Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
As the sun started to set on the west side of the Reichstag on Wednesday evening — and perhaps on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s centre-right government as well — delegates to the Bundesversammlung (Federal Assembly) began switching to beer from the preferred beverage earlier in the day — coffee, water and apple juice.
There was an unmistakeable air of “Endzeitstimmung” (doomsday atmosphere) on the comfortable rooftop terrace of the historic German parliament building, where the catering is superb and the view of Berlin breathtaking.
The conservative delegates on the Reichstag roof were easy to spot — they were the ones with worried looks on their faces after a couple dozen unidentified “rats” from within their ranks twice failed in votes during the afternoon to give Merkel the votes she needed to get her candidate elected.
The conservatives were drinking their beer and trying to forget the day’s humiliation before going into battle for a third and final round later in the evening.
”It was a bit like Germany vs Serbia in the first two rounds,” said David McAllister, a leader in Merkel’s Christian Democrats in Lower Saxony, referring to a 1-0 World Cup loss earlier this month. “But the third round will be more like Germany vs England,” he added with a smile, referring to Germany’s 4-1 win over England on Sunday.
The opposition delegates were also easy to spot on the Reichstag rooftop terrace — they were the ones with smiles on their faces (and beer glasses in their hands) after seeing Merkel humiliated twice by her own coalition. Her candidate, Christian Wulff, fell short of the 623 votes he needed even though there are 644 delegates in the centre-right bloc.
Wulff got 600 in the first round and 615 in the second round. Even if he wins the third round later on Wednesday evening, Merkel has been badly damaged by the debacle.
The question on everyone’s mind is: How can someone lead one of the world’s most important countries if she can’t even keep her own coalition in line?
What is most unsettling for delegates in the centre-right bloc is that they don’t know who the defectors are. It has brought instant comparisons to the beginning of the end of the previous centre-left government of Social Democrats and Greens in 2005.
Are the Belgian judicial authorities gunning for Godfried? It looks like Cardinal Godfried Danneels, the popular grandfatherly Catholic prelate who stepped down in January as archbishop of Brussels-Mechelen after three decades, is the main target of the incredible "tomb raider" sweeps that shocked the Church last Thursday. The police who swooped down on the diocesan headquarters in Mechelen, Danneels's own apartment nearby and the offices of the Church commission on abuse in Leuven did not suspect the cardinal of abuse himself. But it seems the investigating magistrate behind the raid is convinced that Danneels hushed up cases during his long reign.
The media seem to be too -- just take a look at last Saturday's front page of the Brussels daily De Standaard at the right.
Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who took office earlier this month, hoped to impress voters as he made his debut at a meeting of G8 and G20 leaders in Canada last weekend, but saw media play at home overshadowed by the World Cup and a scandal roiling Japan’s traditional sport of sumo.
Still, Kan did manage to claim one prize from his summit debut – lots of face-time with U.S. President Barack Obama. Kan’s predecessor Yukio Hatoyama quit after just eight months in office in part because he botched up relations with Japan’s biggest ally over the relocation of a U.S. military base on Okinawa. So brief chats with Obama in between sessions, including one on Obama’s love for green tea ice cream, and a full, 30-minute meeting with the U.S. President at the end of his trip should comfort voters. An improvement from a mere 10 minutes Hatoyama was allotted when he met Obama at a nuclear safety summit in April.
from Pakistan: Now or Never?:
In the increasingly frenetic debate about what to do about Afghanistan, Antonio Giustozzi has a must-read report on prospects for negotiating with the Taliban. In particular, he offers a rare window into Pakistan's often opaque policy towards Afghanistan by providing the context within which Pakistan might be able to bring the Taliban into a political settlement .
Giustozzi presents a far more nuanced picture than the one commonly assumed, describing significant overlaps between various militant groups - the Tehrik-e-Taliban-e-Pakistan (TTP), the Afghan Taliban led by Mullah Muhammad Omar, the Haqqani network and the Hizb-e-Islami of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, with only the latter seen as an independent entity. (These overlaps are crucial to establishing whether Afghan insurgents could be weakened through a policy of "divide and rule" or whether any negotiations on a settlement would need to involve the Taliban movement, and its leadership, as a whole.)
If Guinea can pull off free and fair elections this weekend, it will lay the foundations for what could be one of Africa’s most unexpected and significant good news stories.
True, any new government must still deal with widespread poverty, a shattered economy and an army that just nine months ago was involved in mass killings and gang rapes of opposition marchers.
But such has been the catalogue of military putsches, tainted votes and constitution-tinkering by incumbents in the immediate neighbourhood that a genuine election in Guinea should send a signal across West Africa and beyond.
“If it can happen in Guinea, it’s lesson for other countries and an incentive to (the world) to maintain engagement,” said Rolake Akinola, Africa analyst at Eurasia Group.
On one level, Sunday’s elections are a fluke – the result of a bullet fired by a former aide at former junta leader Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, grazing his skull and putting him out of action and in temporary exile in neighbouring Burkina Faso.
But on another level, they stem from a profound hunger among Guineans to put their dysfunctional past behind them and an international awareness that the country — crucial to regional stability — had reached tipping point.
The United States, European Union, France, Japan, Spain and others have piled in with an estimated 40 million euros of funding for the election process.
And Washington and Paris have discreetly but emphatically lent their weight to the regional diplomacy that has kept Dadis Camara out of the picture.
Of course, such direct intervention would be unthinkable in countries which had not plumbed the depths reached by Guinea.
But if things hold together in Guinea, it should bolster the arguments of those in rich world capitals who argue in favour of engagement — whether via targeted sanctions, shuttle diplomacy or outright financial support when merited.
It should also encourage military leaders in Niger to make good on promises to hold elections and return rule to civilians, and Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo to ensure presidential elections in his country that are now five years late.
By Michael Perry
Chief Correspondent, Australia
Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd promised so much but in the end failed to deliver the generational change voters had hoped for when they swept him to power 2007.
But it was for not want of trying.
In the end, the cut-throat nature of politics, where re-election is all that matters, saw Rudd’s government turn on him on Thursday in favour of his deputy Julia Gillard.
from Pakistan: Now or Never?:
On a visit to Pakistan in April, two comments stayed in my mind, encapsulating the Pakistani view of the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. One was from a political analyst in Islamabad, which stood out for the unusualness of the imagery. "Obama," she said, "has tried to put his feet in both boats." The other was from a senior serving officer, who appeared to be giving a personal opinion rather than reading from the script prepared for more official briefings. "The Pashtun areas (of Afghanistan) are slipping out of the hands of ISAF and NATO, and everybody knows it," he said.
The Rolling Stone profile of General Stanley McChrystal - the drama aside of firing a top commander in wartime - is remarkable in the extent to which it plays up a similar assessment of the war in Afghanistan.
from Pakistan: Now or Never?:
Given the row over General Stanley McChrystal's comments in Rolling Stone magazine, the slow process of repairing relations between India and Pakistan is unlikely to get much attention. But there is some movement there, which is worth watching closely since the relationship between the two plays such a defining role in the attitudes of the Pakistan Army and by extension, in Pakistan's perceived approach to Afghanistan.
Following up on talks between their prime ministers in April, the foreign secretaries and interior ministers of India and Pakistan meet this week in Islamabad to try to rebuild trust between the two countries and find a way back into more substantive dialogue.
from AxisMundi Jerusalem:
Palestinians in the Gaza Strip may just feel a little less isolated today. Israel is bowing to international pressure and rejigging its embargo on the enclave in the wake of the bloodshed 3 weeks ago when it enforced a longstanding maritime blockade.
But earlier this month, taking my leave at the end of a 3-year assignment, I reflected while walking the half-mile (700-metre) cage (picture, right) that separates Gaza from Israel on how the barriers that surround and divide this region have, if anything, grown higher, deepening the isolation of the rival parties. That may make any kind of reconciliation more difficult as time goes on. I wrote about this earlier today.
After weeks of waiting, Colombia’s presidential election run-off was so one-sided it was over in minutes.
Former Bogota mayor and Green Party candidate Antanas Mockus had appealed to voters with his challenge to traditional parties and a call for cleaner government.