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.

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Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week with a look at the deteriorating human rights situation in Belarus, Delta variant woes, and Lebanon one year after the Beirut blast.

An Olympian refuses to return home to Belarus and an anti-Lukashenko activist has been found dead in Ukraine. What's going on?

Yeah. That anti-Lukashenko activist was found hanged in a park in Kiev. Once again, not exactly likely a suicide. These anti-Lukashenko activists have a way of turning up injured or dead. It's a horrible regime. Their friends are limited largely to the Russians. That's about it. The economic pressure is growing from Europe, from the United States, very coordinated. But the problem is a very hard to do much to Lukashenko when he has not only support of his military, but also the support of most of the workers in the country who aren't prepared to strike because they want to ensure they still have jobs. I expect this is going to continue, but human rights abuses are stacking up. It is nice to see that the Americans and the Europeans are coordinating policy as well as they have been.

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It's been 365 days since twin blasts at a Beirut port decimated Lebanon's capital. More than 200 people were killed and some 7,000 were injured, yet accountability has been scarce. There is ample evidence that multiple Lebanese officials knew that ammonium nitrate was being improperly stored at the port. Four high-ranking politicians, including former PM Hassan Diab, have been charged by a Lebanese judge, but they all refuse to cooperate with the ongoing investigation.

Since then, Lebanon's already-dire economic and financial crises have only intensified. The Lebanese pound, the national currency, has plummeted, losing 90 percent of its value since 2019, when the country's economic crisis erupted. And more than 50 percent of the population is now living below the poverty line.

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The Biden administration is finally devoting more attention to Southeast Asia. Last week US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin traveled to Singapore, Vietnam, and the Philippines, marking the first regional visit by a Biden cabinet official. A trip by Vice President Kamala Harris is already in the works as well, and this week Secretary of State Tony Blinken will meet (virtually) with ASEAN counterparts.

The flurry of activity comes after earlier concerns that President Joe Biden was neglecting Southeast Asia, the region where US-China rivalry is the most intense. To understand better what Austin's visit meant, and what comes next, Eurasia Group's lead Southeast Asia analyst Peter Mumford spoke to us from Singapore.

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Raisi won't have it easy: The newly "elected" president of Iran, Ibrahim Raisi, was officially endorsed by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on Tuesday. In his inaugural address, the 60-year-old hardliner pledged to get US sanctions removed and to respond to rising socioeconomic grievances within Iran, but he warned that he wouldn't lash Iran's prosperity or survival to "the will of foreigners." In Iran, the president's role focuses mainly on domestic policy, but with the economy reeling one of Raisi's big early challenges will be to continue complicated talks with the Biden administration to renegotiate the 2015 nuclear deal, which would lead to the US lifting some of the harshest sanctions. Both sides say they want a new deal, and have gone through half a dozen rounds of negotiations already, but they remain at odds over who should make what concessions first. Raisi also pledged to restore Iranians' flagging trust in their government and to improve the economic situation, but in ways that are in line with "revolutionary principles." He'll have his hands full with that. And don't forget that the likely imminent (re)takeover of neighboring Afghanistan by the Taliban — whom Tehran don't like at all — will also occur on Raisi's watch. Good luck, Mr. President, you'll need it.

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158: To boost vaccination rates, New York City will soon require proof of COVID vaccination or a negative test to enter gyms and restaurants, as daily new infections in the Big Apple have jumped 158 percent over the past two weeks due to the more contagious delta variant. New York is the first major US city to take this step, following similar schemes already in place in France and Italy.

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