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What We're Watching: Europe's anti-lockdown protests, Chileans vote, a shaky deal in Sudan, German negotiations in the home stretch

Europe anti-lockdown protests get violent. Pockets of unrest spread across Europe in recent days as tens of thousands gathered in several cities across the continent to protest government measures aimed at curbing a fast-spreading wave of COVID-19. Violent clashes broke out between demonstrators and police in The Hague and Rotterdam where Dutch cops opened fire at an increasingly aggressive crowd protesting the tightening of restrictions. Meanwhile, more that 35,000 people turned out in Brussels, while large crowds rocked Vienna, protesting fresh lockdowns that initially targeted only the unvaccinated, as well as new vaccine mandates. The state of the pandemic in Europe is not good. Germany recorded more than 48,000 new cases Sunday, the highest on record, prompting new lockdowns in the lead-up to Christmas, while deaths across the continent are also rising since the summer months, though they remain well below pre-vaccine levels. What's more, far-right groups, like Austria's Freedom Party, are taking advantage of COVID fatigue and anti-vaxx sentiment to encourage people to defy government rules and sow chaos.

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What We're Watching: A shaky deal in Sudan

A tenuous deal in Sudan. One month after the Sudanese army deposed the country's joint civilian-military government, Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok was released from detention Sunday. The new deal negotiated by Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who led last month's coup, reinstates Hamdok as PM and calls for the release of arbitrarily detained political prisoners. Al-Burhan says he supports the return to a power-sharing agreement, though it's unclear what this might actually look like given that the military staged the coup in the first place to avoid handing over executive powers to the civilian leadership. Meanwhile, protesters took to the streets of Khartoum Sunday, saying the deal is merely a ploy by the military to get Washington to remove crippling sanctions, while still maintaining a grip on power. Indeed, critics say that the ongoing political involvement of Lt. Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo – a former paramilitary leader with close ties to Sudan's former despot Omar al-Bashir – is proof that the military wing of the government is not serious about democratic reforms.

What We're Watching: Everyone vs Ethiopian PM, Brazil ditches Huawei, (more) trouble in Sudan, Argentina's midterms, Iraqi powder keg

Opposition forces unite in Ethiopia's civil war. The Tigray People's Liberation Front, which has been locked in a brutal year-long civil war against Ethiopian government forces, has now teamed up with another powerful militant outfit that wants to oust Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. The TPLF, now in alliance with the Oromo Liberation Army — which claims to represent Ethiopia's largest ethnic group — have swept towards the capital Addis Ababa in recent days, prompting the embattled Abiy to call on civilians to take up arms in defense of the city. The Tigray-Oromo alliance, called the United Front of Ethiopian Federalist Forces, has called for Abiy's immediate ouster, either by negotiation or by force, and for the prosecution of government officials for war crimes. The UN says all sides in the conflict have committed abuses. The US, which has threatened to suspend Ethiopia's trade preferences over the government's alleged war crimes, is currently trying to broker a cease-fire. When Abiy came to power after popular protests in 2018, he was hailed for liberalizing what was formerly an extremely repressive government (controlled, as it happens, by the TPLF). Now it's looking like he may have unleashed the very forces that could tear the country apart and drive him from office — or worse.

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What We're Watching: More trouble in post-coup Sudan

Sudan on the brink. Two weeks after a military coup in Sudan, the country's security situation continues to deteriorate. On Sunday, soldiers responded to pro-democracy protests in Khartoum by tear-gassing and arresting more than 100 teachers who refuse to return to work until the transitional civilian-military government is restored. (The intervention drew comparisons to the harsh crackdown against protesters that eventually led to the ousting of longtime despot Omar al-Bashir in 2019.) Meanwhile, civilian PM Abdalla Hamdok remains under house arrest, and the internet is still shut down. Arab League mediators have arrived in the capital to try to mediate between junta leader Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan and the pro-civilian forces, but Burhan refuses to even call the power grab a coup. The country's largest union, which played a pivotal role in the 2019 protest movement, has called a two-day national strike — the opening salvo of a campaign of civil disobedience to force the military back to the negotiating table. Since the generals show no signs of backing down, the odds of more bloodshed are growing by the day.

Aid to Sudan suspended over military coup; China's bid to join CPTPP

Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week with a look at Sudan's military coup, China's efforts to join the CPTPP, and the UK's Brexit-induced disruptions.

The coup has taken over in Sudan. What's happening there?

Well, there are coups and attempted coups in Sudan all the time. In this case, the military taking out a transitional civilian government, which is problematic for a couple of reasons. One, because they're not going to allow investigations to proceed. And with a lot of the generals taking over, being with corruption charges against them. And secondly, because the money that they desperately need from the IMF international aid and other sources not coming because they've gotten rid of the economic comparative technocrats, including the Prime Minister, an economist himself. There's going to be need to back down and at least compromise at some point because they're desperate to have international support, but first, they want to ensure that they're all staying in power. And that is unfortunate for the people of Sudan. And if it mattered to the United States and Europe, they'd be making headlines, but it really doesn't. It's like Egypt and Ethiopia and the Emirates are the key players here and you're not going to see many headlines.

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The ins and outs of Sudan's coup

"The people are stronger," pro-democracy demonstrators chanted as news broke that the Sudanese military had staged a coup Monday, overthrowing the joint civilian-military government and dashing hopes of democracy in the war-torn country.

The backstory. In 2019, Omar al-Bashir – a despot who ruled Sudan with an iron fist for 30 years – was deposed after a months-long popular uprising.

Al-Bashir was a bad guy: he cozied up to terrorists like Osama bin Laden and dropped barrel bombs on his own people. He also embezzled truckloads of money from oil production while millions of Sudanese went hungry, and oversaw a genocide in the Darfur region that left 300,000 people dead and displaced 1.6 million.

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What We're Watching: Sudanese coup

Coup in Sudan: Sudanese soldiers have seized power in a coup, arresting the head of the transitional civilian-military government and declaring a state of emergency. In recent days, Khartoum has been rocked by rival protests from pro-democracy groups and supporters of the military wing of the government, which the latter wanted to dissolve entirely. What's more, a blockade set up by a pro-military tribal leader in eastern Sudan had interrupted the flow of goods and food to the capital — a recipe for disaster in a country already experiencing sky-high inflation and shortage of basic products. The possibility of a military takeover by troops loyal to former dictator Omar al-Bashir has haunted Sudan since Bashir — now pending trial for war crimes in The Hague — was ousted in 2019. The situation got even more tense as we got closer to the November deadline for the military to hand over control to the civilian wing in the supreme council, which has the final say on all national matters under a power-sharing agreement. That deal was supposed to pave the way for elections in 2022, but the coup has changed the equation.

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