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.

The impact of Covid-19 is being felt in every household, changing the way we live our lives. The pandemic continues to reinforce the drive for cooperation between communities, governments and businesses in order to combat the threat.

Microsoft responded to the pandemic in its home state through efforts like donating protective equipment, making boxed lunches for families and using technology to better understand the spread of the virus over the last year. Now, we're sharing six ways Microsoft is pulling together with the community to lend a hand to fellow Washingtonians in 2021 including helping with vaccination efforts. To read more, visit Microsoft on the Issues.

Europe has been hit by a green wave in recent years. Green parties in countries as varied as Germany, Belgium, France, Ireland, Finland, and Sweden have made sizable electoral gains, with some now sitting in national governments.

The Green phenomenon seems to be gaining yet more momentum in the lead up to some crucial European elections (Germany, France) in the months ahead. What explains the green shift, and where might this trend be headed?

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Guilty: Eleven months after George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, died under the knee of Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, on a Minneapolis street corner, we finally have a verdict in the murder trial. On Tuesday, a jury found Chauvin guilty of all three charges: second- and third-degree murder, as well as second-degree manslaughter. The verdict was celebrated by advocates for racial justice and police reform. Last summer, video footage of Floyd suffocating to death as he cried out "I can't breathe" galvanized anti-racism protests across America (some of which turned violent) that went global. We're watching to see if the jury's verdict gives fresh impetus to the nationwide movement for police accountability and broader criminal justice reform, both of which have been met with fierce resistance from law-and-order conservatives and police unions. And we'll also be keeping an eye on the sentence, as Chauvin faces up to 75 years in prison for his crimes.

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120,000: Ukraine warns that Russia will soon have as many as 120,000 troops on its eastern border, a larger presence than when Moscow seized Crimea in 2014. Kyiv wants to join NATO to deter the Russian forces from invading the Donbas region, where about half the population are ethnic Russians.

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During a pandemic, the work of reporters around the world is particularly important to ensure transparency about the scope of outbreaks and the measures that governments are taking to contain them. But in many countries, press freedom has been declining since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Press freedom took a bit hit over the past year, as governments across the world doubled down on censoring media that criticized their handling of the pandemic, and locking up reporters for reporting the facts. Reporters Without Borders today published its annual World Press Freedom Index, which takes a microscope to every country, ranking the ability of its media to report freely and independently. Here's a look at how countries' scores have changed over the past year.

Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics on World In 60 Seconds (aka Around the World in 180 Seconds) and discusses Xi Jinping's message to the US, Russia's buildup at the Ukraine border, and Cuba's new leader.

What did you make of Xi Jinping's message to the US at China's annual Boao Forum?

Well, he didn't mention the United States directly, but he basically said that we don't accept hegemonic powers, we don't accept people that are setting the rules for other countries. Basically, consistently Xi Jinping saying that the Chinese want to be treated as equals with the United States. They're going to be rule makers for themselves. The Chinese political and economic system, every bit as legitimate as that of the United States. This is going to be a real fight. The American perspective is that the relationship between the two is going to be very competitive, whether it's a happy competition or an unhealthy competition depends on the Chinese. Xi Jinping's perspective is the Americans are not treating the Chinese with due respect. And that's going to play out on security, it's going to play out in climate, on the economy. I mean, you name it.

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One of the world's most famous political dissidents may die in a Russian prison this week.

Alexei Navalny has been on a hunger strike since March 31 over the authorities' refusal to let his own medical team examine him after he developed signs of tuberculosis. Now, one of his aides says Navalny is "close to death."

The fate of Vladimir Putin's most prominent critic — who was poisoned last summer, allegedly by state officials, treated in Germany, and then jailed upon his return to Russia — is being closely watched both inside and outside the country.

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The Biden administration's much ballyhooed Earth Day Summit this week promises to be revealing. We're going to learn a little about what additional action a few dozen of the world's largest emitters are willing to take on climate change, and a lot more about which countries are willing to take such action at the behest of the United States.

Call it a situational assessment of the status of American power just shy of Biden's 100th day in office.

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