Home > Uncategorized > Politics this week: 24th – 30th March 2007

Politics this week: 24th – 30th March 2007

articles from this week’s edition of The Economist
A game of chicken over Iraq | Why China’s neighbours fear its rise | A closer look at Robert Mugabe | A hopeful meeting for Northern Ireland | India’s acquisitive companies | The world from the bottom up | Profiting from distress | Three weeks before France’s election | Quebec’s election and Canadian politics | Vietnam’s Communists: successful but worried | Rowing with Iran over captured Britons | NATO, Europe and missile defence | The evolution of mammals | Ian McEwan | Robert Taylor, possibly abducted by aliens

Politics this week

Mar 29th 2007
From The Economist print edition


Iran captured 15 British sailors and marines at the mouth of the Shatt al-Arab waterway. Britain released navigational evidence indicating that they were taken in Iraqi territorial waters; Iran showed its captives on state television and said it would release the one woman it held. See article

Gunmen killed at least 70 Sunnis in Tal Afar in Iraq. Elsewhere, Iraq’s deputy prime minister, Salam al-Zubaie, was hurt in a suicide-bomb attack. Nine people were killed in the assassination attempt, which occurred while Mr Zubaie, a Sunni, attended prayers.

Condoleezza Rice, America’s secretary of state, persuaded Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, and Ehud Olmert, Israel’s prime minister, to promise to hold regular fortnightly meetings. Meanwhile, members of the Arab League, meeting in Riyadh, offered Israel peace if it withdrew to its pre-1967 boundaries and accepted the right of all Palestinian refugees to return. Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah opened the conference and called America’s occupation of Iraq “illegal”. See article

The government of Egypt won a referendum endorsing changes to the constitution which, it claimed, would strengthen democracy. Critics said the changes would in fact make the country less free. Amid accusations of ballot-rigging, turnout was just 27%. See article

Morgan Tsvangirai, the main leader of the opposition in Zimbabwe, was briefly arrested in a raid on his party’s headquarters, two weeks after being beaten up by the police. President Robert Mugabe, who is under increasing pressure to step down, attended a meeting of regional leaders in Tanzania. See article

After weeks of manoeuvring, America’s Democrats scored a legislative coup by passing a war-spending bill in the House of Representatives and looked set to do the same in the Senate. These link funding for the war in Iraq to a timetable for withdrawing American troops. George Bush said the plan would hamstring operations and promised a veto. See article

In the first trial under a new system of military courts to be held at Guantánamo Bay, David Hicks, an Australian, pleaded guilty to a charge of helping al-Qaeda fight American troops in Afghanistan. Mr Hicks’s case has become a hot political issue in Australia, where the government has been criticised for not intervening on his behalf.


In a big defeat for Quebec separatism, the Parti Québécois was beaten into third place in a provincial election by Action Démocratique du Québec, which favours an “autonomous” Quebec within Canada, and the Liberals, who clung on for a second term but with a legislative minority. See article

Colombia’s government rejected a leaked report from the CIA which claimed that General Mario Montoya, now the army commander, had collaborated with right-wing paramilitaries during an operation against left-wing guerrillas in Medellín in 2002.

Chile’s president, Michelle Bachelet, reshuffled her cabinet, sacking four ministers. She has faced criticism over a botched public-transport scheme in the capital, Santiago, and a lack of decisive leadership. See article

Police in Jamaica said that Bob Woolmer, the Pakistan cricket coach found dead in his hotel room, was murdered by “manual strangulation”. Pakistan, along with India, was surprisingly eliminated from the cricket World Cup being staged in the Caribbean. See article

The war in Sri Lanka intensified. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam launched their first-ever air strike, on an air-force base next to Colombo’s international airport. In the east of the country, government forces took an important Tiger base. Some 155,000 people have been displaced by the fighting in the east in the past six weeks. See article

The United Nations‘ food programme reported that North Korea had admitted it needed assistance to cope with food shortages.

Thailand’s prime minister rejected military calls for an emergency decree to quell public protests. An election is planned for December.

Shinzo Abe, Japan’s prime minister, repeated in parliament Japan’s 1993 apology for the military brothels set up in the second world war. He did not, however, retract controversial statements casting doubt on whether the prostitutes had been coerced.

To no one’s surprise, Donald Tsang was re-elected as Hong Kong’s chief executive by a committee designed to ensure China’s man always wins.

China’s president, Hu Jintao, visited Moscow for a state visit, marking the beginning of the “China in Russia” year. The two countries announced a joint effort to explore Mars and one of its moons in 2009.


The European Union marked 50 years since its founding Treaty of Rome with a string of birthday bashes. European heads of government issued a “Berlin declaration” that avoided any specific mention of reviving the stalled EU constitution but instead used coded words about putting the club on a “renewed common basis” before mid-2009.

Nicolas Sarkozy stepped down as France’s interior minister to concentrate on running for the French presidency. The latest polls have narrowed his lead over the Socialist candidate, Ségolène Royal
, with the centrist François Bayrou dropping back.
See article

The United Nations envoy for Kosovo sent his plan for conditional independence for the Serb province to the UN Security Council. The Russians are threatening to veto any resolution not acceptable to Serbia.

Latvia and Russia signed a treaty demarcating their border, after a 16-year dispute since the break-up of the Soviet Union.

The Northern Ireland peace process culminated in a power-sharing deal between Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionists and Gerry Adams’s Sinn Fein. In May Mr Paisley will become first minister, with Mr Adams’s second-in-command, Martin McGuinness, as his deputy. See article

A plan was unveiled to split Britain’s Home Office. It will boost its focus on domestic security issues, such as terrorist threats, while prisons and probation will go to a new justice ministry. See article

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