Of course, the United States presidential election isn't the only major race on the world stage this year. Ian Bremmer takes a look at a number of highly important elections around the globe this year, including those in New Zealand, Israel and South Korea. One thing is clear - for most democratic political contests in 2020, no matter whose name is on the ballot, coronavirus is on voters' minds. Elections right now are as much a referendum on pandemic response as they are on the politicians running.
What We're Watching: New US Supreme Court justice, Morales can go back to Bolivia, Nile dam talks resume
SCOTUS battle rages on: In a major victory for US President Donald Trump just a week out from the presidential election, the Republican-controlled Senate confirmed Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, who was then swiftly sworn into office at a nighttime ceremony at the White House. Barrett, a conservative who was tapped to replace deceased Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg just 46 days out from the presidential election, is the first Supreme Court justice to be confirmed in over 150 years without the support of a single member of the minority party. Democrats are furious, saying that Republicans — who blocked Obama from filling a Supreme Court vacancy in 2016, arguing at the time that the seat should only be filled after the next US president was elected some nine months later — have cynically backtracked on their own assertions. Democrats have also called the rushed confirmation process "illegitimate." Pressure is now mounting on Joe Biden (specifically, from the progressive wing of his party) to expand the size of the Supreme Court should he win in November, so Democrats can install liberal justices to offset the crucial court's hard-right shift.
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Call it a counter-counter-revolution at the ballot box. One year after mass protests over election irregularities drove Bolivia's long-serving leftist populist President Evo Morales from office, his preferred candidate has won the presidency — possibly by a landslide.
But can the country's new leader, a soft-spoken economist named Luis Arce, move the country beyond the political trauma of the past year?
Europe's disastrous "second wave:" As COVID-19 cases continue to surge across Europe, the European Parliament cancelled plans to reconvene next week in Strasbourg, France, saying that the current uptick means that "traveling is too dangerous." It's the second time since September that in-person meetings at the EU legislative body have been cancelled, as countries including France, Spain, Belgium, and the Czech Republic grapple with serious "second waves" of infection, causing hospitals to fill up again in several European cities. In a drastic move Wednesday, French President Emmanuel Macron reimposed strict lockdown measures, including overnight curfews in multiple cities — including the Paris region — to stop the spread of the disease. (France reported 22,591 new cases on Wednesday alone.) After the 53 European states recorded the highest-ever weekly number of new COVID cases, the World Health Organization issued a dire warning Thursday saying that death rates from the disease could reach four to five times higher than their April peak in the near term if things don't turn around — and fast.
What We're Watching: Merkel's Putin pipeline dilemma, India-China border clash, Morales setback in Bolivia
Putin, Merkel and a poison pipeline: As the evidence mounts that Russian state actors were behind the poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has threatened to punish Vladimir Putin by imposing sanctions on a critical gas pipeline that is meant to link Russia to Germany. Navalny has been receiving treatment in Germany, and so far Moscow has ignored Merkel's demands for a thorough accounting of the attempt on his life, which occurred nearly two weeks ago in a Siberian airport. This has put Merkel in a tough spot: on the one hand, stopping construction of the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline would inflict a huge blow on gas-exporting Russia. But German business groups and international investors in the project are pressuring her to keep politics separate from the nearly-complete project, which is meant to massively increase gas imports for German factories and households.