Week Ahead: Senegal, Iran and Russia go to the polls

BOSTON — This is the week when Senegal's democracy will be tested, Russia goes to the polls to elect a new (or old) president, Michigan and Arizona Republicans choose their candidates, and champagne and cigars are celebrated.

Senegal's democracy to be tested

The results of Senegal's presidential election will be announced and the country's political stability will be tested by what comes after.

Senegal President Abdoulaye Wade was booed and jeered when he cast his vote in Dakar Sunday. Later, when the votes were counted in his home district, Wade won just 22 percent of the votes. This suggests that Wade will have to go to a runoff election, as he must win 50 percent of the total vote to win outright in the first round.

Wade, 85, has thrown Senegal, normally the bedrock of stability for West Africa, into turmoil by seeking an unconstitutional third term. Ever since the Constitutional Court made the controversial ruling on January 27 that Wade could set aside the constitution and run for a third term, the normally orderly country has been rocked by demonstrations in which six people have died.

Now the opposition, which fielded 13 different candidates, has vowed to make Senegal ungovernable if Wade wins.

Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo is in the country as an election observer, but he is also trying to mediate between Wade and the opposition. Obasanjo is trying to work out a deal in which Wade would agree to serve just three years of the seven year term, according to numerous reports. But some opposition vow that even one more year of Wade is too much.

What happens this week will be crucial, not only for Senegal but for all of West Africa.

Senegal: Rallies and riots right up to election day

Russia goes to the polls

This is also the week when Russia goes to the polls to elect a new president, or maybe an old president. Vladimir Putin was once president and may well become Russia's next president.

Dmitry Medvedev kept the seat warm and now appears ready to hand it back to Putin.

The Russian presidential election will be held on Sunday, March 4.

Putin to dominate the vote, whether it's fair or not

Iran to vote on assembly

Iranians will vote on Friday, March 2 to determine the legislators who will represent them in the national Assembly. It will be the first time Iranians will go to the polls since the hotly disputed election of 2009 in which Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stayed in power.

US spy agencies see no evidence of Iranian nuclear weapons program 

BP to negotiate with plaintiffs over Deepwater Horizon oil spill  

This was supposed to be the week when BP would go to court over the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill.

The civil trial over the Deepwater Horizon disaster was scheduled to open on Monday, Feb. 27, but late Sunday it was postponed. Now this is the week when BP negotiates to reach a settlement with the lawyers representing those who say they were injured by the oil spill. 

The trial, which had been slated to begin in Federal District Court in New Orleans, is meant to determine the culpability of BP and other companies for the explosion that killed 11 and unleashed the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history. Later trials will determine how much oil escaped from the well and how successful the companies involved were at containing and cleaning it up. The companies involved in the April 2010 incident, including Transocean Ltd. and Halliburton Corp. are also battling amongst themselves over who was at fault.

In other words, it's going to be a big deal.

BP ready for long oil spill trial

Republicans hold primaries in Arizona and Michigan

Tuesday voters in Michigan and Arizona will voter on their favorite Republican candidate to challenge US President Barack Obama in the November election. Mitt Romney appears to have the edge, but Rick Santorum is still in the race. Newt Gingrich appears to be a distant third.

In Michigan there appears to be little enthusiasm for any of the Republicans. Maybe that's because they all opposed the bailout to the Detroit automakers, GM and Chrysler.

Michigan: a bad year for mushers and politicians 

Cigars and champagne to be celebrated

Does that make the week sound all very serious. Well for some sparkling fun, how about some champagne?

The Champagne Summit in London on Tuesday, Feb. 28, will feature panel debates, tastings and masterclasses on chamapagne. Corks will be popping.

And for cigar lovers, the Habano Cigars Festival begins in Havana, on Monday Feb. 27. Enthusiasts from all over the world will sample new products, attend seminars and visit Cuba’s tobacco plantations and factories. Cigars will be savored.

Cigars: Lighting up in Latin America

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