World News Brief, Tuesday September 21

Low turnout, rocket attacks mar Afghanistan election (+ analysis); China-Japan relations deteriorate after fishing boat clash; BP's Gulf of Mexico well finally sealed; China pledges to keep Yuan low; and more

Top of the Agenda: Reports of Fraud Mar Afghan Election

Reports of fraud and scattered violence during Afghanistan's parliamentary elections (FT) suggest the difficulties the United States will have trying to stabilize the country before its troops begin leaving in nine months.

Participation appeared to be lower than in the presidential election amid dozens of rocket attacks and the closure of hundreds of polling stations due to security concerns. Fraud during the presidential polls--which led UN investigators to throw out a third of Afghan President Hamid Karzai's votes--has driven down confidence in the election process. The sense of disenfranchisement is also fueled by the political dominance of former warlords and power brokers feeding off NATO contracts. International observers say it is too early to assess the credibility of the vote. A final result is not expected until late next month. The interior ministry said there were thirty-three bomb explosions and sixty-three rocket attacks (WSJ) around the country. The turnout was roughly 4.2 million, the lowest tally of the four elections held since 2001. Still, the international community and national officials were quick to praise the election process (Economist).


In TIME, Tony Karon says the United States and its allies are less interested in the outcome and transparency of the poll and more focused on "halting the Taliban's momentum and creating conditions to expedite closure in the war." The US drive to curb Afghan government corruption is also reportedly "undergoing a rethink."

In Der Spiegel, US commander David Petraeus says despite polls that show 70 percent of the Afghan population has no confidence in their national parliament, other polls show "that Afghans are optimistic about their future." There is "understandable concern about the pace of progress, which also means that there are high expectations."

Although violence in Afghanistan's parliamentary elections over the weekend could be a setback for US efforts, some experts see an opportunity for change if the elections lead to serious conversations about corruption and accountability.


This backgrounder examines the Taliban's role in Afghanistan.


PACIFIC RIM: China Suspends Japan Ties over Boat Dispute

The Chinese government suspended high-level talks (WashPost) with Japan after weeks of heated exchanges between the two countries, triggered when a Chinese fishing boat collided with Japanese Coast Guard ships in disputed waters.

China: China pledged not to repeat Japan's mistake (MarketWatch) of allowing its currency to rise in response to foreign pressure, countering criticism from US lawmakers that the yuan is undervalued.

US Treasury Secretary Geithner signaled the administration's frustration with China's exchange rate policy, while stopping short of endorsing congressional action. But unless China acts soon, the US may have no other choice than to apply sanctions, writes CFR's Steven Dunaway.



- Nigeria's Election Commission Seeks Delay
- BP Seals Ruptured Oil Well


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