By Nick Winnie

*U.S. Presidential Primaries* The strong victories of Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee in the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses signaled what many see as a fundamental shift in the direction of both the Democratic and Republican parties.

Both candidates triumphed by a margin of at least seven percentage points and owed their success to support from specific voter groups: Huckabee from Iowa’s Evangelicals, and Obama from the state’s under-30 population.

The two candidates took these victories to Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary, where a record voter turnout was expected to solidify Obama’s gains and breathe new life into John McCain’s campaign. Though McCain finished first for Republicans, Obama took second place for the Democrats, behind Hilary Clinton.

*Iraq* The year 2007 marked Iraq’s deadliest year since the 2003 invasion. But last month levels of insurgent attacks and civilian deaths declined.

To the disappointment of the international community, the Shia-dominated Maliki government has failed to use this drop in bloodshed as a means to foster political reconciliation across ethnic lines, opening the door for the possible resumption of previous levels of sectarian violence in Iraq.

Pakistan

The recent assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the charismatic former prime minister of Pakistan, plunged the unstable country into desperate mourning and further political uncertainty.

At the time of her death, Bhutto had been leading a parliamentary campaign in opposition to the Musharraf government. She was seen by many Pakistanis and western observers as the best candidate to lead the country toward authentic democracy, opposed the the presence of al Qaeda within its borders.

President Musharraf has denied charges that the Pakistani government was in any way responsible for Bhutto’s death, and has set a tentative date for elections in February.

*Kenya* Long viewed by its African neighbors and western allies as an “oasis of calm” and a promising democracy in one of the world’s most violently unstable regions, Kenya descended into tribal warfare following its Dec. 27 presidential elections.

Opposition leaders in Kenya and the European Union are in agreement that Kenya’s election commission manipulated the vote’s results in order to keep the Kenyan government in power.

The tension between president Mwai Kibaki of the Kikuyu tribe and opposition leader Raila Odinga of the Luo tribe has unleashed a long-dormant wave of tribal violence in Kenya, resulting in the deaths of at least 500 people and jeopardizing prospects of peaceful democracy in the country.