Top of the Agenda: European Election Results Challenge Austerity Policies
French Socialist François Hollande defeated incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy in a closely contested presidential election yesterday. Hollande, who has vowed to renegotiate aspects of the EU fiscal compact agreed to late last year, is expected to challenge Berlin's strict austerity remedy to the ongoing eurozone sovereign debt crisis (NYT). At the same time, in Greek parliamentary elections on Sunday, voters empowered extreme political parties on the far-left and far-right, dealing a blow to the mainstream parties that have implemented EU-mandated austerity policies in exchange for financial assistance. The political uncertainty in Greece threatened to unravel the second EU-IMF bailout plan for Greece that was negotiated earlier this year.
"Mr. Hollande's other concern will be to build trust with Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, who backed Mr. Sarkozy for president. Mr. Hollande has said clearly that he wants to 'renegotiate' Europe's fiscal compact--which Mrs. Merkel considers the cornerstone of stability in the euro zone--in order to emphasize growth over austerity. But he will also want to reassure her of his faith in the Franco-German tie," notes the Economist.
"French voters supported the candidate who promised to avoid the all-austerity program Sarkozy had committed himself to. Part of the success or failure of the newly elected president will be played out in Europe, where a socialist French president will be an oddity in a conservative-led EU," writes Pierre Haski in the Guardian.
"Hollande's main objective is to prolong what could be a very short honeymoon with a demanding French public, yet still convince the markets there's a sensible method to what detractors call his madness of spending to fuel growth. Mindfulness to investors is no little detail with France set to sell $15.6 billion in new bonds on May 17," writes TIME's Bruce Crumley.
Chinese Defense Minister in U.S. Visit
Gen. Liang Guanglie, the Chinese defense minister, arrived in San Francisco on Sunday and is set to begin talks in Washington today (WSJ). Liang's visit--the first by a Chinese minister of defense in nine years--comes as U.S. and Chinese officials are working to resolve the case of Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng by allowing him passage to the United States to study at New York University.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today urged India to buy less oil from Iran in order to increase international economic pressure (BBC) and encourage the country to suspend its nuclear program. The West and Israel suspect Iran's program is used for the manufacturing of nuclear weapons.
PAKISTAN: The Pakistani government has failed to take action against Hafiz Saeed (Reuters), the militant leader considered responsible for the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Monday. Clinton added that the United States believes al-Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri is residing in Pakistan.
Pakistan has emerged as a terrorist sanctuary for some of the world's most violent groups, including al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and homegrown militants, that threaten the stability of Pakistan as well as the region, explains this CFR Backgrounder.
Syrians Vote in Parliamentary Elections
Syrians are going to the polls in the country's first multi-party parliamentary elections under a new constitution (al-Jazeera), even as the country's main opposition groups boycotted the vote amid fighting with Syrian security forces.
YEMEN: A suspected U.S. military drone strike in Yemen yesterday killed senior al-Qaeda militant Fahd Mohammed Ahmed al-Quso, who was linked to the deadly bombing of the USS Cole in 2000 (NYT).
DR Congo Retakes Town from Rebels
The Democratic Republic of Congo army claimed it retook the eastern area of the town of Masisi in North Kivu province from rebels fighting for warlord Bosco "Terminator" Ntaganda (BBC). Ntaganda is wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court.
Outgoing prime minister Vladimir Putin (WSJ) was sworn into office for a third six-year presidential term today, while riot police detained hundreds of anti-government protesters in the run-up to the inauguration.
In this CFR interview, Stephen Sestanovich says Vladimir Putin's third term as Russia's president could be characterized by greater political competition and middle-class opposition domestically, along with mixed relations with the United States.
U.S. Releases High-Level Insurgents in Secret Exchange
The United States has released high-level detainees from the Parwan military detention center (WaPo) in Afghanistan as part of a strategic bargaining tool used to extract concessions from Afghan insurgent and military groups, U.S. officials reportedly confirmed.
COLOMBIA: The country's FARC rebel group confirmed in a YouTube video that it is holding hostage French journalist Romeo Langlois (LAT), but indicated he could soon be released.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and the National Liberation Army are Colombia's two predominant rebel groups. While both have been depleted in recent years, they remain destabilizing forces, explains this CFR Backgrounder.
Candidates' Surrogates Talk Foreign Policy
The most serious and immediate foreign policy challenge the next president will face is avoiding war in Iran, says international affairs expert Zbigniew Brzezinski (CBS), who advised Obama in the 2008 presidential campaign and is a former national security adviser for the Carter administration.
"Standing up for freedom" in China is more important than overlooking human rights violations or other problems just to maintain the delicate relationship with Beijing, Vice President Joe Biden said Sunday (NBC), as the issue continues to reverberate on the campaign trail.
Editor's Note: For more information on the presidential election and foreign policy check out CFR's campaign blog, The Candidates and the World.