Australian Elections – Prime Minister Julia Gillard has announced that the country’s federal elections will take place on 14 September, writes the Sydney Morning Herald. Gillard said the early announcement — nearly eight months ahead of the poll date — is intended to help individuals, businesses and investors to plan ahead and to give “shape and order to the year.” Gillard’s announcement comes as Opposition leader Tony Abbott launched a mini-campaign, ahead of the first week of parliament next week. Abbott responded to the decision by announcing “the coalition is ready, we are so ready that we have already launched our ‘Real Solutions’ plan.” Australia now faces a campaign season lasting over seven months but the election date falls on the Jewish holiday, Yom Kippur, which has “deeply disappointed” Liberal frontbencher Malcolm Turnbull.
New Tibet Governor — China has appointed a new governor for the restive, Himalayan region of Tibet, notes Reuters. Tibet’s mainly rubber stamp regional assembly elected Losang Gyaltsen, a hardline ethnic Tibetan, as the new governor — a sign that Beijing will not loosen its tight control on the region. The 55-year-old was a former mayor of Tibetan capital Lhasa and he will report to Tibet’s top official, Communist Party chief Chen Quanguo. Beijing has kept a tight leash on Tibet since 2009 after a surge in self-immolations by Tibetans protesting Chinese rule.
Thaksin Shinawatra — The New York Times reports that former Thailand prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who has been in self-imposed exile since 2008 to avoid corruption charges, is still making important decisions for the country from afar. Shinawatra, according to the Times, keeps abreast of Thailand’s political developments through the Internet and mobile technology and senior politicians continue to consult with him. His sister Yingluck Shinawatra, the current prime minister of Thailand, carries out the day-to-day governance of the country, while he makes the big decisions, writes the daily.
Morsi in Germany – Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi flew to Germany Wednesday in an attempt to remind European political leaders of his democratic credentials, reports Reuters. However, the president’s trip will be cut short due to ongoing violent protests across Egypt that have marked the two year anniversary of the country’s revolution. Protestors continue to fill Cairo’s Tahrir Square, calling for Morsi to step down from power. The president’s critics accuse him of betraying the spirit of the revolution by keeping too much power in his own hands, while Morsi argues that the protestors are trying to overthrow the country’s first democratically elected leader. The President has cancelled his plans to visit Paris and will return to Cairo late Wednesday.
Israeli Boycott – Israel became the first country to boycott a U.N. Human Rights Council review in Geneva on Tuesday, notes Aljazeera. Although Israel is not a member of the council, like all 193 U.N. countries it is required to undergo a Universal Periodic Reviews of its human rights situation. It’s absence was perhaps not a surprise given that Israel cut all ties with the member state council last March after the body’s announcement that it would investigate illegal Israeli settlements. While the Egyptian representative on the council cautioned that taking a soft approach to the boycott would leave “a wide-open door for more cases of non-cooperation,” the British and Irish representatives favored a more “consensual” and “balanced” way forward.