Editor's Note: The following is reprinted with the permission of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin won Russia's presidential election with around 65 percent of the vote (WSJ), preliminary results showed. Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov looked set to come in second place with 17.1 percent. Meanwhile, independent poll-monitoring group Golos reported around 1,500 claims of electoral violations. The disputed election follows a series of anti-Kremlin protests in the wake of contested parliamentary elections in December. The nascent middle-class protest movement–the most serious challenge to Putin's rule in his twelve years as president and prime minister–is set to hold a large rally in downtown Moscow tonight.
"Unlike his United Russia Party, Putin still enjoys broad support, especially in Russia's industrial heartland, where his campaign slogans for stability appeal to a deeply change-wary and conservative electorate. His ratings have fallen to historic lows in Russia's biggest cities, and in Moscow, Putin failed to get a majority of the vote on Sunday for the first time in his career," writes TIME's Simon Shuster.
"The protests made a big impression on both the Kremlin and Russia's urban middle classes. They forced the Kremlin to launch political reform (albeit in half-hearted fashion), to simplify the rules governing the registration of election candidates and political parties, and to bring back the elections of regional governors, which were scrapped in 2004," notes the Economist.
"Moscow filled with more special troops than I or most other people have ever seen. Special forces, interior ministry troops, military convoys at the entrances to Red Square, signal jammers, water cannons, soldiers walking around with ham radios strapped to their backs," Julia Ioffe wrote on ForeignPolicy.com.
China Cuts Growth Forecast
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, speaking at the opening of the annual National People's Congress, estimated slower economic growth for 2012 at 7.5 percent. The announcement was indicative of a larger effort by Beijing to focus on more sustainable economic policies (WSJ) over headline growth.
This March 2012 World Bank report says China can become the world's largest economy by 2030, but it needs to implement a new development strategy now so that it can also be a modern, harmonious, and creative high-income society.
CHINA: A Tibetan widow and a middle school girl died in China's Sichuan and Ganzu provinces after setting themselves on fire in protest (RFA) against Chinese rule. More than twenty Tibetans have died in acts of self-immolation over the past year.
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
Pakistan Test Fires Missile
Pakistan successfully test fired a short-range ballistic missile capable of firing conventional and nuclear warheads (AFP) with "high accuracy," the military said.
PAKISTAN: The head of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, Hakimullah Mehsud, demoted his deputy, Maulvi Faqir Mohammad, on Sunday, signaling a growing rift among the Pakistani Taliban's leadership (BBC).
Pakistan has emerged as a terrorist sanctuary for some of the world's most violent groups, including al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and homegrown militants, that threaten the stability of Pakistan as well as the region, explains this CFR Backgrounder.
Gunmen Attack Iraqi Security Forces
Dozens of gunmen attacked police checkpoints (al-Jazeera) in the Iraqi city of Haditha, in Anbar province, killing twenty-seven Iraqi security troops. A police spokesman blamed al-Qaeda.
IRAN: Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's hardliner allies (NYT) appeared to have won a majority of the contested seats in Friday's parliamentary elections, signaling a victory over his rival, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Khamenei is expected to consolidate his power by abolishing the post of presidency.
Iran's parliamentary elections were expected to shed light on the power struggle among conservative forces, says expert Farideh Farhi in this CFR Interview.
Deadly Blast at Congo Arms Depot
A short circuit triggered a series of explosions at a weapons depot in Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of Congo, killing two hundred people and wounding hundreds more (Reuters) in an adjacent neighborhood.
MALAWI: President Bingu wa Mutharika accused Western donor nations (BBC) of working with local NGOs to undermine his government, telling them to "go to hell." At least nineteen protesters were killed by police during anti-government protests last summer.
EU's Conservatives in Anti-Hollande Alliance
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has been actively supporting French President Nicolas Sarkozy's reelection bid against Socialist candidate Francois Hollande, reportedly forged an alliance with other conservative governments (DerSpiegel) in the EU to shun Hollande during the campaign season.
Peru Arrests Rebel Leader
Peruvian police arrested a suspected leader of a faction of the Maoist Shining Path rebel group (al-Jazeera), Walter Diaz Vega, in the jungle region of Alto Huallaga. He is expected to face several charges of terrorism.
VENEZUELA: President Hugo Chávez confirmed that a tumor removed from his pelvic region during surgery at a Havana hospital was malignant, saying he will undergo chemotherapy (NYT) in the upcoming weeks.
Obama Calls for Diplomacy with Iran
In remarks to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference in Washington Sunday, President Obama, while calling for diplomacy, said that he would take "no options off the table" in preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, including preparing for a military contingency.
In an interview on CNN's State of the Union Sunday, GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul argued for a policy of non-interference when it comes to Israel's attempt to prevent a nuclear Iran. While campaigning in Georgia (MSNBC) Sunday, GOP candidate Mitt Romney spoke about the need to prevent a nuclear Iran, saying that he would have "crippling sanctions" and military options to prevent it.
Editor's Note: For more information on the presidential election and foreign policy check out CFR's campaign blog, The Candidates and the World.