Algerian President Resigns Amidst Protests

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced his resignation April 2, 2019. Bouteflika is 82 years old and held the presidential position for 20 years, following more than a decade spent working as a foreign minister.

His departure from office came after weeks of peaceful demonstrations, which began in February when Bouteflika stated his intention to run for a fifth term, according to The New York Times. As protests continued, Bouteflika said that he would not serve out a full fifth term if re-elected, which he later followed with an offer to step down by the end of this presidential term (April 28, 2019). However, BBC News reported that the protesters were not appeased, and the military shifted their support away from the president as Army Chief of Staff Ahmed Gaïd Salah urged Bouteflika to step down. The resignation was ratified a day later by Algeria’s constitutional council. The elections that were previously scheduled for April 18, 2019 were postponed and an interim government was selected by Bouteflika.

Despite Bouteflika’s departure, demonstrations continue. The New York Times explains that while protesters sought his resignation, they have also taken a stand against the “system” he belonged to: politicians, businesspeople and members of the military who contribute to state repression and corruption. Given the associations between the new interim government and Bouteflika, The New York Times suggests that it is unlikely their authority will be accepted without further protest.

Deadline for Brexit Deal Approval Approaches

Britain’s departure from the European Union (colloquially referred to as Brexit) continues to draw controversy as the British government debates the best method for following through with the move.

The Associated Press reported that the European Union (EU) set a deadline of April 12, 2019 for the country to either settle on a withdrawal plan, request a delay on exiting the EU or just leave the EU without a withdrawal plan or any deal to ease the transfer.

On April 3, 2019, the House of Commons pushed a bill forward that would compel Prime Minister Theresa May to ask for a time extension on Brexit if no deal was reached. The bill was passed by a single vote and moved on to Parliament’s House of Lords, where it must be approved again before passing into law. Even if the bill goes through, the EU is under no obligation to follow the request and may or may not grant Britain a delay. If it does not, then the country will leave the EU with no deal, hampering trade and border-crossing between Britain and other European nations.

Religious Shifts in LGBTQ Policies: The Mormon Church and Brunei

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly known as the Mormon Church) reversed their former position against baptizing the children of gay parents. As of April 4, 2019, baptisms of these children will be allowed with parental permission.

The policy change also affected the religion’s stance on LGBTQ partnerships. While the Mormon Church is still officially opposed to same-gender relationships, those engaged in such relationships will no longer be branded as “apostates,” which The Associated Press defines as “a term the religion [mormonism] uses for people who teach inaccurate doctrine or publicly defy guidance from church leaders.”

Further information on the Mormon Church’s position on LGBTQ issues is provided by the Human Rights Campaign.

This news contrasts sharply with recent implementation of the full Sharia Penal Code in Brunei, as announced on a government website. The laws are harshly anti-LGBTQ. While homosexuality was already criminalized in the small Southeast Asian nation, certain sexual offenses will now be punishable by stoning to death under the new laws which came into effect April 3, 2019. Additional laws set punishments for other offenses, including amputation as a penalty for theft.

According to BBC News, these laws apply primarily to Muslims, although some are applicable to non-Muslims as well. The move to formally authorize this penal code is the final stage of a process that began in 2014 with the introduction of Sharia law to Brunei’s legal system in tandem with the existing system of Common Law.

The international reaction has largely been one of condemnation, with the United Nations calling for a repeal of what UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé referred to as “extreme and unjustified punishments.” However, BBC News noted that many people from Brunei think it is unlikely the new laws will actually be applied in practice, especially given strict legal necessities such as the requirement for four Muslim witnesses to prosecute a case of adultery.