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What We’re Watching: Bibi Gets Another Go at the Ballot Box

What We’re Watching: Bibi Gets Another Go at the Ballot Box

Israeli Elections 2.0 — Israelis go to the polls again today for the second time in five months. Back in April, Prime Minister Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu's Likud party (just barely) won the most votes, but failed to form a governing coalition, paving the way for new elections. The big question today is: how many Israelis have actually changed their minds in such a short timeframe? Last time, Likud and the centrist Blue and White coalition each won 35 Knesset seats, and polls show the two parties are still neck and neck, while secular right-winger Avigdor Lieberman — whose dissent in May left Bibi one seat short of a majority — is gaining steam. If this holds, Bibi would not have a majority again, and a complicated rotating premiership, national-unity government, or even a third election, could result. We are watching for results shortly...


Italian Hospitality—As typically follows dramatic breakups, Italy's new government is moving on and wants the world to know it. Over the weekend, Rome permitted an NGO boat carrying migrants (82 to be precise) to dock in an Italian port for the first time this year. This would not have happened under rightwing former interior minister Matteo Salvini, whose hardline approach towards migrants made his Lega party the most popular party in Italy. Salvini lost his spot in the government after a failed bid to trigger new elections last month, but now that he's leading the opposition, we're watching to see whether the new government's more welcoming approach to migrants puts the wind back into Salvini's political sails, and fast.

Mexico's Imaginary New Police Force – In order to tackle Mexico's soaring murder rate and rampant corruption, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador created a new police force, the Guardia Nacional. But less than a year into his presidency, few people are joining the new outfit, due to widespread disillusionment within the existing police ranks, low pay prospects, and the very real danger of getting killed on the job. We're watching this story because it's another reminder how politicians who sweep into office promising big changes – like AMLO did – can struggle to translate their plans into reality.

What We're Ignoring

Russian Priests' Holy Water Air-Drop - Priests in Tver, near Moscow, dropped holy water out of a rickety airplane last week to combat drunkenness unsavory congress in the city. We love the image, but we're ignoring this little pop of propeller-powered pious precipitation, because stricter laws – including a crackdown on illegal moonshine – have already made a significant dent in alcohol-related deaths in one of the world's hardest-drinking countries in recent years.

Khant Thaw Htoo is a young engineer who works in Eni's Sakura Tower office in the heart of Yangon. As an HSE engineer, he monitors the safety and environmental impact of onshore and offshore operations. He also looks out for his parents' well-being, in keeping with Myanmar's traditions.

Learn more about Khant in the final episode of the Faces of Eni series, which focuses on Eni's employees around the world.

On his first day as president, Joe Biden signed a remarkable series of executive orders. Boom! The US rejoins the Paris Climate Accord. Bang! The United States rejoins the World Health Organization. Pow! No more ban on immigration from many Muslim-majority countries. Biden's press secretary reminded reporters later in the day that all these orders merely begin complex processes that take time, but the impact is still dramatic.

If you lead a country allied with the US, or you're simply hoping for some specific commitment or clear and credible statement of purpose from the US government, you might feel a little dizzy today. The sight of an American president (Barack Obama) signing his name, of the next president (Donald Trump) erasing that name from the same legislation/bill, and then the following president (Biden) signing it back into law again will raise deep concerns over the long-term reliability of the world's still-most-powerful nation.

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Kevin Sneader, Global Managing Partner at McKinsey & Company, provides perspective on what corporate business leaders are thinking during the global coronavirus crisis:

Should businesses be pessimistic or optimistic about 2021?

It's easy to be gloomy about the year ahead when faced with the realities of a cold, bleak winter in much of the world. Add to that lockdowns across Europe, surging case numbers and hospitalizations, and dreadful events in the Capitol in the US to name a few reasons for pessimism. But I think there is a case for optimism when it comes to this year. After all, it's true to say that it's always darkest before the dawn, and my conversations with business leaders suggest there are reasons to be positive by 2021.

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Renowned tech journalist Kara Swisher has no qualms about saying that many of the country's social media companies need to be held accountable for their negative role in our current national discourse. Swisher calls for "a less friendly relationship with tech" by the Biden administration, an "internet bill of rights" around privacy, and an investigation into antitrust issues.

Swisher, who hosts the New York Times podcast Sway, joins Ian Bremmer for the latest episode of GZERO World, airing on public television nationwide beginning this Friday, January 22th. Check local listings.

Brexit pettiness lingers: Here we were naively thinking the Brexit shenanigans were over after the EU and UK agreed to an eleventh-hour post-Brexit trade deal last month. We were wrong — the saga continues. Now, a new row has erupted after the Johnson government said it will not give the EU ambassador in London the same diplomatic status awarded to other representatives of nation states. Unsurprisingly, this announcement peeved Brussels, whose delegates enjoy full diplomatic status in at least 142 other countries. The UK says it will give the EU envoy the same privileges as those given to international organizations, which are subject to change and do not include immunity from detention and taxation given to diplomats under the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations. EU members are furious, with officials accusing London of simply trying to flex its muscles and engaging in "petty" behavior. The two sides will discuss the matter further when UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets EU representatives next week, their first face-to-face since the two sides settled the Brexit quagmire on December 31. Alas, the Brexit nightmare continues.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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