Illustration by Ben Beechener

CW: Islamophobia, gun violence, death

Primary Elections in America ahead of Midterms

There have been swathes of primary elections for both the Democrats and Republicans across the US this week to select candidates for the crucial midterm elections later this year. On the Republican side it is still to be seen how deep Trump’s influence runs in the party. On the one hand Georgia officials Brian Kemp and Brad Raffensperger, who defied Trump’s pressure to overturn Biden’s win in the state, both won their primary elections against Trump-endorsed challengers, and Nancy Mace also defeated Trump’s nominee in South Carolina’s 1st district. However, Trump’s endorsement of Russell Fry for South Carolina’s 7th seat helped him defeat the decade-long incumbent Tom Rice, who voted for Trump’s second impeachment. 

For the Democrats the progressive John Fetterman won the candidacy for the Pennsylvania senate race, despite suffering a stroke and having a pacemaker installed just a few days before the election. Stacey Abrams, who is credited with orchestrating their historic win in Georgia in the presidential election, won the governor’s nomination uncontested. However, they suffered a major reversal in a special election in South Texas, which has remained solidly Democrat in modern history, where Mayra Flores flipped the seat for the Republicans. If this is indicative of national trends then the Democrats have much to worry about. 

Uvalde School Shooting Victims Sue Gun Manufacturer

Two victims of the mass-shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvdale, Texas, have launched preliminary legal proceedings against the manufacturer of the firearm used in the attack. While lawsuits are yet to be filed, the lawyers for the family of one of the ten year old fatal victims, and the lawyer for one of the teachers, have instructed Daniel Defence to preserve all marketing materials for the firearm used in the shooting; the company’s purchasing database; and any communication between the company and the shooter.

One of the lawyers involved in the legal action is Josh Kosoff, who was involved in the 2022 settlement pay-out of $73 million from weapons manufacturer Remington to the families of nine victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school shooting in Connecticut. While gun manufacturers are generally protected from legal action pertaining to the use of their firearms in shooting incidents, Kosoff had argued that the marketing of Remington of the AR-15 used in Sandy Hook violated state law in Connecticut, resulting in an out of court settlement.

French and Italian elections

Western Europe has seen two sets of elections recently, with the first round of the French legislative elections and Italian local elections both producing surprises. In France the united left-wing alliance has made great strides in cutting into Macron’s dominance, and is currently tied with Macron’s centrist bloc, with the latter ahead by just 0.09% of the vote. While Macron’s party will still win the most seats due to the run-off system which favours moderates, it is unclear whether he will be able to retain a majority, and might fall just short. This would definitely hamper his ability to pass the wide-ranging reforms in economic and social policy that he promised on the campaign trail. Le Pen’s far-right National Rally improved their vote share from 2017 but have seen a collapse in support since the presidential elections, with their candidates receiving only half the proportion of votes that Le Pen herself won.

Italy has seen a very mixed bag of results in their local elections, with two parties, the centre-left Democrats and the far-right Brothers of Italy, achieving major victories, while the centrist and anti-establishment 5 Star Movement, who won a majority as recently as 2018, almost completely capitulated. The Brothers of Italy, who were one of the very few major parties not to join Mario Draghi’s national unity government, have benefitted from their increased profile in opposition, and overtook their right-wing rivals the League in many northern cities like Verona and Padua. The Democrats saw a resurgence and were the biggest single party in Palermo, Genoa and Verona, though in all of those were defeated by an alliance of right-wing parties. The 5 Star Movement, only a few years ago the dominant force in Italian politics, was forced to run in many places as the junior partner with the Democrats, and former Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s attempts to revitalise the party are being called into question.

Myanmar to Resume Executions of Opposition Figures

Two pro-democracy figures are due to be executed by Myanmar’s ruling military regime. Kyaw Min Yu, a democracy activist, and Phyo Zeya Thaw, formerly an MP for the National League for Democracy, Aung San Suu Kyi’s party of government until the 2021 coup, have had their appeals against the death sentence ruling rejected. While the Junta has previously sentenced 65 people to death since 2021, these would mark the first executions in the country since 1990.

While Myanmar has experienced significant civil unrest since the 2021 coup, the executions can be seen as part of an increased crackdown, including recent mass destruction of villages in the North and East against the pro-democracy opposition and ethnic separatist movements in recent months, seemingly motivated by concerns of overlap and cooperation between the two. Though the opposition to the military regime is considerably fragmented, pro-democracy rebels have been receiving training from ethnic separatist movements such as the separatist Karen National Union/Karen National Liberation Army.

Indian Muslims Protest over Islamophobic Comments

There have been protests across India this week as Indian Muslims took to the streets to protest the offensive comments made by two officials of the ruling party, the BJP, about the Prophet Muhammad. While the two officials have been expelled from the party, the protests continue as this is only the latest in a long line of incidents that have raised tensions between religious communities in India, that in many cases have been aggravated by the Hindu nationalist BJP government. Clashes have broken out across the north and east of the country and so far over 400 have been arrested. Further controversy has come from the decision by the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh to demolish the house of Muslim activist Mohammad Javed.

Ukraine, Russia and Turkey Deadlocked in Food Ship Negotiations

A UN attempt to create a food corridor for grain ships to leave Ukraine through the Black Sea has stalled. This would require Russia to partially disband their naval blockade and for Ukrainian ports to be cleared of mines. Talks are currently going on in Ankara as President Erdogan wants to try to ease the global food shortage caused partly by the reduction in grain exports from Ukraine. Negotiations have so far been slow, however, since Ukraine believes allowing Russian ships greater access to its port in Odessa would lead to it being attacked, while Russia is apparently demanding relief from sanctions in exchange for allowing grain ships to pass through the blockade.