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What We're Watching: Lingering US presidential race, Ethiopia's ethnic strife,Trump's recount antics

Images of a Trump supporter and child holding a Biden-Harris sign

The lingering US presidential race: As counting continues in several key battleground states, the American people are still none the wiser as to who will be their next president. At the time of this writing, the road to victory — that is, to clearing the 270 electoral votes threshold needed to clinch the presidency — is clearer for Joe Biden, but President Trump could still win a second term. Millions of mail-in-ballots still being counted in several closely-watched states — Arizona, North Carolina, Nevada, Georgia, and Pennsylvania — will decide the outcome of the election in the next few days. Many analysts say that the bulk of these votes will likely favor Biden because the Democratic Party has encouraged voting early and by mail due to the pandemic, while the Trump campaign promoted in-person voting on Election Day. The Trump campaign, meanwhile, has presented a legal strategy to contest the counting of mail-in-ballots — a tactic rejected by many mainstream Republicans. The margin of the race is razor-thin, reinforcing what many observers already knew: the country is bitterly divided.

Civil war in Ethiopia? Ethiopia's military has been deployed to the northern Tigray region after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed accused the ruling Tigray People's Liberation Front (TFLP) party of trying to provoke a war by attacking an army base there. Abiy's move is widely viewed as payback for the regional government's recent decision to defy Addis Ababa by holding elections in Tigray that were cancelled in the rest of Ethiopia due to the coronavirus pandemic. But the root of the mutual animosity has always been ethnic— and political: Tigrays only account for 5 percent of Ethiopia's population but for decades punched above their weight in domestic politics thanks to their role in ousting former dictator Haile Mengistu, a fellow Tigray. The region's grip on national power ended with the 2018 election of the reformist Ahmed, a member of the Oromo, the country's largest ethnic group but long marginalized by the political establishment in Addis Ababa. Since then, the TLFP and the prime minister have accused each other of stoking ethnic tensions in a deeply fragmented country. Will Ethiopia — which just months ago was on the brink of civil war after the murder of a nationalist Oromo singer — descend into full-blown ethnic conflict?

What We're Ignoring:

Trump's recount antics: After Wisconsin's electoral officials announced on Wednesday that Joe Biden had won a majority of votes in the crucial battleground state, the Trump campaign said it will request an "immediate" recount of the ballots, saying that "Wisconsin has been a razor thin race" that could readily flip in the incumbent's favor. While it's true that the race in the Badger State has been tight, Trump currently trails Biden by some 20,000 votes in Wisconsin, a significant margin that's unlikely to change even if votes are retallied. We're ignoring this because even Republican stalwarts like former governors Chris Christie and Scott Walker acknowledged that the Trump campaign's tactics were unfounded and unlikely to yield the President's desired results. Indeed, recounts only ever reveal discrepancies of a few hundred votes here and there, experts say. We're also ignoring the fact that the Trump administration prematurely claimed victory in Pennsylvania even though over a million votes have not been counted there — as well as his appeal for the courts to block continued counting of ballots in Pennsylvania and Michigan — because, well, … democracy!


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