COVID is ravaging these countries: How are their leaders doing?

COVID is ravaging these countries: How are their leaders doing?

We're now six months into the worst public health and economic crisis most countries have seen in generations. But how is that affecting politics? We take a look at the leaders of the countries that currently have the five largest death tolls.


#5 UK: 41,000 deaths. At the beginning of the year, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was basking in the biggest Conservative election victory in 33 years, and preparing to play hardball with European Union trade negotiators over post-Brexit ties. Enter: coronavirus. After first downplaying the pandemic and suggesting a laissez-mourir herd immunity approach, he caved to science and imposed lockdowns.

But his dithering produced the worst of both worlds: Europe's highest death toll and its biggest economic downturn. Now EU talks are all but stalled, and no one knows how big the additional economic hit of Brexit will be. Meanwhile, the opposition Labour Party is back in the game under popular new leader Sir Keir Starmer.

When current wage support schemes expire this fall, Johnson will have to decide whether to renew them (he doesn't want to) or risk the political fallout of soaring unemployment, particularly in UK regions that were key to his victory. And if there is a second coronavirus wave, can the once invincible-looking Johnson really make it to the next election?

#4 India: 60,000 deaths. From the very start, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi faced a difficult challenge: how to impose lockdowns in a country where a huge informal economy and sprawling urban slums make it impossible for hundreds of millions of Indians to work from home or practice social distancing.

His early move to impose a nationwide lockdown on short notice initially created chaos, but it also showed decisiveness and leadership that helped to keep his approval ratings high. What's more, Modi and his ruling BJP party have controlled the narrative well — both through traditional media outlets and a sophisticated social media game — amid the weakness of the opposition Congress Party.

Still, Modi is facing a huge economic challenge: growth was already slowing before COVID-19, and there's little relief in sight. Keep an eye on some of the state elections coming up for a barometer of how BJP/Modi are faring.

#3 Mexico: 61,000 deaths. When the pandemic hit Mexico, left-wing populist President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) worried about the economic impact of lockdowns on the poor, so he told Mexicans that they should just go out to eat. Since then tens of thousands have died of COVID-19, while the economy has suffered a historic triple shock of falling energy prices, evaporating tourism, and lockdowns.

Polls show growing reservations about the government's response, but AMLO's own approval ratings overall have held broadly stable in the low 60s. In part that's because the opposition — the long-governing establishment parties whose monopoly on power he and his Morena party broke — is in disarray and besieged by bombshell corruption investigations.

But the going is about to get tougher for AMLO: the economy will shrink 10 percent this year but, strapped for cash, he's resisted shelling out more money on social programs that help the lower-income Mexicans who are his base. Next year's midterms will be a referendum on AMLO's handling of the virus and the economy.

#2 Brazil: 117,000 deaths. President Jair Bolsonaro ridiculed the disease even as it surged in Brazil. He lost two consecutive health ministers over it, and faced a bombshell obstruction of justice charge. As his polling plummeted and talk of impeachment swirled, he urged protests against Congress and the Supreme Court, stoking fears that a leader so openly nostalgic for the days of dictatorship might try to stage a coup.

But now, stimulus checks have helped his poll numbers to 37 percent, their highest mark on record (at least among those who rate him "excellent" or "good.") To be fair, 37 isn't exactly a bell-ringer, and if the stimulus dries up without the economy turning around, Bolsonaro would be in trouble again. But for now, he has to feel cautiously good about his prospects for re-election in 2022. Bolsonaro has the unwavering commitment of a solid third of Brazilians. In a deeply polarized system, that might be enough.

#1 US: 182,000 deaths. America First wasn't supposed to apply to a pandemic death toll. But despite Donald Trump's erratic, highly politicized, and largely ineffective response his approval ratings have held around 40 percent.

That's in part because so many Americans see the pandemic the way they see everything else: through a partisan or pro/anti-Trump lens. And like his pal Bolsonaro, Trump can always rely on a hardcore 35 percent of the population, along with near total support among Republicans.

That's not a majority of voters, but given the quirks of the US Electoral College, it doesn't need to be. His rival Joe Biden is hammering Trump's mishandling of COVID-19 and the economic collapse it caused, but Trump knows that he's got a chance if November comes down to a few thousand (potentially mailed in) votes in swing states – what could go wrong?

Yau Abdul Karim lives and works in Garin Mai Jalah, located in the Yobe State of northeastern Nigeria. Essential to his work raising cattle is reliable access to water, yet environmental degradation has led to fewer water sources, severely impacting communities like his that depend on livestock. In 2019, with the help of FAO, Eni installed a special solar-powered well in Yau's town that provides water during the day as well as light at night.

Watch Yau's story as he shows how his family and community enjoy life-enhancing access to both water and light.

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here. And I thought I'd talk a little bit today about the latest in Israel, Palestine. It's obviously been driving headlines all week. And of course, on social media, there's no topic that we all get along and agree with each other more than Israel, Palestine. It's an easy one to take on. Yeah, I know I'm completely full of crap on that. But I thought I would give you some sense of what I think is actually happening where we're going. So first point, massive fight, big conflict between Hamas in Gaza and the Israeli defense forces. Not only that, but also more violence and a lot of violence breaking out between Israeli Arabs and Israeli Jews. Extremists on both sides taking to the streets and fairly indiscriminate violence, in this case, worst since 2014.

More Show less

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland's first minister, says another independence referendum for Scotland is now a matter of "when not if," and that after leaving the UK, Scotland will launch a bid to rejoin the EU. But there are formidable obstacles ahead.

Getting to a vote will force a complex game of chicken with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. If a majority of Scots then vote for independence — hardly a sure thing – the process of extricating their new country from the UK will make Brexit look easy. Next, come the challenges of EU accession. In other words, Scotland's journey down the rocky road ahead has only just begun.

More Show less

Cyber is a tool, and sometimes a weapon. Whether espionage for commercial gain or indiscriminate attacks on critical infrastructure, actions taken in cyber space affect you directly, potentially upending even the most mundane realities of everyday life.

Join GZERO Media and Microsoft for a live conversation on cyber challenges facing governments, companies, and citizens in a Munich Security Conference "Road to Munich" event on Tuesday, May 18.

More Show less

According to Delhi-based journalist Barkha Dutt, while the Indian government has finally started to mobilize in response to the COVID crisis, there's still a lot of denial about the severity of the ourbreak. "Our Health Minister, for instance, made a statement in the last 24 hours saying that India is better equipped to fight COVID in 2021 than in 2020. That's simply rubbish. We had India's Solicitor General telling the Supreme Court that there is no oxygen deficit as of now. That's simply not true." In an interview on GZERO World, Dutt tells Ian Bremmer that only the connection between fellow Indians, helping each other when the government cannot, has been a salve.

Watch the episode: India's COVID calamity

Listen: Ask national security experts how they view China today and they'll likely the use a term like "adversary" or "economic competitor." But what about "enemy?" How close is the world to all-out-war breaking out between United States and China? According to US Admiral James Stavridis (Ret.), who served as Supreme Allied Commander to NATO, those odds are higher than many would like to admit. In fact, Stavridis says, the US risks losing its military dominance in the coming years to China. And if push comes to shove in a military conflict, it's not entirely clear who would prevail. Admiral Stavridis discusses his bestselling new military thriller 2034 and makes the case for why his fictional depiction of a US-China war could easily become reality.

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective on Europe In 60 Seconds:

What's the issue with the letter in France talking about the "civil war"?

Well, I think it is part of the beginning of the French election campaign. We have some people in the military encouraged by the more right-wing forces, warning very much for the Muslim question. That's part of the upstart to the election campaign next year. More to come, I fear.

More Show less

When asked about where a US-China war may start, US Admiral James Stavridis (Ret.) doesn't hesitate: Taiwan. He suggests that China may believe the US is distracted by internal politics: "I think it would be a miscalculation on the part of the Chinese, but they may calculate that now is the moment." How would a move against Taiwan play out? Stavridis speculates how the Chinese military may plan to invade the island on the upcoming episode of GZERO World, which begins airing on US public television Friday, May 14. Check local listings.

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

Beyond SolarWinds: Securing Cyberspace. Watch on Tuesday, May 18, 2021 10am PT/ 1pm ET

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal

Beyond SolarWinds: Securing Cyberspace | Watch on Tuesday, May 18, 2021 10am PT / 1 pm PT

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal