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Germany and Turkey clash over free speech

As campaigning for a referendum that would expand the powers of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan gets underway, Germany and Turkey have clashed over Erdogan’s desire to campaign in Germany, according to the New York Times. In order to pass the referendum, Erdogan needs to lock down the votes of the 1.5 million Turks living in Germany who are able to vote. Erdogan’s German opponents say that he wants to use the referendum to gain anti-democratic power, and that Erdogan is taking advantage of free speech in Germany while denying it to others in Turkey. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Turkey imprisoned more journalists than any other country in 2017. Erdogan has accused Germany of fascism and Nazi tactics after two of his representatives cancelled rallies because local German authorities did not guarantee that they would provide security.

Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte wins third term

On March 15, incumbent prime minister of the Netherlands, Mark Rutte, won his third successive term, beating out nationalist candidate Geert Wilders. According to BBC, the Dutch race was viewed by many as a test for the support that nationalist parties have been gaining in Europe. Wilders’ platform included removing the Netherlands from the EU, closing mosques and outlawing the Koran. The election outcome was celebrated by officials in France, Spain and Germany. France and Germany, which also have strong populist movements, hold elections in April and September, respectively.

Suicide bombings kill over two dozen in Syria

According to CNN, on March 15 at least 25 people died in the main courthouse in Damascus after a suicide bomber wearing military uniform forced his way past police. The attack occurred during work hours, and in addition to the 25 killed, other people were injured. On the same day, another suicide bomber attacked a restaurant a few miles away, killing and wounding a number of people. As of March 16, no one had yet claimed responsibility for the attacks, and the police had not released the number of casualties and injuries from the restaurant bombing.

Brazilian politicians seek amnesty over illegal donations

According to the New York Times, Brazilian lawmakers are scrambling to pass laws that will protect them from jail time due to an investigation into bribes from Petrobras, a Brazilian national oil company. Testimony from one of Petrobras’ contractors has revealed that hundreds of millions of dollars were given to politicians in illegal campaign funding. As of March 16, many of the politicians implicated, some from opposing sides of the Brazilian political spectrum, are trying to pass laws that will give themselves amnesty. Brazil’s prosecutor general is investigating the lawmakers implicated by the contractor’s testimony.

Pew study finds Islam fastest-growing religion

According to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center, 10 percent of Europeans will be Muslims by 2050, as reported by CNN. The study also reports that the second-fastest growing religion is Christianity with an estimated 35 percent growth, and third is Hinduism with a projected growth rate of 34 percent. The study also says that Islam will become the world’s largest religion by the end of the 21st century, surpassing Christianity. Pew speculates that this is because Muslim women have more children than women of other religions, and Muslims are an average of seven years younger than those who are not Muslims.

Chinese president advocates national civil code

On March 16, the Chinese legislature approved a set of guiding principles and promised to finish a national civil code based on those principles by 2020, according to the New York Times. This code will seek to explain the rationale behind laws on contentious Chinese issues including divorce, defamation and free speech, parental rights, migrant workers and property rights. Several activists and Communist critics have called the code an attempt to restrict free speech and make criticism of Communist leaders illegal. Proponents say that the code will help update and resolve contradictions in the Chinese legal system. All previous attempts to pass a civil code have failed.

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