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High Expectations of the Moderate Cleric's Victory in Iran

14-06-2013

Centrist cleric Hassan Rowhani wins Iran's presidential election in a surprise landslide victory, securing 52 % of the votes. The Iranian presidential election took place at a time of unprecedented economic isolation. Rowhani's victory is due to an unprecedented upsurge of mobilisation a mere three days before the vote. President Rowhani will have little leeway in foreign policy matters, these powers belonging to the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei. Whether Rowhani will be willing to challenge the primacy ...

Centrist cleric Hassan Rowhani wins Iran's presidential election in a surprise landslide victory, securing 52 % of the votes. The Iranian presidential election took place at a time of unprecedented economic isolation. Rowhani's victory is due to an unprecedented upsurge of mobilisation a mere three days before the vote. President Rowhani will have little leeway in foreign policy matters, these powers belonging to the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei. Whether Rowhani will be willing to challenge the primacy of the clerical establishment remains to be seen. Voter turnout rose to 72 %. Out of the 51 million registered voters, 37.5 million came to the ballot box, with young voters accounting for one third. Haunted by the 2009 chaos, this election's voter turnout was instrumental in consolidating the foundations of the Islamic Republic. Ayatollah Khamenei played an instrumental role in the election, exercising great influence over the Guardian Council's vetting process. The Guardian Council disqualified reformist movement candidates. Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, Ahmadinejad’s heir, was also barred from running. The disqualification of Rafsanjani and Mashaei was a strong indicator of the clerical establishment’s intent to micromanage the election. Recurrent allegations of rigged elections and fraud were further exacerbated by Khamenei’s attempt to engineer the election. While the massive participation by Iranians and the choice of president are a reflection of a participatory electoral process, it is primarily a victory for the Supreme Leader. Khamenei successfully used the elections to legitimise the foundations of the Islamic Republic and redeem the situation after the massive protests of 2009. The electoral outcome will have little impact on Iran’s regional policies, particularly as regards Syria, or on the nuclear issue. The election will, on the other hand, determine the fate of Iranians over the next four years. For Iranians, the election represented an opportunity

A Call for Peace in Turkey

28-03-2013

On 21 March, the jailed leader of the Kurdistan's Workers' Party, the PKK, called for a truce with the government of Turkey. For nearly three decades, the 'Kurdish issue' has dogged Turkish politicians and the country's Kurdish minority. PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan repeated the words of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's — 'now let weapons be silenced and ideas talk' — and added, 'this is not an end but a new beginning'. In exchange for the PKK fighters' retreat, Turkey's 15 million Kurds ...

On 21 March, the jailed leader of the Kurdistan's Workers' Party, the PKK, called for a truce with the government of Turkey. For nearly three decades, the 'Kurdish issue' has dogged Turkish politicians and the country's Kurdish minority. PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan repeated the words of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's — 'now let weapons be silenced and ideas talk' — and added, 'this is not an end but a new beginning'. In exchange for the PKK fighters' retreat, Turkey's 15 million Kurds would gain wider constitutional recognition. The peace process is likely to involve three stages. PM Erdoğan was the first Turkish government leader to address the Kurdish question by proposing to expand Kurds' rights. His 2009 'democratic initiative' represented a window of opportunity...but the window was rapidly shut. An air strike in 2011 damaged the shaky confidence between the PKK and the Turkish government. Dialogue remained difficult until the end of 2012, when talks were reopened. The EU's progress reports on Turkey have called for Kurds to enjoy greater rights. The EP has called on Turkey to invest greater efforts in finding a political solution for the Kurdish issue. Necessary reforms — in particular to protect minorities — could put Turkey's EU accession process on track. The latest developments have made many in Turkey optimistic that this will prove an historic opportunity.

After a Landslide Victory, Japan's LDP Returns to Power

18-12-2012

The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is returning to power after three years. The results signal a sharp rejection of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), which has governed only since 2009. These were the first general elections held since Japan's 2011 'triple disaster'. After 54 years of almost unbroken rule, Japan's LDP government was ousted in 2009. Successive DPJ governments were unable to keep their campaign promises. Frequently shifting governments have not overcome Japan's prolonged political ...

The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is returning to power after three years. The results signal a sharp rejection of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), which has governed only since 2009. These were the first general elections held since Japan's 2011 'triple disaster'. After 54 years of almost unbroken rule, Japan's LDP government was ousted in 2009. Successive DPJ governments were unable to keep their campaign promises. Frequently shifting governments have not overcome Japan's prolonged political and economic problems. Although 12 parties campaigned, the real competition was between the LDP, the DPJ and the JRP, with a few additional parties playing a minor role. Small parties could play a role in the coalition government. The stagnant economy, nuclear power and regional relations were the most pressing campaign issues. How to boost the economic growth while controlling the public debt and maintaining public support will be a challenge for any government. Giving up nuclear energy will be costly for Japanese national economy, although this is the preference of most Japanese citizens. Territorial disputes must be treated gently so as not to disrupt Japan's international trade. Reviving the economy will be Shinzo Abe's priority. International relations are likely to shift, with Abe seeking to avoid antagonising China. Relations with other Asian nations are also likely to develop.

Escalating Tensions between Japan and China in East Asia's Maritime Areas

01-10-2012

A longstanding territorial dispute between China and Japan — and Taiwan as well — has recently reignited, bringing with it old nationalist animosities. The dispute focuses on a group of uninhabited islands near the coast of Taiwan— called 'Senkaku' by the Japanese and 'Diaoyu' by the Chinese. On 10 September, the Japanese government announced it had reached a deal with the owner of three of the islands to buy them for 2.05 billion yen (around EUR 20 million). The decision, which is expected to be ...

A longstanding territorial dispute between China and Japan — and Taiwan as well — has recently reignited, bringing with it old nationalist animosities. The dispute focuses on a group of uninhabited islands near the coast of Taiwan— called 'Senkaku' by the Japanese and 'Diaoyu' by the Chinese. On 10 September, the Japanese government announced it had reached a deal with the owner of three of the islands to buy them for 2.05 billion yen (around EUR 20 million). The decision, which is expected to be finalised in the following weeks, has resuscitated tensions with China and Taiwan, both of which claim sovereignty over the islands.

Iranian Nuclear Talks : Has the Time for Diplomacy Run Out ?

21-06-2012

The negotiations on the Iranian nuclear programme between Iran and the P5+1 group (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany), which resumed in Moscow on 18 and 19 June 2012, have failed to produce a deal. Iran reiterated its right do develop nuclear energy under the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) without further limitations. On the other hand, the P5+1 countries held to their aim of curtailing Iran's enrichment activities. The two parties failed even to agree on a new round ...

The negotiations on the Iranian nuclear programme between Iran and the P5+1 group (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany), which resumed in Moscow on 18 and 19 June 2012, have failed to produce a deal. Iran reiterated its right do develop nuclear energy under the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) without further limitations. On the other hand, the P5+1 countries held to their aim of curtailing Iran's enrichment activities. The two parties failed even to agree on a new round of negotiations.

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