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Week 14: News roundup

April 4, 2023
3 mins read

Africa

In the last remaining monarchy in Africa, a series of protests have swept across Southern Africa’s Swaziland (also known as Eswatini) landlocked between Mozambique and South Africa, wherein thousands have vehemently opposed the upcoming parliamentary elections in the country. The parliament is widely seen as the King’s “puppet,” with far-ranging restrictions on who can contest elections and the parliament members having no power to hold the monarchy accountable. Under the tutelage of King Mswati III, the people of the country have been facing brutal repression for resisting kingship. 

Meanwhile, along with other political fronts such as the banned-outfit People’s United Democratic Movement, the Communist Party of Swaziland has been spearheading the boycott campaigns against the upcoming elections. The state-sponsored repression and violence unleashed by the monarchy remain unabated with ethnic Swazis facing, a large portion of them unemployed (40%) the brunt of the absolute monarchy. Read more 

Europe

This April, Bulgaria conducted its general elections for the fifth time in the last two years. The failure to form a stable government since April 2021 had created a political vacuum. The center-right GERB party has been declared the winner by earning 26.5 % of votes, with a pro-western coalition led by Continuing of Change (PP) and Democratic Bulgaria scoring 24.9%. The nationalist Revival party took third place with 14.4%.

People in Bulgaria have been reeling under the months-long political crisis amidst an acute cost of living crisis marked by soaring inflation. Kiril Petkov and Asen Vasilev lead the Continuing the Change, while Hristo Ivanov was the face of Democratic Bulgaria. 

The main election manifesto of political parties has hinted at making Bulgaria a European country by focusing more on the standard of healthcare, education, and free judiciary. Read more 

South Asia

A prolonged political and economic crisis in Pakistan has given rise to an acute shortage of basic commodities. Pakistan’s food prices have risen for the eleventh consecutive month and inflation is at over 47%, according to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics. 

People were already struggling to get free flour from government distributors when stampedes led to the killing of 11 people in four districts of Pakistan’s Punjab province. On March 28, two elderly women and one man were killed in different stampede accidents in southern Punjab, while 60 others were injured reportedly. Desperate people had been waiting in long queues outside government shops in Faisalabad, Multan, and Jehanian, when they were baton-charged by the police, leading to chaos. Shortage of essential commodities and the devaluation of the Pakistani Rupee have made life unbearable for the poorest in the country. 

The prices of staple wheat flour have reportedly increased 120% year-on-year. The interim government remains in a fix over external financing assurances and austerity measures laid down by the IMF in order to retrieve the USD 6.5 billion bailout package that the country secured in 2019. Read more

West Asia

On March 29th, Saudi Arabia following the steps of Egypt and Qatar joined Shanghai Cooperation Organization  (SCO), a strategic initiative led by China and Russia. The decision was taken in a cabinet meeting led by King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. As a dialogue partner (the status can be converted into a full member of the group in the future), the move has been described to be another instance of its gradual shift toward the East. 

SCO was established in 2001 with China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan being its core members, India and Pakistan also joined afterward as members of the political and strategic grouping.

Before the deal, Saudi Arabia and Iran were considered to be strategic rivals, and have now agreed to re-establish diplomatic relations after seven years. The deal also provides for establishing greater political and strategic cooperation between the two nations in the future. Interestingly, Saudi Aramco has recently signed a deal with Chinese companies to establish a joint petrochemical project in Panjin in China’s Liaoning province. The deal is worth over USD 12 billion. Read more

United States 

In Los Angeles, tens of thousands of workers (a broad cross-section of school staff, such as bus drivers, custodians, campus aides, and cafeteria workers) are fighting for better salaries above their current poverty wages, a demand which the school district with a surplus of USD 5 billion has refused to accept.

At least 65,000 workers from Service Employees International Union Local 99 and United Teachers Los Angeles carried out a massive three-day strike on March 21st seeking contract negotiations around higher salaries, more full-time work schedules, better treatment, and more staffing.

The average price for a one-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles was estimated to be USD 33,684 a year. However, Local 99 workers are making an average of USD 25,000 a year. Besides the difficulty in meeting the ends, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) has complained of facing harassment and threats.

More than 70% of Los Angeles teachers are considering quitting their employment for failing to afford to live where they teach. The situation is only getting worse. Read more

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The Contrapuntal is an independent non-profit publication devoted to delivering rigorously researched, accessible and factually accurate journalism from a ground-up perspective. We seek to publish people-centric stories, explained in a strikingly clear manner.

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