What We’re Watching: Elections in Chile & Venezuela, Modi blinks, Chinese buffet ban

What We’re Watching: Elections in Chile & Venezuela, Modi blinks, Chinese buffet ban

An extreme choice for Chilean president. Chileans go to the polls on Sunday for the first round of the presidential election. The two frontrunners are former lawmaker José Antonio Kast, a rightwinger who pines for Augusto Pinochet, and former student leader Gabriel Boric, who's moderated his positions from his more far-left days but still wants to spend big on social programs. Kast, who's benefited from rising anti-migrant sentiment, is currently leading in the polls, while Boric hasn't been able to campaign for two weeks after getting COVID. Still, Kast probably won't get 50 percent of the vote, meaning that things will go to a December runoff in which Boric is projected to have a slight edge. Just months ago, Chileans elected a largely left-leaning assembly to rewrite the Pinochet-era constitution following mass protests over rising inequality in late 2019. The next president will want to have a say in that process.


Venezuelan opposition, welcome back to elections. Also on Sunday, Venezuelans will vote to elect governors, mayors, and local officials across the country. More importantly, for the first time since 2017 they'll see opposition party names on the ballot. Since then, opponents of strongman Nicolás Maduro have boycotted elections that they saw as rigged against them, opting instead for street protests and external support to oust the regime. But with Maduro still in power, external help waning, and talks with the government on the rocks, the opposition is now slouching back to the ballot box. EU observers will be on hand to ensure that the vote is fair, but Maduro allies are likely to do well across the board. The fragmented opposition will be vying to hold four key governorships of its own, and is looking for promising pockets of support ahead of presidential elections set for 2024.

Modi's farm laws U-turn. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi suddenly announced on Friday he'll repeal three controversial agriculture laws that farmers had been protesting for more than a year. The laws sought to deregulate the agriculture sector in order to attract more investment and broaden opportunities, but small farmers worried that would leave them at the mercy of massive agriculture conglomerates. For months, tens of thousands of farmers have descended on the capital, blocking roads and even breaching the landmark Red Fort. The cause went global, with foreign celebrities weighing in on the farmers' side — much to the chagrin of Modi's government. After a long stalemate between the government and farmers' unions, Modi appears to have blinked. Our former colleague Akhil Bery tweeted: "This is a very substantial defeat for a PM who hasn't seen many."

What We're Eating

Too much at the buffet. An all-you-can-eat restaurant in China has banned a food live-streamer after he gobbled up 1.5 kilos (3.3 pounds) of roasted pig's feet and 4 kilos of prawns in two visits. The glutton in question, who goes by the name Mr. Kang, says the restaurant is discriminating against him, but the owner says he's tired of winding up out of pocket every time Mr. Kang shows up. A video exchange between the two has prompted a lively debate on Chinese social media, with over 250 million views so far. There's a political angle too. Since last year China's government has unleashed a "clean plate" campaign to crack down on food influencers over concerns about food shortages caused by the ongoing trade war with the US. More recently, Chinese people have been urged to stock up on food supplies, triggering panic-buying by many and rumblings that the real reason is to prepare for... an imminent invasion of Taiwan?
Colorful graphic with a woman wearing a red top in the foreground and blue background with two individuals looking on

As the private sector innovates aid and financing, seeking holistic solutions to neighborhood challenges is the cornerstone of the approach.

Businesses, which rely on healthy communities for their own prosperity, must play a big part in driving solutions.

See why.

Australian Open - First Round - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia - January 21, 2020 China's Peng Shuai in action during the match against Japan's Nao Hibino

The Women’s Tennis Association this week decided to suspend all tournaments in China, over doubts that the country’s star player Peng Shuai is safe and sound. Peng recently disappeared for three weeks after accusing a former Vice Premier of sexual assault. Although she has since resurfaced, telling the International Olympic Committee that she’s fine and just wants a little privacy, there are still concerns that Peng has been subjected to intimidation by the Chinese state.

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Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Europe:

How is Europe dealing with new omicron version of the pandemic?

Well, I mean the big issue isn't really that one, the big issue if you see the havoc that is created in several European countries at the moment is the delta. The delta is making impressive strides, particularly in countries that have a slightly lower vaccination rates. So that's the number one fight at the moment. And then we must of course prepare for the omicron as well.

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Caravan of Taliban soldiers with guns held upright

Listen: With the US gone and the Taliban back in control, Afghanistan faces a long winter. Mounting food insecurity and a crumbling economy have left many Afghans feeling abandoned. The international community could help solve this humanitarian crisis, but can they trust the Taliban?

Ian Bremmer sat down with journalist and author Ahmed Rashid to learn more about the Taliban today. Few people know more about the Taliban than Rashid, who wrote the book on the group — literally. In the months after 9/11, his critically acclaimed 2000 study Taliban became a go-to reference as the US geared up to invade Afghanistan and knock the militant group from power. Twenty years later, how much has the group changed since the days of soccer-stadium executions, television bans, and blowing up world heritage sites?

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Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

What are the DSA and the DMA?

Well, the twin legislative initiatives of the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act are the European Union's answer to the challenges of content moderation online and that of the significant role of major market players, also known as gatekeepers in the digital markets. And the intention is to foster both more competition and responsible behavior by tech companies. So the new rules would apply broadly to search engines, social media platforms, but also retail platforms and app stores.

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Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares insights on US politics:

What is happening to Roe v. Wade?

Well, this week, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case called Dobbs v. Jackson, which challenges a Mississippi law that would outlaw abortions after 15 weeks in the state. That law itself is a direct challenge to the legal precedent set by Roe v. Wade nearly 50 years ago, which is one of the most politically important Supreme Court decisions in American history. It has driven deep polarization between the right and the left in the US and become a critical litmus test. There are very few, if any, pro-life Democrats at the national level and virtually no pro-choice Republicans at any level of government. Overturning Roe has been an animating force on the political right in the US for a generation. And in turn, Democrats have responded by making protecting Roe one of their key political missions.

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What We're Watching: Angela Merkel's punk rock farewell, Iran nuclear talks resume

Angela Merkel's punk rock farewell. Although she doesn't officially step down as German Chancellor until next week, Angela Merkel's sendoff took place on Thursday night in Berlin, with the traditional Grosser Zapfenstreich — a musical aufweidersehen, replete with torches and a military band. By custom, the honoree gets to choose three songs for the band to play. Among Merkel's otherwise staid choices was a total curveball: You Forgot the Colour Film, a 1974 rock hit by fellow East German Nina Hagen, a renowned punk rocker. The song, a parody bit about a man who takes the singer on vacation but has only black-and-white film in his camera, was understood as a dig at the drabness of life in the East. We're listening to the tune, and... digging it, kind of — but we still prefer Merkel's own Kraftwerk-inspired farewell song from Puppet Regime. Eins, zwei, drei, it's time to say goodbye...

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World leaders at the G20 Summit in Rome, October 2021

This week, the World Health Organization’s governing body agreed to begin multinational negotiations on an agreement that would boost global preparedness to deal with future pandemics. The WHO hopes that its 194 member countries will sign a treaty that helps ensure that the global response to the next pandemic is better coordinated and fairer.

The specifics remain to be negotiated over the coming months – and maybe longer – but the stated goal of those who back this plan is a treaty that will commit member countries to share information, virus samples, and new technologies, and to ensure that poorer countries have much better access than they do now to vaccines and related technologies.

Crucially, backers of the treaty insist it must be “legally binding.”

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