Is it Wine o'clock in Uganda yet? Ugandans go to the polls on Thursday in a presidential election pitting current leader Yoweri Museveni, in power since 1986, against opposition chief Bobi Wine, a former pop star turned politician. The campaign period has been, in Wine's words, "a war and a battlefield" — authorities have arrested and assaulted him and shot at protesters who support him. The vote will occur amid a social media blackout that the government imposed after Facebook removed the accounts of some pro-Museveni activists, and the integrity of the vote has already been questioned by the EU and US. Museveni, one of Africa's longest serving leaders, is popular in the countryside, where he is lauded for having brought stability, growth, and subsidies. Wine is more popular among young and predominantly urban Ugandans who want change — Museveni has held power since before 80 percent of Ugandans were even born. Tensions are extremely high ahead of the vote, and the possibility of post-election violence is real.
This year, voters in dozens of countries will choose new leaders. With the human and economic toll of the COVID-19 pandemic as a backdrop, how will the worst global crisis in more than a hundred years play out at the ballot box? Here are a few key elections to keep an eye on in 2021.
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What We’re Watching: Thai king is untouchable, Ugandan challenger arrested, US caves on Mexico DEA threat
No reform for Thai monarchy: Defying the wishes of thousands of pro-democracy activists and protesters, Thailand's parliament declined to move forward constitutional reforms that would curb the powers of the king. The vote had been delayed until Wednesday due to violent clashes between protesters, royalists and the police that left 55 people injured and put inflatable rubber ducks in the crossfire. Shortly after parliament's decision, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha warned that he would use "all available laws" to end the protests, which have been going on for months, signaling that he might start enforcing Thailand's draconian lèse majesté law, which punishes any offense of perceived insult to the royal family with up to 15 years in prison. Will the streets stand down, or is the situation about to get worse?