News Timeline: May 2015


May 4 – Europe: FRANCE
France’s far-right National Front (FN) party suspends its honorary president and the founder of the party, Jean-Marie Le Pen, in an attempt to distance itself from his inflammatory racists and anti-Semitic remarks. Since his daughter Marine Le Pen took over the leadership of FN in 2011, she has focused her efforts to steer the party away from its far-right racist roots. Some controversial members have been expelled.

May 4 – Africa: BURUNDI
Burundi’s Constitutional Court approves President’s Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to run for a third term in office. There are reports, however, that judges were intimidated and a few of them fled the country. The decision sparks violent street protests. (May 13): A coup led by General Godefroid Niyombare attempts to depose President Nkurunziza during his trip abroad. (May 14): Government forces restore control and arrest several coup leaders. Street protests continue, with thousands of people fleeing the country.

May 5 – Africa/Middle East:
Senegal joins the Saudi Arabian-led coalition, committing 2,100 troops to its military intervention in Yemen that aims to restore President Mansour Hadi. Senegal will be the only non-Arab member in the coalition. However, the country is a majority Sunni Muslim state and a traditional ally of Saudi Arabia. Senegalese soldiers have a reputation of being among the best trained in Africa.

May 6 – Europe: FRANCE
The French parliament approves a controversial surveillance law in response to the deadly terrorist attacks in Paris earlier this year. The law creates the National Commission for Control of Intelligence Techniques that will oversee the intelligence services. It also authorizes new methods of surveillance such as collecting mass internet and phone data. The civil rights groups, the press and Internet providers criticize the law as a massive invasion of privacy.

May 6 – North America / Latin America: UNITED STATES / CUBA
The United States approves passenger ferry services to Cuba, 55 years after it was stopped as a result of a trade embargo imposed on Cuba in 1960.

May 7 – Middle East: ISRAEL
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu forms a new government, but only with a one seat majority. The coalition government includes the centrist Kulanu party, two ultra-Orthodox parties—United Torah Judaism and Shas, as well as a right-wing Bayit Yehudi party (Jewish Home), which opposes the establishment of the Palestinian state and favors the annexation of parts of the occupied territory. In exchange for its support, Bayit Yehudi demands the influential justice ministry.

May 7 – Europe: UNITED KINGDOM
In the United Kingdom’s parliamentary elections, the Conservative Party (Tories) wins an absolute majority with 331 seats in the House of Commons. At the same time, its coalition partner, the Liberal Democrats, suffer its worst result since 1970, winning only eight seats out of their previous 57 seats. The Labour Party wins the second largest number of seats, 232. The Scottish National Party (SNP) that support and campaigns for Scotland’s independence becomes the third largest party in the Commons by winning 56 out of 59 assigned for Scotland. The Conservatives with David Cameron as its leader will form a new government.

May 12 – North America: UNITED STATES
According to Pew Research Center, the percentage of adults in the United States who identify themselves as Christians declined by 8 percent between 2007 and 2014 and stands at 70.6 percent. At the same time, the percentage of those who do not identify with any religion rose by over six points to 22.8 percent. The percentage of people who identify with non-Christian religions, such as Judaism, Islam, and Hinduism, went up slightly (1.2 percent) and stands at 5.9 percent.

May 13 – Europe: EUROPEAN UNION
In response to the recent plight of tens of thousands of migrants from Africa and the Middle East who are trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea and reach Europe, the European Union (EU) issues “The European Agenda on Migration,” which outlines a EU’s response to the crisis and sets out policies to manage migration. It includes immediate action, such as helping Member States with the sudden influx of migrants (especially Italy and Greece) and working on the Mediterranean to dismantle traffickers’ networks and fight human trafficking. The long term policies include making human trafficking a high risk operation for smugglers, better border management, a strong common asylum policy, and a new policy on legal migration. (May 27):  The European Commission adopts a controversial recommendation asking to resettle future migrants in a more equitable way among the member states over the next 2 years. The number of migrants for each country would be based on a distribution key, such as GDP, size of population, unemployment rate and past numbers of resettled refugees. The participating countries will receive financial support. This plan is for asylum seekers only, and does not include economic migrants.

May 15 – Latin America: GUYANA
A former army general David Granger wins Guyana’s presidential poll, bringing his Afro-Guyanese National Unity and Alliance for Change coalition to power. His coalition defeats the Indian-dominated People’s Progressive Party, which was in power for the last 23 years. Guyana’s politics is dominated by the fierce competition between these two main parties organized along the racial lines.

May 21 – Middle East: SYRIA
The self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) captures the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria and locks down the city’s museum. Palmyra, the UNESCO World Heritage site, was founded in the 2nd century BC. It contains ancient ruins from the times of the Roman Empire and precious works of art in the museums.  It is feared that the militants will loot the museums and destroy the historical sites like they did in Iraq.

May 22 – Europe: IRELAND
Ireland becomes the first country in the world to organize a same-sex marriage referendum. This popular vote on Marriage Equality passes by a large majority and makes same-sex marriage legal and equal within law. In this predominantly Catholic country, the vote diminishes the standing of the Catholic Church and is seen as a great victory for equality.

May 23 – East Asia / South Asia:
Indonesia begins a rescue mission for thousands of Rohingya migrants dubbed as “boat people” who are stranded at Andaman Sea in Southeast Asia. It also agrees to provide a temporary shelter after an international pressure to help the migrants. Rohingyas, a Muslim minority that lives mostly in Myanmar and Bangladesh, flee poverty and systemic persecution. In the past few weeks, more than 3,000 people arrived in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand by rickety boats. It is estimated, however, that tens of thousands of them have fled just this year, many of them dying at sea during the journey. The crisis has been sparked by human traffickers who often take the migrants to Thailand and then overland to Malaysia where they hold them for ransom. (May 24):  Malaysian police discovers 139 grave sites in abandoned camps on the border with Thailand. The authorities believe human traffickers held Rohingya migrants there for ransom.

May 24 – Europe: POLAND
Poland’s President Bronislaw Komorowski loses in a presidential election to Andrzej Duda, a relatively little-known politician from the opposition conservative Law and Justice Party. The analysts say the election was a vote for change. Komorowski’s ruling Civic Platform party has been in power for the last eight years and the people are dissatisfied with the high youth unemployment and living standards that are still lower that in many other western European countries.