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Friday, May 19


Friday, May 19



Photo: AP/Office of Supreme Leader
Photo: AP/Office of Supreme Leader

Iranians will head to the polls on Friday. While incumbent President Hassan Rouhani has been cast as the favourite, Iran’s notoriously unpredictable political system suggests a victory by hardliner Ebrahim Raisi is possible.

The economy has dominated the campaign, and for good reason. In his 2013 campaign, Mr Rouhani promised a return to growth after years of sanctions-induced recession. But economic performance has fallen short of expectations—growth was a mere 0.5% in 2015 (the last official figure) and one in four young Iranians can’t find work.

In an attempt to leverage popular dissatisfaction among the rural poor, Mr Raisi has castigated Rouhani for his economic performance. Insisting that he “felt the pain of poverty” growing up, the challenger has pledged to increase cash handouts and fight corruption.

While foreign policy has barely featured in the lead up to Friday’s vote, a Raisi victory could jeopardise closer ties with European countries, and thus billions of dollars in trade deals. Saeed Jalili, a hawkish former nuclear negotiator who opposes the 2015 deal, is advising the cleric, suggesting anti-Western rhetoric will increase under a Raisi presidency.

On Monday, Tehran’s conservative mayor withdrew from the race, urging his supporters to vote for Raisi. This will give the conservative leader a much-needed boost. Whether this is big enough to secure victory on Friday remains to be seen.

Dig deeper: Iran is back in the game



Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock

G20 health ministers will begin two days of talks in Berlin on Friday focussed on controlling infectious disease and antibiotic resistance.

The summit comes days after the World Health Organisation announced a new outbreak of Ebola in the DR Congo. But perhaps more worrying are recent reports of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in Hyderabad—the pharmaceutical capital of India.

The spread of these microorganisms is caused and accelerated by pharmaceutical companies dumping waste water containing residues of antibiotics into the open sewage. Scientists estimate that up to 90% of people travelling to India return carrying antibiotic-resistant bacteria, spreading them across the globe.

A 2014 report commissioned by the UK government revealed that at least 50,000 people succumb to antibiotic-resistant bacteria annually. The report goes on to warn that, if left unchecked, these organisms could kill 10 million around the world each year by 2050 and cause a reduction of 2 to 3.5% of GDP—equivalent to $100 trillion.



Photo: Toru Yamanaka/Getty
Photo: Toru Yamanaka/Getty

In a televised message last August, Japan’s Emperor Akihito suggested he was considering stepping down. On Friday his wish will come one step closer, with the country’s cabinet expected to approve legislation allowing Akihito to abdicate at the end of 2018.

Stretching back thousands of years, Japan’s monarchy is the oldest in the world and abides by strict traditions, including that Emperor’s are expected to die on the throne. But having suffered from cancer and subsequent operations, Akihito says it has become “difficult” for him to carry out of his duties. With one in every three people over 60 in Japan, the Emperor’s appeal has found sympathetic ears—more than 80% of people polled believe Akihito should be able to step down.

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Responding to this sentiment, the conservative Abe government has drafted a temporary law that will allow Emperor Akihito to abdicate, while leaving the traditional non-abdication rule untouched. After cabinet approval on Friday, the special legislation is expected to be voted on by parliament before June 18.



Under fire at home, Donald Trump will begin a nine-day overseas tour on Friday—first stop: Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Trump has just unveiled rudimentary plans “for an Arab NATO”. Presumably, this will be fleshed out more in coming days. The tour will also see him visit Israel/Palestine, the Vatican, Belgium and Sicily. Expect gaffes.

Mr Trump may also announce a replacement for former FBI Director James Comey.

After announcing his government on Wednesday, newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to travel to Mali to meet French troops.

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