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A man scuffles with the security officials before the result of Kenya's presidential election is announced in Nairobi.

REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

What We’re Watching: Kenyan election jitters, Ukraine hits Wagner, Israel strikes near Russian bases

Kenya's new president is … ?

Deputy President William Ruto won Kenya's presidential election with 50.5% of the vote, the electoral commission declared Monday. Still, the process was very messy: authorities initially delayed the announcement amid clashes at the national counting center and accusations of vote rigging from Ruto's rival Raila Odinga. What’s more, four out of the commission's seven members refused to endorse the result over vague fraud claims. So, what happens now? Odinga, who represents the country’s dynastic politics, might contest the result in court, as he did five years ago, when the Supreme Court found so many logistical errors in the presidential election that it forced a rerun. Also, in 2007 more than 1,200 Kenyans were killed following a similarly disputed vote. (Both Ruto and outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta were then taken before the International Criminal Court for inciting violence, but charges against both were later dropped.) All eyes are now on the 77-year-old Odinga, in his fifth and presumably last run for the presidency. Will he risk more unrest and perhaps violence to win at all costs? Such uncertainty doesn't bode well for East Africa's most vibrant democracy. This election “started off as the most transparent and ends up in farce," tweeted political cartoonist Patrick Gathara.

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Annie Gugliotta

What We're Watching: Biden's climate bill, Gaza ceasefire, Ukrainian nuclear jitters

US Senate passes Biden's big climate bill

Following a marathon vote-a-rama session that started late Saturday, the US Senate on Sunday passed a $740 billion package aimed at fighting climate change and lowering the cost of prescription drugs by raising certain corporate taxes. Although the legislation is a trimmed-down version of the Biden administration's doomed $3.5 trillion Build Back Better spending plan, it’s still the most ambitious climate legislation passed to date in America. Dubbed the “Inflation Reduction Act” — though economists doubt it'll live up to its name immediately — it allocates $369 billion for climate and clean energy investments, enables the government to negotiate some prescription drug prices, and slaps a 15% minimum tax on large corporations. Republicans say the tax hikes in the bill will kill jobs and spur inflation, but politically it's the latest in a series of victories for President Joe Biden at just the right time: three months ahead of November’s midterms. The legislation now heads to the House, where it is expected to be approved in a few days, before hitting Biden’s desk to be signed into law.

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Iran: Lynchpin in the Saudi-Israeli Relationship | GZERO World

Iran: lynchpin in the Saudi-Israeli relationship

US President Joe Biden didn't get much from his recent trip to Saudi Arabia — other than some symbolic progress on Saudi ties with Israel.

Indeed, Biden's plane flew directly to the country from Israel, and now Israeli airlines will be allowed to overfly Saudi airspace. But is this really a big deal?

"I would describe it as [...] giving crumbs to Biden," Bernard Haykel, a Princeton University professor and expert on Saudi Arabia, tells Ian Bremmer on GZERO World.

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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman fist bumps US President Joe Biden in Jeddah.

Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout via REUTERS

What We're Watching: Biden-MBS fist bump, Xi in Xinjiang, Kenya-Somalia thaw

Biden’s Saudi trip fallout

Engagement with would-be pariahs may cost you politically, but it's necessary for the national interest. Over the weekend, US President Joe Biden got panned — mostly by fellow Democrats — for fist-bumping with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, aka MBS, during Biden's controversial Middle East trip. (The CIA believes MBS ordered the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Kashoggi.) Still, the White House said the president returned from the region with some important agreements, such as progress on ending the war in Yemen or making a joint pledge with Israel to stop Iran from getting nukes. But did he really achieve much else? Riyadh announced that it'll increase oil production, but not enough to tame rising gas prices and inflation in America before the November midterms. The Saudis are also nowhere near joining the Abraham Accords, and peace between Israel and the Palestinians remains as elusive as it was under Biden's predecessors. So, why go at all then? The short answer is: as long as the US wants to continue being a player in the Middle East, you simply can't afford to ignore the Saudis, or MBS himself.

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Sri Lankans celebrate the resignation President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in Colombo.

REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

What We're Watching: Sri Lanka swears in new leader, Bolsonaro spends big, Biden to kiss the ring

Sri Lanka has a new acting president

Gotabaya Rajapaksa finally resigned — by email — on Thursday as president of Sri Lanka, a country rocked by months-long mass protests, economic collapse, and political turmoil over his rule. He fled the country on Tuesday, likely to avoid arrest, and is now in Singapore, but Rajapaksa’s final destination remains unclear. Ranil Wickremesinghe, the sitting PM Rajapaksa appointed interim president before getting out of Dodge, was sworn in as acting president on Friday. Wickremesinghe’s ability to govern, however briefly, is uncertain given that protesters also want him out. Parliament’s process for selecting the new leader now begins, with a vote coming as early as next week. MPs will have to come up with an alternative candidate to serve out the remainder of Rajapaksa's term until 2025, or hold a snap election. Whoever becomes president will then have to pick a prime minister to lead a government that'll need to pass tough economic reforms to secure an IMF bailout, the only way Sri Lanka can salvage its ruined economy. Demonstrators ignored a new curfew to publicly celebrate Rajapaksa’s resignation overnight, and all eyes are on what happens next on the streets of Colombo.

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Luisa Vieira

Crow on the menu during Biden’s trip to Saudi Arabia

US President Joe Biden is currently en route to the Middle East for the first time since taking office, and he’ll be making stops in Israel and the West Bank before making a more controversial swing through Saudi Arabia.

Yes, the same Saudi Arabia that, as a presidential candidate, Biden promised to treat like a “global pariah” because of the kingdom’s grim human rights record, its brutal war in Yemen, and the alleged involvement of the powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

But that was then, and this is now. With inflation soaring, midterm elections approaching, and prospects for a new Iran nuclear deal receding, Joe Biden is hopping on a jet to Riyadh with a few key issues in mind.

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Biden Visits Saudi Arabia | Quick Take | GZERO Media

Biden's Saudi Arabia visit is more about strategic partnership than oil

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take: Want to talk about President Biden's upcoming trip to the Middle East. And this is getting a lot of attention in particular because he's visiting Saudi Arabia. You will remember, it's gotten a lot of play, that when Biden was running for the presidency, he said that Saudi Arabia should be a pariah, principally because of the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, the civilian American and Saudi journalist that used to write for The Washington Post. And that if he became president, if Biden became president, that he would make Saudi Arabia and MBS into the pariah that they were. Now obviously, you're making a trip to Saudi Arabia. Biden feels very sheepish about the fact that he is doing a 180 on that statement. Life has changed and Biden wrote a piece in The Washington Post this weekend about the fact that, given where the Russians are right now, given where the Chinese are right now, the US needs to focus on whatever support it can get from other countries.
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REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein

What We’re Watching: Contentious SCOTUS decisions, Russia's Snake Island retreat, Israel’s new PM, G7's topless fantasies

SCOTUS hands Biden a win and a loss

The US Supreme Court on Thursday handed down decisions in two closely watched cases. First, the court ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency can’t enforce rules limiting carbon emissions at existing power plants. The six conservative justices who backed the majority opinion said only Congress should regulate climate policy. The long-running case – which made its way through the courts during the Obama, Trump, and Biden presidencies – is emblematic of the broader fight between coal-loving Republican states and Democrats pushing for more action on climate change. The decision will also complicate Biden’s pledge to switch the power grid to clean energy by 2035 – and to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. Crucially, the US is the world’s second-largest carbon emitter after China. SCOTUS’s subsequent ruling, however, went in Biden’s favor: two conservative justices joined the court’s progressive wing to scrap the “Remain in Mexico” policy, a Trump-era immigration law requiring some migrants to wait in Mexico while their asylum claims are processed. Still, a federal judge has blocked Biden from lifting another Trump-era immigration restriction, so this ruling is unlikely to have a significant impact on the immigration landscape ahead of November’s midterms.

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