The World Today for April 18, 2019



The Battle for Algeria

Widespread demonstrations, followed by the loss of military support, forced former Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who’s 82 and seriously ailing, to resign earlier this month after 20 years in power.

Interim President Abdelkader Bensalah has scheduled a new election for July 4, reported Al Jazeera. But the protesters and others who helped bring an end to Bouteflika’s harsh, corrupt rule still aren’t satisfied.

“The old invalid is gone, but if Algeria is to move to ‘the better future’ that Mr. Bouteflika … wrote about in his resignation letter, then much bigger changes are needed,” the Economist wrote.

Bensalah, 77, was in the sights of protesters who took to the streets in recent days demanding an end to “Le Pouvoir” – French for “the power,” meaning the establishment class. Under the law, he can’t run for re-election. He was a Bouteflika ally, however, associated with a group of leaders who have run the country since fighting to end French colonial rule in the 1960s.

“Algerians refuse all the old figures who are at the root of the corruption that prevailed in the country,” civil activist Messaoud Boudiba told Bloomberg, adding that he was skeptical Bensalah could hold a fair and legitimate ballot. “Elections under current conditions means reproducing the same political system because there will be no evidence of transparency,” according to Algiers University political analyst Louisa Aid Hamadouche.

Many Algerians also fear the military might seek to step into the vacuum left after Bouteflika and his cronies pass into history.

Gen. Ahmed Gaid Salah was instrumental in ending the president’s tenure in office, for example. But he has recently spoken on political topics, like how he supported elections, and mused about whether Bouteflika’s cabal might face prosecution, the Washington Post reported. That’s not exactly an apolitical stance.

Indeed, Middle East Monitor noted that one of the few serious candidates for the July 4 election is an ex-general.

The military has run the country before, Foreign Affairs explained. In fact, Bouteflika took office to bring an end to the so-called “dark decade” that began in 1992, when the army canceled the country’s first multiparty legislative elections to prevent an Islamist victory, triggering a civil war that ended with the Islamists mostly vanquished.

Taking office in 1999, Bouteflika promised “national reconciliation” after the bloodshed. In a resignation letter released after he stepped down on April 2, he asked the Algerian people for forgiveness, imploring them “to stay united, and never divide yourselves.”

His friends and his former generals should read that letter very, very closely.



A Vote for Moderation

Indonesians re-elected President Joko Widodo to a second five-year term, preliminary results showed, as voters rejected the bellicose nationalist rhetoric of his election rival.

Five independent survey groups projected Widodo as the winner based on samples from polling stations that have proven reliable in the past, the Associated Press reported. Their projections show the incumbent winning 54-56 percent of the vote, a modest improvement over his 2014 totals.

Widodo’s opponent, Prabowo Subianto, was a general during the Suharto military dictatorship who had run a fiercely nationalist campaign insisting that Indonesia needed a new strongman to protect the country from foreign powers and internal pressures. Widodo, the first Indonesian president from outside the Jakarta elite, took a more moderate tone and had to fend off attempts to portray him as not Muslim enough. So his victory represents another step forward in the country’s two decades of democratization, the news agency suggested.

Neither candidate has declared victory or conceded defeat based on exit polls, however, and Subianto’s team has alleged massive voter list irregularities, though analysts dismissed those claims.


Trouble for Trudeau

A thumping election victory for Canada’s United Conservative Party (UCP) in Tuesday’s provincial election in Alberta could spell more trouble on the horizon for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – whose once stellar approval ratings have plunged over allegations of interference in a corporate corruption case.

With nearly all the votes counted, the tally showed the UCP won 63 out of 87 seats in the provincial legislature, Reuters reported.

The UCP leveraged local frustration over the economy and a struggling oil and gas industry to trounce the left-leaning incumbent New Democratic Party (NDP), while party leader Jason Kenney has pledged to roll back the carbon tax introduced by the NDP and backed by Trudeau, the Economist reported.

On the other hand, while Alberta marked the third major province to elect a right-leaning government in the past year, following Ontario and Quebec, scandal-dented Trudeau might actually benefit from sparring with Kenney over climate policy, the Economist suggested. Recent survey results that showed 69 percent of Canadians rank climate change in their five most important voting issues and only 28 percent firmly oppose a carbon tax.


A Shocking End

Peru’s former President Alan García shot himself in the head and died Wednesday when police arrived at his home to arrest him on corruption charges.

It was a shocking end for a politician who had won Peru’s highest office twice before becoming embroiled in the probe into graft involving the construction giant Odebrecht that has shaken the corridors of power across the region, USA Today reported.

When the police arrived, García asked to be allowed to call his lawyer, then retreated to a bedroom on the pretext of doing so and closed the door. Moments later, the police heard a gunshot and forced their way into the room, Interior Minister Carlos Morán said.

Suspected of taking a bribe of more than $100,000 in the guise of a payment to speak at a conference in Brazil, García had insisted he was innocent and claimed that the case was politically motivated. He applied for asylum in Uruguay but he returned home four months ago when his request was rejected.


Following a Rainbow

Recycling is a chore for many people, and quite tedious for waste management officials.

The Swedes, however, have figured out a simple way to sort all their trash: color-code it by type.

Citizens of Eskilstuna, in Sweden, use a system of seven brightly colored trash bags for compartmentalizing their household waste, the BBC reported.

People put different types of trash into their respective colored bags, which are then sorted by the city’s recycling plant. Although the bags are mixed up when they arrive, the bright colors help scanners to separate them efficiently.

If a bag gets missed, it simply circles around until it’s properly sorted.

Thanks to this novel method, city officials are processing food waste to power their buses and incinerating other non-recyclable material to generate electricity.

The latter does release greenhouse gases, but it also diminishes the reliance on fossil fuels.

The city has been able to meet the European Union’s 2020 recycling target of 50 percent, and waste specialists hope more people and countries will be encouraged to follow suit.

“We like to change people’s behavior to do that,” said Mattias Hellström of Eskilstuna Energy and Environment.

Click here to see the rainbow method.

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