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Coronavirus Politics Daily: Bolivia's endless "interim," Philippines' war on the media, EU asserts itself in the Balkans

Coronavirus Politics Daily: Bolivia's endless "interim," Philippines' war on the media, EU asserts itself in the Balkans

Bolivia's endless "interim:" Coronavirus makes it hard to hold elections these days, and that seems to suit Bolivia's interim president Jeanine Áñez just fine. Áñez, an outspoken conservative, took power last fall after the Andean country's long-serving leftist president Evo Morales was ousted amid protests over election fraud. At the time, Áñez was expected to stick around for a few weeks to organize a new, fair election and then stand aside. But she quickly took bold steps to undo Morales' legacy and then, despite initially claiming no interest in the presidency, launched her own candidacy. The election was supposed to have been held last weekend, but was cancelled over public health concerns. Now parliament, still controlled by Morales' party, has voted to hold the ballot within 90 days. But Áñez, who is polling behind Morales' preferred candidate despite her well-regarded response to the coronavirus pandemic, says that's too soon to do it safely. That sets up a bitter fight in an already deeply polarized country, and it doesn't help that low oil prices are throttling Bolivia's gas-exporting economy. Until the elections issue is resolved, expect things to get ugly in the "interim."


Duterte's government gags the media: In an unprecedented move, the Philippines government ordered the nation's largest broadcast network, ABS-CBN, to shutter its operations Tuesday, leaving blank the screens of millions of Filipinos seeking news about the coronavirus pandemic. President Rodrigo Duterte, a rough-spoken populist who often targets the press, said the order to close down radio and television operations came from an independent commission. But critics, including some who are aligned politically with the president, say it's an attempt to muzzle any criticism of his response to the coronavirus crisis. Reporters have already documented inadequate protection for healthcare workers and poor social support amid lockdowns which has led to widespread hunger. During Duterte's tenure, the Philippines has become one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a journalist, ranking 136th in this year's World Press Freedom Index.

EU counters China and Russia in the Balkans: During a videoconference with six Balkan countries – Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Albania, Bosnia, and North Macedonia – the EU delivered a clear message: stop falling for overtures from China and Russia. As protective equipment has been in short supply around the world in recent months, Beijing and Moscow have both enthusiastically sent gear to many countries, drawing praise particularly from Eastern European countries that have complained of insufficient support from Brussels. But during the videoconference, representatives from all 27 EU states pushed back on this narrative, reiterating that the 3.3 billion euros recently doled out to states from the West Balkans by the bloc far outweighs anything Moscow or Beijing have sent through. But beneath the great power geopolitics, are the Balkan states playing a shrewd game of their own? They want to join the EU, and they may wager that showering praise on Russia and China will spook Brussels into speeding those talks. Whether that approach will work during a pandemic and global depression is less clear.

The Hindu Kush Himalayan region, stretching for more than 2,000 miles, is home to the world's highest mountains. The mountain range is also home to the world's third-largest concentration of snow and ice, earning it the moniker the third pole; only the North and South Poles contain more. The glaciers of the Hindu Kush Himalayas are the main source of fresh water for around two billion people living in the region. However, by the end of this century, two-thirds of that snow and ice could be lost because of climate change. A network of data scientists and environmentalists around the world, and on the ground in the Hindu Kush Himalayas, are working to understand the extent of glacial melting in the Hindu Kush Himalayan region, its effects and what can be done to minimize its impact. To read more visit Microsoft on the Issues.

When Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte resigned Tuesday — plunging the country into chaos as it faces once-in-a-generation public health and economic crises — he became the fourteenth Italian to vacate the prime ministership in three decades. (For contrast, Germany has only had three chancellors since 1982, and France has had five presidents.)

But Conte, who had no previous political experience until he was tapped for the top job in 2018, is not so much throwing in the towel as he is taking a massive gamble that President Sergio Mattarella will again appoint him to head Conte's third coalition government in less than three years.

The recent dysfunction is unique even within the context of instability-prone Italian politics. How did Italy get here, and what might come next?

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Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics on this week's World In (More Than) 60 Seconds:

What did you think of Xi Jinping's speech at the virtual World Economic Forum?

Well, his last speech at the real World Economic Forum in Davos, I remember being there four years ago, and given that Trump had just been elected, Xi Jinping gives this big, "We want to stand up and be leaders while the Americans are doing America first." And generally speaking, was probably the most important speech of the week. People liked it. This is a pretty different environment, not so much because Trump has gone, but rather because support and belief in Xi Jinping is pretty low. I will say one thing that was generally well responded to was the call not to enter into a new Cold War. Anybody in the business community generally supports that. There's so much integration and interdependence between the US and the Chinese economies that when Xi Jinping says, "We need to find ways to continue to work together," I mean, this is the pro-globalization audience he's speaking to. They generally agree. But otherwise, the message fell pretty flat. So, the idea that China is going to be globally useful on issues of leadership, especially when it comes to anything that might threaten Beijing's sovereignty, they check global norms at the door. And a few examples of that, when Xi called for support for the rules-based international order, that's in obvious contrast with China's violation of the one country, two systems framework in Hong Kong. And they said, "Well, that's a domestic issue." Well, actually that's not what your agreement was with the British handover. And just because you're more powerful doesn't mean that norm doesn't matter anymore.

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Over the weekend, some 40,000 people in Moscow and thousands more across Russia braved subzero temperatures to turn out in the streets in support of imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. More than 3,000 protesters were arrested, and Navalny called on his followers to prepare for more action in the coming weeks.

But just who is Alexei Navalny, and how significant is the threat that he may pose to Vladimir Putin's stranglehold on power in Russia?

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Angry farmers take Indian fort: In a major and violent escalation of ongoing protests over new agriculture laws, thousands of Indian farmers broke through police barricades and stormed the historic Red Fort in New Delhi on Tuesday. At least one protester died in the chaos, while the government shut down internet service in parts of the capital. Farmers and the government are still deadlocked over the new laws, which liberalize agriculture markets in ways that farmers fear will undercut their livelihoods. The government has offered to suspend implementation for 18 months, but the farmers unions are pushing for a complete repeal. Given that some 60 percent of India's population works in agriculture, the standoff has become a major political test for the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ruling BJP party.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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