THE NEXT EARTHQUAKE

THE NEXT EARTHQUAKE

We opened this week with the landslide win for Andrés Manuel López Obrador in Mexico. Let’s close the week by placing his victory in line with a broader international trend, one highly likely to continue.


In the United States, Donald Trump was elected president in 2016 without ever having run for office. He won in part by promising to upend his party’s traditional view of trade and immigration. He has kept those promises.

In France, Emmanuel Macron was elected president in 2017 without ever having run for office. In that election, the center-right and center-left parties that had dominated French politics since World War II finished in third and fifth place, respectively, in the first round of presidential voting. The political party Macron invented in April 2016, La République en Marche, holds a solid majority in France’s National Assembly.

In Germany, the center-right CDU experienced its poorest performance since 1949 in the 2017 election. Its coalition partner, the center-left SPD, had its worst showing since World War II. The Alternative for Germany, the first far-right party to win seats in the Bundestag since the war, is now the country’s largest opposition party.

In Italy, traditional parties of center-left and center-right combined to win less than one-third of the vote in the March 2018 elections. The current coalition government is led by a party founded in 2009 by a professional comedian (Five Star) and a rebranded separatist party (Lega). Those two (very) different parties have captured Italy’s current political mood.

In Mexico, López Obrador, known as AMLO, will be the first president since 1929 who doesn’t come from one of the country’s main political parties. In fact, AMLO’s Morena Party was created just four years ago.

These political earthquakes don’t represent a clear shift to the right or left. Macron is a centrist. Germany’s AFD is far-right. AMLO is Mexico’s first leftist president since the 1930s. Instead, these election results are obvious, outright rejections of familiar political faces and establishment parties of both the left and right.

Who’s next? Watch Brazil.

The current frontrunner in opinion polls ahead of Brazil’s October presidential election is Jair Bolsonaro (pictured above), a man who has inspired both admiration and revulsion in this polarized country with his open admiration for military rule. (The military ruled in Brazil from 1964-1985.) Bolsonaro joined the party he will lead, the Social Liberal Party (PSL), just six months ago. The PSL currently holds just nine of 513 seats in the lower house of congress and zero of 81 seats in the upper house.

We pay little attention to the waves of the sea, yet they are the greatest unused source of renewable energy in the world. Meet ISWEC and Power Buoy, two interesting new technologies used to harness this energy. Learn more about the extraordinary power of waves in this episode of Eni's Energy Shot series, where we investigate interesting facts and trends about energy.

Ukraine is once again in a tough spot.

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Listen: Soumya Swaminathan calls for a massive increase in the global vaccine supply in order to prevent the rise of more dangerous and vaccine-evading super-variants, in a wide-ranging interview with Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast. Dr. Swaminathan, Chief Scientist at the World Health Organization, argues that vaccine nationalism, where countries prioritize their own citizens ahead of the rest of the world, will only prolong the pandemic because a virus does not stop at any national border. She also weighs in on a controversial new WHO report investigating the origins of COVID-19 and discusses when she thinks the world's children should get vaccinated. In addition, she suggests we may see alternative vaccine forms, like nasal sprays, sooner than we think.

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.

India, the world's third largest emitter of carbon dioxide, is one of the countries worst affected by climate change. But it takes issue with those now asking it to clean up its act. Why, the Indians ask, should we give up our right to get rich by burning fossil fuels like you developed economies have done for generations?

That's precisely the message that India's energy minister had for the US and other wealthy nations at a recent Zoom summit after they pressured Delhi to set a future deadline for net zero emissions. For India, he explained, such targets are "pie in the sky" aspirations that do little to address the climate crisis the country faces right now.

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The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics are nearly a year away, but discussion of a potential boycott is already stoking tensions on both sides of the US-China relationship. Officials in Washington and other Western capitals are coming under mounting pressure from activists to respond to human rights abuses in China. An increasingly assertive Beijing, meanwhile, vigorously rejects any foreign criticism of what it regards as internal issues.

The last time the US boycotted an Olympics was in 1980, when it withdrew from the Summer Olympics in Moscow to protest the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan. Four years later, the Soviet Union repaid in kind by skipping the Games in Los Angeles. Would the US and its allies do something like that again? And how might China respond? Eurasia Group analysts Neil Thomas and Allison Sherlock explain the drivers of the boycott movement and its possible fallout.

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In two weeks, US President Joe Biden will be hosting an online "climate summit" to mark Earth Day. He'll ask China and India to sign up to America's ambitious new plan to slow down climate change. Will they go for it? China is the world's largest polluter, but Beijing is rolling out solar and wind power as fast as it's burning coal. India, meanwhile, is loathe to pick up the slack for rich countries that polluted their way to wealth and now want everyone else to agree to emissions cuts. No matter what happens, any successful plan to reduce global emissions will require buy-in from these three nations which, along with the European Union, account for almost 60 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions nowadays. Here's a look at emissions by the world's top polluters compared to everyone else over the last two decades.

Two big Andean elections: This Sunday, Ecuadorians go to the polls for the second time this year in a close presidential runoff, while Peruvians will vote in the first round of their own presidential election. In Ecuador, the matchup is between the leftwing-populist frontrunner Andrés Arauz, who has pledged to blow up the country's IMF agreements and boost national oil production, and Guillermo Lasso, a pro-business candidate who is seen as the choice of continuity with the current market-friendly government. Voter abstention is likely to be high, and the final result could very well be close and contested in a polarized country that was struggling with massive social unrest even before the pandemic struck. Meanwhile in Peru — which recently went through three presidents in the space of a week — the candidate field is hugely fragmented. Those with a decent shot to make it to the second round include "change" candidates like the leftist former lawmakers Yohny Lescano and Verónica Mendoza, as well as the prominent neoliberal economist Hernando De Soto, who has recently risen in the polls. Former soccer star George Forsyth is also in the mix, as is Keiko Fujimori, daughter of authoritarian former president Alberto Fujimori. Both of this Sunday's elections will serve as a kind of bellwether for the political mood in a region that has been devastated by the public health and economic impact of the pandemic.

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Nasal sprays, oral vaccines, and other new types of COVID-19 vaccines may be ready soon, according to Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist at the World Health Organization. She previews some of these needle-less vaccines and notes that the possibility of being able to store vaccines at room temperature could be a game-changer for vaccinating poorer nations. The advantage of nasal sprays, she explains, is that they "would generate local mucosal immunity in addition to systemic immunity." Dr. Swaminathan's conversation with Ian Bremmer is featured on the latest episode of GZERO World, airing on US public television stations starting this Friday, April 9. Check local listings.

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