Cruel, Cruel Summer

Cruel, Cruel Summer

As the temperature rose this summer (at least in the Northern Hemisphere) many world leaders started to feel the heat. Here’s a look at five presidents and prime ministers who have seen their approval ratings fall significantly over the past several months.


Vladimir Putin, President of Russia: The world’s shrewdest strongman saw his approval rating plummet 12 points between May and July after his government proposed raising the retirement age and slashing pension benefits. More than 80 percent of Russians opposed the move, prompting the largest one-month polling tailspin in the history of Putin’s tenure. While his current rating of 67 percent is nothing to sneeze at, it’s his lowest since February 2014, just before he launched the wildly popular invasion of Ukraine.

Emmanuel Macron, President of France: The stirring triumph of Les Bleus in the 2018 World Cup did little to buoy President Macron’s popularity back home. After a scandal-plagued summer that saw the release of video footage showing Macron’s former chief bodyguard beating two protesters during the country’s May Day celebrations, France’s political wunderkind faces the biggest test of his presidency so far. Over the past three months, Macron’s approval rating has fallen by 16 points to a record low 27 percent.

Mauricio Macri, President of Argentina: Elected in 2014 in part to clean up years of his predecessors’ economic mismanagement, Macri’s gradualist approach has pleased no one: his reforms have been painful enough to put people on the streets, but not far-reaching enough to spur a fresh investment boom or economic surge. The outside world isn’t helping: higher US interest rates, economic slowdowns in Brazil and China (Argentina’s key partners) and a broader run on emerging market currencies have helped push the Argentine peso down more than 40 percent against the dollar this year, and Macri’s approval has fallen 14 points since June.

Moon Jae-in, President of South Korea: President Moon’s approval rating soared above 80 percent after his historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un this spring, but it’s fallen steadily since then – in part because of a mishandled minimum wage increase (too fast for employers, too slow for workers) and a summer heat-wave that boosted electricity bills. Still, let’s be serious: 58 percent is the envy of most democratically elected leaders these days, and maybe his planned upcoming visit with Kim Jong-un can give him a fresh boost.

Malcolm Turnbull, (former) Prime Minister of Australia: Ousted last Friday after a political knife fight within his own party, one major reason for the 9-point fall in Turnbull’s approval rating that culminated in his ouster was a botched plan to impose tighter emissions regulations. But there’s also a deeper structural crisis at play in Australia, where political squabbles have paralyzed government for years, and Turnbull’s own governing party is split between a faction drawn rightward by the rise of anti-immigrant populist politics and a more centrist faction that Turnbull represented. If you’re counting, Australia has gone through 6 changes of prime minister in the past ten years.

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The European Union is, for better or worse, the most ambitious experiment in human history in institutionalized multinational cooperation. Its success depends on the willingness of its members to abide by its rules.

In recent years, the populist-nationalist governments of former Communist bloc members Hungary and Poland have flouted some of those rules in order to boost their own popularity with citizens suspicious of the EU's liberal values on issues like immigration and minority rights. In response, the EU has scolded these "illiberal" governments and threatened forceful action – so far without much effect.

The fight between EU institutions and Poland and Hungary has escalated.

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Ian Bremmer is joined on GZERO World by artificial intelligence scientists Kai-fu Lee, who recently wrote about how AI will change the world over the next two decades, precisely to talk about AI's future. After this week's Facebook debacle, how can we align interest to regulate AI-driven algorithms? Will AI steal all our jobs? And what should we do to learn from AI to improve our lives before it gets smarter than us?

Watch this episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer: Is a robot coming for your job? Kai-fu Lee explains AI

US elections officials have always persuaded losing candidates that they've, ahem, lost. Now it's worse because there's a new paradigm, according to former DHS and Election Assistance Commission official Matt Masterson, policy fellow with the Stanford Internet Observatory. Candidates that won't accept defeat regardless of the margin or evidence of fraud, he says, are undermining trust in the system — and election officials are ill-equipped to deal with this problem.

Matt Masterson made these remarks during a live Global Stage event, Infodemic: defending democracy from disinformation. Watch the full event here: https://www.gzeromedia.com/global-stage/virtual-events/disinformation-is-a-big-problem-what-can-we-do-about-it

Who's most responsible for spreading misinformation online? For Ginny Badanes, senior director for Democracy Forward at Microsoft, the problem starts with those who create it, yet ultimately governments, companies and individuals all share the burden. And she's more interested in what we can do to respond.

Ginny Badanes spoke at a live Global Stage event, Infodemic: defending democracy from disinformation. Watch the full event here: https://www.gzeromedia.com/global-stage/virtual-events/disinformation-is-a-big-problem-what-can-we-do-about-it

Some of the worst sectarian clashes since Lebanon's 15-year civil war (1975-1990) broke out in Beirut this week between supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, both Shiite political parties, and Christian, far-right Lebanese Forces. Shiite protesters were rallying against the state probe into the Beirut port blast, which occurred last year. They say authorities were singling out Shiite politicians for questioning and blame. In this video, watch Ian Bremmer's conversation with Lebanese journalist and author Kim Ghattas on GZW talking about the future of Lebanese politics and sectarianism in the county after the after the blast. It was originally published on August 19, 2020.

In Lebanon, "a majority (are) united in wanting a different future, a future that is non-sectarian, that is non-corrupt, that provides prosperity, justice, dignity for people," journalist Kim Ghattas told Ian Bremmer on GZERO World.

In this interview, Ghattas discusses the opportunity that could arise from the tragedy of the Beirut explosion which killed 200 and injured thousands more. The Lebanese are "fed up" with the militant group Hezbollah, she tells Bremmer, and want to strive for a government that better resembles the diversity and cosmopolitan nature of its citizens.

Watch the GZERO World episode: Lebanon Post-Blast: Rage in the Streets of Beirut.

Some of the worst sectarian clashes since Lebanon's 15-year civil war (1975-1990) broke out in Beirut this week between supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, both Shiite political parties, and Christian, far-right Lebanese Forces. Shiite protesters were rallying against the state probe into the Beirut port blast, which occurred last year. They say authorities were singling out Shiite politicians for questioning and blame. Below is our original piece on the Beirut port explosions published on August 5, 2020.


The twin explosions at Beirut's port on Tuesday were so powerful that the aftershocks reverberated as far as the Eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus, 150 miles away. The specter of fire and smoke was such that many suggested on social media that Beirut had experienced a nuclear blast.

In the days ahead, more details will come to light about why a deadly cache of materials was haphazardly stashed at a port warehouse, and why Lebanon's government failed to secure the site. So, what comes next for crisis-ridden Lebanon?

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Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares insights on US politics:

What does it actually mean to cut $1 trillion from the Democrats' $3.5 trillion social spending bill?

President Biden has proposed one of the most ambitious expansions of federal spending in recent memory. If he gets everything he wants, it would probably be the largest expansion of government since the Great Society, but he's not going to get everything he wants. Democrats have basically said they cannot do all $3.5 trillion in spending. They're probably going to end up around $2 trillion. So what gets cut? Well, we don't know yet. There's kind of two ways to go about this. They could either cut the number of programs that have been proposed, doing fewer things with more money on a permanent basis, or they could try to do more things, each program getting less money and potentially doing them on a temporary basis. So, a future Congress would have to extend it. What does this mean for you? Well, a lot of the money in here is designed to go directly to families, either in the form of cash payments, through the tax code, the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit, or subsidies for things like child care, early childhood education, and community college. And if you cut these things back, it means less money is going to go out the door to the American people. It also means less tax increases to finance it. So the implications of what's being proposed could actually end up being a big deal for a lot of Americans who would qualify for benefits under these new programs.

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