Stay with RCEP

Negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, among 16 Asian and Pacific Ocean countries, have entered a decisive phase. Most potential member-countries of the grouping, that comprises the 10 ASEAN members and their Free Trade Agreement partners, Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and Republic of Korea, would like to see a “substantive agreement” on the trade deal by the end of this year. At a meeting in Singapore, which is driving the effort as the current ASEAN chair, countries which still have issues with the outline of the agreements reached so far may be told politely to step aside and allow a smaller group to go ahead with finalising the RCEP, with the option to join it at a later date. India is among the countries that will have to take a call at this point, and the government’s decision to set up a group of four ministers to advise Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the path ahead indicates the seriousness of the situation. India’s concerns with RCEP
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Iraq government formation: Muqtada’s turn?

The Iraqi Supreme Court’s ratification of the results of the May 12 parliamentary election has set the stage for government formation. After claims of widespread irregularities during voting, Iraqi lawmakers had ordered a recount. The only change after the recount is that the Al-Fatah bloc, which had come second with 47 seats, now has 48, gaining one from the Baghdad Coalition. The Sairoon Alliance led by firebrand Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr remains the largest bloc with 54 seats, while incumbent Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s Victory Alliance has 42. Now that the results are official, lawmakers have about 90 days to elect a Prime Minister. The MPs must elect the Speaker in the first session of Parliament. Within 30 days they are to elect, with a two-thirds majority, the next President. The President will then, within 15 days, ask the largest coalition’s representative to form the government. The Prime Minister-designate will have 30 days to come back to Parliament to approve a
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Editorial

Reality check: On simultaneous polls

Chief Election Commissioner O.P. Rawat’s view that it is not possible to hold simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and the State Assemblies soon is a realistic assessment of the humongous task ahead of the Election Commission before it can embark on such an ambitious venture. Mr. Rawat has, in particular, ruled out the possibility of holding elections to the Lok Sabha this December along with polls to the Assemblies of four States. In addition to the basic requirement of a legal framework under which the extension or curtailment of the term of any Assembly is constitutionally permissible, simultaneous elections would demand a massive increase in the number of electronic voting machines (EVMs) and voter-verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) units. Mr. Rawat has pointed out that altering the term of an Assembly needs an amendment to the Constitution. Moreover, ensuring the availability of VVPATs everywhere poses a logistical challenge. Mizoram is due for elections in December, as

Editorial A long campaign: On Indonesia Presidential elections

With Indonesian President Joko Widodo and his main challenger Prabowo Subianto announcing their running mates for the April 2019 election, the stage is set for an extended campaign. These will be the fourth direct presidential elections since the end in 1998 of the three-decade-long military-backed dictatorship of Suharto. Both candidates are expected to unveil their road maps to give a boost to job-creation and reduce inequality in the largest economy in Southeast Asia. Equally, in a country with the largest Muslim population and also one whose population is extremely diverse, the two campaigns are shining a light on the larger struggle for pluralism. Mr. Widodo, from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, is seeking a second term, and his choice of Ma’ruf Amin, a conservative Islamic cleric, as running mate appears to be aimed at averting the alienation of the more orthodox sections. A Muslim of Javanese descent, Mr. Widodo, referred to as Jokowi, was the target of a social

Editorial Kerala’s trauma

The unprecedented deluge in Kerala unleashed by heavy rain, overflowing rivers, brimming dams and massive landslips has overwhelmed the State government and rescue agencies, as they struggle to make a complete assessment of the devastation. More than 160 people have died since August 8, and several are missing. The State government faces the challenging task of rescuing people who are marooned in far-flung houses in several districts and providing them food and water until the teams get to them. About 2,23,000 people had been moved to more than 1,500 relief camps as of Friday, with more waiting to join. A respite in rainfall has aided the relief efforts, but as Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan acknowledged, it will take a major effort, using a combination of boats and aircraft from the Air Force, the Navy and the Coast Guard and legions of rescue personnel, to get all the stranded people to safety. The reduction in rainfall should help the National Disaster Response Force, which has

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Consensus-maker: On Vajpayee

Back from the woods?: On Tiger’s return

Currency crossfire: On the weakening rupee

Siege of Ghazni: On the Taliban offensive

Keeping dry: On Kerala floods

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