ForesightNews world briefing: upcoming events 7 – 13 May

A weekly round up of world events from Monday, 7 to Sunday, 13 May from Foresight News

By Nicole Hunt

Given the ongoing violence and international concern over Syria, it’s hard to believe (‘ridiculous’, even) that parliamentary elections are scheduled to take place on Monday, but President Bashar al Assad has insisted they will go ahead. The polls were set on 13 March, following the approval of a new constitution which changed electoral rules that had previously reserved 167 or 250 seats for the Ba’ath-supporting National Progressive Front coalition.

In Moscow, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin returns to the role he held from 1999 to 2008 when he is sworn in as President following elections in March. President Dmitry Medvedev, who acted as something of a placeholder while Putin took an obligatory term off, returns to his old post of Prime Minister.

The Atlantic Council holds its annual awards dinner in Washington, where Prince Harry, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and ‘the Enlisted Men and Women of the United States Armed Forces’ are among those receiving honours. Harry’s Distinguished Humanitarian Leadership Award is in recognition of his charitable work supporting members of the armed forces, while Ban receives the Distinguished International Leadership Award.

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani is in London from Tuesday, his fist high profile endeavour since being convicted of contempt of court on 26 April. Gilani is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister David Cameron and participate in the first annual review Meeting of the Enhanced Strategic Dialogue, but his five-day visit may also be used to try to shore up party support among Britain’s sizeable Pakistani community.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan host a joint Italian-Turkish summit in Rome, bringing together their foreign affairs, economy, interior, economic development, labour and environment ministers to discuss policy and bilateral relations.

Following VE Day on Tuesday, President Putin can celebrate his return to the helm on Wednesday at Russia’s annual Victory Day military parade, commemorating Russia’s victory over Nazi Germany. The parade is traditionally a fairly spectacular affair, including missiles, tanks and marching soldiers.

The World Economic Forum holds its annual meeting on Africa in Addis Ababa, this year focusing on the theme of ‘Shaping Africa’s Transformation’. Speakers include African Development Bank president Donald Kaberuka, president of the China Investment Corporation Gao Xiqing, Wal-Mart International CEO Doug McMillon, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies secretary general Bekele Geleta, and former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. Annan participates in his role as chairman of the Africa Progress Panel and as a board member of the WEF Foundation, but he has been preoccupied as of late with his role as UN-Arab League Joint Special Envoy for Syria.

Two high-profile international trials were postponed last week and rescheduled for Thursday. The judgement in former Romanian Prime Minister Adrian Nastase’s appeal was scheduled for 2 May, but was postponed at the last minute. Nastase was convicted in January of illegally raising €1.6m during the 2004 election campaign and sentenced to two years in prison.

Meanwhile, Iraqi Vice President Tareq al Hashemi’s trial (in absentia) for allegedly running a death squad was postponed from 3 May in Baghdad after a series of shootings and explosions near the courthouse prompted his lawyers to request a venue change.

Algerians go to the polls on Thursday to elect members to the People’s National Assembly, in what President Abdelaziz Bouteflika called the beginning of a new stage of political reforms when he broke with tradition and announced the election date on TV, rather than asking the electoral college to set a date for the vote. Conscious of the 36 per cent turnout in the 2007 elections, Bouteflika encouraged more people to vote this time around, especially as the elections follow protests in 2011 over youth unemployment and inequality.

And some positive news from Greece, for once: Thursday marks the beginning of the Olympic Torch Handover Relay, which begins with a lighting ceremony at the Temple of Hera before the Torch is taken on an eight-day trek around the country and handed over to the UK.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych hosts a summit in Yalta on Friday that’s quickly become more noteworthy for who’s not attending rather than who is. German President Johann Gauck announced that he was cancelling his visit in protest at the continued imprisonment of opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, prompting eight other leaders, including European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and the presidents of Italy, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Austria, Croatia, Estonia and Bulgaria, to decline their invitations.

The Food and Agriculture Organization’s Committee on World Food Security, which normally sits just once a year, holds an extraordinary meeting in Rome to adopt the (deep breath) Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security (VGGT). The guidelines are the end result of an extensive three-year drafting process, and are designed to help governments designing policies in these areas.

The European Commission publishes its biannual EU Economic Forecasts on Friday, looking at short-term and macro-economic projections for the euro area and member states over the next two years. Though the publication traditionally comes out in May and November, the Commission released an interim report in February this year ‘due to the rapidly changing economic circumstances’; the interim report predicted ‘a mild recession with signs of stabilisation’.

Demonstrations are planned across Spain on Saturday to mark the one year anniversary of the ‘indignados’ movement, which occupied Madrid’s Puerta del Sol square from 15 May last year. The occupation lasted nearly a month, which now seems a short time compared to the Occupy movements, but sparked the whole movement of taking back public spaces.

Palestinian activist Bassem Tamimi, who was recently released on bail after more than a year in prison, is expected to find out on Sunday whether he has
been found guilty of organising illegal protests and incitement to stone-throwing. The Ofer Military Court is scheduled to rule on the charges, which relate to weekly demonstrations in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh.

Regional elections take place in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, the seventh state elections in just over a year. As always, observers are watching closely for indicators of the falling popularity of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union and its allies.