What We’re Watching: Kyrgyz political unrest, Indonesian protests, Venice flooding contained

Protest against the results of a parliamentary election in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Reuters

Post-election unrest rocks Kyrgyzstan: After mass protests over alleged irregularities in Sunday's parliamentary elections, authorities in Kyrgyzstan — a small former Soviet republic in Central Asia — have nullified the results, opening the way to a fresh vote. Only four of 16 parties won seats, and (by sheer coincidence!) three of those parties have close ties to President Sooronbai Jeenbekov. The result prompted supporters of the other twelve parties to hit the streets, where they clashed with riot police and later ransacked parliament. Opposition leaders — with backing from international observers — say there is evidence of vote-buying. Some are now openly seeking to unseat Jeenbekov, who was elected in 2017 in the first democratic transfer of power in Kyrgyzstan's history. The country is no stranger to political unrest — over the past 15 years, protests have ousted two presidents. We are watching to see if Jeenbekov can reach a deal to placate the opposition and hold fresh elections, and also keeping an eye on how the Kremlin responds — if there's one thing Putin doesn't like, it's (more) democratic uprisings in his neighborhood.


Indonesians cry foul over new labor law: Indonesian workers are up in arms over the country's new labor law, which aims to increase much-needed foreign investment by loosening the protections for the environment and workers' rights. On Tuesday, millions of workers went on strike despite pandemic-related restrictions to protest against the pro-business changes, which environmental groups and unions believe will lead to rampant deforestation and disproportionately hurt poorer Indonesians. Meanwhile, independent experts say the "omnibus" bill, which revised more than 70 existing laws, was rushed through parliament. The government, for its part, argues that the reforms were needed because the previous labor legislation deterred formal hiring and scared off long-term investment. In an interesting response to the unrest, Indonesian police have dispatched cyber patrols to prevent protesters from organizing online and launched counter-narratives to defend the new law on social media.

High waters laid low in Venice: Okay, you need some good news, so here it goes… For almost thirty years, Venice has been trying to complete a flood barrier to stop high tides from flooding the city of canals. But repeated construction delays and corruption scandals surrounding the project made many Venetians think they'd never see the day when a system of massive metal plates would rise up in the sea to stop the acqua alta (the "high water" tides that roll in between fall and early spring.) But last Saturday was, at long last, that day. As the sea swelled, the 78 barriers slowly rose up, and at high tide the famous Piazza San Marco — one of the lowest points in the city — was… dry! The urgency of developing a flood solution for Venice has grown in recent years as global sea levels rise due to climate change. In 2019 an acqua alta flooded 90 percent of Venice, causing massive economic damage just before the coronavirus pandemic killed off the tourism industry that supports the city.

Two Black women hugging, with one woman pictured smiling

With half of all Black Americans excluded from the financial mainstream and Black-owned small businesses blocked from funding, we're working with city leaders and providing digital access to essential financial tools for immediate impact in Black communities. Learn more.

Ian Bremmer interviews economist Larry Summers on GZERO World. Summers served as the Treasury Secretary under President Clinton and as the Director of the National Economic Council under Preisdent Obama. He sounded the alarm bell about inflation back in February 2021 when few people were talking about it. Part of the reason prices are rising so much today, Summers says, is because the Biden administration made the political decision to do "too much stimulus," a big mistake in his view. Summers discusses how supply chain problems are also contributed to the highest levels of inflation in the US in 30 years.

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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?

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

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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