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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
December 10, 2012

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Egypt's Military Question

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi has given the army the power of arrest (BBC) and has ordered the military to protect state institutions after rescinding the decree that has plunged Egypt into political chaos. Morsi attempted to quell public anger Saturday by annulling the decree that gave him unprecedented power and suspending a large tax increase on the sale of a variety of goods, but rejected a call to scrap the December 15 constitutional vote, prompting opposition leaders to reject the move and call for protests on Tuesday (AlJazeera). It remains unclear if the opposition will boycott Saturday's referendum.


"Throughout the conflict, speculation has grown regarding the army's role in things and the possibility of a military intervention if the situation continued to deteriorate. ElBaradei among others openly warned of the possibility. A military statement, read on state television over the weekend, urged both sides to pursue dialogue but left a hint of possible intervention," writes Ashraf Khalil for TIME.

"Urging a 'no' vote would give the referendum legitimacy, especially if the draft is passed, as expected. Only a simple majority is needed for adoption. A boycott would allow the opposition to claim the vote was illegitimate, especially if staying away from the polls significantly reduces turnout," writes Hamza Hendawi for the Associated Press.

"The simple fact is that the very strategy necessary to open space for the Brotherhood's ascendance to power—not challenging the military's prerogatives, following Washington Consensus policies demanded by the IMF regardless of their negative impact on the majority of Egyptians, and supporting, however quietly, US policies in the region—will move it further away from its core poor, working class and petite bourgeois constituencies," writes Mark LeVine for Al Jazeera.



North Korea Delays Rocket Launch

North Korea said Monday it will extend the thirteen-day launch window (Yonhap) for its rocket by one week until Dec. 29, citing technical difficulties. The rocket has provoked international concern for what the United States and Asian neighbors see as a disguised ballistic missile test banned under UN resolutions prompted by the country's nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.

CFR's World Next Week podcast discusses North Korea's planned rocket launch.

JAPAN: Japan's Liberal Democratic Party leader Shinzo Abe on Sunday ruled out forming a coalition government (JapanTimes) with the Democratic Party of Japan, led by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, after the December 16 election.



Attacks Kill Afghan Police Chief

A provincial Afghan police chief and an official in charge of women's affairs were killed in separate attacks (AP) on Monday in the Taliban's latest campaign of targeted killings against government officials. The attacks come after the attempted assassination of the country's spy chief on Thursday.

BANGLADESH: At least three people were killed during violent clashes in Bangladesh as protestors organized a nationwide blockade (TheHindu) of roads to press for an independent body to oversee next year's election.



Kuwait Protests

Tens of thousands of Kuwaitis staged a peaceful protest against the parliament elected last week under voting rules deemed unfair by the opposition (AlJazeera), whose supporters have demonstrated for the second week in a row. Critics say the amendments of the electoral law enable the government to control the outcome of polls.



Mahama Wins Ghana Election

Ghana's incumbent president John Dramani Mahama won the general election (BBC) with 50.7% of the vote against opposition leader Nana Akufo-Addo, who polled 47.74%. The opposition says it will contest the result, accusing the governing NDC party of conspiring with the electoral commission to rig Friday's poll.

SOUTH AFRICA: Nelson Mandela, South Africa's first black president and a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, spent a third day (Bloomberg) in a Pretoria hospital after being admitted on Saturday for an undisclosed medical condition.



Monti Resignation Shakes Markets

Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti announced his intention to resign once the 2013 budget is approved, causing the euro to slip toward a two-week low (Reuters) on Monday while shares and Italian bond prices fell. Government bonds of Spain also dipped, and the cost of insuring both Italian and Spanish debt against default rose.

In this CFR video, Mario Monti discusses the challenges for the euro and the future of European integration.

ROMANIA: Romania's Prime Minister Victor Ponta and his center-left alliance won a landslide victory in Sunday's parliamentary elections (FT), setting up a tense cohabitation with the center-right president, Traian Basescu.



Hugo Chavez's Cancer Returns

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced that his vice president Nicolas Maduro would assume control in case his cancer, for which he will receive his fourth surgery in Cuba, forces him to resign from office (WashPost). Should Chavez die, the constitution calls for Venezuela to stage presidential elections within thirty days.

This CFR Backgrounder details Chavez's rise to his fourth term.

: Bolivia became regional trade bloc Mercosur's sixth member (MercoPress) this weekend during a group summit in Brasilia. Venezuela was also officially incorporated as a full member earlier this year.



Boehner and Obama Meet to Discuss Fiscal Cliff

House Speaker John Boehner and President Obama met privately at the White House Sunday to discuss the fiscal cliff (LAT). But even if they agree on a budget deal before the end of the year, there's no guarantee that House Republicans would allow it to pass (Politico).

The departure from Congress of at least half a dozen defense and foreign policy "heavyweights" may be "bad news" for Pentagon funding threatened by the fiscal cliff, reports Politico.



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