Over the weekend, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika was airlifted out of the country for treatment after suffering a mini-stroke. But while Bouteflika’s doctors said the damage to his health was reversible, their reassurance has not put an end to speculation about a potentially abrupt end to his presidency. “[This news] reminds everyone of Bouteflika’s already questionable health and so reinforces doubt concerning the appropriateness of his rumored candidacy in 2014 for a fourth term,” Hugh Roberts, Edward Keller professor of North African and Middle Eastern history at Tufts University, told Trend Lines in an email interview. “It also raises the […]

On April 24, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan inaugurated a committee charged with opening negotiations with militant group Boko Haram and preparing for a possible amnesty deal. In an email interview, Jennifer Giroux, a senior researcher at the Center for Security Studies at ETH Zurich who specializes in conflict in energy-producing and transit regions, explained what the process might entail as well as the obstacles it faces. WPR: What would the amnesty proposal currently under consideration for Boko Haram involve? Jennifer Giroux: At the moment there is not an amnesty deal but rather the organization of resources to develop an amnesty […]

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano designated Enrico Letta the country’s new prime minister Wednesday, tasking him with forming a government after months of stalemate. Letta “knows he has a very difficult task ahead of him,” Silvia Francescon, head of the Rome office of the European Council on Foreign Relations, told Trend Lines. “He said, ‘I feel the weight on my shoulders,’ and he is not sure if he can bear this weight, if his shoulders are strong enough.” But as Francescon wrote in a blog post the day Letta was named, there is no alternative for a country so “hampered by […]

Last month, the agricultural ministers of the European Union agreed to significant reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy governing member states. In an email interview, Wyn Grant, a political scientist with research interests in agricultural policy and the European Union, explained the main reforms and how they will be implemented. WPR: What are the main reforms to the Common Agricultural Policy included in the proposal adopted by the Council of the European Union last month? Wyn Grant: It is important to note that the CAP budget proposed for 2014-2020 will be about $20 billion below what the European Commission wanted, […]

Later this month, representatives from Russia, Norway, Denmark, Canada and the United States will meet in Washington to discuss a possible accord that would regulate commercial fishing near the North Pole. Until recently, lack of regulation over the Arctic Ocean was not a priority for world powers, since ice made its waters inaccessible. But as the world warms, more and more polar ice thaws during the summers, creating newly opened waters and the need to address commercial exploitation. The agreement under discussion, a possible fishing moratorium, “would set an important precedent by way of deviating from the frontier mentality that […]

On Sunday, Colorado Party candidate Horacio Cartes was elected as the new president of Paraguay, beating his challenger, Efrain Alegre of the governing Liberal Party, by nine percentage points. The Colorado Party also secured a congressional majority and 15 out of 17 governorships. But while Cartes has promised “a new direction” for Paraguay, an expert who spoke with Trend Lines predicted that the vote would have the opposite impact. “The result, although widely expected, is a step back,” Peter Lambert, an expert on Paraguayan politics and an associate dean in the faculty of humanities and social sciences at Bath University, […]

This year has been marked by skirmishes between Indian and Pakistani forces over the countries’ disputed de facto border in Kashmir, as well as an upcoming change of government in Pakistan, each of which may slow down the long and difficult peace process between India and Pakistan. In an email interview, Sadika Hameed, a fellow in the Crisis, Conflict and Cooperation program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies who has researched cooperation in South Asia, discussed the state of the India-Pakistan peace process. WPR: What is the current state of the India-Pakistan peace process, especially in light of […]

This week, Michele Flournoy, former undersecretary of defense for policy, addressed the future of U.S. grand strategy and suggested needed Defense Department reforms in remarks at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, D.C. Flournoy, who founded the Center for a New American Security before becoming senior adviser at the Boston Consulting Group, emphasized how the U.S. should exercise leadership on the world stage even as sequestration takes its toll on the Department of Defense. “Sequestration was the Sword of Damocles that was supposed to force everyone to get to a budget deal,” Flournoy said. “It was never supposed to […]

On Tuesday, Morocco cancelled its annual joint military exercises with the United States and other international observers just as the “African Lion” war games were set to start, according to U.S. officials. Though no formal explanation for the cancellation was given, the move follows an expression of support from the White House for broadening the mandate of the United Nations observer mission in Western Sahara, MINURSO, to allow it to monitor human rights in the disputed territory, which was annexed by Morocco in the 1970s. According to Human Rights Watch, “Moroccan abuses in Western Sahara particularly target Sahrawis” — residents […]

The International Energy Agency, an organization comprising 28 industrialized countries belonging to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) aimed among other things at preserving global energy security, is reportedly seeking to expand energy cooperation with emerging powers. In an email interview, Thijs Van de Graaf, a postdoctoral fellow at the Ghent Institute for International Studies specializing in global energy politics and international institutions, explained the IEA’s expansion drive and its likely effects. WPR: What is motivating the IEA’s push to form an “association” with emerging economies for the first time in its 40-year history? Van de Graaf: When […]

In early April, former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh left Yemen for medical treatment in Saudi Arabia, an example of Saudi Arabia’s deep involvement in the political transition of its southern neighbor. In an email interview, Bernard Haykel, a professor of Near Eastern studies at Princeton, explained the mechanics and the limitations of Saudi Arabia’s influence in Yemen. WPR: What are Saudi Arabia’s main levers of influence in Yemen? Bernard Haykel: Saudi Arabia has long-standing relationships with most, if not all, political, tribal and regional actors in Yemen. The principal form this relationship takes is payments offered by the Saudis […]

Last week, Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansur Hadi issued several decrees aimed at restructuring Yemen’s fractious military, including removing the son and two nephews of his predecessor, former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, from the military leadership. The removed relatives of the former president were accused of using their positions of power to block reforms. Hadi replaced Saleh as Yemen’s president in 2012 after more than a year of citizen protests, and there have also been growing concerns that members of Saleh’s former regime were biding their time for an opportunity to attempt a return to power. The Associated Press […]

In Venezuela, Maduro’s Narrow Election Win Leaves Him Weakened

In an election held Sunday to choose a replacement for former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who died last month, Chavez’s anointed successor, Nicolas Maduro, narrowly beat rival Henrique Capriles for the presidency. Capriles has refused to concede the election, citing some 3,200 voting irregularities, and is demanding a recount. In separate email interviews, two Venezuela experts who spoke with Trend Lines agreed that while Maduro won the election, his narrow margin of victory represented a kind of defeat. “It leaves him seriously weakened,” said David Smilde, a sociology professor at the University of Georgia and senior fellow at the Washington […]

Malaysia has chosen May 5 as the date of national elections that will decide whether Prime Minister Najib Razak’s National Front, the multiethnic political coalition that has governed the country since independence, will hold on to power. The main opposition coalition, the People’s Alliance, which made gains in the 2008 elections, continues to close the National Front’s narrow lead in opinion polls. “This is a critical turning point for the country,” Bridget Welsh, associate professor of political science at Singapore Management University, told Trend Lines. “It will have to decide whether to stick with the incumbent government of 55 years, […]

On April 1, India’s Supreme Court concluded a protracted legal battle between the Indian government and the pharmaceutical company Novartis, ruling that Indian companies could continue to produce low-cost generic versions of a drug the company had sought to patent. In an email interview, Sudip Chaudhuri, an economics professor at the Indian Institute of Management in Calcutta specializing in patents and the pharmaceutical industry, explained the background and likely impact of the ruling. WPR: What effect will the decision have on companies’ evergreening, or repatenting products after minor changes in their makeup, of pharmaceutical patents in India? Sudip Chaudhuri: Using […]

In a speech in early April, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim declared that “extreme poverty,” defined as living on less than $1.25 a day, could be eradicated worldwide by the end of the next decade. In an email interview, Charles Kenny, a senior fellow at the Center on Global Development who has written on the Millennium Development Goals, discussed what ending extreme poverty means, and what it would take. WPR: What is the technical meaning behind World Bank President Jim Kim’s recent call to “end extreme poverty” by 2030? Charles Kenny: Kim is suggesting that we can reduce the […]

Over the weekend, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, who is on a tour of Asia that ends tomorrow, met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in southern China. Pena Nieto’s trip is part of an effort to develop closer bilateral ties between Mexico and China, after more than a decade of what the Financial Times has called “reciprocal coolness.” The trip “was predicated on the idea of engaging China in order that Chinese investors see Mexico as an optimal export platform into North America,” Francisco Gonzalez, associate professor and Riordan Roett chair in Latin American Studies at the Johns Hopkins University […]

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