Five choices

Five choices

We have lots of big elections on deck in 2022. Today we’ll preview five that will feature high international stakes and especially colorful candidates.


France (April) — President Emmanuel Macron is expected to seek re-election, and at this early stage he looks likely to win. Marine Le Pen, an anti-EU far-right firebrand, appears set to try to rebrand herself yet again in hopes of earning a second-round rematch with the centrist Macron, who defeated her by nearly 2-1 in their head-to-head battle in 2017. But Le Pen will be elbowed on one side by center-right establishment candidate Valérie Pécresse. On the other, she’ll face constant pressure from France’s new election wildcard, Eric Zemmour, a TV personality who claims left-wing elites want to consolidate power by replacing white French citizens with immigrants from North Africa and the Middle East.

Hungary (April) — Here the outsized personality belongs to incumbent Viktor Orbán, Hungary’s prime minister since 2010, who now faces his toughest election challenge to date. Though Orbán insists he wants Hungary to remain within the EU, criticism of the union forms a central part of his appeal to loyal supporters. His moves in recent years to tighten his grip on power, stack the country’s courts with loyalists, silence media critics, close the country’s borders to non-EU migrants, and restrict the rights of LGBT people have earned pushback from the EU. But the big story here is that six opposition parties have joined forces with the single aim of ousting Orbán.

Colombia (May-June) — Colombians will choose a new Congress in March, but it’s the presidential election in May and June that might make history. For now, Senator Gustavo Petro, a former Marxist guerrilla and mayor of Bogotá, is the wildcard to watch — and the favorite to win. He owes part of his popularity to his own formidable political gifts. But he’s also helped by the unpopularity of the incumbent, Iván Duque, and a year of controversy and public frustration over Duque’s botched tax reform and pandemic response plans. (Duque is term-limited, even if he weren’t politically toxic.) A Petro victory would mark a major political turning point in Colombia, traditionally a center-right country in which decades of war with Marxist militants — and the ongoing disaster next door in socialist-led Venezuela — have long stigmatized leftist politics at the national level.

Brazil (October) — Many recent elections around the world have pitted a charismatic populist against a defender of the political establishment. Not so in Brazil next year, where October’s presidential election will feature a battle for the ages between incumbent right-wing lightning-rod Jair Bolsonaro and former president Luiz Inácio "Lula" da Silva, one of Latin America’s most dynamic left-wing populists. Critics have hammered Bolsonaro for his dismissive attitude toward COVID, and he’s aroused anger by denouncing the integrity of the election itself. Lula is well ahead in early polls, but Bolsonaro’s popularity has risen recently on promises of cash help for the poor, a decidedly off-brand maneuver for a leader who usually dismisses the need for empathy in policymaking. These two brilliant political performance artists will probably deliver the most volatile election of 2022.

US midterms (November) — Much of the US political drama next year will come directly from Donald Trump. The former president and master showman hopes to use November’s midterm congressional elections to tighten his grip on the Republican Party ahead of the 2024 presidential election. In many ways, the hotly contested races for majority control of Congress will be a referendum on increasingly unpopular President Joe Biden, and on Democrats too busy arguing with one another to deliver on some of their grandest campaign promises from 2020. But Trump’s active backing for Republicans who signal personal loyalty to him and his agenda against more independent-minded GOP incumbents makes this set of midterms — as well as state and local elections — less predictable than most.

We’ll also be writing in the coming weeks about upcoming elections in South Korea, the Philippines, Australia, Kenya, and elsewhere.
People working at computers in a room labeled Malware Lab

Microsoft observed destructive malware in systems belonging to several Ukrainian government agencies and organizations that work closely with the Ukrainian government. The Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center (MSTIC) published a technical blog post detailing Microsoft’s ongoing investigation and how the security community can detect and defend against this malware. Microsoft shared this information over the weekend to help others in the cybersecurity community look out for and defend against these attacks. To read more visit Microsoft On the Issues.

President Vladimir Putin

No one knows whether Russian President Vladimir Putin plans on invading Ukraine. But the president of the United States sure seems to think this is a real possibility, saying Wednesday that Putin will likely "move in" in the near term. Biden, prone to political gaffes, was then forced to awkwardly walk back comments that Russia would face milder consequences from the West in the event of a "minor incursion."

The timing of this blunder is... not great. It comes just as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken prepares to meet his Russian counterpart on Friday in hopes of lowering the temperature after recent diplomatic efforts in Geneva were deemed a failure by Moscow.

Indeed, with the Kremlin having amassed at least 100,000 troops surrounding Ukraine on three sides, the growing threat is impossible to ignore. So what would a Russian military offensive into Ukraine actually look like, and how might the West respond?

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Omicron has arrived. It's more contagious, but less severe. Some parts of the world are even looking forward to the pandemic becoming endemic.

Not China. Xi Jinping's zero-COVID strategy has worked wonders until now, but it's unlikely to survive omicron, explains Ian Bremmer on GZERO World.

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Chilling at the beach, retired German Chancellor Angela Merkel is so over politics. Or is she?

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take: Hi everybody. Happy Tuesday after the long weekend for those of us that had a long weekend. I thought I would kick us off with the first major foreign policy crisis of the Biden administration. And that is of course, Russia-Ukraine. Afghanistan, of course, was a debacle, but not exactly a global crisis. This of course has the potential to really change the way we think about European security and about US relations with the other major nuclear power in the world. So, I would say that the level of concern is even higher and there are a lot of things we can say.
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What We’re Watching: Xinjiang at the Beijing Olympics, Boris in deep(er) trouble, Indonesia’s new capital

Selling Xinjiang. Xi Jinping — a man well known for both his grand vision of China’s future, and for his willingness to get large numbers of people to do things they might not otherwise do — said in 2018 that he wanted 300 million Chinese people to participate in winter sports. The Chinese government announced this week that this goal has been met in honor of the Beijing Winter Olympic Games, which open in China’s capital on February 4. Multinational companies are consistently impressed by the commercial opportunities created when 300 million people decide to try new things. But it’s an inconvenient truth that most of China’s most abundant snow and best ski slopes are found in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, a place where Western governments and human rights organizations have accused Beijing of imprisoning more than one million minority Uyghurs in re-education camps. In these prisons, critics say inmates have experienced “torture, and inhumane and degrading treatment.” As China’s government opens new profit opportunities in Xinjiang, multinational corporations will face pressure from multiple directions not to invest there.

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Hard Numbers: Tongan emergency fundraising, EU docks Poland pay, new Colombian presidential hopeful, Turkey gets UAE lifeline

345,000: As of Wednesday afternoon ET, Tonga's Olympic flag-bearer has raised more than $345,000 online to help the victims of Saturday's volcanic eruption and tsunami. Pita Taufatofua, a taekwondo fighter and cross-country skier, has not yet heard from his father, governor of the main Tongan island of Haapai.

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Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week, discussing Boris Johnson's tenuous status as UK PM, US Secretary of State Blinken's visit to Ukraine, and the volcano eruption in Tonga:

Will Boris Johnson resign?

It certainly looks that way. He's hanging on by his fingernails. He's losing members of Parliament. He's giving shambolic media interviews. In fact, I think the only people that don't want him to resign at this point is the Labour Party leadership, because they think the longer he holds on, the better it is for the UK opposition. But no, he certainly looks like he's going. The only question is how quickly. Is it within a matter of weeks or is it after local elections in May? But feel pretty confident that the days of Boris Johnson are numbered.

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