What We're Watching: Malawian do-over, Serbian power, Tunisian protests

Malawi's election do-over: Five months after Malawi's constitutional court ruled that widespread irregularities compromised the incumbent President Peter Mutharika's re-election, Malawians participated in a historic rerun on Tuesday. Some 6.6 million people were registered to vote in the much-anticipated contest that will determine whether the 80-year old Mutharika, who has been involved in a string of corruption cases since he took up the post in 2014, can head off his main rival, opposition leader Lazarus Chakwera. Disputes over the first election gave rise to months of unrest as well as clashes between Chakwera's supporters and police.


What's Serbia's president gonna use that power for? In elections largely boycotted by the opposition, president Aleksandar Vučić's party swept up more than 60 percent of seats in Serbia's parliament, giving him further control over a fragile democracy that, rights groups say, has eroded since he came to power in 2017. His opponents said the result was illegitimate, pointing to what they said was biased coverage in state media. Now that Vučić has nearly complete control over the Serbian state, we're watching to see what he does about two important international issues: First, how will he balance his intention of bringing Serbia into the EU while also cultivating ever-closer ties with Russia and China? Second, can he reach a peace deal with Kosovo, the majority-Albanian region of Serbia that suffered a campaign of Serb-directed ethnic cleansing in the late 1990s and then declared independence with US and EU backing in 2008? The EU and US have proposed rival peace plans and Vučić is currently dancing between them. He heads to Washington for talks on the issue this weekend.

Tunisians protest unemployment: Protesters and police have clashed in the southern Tunisian province of Tataouine in recent days, as hundreds flocked to the streets to protest surging unemployment and economic stagnation ten years after the popular revolution in that country gave rise to the broader "Arab Spring." Police fired tear gas and hurled stones at the crowd, but the harsh measures seemed only to embolden protesters who have continued to hit the streets. They say that six years since the first free presidential elections were held, the government has failed to boost economic opportunity for millions of Tunisians, and that a 2017 government pledge to employ thousands of Tunisians to work on oil and development projects was never acted upon. The country's youth unemployment rate of 36 percent is one of the highest in the world.

In Italy, stacks of plastic boxes in supermarkets and stores are not garbage - they are collected and reused, thanks to a consortium that specializes in recycling them for food storage. How do these "circular" plastic boxes help reduce energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions?

Learn more in this episode of Eni's Energy SUPERFACTS series.

Over the past few years, we've seen three major emerging powers take bold action to right what they say are historical wrongs.

First came Crimea. When the Kremlin decided in 2014 that Western powers were working against Russian interests in Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian troops to seize the Crimean Peninsula, which was then part of Ukraine. Moscow claimed that Crimea and its ethnic Russian majority had been part of the Russian Empire for centuries until a shameful deal in 1954 made Crimea part of the Ukrainian Soviet Republic. Americans and Europeans imposed sanctions on Russia. But Ukraine is not part of NATO or the EU, and no further action was taken.

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"Neither America first, which is ultimately America alone, nor America the world's policeman," Sen. Chris Coons told Ian Bremmer in describing VP Joe Biden's approach to foreign policy should he win the presidential election in November. In the latest episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer, Sen. Coons provides details of how U.S. relationships with foreign governments and multilateral alliances could change in a Biden presidency. He also defended President Obama's track record, saying "I think it is a mischaracterization of the Obama-Biden foreign policy for President Trump to say that we were picking up the tab and fighting the world's wars and that we were disrespected." Coons stated that Biden would work to restore U.S. involvement in alliances like NATO, and shore up global support to pressure China on labor and environmental standards. The exchange is part of a broad conversation with the Senator about COVID response and economic relief, Russian interference in elections, and the 2020 presidential race. The episode begins airing nationally in the U.S. on Friday, July 10. Check local listings.

Jon Lieber, managing director for the United States at Eurasia Group, shares his insights on US politics:

How is coronavirus jeopardizing the legitimacy of a 2020 presidential election?

Well, what coronavirus is doing is a lot of states are worrying about people who aren't going to want to come to the polling places in the fall, and they're worried about a shortage of polling workers who are going to want to come out and volunteer to get sick by interacting with a bunch people in person. So, what they're doing is they're looking at making a shift to vote-by-mail. Most states allow some form of absentee balloting today. Five states just automatically mail you a ballot and they don't do any in-person voting. But the challenge here is that a lot of states are unprepared for the sharp increase that's expected. In the last election, 25% of ballots were cast by mail. You may see 50, 60 or even more percent of ballots cast by mail this time, which could overwhelm election administration, which happens at the state level.

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The United States and the European Union have comparable population sizes, but their COVID-19 death toll trajectories have diverged. As of July 8, the average number of new deaths every three days in the EU had fallen 97 percent since peaking at the beginning of April. The US number, however, has fallen only 67 percent over the same period. That means that although both regions' death tolls peaked with only two weeks difference, the EU has flattened its COVID-19 fatality curve faster than America. Some experts attribute the difference to EU countries' more robust public health systems and better compliance with mask-wearing and other social distancing measures.