Weekly Briefing

Sri Lanka
Sarath Fonseka, who lost Sri Lanka's first peacetime presidential election in 20 years to the incumbent president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, should have been able to count on at least one more vote than he received. But having failed to register in 2008 (fighting the Tamil Tigers was keeping the former general rather busy at the time), he was not in a position to support his own campaign. Questions were raised over whether this meant he was ineligible to stand. (It didn't.)

Still, Fonseka - who fell out with Rajapaksa over who should get credit for ending the 26-year civil war - has had bigger worries. Violence during the election campaign led to several deaths and hundreds of injuries; 68,000 police were stationed across the country to provide security for voters during the poll.

Davos
It was "trust Armageddon" last year, according to the Financial Times, but as the business world's great and good head for the 2010 World Economic Forum at Davos, things are looking up, a bit. Public trust in business and government, according to the consultancy firm Edelman, is extremely shaky. But it's grown, from 49 to 53 per cent.

With its catchy theme - "Rethink, Redesign, Rebuild" - the forum is looking to divorce itself from the humiliations of the global crash. But with financial reform proposals such as "restrict government influence on owned institutions to board-level issues", and a plea for government to be "realistic about securing and incentivising the best available talent" (that is, the need to pay bonuses), it will be hard pushed.

Prostitution
The geography of European prostitution is changing. So says a report by Tampep, a body that supports migrant sex workers in Europe. In 2006, Russia was the most common country of origin for sex workers, followed by Ukraine and Romania. By 2008, the EU had expanded and the new EU member states Romania and Bulgaria were in the top three.

In older EU countries, 70 per cent of prostitutes are migrants, so the effects of the EU's changing make-up are unsurprising. What is less expected is the report's take on criminalising prostitutes' clients. New to the UK but already in place in Finland and Norway, the report calls such laws "legislation . . . [that] harms the very people it seeks to protect", by driving parts of the industry underground. As the law is intended to help women who may have been trafficked, the body's opinion is a significant, if worrying, addition to the debate.

Sudan
“I have not been fired by the people, I have been fired by the guns," announced Sadiq al-Mahdi, Sudan's former president, who is to stand at the country's forthcoming presidential elections. Al-Mahdi led Sudan in the 1980s, but was then deposed in a bloodless coup by the current president, Omar el-Bashir.

Al-Mahdi's decision to run is seen as lending legitimacy to the election. But it may not augur so well for the arrest warrant served on el-Bashir by the International Criminal Court for war crimes in Darfur. When the warrant was issued in 2008, al-Mahdi was one of several formerly bitter rivals who rallied behind el-Bashir, with a mixture of national pride and fear that the country would fail - as Somalia did - without a unifying domestic leader.

But as the months have passed, the warrant's clout has faded. El-Bashir's international travels have threatened the ICC's credibility. He is widely expected to win the election.

Indonesia
Beset by scandal and dwindling approval ratings, Indonesia's president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, at least has music to fall back on: his third album of pop songs, Ku Yakin Sampai Di Sana ("I'm Certain I'll Get There"), has just been released.

Having come to power on an anti-corruption ticket, SBY, as he is known, now stands accused of having made "no effort" to improve things, and there are suspicions that money for the bailout of an Indonesian bank was used for the president's election campaign. But perhaps SBY's latest compositions - such as "Go Forth My Country" and "Longing My Love, Save Our Planet" - will convince the electorate that he's out for the greater good.