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THE INDEX — June 12, 2009

Japan’s interior affairs and communications minister, Kunio Hatoyama, announced his resignation today after a feud with Prime Minister Taro Aso regarding the reappointment of the president of Japan Post, a government-owned postal service. Hatoyama is seen as one of Aso’s most influential aids, according to Kyodo News, and his resignation is expected to deal a severe blow to Aso in upcoming general elections this fall. The minister was “adamantly opposed” to the reappointment of Yoshifumi Nishika, who allegedly attempted to sell government assets of the Kampo-no-yoda hotel chain at sub-market prices to a business associate. The feud, which has drawn a great deal of public attention, is a concern to ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) functionaries, who worry that voters doubt Aso's leadership. LDP members have supported Aso’s reappointment decision, arguing that removing Nishikawa would be regarded as backing away from the privatization policy the won the LDP a landslide victory in the 2005 Lower House elections. Interestingly, Hatoyama’s elder brother, Yukio Hatoyama, is the president of the largest opposition party in the nation, the Democratic Party of Japan. An “extraordinarily high” voter turnout in Iran today has prompted a two-hour extension of polling time, according to Press TV Iran. Conservative incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and reformist candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi appear locked in a neck-and-neck battle. The election has centered on Iranian economic worries and the nation’s deteriorating image abroad. Earlier today, Mousavi accused the state-owned telecommunications provider of shutting down text messaging around the country and stated that several of his supporters were blocked from entering polling stations to monitor voting. This election has stratified the Iranian population across socio-economic lines, with wealthier voters in urban centers like Tehran and Isfahan favoring the reformist candidate, while poorer, rural voters in the countryside profess unwavering support for the current president. The intensity of the election has prompted worries about vote rigging. Experts estimate that up to four million votes may be rigged in favor of Ahmadinejad; consequently, Mousavi might only gain the presidency if wins by a substantial margin. Mousavi, fellow reform candidate Mehdi Karroubi, and conservative candidate Mohsen Rezaei have accused Ahmadinejad of lying about Iran’s economic problems. In return, Ahmadinejad has accused his opponents of using “Hitler-style smear tactics” and said that they could face jail time for insulting the president. Official results of the election will be released tomorrow. Moroccans vote today in local elections that will decide the future of female politicians in the conservative Muslim nation. These are the first elections held since King Mohammed VI stipulated earlier this year that 12 percent of all candidates must be women—but many note that the quota has been a provocation to Islamist candidates in the rural areas of the country. The ruling Istiqlal Party has long held power in national and local councils, but has sought to deflect challenges from the main opposition force in Parliament, the Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD), by authorizing the formation of the Party for Authenticity and Modernity (PAM)—which can be considered a new-wave offshoot of Istiqlal. While the monarchy has trumpeted greater democracy, freedom of expression, and women’s rights in divorce and property ownership, several human rights proponents have called the efforts shallow and “not really carried through.” Islamist ministers accused PAM and Istiqlal of buying votes, though allegations were denied by both parties. While PAM hopes to “revive the political debate” in Morocco, it is expected to do so within an accepted framework specified by the royal palace. Notably, PAM founder Fouad Ali El Himma is well-known to the Moroccan public as “the king’s friend” and schoolmate. Former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has given Kenya a two-month ultimatum to set up a special tribunal to prosecute those responsible for election clashes in 2007. Annan told the BBC yesterday that Kenyan courts have until the end of August to set up the tribunal, and if that deadline is not met, he will have “no option than to hand the envelope over with names” to the International Criminal Court. Violence erupted in December 2007 after Mwai Kibaki won the presidency and the supporters of his rival, Raila Odinga, claimed they were “cheated of victory.” Ethnic rivalries ensued, displacing some 600,000 people, many of whom still fear returning home. Last year, Annan brokered a power-sharing deal that seated Odinga as prime minister alongside President Kibaki. In February, Kenyan parliament ministers rejected a bill requesting the establishment of the tribunal. Opponents of the bill say they “have no faith” in Kenya’s justice system to prosecute and rule fairly and have been accused of attempting to delay the hearings until after the 2012 elections. Annan has stated that he would prefer the trials be held in Kenya rather than the Hague, as Kenyan legislators “are collectively and individually responsible” for providing victims due justice.

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