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A supporter of Colombian presidential candidate Rodolfo Hernandez in Bogota.

REUTERS/Vannessa Jimenez

What We’re Watching: Colombia’s “anti” runoff, Pacific meh on China, Sudan ends emergency

It’s anti vs. anti in Colombia presidential runoff

Colombians wanted change? Well, now they’ll have no choice! In the first round of the country’s presidential election on Sunday, the top two finishers were leftist opposition leader Gustavo Petro (40%) and Rodolfo Hernández (28%), an independent populist tycoon who surged late in the campaign with an anti-corruption message. The two will head to a runoff on June 19. Both promise a radical reorientation of the Andean country at a time of high inequality, rising violence, and simmering social tensions. For Petro, the answer lies in super-taxing the rich, massively expanding the social safety net, and decarbonizing the economy. Hernández, meanwhile, wants to slash taxes, shrink the state bureaucracy, and even legalize cocaine. We’ll have more to say ahead of the runoff, but for now: has the election of any other major economy in recent memory featured a presidential runoff between TWO stridently anti-establishment figures like this?

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Annie Guglitotta

Australia's new government: shake up at home, steadiness abroad

Anthony Albanese, Australia’s newly elected prime minister, hasn’t wasted any time since being sworn in on Monday. After taking the oath of office, he immediately boarded a flight to Tokyo to meet with Australia’s Quad partners – India, Japan and the US – to talk China.

Indeed, the unusually hasty political transition was not lost on President Joe Biden, who quipped that “if you fall asleep that's okay” – a nod to Albanese’s campaign trail hangover and/or jet lag. But Albanese fought the urge to nap because he has a jam-packed agenda, which includes bilateral meetings with Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Fumio Kishida as well as Biden.

Albanese, the son of a single mum who grew up in public housing in Sydney, takes the reins as the country’s economy is still reeling from the enduring pandemic. What does the election of his center-left Labor Party mean at home and abroad?

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Ukraine War Dominates Davos Discussions | World In :60 | GZERO Media

Ukraine war dominates Davos discussions

Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week on World In :60 from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Is the Russia-Ukraine war dominating the conversation in Davos?

Yes, it is. There is only one side of the conversation here. Not true globally, but in Davos, there are no Russian delegates. And I mean, frankly, pretty much every single person attending is saying as much as they can in favor of Ukraine. You see a lot of people kind of dressing the part and certainly you're in Europe. And so as a consequence, the fact that this is a war in Europe that ends the peace dividend, it's been topic number one, topic number two, topic number three. Kept me pretty busy, frankly.

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Albanese addresses supporters in Sydney after winning Australia's election.

REUTERS/Jaimi Joy

What We’re Watching: Australia elects new PM, Poland hearts Ukraine, Saudis stand by Russia

Albo takes over in Oz

After his Labor Party won Saturday's parliamentary election, Anthony Albanese, known popularly as Albo, is set to become Australia’s new prime minister. But it remains unclear whether Labor has a parliamentary majority: if his party falls just short in the end, it'll be a minority government, so Albanese will need some support from the Greens and climate-focused independents to get laws passed. In a gesture toward both, Albanese announced Sunday that he wants to make Australia a renewable energy superpower — a sharp departure from Scott Morrison, aka ScoMo, his coal-loving conservative predecessor. While mail-in ballots are still being counted, Albanese was sworn in Monday as acting PM in order to attend the Quad Summit in Tokyo on Tuesday. Albanese will need to hit the ground running because Australia is also in the AUKUS security partnership, which China doesn’t like one bit. Just weeks after Beijing inked a deal with the neighboring Solomon Islands that'll allow the Chinese to gain a military foothold in the Pacific, expect the China question to continue dominating Australian foreign policy under the new government.

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Joe Biden speaks during a joint news conference with South Korean President Yoon Suk-youl in Seoul.

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

In Asia to fix imbalance, Biden talks both guns and butter

In his first presidential trip to Asia, where he is visiting South Korea and Japan as well as huddling with Quad partners, Joe Biden isn’t expected to sign any major trade deals or defense agreements. But America’s commander-in-chief is going to be in China’s neighborhood, shoring up new and old alliances in the region, reminding Beijing that checking the PRC is very much on Washington’s agenda, despite the administration’s attention being taken up by domestic politics and the war in Ukraine.

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Voting in Australia's federal election.

Annie Gugliotta.

What We’re Watching: Aussies vote, Turkey threatens Nordic states, elections loom in Israel

What will voters decide Down Under?

Aussie voters head to the polls on Saturday to decide whether to keep Prime Minister Scott Morrison (ScoMo) of the right-leaning Liberal-National Coalition in power, or to pass the baton to the Labor Party’s Anthony Albanese. Speak to any Aussie, and they’ll tell you that neither bespeckled, middle-aged candidate inspires much excitement. Still, someone has to win! After nearly two years under some of the tightest COVID lockdown restrictions in the world, Aussies appear ready for change: Albanese, a left-leaning centrist, is leading in national polls by 2%. That’s encouraging for ScoMo, who just two weeks ago was trailing by 8 percentage points. The election cycle has been dominated by the cost-of-living crisis currently plaguing many advanced economies. Though unemployment in Australia has hit record lows, inflation is outpacing wage growth. Albanese, a long-time politician with little cabinet experience, has made a series of gaffes recently about the economy that likely contributed to the narrowing margin. According to ABC, some 5-8% of Aussie voters are still undecided. That could be the difference between whether Labor comes out on top after nearly a decade in opposition government. As Signal’s resident Aussie (Gabrielle), I am off to vote!

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Russian troops arrive in Belarus for a joint response force exercise.

Russian Defence Ministry/TASS

What We’re Watching: Russia-Belarus drills, US inflation, Quad meeting, Libyan PM defiant, South African speech

War games in Belarus. On Thursday, more than 30,000 Russian troops, supported by surface-to-air missiles and fighter jets, begin 10 days of active military drills in Belarus. NATO says it’s the Kremlin’s biggest deployment there since the end of the Cold War, and it comes amid Putin’s military buildup on Ukraine’s doorstep. Western capitals worry the drills could be a smokescreen for action against Kyiv, though it’s unlikely Putin would bust a move that steals the spotlight from his pal Xi Jinping during the Winter Olympics. Still, with US troops deploying to the region and Russian warships steaming into the Black Sea, there’s a lot of firepower and room for error at a time when trust between Russia and the West is badly frayed. Any miscalculation could quickly spin out of control.

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Russian airborne troops soldiers at Chkalovsky Airfield waiting to depart to join the Collective Security Treaty Organisation's peacekeeping force in Kazakhstan.

Russian Defence Ministry/TASS

What We’re Watching: Russians in another Stan, Djokovic drama, Mali sanctions, Europe vs anti-vaxxers

Russia in Kazakhstan. Anti-government clashes in Kazakhstan have gotten increasingly violent, with the death toll now reaching 164 after President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev issued a controversial “shoot without warning” order on Friday. What started as a demonstration against a fuel price hike has since turned into a movement protesting government corruption and authoritarianism — with regional implications. Enter Russia, which responded to the pro-Russia Tokayev’s request for help with about 2,500 “peacekeeping” troops and future deployments being planned under the aegis of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the former Soviet Union’s version of NATO. This comes as Moscow has recently amassed 100,000 troops on the border with Ukraine. The Russians will on Monday start talks with NATO and the US about the ongoing situation with Ukraine, but also discuss enhancing security plans with Kazakhstan, whose northern territory is claimed by Moscow. Russia has been clear about what it wants in Ukraine — for NATO to stop expanding further eastward into the former Soviet states. But what does Vladimir Putin want exactly in Kazakhstan, one of the region’s most energy-rich countries?

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