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March 31, 2015

Daily News Brief

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TOP OF THE AGENDA

Nigeria's Opposition Candidate Leads in Vote Tally

Nigerian opposition candidate Muhammadu Buhari, who campaigned on a platform of change, leads (Reuters) President Goodluck Jonathan as tallying continues. Buhari led Jonathan by three million votes, according to a count from thirty-three of Nigeria's thirty-six states, Reuters reported. On Monday, the United States and the UK voiced (BBC) concern over possible political interference in vote counting. Separately, the ruling People's Democratic Party has accused (Premium Times) the chairman of the electoral commission of bias and has signaled that it may challenge election results. Meanwhile, the National Human Rights Commission said that at least fifty people were killed (Vanguard) over the weekend during the presidential and national assembly elections. 

ANALYSIS

"Nigeria is on the verge of a seismic political shift. Citizens are holding their breath and hoping that the country can pass the acid test of contested election results and a federal government losing power for the first time," writes Max Siollun in the Guardian.

"The high stakes of these elections in Nigeria are illustrated by the extraordinary joint statement issued by Secretary Kerry and Foreign Secretary Hammond during the ballot-counting. However, the leverage of the United States and the United Kingdom over electoral matters in Nigeria is limited. It is Nigerians themselves, driven by specifically Nigerian factors that will determine how the country gets through the post-election period," writes CFR's John Campbell.

"A new government, whatever its stripes, will have its work cut out reforming the industry and preventing a revival of militancy in the delta. But a starting point should be to halt subsidies for fuel imports. At a stroke that would undercut a major source of corruption and crime (both on land and at sea) that spills into neighbouring countries, the destination for smuggled consignments of cheap Nigerian fuel," writes the Economist

PACIFIC RIM

Japan Extends Sanctions Against North Korea

Japan has extended sanctions (Bloomberg) against North Korea until 2017 after efforts to obtain information about Japanese citizens abducted in the 1980s and 1990s failed, according to Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida. The sanctions will limit trade between the two countries and ban North Korean ships from entering Japanese ports.

This CFR Backgrounder provides an overview of international sanctions regimes.

MYANMAR: The government and ethnic rebel groups agreed (Irrawaddy) to a draft nationwide cease-fire agreement on Tuesday in a bid to end decades of conflict.

SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA

Pakistani Delegation in Saudi Arabia for Yemen Talks

A high-level Pakistani delegation, including Defense Minister Khawaja Asif, National Security Advisor Sartaj Aziz, and military officials, left for Saudi Arabia on Tuesday to hold talks (International News) on the deteriorating situation in Yemen. Despite evacuation efforts, hundreds of Pakistani nationals remain stranded (Express Tribune) in the Gulf state.

INDIA: The assembly in the western province of Gujarat, which shares a sea and land border with Pakistan, passed (Times of India) a controversial anti-terrorism and organized crime bill on Tuesday that makes evidence obtained through wire, electronic, or verbal communication admissible in court. 

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

Iran Nuclear Talks Race to Deadline

Talks between Iran, the permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany press on (Guardian) as they enter the final hours to negotiate a framework agreement to limit Tehran's nuclear program before today's self-imposed deadline. Officials signaled that they expect to reach a partial deal, but it will leave a number of difficult issues to be negotiated in the coming months.

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) discussed diplomatic efforts on Iran's nuclear program in this CFR Meeting.

YEMEN: Foreign Minister Riyadh Yaseen called for an international ground intervention (Reuters) against Houthi rebels "as soon as possible" as the Saudi-led coalition air campaign intensifies. Meanwhile, a Saudi air strike killed (VOA) at least forty-five people at a refugee camp in northern Yemen.

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

Lead Bombing Prosecutor Killed in Uganda

Joan Kagezi, the senior prosecutor leading a trial against thirteen men allegedly linked to a 2010 al-Shabab bombing that killed seventy-six people, was shot dead (BBC) in Kampala on Monday. The U.S. embassy in Kampala had issued a warning of a possible terror attack last week.

This CFR Backgrounder chronicles the rise of al-Shabab.

EUROPE

Major Power Outage Across Turkey

Cities and provinces in Turkey were hit by a massive power outage (Deutsche Welle), affecting public transport systems and power stations, on Tuesday. Government officials say they are investigating all possible causes to the outage. Separately, a top prosecutor was taken hostage (Hurriyet) from an Istanbul court by suspected members of a banned Marxist-Leninist group.

EU: The European Union announced on Tuesday that it is broadening accession talks (EurActiv) with Montenegro on membership, despite the twenty-eight state bloc's five-year freeze on expansion. Both parties agreed to begin talks on taxation and external affairs.

AMERICAS

United States to Announce Emissions Reduction Target

President Barack Obama is expected to sign an executive order on Tuesday to cut (AP) U.S. greenhouse gas emission up to 28 percent as part of a global climate change treaty.

BRAZIL: Economists cut (WSJ) Brazilian growth forecasts for 2015 and 2016, projecting that the economy will shrink by 1 percent this year and expand by 1.05 percent next year. According to Brazilian state statistics, the economy only grew by 0.1 percent in 2014.