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YES, HE KHAN

YES, HE KHAN

On Wednesday, Pakistan heads to the ballot box for what will be the country’s second ever peaceful democratic handover of power in its 71-year existence. The election presents the opportunity to establish a more open and pluralistic democracy in a country historically dominated by the military and a cadre of elite families.


The presumptive frontrunner, Imran Khan, is an Oxford-educated former star cricketer, whose improbable candidacy has broken the stranglehold of the country’s two dominant political parties. Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party is currently polling neck and neck with that of recently jailed former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. To win, a party must earn the 137 directly elected seats needed to secure a majority in the National Assembly, or else jockey for the post-election support of other parties.

But if Khan represents a breath of fresh air, this election season has been marred by something all too typical in Pakistan: the long arm of the military. Over the past few weeks, there have been numerous reports of the military influencing politicians and voters to aid Khan’s candidacy. A record 370,000 soldiers (up from 70,000 in 2013) are expected to be deployed to polling stations, and the military has been granted broad authority to detain anyone they deem has committed electoral violations–inflaming fears of widespread voter intimidation.

After the controversial ouster of the previous prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, in which many suspected military involvement, it bears asking whether the powers that be are simply exchanging one favorite son for another. Pakistan’s next prime minister will face some serious challenges – from an increasingly unsustainable domestic debt, to a deterioration in relations with the US, to the ongoing Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan.

But the most important test may well be whether he can set the country down a path toward a more stable and inclusive politics. That will have to start with loosening the military’s iron grip on power.

A decade ago, Bank of America established the Global Ambassadors Program with Vital Voices, and the results are phenomenal. We've provided 8,000 hours of training and mentoring, engaging 400 women from 85 countries and helping women around the world build their businesses.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has made a lot of foreign governments really mad. Let's call the roll.

Europe. The EU is angry that Turkey is drilling for oil in the eastern Mediterranean, and NATO is furious that member Turkey has defied its protests to purchase S-400 missiles from Russia. Erdogan has repeatedly rejected pushback from EU leaders by calling them fascists and Islamophobes.

Just this week, Erdogan refused to express sympathy with France following the beheading of a French schoolteacher by an Islamist extremist, attacked Macron's own response to the murder, suggested the French president needed "some sort of mental treatment," and countered Macron's vow to crack down on Islamist radicals with calls for a boycott of French products.

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Less than a week before the US election, President Donald Trump is repeatedly questioning the legitimacy of the vote (if he doesn't win) over largely unsubstantiated claims of potential fraud in universal mail-in voting. But with absentee ballots coming in all-time highs in all states due to the coronavirus pandemic, some Americans worry that the system itself may not be able to handle such an influx of ballots, including those already cast by a record number of early voters. Whether or not you agree, Gallup data show that US citizens are now less confident that the election will be conducted accurately — and more concerned about election irregularities and voter suppression — than they were four years ago. We take a look at how Americans' views on these electoral integrity issues have changed from 2016 to 2020.

Belarus on strike: In recent days, the Belarusian streets have turned up the heat on strongman President Alexander Lukashenko, as thousands of state factory workers and students in Belarus heeded a call from opposition leader Svyatlana Tikhanouskaya to join a general strike. Protests have roiled the country since August, when Lukashenko, in power since 1994, won a presidential election widely regarded as rigged. Last Sunday, 100,000 people turned up in Minsk, the capital. Tikhanouskaya — who ran against Lukashenko in that election and is currently exiled in neighboring Lithuania — had demanded the president resign by October 26. When he didn't, the walkout began. In one of the most iconic moments of protest so far, a striking worker at a refrigerator factory climbed the plant's tower to record a dramatic call for Lukashenko to step down. Belarus has been hit with sanctions from the US and EU, both of which are calling on him to hold new elections, but so far he has shown no signs of backing down, deploying his riot police with the usual fury. Something's got to give, soon.

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Who does Vladimir Putin want to win the US election? Given the Kremlin's well-documented efforts to sway the 2016 vote in Donald Trump's favor, it's certainly a fair question. And while there's no solid evidence that Russian interference had any decisive effect on the outcome four years ago, the Trump administration itself says the Kremlin — and others — are now trying to mess with the election again.

So let's put you in Vladimir Putin's size 9 shoes as you weigh up Donald Trump vs Joe Biden while refreshing your own personal PyatTridsatVosem (FiveThirtyEight) up there in the Kremlin.

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