Thursday, February 21, 2008

Around the world: Armenia, Burma, Kenya, Kosovo, and Liechtenstein (and Germany)

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Some interesting stories from around the world:

1) Armenia: Prime Minister Serge Sarkisian has won presidential election with about 53 percent of the vote. His closest rival, however, former president Levon Ter-Petrosian, is claiming that the vote was rigged. "Very dirty things are happening," Ter-Petrosian said. 15,000 supporters of the former president staged a rally in the country's capital, Yerevan, yesterday. (For more, see here.)

2) Burma: The country's neighbours, including Singapore, "have expressed doubts over the country's new draft constitution, implicitly criticising the Burmese government... The US has also criticised the text and cast doubts over the poll's fairness." A major concern is that pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi would be barred from running for office. (I recently commented on the situation in Burma here.)

3) Kenya: The situation could soon worsen, as talks between President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga seem to be breaking down -- talks mediated by former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan. "Kenya's opposition threatened on Wednesday to resume street protests in a week if talks fail to end a political standoff in a country still reeling from ethnic violence in which more than 1,000 people were killed." It looks like both sides are preparing for further violence.

4) Kosovo: Independence doesn't come easy. "Serbs in northern Kosovo on Wednesday continued what appeared to be a drive to force a partition... A mob of 300 Serbs wielding clubs and tools gathered on a road near this small village of ethnic Albanians [Cabra] in northern Kosovo, prompting NATO to send armored vehicles and tanks to head them off." (Ah, the Serbs...)

5) Liechtenstein: "The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, put pressure on the Liechtenstein government yesterday to increase the transparency of its banks and other financial institutions amid a nationwide inquiry into Germany's biggest tax evasion scandal. Speaking after a meeting in Berlin with Otmar Hasler, the prime minister of the tiny alpine tax haven, Merkel said Liechtenstein had to 'quickly clear up' a variety of problems, not least the ease and attractiveness its secret bank accounts offered to rich Germans looking for a tax oasis." Said Hasler: "We are on the road to reform." (Fantastic. It's a lovely country -- I've actually been there -- but I'm sure it's also been a lovely place for tax evaders.)

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