World News Brief, Thursday August 1

Zimbabwe heads to the polls amid concerns about vote fraud; Cambodia's opposition party calims election; Obama may visit Tokyo next year; Iran and Syria sign oil deal; report finds US spends half a billion dollars each year operating Guatanamo prison; and more

Top of the Agenda: Zimbabwe Votes Amid Fraud Concerns

Zimbabwe heads to the polls (AEP) on Wednesday to vote in fiercely contested presidential and parliamentary elections that have been plagued by fraud allegations. President Robert Mugabe has said he will step down (BBC) after thirty-three years in power if he and his Zanu-PF party lose the race, while Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change has accused Zanu-PF of manipulating the electoral roll, which was only released to the public on Monday. The United States, which has sanctioned Mugabe, has questioned (Reuters) the credibility of the poll, pointing to a lack of transparency and pro-Mugabe bias in the media and security forces.


"This time, Mugabe has blocked any western election observers. The African Union and SADC will have teams on the ground, but they are unlikely to be critical of Mugabe, who is the surviving patriarch of the southern African liberation movements. Given these realities, it is surprising that at least some in the opposition expect to win, and by a substantial margin," writes CFR's John Campbell on his blog, Africa in Transition.

"With the country heading on Wednesday into a fiercely contested poll – the first since violent and disputed elections in 2008 – a crucial question is how partisan security chiefs would react to a victory by Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change and Mr. Mugabe's main rival," writes Andrew England for Financial Times.

"Zimbabwe is recovering after a decade of economic stagnation and crisis. Inflation rose 231 million percent in the summer of 2008. Although Finance Minister Tendai Biti abandoned the Zimbabwe dollar in favor of the U.S. dollar in April 2009, reducing inflation to single digits, growth remains modest," writes Stephanie Findlay for TIME.



Cambodia Opposition Claims Election

Cambodia's opposition party said on Wednesday it had won (AP) the majority of National Assembly seats, escalating its challenge to the country's Sunday parliamentary election results. The opposition, which has already called for an investigation into voting irregularities, is competing against the longtime prime minister Hun Sen.

JAPAN: Japan and the United States are discussing a potential official visit (KyodoNews) to Tokyo for President Barack Obama next spring to discuss their bilateral alliance.


Iran and Syria sign oil deal

Guantanamo costs US half a billion dollars each year

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