Little violence, low turnout in Iraqi council elections; 20m Chinese workers laid off; Israel launches air strike on Gaza; new Iceland PM promises "new social values"; and more
Top of the Agenda: Iraqi Elections
Iraq held provincial council elections on Saturday as scheduled; the vote took place without major violence, though Reuters reports turnout was lower than expected due to tight security measures and voter registration problems. Experts say it could take days or even weeks to fully process the results of the election, but al-Jazeera reports early signs indicate the vote will bolster parties supporting Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, potentially strengthening his position as the country's leader. The Associated Press reports the biggest loser from the vote may be a rival Shiite party, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, which previously was a dominant political force in the country.
The AP also reports that Sunni parties appear to have made significant gains in Kirkuk, where Sunni insurgents still openly oppose U.S. and Kurdish influence, and where Sunnis boycotted the last election. The article says the results could heighten ethnic tensions in the city and its environs.
A news analysis from Stratfor says the electoral results will likely have a direct impact on Iraq's next parliamentary election, which is scheduled for December 2009. Together, the article says, these two votes will largely determine whether the ethnic power-sharing arrangement the United States has attempted to shape will hold.
- A new CFR.org Backgrounder examines the complexities of Iraqi politics and profiles the countries main political parties.
PACIFIC RIM: Chinese Migrant Workers
China has reported some 20 million Chinese migrant workers have lost their jobs (BBC) during the current economic downturn--numbers three times larger than the country had previously indicated.
The Financial Times has an interview with Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, who says Beijing is considering new stimulus measures on top of a $586 billion package already passed.
THAILAND: The leading Thai opposition party is calling for more economic transparency (Bangkok Post), saying the Thai government should open its books and reveal the true extent of the problems plaguing the country's economy.
S.KOREA: Yonhap reports on IMF predictions that South Korean economic growth could be sharply negative this year.