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Rajapaksa defeated in Sri Lanka

16 January 2015

Maithripala Sirisena was the surprise winner of the 8 January presidential elections in Sri Lanka, defeating Mahinda Rajapaksa, the incumbent seeking a third term in office. In a high turnout of over 70% Sirisena won 51% of the vote to 48% for the sitting president.

When he called the election last November it was widely assumed that Rajakpaksa would breeze past a divided opposition and win an unprecedented third term. In power since 2005, Rajakpaksa was a ruthless leader who crushed the Tamil separatists to end Sri Lanka\'s 26-year-old civil war in a very controversial way. Since the end of the war the economy has gradually recovered but the president was criticized for the persecution of political rivals and journalists. There was some concern that he might engineer a coup to stay in office but without the support of the army he decided against such a move

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ABE

What Now Mr Abe?

15 December 2014

As expected Prime Minister Shinzo Abe easily won Sunday\'s snap elections to choose the 475 representatives in Japan\'s lower house of parliament. Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) won 290 seats and his junior coalition partner Komeito won 35 seats giving them a two-thirds majority. The turnout was a record low (52%) which Abe called ‘extremely regrettable’. Many Japanese wondered why he had called elections when he had a comfortable majority for another two years. The main opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) won 73 seats and the Japanese Communist Party (JCP) took 21 seats. According to the polls, many voters turned to the LDP as the opposition parties were weak and divided.

In Japan’s southernmost prefecture, Okinawa, Abe suffered a major defeat losing all four seats to candidates opposed to the US bases there. This will complicate negotiations with Washington about a new marine base on the island.

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taiwan local election

Ruling KMT defeated in Taiwan local elections

9 December 2014

Taiwan’s ruling Nationalist Party Kuomintang (KMT) suffered a heavy defeat in local elections on 29 November. It won only 6 out of the 22 seats compared to 14 before.  Premier Jiang Yi-huah promptly resigned while President Ma Ying-jeou also stepped down from his post as Chairperson of KMT. The KMT defeat in the local elections suggests poor prospects for the party in the presidential elections in 2016. The opposition Democratic progress party (DPP) won 13 seats while the independent Ko Wen-je whose “ideology” is closer to the DPP won the Taipei mayoral election. Ko’s victory broke 16 years of KMT rule in Taipei. 

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M-SH

Another Disappointing SAARC Summit

28 November 2014

Last week’s South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit in Nepal proved another disappointment as leaders of the eight nation grouping only managed to sign one agreement, the creation of a regional electricity grid. Pakistan was blamed for blocking the other two agreements that were on the table, covering road and rail links. There was also no progress in agreeing on how to fight terrorism which was regarded as a top priority of SARRC leaders.

The summit did agree on a declaration setting a 15 year target for developing a regional economic community.  It contained several lofty aims to promote cooperation on cyber, culture, health, food security and so on but it is doubtful if any of the aims will be realised given the poor state of relations between the members

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handshake of xi and abe

APEC and beyond

13 November 2014

As host of the this year’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting China made a huge effort not only on the diplomatic and hospitality fronts, but in transferring a normally smoggy Beijing to a blue-sky Beijing. This effort to allow some sunshine onto the proceedings may have helped produce one of the main bilateral outcomes – namely the US-China agreement on reducing carbon remissions.

The biggest question on everyone’s lips before the summit was whether President Xi and Prime Minister Abe would shake hands. As is evident from the photo above, the icebreaking handshake between the two most powerful Asian leaders was ice-cold too. 

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4th Plenum

Decision of the Fourth Plenum: The Party and then the Law

30 October 2014

The text of “Decision on Several Important Issues Regarding the All-Around Promotion of Ruling the State According to Law,” passed by the Fourth Plenum on 23 October (the text is available in .pdf below) contemplates some positive legal reforms, although hardly fundamental, since institutionally speaking, the Party remains above the law.

The main positive and meaningful reform proposals include the judges’ system reform and the court system reform. Firstly, the Decision calls for the reform on the system of managing judges, for instance, in Section 6, Subsection 1, it says that the aim is to establish essentially a career civil-service model for the judiciary. Unlike now when a young graduate can be directly hired by the high-level court, the Decision says that the junior judges should be selected by provincial-level courts and should start their careers in basic-level courts. 

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JOKOWI,20OCT

Jokowi, a new era of Indonesia, “may god bless us”!

22 October 2014

Joko Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi, was inaugurated as President of Indonesia this week.  “As the captain of the ship as trusted by the people, I urge you all to get on the ship of the Republic of Indonesia and sail towards Indonesia Raya” he said in his inauguration speech.

Raised in one of Jakarta’s slums, Jokowi is an outsider of the traditional Indonesian political elite. He enjoys considerable popularity as a self-made man but at the same time it means extremely high expectation from his people. 

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eeas

EUROPEAN UNION AND LAO PDR CONCLUDE SEVENTH JOINT COMMITTEE

21 October 2014

The 7th EU-Lao PDR Joint Committee was held in Brussels on 20 October 2014. The Joint Committee was co-chaired by H.E. Ambassador Khouanta PHALIVONG, Director-General at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and by Mr Ugo ASTUTO, Director for South and Southeast Asia at the European External Action Service.Open and constructive discussions were held on a broad range of issues, including political and economic developments in Lao PDR and the EU. The EU side underlined the importance of the full commitment of the Lao PDR to the UN Universal Periodic Review process regarding human rights. Useful exchanges were also held about preparations for negotiation of a voluntary partnership agreement (VPA) on forest law enforcement, governance and trade (FLEGT). Regional matters were discussed with a focus on ASEAN, in particular its connectivity agenda, and the Mekong region. Lao PDR described planning and priorities for its ASEAN chairmanship in 2016. The EU confirmed its support for ASEAN\'s centrality and itsreadiness to share with ASEAN relevant EU experience regarding regional integration.

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ASEM 10 FAMILY PIC

Tenth Asia – Europe Meeting in Milan

19 October 2014

The tenth Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM 10) was held in Milan on 16-17 October with leaders from over 50 European and Asian countries attending. ASEM 10 was hosted by the Prime Minister of Italy Matteo Renzi and chaired by the President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy. Two new members joined the club - Croatia and Kazakhstan.

Under the theme “Responsible Partnership for Sustainable Growth and Security”, leaders exchanged views on economic, financial, regional and global issues, as well as traditional and non-traditional security challenges. Leaders also agreed to strengthen ASEM’s three pillars of cooperation in the lead-up to ASEM’s 20th anniversary in 2016. ASEM 11 will be hosted by Mongolia.

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Modi

India’s Diplomatic Dance

24 September 2014

India’s new Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, is moving quickly to establish India as a major global actor. This month he has visited Japan, received President Xi Jinping of China and will shortly make his first visit to the US.

Modi is a big fan of Japan and it was no surprise that Tokyo was his major first overseas visit. The fact that he spent five days in Japan is testimony to the importance Modi attaches to the relationship.

The Japanese and Indian media suggested that the visit was an effort of the two major democracies in Asia to balance the rising power of China. It was little surprise, therefore, that closer security ties were the main focus of the visit. 

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