Top of the Morning: Elections in Georgia; Iraq Bombing Wave; Plight of Myanmar’s Displaced

Top stories from DAWNS Digest 

Georgians Go to the Polls in High Stakes Election

There is a lot riding on this parliamentary election, being held today. “Voters in Georgia are choosing a new parliament in a heated election Monday that will decide the future of the pro-Western government of President Mikhail Saakashvili. Emotions are running high in an election that is competitive not only for Georgia but for much of the former Soviet Union. If Saakashvili’s party loses, it would be the first time in Georgia’s post-Soviet history that a government has been changed not through revolution but at the ballot box. The governing party, which has dominated parliament, is up against a diverse opposition coalition led by Bidzina Ivanishvili, a billionaire businessman who has posed the most serious challenge to Saakashvili since he came to power almost nine years ago. With the opposition accusing the government of violations aimed at manipulating the vote, Saakashvili is under pressure to prove his commitment to democracy by holding a free and fair election. Both sides have promised to respect the results if the election receives the approval of international observers.” (ABC

After Al Qaeda Prison Break, Bombings Target Shiite Neighborhoods in Iraq

Sectarian violence in Iraq is reaching a feverish pitch. “A series of coordinated bombings shattered Shiite neighborhoods and struck at Iraqi security forces Sunday, killing at least 26 in attacks that one official described as a rallying call by al-Qaida just days after dozens of militants escaped from prison. The blasts brought September’s death toll from sectarian violence to nearly 200 people — a grim, above-average monthly total for the period since U.S. troops left last year. The steady pace of attacks has worked to undermine confidence in the government… Police said the wave of explosions stretched from the restive but oil-rich city of Kirkuk in the north to the southern Shiite town of Kut, wounding at least 94 people. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks, but bombings are a hallmark of al-Qaida in Iraq, the Sunni insurgency that has been struggling for years to goad Shiite militias back toward civil war. A key Shiite lawmaker said the bombings likely sought to galvanize al-Qaida in the wake of a prison break last Friday in Saddam Hussein’s northern hometown of Tikrit. Scores of inmates escaped — including as many as 47 convicted al-Qaida militants — in a massive security lapse that the government acknowledged had help from inside.” (WaPo

Bleak Future for Myanmar’s Displaced

With Aung San Suu Kyi embarked on her triumphant tour of the USA and sanctions against the Burmese government loosened by the day, the plight of ethnic Kachin’s in Myanmar’s north is sometimes overlooked. “As fierce fighting rages between Myanmar’s army and ethnic Kachin rebels, tens of thousands of people forced to flee their homes have become trapped, with conflict on one side and an unsympathetic China on the other. On the surface, daily life seems to carry on almost as normal in the rebel stronghold town of Laiza, near Myanmar’s border with China in the far north. But the relentless thud of artillery fire — often for hours at a time — provides a near-constant reminder of a bloody conflict that has torn through the area since a 17-year ceasefire between the military and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) shattered last June. Deadly clashes prompted thousands of civilians to seek refuge in camps, cut off from their homes and unable to work their land. Many months later, their lot has not improved…Estimates of the number of internally displaced people within Kachin state vary from 75,000, according to the United Nations, to over 100,000 according to Kachin sources.” (AFP