Succession Session

When you rule over more than a billion people, the question of if, when, and how you leave power — or don’t — is naturally a big one, but Xi Jinping isn’t the only leader whose succession plans carry strong intrigue. Here’s what’s on your mind if you’re…


Russian President Putin: the constitution says time’s up when your next term ends in 2024. You could change it, but you’ve always pedantically fixated on the letter of the law (spirit of same, less so…) The last time you ran into term limits you swapped places with a human seat-warmer rather than mess with the constitution. You could designate a successor, but who could you trust to protect your interests without eclipsing your power? In a country where even the speaker of the legislature has said “If there is no Putin, there is no Russia,” this question will hang over every major decision in Russia for the next six years.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman: you’ve groomed your 32-year-old son, Mohamed bin Salman, to succeed you, sidelining older members of the family who thought they were in line for the throne. MBS, as he’s known, has proposed radical social and economic reforms and tenderly jailed much of the elite in a bid to secure loyalty ahead of his coronation. Will the succession open the way to much-needed reforms, or will it provoke destabilizing internal frictions?

Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev: you’ve run oil-rich Kazakhstan with a strong hand since even before the Soviet Union collapsed, but you’ll be turning 78 this summer so you’ve got to think about what comes next. You’ve deftly balanced relations with China, Russia, and the United States — will your successor be able to pull off the same trick?

German Chancellor Angela Merkel: Ok, you aren’t a strongman like the others on this list, but after 13 years dominating German politics, nearly half of your people recently said it’s time to bid you Aufwiedersehen. Luckily, your CDU party overwhelmingly approved your preferred successor, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, as its new leader just yesterday. But your rare combination of political skill, personal probity, and steely ambition are a tough act to follow. Can “mini-Merkel” fill your shoes, or will your legacy of stability be remembered as a prelude to troubles in Germany?

The Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace launched in 2018 with the commitment of signatories to stand up to cyber threats like election interference, attacks on critical infrastructure, and supply chain vulnerabilities. Last week, on the first anniversary of the call, the number of signatories has nearly tripled to more than 1,000 and now includes 74 nations; more than 350 international, civil society and public sector organizations; and more than 600 private sector entities. These commitments to the Paris Call from around the world demonstrate a widespread, global, multi-stakeholder consensus about acceptable behavior in cyberspace.

Read More at Microsoft On The Issues.

What changes now that the U.S. softened its position on Israeli settlements?

Well, I mean, not a lot. I mean, keep in mind that this is also the administration that moved the embassy to Jerusalem, from Tel Aviv. Everyone said that was going to be a massive problem. Ultimately, not many people cared. Same thing with recognition of Golan Heights for Israel. This is just one more give from the Americans to the Israelis in the context of a region that doesn't care as much as they used to about Israel - Palestine.

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Bolivia's polarizing interim president: After Bolivian president Evo Morales and his deputies were pushed out of office for rigging last month's presidential election, little-known opposition Senator Jeanine Añez took office as interim leader. Añez has promised to guide the country toward a "national consensus" ahead of new elections in January, but she's already risked deepening political divides. On day one, she lugged a giant bible into office, in a perceived swipe at Morales, who had elevated popular indigenous traditions that the ultra-conservative Ms. Añez once called "satanic." She's also abruptly reoriented the country's foreign ties toward Latin America's conservative governments. On her watch, at least eight pro-Morales protesters have been killed by the authorities. Morales himself, exiled in Mexico, says he's the victim of a coup and wants to run in the elections. Añez says he's barred, but his MAS political party still controls both houses of congress and has to be a partner for any smooth transition. Some compromise is necessary, but things don't seem to be going that way.

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2,887: Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has now broken a century-old record to become the longest serving PM in Japan's history, at 2,887 days. It's a stunning feat for a premier who made a political comeback after quitting in 2007 due to a series of embarrassing scandals.

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