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Members of parliament hold placards after the result of the vote on the first motion of no-confidence against the French government at the National Assembly in Paris, France, March 20, 2023.

REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

What We’re Watching: Slim win for Macron, protests in South Africa, Trump’s legal woes, Colombia peace collapsing?

Macron’s narrow escape

It came down to the wire, but Emmanuel Macron’s government narrowly survived a no-confidence vote in France’s National Assembly on Monday, with 278 voting to topple the government, nine votes shy of the threshold needed to pass.

Quick recap: The motion was triggered after Macron used a constitutional provision last week -- bypassing a vote in the lower house -- to pass a controversial pension reform despite weeks of protests (more on that here).

Not only do 70% of French adults abhor Macron’s plan to raise the retirement age to 64 from 62 by 2030 – which he says is necessary to plug the growing debt hole – but the French electorate, which has long had a libertarian streak, is also furious that the government used what it says is an anti-democratic loophole to pass the measure.

Macron’s troubles are only just beginning. Hundreds were arrested in Paris over the weekend and on Monday as anti-government protests turned violent and smelly. Unions have called for nationwide demonstrations and strikes in a bid to pressure the government to roll back the measures (which will never happen).

Prime Minister Élizabeth Borne will likely take the fall and resign. Still, Macron, already unpopular before this debacle, will emerge a diminished political figure. After previously saying he understood that people were “tired of reforms which come from above,” it will be very hard for the ideological chameleon to regain the trust of vast swathes of the population.

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Electoral campaign posters are seen ahead of Nigeria's Presidential elections, in Yola, Nigeria, February 23, 2023.

REUTERS/Esa Alexander

What We're Watching: Nigerians vote, Biden's World Bank pick

Nigeria's presidential election head-scratcher

Nigerians go to the polls Saturday to vote in what is being billed as the most open presidential election in Africa's most populous country since democracy was restored in 1999. That's mostly thanks to buzz about Peter Obi, a third-party candidate who's leading most polls ahead of both Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the ruling party's pick, and opposition candidate Atiku Abubakar. With almost half the electorate undecided, Obi faces tough odds. First, to win outright, he must get the most votes nationwide and at least 25% in at least two-thirds of Nigeria's 36 states – but he doesn’t have strong party machinery to turn out voters. Second, if no candidate meets both conditions, the election goes to a runoff between the most-voted for candidate and — here's where it gets complicated — the one who placed second in the highest number of states. Also, keep an eye out for the rollout of machines to verify biometric voter ID to curb fraud. If the devices malfunction or are not widely deployed, expect many Nigerians to consider the election anything but free and fair.

Interested in the Nigerian election? Listen to Amaka Anku, head of Eurasia Group’s Africa practice, on this GZERO podcast in collaboration with The Center for Global Development podcast.

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Hong Kong pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai charged with fraud

December 03, 2020 12:15 PM

HONG KONG (AFP) - Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai appeared in court on Thursday (Dec 3) charged with fraud, the latest in a string of prosecutions brought against high profile Beijing critics and democracy campaigners.

Indian doctor bought $128k 'Aladdin's lamp' after genie ruse

November 02, 2020 5:00 AM

NEW DELHI • Two men who allegedly duped a doctor into buying an "Aladdin's lamp" for 7 million rupees (S$128,000) - and even conjured up a fake genie - have been arrested in India, an official said yesterday.

Indian doctor duped into buying 'Aladdin's lamp' after genie show

November 01, 2020 6:05 PM

Laeek Khan paid 7 million rupees (S$128,000) for the so-called "Aladdin's lamp".

Najib seeks to strike out 1MDB audit charges after amendment

June 24, 2020 3:06 PM

KUALA LUMPUR (BLOOMBERG) - Malaysian former leader Najib Razak applied to strike out accusations of tampering with an audit report on troubled state fund 1MDB after prosecutors amended the charges.

Wirecard's missing US$2.1 billion didn't enter Philippine financial system, central bank says

June 21, 2020 12:07 PM

MANILA (REUTERS) - None of the US$2.1 billion (S$2.93 billion) missing from scandal-hit German payments firm Wirecard appears to have entered the Philippine financial system, the central bank said on Sunday (June 21).

Indonesia probes election fraud in Malaysia

April 12, 2019 12:44 PM

JAKARTA (BLOOMBERG) - Indonesia's election commission ordered an investigation into reports that thousands of ballots have been cast by the diaspora in Malaysia days before overseas polling opened, prompting opposition calls for heightened vigilance in next week's vote.

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