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THE INDEX — October 16, 2009

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party has "disengaged" from Zimbabwe's coalition government, and noted that President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party was an "unreliable" partner. Tsvangirai and Mugabe agreed to a power-sharing deal in February after disputed elections in 2008 led to widespread political violence, but the parties have since disagreed on several issues, especially the particulars of government appointments. On Friday, Tsvangirai announced that MDC would officially pull out from cabinet, council of ministers, and other routine government meetings after senior MDC official Roy Bennett was jailed Wednesday on terrorism charges. "Roy Bennett is not being prosecuted; he is being persecuted," Tsvangirai told reporters. "It has brought home the reality that as a movement we have an unreliable and unrepentant partner in the transitional government." Zimbabwe's High Court released Bennett on bail following Tsvangirai's remarks, but the prime minister maintained that MDC and Zanu-PF had critical issues that must be worked out before he would agree to re-engage the power-sharing process. "Until confidence has been restored, we can't continue to pretend that everything is well," he said. A runoff election is expected in Afghanistan. The U.N.-backed Afghan Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC), which on Thursday completed its audit of suspect ballots from August's disputed presidential vote, significantly reduced President Hamid Karzai's margin of victory. The ECC's tally, which one official called "stunning," gave Karzai 47 percent of the vote—much lower than the 54.6 percent originally reported and below the 50 percent required to avoid a second round of elections. Afghanistan's ambassador in Washington, Said Tayeb Jawad, said Thursday that a runoff election between Karzai and second-place challenger Abdullah Abdullah is "a very likely scenario." Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission will now subtract the votes that were disqualified by the ECC, and results are expected this weekend. The results weigh heavily on President Obama's thinking regarding solidifying his Afghanistan war strategy, and The New York Times reports his advisers are split over whether to deploy additional troops while the political situation in Kabul is still so tenuous. For more on the possible implications of electoral fraud in Afghanistan, see last week's The Big Question on the World Policy Blog. Five new members to the U.N. Security Council were chosen on Thursday after running uncontested races for non-permanent, non-veto-wielding seats. Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Gabon, Lebanon, and Nigeria were elected by secret ballot in the General Assembly for the two-year terms, which are allocated by region. As of January 2010, these five new nations will join Austria, Japan, Mexico, Turkey, and Uganda, whose terms run from 2009-10. "It's going to be an even stronger Security Council, I think, next year," John Sawers, Britain's ambassador to the U.N., told reporters. "We have two large countries in Brazil and Nigeria who carry the weight of being a regional power. We have two countries in Lebanon and Bosnia that have been through conflict and can bring their own national experiences to the Security Council," he continued. This will be Bosnia and Herzegovina's first time serving on the council, which has the authority to impose sanctions and send peacekeeping troops. Today marks World Food Day, designated by the United Nations as October 16. In addition to report released by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) earlier this week, the U.K.-based non-governmental organization ActionAid also released a new report on global hunger. In it, ActionAid praises China and India for its efforts to reduce chronic hunger, but sharply criticizes India for policies that actually worsened its hunger crisis; draughts have plagued India this year especially but, with little government help, over the last decade more than 30 million more Indians are now suffering chronic hunger. China, meanwhile, has helped feed an additional 58 million of its citizens through strong support of small farmers. The report ranks the efforts of advanced industrialized nations to help end global hunger, and puts the United States and New Zealand at the bottom, under the label: “miserly.” On Thursday, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced $120 million in grants for agricultural research and development, in addition to previous foundation grants of $1.4 billion. Speaking to hunger activists at the World Food Prize symposium in Iowa, Gates said, “The world’s attention is back on your cause. The food crisis has forced hunger higher on the world’s agenda.” This summer the G-8 approved the L’Aquila Food Security Initiative to commit $20 billion to sustainable agricultural development.

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