Watchlist: Orbàn Poised for Reelection

Week of February 19th

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán delivers a speech in Budapest (Source: Bernadett Szabo/Reuters)


Suicide attack hits Nigeria

On Friday night, three suicide bombs hit the town of Konduga in Nigeria, killing at least 18 people and injuring over 70 others. The attacks targeted a market in the town, which is to the north east of the country. Terrorist organization Boko Haram is being accused of carrying out the bombings, though the group has not yet claimed responsibility. Boko Haram has killed over 20,000 people since they first emerged in 2009 and frequently launch suicide attacks in crowded areas, with the most recent one happening last month in a village near Konduga. The bombings have occurred repeatedly in Nigeria despite the government's and military's claims to have defeated the terrorist group. Details of the attack only emerged on Saturday, and are expected to continue to be released throughout the week. MAYA ZREIK


Iran and India sign deal to develop closer ties

India and Iran have signed nine new deals after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani met in New Delhi on Saturday. Modi tweeted that "We had detailed discussions on ways to further deepen cooperation between India and Iran." The deal included allowing an Indian company to use the Iranian port of Chabahar, which is considered a crucial gateway to reach Afghanistan and Central Asia. India plans to use the port to trade in the region, and to combat a growing Chinese presence there. A statement on the port described it as crucial for strengthening ties between Iran, India, and Afghanistan. A trilateral transit agreement was implemented by the three nations in 2016. Deputy head of Iran's Ports and Maritime Organisation Hadi Haqshenas said, "Chabahar's development is the most important maritime connectivity cooperation between Tehran and New Delhi." MAYA ZREIK


Earthquake strikes Mexico

A 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck Mexico on Friday; its epicenter was in the province of Oaxaca, about 225 miles away from the capital of Mexico City, which is still recovering from a September earthquake. Seismographs sensed the earthquake quickly and the public was given about one minute of notice before the motion of the earth began; the earthquake occurred along the same fault line as the prior one in September, in a so called convection zone between the Coco and North American tectonic plates. In a related event in the aftermath of the earthquake, a helicopter carrying Mexico’s interior minister and the state governor of Oaxaca crashed as it was landing to survey damage in Oaxaca. The crash, which involved two cars on the ground, killed 13 people but left the two officials with only minor injuries. The earthquake has reawakened fears of this seismic area becoming more and more active. There are typically only earthquakes of this strength of those felt in the past calendar year every 3 to 5 years, but there have been two in rather rapid succession. Though damage is limited and no deaths, other than in the helicopter accident, were reported, the Mexican government is not tasked with finding new ways to prepare and save lives where earthquakes are becoming a more commonplace occurrence. ANDREW MITCHEL


Orbán poised to win election with anti-immigrant rhetoric

Nationalist sentiment has taken hold in Hungary, guiding their immigration policies for the past few years under the direction of PM Viktor Orbán. Now, with elections looming in the near future, Orbán’s rhetoric is growing ever more pervasive as he positions himself for a third four-year term. Capitalizing on difficulties posed by the immigration crisis, Orbán is warning Hungary against what he sees as the degradation of Hungarian society. He promises to back these claims with legislative measures like the recently proposed tax bill on foreign funding to NGOs that aid refugees. Fellow EU states have countered Orbán’s rhetoric with threats to limit his Fidesz party’s influence in the European Parliament, but his constituents have responded in the opposite manner. The administration’s positive economic record and decisive action in the immigration crisis have earned it the respect of many Hungarian voters. With the support of his citizens and policies prepared for the next few months, Orbán seems likely to walk away from April elections victorious. ANNA HAYNES

Middle East

Escalation in the Syrian Government’s Aerial Bombardment of Rebel-held Eastern Ghouta

Eastern Ghouta is one of the last rebel-held regions in Syria, and is the last rebel bastion near Damascus. Besieged by government troops since 2013, Eastern Ghouta has been subjected to numerous assaults by the Assad regime including a chemical weapons attack that killed over 1,400 civilians in August of that year. The flow of goods has been heavily restricted, leading to dozens of deaths related to a lack of food or medicine, and a recent and rare United Nations visit to the suburb described malnutrition levels “as similar to those in parts of sub-Saharan Africa.” A few weeks ago, the government has escalated aerial bombardment of the region, with a blitz of Syrian government warplanes killing an estimate 210 people and injuring hundreds. Many associate the spike in violence with an attempt by the regime to follow the same strategy as that used in the siege against Aleppo to fully eliminate any remaining rebel bastions, halt retaliatory rockets, and attempt to regain control of strategic regions of the country. In recent days, President Assad has been sending military reinforcements to the edge of Eastern Ghouta, leading the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights Rami Abdel Rahman to hint at a possible military ground assault. There are also talks of negotiations with Russian and government forces for a possible evacuation, which rebel factions have denied. AYAH KUTMAH

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