First Past the Post: February 13-14

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East and South Asia

Japan may lift its ban on Internet electioneering in time for this summer’s elections.

Another quarter, another Japanese contraction.

Valentine’s Day in Shahbagh.

South Korean president-elect Park Guen-hye has announced six new ministers, including former chief presidential secretary Yun Byung-se as foreign minister.

The Diplomat speculates at five ways China could become a democracy.

North America

The Washington Post‘s Ezra Klein gives us his scorecard for U.S. president Barack Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night.

Perhaps the biggest news out of the State of the Union address was the ‘water’ gaffe made by U.S. senator Marco Rubio (shown above) in giving the Republican Party’s response.

Perhaps the most important news out of the State of the Union address is the launch of U.S.-E.U. free trade agreement talks.  Tyler Cowen shares his thoughts here.  (But what does Joseph Weiler think?) The view from Europe.

Liberal Party leadership frontrunner Justin Trudeau starts to take some hits.

Latin America / Caribbean

Jamaica attempts a debt swap plan.

Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez is apparently undergoing additional arduous treatment procedures.

Grenada’s opposition party launches its manifesto.

Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto wants to boost tourism.  [Spanish]

The Guatemalan Rios Montt genocide trial is set for August 14.

Sub-Saharan Africa

Zimbabwe will hold its constitutional referendum, as a tentative matter, on March 16.

Forget Mali. Is Niger next?

Ghanaian president John Dramani Mahama pledges to respect the Supreme Court’s upcoming ruling on the December 2012 presidential election.

In the first Kenyan presidential debate, voters narrowly ranked Uhuru Kenyatta ahead of Raila Odinga.

The ICC cases against Kenyatta and his running mate, William Ruto, take center stage today.

Europe

Foreign Policy throws cold water on Scottish independence.

Another guide to the papal conclave.

France’s Assemblée nationale passed a gay marriage law on Tuesday.

Are we headed to early elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina?

An intriguing official portrait is unveiled for Czech president-elect Miloš Zeman.

Poland’s opposition leader Jarosław Kaczyński is calling a vote of no-confidence in prime minister Donald Tusk.

Russia and Former Soviet Union

Even Russians need a visa for Sochi’s 2014 Winter Olympics.

Global Financial Integrity targets Cyprus as the largest destination for Russian money laundering.

Middle East and North Africa

Amnesty International calls for Bahrain to release political prisoners two years after the 2011 protests surrounding the now-demolished Pearl Roundabout (pictured above).

Naftali Bennett, today, is the unhappy party in the ongoing coalition talks in Israel.

Egypt’s new protests law may be too restrictive.

Jordan’s King Hussein II will look for a ‘consensus’ candidate for Jordanian prime minister following elections late last month.

Australia

Kevin Rudd for pope.

♥, Etc.

Happy Valentine’s Day to Aaron Benson.

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