ENTER IMRAN KHAN

ENTER IMRAN KHAN

Following a campaign marred by deadly violence and charges of cheating, Imran Khan, a charismatic Oxford-educated aristocrat and legendary cricketer, has claimed victory for his Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) party in Pakistan’s national elections. The party’s closest challenger, disgraced former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N party, continues to insist the vote was stolen, but Khan will likely lead the next government.


This is a big deal. Pakistan’s military has dominated politics throughout the country’s 71-year history, and this transition will mark just the second time that one civilian-led government has passed power to another after their party finished its full term.

That said, as Khan well knows, parties in Pakistan have proven more resilient than their leaders. Not one of the 18 men and women appointed or elected as Pakistan’s prime minister has finished the term to which he/she was elected.

In a global context, this is yet another “change election.” As in France, Italy, and Mexico, a growing number of Pakistan’s voters have rejected the well-entrenched political establishment in favor of an outsider and the political party he created. (Khan launched PTI in 1996, but until now it has never truly contended for national power.)

In Pakistan, parties centered on political dynasties—Sharif’s PML-N (now led by Sharif’s brother) and the PPP (headed by the son of assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto)—finished in second and third place respectively.

Who is Imran Khan?

Depends whom you ask. Critics say he’s a thin-skinned narcissist who doesn’t understand politics, constantly contradicts himself, and is in way over his head. Supporters, particularly young people hungry for change, say he’s just the man to take a cricket bat to Pakistan’s fantastically corrupt political culture.

Supporters and detractors agree he’s relentless. He has been Pakistan’s highest-profile political naysayer for more than two decades, and his dogged pursuit of a supreme court disqualification of corruption-plagued Nawaz Sharif defined this election.

Khan’s biggest challenges

On domestic policy, the new prime minister must tackle the deeply related problems of poverty and corruption. About 40 percent of Pakistanis live in poverty, and Transparency International, a corruption watchdog, rankedPakistan 117th of 180 countries on perceptions of corruption in 2017. Khan must also manage a badly weakened currency: The rupee has been devalued four times in seven months, stripping value from the banknotes Pakistanis hold in their pockets.

On foreign policy, Khan says he wants to resolve the (sometimes deadly) conflict with India over Kashmir and to improve relations with the US after a multi-year deterioration of ties with Washington. Though Khan says he wants to emulate China’s historic accomplishments in poverty reduction, a foreign-policy pivot toward Beijing has helped fuel a government debt crisis.

Khan must also carefully manage relations with Pakistan’s military, which remains central to corruption in government and business, and insists on final say on Pakistan’s foreign and security policy.

But the new prime minister’s biggest challenge will come from his transition from insurgent to incumbent. The perennial outsider must now assume responsibility for his country’s chronic problems while maintaining the backing of those who voted more for change than for Imran Khan personally.

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

More Show less

Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

More Show less

In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

More Show less

When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

More Show less

YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

More Show less

Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

More Show less

28: The UK and the EU have again failed to agree on post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. In a 28-page document, the British government had suggested further changes to trade rules that were already negotiated as part of the Brexit settlement, but Brussels was not having any of it.

More Show less

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

GZERO World with Ian Bremmer. Watch episodes now

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal

GZERO World with Ian Bremmer. Watch episodes now

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal