Sudan: election row
The election held in Africa's largest country earlier this month - its first for 24 years - was mostly peaceful. But in almost every other way, it was found lacking: claims of vote rigging, logistical problems, intimidation of voters and the small matter of the ongoing conflict in Darfur were a few of the problems observers noted.
Some rivals to President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes, withdrew alleging fraud, and opposition parties have said the elections were "stealing the dreams of the Sudanese people". Observers acknowledged the poll as a major step towards democratisation; but some of al-Bashir's opponents argue that it only legitimises the president's leadership.
Pakistan: power shift
President Asif Ali Zardari, the widower of Pakistan's late prime minister Benazir Bhutto, is not a man known for lack of ambition. Yet, in effect, he has demoted himself and shifted key powers to parliament. Zardari is now, more or less, the state head in title only. The move might not flatter
the president's ego, but it should dilute the influence of Pakistan's too-powerful military: the army will find it harder to influence the parliament than the president alone. The shift is a timely one: a UN panel has just reported that Bhutto's death could have been avoided with proper military action, and that the failure thoroughly to investigate the killing "was deliberate". Several officials have been suspended, but the parliament's new powers raise hopes for deeper reforms.
Russia: suicide bombs
The suicide attacks on Moscow's underground last month, which killed 40 people, brought the turbulent north Caucasus regions of Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan back to the world's attention. The violence caused by Islamist militants rarely spreads beyond those areas; but two bombings in Dagestan's capital, Makhachkala, on 20 April are a reminder of simmering troubles, which killed 862 people in 2009.
As president, Vladimir Putin successfully gave responsibility for the regions to pro-Moscow Chechens. But as John Russell, writing for Chatham House, has pointed out, one outcome of the repressive regime has been pockets of violent resistance.
And for how long can Russia afford to bankroll the Chechens?
“We in Indonesia have shown by example that Islam, democracy and modernity can grow together," Indonesia's president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, announced on 12 April. Freedom of religion, on the other hand, isn't quite such a strong suit. A week later, the country's Constitutional Court voted to uphold a controversial blasphemy law, allowing the practice of only six religions - Protestantism, Catholicism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Hinduism and Islam. All others are punishable by up to five years in prison. Campaigners sought to challenge the law last October, but the court rejected the view that groups such as Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia could use the law to justify violating human rights. The judges said that while the law is imperfect, it is "vital to religious harmony".
US: Obama under par
As president, Barack Obama has played 32 games of golf, we are told, outstripping the 24 George W Bush was pilloried for, most memorably after calling on "all nations to do everything they can to stop these terrorist killers" - while standing on the green.
“Obama skips Polish funeral, heads to golf course", barked headlines on 18 April - although it was probably volcanic ash, not leisure pursuits, that kept him from the funeral of the late Polish president, Lech Kaczynski. But perhaps Obama's hobby is a good thing. He has said that golf makes him feel "normal", a quality that, as Bush would no doubt agree, is worth celebrating in a leader of the western world.