Cardinals start secret vote for new pope

By Danielle Wiener-Bronner
March 12, 2013

Cardinals gather to pick new pope, the Falkland Islands vote overwhelmingly for British rule, and Hungary defies the EU with constitutional changes. Today is Tuesday, March 12, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner and @clarerrrr.


Cardinals attend a mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, March 12, 2013. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

Pick a pope. Some 115 cardinals begin the process of selecting a new leader to replace Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who shocked the world when he announced his resignation on February 11. Participating cardinals cut off access to the outside world to preserve the secrecy of the vote. Despite the clandestine nature of the voting process, the vote comes at a tumultuous time for the Church:

With only 24 percent of Catholics living in Europe, pressure is growing within the Church to choose a pontiff from elsewhere in the world who would bring a different perspective. Latin American cardinals might worry more about poverty and the rise of evangelical churches than questions of materialism and sexual abuse that dominate in the West, while the growth of Islam is a major concern for the Church in Africa and Asia.

The new leader will require at least two-thirds of the vote in order to be elected. The conclave typically lasts for a few days. Tallied ballots are burned and their smoke funneled through a makeshift chimney on the Sistine Chapel’s roof. The smoke will burn black until a new pope has been selected, when the color will change to white.

We’re with Her Majesty. Residents of the Falkland Islands voted almost unanimously to remain under British rule. The outcome was a largely symbolic response to Argentina’s renewed claims to the long-contested territory:

Argentina’s fiery left-leaning president, Cristina Fernandez, has piled pressure on Britain to negotiate the sovereignty of the islands, something London refuses to do unless the islanders request talks. Most Latin American countries and many other developing nations have voiced support for Argentina, which has stepped up its demands since London-listed companies started drilling for oil and natural gas off the Falklands’ craggy coastline.

Only three of the 1,500 voters who participated in the weekend poll said they would support Argentine rule. Argentina’s ambassador to London Alicia Castro called the referendum a ploy. “We respect their identity,” she said. “But the territory they occupy is not British.”

The EU’s problem child. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban today defied EU standards by proposing a state-owned banking system:

Viktor Orban, a conservative who has angered investors and ignored European Union warnings that he is backsliding on democracy, said his government would set up a system of state-owned banking and called on policymakers to cut interest rates further.

Orban made his announcement one day after  the Hungarian parliament voted for a number of constitutional amendments that will limit the constitutional court’s power. Brussels sees limiting the court’s  ability to challenge laws as a power grab from other branches of government, adding to fears that the prime minister is upending democracy and defying the Union’s governing principles.

Nota Bene: Members of Brazil’s “roofless” squatter movement occupy abandoned buildings throughout the country.

Standouts:

Swordsman shortage - Saudi Arabia may abandon execution by beheading in favor of firing squads due to a shortage of government swordsmen. (Time)

No British Merkel - Guardian journalist Amelia Garden speculates on the likelihood of a female British PM. (The New York Times)

Stop the presses -  Private media in Mali launch a news blackout after an editor’s arrest. (BBC)

Porn star pre-trial - Hearings begin for the the Canadian porn actor accused of murdering and dismembering a Chinese student. (Al Jazeera)

Sweet on Italy - Global investors should be skeptical of the Italian economy, explains Reuters columnist Hugo Dixon. (Reuters)

From the File:

  • Venezuela opposition plans to expose Nicolas Maduro’s “lies”
  • EU targets Iranian judges, media bosses with sanctions
  • Bulgaria president taps diplomat as interim PM
  • No “smoking gun” from last month’s North Korean nuclear test
  • Kenya election outcomes cheers investors, but worries remain
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