What We’re Watching: Haiti trembles, Canada's snap election, Malaysia’s political mess

What We’re Watching: Haiti trembles, Canada's snap election, Malaysia’s political mess

Haiti quake aftermath: If you thought things couldn't possibly get worse for Haiti, they just did. The chronically unstable country, still reeling from the July 7 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, was literally shaken on Saturday by a magnitude 7.2 earthquake that has killed upwards of 1,400 people and destroyed at least 14,000 homes. What's more, Haitians are now also bracing for a tropical depression that will likely cause floods and landslides in quake-hit areas. Many foreign governments and aid groups have already sent some aid, though many are fearful of a repeat of the situation 11 years ago, when another powerful earthquake devastated the capital, but the assistance was poorly coordinated and failed to reach Haitians that needed it most, and a subsequent cholera outbreak was blamed on UN peacekeepers. When the humanitarian aid does trickle in, the gangs that control large swaths of Haiti say they'll let it through. It's a devastating blow to a country where around two-thirds of people live in poverty.


Trudeau's election gamble: Canada's center-left Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called a snap election for September 20 — more than two years before the next legislative vote was scheduled — in a bid to win the parliamentary majority. Back in 2019, Trudeau's party won the most parliamentary seats, but failed to win an outright majority. (Less than a year ago, Trudeau survived a no-confidence vote in parliament at a time his approval ratings had plunged over a series of ethics scandals.) For now, Trudeau has two things going for him. First, Canadians mostly approve of how he's handled the pandemic, including the economic stimulus, and Canada now leads the G20 in COVID vaccinations per capita. Second, his conservative rival Erin O'Toole is at odds with climate skeptics within O'Toole's own party and was recently panned for an attack ad on the PM. Most polls suggest Trudeau's Liberal Party will win a majority, but he could fall short if young voters turn to the progressive New Democratic Party. While Trudeau says he needs a new mandate to manage the next phase of the pandemic, critics argue it's a selfish and costly exercise when many Canadians are still suffering the COVID-fueled economic crisis.

Malaysia's never-ending political crisis: Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and his entire cabinet stepped down on Monday, putting an end to 17 months of fierce infighting among members of his coalition government. Muhyiddin will stay on as caretaker PM until the king picks a successor with enough support in parliament. The problem is that the two parties with the most seats don't have enough votes on their own, and as bitter rivals will block each other's candidate. The impasse can only be solved by calling an early election, an unpopular play amid a severe COVID outbreak, or to appoint a bipartisan national commission similar to the one that governed Malaysia during a period of racial unrest in 1969-1971. Former PM Mahathir Mohamed — who's no spring chicken at age 96, and caused much of the current mess after abruptly resigning in March 2020 — has offered himself to lead such a national unity government until the country recovers from the pandemic.

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The German people have spoken. For the first time in over 70 years, the country's next government is all but assured to be a three-way coalition.

That coalition will probably be led by the center-left SPD, the most voted party, with the Greens and the pro-business FDP as junior partners. Less likely but still possible is a similar combination headed by the conservative CDU/CSU, which got its worst result ever. A grand coalition of the SPD and the CDU/CSU — the two parties that have dominated German federal politics since World War II — is only a fallback option if talks fail badly.

Both the Greens and especially the FDP have been in coalition governments before. But this time it's different because together they have the upper hand in negotiations with the big parties wooing them.

The problem is that the two smaller parties agree on little beyond legalizing weed, and even when they do, diverge on how to reach common goals. So, where does each stand on what separates them?

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Joe Biden has already cancelled more US student than any other president. But progressive Democrats want him to write off a lot more to reduce the racial wealth gap and help people recover better from COVID's economic ruin. Republicans are against all this because it would be unfair to current and future borrowers and to taxpayers footing the bill, not to mention subsidizing the rich.

Watch the episode: How the COVID-damaged economy surprised Adam Tooze

China and Canada's hostage diplomacy: In 2018, Canada arrested Huawei top executive Meng Wanzhou because US authorities wanted to prosecute her for violating Iran sanctions. China responded by arresting two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, in what looked like a tit-for-tat. Over the weekend, Meng and the "Two Michaels" were all freed to return to their home countries as part of a deal evidently brokered by Washington. The exchange removes a major sore spot in US-China and Canada-China relations, though we're wondering if establishing the precedent of "hostage diplomacy" with China, especially in such a prominent case, is a good one for anyone involved.

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40: Samyukta Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body representing 40 Indian farmer groups, took to the streets Monday to mark a year since the start of mass protests against new farming laws that they say help big agro-businesses at the expense of small farmers. The group has called for an industry-wide strike until the laws are withdrawn.

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Germany's conservative CDU/ CSU party and the center-left SPD have dominated German politics since the 1950s. For decades, they have vied for dominance and often served in a coalition together, and have been known as the "people's parties" – a reference to their perceived middle-of-the-road pragmatism and combined broad appeal to the majority of Germans. But that's all changing, as evidenced by the fact that both performed poorly in this week's election, shedding votes to the minority Greens and pro-business Free Democrats. We take a look at the CDU/CSU and SPD's respective electoral performance over the past 60 years.

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here. Happy week to all of you and thought I'd talk a little bit about Germany and Europe. Because of course, we just had elections in Germany, 16 years of Angela Merkel's rule coming to an end - by far the strongest leader that Germany has seen post-war, Europe has seen since the collapse of the Soviet Union. And indeed in many ways, the world has seen in the 21st century. Xi Jinping, of course, runs a much bigger country and has consolidated much more power, but in terms of the free world, it's been Angela Merkel.

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Germany's historic moment of choice is finally here, and voters will stream to the polls on Sunday for the country's first post-World War II vote without a national leader seeking re-election. They will elect new members of the Bundestag, Germany's lower house of parliament. The leader of the party that wins the most seats will then try to secure a majority of seats by drawing other parties into a governing partnership. He or she will then replace Angela Merkel as Germany's chancellor.

If the latest opinion polls are right, the center-left Social Democrats will finish first. In coming weeks, they look likely to form a (potentially unwieldy) governing coalition with the Green Party and the pro-business Free Democrats, which would be Germany's first-ever governing alliance of more than two parties.

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