What We’re Watching: Elections loom in Israel & Northern Ireland, Elon Musk rules Twitterverse
Round 5 in Israel: Can Bibi make a comeback?
Israelis are doing the voting thing all over again on Nov. 1 in the country’s fifth general election since 2019. To recap, the current government crumbled in June, a year after PM Yair Lapid successfully brought together an ideologically diverse coalition to oust former longtime leader Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu. Still, current polls suggest that Israel’s melting pot – which includes Jews (secular to ultra-Orthodox), Muslims, Christians, and Druze – remains as divided as ever. Importantly, Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud Party is slated to win the most seats (as it did in the previous four elections) but (for now) is just shy of mustering enough support to cross the 61-seat threshold needed to form a government. One big change in this cycle is the momentum of three far-right parties that Bibi has courted to serve in his government. Together, the three could win up to 14 seats, suggesting that their extremist anti-Arab, anti-LGBTQ brand could become a more potent force within Israeli politics. Meanwhile, Lapid on Thursday signed a historic maritime deal with Lebanon, but Bibi says he might ditch it if he takes over, though many say this is just pre-election posturing.
Northern Ireland's voting merry-go-round
The country’s set for a snap election in December after political parties failed to elect a speaker and start forming a government in Northern Ireland before a Friday deadline. Since early May, the Democratic Unionist Party has been holding up the power-sharing agreement with Sinn Féin over the status of the Irish frontier. The UK's post-Brexit trade deal with the EU scrapped a physical border between Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK, and the Republic of Ireland, an EU member state. That means Northern Ireland has to comply with some EU regulations for cross-border trade, which for the DUP undermines its position within the UK. Since the unionists are chummy with the UK's ruling Conservative Party, unionists want London to step in. But newly minted PM Rishi Sunak has enough on his plate trying to rescue the British economy and hardly wants to pick a fight with Brussels. What’s next? The Northern Irish will go to the polls again, but regardless of how many seats the DUP and Sinn Féin win, these bitter enemies are required to share power under the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. Still, the longer the impasse continues, the louder the calls for post-Brexit Northern Ireland to ditch the UK will get.
Elon Musk takes over Twitter
Feathers are already flying. Elon Musk finalized a $44 billion deal to take control of Twitter on Thursday, ending months of speculation, flip-flops, and legal battles. Within hours, four top execs — the CEO, CFO, head of legal policy, trust, and safety, as well as the general counsel — were shown the door. A vocal critic of Twitter’s content moderation, the South African-born tech giant has said he wants the platform to be a “de facto town hall” where free speech reigns. He’s called the permanent ban of Donald Trump’s account — the former president was barred after the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot — a “morally bad decision.” While it remains unclear whether Trump would rejoin, having recently launched his own Twitter-style platform, Truth Social, the Twitterverse has erupted with predictions about when America’s 45th commander-in-chief might once again spread his little blue wings. We suspect that Russian President Vladimir Putin will also be pleased. Expect fireworks in the wake of Sunday’s Brazilian election and the Nov. 8 US midterms.