India begins five-week elections process; Japan and Australia close to signing bi-lateral trade deal; US defense secretary tours China's first aircraft carrier; Nigeria becomes Africa's largest economy; UN expresses concern over violence in Venezuela; and more 

Top of the Agenda

India Begins Voting in Landmark Election

The world's largest democratic elections began on Monday in India (Reuters), where some 815 million people are registered to vote over the next five weeks. Opinion polls forecast a strong lead for Hindu nationalist opposition candidate Narendra Modi, who has pledged economic revival (Times of India), although his Bharatiya Janata Party is predicted to fall short of a parliamentary majority. The Aam Aadmi Party, campaigning on an anticorruption platform, has also seen success after securing strong results in local polls in Delhi last fall. After two years of economic woes (FT) and persistently high inflation, the Congress Party, which has been in power since 2004, faces tough electoral prospects, according to surveys. The nine-phase vote will conclude on May 12.

Analysis

"For now, the Congress Party's platform puts into writing an approach to the region consistent with its years in government. It's the framing of India's role in the world, however, that officially presents some ideas that sit less comfortably alongside the notion of India as a rising global power," writes CFR's Alyssa Ayres.

"It is certainly possible that a Modi administration could be more effective. But there are many caveats. Even if the BJP wins, it will probably not earn enough votes to govern alone. That will put it at the head of a messy coalition," writes a Financial Times editorial.

"If the Left of Centre Congress and the Right-inclined BJP exchange places in 2014, it would reflect the ground level societal shifts now taking place, with a growing, assertive, urban, middle class wanting to engage politically," writes Neerja Chowdhury for Times of India.

 

Pacific Rim

Japan, Australia Close to Free Trade Deal

Japan and Australia are set to agree on a bilateral free-trade deal (Japan Times) during a Monday summit after seven years of negotiations between the two countries. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is visiting Tokyo on the first stop during a northeast Asia trip.

CHINA: U.S. defense secretary Chuck Hagel toured China's first aircraft carrier (AFP) at the start of a three-day visit to China, making him the first foreigner aboard the ship.

This CFR Infoguide delves into China's maritime disputes.

ELSEWHERE:

Nigeria becomes Africa's largest economy

UN expresses concern over violence in Venezuela

This is an excerpt of the CFR.org Daily News Brief. The full version is available on CFR.org 

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