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A supporter of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva reacts as people gather after polling stations were closed in the presidential election in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

REUTERS/Amanda Perobelli

What We're Watching: Brazilian runoff, Burkina Faso coup 2.0, Ukraine's response to Russian annexations

Lula’s bittersweet first-round win

Left-wing former President Luiz Inácio "Lula" da Silva won the first round of Brazil's presidential election on Sunday but fell short of the outright majority needed to avoid an Oct. 30 runoff that might now be tighter than expected. With almost 97% of the ballots counted, Lula got 47.9% of the vote, 4.2 percentage points more than his nemesis: the far-right incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro. Although Lula is still favored to also win in the second round, the result is good news for Bolsonaro because he outperformed the polls, which had him trailing Lula by a wide margin and led many to believe his rival could win it all in the first round. Some experts think that Bolsonaro is consistently underestimated because many Brazilians are hesitant to admit they vote for him — a theory pollsters deny. Lula's narrower-than-expected victory might give Bolsonaro even more fodder to claim that the surveys are rigged against him. Brazil's president has spent months firing up his base with baseless doubts about the integrity of the election process, and no one would be surprised if he tries to pull a 6 de Janeiro if he loses the runoff.

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Annie Gugliotta

What We're Watching: Draghi's departure, Russian annexation plans, two-way race for British PM

Draghi throws in the towel

Italy's embattled Prime Minister Mario Draghi finally stepped down on Thursday for a second time in a week, hours after winning a vote of confidence in the upper house of parliament on Wednesday evening. This time, President Sergio Mattarella didn't reject his resignation but asked him to continue as caretaker PM, presumably until a fresh election is held.

The vote of confidence was partly hijacked by mass abstentions from three of the top parties in his coalition: the populist 5-Star Movement, the far-right Lega, and the center-right Forza Italia. The no-shows broke Draghi’s hopes of keeping together a strong majority, and in the end he kept his promise to stay on as PM only if he held the coalition together. That was impossible since both Lega and Forza Italia wanted to ditch 5-Star, which they blame for the government’s collapse after rejecting Draghi's energy crisis relief plan.

The PM's departure puts an end to 18 months of a fragile unity coalition government, and ushers in a period of deep uncertainty for Italy and Europe at a critical time. Inflation and energy costs are both surging, and Draghi didn't have time to pass the reforms necessary to unlock EU pandemic relief funds. Also, the next government might be led by the Euroskeptic far-right party Brothers of Italy, out of the coalition and whose leader Georgia Meloni celebrated the exit of "Super Mario".

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What We're Watching: Mali's protests, Israel's annexation, Poland's election

Go home, Malians tell president: Tens of thousands of Malians gathered in the streets of the capital city, Bamako, on Friday to demand the resignation of increasingly unpopular President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. In the second mass protest against him in less than a month, demonstrators said they are fed up with rampant corruption, a weak and disgruntled military incapable of stopping rising jihadist attacks, and the government's botched response to the kidnapping of opposition leader Soumaila Cissé by Al Qaeda-linked militants. Keita has led the sprawling West African nation since 2013, when he was elected to fill a power vacuum soon after French troops helped put down an Islamist rebellion in the north. The Economic Community of West African States, a regional political and economic bloc, is urging Keita — reelected in 2018 for a new 5-year term — to form a unity government to end the unrest.

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