January 25th, 2008 11:15 EST
World Chronicle: January 25
AFRICA: Zimbabwe's Mad and Arrogant President
HARARE, Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe will hold presidential and parliamentary elections on March 29, the country's long-time president informed today. Robert Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe for over two decades, will run for a sixth term, therefore shattering hopes of his stepping-down. It had been rumored that the 83-year-old freedom fighter-turned-dictator would resign from his post this year, but in a newspaper article published today, Mugabe said he felt strong enough to face new challenges.
The opposition called Mugabe's announcement “an act of madness and arrogance.” United in the Movement for Democratic Change dissidents hoped that the president would allow foreign mediators to work out a special agreement between the opposition and Mugabe's camp. With today's statement, however, it is clear that Mugabe will not share his power with anyone, especially with weak and fractured opposition parties.
Zimbabwe under Mugabe's rule has changed from one of the richest countries in Africa to a bankrupt state dependant on foreign aid. The economy is in shambles, with inflation exceeding 7,000 percent a month, and the unemployment has reached 80 percent. According to data provided by the United Nations, life expectancy in Zimbabwe has fallen to 37 years of age.
AMERICAS: Clinton & Clinton vs. Obama
COLUMBIA, SC. For the last couple of days South Carolina Democrats may have been confused as to who is really running for their party's presidential nomination – Bill or Hillary Clinton. While the former president canvassed the state trying to win votes of South Carolina's large black population, the former first lady made a series of speeches to mainly white audiences. It changed on Friday, when Hillary Clinton won unexpected support from two distinct New York-based black figures. Both former New York Mayor David Dinkins and Rep. Charles Ranger said today that voters should not be focused on the race issue, but elect the candidate who would be able to run an effective policy for all American citizens. Ranger, quoted by the Associated Press, told several hundreds of people, who came to hear Clinton, that “for some of us it may take a very, very bold step to walk into that voting booth and focus on our community's future rather than acting on pure emotion. Let's do the right thing and elect Sen. Hillary Clinton president of the United States.”
One day before the Democratic primary, the race for hearts and souls of South Carolina voters is wide open. Opinion polls are far from unequivocal – some give bigger chances for Clinton, some for Illinois Senator Barack Obama. What is known, however, is the fact that the two will have one competitor fewer: Rep. Dennis Kucinich announced on Friday he had withdrawn from the race.
ASIA: 30 Rebels Die in the Biggest Battle This Year
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan. A hunt for several stolen trucks turned into a full battle on Friday when governmental forces came across armed rebels in northwestern Pakistan. News agencies report that at least 30 militants and two soldiers were killed in the flare-up that involved heavy guns, grenades and helicopters. “Reportedly, 25-30 miscreants have been killed... Two Frontier Corps personnel embraced shahadat (martyrdom) and 10 others were injured,” read the Pakistani army official statement.
Rebel activity has intensified since President Musharraf scheduled parliamentary elections for early February. The first four weeks of 2008 have witnessed over 200 militants killed in violent clashes with governmental forces in the volatile region bordering Afghanistan. The Pakistani army reported 30 casualties on its side.
As Pakistan is in possession of nuclear warheads, who will win the parliamentary elections is of great importance for world powers. President Musharraf, whose party trails in opinion polls, is also a staunch ally of America. On Thursday U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said that the United States was ready to send its troops to Pakistan to help local authorities fight Islamic rebels.
EUROPE: Italy Waits Its 62nd Cabinet
ROME, Italy. In a country which has had 61 governments in 63 years, the fall of one cabinet should be nothing unusual. But experts warn that, this time, Italy may be on the verge of true political collapse after Prime Minister Romano Prodi followed the notorious tradition and was forced to resign after only two years in office. After the Christian Democrat party withdrew from the coalition last Friday, the government did not survive Thursday’s voting of confidence in Senate, Italy's upper chamber of parliament. During a heated debate which preceded the voting, legislators from opposing fractions took to their feasts. According to the constitution, the president now holds the key to the political future of his country: Giorgio Napolitano can either wait until legislators work out an agreement and form a new government or dissolve parliament and call a new election.
Regardless of his decision, President Napolitano may not be able to save Italy from political chaos. Opinion polls suggest that a new election would be won by the center-right camp, which is no less stable than Prodi's bickering coalition. On the other hand, the present parliament is so divided that forming a ruling coalition with a clear majority seems impossible.
Italy is not Germany and there are no hopes for a “grand coalition” that German Socialist and Christian Democrats formed after the highly contested elections in 2005. Whereas in Germany there are only four major parties, Italy's political scene resembles a complicated puzzle with dozens of small fractions competing for their own particular interests.
MIDDLE EAST: Lebanon Under Fire
BEIRUT, Lebanon. One of Lebanon's most prominent anti-terrorist officials was killed in a car bomb detonated in the capital's Christian neighborhood on Friday morning. According to the Associated Press, apart from Capt. Wissam Eid, three unrelated bystanders also lost their lives in the attack. The police did not reveal any clues about the perpetrators, but it is widely suspected that pro-Syrian rebel groups could have stood behind the attack.
Wissam Eid was on his way from a meeting with some United Nations officials when a powerful blast completely destroyed his car and several other vehicles parked nearby. Eid had been investigating the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, which was carried out in 2005. Hairir's death forced the Syrian troops stationing in Lebanon to leave the country as Syria's special forces were thought to have been involved in the killing.
Lebanon has remained without a president for over two months. On November 23, the incumbent head of state Emile Lahoud's term expired and parliament was constitutionally obliged to choose his successor. However, neither the pro-Western ruling coalition nor the Syria-backed parties have been able to garner enough votes for their candidate.