Top of the Agenda: Malaysia Dissolves Parliament for Fresh Elections
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, whose National Front coalition has been in power since Malaysia's independence from Britain in 1957, dissolved parliament (WSJ) Wednesday to make way for a tightly contested election that will see him pitted against opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. The National Front lost its two-thirds majority for the first time in the 2008 elections. Analysts say ethnic cohesion in Malaysian politics has begun to fray (NYT), as large numbers of Chinese voters--who comprise around a quarter of the country's population--have abandoned the coalition, and the country's main ethnic group, the Malays, remain divided.
"This time, some Pakatan members express utter confidence that it will come. That is probably bluster. The odds still favour the [National Front]. Constituency sizes give greater weight to voters in the countryside, who tend to be more conservative than the wired, cosmopolitan and cynical residents of the cities," writes the Economist.
"[For] an increasing number of Malaysians the old fault lines between Mr Najib's UMNO, the largest party in [the National Front], and the three opposition parties in Pakatan Rakyat are taking a back seat, as broad disaffection with corruption, alleged cronyism and demands for electoral reform have become rallying points for many voters," writes Jeremy Grant for the Financial Times.
"Observers have stated that three events last month before the final JJD tour in Kuantan have skewed the outcome of the general election in favour of Najib -- the Sulu intrusion in Lahad Datu, 206th Police Day and Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition," writes Azhari-Karim for the New Straits Times.
North Korea Blocks South Korean Workers
North Korea said Wednesday it will ban South Korean workers from entering the inter-Korean industrial zone in Kaesong (Yonhap), an abrupt move that comes after Pyongyang threatened to shut down the complex itself and launch a preemptive nuclear war on Seoul and Washington.
This CFR Backgrounder outlines the China-North Korea relationship, which has been shifting in light of escalated aggression from the North.
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
Militants Storm Court in Afghanistan
At least six people died in a suicide bomb and gun attack on a courthouse in the west Afghan city of Farah (Khaama), where clashes between Afghan security forces and militants have continued. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.
INDIA: Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh acknowledged the country's slow 5 percent growth rate (TOI), but said he is confident the downturn is temporary.
Egypt, IMF discuss $4.8 Billion Loan
Officials from the International Monetary Fund arrived in Egypt for talks on a $4.8 billion loan (al-Arabiya) aimed at easing the economic crisis in the country, where foreign currency reserves have fallen to critically low levels and citizens are struggling to buy wheat and fuel.
CFR's Elliott Abrams discusses the United States and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in this blog post.
TURKEY: TurkishPrime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will launch a U.S. visit in mid-May in a trip (Hurriyet) that was conditional upon an Israeli apology for a 2010 attack on a flotilla bound for Gaza.
Former CAR Leader Accuses Chad of Aiding Rebels
Francois Bozize, the deposed president of the Central African Republic, has accused Chad of helping the Seleka rebels (BBC) that ousted him, blaming Chadian forces of an attack on a base of South African troops. Thirteen South African soldiers were killed in the clashes.
CFR's John Campbell asks why South African troops were in the Central African Republic in this blog post.
UNITED NATIONS: The United Nations General Assembly approved a global arms trade treaty (UNNS) that failed to net unanimous support last week but garnered a majority in a consequent vote.
Serbia, Kosovo Talks Collapse
Serbia and Kosovo failed to broker a peace agreement after a series of EU-sponsored talks (FT) in Brussels, underlining continued divisions between the two countries over how to end years of tension in the Balkans following the breakup of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
EUROPEAN UNION: Inflation in the eurozone fell to 1.7 percent (DeutscheWelle), reflecting the union's weak economy and high unemployment, although the rate remained within the ECB's target range of just below 2 percent.
Argentina Vows Dialogue on Falkland Islands War Anniversary
Argentinean President Cristina Fernandez marked the anniversary of the Falklands War by demanding dialogue again with Britain over the sovereignty of the Falklands/Malvinas Islands (MercoPress). A referendum last month saw 99.8 percent of Falklanders choose to remain a British Overseas Territory.
VENEZUELA: Venezuela's interim President Nicolas Maduro campaigned from the childhood home (LAHT) of the late Hugo Chavez, saying his deceased mentor appeared to him in the form of a bird.