The outcome of the Afghan elections has finally been made clear. Officials in Kabul have announced that the next President of Afghanistan will be Ashraf Ghani, a former finance minister and World Bank official that was heralded as the front-runner during the election run-off held shortly after initial elections terminated inconclusively. The announcement of Ghani as president was coupled by a related announcement that chief rival Abdullah Abdullah will in short order be named the country’s chief executive, a role crafted in order to accommodate a power-sharing model of government.
The resolution to months of quarrels has been welcomed by governments around the globe with interest in the region, though met with skepticisms by many Afghans who became further disenchanted with the Afghan government after an extensive string of delays. As all regional government posts are elected by Kabul, the prospect of coming to numerous agreements over who ultimately ends up in power has rightfully worried a vast number of Afghans.
Ghani and Abdullah will also be faced with a number of security and economic challenges, as the Afghan economy teeters on the brink of collapse and the Taliban has recently enjoyed one of its most successful fighting seasons since the American invasion in 2001. Unemployment, scarce faith in the government and overwhelming corruption are additional challenges that have steadily gotten worse as Hamid Karzai’s tenure has progressed and as American involvement has decreased.
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- Former Russian oil tycoon and longtime dissenter Mikhail Khodorkovsky broke a long silence after being released from jail earlier this year, declaring he would be ready to lead the Russian Federation if necessary. Khodorkovsky, who spent 10 years in jail on sedition charges, said that he would be in favor of carrying out “constitutional reform, the essence of which would be to redistribute presidential powers in favor of the judiciary, parliament, and civil society.”
- As Western sanctions have begun to sink their teeth into the Russian economy, the government is considering diversifying its debt portfolio into different nations, specifically the BRIC’s in retaliation for the economic punishment. Russian finance minister Anton Siluanov said that Russia’s liabilities will be invested in countries with higher yields, while minimizing risks and currently has Brazil, India, China, and South Africa under consideration. The Finance Ministry’s reserve fund stands currently at $91.7 billion, and Russia’s sovereign wealth fund (which invests in mostly foreign and domestic infrastructure) stands at $85.3 billion. Capital outflow from Russia has been extremely high since last March’s annexation of Crimea, and is estimated to have reached $70 billion, although the Finance Ministry has released no official statistics.
- A Kyrgyz-Russian Development Fund has been approved and allocated $500 million by decree of Kyrgyz Prime Minister Joomart Otorbayev. The fund is aimed at developing economic ties between Russia and Kyrgyzstan, ostensibly paving the way for its upcoming December integration into the Customs Union/EEU. The fund is headquartered in Bishkek and will provide loans to promote Kyrgyzstan’s accession into the trade framework of the CU.
- Azerbaijan has announced it is ready to consider the possibility of acting as third party in a trilateral oil exchange agreement between Russia, Iran, and Azerbaijan. This is an interesting development considering Azerbaijan’s recently bad diplomatic history with Iran, but it is also possible the deal was proposed more by Russia than bilaterally discussed between Azerbaijan and Iran. The two countries are connected by the Gazi-Magomed-Astara-Bind-Biand pipeline, a branch of the Gazakh Astara-Iran pipeline – which was constructed during the Soviet era.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin said he will take part in the G20 World Summit in Australia this November, despite tensions over Ukraine. It was unclear if this would occur after Russia was shunned at a meeting of the G8 several months ago, especially considering that Australia is a part of the Western coalition imposing sanctions on their economy in retaliation for their role in the Ukrainian civil war.