News Timeline: October 2015


October 10 – Europe / Middle East: TURKEY
Two suicide bombings kill 97 people in Turkey’s capital, Ankara, during a crowded rally protesting the government’s violence against the Kurds. The government blames the Islamic State (IS) for the bombings. However, Kurdish activists accuse the Turkish government for failing to protect the rally, and even involvement over the attack.

October 12 – Europe / Former Soviet Republics: BELARUS
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko wins a fifth term as president in an election in which veteran opposition candidates were barred from running. Three candidates that ran against Lukashenko are considered to have been put up by the regime to give appearance of competition. They received less than 5 percent of the vote. International elections observers and other human rights groups criticize the election as falling short of democratic norms with significant problems in counting votes and transparency.

October 13 – Europe / Former Soviet Republics / East Asia:
In an investigation report on the Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 that crashed over Ukraine in 2014, the Dutch Safety Board concludes that the plane was brought down by a Russian-made Buk missile. The report does not say who fired the missile. Russia blames Ukraine for the disaster, while Ukraine and the West say Russia has equipped the rebels in eastern Ukraine with weapons.

Poland signs a groundbreaking deal to build the EU’s first gas pipeline with the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, which will reduce their reliance on natural gas from Russia. The $636 million Gas Interconnection Poland-Lithuania (GIPL) will be 300-miles long and will have an initial capacity of 2.4 billion cubic meters.

October 15 – South Asia / North America: AFGHANISTAN / UNITED STATES
The United States extends its military presence in Afghanistan by keeping 5,500 troops beyond 2016. Currently, there are 9,800 US troops in Afghanistan. The troops will continue to train Afghan soldiers and to prepare them to counter the growing threat of the resurgent Taliban. The troops will be stationed in Kabul, Bagram, Kandahar, and Jalalabad. The U.S. also wants to maintain a small number of military bases in Afghanistan for counter-terrorism operations.

Seven Israelis are killed and many injured in a wave of random knife stabbings by Palestinians since early October that took place in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and across Israel. Also, at least 40 Palestinians are killed, including several attackers in this recent turmoil. The attacks began after rumors circulated among Palestinians that Israel was planning to change a religious arrangement that governs the Jerusalem holy site known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif in favor of Jews. After Israel conquered the Old City of Jerusalem during the Six-Day War of June 1967, it allowed the Waqf Islamic authorities, consisting of a director, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, and the Islamic Council, to stay in charge of the Temple Mount. Under the arrangement, the Waqf administer the daily operation of the site, while Israel is in charge of security and keeps non-Muslims from openly praying there to avoid provocations.

October 19 – Europe: SWITZERLAND
The right-wing, anti-immigration, and anti-EU Swiss People’s Party (SVP) wins Switzerland’s parliamentary elections, gathering over 29 percent of the vote and increasing its number of seats in the lower house of the parliament to 65 out of 200. Another center-right party, FDP The Liberals, comes third. In this situation, a coalition of SVP with FDP and a few minor right-wing parties will allow them to form a majority in parliament.

October 20 – North America: CANADA
Canada’s Liberal Party led by Justin Trudeau wins parliamentary elections ending a decade-long rule by the Conservatives and ousting Prime Minister Stephen Harper who stayed in power for three terms. Out of 338 seats in the parliament, the Liberals win 184, increasing their number of seats by 150. The Conservatives come second with 99 seats, and New Democrats (NDP) third, winning 44 seats. The Bloc Quebecois gets 10 seats, and the Greens one. The Liberals promised to boost the economic growth by investing in public works, to help the middle class by cutting their taxes at the cost of increased taxes on the wealthiest Canadians, and to address the environmental problems.

October 20 – Middle East / Europe: SYRIA / RUSSIA
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad arrives in Russia on his first foreign trip since the country’s civil war erupted in 2011. He meets with President Vladimir Putin, Assad’s ally, who recently initiated Russia’s air bombings on IS and other rebels who oppose Assad’s government. By receiving Assad, Putin shows his country’s continued support for him.

October 25 – Europe: POLAND
Poland’s conservative opposition Law and Justice party (PiS) wins a decisive victory in the country’s parliamentary elections. It gathers 38 percent of the vote, which gives it a majority in the lower house with 235 out of 460 seats. The party wins enough votes to govern alone without a coalition. The PiS’s win ends the eight-year rule of the centrist Civic Platform, which received 24 percent of the vote. The Eurosceptic Law and Justice party has strong support in poorer, rural areas of Poland.

October 26 – Latin America: GUATEMALA
Jimmy Morales, a well-known television comic actor with no previous experience in government wins Guatemala’s presidential election. He overwhelmingly defeats his opponent, the former presidential ex-wife, Sandra Torres, gathering 67 percent of the vote. To many voters, Sandra Torres, who ran government social programs during her husband, Alvaro Colom’s presidency (2008-2012), represents unpopular corrupt political elites.  Voters preferred Jimmy Morales because he promised a fresh start and to fight corruption.

October 27 – North America / East Asia: UNITED STATES / CHINA
A US warship passes by the contested islands in the South China Sea within the area claimed by China. China issues a protest, saying that such incidents might lead to a war. The United States, however, says it was conducting a routine operation according to international law.

October 29 – Europe / Middle East: EUROPEAN UNION / SAUDI ARABIA
The European Parliament selects Saudi Arabia’s jailed blogger Raif Badawi as a recipient of the Sakharov Prize for Freedom and Thought for his fight for human rights and democracy. The parliament’s president also encourages Saudi Arabia to free Badawi, who as an author of the website “Free Saudi Liberals” was sentenced in 2012 to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for insulting Islam.

October 29 – Europe: MOLDOVA
After a vote of no confidence, the Moldovan parliament dissolves the government of Prime Minister Valeriu Strelet after only three months in power. The vote was prompted by months of widespread popular demonstrations protesting government corruption and the disappearance of more than $1 billion from banks.

October 29 – South Asia: NEPAL
Nepal’s parliament elects Bidhya Devi Bhandari as the country’s president, making her the first woman to hold this office in Nepal. Previously, she was Nepal’s defense minister. Although the post of president in Nepal is mostly ceremonial, Bidhya Devi Bhandari will be commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

October 30 – Europe / North America / Former Soviet Republics:
The European Union (EU) and the United States temporarily suspend most of their sanctions against Belarus after President Alexander Lukashenko has freed six of his political opponents and made overtures to the West to improve relations between both sides. The lifted sanctions include the asset freeze and travel ban applying to Lukashenko and 170 individuals from his circles. An arms embargo remains in force. At the same time, the EU and the U.S. encourage Belarus to improve its human rights record and democracy. The sanctions will be evaluated again in four months.