What We're Watching: Orbán demands an apology, India and China escalate, UN Security Council membership change

What We're Watching: Orbán demands an apology, India and China escalate, UN Security Council membership change

Will Orbán loosen the reins? Back in March, Hungary's strongman prime minister Viktor Orbán irked the European Union when he used the coronavirus crisis to push through an emergency law that opened the way for him to rule by decree indefinitely. Critics saw the move – which granted Orbán unchecked power to suspend parliament, cancel elections, and jail people for five years if they spread misinformation about the pandemic – as evidence of Orbán's avowedly "illiberal" impulses. But with the outbreak on the wane in Hungary, the legislature – which Orbán's Fidesz party controls – has scrapped emergency decree. Orbán says that Brussels' opprobrium was unjustified – and called on both the EU and the "fake news" media to issue an apology. But there is in fact proof that Orbán's party used the emergency situation to legislate on issues that have nothing to do with the COVID crisis. Crucially, rights groups say that the government used the parliamentary hiatus to limit the rights of transgender people, as well as to stash documents related to a secret development project with China.


Sticks and stones will break my...border: As many as 20 Indian soldiers died on Tuesday in a snowy skirmish with the Chinese military in a contested part of the Himalayan Galwan Valley. Although no shots were fired – the brawl involved rocks and sticks – it's the most deadly border clash between the two nuclear armed Asian powers since 1967. Indian and Chinese troops have been facing off regularly for weeks now in a high-altitude game of cat-and-mouse with no immediate end in sight. Even neighboring Nepal has been drawn into the conflict over a new official map issued by Kathmandu that Delhi suspects Beijing helped redraw. China is unhappy about recent Indian infrastructure development in the region, including a road leading to an airport in Galwan which India argues is on its side of the Line of Control. The two old rivals already fought one brief war over the area in 1962 (China won). Military officials from both sides are meeting to de-escalate the situation.

UNSC campaign season: The race is on to secure the non-permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council now up for grabs. The UNSC, which has the power to authorize peacekeeping and impose sanctions, has five permanent members and ten non-permanent seats – five of which are elected each year by the full General Assembly. The seats are apportioned to specific geographic regions. Norway, Ireland and Canada are all the frontrunners for one of the seats. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has actively lobbied the Council's permanent representatives ahead of Wednesday's vote, while Ireland gave the World Health Organization, a UN body, a $10 million "gift," quadrupling its usual contribution. As the sole candidates in their respective categories, India and Mexico are all but guaranteed to pick up seats, while Kenya and Djibouti are battling it out for one seat designated for Africa.

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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Listen: Stanford historian Niall Ferguson joins Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast to talk about the geopolitics of disaster. Throughout human history we seem to be unable to adequately prepare for catastrophes (natural or human-caused) before they strike. Why is that? And as we emerge from the greatest calamity of our lifetimes in the COVID-19 pandemic and look to the plethora of crises that climate change has and will cause, what can we do to lessen the blow?

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Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

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In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

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When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

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Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

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