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The Biggest Election in History

The Biggest Election in History

How do you hold an election with 900 million voters? India's about to do just that starting today, with the opening of its 2019 national election.

It's the biggest democratic exercise in history, and the logistics are staggering.


How does it happen? For ease of voting, the country is divided into seven distinct geographical groups with each casting ballots every few days.

How long does it take? The full process takes 6 weeks, and the final results aren't expected until May 23.

How do you make sure everyone votes? All ballots are cast electronically. Indian law mandates that polling stations must be set up within 2 kilometers of every home, meaning a total of 1.72 million voting machines will be put to use. About 11 million election monitors will fan out across India's villages, glaciers and jungles to observe voting.

Election dynamics: The poll is a crucial test of the staying power of current Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Back in 2014, his unique brand of conservative, Hindu-based nationalism propelled his BJP party to the first outright parliamentary majority in decades, leaving the long-ruling Congress Party in tatters. Modi's first term was marked by a controversial crackdown on illicit cash stockpiles and a steady push to put Hinduism at the center of national life.

But the outlook for Modi might not be so rosy this time around. While India is currently the world's fastest growing large economy, many voters feel the fruits of that growth haven't been shared evenly. Pocketbook issues dominate voters' concerns, with 78 percent listing development, price rises, or unemployment as the top election issue. The BJP is also seeing a strong challenge from the opposition Congress Party and a number of regional parties whose support they will need to hold onto power.

That said, a recent military standoff with neighboring Pakistan sent Modi's poll numbers to historic highs. The episode "put national security on the agenda in mass electoral politics in a way that it isn't usually," Milan Vaishnav of the Carnegie Endowment told Signal. Will that be enough to overcome voters' misgivings about the economy?

One key factor we're watching closely is turnout. The general consensus is that if we see something like the record high turnout achieved in 2014, the BJP – which enjoys high support among young and new voters – will be off to a good start. About 84 million Indians are expected to cast their first-ever vote in this year's election.

What's at stake? After five years of Modi's rule, Indians get to decide whether to double down on his vision for political and economic reform or to pitch the country in an entirely different direction.

For a deeper dive on India's important election, check out this fascinating report.

Carbon has a bad rep, but did you know it's a building block of life? As atoms evolved, carbon trapped in CO2 was freed, giving way to the creation of complex molecules that use photosynthesis to convert carbon to food. Soon after, plants, herbivores, and carnivores began populating the earth and the cycle of life began.

Learn more about how carbon created life on Earth in the second episode of Eni's Story of CO2 series.

As we enter the homestretch of the US presidential election — which is set to be the most contentious, and possibly contested, in generations — Americans are also voting on 35 seats up for grabs in a battle for the control of the Senate. The 100-member body is currently held 53-47 by the Republican Party, but many individual races are wide open, and the Democrats are confident they can flip the upper chamber of Congress.

Either way, the result will have a profound impact not only on domestic policy, but also on US foreign relations and other issues with global reach. Here are a few areas where what US senators decide reverberates well beyond American shores.

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On September 23, GZERO Media — in partnership with Microsoft and Eurasia Group — gathered global experts to discuss global recovery from the coronavirus pandemic in a livestream panel. Our panel for the discussion Crisis Response & Recovery: Reimagining while Rebuilding, included:

  • Brad Smith, President, Microsoft
  • Ian Bremmer, President and Founder, Eurasia Group & GZERO Media
  • Jeh Johnson, Partner, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LLP and former Secretary of Homeland Security.
  • John Frank, Vice President, UN Affairs at Microsoft
  • Susan Glasser, staff writer and Washington columnist, The New Yorker (moderator)

Special appearances by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, European Central Bank chief Christine Lagarde, and comedian/host Trevor Noah.

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Jon Lieber, who leads Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, offers insights on the Supreme Court vacancy:

Will Senate Republicans, who stopped a Supreme Court nomination in 2016, because it was too close to an election, pay a political price for the change in tactics this time around?

Not only do I think they won't pay a political price, I think in many cases, they're going to benefit. Changing the balance of power on the Supreme Court has been a career-long quest for many conservatives and many Republicans. And that's why you've seen so many of them fall in line behind the President's nomination before we even know who it is.

At this point, do Senate Democrats have any hope of stopping President Trump from filling the ninth seat on the Supreme Court?

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In a special GZERO Media livestream on global response and recovery amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Eurasia Group & GZERO Media president Ian Bremmer discussed the difference between Europe's unified approach to economic stimulus and the deeply divided and political nature of the current conversation in the US. While initial stimulus support was bipartisan, there is little chance of Democrats and Republicans coming together again ahead of the November 3 presidential election. "It's red state versus blue state. President Trump's saying that coronavirus isn't so bad if you take the blue states out. He's president of the blue states, you can't take the blue states out," Bremmer told moderator Susan Glasser of The New Yorker.

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Panel: How will the world recover from COVID-19?

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