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Coronavirus Politics Daily: Poland's election, Iraq on the rocks, the Peruvian urban exodus

Coronavirus Politics Daily: Poland's election, Iraq on the rocks, the Peruvian urban exodus
Poland's election mess: Many countries have postponed their elections fearing that in-person polls could put voters at risk of contracting COVID-19. Not Poland. The country is still set to hold its presidential election on May 10, and any decision to the contrary will now come at the 11th hour, after a contentious debate. The ruling coalition government, led by the nationalist Law and Justice Party, wants to delay the vote by just a week or two so that a vote-by-mail system can be rolled out. Critics note that a fraud-proof system of this kind usually takes months or years to get off the ground. But the government wants to capitalize on incumbent President Andrzej Duda's strong recent polling, and is even trying to bend rules which forbid any changes to elections within six months of the vote. Opposition parties, meanwhile, worry about fraud and the public health risks of holding the vote so soon, and some have called for a boycott. Parliament is set to vote on the government backed-plan this week. The crucial vote lies with the lower house, where the governing coalition has a slim majority.

Iraq on the rocks: Even before the coronavirus pandemic, Iraq was facing multiple political and economic crises, including a potential Islamic State resurgence, grassroots anti-corruption protests, and the lack of a permanent Prime Minister. But now the oil-rich state's economy is on the brink of collapse, for two reasons. First, lockdowns around the world have cratered global demand for oil, which accounts for 90 percent of Iraq's government revenues and directly contributes nearly 40 percent of GDP. With global crude prices at their lowest levels in decades, the government is already $2 billion short. Second, Iraq's own lockdowns have proven catastrophic in a country where more than half of all workers toil in the country's informal economy, which means they can't work from home and have no jobless benefits. For many of these families, not working means not eating. When oil prices plummeted back in 2014, the IMF doled out $4.5 billion in aid to helped Iraq weather the storm. But amid the current crisis Iraq is just one of many crisis-stricken developing countries pleading with the IMF for urgent assistance.

A Peruvian exodus: Nations emerge from poverty and build middle classes when waves of people move from the countryside into cities to find better opportunities to learn, work, and earn. That's why one of the coronavirus' most damaging effects lies in its ability to force people out of cities, where infection rates are highest, back into the countryside—and perhaps back into poverty. That's the context for reports like this one, which describes the highways in Peru lined with men, women and children, burdened with their possessions, escaping the capital city of Lima on foot. Peru is especially hard hit: current data say it has the second highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Latin America, behind only the much larger Brazil. But the frantic and often uncertain exodus from the city to the countryside is an echo of what is happening in developing countries all over the world.

Meet Alessandra Cominetti, a recipient of MIT Technology Review Magazine's Innovators Under 35 award. As a lab technician at Eni's Research Centre for Renewable Energy in Novara, Alessandra has devoted her career to finding new solutions and materials to optimize solar energy. Much like the serendipitous encounter that resulted in her employment, her eagerness and willingness to try new things allowed her to stumble upon a material for the creation of portable solar panels.

Watch her remarkable story on the latest episode of Faces of Eni.

Joe Biden has vowed to radically change the US' approach to foreign policy and international diplomacy should he win next week's election.

But a lot has happened in four years under Donald Trump that could impede Biden's ability to simply return to the status quo ante. How different would US foreign policy really be under a Biden presidency? What will the two-term former vice president likely be able to change, and what's bound to remain the same, at least for now?

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When Americans vote for president, the economy is (almost) always front and center, as Democratic strategist James Carville famously predicted in 1992, when he was the brainchild of Bill Clinton's successful "It's the economy, stupid" campaign message. But beyond the country's economic future, other issues are also on voters' minds when deciding on casting their ballot for the Democratic or Republican candidate. For instance, Pew surveys show that the 2020 electorate is more worried about the Supreme Court, violent crime and race than they were four years ago, while the coronavirus pandemic has become a major concern. On the other hand, foreign policy, guns and immigration are not as important now as they were in 2016. We compare the top 10 issues for voters in 2016 and 2020.

Kevin Sneader, Global Managing Partner at McKinsey & Company, provides perspective on what corporate business leaders are thinking during the global coronavirus crisis

Should big business care about small business in these times?

The answer is yes and for many reasons. First, small business is the lifeblood of our economies. 45% of employment in emerging countries and 70% in the OECD comes from small and medium enterprises. Moreover, these enterprises have been badly hit by the crisis. Surveys indicate as many as 50% of European small to medium enterprises feel they may not survive over 12 months. While SMEs are relying on government support, larger companies do have a role to play. After all, this includes prioritizing small business and procurement by locking in demand for multiple years, thus facilitating access to good credit, paying receivables to small business in time and where possible, ahead of schedule. Cash flow matters most when you're small. Looking out for small businesses that have lower resilience. For example, financial institutions can lend more and in doing so, ensure deeper customer relationships in the future.

In his latest Financial Times op-ed, Martin Wolf argues that the US global role is at stake in this election and that a Trump re-election would undo America's legacy of democratic leadership in the world. Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group's Jeffrey Wright grabbed the Red Pen to argue that a Trump presidency exists in part because of Americans' rejection of the US's post-war leadership role, and these feelings run deeper than the article suggests.

Today, we're taking The Red Pen to a recent op-ed published in The Financial Times from my good friend, the chief economics commentator Martin Wolf. Martin argues the global role of the United States is at stake on November 3rd, and that a Trump reelection would undo America's legacy of democratic leadership in the world. There's been a lot of this sort of thing recently. I know, we did it once, but if we do it twice, it's all over and I'm not there. To be clear, we don't totally reject what Martin is presenting in this piece. Rather, we'd argue that a Trump presidency exists because there were feelings that were present in the United States before he came along and they run a lot deeper than the article suggests. In other words, it's really not all about Trump.

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