THE WORLD IN BRIEF
Counting began in Nigeria’s presidential election. Delays led to long queues outside polling stations even after official closing time; Nigeria’s electoral commission blamed logistical issues. The race is a tight three-way contest between Bola Tinubu of the ruling party, Atiku Abubaker of the main opposition, and Peter Obi, a third-party candidate and former businessman. A final result is not expected until Tuesday at the earliest.
At least 13,000 people protested in Berlin against Germany’s military support of Ukraine. The “Uprising for Peace”, whose organisers included a prominent politician from the hard-left Die Linke party, also called for negotiations with Russia. Olaf Scholz, Germany’s chancellor, has provided generous aid to Ukraine since he proclaimed a Zeitenwende, or “turning in time”, immediately after Russia’s invasion last year.
Jordan is hosting a meeting between Israeli and Palestinian security officials in an attempt to stop a recent surge in violence between the two sides which has taken the lives of about 60 Palestinians and ten Israelis since the beginning of the year. Representatives from other countries in the region are attending, as well as Brett McGurk, adviser on the Middle East to President Joe Biden.
Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s prime minister, said that discussions between Britain and the European Union about reforming Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit trading arrangements were “inching towards a conclusion”. Speculation is rife that a deal over one of the most vexed issues of Britain’s divorce from the bloc could come early next week. MPs from Britain’s ruling Conservative party were ordered to attend Parliament on Monday.
A group of around 2,000 prisoners in El Salvador were moved to a new “megaprison”, which will eventually house 40,000 inmates. The men are all suspected gang members. President Nayib Bukele launched a brutal, but overwhelmingly popular, crack down on crime after a spike of gang-related killings. Some 100,000 people, or 2% of Salvadorean adults, are now behind bars.
Newspapers across America, including USA Today and the Washington Post dropped the long-running Dilbert cartoon strip, after its creator, Scott Adams, called black Americans a “hate group”. Mr Adams was responding on his Youtube channel to a poll that purported to show that most black Americans disagreed with the statement “It’s OK to be white.” The cartoons, which lambast corporate life, have run since 1989.
Word of the week: sakoku, Japanese for “closed country”, used to describe the Tokugawa period, when Japan supposedly cut itself off from the world.
Scholz seeks closer ties in India
Expect well-tempered bonhomie as Olaf Scholz, Germany’s chancellor, meets Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, in Delhi, the capital on Sunday, before heading south to the country’s start-up hub of Bengaluru. Mr Scholz may seek Mr Modi’s support for Western efforts to isolate Russia—probably to little avail. But discussions on economic co-operation may prove more fruitful. The chancellor will bring a group of German CEOs whose primary interest is expanding access to India’s growing market.
Germany, which is already India’s biggest European trading partner and an important investor in the country, is keen to reduce its economic dependence on China. The leaders are likely to discuss the potential for a free-trade agreement with the EU. There is also scope for co-operation on climate-change mitigation and investment in renewable energy. Thornier issues in India, including assaults on press freedom and human rights, have been missing from announcements leading up to the visit. Like other Western countries, Germany prefers to focus on India’s bright side.
The world is deeply divided on Ukraine
After a year of war, Western leaders are patting themselves on the back for remaining united behind Ukraine. But the mood elsewhere is more ambivalent. Countries in Africa, Asia and South America are less preoccupied with a Ukrainian victory and more concerned with the impact of war on their economies.
A new report from the European Council on Foreign Relations, a think-tank, lays bare these divisions. Pluralities in Turkey (48%) and India (54%) say that the war needs to stop as soon as possible, even if that means Ukraine ceding territory to Russia. A whopping 63% of Indian respondents see Russia as having become “much or somewhat stronger” because of the war. Thus, whereas the conflict might have sparked a revival of the alliance between America and Europe, the authors argue that “the consolidation of the West is taking place in an increasingly divided post-Western world”. This, they conclude “may end up being the biggest geopolitical turning point revealed by the war”.
How the Homo sapiens invaded Europe
Successful invaders usually have superior weapons, and few invaders have been more successful than Homo sapiens. Those who suffered as a result of sapiens’ expansion into Europe included Homo neanderthalensis. Both species had hand-hurled spears when they first met. But according to a paper in Science Advances by Laure Metz, of Aix-Marseille University, European sapiens also carried bows and arrows, a better hunting and fighting technology, from the get-go. Previously, these were known only from the more recent past.
Dr Metz has been studying finds from Grotte Mandrin in the Rhône valley, a site where strata containing remains of sapiens go back 54,000 years, the oldest yet discovered in Europe. Many of the numerous stone artefacts found at this site were probably weapon tips. She and her colleagues compared the sizes of these, and the pattern of impact-damage on them, with those of others, ancient and modern. They conclude that many are, indeed, arrowheads rather than spear-points. The poor Neanderthals didn’t stand a chance.
Australia gets ready for Bazball
Test cricket’s greatest spectacle, the biannual Ashes series between England and Australia, is less than four months away. As a pointer to the outcome, both teams are currently negotiating tricky away assignments, with very different results. Australia are struggling against India. They lost the first two Tests; the third starts on Wednesday but a drawn series is the best that Australia can now hope for. Meanwhile England, and in particular Harry Brook, their new superstar batter, have been putting New Zealand, the World Test Champions, to the sword.
Brendon McCullum, himself a New Zealander, has transformed England’s team since he was appointed head coach in May 2022. It is not just their results—though they have won ten out of 11 tests under Mr McCullum—but the calculated aggression of their batting that might unnerve the Aussies. The tactic has been nicknamed “Bazball” in honour of the coach. Twenty years ago, Steve Waugh’s Australian team redefined Test cricket by aiming to score at four runs an over, a breathtakingly high rate. This England team is managing to go even faster.
Weekend profile: Maia Sandu, the gutsy Moldovan president uncowed by Putin
Ever since Russia invaded its neighbour, tiny Moldova has worried it might be next. Like Ukraine it was once a Soviet republic and is partly Russian-speaking; Russian soldiers occupy Transnistria, a breakaway statelet along its eastern border with Ukraine. But if Vladimir Putin thinks Moldova will be intimidated, he has not reckoned with its president, Maia Sandu, a pocket-sized pro-European who has spent her career facing down powerful, corrupt opponents.
The 50-year-old Ms Sandu was born in a small village where her father managed a pig farm. After university she worked for the economics ministry, part of a generation of modernising young technocrats, then joined the World Bank. Upon entering politics she became education minister, and won public acclaim for cleaning up a corrupt school-exam system that had obliged pupils to pay bribes.
In 2015 protests brought down the government after $1bn was embezzled from the central bank in a Russian-linked money-laundering scheme. Ms Sandu was nominated for the prime ministership, but turned it down when parties refused to fire crooked officials. She set up the Party of Action and Solidarity and ran for president, but was beaten by Igor Dodon, the pro-Russian leader of the Socialist Party. Ms Sandu then waged quixotic electoral campaigns against the Socialists and parties controlled by Moldova’s oligarchs. While she and her volunteers operated out of a deteriorating 19th-century villa, oligarchs ran their parties out of office towers where TV monitors carried the broadcasts of the propaganda stations they owned.
Everything changed in 2019, when Mr Dodon cut a deal (with Russian and American approval) to make Ms Sandu prime minister. Political scheming soon brought down Ms Sandu’s government, but in 2020 she beat Mr Dodon in the presidential race. She has since appointed two pro-EU, anti-corruption prime ministers.
Mr Putin has tried to cow her by cutting gas deliveries and sowing disinformation. On Thursday Russia alleged that Ukraine was planning a false-flag provocation in Transnistria to justify invading it. Ms Sandu promptly rebutted that and reiterated her defiance of Russian pressure. There would be no “puppet government enslaved to the interests of the Kremlin” in Chisinau, Moldova’s capital, she said. She seems to be getting what she wants: last June the EU granted Moldova candidate status.