this political dimension, as many of the various samba schools and bloco (blocks) will look to ridicule and parody the political elite of their nation, including out-of-favor President Michel Temer, who himself has arisen as an involved party in the ongoing corruption scandal. There has also been a rise in calls for action against violence and attacks on women through the Não e Não (No Means No) movement, which last year gave out temporary tattoos with this slogan to revellers and performers, and this year seeks to further spread their message through action and visibility in the festival. A final, more environmental concern is the heavy use of glitter on performers which contains microplastics hazardous to marine life; some performers have acknowledged this danger but claim more sustainable alternatives are too expensive. The carnival as a cultural institution in the nation clearly opens doors to fun and joy but reveals some of the deep divisions and issue which face Brazil. ANDREW MITCHEL

Europe

France and Germany to Resume Eurozone Reforms

After establishing a voting coalition, the German government is now ready to begin the process of overhauling the eurozone. French President Macron clashed with Merkel last year over different visions for the economic bloc’s future, and all 27 countries of the zone failed to reach consensus at last December’s summit. Calls for reforms have echoed since the financial crisis, demanding increased protections against external economic shocks. But France and Germany, as the Union’s large economies, have failed to reconcile their differences—France pursuing greater risk sharing while Germany calls for more prudent fiscal policy. However, both countries are willing to negotiate once again and members of the bloc look hopefully ahead. Economists from France and Germany suggest an independent supervisory agency and a synthetic bond for safer investments. ANNA HAYNES

Middle East

Israeli Fighter Jet Shot Down Over Syria

On Saturday an Israeli fighter jet was shot down over Syria. The jet crashed in northern Israel and both pilots survived. It had been part of an offensive in response to Israeli claims that an Iranian drone had violated their airspace. Iran has denied the allegations, with Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qasemi calling them "ridiculous.” Israel carried out air raids against Syrian and Iranian targets in Syria as a response. The raids killed six people and left several more in critical condition. It is the largest incident of Israeli involvement in Syria since the civil war began seven years ago. Russia immediately conveyed concern over the incident, with President Vladimir Putin urging Israel to avoid a “dangerous escalation.” Lebanon, which neighbors both Israel and Syria, announced intentions to file a complaint with the United Nations Security Council due to Israel’s violation of its airspace for the purpose of launching attacks on Syria. The aftermath of the incident is expected to unravel further throughout the week. MAYA ZREIK

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