FRANCE – French elections move on to the second round
The first round of votes in the French presidential election were held on April 23. As no candidate won the majority of the vote, the two top candidates will face each other in a second round this month. Emmanuel Macron, of the centrist En Marche Party, gathered 24% of the vote, followed by Marine Le Pen of the far-right Front National Party with 21%. The final vote will be held on May 7.
VENEZUELA – Protests escalate as Venezuelan president plans constitution rewrite
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro put into motion a decree to rewrite the country’s constitution on May 1, bypassing political opponents with the creation of a constitutional assembly. The country has experienced widespread political dissatisfaction marked by protests in recent weeks and food shortages. The opposition has accused the constitutional assembly of being an attempt to delay the 2017 regional elections and the presidential election scheduled for 2018. Maduro’s opposers have created roadblocks and held demonstrations and the Brazilian Foreign Affairs Minister called the planned constitutional assembly a coup d’état. The current Venezuelan constitution was written under President Hugo Chavez in 1999.
RUSSIA – Reports surface of men murdered for being gay in Chechnya
Human rights groups continue to voice allegations that men believed to be gay or bisexual are being imprisoned, tortured, and, in some cases, murdered by security forces in Russia’s Chechnya region. A spokesperson for Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov reportedly denied the persecution to a Russian news source. In addition to the allegations, the BBC reports that ‘cures’ for gay Russians are also common. Homosexuality was removed from Russia’s list of psychiatric disorders in 1999, but homophobia remains an issue in the country. Canada, among other countries, is facing internal pressure to respond while activist groups reach out to the Russian LGBTQ+ community.
USA – President Donald Trump marks 100 days in office
As of April 29, American President Donald Trump has officially been in office for 100 days. On May 1, the president’s re-election team aired a 30-second advertisement declaring these first 100 days a success, citing the approval of court justice Neil Gorsuch, increased independence for the US energy sector, and the biggest tax cut plan in the country’s history. However, Trump’s critics have noted that there is a lack of legislative framework for the promised tax cut and the president failed to push through various electoral promises such as changes to health care. The first version of the advertisement was pulled due to concerns that it violated federal law and military policy concerning active members taking part in partisan activity. For example, the video showed Trump shaking hands with the national security adviser while in uniform.