What We're Watching: Myanmar's election, Bolivia's new president, Biden's COVID crew

A supporter of National League for Democracy gather to celebrate at party headquarters after the general election in Yangon, Myanmar

Myanmar's "democratic" elections: Voters in Myanmar voted overwhelmingly on Sunday in support of the National League for Democracy party led by Aung San Suu Kyi, ensuring that it will remain the dominant force in parliament. It was only the second time that voters headed to the polls in a country that's been experimenting with democracy after more than 50 years of military rule. While voter turnout was high, critics say that some 1.5 million people were prevented from voting as part of a deliberate tactic by the joint civilian-military government to disenfranchise voters from ethnic minority states (the election was even cancelled in some of them). The country's ever-powerful military has long been accused of persecuting minority groups (this was reflected in its ethnic cleansing campaign in Rakhine State against Muslim Rohingyas, which were also not allowed to vote). Suu Kyi, for her part, has been accused of turning a blind eye to the genocide despite her credentials as a human rights "warrior." Indeed, the National League for Democracy has its work cut out for it as COVID-19 continues to rip through a country with one of the world's weakest healthcare systems.


Bolivia inaugurates new president: A little more than a year after a contested election led to protests and the ouster of Bolivia long-serving leftwing populist President Evo Morales, the country has inaugurated his protégé, Luis Arce, who handily won a do-over election last month. Arce — who served as Morales' top economic official during the years when the government used a natural resource boom to lift millions out of poverty — faces daunting challenges. Bolivia's economy is mired in its worst slump in decades, as the coronavirus pandemic has cratered prices for Bolivia's natural gas and minerals exports. At the same time, Bolivia has one of the world's highest COVID-19 death rates per capita — in part because political upheavals over the past year made it hard for the government to craft an effective policy. Atop all of that, Arce will take control of a country bitterly polarized after a year of turmoil and animosity between Morales' supporters and the conservative opposition that held power in the interim.

Biden names COVID task force: With new coronavirus cases surging in the US, president-elect Joe Biden has already named a transition advisory team charged with fleshing out the incoming administration's plans to get the outbreak under control. It'll be led by former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy (whom GZERO media interviewed here), former FDA commissioner David Kessler, and Dr Marcella-Nunez Smith, a Yale public health expert, and it features an all-star roster of experts and scientists. Although Biden won't have real power to do anything about the pandemic until he takes office in January, the task force will reportedly be working with local and state governments both to assess their needs and, presumably, to advance the Biden team's proposals for broader mask-wearing mandates. We will see how far the task force gets and how politicized this issue becomes during what it is likely to be a very tense transition period. The Trump administration, for its part, isn't allowing the normal transition to proceed.

Yau Abdul Karim lives and works in Garin Mai Jalah, located in the Yobe State of northeastern Nigeria. Essential to his work raising cattle is reliable access to water, yet environmental degradation has led to fewer water sources, severely impacting communities like his that depend on livestock. In 2019, with the help of FAO, Eni installed a special solar-powered well in Yau's town that provides water during the day as well as light at night.

Watch Yau's story as he shows how his family and community enjoy life-enhancing access to both water and light.

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here. And I thought I'd talk a little bit today about the latest in Israel, Palestine. It's obviously been driving headlines all week. And of course, on social media, there's no topic that we all get along and agree with each other more than Israel, Palestine. It's an easy one to take on. Yeah, I know I'm completely full of crap on that. But I thought I would give you some sense of what I think is actually happening where we're going. So first point, massive fight, big conflict between Hamas in Gaza and the Israeli defense forces. Not only that, but also more violence and a lot of violence breaking out between Israeli Arabs and Israeli Jews. Extremists on both sides taking to the streets and fairly indiscriminate violence, in this case, worst since 2014.

More Show less

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland's first minister, says another independence referendum for Scotland is now a matter of "when not if," and that after leaving the UK, Scotland will launch a bid to rejoin the EU. But there are formidable obstacles ahead.

Getting to a vote will force a complex game of chicken with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. If a majority of Scots then vote for independence — hardly a sure thing – the process of extricating their new country from the UK will make Brexit look easy. Next, come the challenges of EU accession. In other words, Scotland's journey down the rocky road ahead has only just begun.

More Show less

Cyber is a tool, and sometimes a weapon. Whether espionage for commercial gain or indiscriminate attacks on critical infrastructure, actions taken in cyber space affect you directly, potentially upending even the most mundane realities of everyday life.

Join GZERO Media and Microsoft for a live conversation on cyber challenges facing governments, companies, and citizens in a Munich Security Conference "Road to Munich" event on Tuesday, May 18.

More Show less

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:

Who is Elise Stefanik and what does she mean for the Republican Party right now?

Elise Stefanik is a young member from Upstate New York. She had originally started her career as a staffer in the George W. Bush administration, but in recent years, has turned into one of the most outspoken defenders of President Donald Trump, particularly during the impeachment trial last year. She's relevant right now because it looks like she'll be replacing Liz Cheney, the Representative from Wyoming and also the daughter of the former Vice President, who has been outspoken in her criticism of President Trump since the January 6th insurrection, and probably more importantly, outspoken in her criticism of the direction of the Republican Party.

More Show less

According to Delhi-based journalist Barkha Dutt, while the Indian government has finally started to mobilize in response to the COVID crisis, there's still a lot of denial about the severity of the ourbreak. "Our Health Minister, for instance, made a statement in the last 24 hours saying that India is better equipped to fight COVID in 2021 than in 2020. That's simply rubbish. We had India's Solicitor General telling the Supreme Court that there is no oxygen deficit as of now. That's simply not true." In an interview on GZERO World, Dutt tells Ian Bremmer that only the connection between fellow Indians, helping each other when the government cannot, has been a salve.

Watch the episode: India's COVID calamity

Listen: Ask national security experts how they view China today and they'll likely the use a term like "adversary" or "economic competitor." But what about "enemy?" How close is the world to all-out-war breaking out between United States and China? According to US Admiral James Stavridis (Ret.), who served as Supreme Allied Commander to NATO, those odds are higher than many would like to admit. In fact, Stavridis says, the US risks losing its military dominance in the coming years to China. And if push comes to shove in a military conflict, it's not entirely clear who would prevail. Admiral Stavridis discusses his bestselling new military thriller 2034 and makes the case for why his fictional depiction of a US-China war could easily become reality.

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.

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective on Europe In 60 Seconds:

What's the issue with the letter in France talking about the "civil war"?

Well, I think it is part of the beginning of the French election campaign. We have some people in the military encouraged by the more right-wing forces, warning very much for the Muslim question. That's part of the upstart to the election campaign next year. More to come, I fear.

More Show less

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

Beyond SolarWinds: Securing Cyberspace. Watch on Tuesday, May 18, 2021 10am PT/ 1pm ET

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal

Beyond SolarWinds: Securing Cyberspace | Watch on Tuesday, May 18, 2021 10am PT / 1 pm PT

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal