European Council on Foreign Relations

With Elections Nearing, Iraq’s Maliki Confronts His Shiite Challengers

As Iraq gears up for general elections, the political constellation that has allowed Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to stay in power for two terms is realigning in unexpected ways. The country's more fragmented political landscape and heightened intracommunal competition should make the post-electoral bargaining even more challenging and difficult than in 2010, and the impact of the results harder to predict.
 
Apart from the similar context of violence in which it will likely take place, this round of voting will be greatly different from the three other national elections held since 2005. First, the country's political landscape is more fragmented than it used to be. Former large alliances have given way to smaller entities, even as the electoral law adopted in November 2013 gives precedence for forming a government to the largest bloc, be it an electoral coalition or one formed

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The non-race, the non-campaign, and the non-pledges

Egypt’s two-horse race is underway (though of course it’s the kind of race where it’s clear from the outset who will be crossing the finish line):former army chief Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and leftist candidate Hamdeen Sabahy will face off in next month’s presidential poll. Everybody seems to be playing along: the Supreme Electoral Commission (SEC), the judicial body overseeing the process, will issue the final list of candidates on 2 May, after reviewing any objections, and Egyptians will head to the polls on 26-27 May. The results of the first round of voting will be released in the first week of June.  A candidate who receives over 50 percent valid votes is to be declared the winner without a run-off vote. According to the controversial electoral law issued by interim President Adly Mansour on 8 March, candidates will not be able to appeal the election results.

Ahead of a process in

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The Arab Constitutional Transition

On a February 7, 2014 visit to Tunisia, French President François Hollande congratulated the National Constituent Assembly on their new Constitution—a “major text” that does justice to the Tunisian revolution and serves as a model for other countries in the region. This Constitution undoubtedly marks a significant step for the country that launched the region’s wave of popular uprisings, and is a major step forward in a transition that has been punctuated by political crises and episodic violence. After over two years of ideological deadlock among assembly members resolved with civil society’s mediation, the text’s completion is a tangible indicator of democratic consolidation. Could Tunisia's process of constitutional reform provide an example to neighboring MENA countries?

The Constitution offers a number of praiseworthy provisions, notably pertaining to gender equality in social

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Australia balancing between East and West

Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott is building a balanced, sustainable Asia policy for his country. A prime minister who receives an undeservedly small degree of attention in Europe, Abbott is finally emerging from the shadow of his predecessor, Kevin Rudd, a China expert and fluent Mandarin speaker. The new prime minister is trying to put an end to the recent deterioration in economic relations between Australia and Asia. Right now, he is working to achieve this goal on a tour of Northeast Asia. The trip represents Abbott’s best opportunity so far to make good on his post-election pledge to sign a “trifecta of trade”, putting in place trade agreements with Japan, South Korea, and China. The first two elements in his plan have gone well: a successful agreement was reached in Japan on Monday 7 April and another was made in South Korea on Tuesday 8 April. A deal on a Free Trade

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Greece: back in the game?

After months of painful negotiations with the Troika over a new financial rescue package, finally some good news is coming out of Athens. As of Wednesday 9 April, Greece is back on the international financial markets, for the first time since the euro crisis hit hard in early 2010. The sale of 10-year government bonds is expected to raise up to €2.4 billion, with expected yield at roughly 5 percent. This is excellent news for the embattled Greek economy, which has long been relying on a lifeline thrown by the IMF and the rescue fund set up by the eurozone. The sale comes about two years after Greece defaulted on its loans and imposed a “haircut” on creditors. Now, it seems that investors are willing to take a chance on the South European nation, after they rallied en masse for Spain-issued paper worth €10 billion in January (reaching yields as unbelievably low as 3.65 percent). If

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