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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
April 7, 2014

Top of the Agenda

India Begins Voting in Landmark Election

The world's largest democratic elections began on Monday in India (Reuters), where some 815 million people are registered to vote over the next five weeks. Opinion polls forecast a strong lead for Hindu nationalist opposition candidate Narendra Modi, who has pledged economic revival (Times of India), although his Bharatiya Janata Party is predicted to fall short of a parliamentary majority. The Aam Aadmi Party, campaigning on an anticorruption platform, has also seen success after securing strong results in local polls in Delhi last fall. After two years of economic woes (FT) and persistently high inflation, the Congress Party, which has been in power since 2004, faces tough electoral prospects, according to surveys. The nine-phase vote will conclude on May 12.


"For now, the Congress Party's platform puts into writing an approach to the region consistent with its years in government. It's the framing of India's role in the world, however, that officially presents some ideas that sit less comfortably alongside the notion of India as a rising global power," writes CFR's Alyssa Ayres.

"It is certainly possible that a Modi administration could be more effective. But there are many caveats. Even if the BJP wins, it will probably not earn enough votes to govern alone. That will put it at the head of a messy coalition," writes a Financial Times editorial.

"If the Left of Centre Congress and the Right-inclined BJP exchange places in 2014, it would reflect the ground level societal shifts now taking place, with a growing, assertive, urban, middle class wanting to engage politically," writes Neerja Chowdhury for Times of India.


Pacific Rim

Japan, Australia Close to Free Trade Deal

Japan and Australia are set to agree on a bilateral free-trade deal (Japan Times) during a Monday summit after seven years of negotiations between the two countries. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is visiting Tokyo on the first stop during a northeast Asia trip.

CHINA: U.S. defense secretary Chuck Hagel toured China's first aircraft carrier (AFP) at the start of a three-day visit to China, making him the first foreigner aboard the ship.

This CFR Infoguide delves into China's maritime disputes.


South and Central Asia

Afghanistan Votes

Afghan citizens cast their votes (WaPo) on Saturday in an election that drew a surprisingly large turnout despite threats from the Taliban. The election, which will see the replacement of President Hamid Karzai, coincides with the pullout of U.S-led coalition forces.

CFR's Gayle Lemmon discusses elections and troop withdrawal in Afghanistan in this op-ed.


Middle East

Benghazi on Strike

Workers protested during a mass strike in the Libyan port city of Benghazi, demanding the resignation (al-Jazeera) of parliament for the city's increasing disorder since the 2011 NATO-backed toppling of Muammar al-Qaddafi. The government also reached a deal on Sunday to reopen two rebel-controlled oil ports in eastern Libya.

IRAN: Iran is hopeful for progress at a fresh round of nuclear talks (Reuters) with six world powers in Vienna on Tuesday and Wednesday. The talks aim to reach a comprehensive agreement by July 20.



Nigeria Becomes Africa's Largest Economy

Nigeria refigured its gross domestic product data, surpassing South Africa to become the continent's biggest economy (Premium Times). The news comes in the wake of the World Bank listing Nigeria among countries with the world's worst poverty—a rating the Nigerian government rejected.

MALI: Moussa Mara, a former presidential hopeful, was appointed as new Malian prime minister (BBC) to succeed Oumar Tatam Ly, who, along with his entire government, resigned from office.



Orbán Reelected in Hungary

Viktor Orbán, Hungary's conservative prime minister, won a reelection (FT) on Sunday after a resounding victory. Orbán promised to continue a "nationalist program" of economic and political reforms, including targeting alleged foreign-owned monopolies and ensuring domestic control of Hungarian banks.

IRELAND: Irish president Michael Higgins is due to arrive in London on Monday for a four-day trip (NYT), marking the first state visit to Britain by an Irish president.



Opposition Wins Costa Rica Election

Costa Rican opposition candidate and former professor Luis Guillermo Solís won Sunday's election (Tico Times) with 78 percent of the vote. Solís and his Citizen Action Party displace the National Liberation Party, Costa Rica's oldest and most established political group, which has won the presidency the last two terms.

VENEZUELA: The UN stated its "deep concern" (MercoPress) over the burgeoning violence in Venezuela, where antigovernment protests have left thirty-nine dead during two months of unrest.

This CFR interactive timeline outlines the country's Chávez era.



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