Monthly Archives: May 2012

Geoff Dyer

Shakeel Afridi in July 2010. RAUF/AFP/GettyImages

This was the week when the US and Pakistan were supposed to start patching things up. Instead, it has ended in a new round of mutual recriminations, including a rare bipartisan bout of indignation from the US Senate.

Just as the US and Nato are trying to sketch out long-term strategy to keep Afghanistan stable once most troops leave at the end of 2014, the never-ending downward spiral in US-Pakistan ties is casting those plans into ever-further doubt.

The latest signs of ill-feeling came as a Senate committee voted unanimously on Thursday evening to cut $33m from next year’s foreign aid budget for Pakistan; $1m for every year in the jail sentence that Pakistani doctor Shakil Afridi was awarded earlier this week. Read more

Roula Khalaf

Posters depicting Mohammed Morsi. AP Photo/Pete Muller

Posters depict frontrunner Mohamed Morsi. AP Photo/Pete Muller

According to unofficial vote counts, Egyptians will face a choice next month between a “feloul” (a remnant of the old regime), and a candidate from the Muslim Brotherhood – the Islamist movement and largest party in parliament.

Assuming the results are confirmed, the run-off will be seen by many as a race between the past and an Islamist future.

Mohamed Morsi, the Brotherhood candidate, was said to have secured 26 per cent of the vote in the presidential election, followed by a 24 per cent share for Ahmad Shafiq, a former air force commander whose campaign played on Egyptians’ yearning for security. Read more

Egypt’s presidential election

Egyptians are voting in the first democratic presidential election in their nation’s history this week, but with the powers of the office that the winner will hold still unclear and the economy in tatters, many questions remain. Heba Saleh and Borzou Daragahi, FT correspondents in Egypt, and Roula Khalaf, Middle East editor, join Shawn Donnan to discuss.

Roula Khalaf

A boy checks the list of voters' names inside a polling station in Cairo on May 23. AP Photo/Manu Brabo

A boy checks the list of voters' names inside a polling station in Cairo on May 23. AP

Egypt’s “pioneering” role is hailed this morning by the press in the Arab world. And for good reason: the Egyptian presidential election is a historic moment for the region, the first time that Arabs are allowed to genuinely and freely choose their president. What happens in the largest Arab nation matters elsewhere – Egypt influences Arab public opinion and points to political trends.

I’ve heard much talk in recent months about how Egypt’s chaotic transition is damping hopes for political change and frustrating those who want to put pressure for political reforms in other Arab states. Between Egypt’s messy transition and Syria’s violence, many have lost faith in the Arab awakening. Read more

James Blitz

When Iran proposed a few weeks back that a meeting with world powers to discuss its nuclear programme should take place in Baghdad, US and British diplomats were not exactly thrilled by the idea. Read more

In our Reporting Back series, we ask FT foreign correspondents to tell us about a recent trip.

Courtney Weaver, a correspondent for the FT in Moscow, visited Azerbaijan ahead of the Eurovision song contest – the final of which is being held in the country’s capital, Baku, on Saturday.

Why now? The fact that Azerbaijan is hosting Eurovision this year has shone a light on the Caspian country of 9 million people – and in particular, its human rights record. The event itself is typically a festival of kitsch in which contestants from 41 European countries, clad in sequins and tights, sing their hearts out for their nation. Azerbaijan has embraced the contest as a chance to shape the West’s opinion of the country and what defines it. Read more

By Tony Barber, Europe Editor

Greece, teetering on the precipice of the eurozone, is to hold a parliamentary election on June 17. This will be its second such vote in 43 days. A depressing insight into the country’s political paralysis was provided by transcripts of discussions that President Karolos Papoulias, Greece’s head of state, held with party political leaders on May 13 in an attempt to resolve the impasse.

These transcripts (made public by the president’s office) would make you roar with laughter – if you weren’t weeping in despair at the petty-mindedness, stupidity and shamelessness of some of Greece’s politicians. Read more

Esther Bintliff

John Moore/Getty Images

Supporters of Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi at an election rally. John Moore/Getty Images

On Wednesday and Thursday, Egyptians will go to the polls to vote in the first democratic presidential election in their country’s history.

Coming some 15 months after the ousting of Hosni Mubarak, the vote is a pivotal step for Egypt; a moment that the demonstrators in Cairo’s iconic Tahrir square could only have dreamed of when they first called for the overthrow of Mubarak in early 2011.

The result remains impossible to predict. There are twelve candidates, of whom five are considered the main contenders, but polls vary wildly as to their chances, and many voters are undecided. Unless one candidate gets more than 50% of the vote – which seems unlikely – a second round between the top two candidates will be held on June 16 and 17. Meanwhile the actual role and powers of the President have yet to be spelled out. Here’s your background reading: Read more

Anders Behring Breivik in court, May 21, 2012. REUTERS

By Martin Sandbu

The terror trial against Anders Behring Breivik – now in its sixth week – may have slipped away from the attention of the world press.

But in Norway, there is little respite from proceedings that have now passed the halfway mark. While the court took a two-day recess for the national holiday – ‘Constitution day’ – on May 17, it will now keep working until the trial concludes on June 22. Read more

By Gideon Rachman

As I read the umpteenth article on the “Grexit”, a phrase from the film ‘Marathon Man’ ran around my head. In this cult-thriller, Laurence Olivier plays a war criminal turned dentist who tortures Dustin Hoffman by drilling through his dental nerves without anaesthetic. As he does so, he asks repeatedly “Is it safe?”