Home > Uncategorized > Politics this week: 15th – 20th December 2006

Politics this week: 15th – 20th December 2006

Politics this week

Dec 19th 2006
From The Economist print edition

America, China, Japan, Russia and South Korea resumed talks with North Korea in Beijing after a gap of more than a year. The discussions are intended to bring an end to its nuclear-weapons programme—North Korea carried out a nuclear test in October. See articleE+


All the senior economic officials in George Bush’s cabinet joined Hank Paulson, America’s treasury secretary, in Beijing for the first meeting in a new twice-yearly “strategic economic dialogue” with China. The two sides haggled inconclusively about trade and exchange rates. See article

The son of a prominent Indian politician was convicted of the murder in 1999 of Jessica Lal, a model, at a crowded party. The case had caused outrage when it appeared that, despite the presence of large numbers of witnesses, the murderer would go free. See article

Anton Balasingam, chief negotiator for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the rebels fighting for a Tamil homeland in Sri Lanka, died in London. He was seen as a moderate in an otherwise ruthlessly uncompromising leadership.

King Jigme Singye Wangchuk of Bhutan abdicated in favour of his son. A revered monarch, he has promised that the country will hold its first democratic elections in 2008.

The peace process in Nepal took another step forward with an agreement between mainstream political parties and rebel Maoists on an interim constitution to prepare for elections next year.

The fragility of the Democrats’ hold on the incoming American Senate was thrown into sharp focus when Senator Tim Johnson, from South Dakota, suffered a brain haemorrhage. Mr Johnson is said to be recovering after surgery, but if he dies, South Dakota‘s Republican governor will appoint someone to fill the remainder of his term. A Republican replacement for Mr Johnson would upset the new Democratic majority of one in the chamber.

The death penalty in two states was more or less put on hold over concerns that executions by lethal injection had been botched. Florida’s governor, Jeb Bush, ordered a halt to executions after a convicted killer took 34 minutes to die and a judge in California ruled that the state’s method of administering the injections was cruel and therefore unconstitutional.

Two of the oldest Episcopalian parishes in the United States, with roots in the colonial era, voted to break away from the national church to protest against its growing acceptance of gays and the ordination of women. Located in Virginia, the parishes aligned themselves with a conservative Nigerian church. The debate over homosexuality and the role of women in the church threatens to produce a schism in the worldwide Anglican communion. See article

New Jersey‘s legislature passed a bill recognising civil unions between gay couples, which gives same-sex partners the same rights and benefits as married people in the state.

President Mahmoud Abbas called for a general election in the Palestinian territories, as violence between the ruling Islamists of Hamas and Mr Abbas’s secular Fatah party increased in the Gaza Strip. See articleE+

Supporters of Iran‘s populist president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, did badly in elections to local councils and to the assembly of experts. The assembly can choose Iran‘s supreme leader, who has more power than the president. See article

A Libyan court sentenced five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor to death after they were found guilty—on flimsy evidence—of deliberately infecting hundreds of Libyan children with AIDS. See article

Nigeria‘s ruling party picked a reclusive Muslim state governor, Umaru Yar’Adua, as its candidate in next year’s presidential election. He was strongly backed by the incumbent president, Olusegun Obasanjo, who is to step down after two terms. See article

Robert Mugabe, who has run Zimbabwe since 1980, won his ruling party’s backing to postpone the next presidential election from 2008 to 2010.

Some 250 foreign aid workers left the Darfur region of Sudan after some of them were shot at and their vehicles stolen at gunpoint. The government in Khartoum continued to re
fuse to accept a hybrid peacekeeping force from the African Union and the UN.


As part of a promised offensive on law and order, Mexico’s new president, Felipe Calderón, deployed 6,000 troops and police against drug gangs in the western state of Michoacán and placed two separate federal police forces under a single command.

Hundreds of thousands of protesters took part in demonstrations in Santa Cruz and other cities of eastern Bolivia. They demanded greater autonomy and protested at the plans of Evo Morales, the country’s socialist president, to rewrite the constitution.

Ecuador withdrew its ambassador from Colombia in disapproval of the decision by Álvaro Uribe’s government to resume aerial spraying of coca plantations near the border between the two countries. See article

Cuba‘s government made a concerted effort to deny reports that Fidel Castro, the island’s president, was dying of cancer. Officials told visiting American congressmen that Mr Castro would make a public appearance soon.


Tony Blair became the first British prime minister ever to be questioned by police during a criminal investigation. He was questioned as a witness in an inquiry into alleged cash payments from party donors in return for peerages in the House of Lords. Mr Blair said it was “perfectly natural” that he should assist. See article

Silvio Berlusconi, Italy‘s former prime minister and the current centre-right opposition leader, went to America for health checks. Mr Berlusconi, who is 70, collapsed at a political rally last month.

A Spanish scheduled flight landed at Gibraltar airport for the first time. The Iberia flight to the British colony followed a three-way deal between the parties in September.

An ageing French rock star, Johnny Hallyday, caused a political stir when he said he would move to Switzerland to escape French taxes. Mr Hallyday claims that 68% of his income goes to the taxman.

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