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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Thailand Won’t Delay Election After Clashes

After violent clashes between the police and antigovernment protesters in Bangkok today left one police officer dead and nearly 100 injured on both sides, the Election Commission of Thailand urged the postponement of the country’s February 2nd elections over safety fears for candidates on the campaign trail. Government officials have rejected the suggestion, arguing that since parliament is dissolved there is no legal basis for the delay, and that it would escalate the violence, not quell it. The demonstrators want an end to elected democracy, in part because the current government will almost certainly be returned to power (legitimately).

Violence erupted when protesters tried to storm a sports stadium where representatives of about 30 political parties were gathered to register for parliamentary elections. The demonstrators threw rocks – one may have fired the live bullets that killed the officer – and police retaliated tear gas and rubber bullets.

Corruption Scandal in Turkey

Three top Cabinet ministers resigned on Wednesday, days after theirs sons had been placed in custody as part of a sweeping corruption and bribery scandal, and one called for Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan to follow suit.

Erdogan reshuffled his cabinet late Wednesday, replacing almost half his Cabinet with loyalists. In a stunning turn for a political party known for stifling dissent, one of the departing ministers publicly called for Erdogan to step down. Today, Erdogan said he believed he was the ultimate target of the bribery and corruption investigation, but denied any wrong-doing.

Today, a Turkish prosecutor accused police of obstructing his pursuit of the case by refusing to comply with his orders to take more suspects into custody as well as allowing suspects to flee and tamper with evidence.

US Sends Iraq Weapons to Fight Al-Qaeda

The United States is sending dozens of Hellfire missiles and low-tech surveillance drones to Iraq after the prime minister’s appeal for help in battling an al-Qaeda-backed insurgency that is gaining territory in western Iraq and neighboring Syria. Whether this will be sufficient to quell the explosion of violence that has made this the deadliest year in Iraq since 2008 is another question. Over 8,000 people have been killed this year alone.

On Christmas alone, two bombs placed in Christian areas of Baghdad killed at least 37 people and wounding dozens more. Although no group has claimed responsibility, both attacks have the hallmarks of al-Qaeda.

Ongoing Civil Conflicts: CAR, South Sudan, Egypt

A mass grave has been discovered in Central African Republic and dozens of bodies have been recovered from the streets of the country’s capital. At least six Chadian peacekeepers and dozens of civilians have been killed in the past two days as part of the country’s inter-religious conflict.

African leaders met today to try to advance peace talks in South Sudan between the president and his political rivals, although it is not clear whether they actually met with the rebel leader. The conflict has centered on South Sudan’s oil-producing regions, where rebels have seized a number of oil wells. The first UN reinforcements are scheduled to arrive in 48 hours.

Egypt declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization yesterday, arrested dozens of its supporters today, and announced that holding a leadership position in the Brotherhood could be grounds for the death penalty. The government has yet to present any evidence to back up its claims that the Brotherhood staged the Nile Delta attack.

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