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Olympic-sized stakes for Japan’s prime minister

When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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Are the Tokyo Olympics cursed?

Tokyo last hosted the summer Olympics in 1964, when Japan was still trying to restore its tarnished image after World War II. The Games went off swimmingly, and Japan raked in praise.

Indeed, Tokyo was hoping that the 2020 Olympics would be another 1964. But since COVID entered the scene, everything that could have gone wrong has gone wrong.

The Olympics that no one wants have so far been crippled by a series of crises and controversies that have overshadowed the sporting events. Here's a look at where things currently stand.

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What We’re Watching: Peruvian presidential runoff, EU push to tax multinationals, Japan’s post-Olympics election

Peru's divisive choice: Peruvians head to the polls on Sunday to choose between two deeply polarizing candidates in the presidential runoff election. One is Pedro Castillo, a far-left yet socially conservative union leader and teacher. Castillo wants to rewrite the constitution to curb the power of the business elite and distribute more mining wealth to social programs. The other is rightwing firebrand Keiko Fujimori, who says she would continue the free-market policies championed by her strongman father in the 1990s. Fujimori says the country needs a demodura ("hard democracy"), a somewhat milder version of the dictablanda ("soft dictatorship") her dad once led. Castillo is beloved by rural Peruvians and anti-establishment urban voters, but his embrace of Marxism and Venezuela may alienate moderates. Fujimori, for her part, is backed by big business, but very unpopular outside her base, and negatively associated with her father's authoritarian rule and corruption — not to mention her own multiple legal troubles. Castillo is currently leading in the polls, but Fujimori has a shot at victory if voter turnout is lower than expected.

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What We're Watching: Le Pen on the rise, big leak in Iran, bad omen for Japan's LDP

Why is Marine Le Pen gaining momentum in France? "Each time France is hit by terrorism, the extreme right benefits," one French journalist told the Times Friday after an immigrant from Tunisia, who had been in the country illegally for a decade, fatally stabbed a French policewoman on the outskirts of Paris. After the attack, Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Rally party, called for illegal immigrants to be "expelled" and for the "eradication of Islamism." As France continues to suffer from a series of Islamist terror attacks, polls show that Le Pen's hardline views on immigration and anti-Muslim sentiment are resonating with many mainstream voters. That's in part because France has suffered more terror attacks in recent years than any other Western country. Le Pen's electoral prospects are also getting help from President Macron's dismal performance: his approval rating has plummeted (he now has a 60 percent disapproval rating) because of perceptions that his government has botched the pandemic response and the vaccine rollout. Trying to appeal to the center-right before the attack, Macron vowed to uphold "the right to a peaceful life," and after Friday's killing said his government would get tough on "Islamist terrorism." But the opposition said the president's words are tokenistic and don't go nearly far enough. With just a year until the next presidential election, Le Pen is seizing the moment while Macron is mired in a deepening political crisis.

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