Top of the Agenda: Cardinals to Begin Papal Conclave
The 115 voting cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church headed to the conclave Tuesday to elect the next pope (Guardian), who will lead the world's 1.2 billion baptized Catholics after the surprise abdication of Benedict XVI. Observers say that the field still remains wide open (Reuters) and the conclave could face an extended decision period. Cardinals will vote four times daily until two-thirds can agree on a candidate.
"The next pope should be, in short, a charismatic, missionary culture warrior, challenging the world's democracies to rebuild their moral foundations and offering Catholic social doctrine as one tool for that urgent task," writes George Weigel for the Wall Street Journal.
"Time and again, both publicly and privately, cardinals have said that whatever other qualities the next pope may possess, he has to be someone who can remedy the perceived breakdowns in business management in the Vatican over the last eight years," writes John Allen for National Catholic Reporter.
"Uppermost in the cardinals' minds this week will be the crisis in the Church over centralization of power versus distribution of power. A conservative pope is unlikely to embark on a reform of papal and Vatican power, which has weakened the Church at its periphery. Yet, a liberal pope could find himself residing over fragmentation and disunity," writes John Cornwell for The Globe and Mail.
Xi Jinping Picks Reformist Vice President
China's incoming president Xi Jinping appointed Li Yuanchao--a relatively reformist member of China's decision-making Politburo--as vice president (Reuters) this week instead of a more senior and conservative propaganda czar backed by former president Jiang Zemin.
SOUTH KOREA: South Korean President Park Geun-hye is planning to visit the United States on her first overseas trip as president in early May, although there has also been speculation that she may visit China ahead of Washington (Yonhap).
Expert Troy Stangarone discusses prospects for the U.S.-Korea alliance under Park and Obama in this CFR blog post.
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
Protestors Clash With Police in Bangladesh
Police clashed with protestors amidst bomb explosions in Bangladesh's capital of Dhaka as opposition leaders enforced a nationwide strike (Dawn) against police intimidation. The party is demanding restoration of a caretaker government system to oversee upcoming elections.
INDIA: India condemned Italy's decision not to send two of its marines back to India to stand trial for killing two fishermen (HindustanTimes). Rome said Delhi was violating international law by trying them in India.
More Bodies Pulled From Syrian River
Twelve more bodies were recovered from the Queiq River (al-Jazeera) in Aleppo, Syria, a day after twenty-two corpses were found. Meanwhile at an EU meeting on Monday, France suggested the EU should reconsider its ban on giving arms to Syrian rebels, despite German opposition to the move (EUObserver).
CFR's Bernard Gwertzman talks to expert Mona Yacoubian about Syria's continuing civil war in this interview.
TUNISIA: A man set himself on fire Tuesday in Tunis hours before the country's lawmakers were to vote on a new government tasked with pulling Tunisia out of a deep political crisis (AFP).
ICC Drops Charges Against Kenyan Official
The International Criminal Court filed a motion to drop all charges against Kenya's former head of civil service Francis Muthaura, who is accused alongside President-elect Uhuru Kenyatta of crimes against humanity during the 2008 post-election violence (CapitalFM).
ZIMBABWE: Australia and the European Union eased sanctions against the Mugabe government in light of its reform progress (SWRadio), which has been "painfully slow" but "genuine," said Australia's foreign minister
Hungary's Constitutional Changes Raise Concern
Hungary's parliament adopted constitutional changes proposed by the ruling Fidesz party that critics, including the EU and the United States, say could undermine democracy (WSJ). The amendment would allow the court's prosecutors to choose which judges hear legal cases.
Republicans to Propose $4.6 Trillion in Cuts
U.S. Republicans are set to unveil a fiscal package (FT) that would slash government spending by $4.6 trillion over a decade and would cut deeply into social programs while sparing defense. Senate Democrats will for the first time in four years release their own competing budget on Wednesday.
VENEZUELA: The United States expelled two Venezuelan diplomats (LAHT) in retaliation for Venezuela's decision to expel an American air attaché and his assistant in Caracas.