May 7, 2014, 1:55 p.m.
Panama: Opposition candidate Juan Carlos VARELA has won the country’s presidential election. VARELA ran on a campaign of combatting corruption and reversing the concentration of executive power which his predecessor, Ricardo MARTINELLI, pursued. Although MARTINELLI initiated several popular infrastructure projects and social programs, many were wary of his continued influence through his close relationship with his party’s candidate, José Domingo ARIAS, whose Vice Presidential candidate was MARTINELLI’s wife. President-elect VARELA has promised to combat corruption and inequality and to maintain both economic growth and social welfare programs.
Thailand: Prime Minister YINGLUCK Shinawatra and several of her Cabinet members have been removed from office after a decision from the Constitutional Court found the Prime Minister guilty of abusing her power. The incident occurred three years ago, when YINGLUCK had the head of the National Security Council transferred in order to install a family member to the post. The ruling is expected to deepen the current divide in Thai politics between the Red Shirts, primarily rural supporters of YINGLUCK’s Pheu Thai party and those loyal to her ousted brother THAKSIN, and those who oppose the political influence of the Shinawatra family and favor the establishment of an unelected People’s Council. It remains to be seen how this development will affect the new round of parliamentary elections, which were recently called for 20 July. Meanwhile, the judiciary will hear another abuse of power case, this one involving the disastrous rice subsidy scheme, which may result in the conviction of the entire Cabinet.
Tunisia: On 1 May, the Constituent Assembly of Tunisia approved a new electoral law that will pave the way for elections later this year. The law requires electoral lists to have full gender parity (with male and female candidates alternating on all lists) and does not exclude former members of the BEN ALI regime from running for office, both of which are seen as victories for secular parties such as Nidaa Tounes. The law must now be approved by a constitutional commission before it takes effect. The timetable for parliamentary and presidential elections remains to be determined, but according to the head of the election commission the elections will likely be held in November.
Ukraine: Russian President Vladimir PUTIN has called on separatists in eastern Ukraine to postpone their referendum on independence, which is currently scheduled for 11 May. The two eastern provinces now under the control of separatist forces include 6.5 million people and account for a third of Ukraine’s industrial output. These forces, loyal to Russia, have clashed with the Ukrainian military in recent weeks, leaving over a hundred people dead. The Chairman of the Council of the proclaimed “People’s Republic of Donetsk” has responded that he will discuss Putin’s statement with his legislature to determine whether the referendum will be postponed. US Secretary of State John KERRY has denounced the referendum as “contrived and bogus” and has condemned the Russian interference in Ukraine as destabilizing.
(Image Credit: Reuters)