This week is elections central, with Turkmenistan, Egypt and Venezuela all headed to the polls. It's also a year since the uprisings in Bahrain and Libya first began and, with Syria on the brink, it could prove a key moment for the Arab spring and the future of democracy.
A tale of three elections
Two of the elections taking place this week are polar opposites: citizens in Egypt have many parties to choose from but turnout has been low, while voters in Turkmenistan have a relatively high turnout, but only one party to choose from.
Venezuelans also cast their votes to decide who will face Chavez in the 7 October election. The early signs are that Henrique Capriles, the governor of Miranda province, has won that poll. Capriles is seeking to paint Chavez as a cold war-era ideologue who has lost focus on pressing social problems, like crime and unemployment. A strong turnout in the October elections could provide the opposition with the momentum needed to overcome the country-wide "Chavez Derangement Syndrome".
Summits, birthdays, but no jobs
The EU-China summit takes place on Tuesday in Beijing, with the global financial crisis in the spotlight. Campaigners are calling on the EU not to sideline human rights during the conference. The summit was due to take place in October 2011, but was postponed due to emergency eurozone talks.
Wednesday sees the release of the UK unemployment statistics. Following January’s figures – the highest for 17 years – many are questioning if there are enough jobs to go around. Wednesday is also when the Arab league meets to discuss the next steps for negotiations between Israel and Palestine. This discussion follows Palestine’s agreement on a new unity government, which was welcomed by peace campaigners but could prove a barrier to progress with Israel.
And let's not forget that Thursday is the 70th birthday of the late Kim Jong Il. Expect plenty of official celebrations across North Korea as authorities award the departed Dear Leader the title of "Grand Marshal".
Where now for the Arab spring?
The week also marks the first anniversary of the start of the Bahrain protests (Tuesday) and the Libyan protests (Friday). With the situation in Syria getting progressively worse, the world must decide what can be done to respond to the crisis. Fears of a full-scale war in the Middle East are growing, with tensions boiling across the region and indecision rife at the heart of the UN and the Arab League.
Throughout this coming week, as Syria witnesses humanitarian supplies running even lower, Avaaz will continue to use its network to smuggle both medical equipment and journalists in, and images and information out.
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