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What We’re Watching: No US election winner yet, Myanmar’s election, EU rule-of-law deal

A man attends a "Count Every Vote" rally the day after the US election in New York City. Reuters

US presidential race is (still) on: Three days later, the US presidential contest remains undecided. We're keeping an eye on four battleground states — Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, and Pennsylvania — that'll decide who gets the 270 electoral college votes needed to become the next occupant of the White House. Still-emerging results from these states and the math make Biden the favorite to win because despite razor-thin margins, the vast majority of outstanding ballots are mail-in votes in blue urban areas. Meanwhile, the Trump campaign is crying foul about the entire process, demanding that the count stop where he is ahead... yet continue in Arizona, where the president is trailing Biden. Team Trump has already filed lawsuits in all these states as well as in Michigan and Wisconsin — which have already been called for his rival — but most experts agree that the legal basis for electoral fraud is flimsy, and that Trump will ultimately fail in his crusade for the Supreme Court to rule on disputed state results. Will it all finally end on Friday?

Myanmar votes: Myanmar goes to the polls on Sunday in its second general election since the return of "democracy" a decade ago. The National League of Democracy (NLD) led by Aung San Suu Kyi, the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize laureate and de facto leader of the country, is expected to sweep the vote, mainly because there is no strong opposition in parts of Myanmar except in a handful of states dominated by minority ethnic groups long plagued by conflict. But the wider story is how the government's decision to cancel voting in some of the conflict-ridden states and disenfranchise all Rohingya Muslims indicate that Myanmar — ruled by a ham-fisted military junta from 1962 to 2010 — is becoming less democratic. After all, the NLD effectively shares power with the generals, who control the top portfolios in Suu Kyi's cabinet and have a constitutional stranglehold on parliament. In other words, Myanmar has the trappings of a democracy but the military still calls the shots, as they have done for most of the country's history. We're watching to see if low turnout confirms that most Myanmar people who waited so long for an election are politically apathetic, with dire consequences for the country's (democratic) future.

Can the EU keep good money from bad actors? For several years now, the European Union has been at odds with the avowedly "illiberal" governments of Hungary and Poland over their increasingly brazen flouting of EU democratic norms — judicial independence and civil society protections in particular. But Brussels has been largely powerless to do anything about it because the two countries have shielded each other in EU policy votes that require unanimous consent. On Thursday, however, negotiators finalizing the bloc's 2 trillion euro ($2.36 trillion) budget and coronavirus recovery package reached a compromise that should give the EU a little more muscle — but only a little. Under the agreement, Brussels will be able to cut funding over democracy concerns, only two conditions: first, that the rule-of-law threat directly affects how EU money is spent, and second, that a simple majority of member states approve. Those conditions are significantly narrow that Budapest and Warsaw can probably agree to them. Whether they are sufficiently toothy to slow the "illiberal" roll of both countries will remain to be seen.

Bank of America's $25 million jobs initiative provides Black and Hispanic-Latino individuals access to skills and training needed for jobs of the future. Learn more about the initiative, which involves partnerships with 21 community colleges, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and Hispanic Serving Institutions.

How to capture the essence of this incredible, terrible year in a few short words and without using profanity? It's not easy.

Thankfully, the dictionary website Merriam-Webster.com has released its list of most heavily searched words of 2020, and they tell the story of an historic year in US politics and the life of our planet. Here's a sample.

The top word, unsurprisingly, was "Pandemic," a disease outbreak that covers a wide area and afflicts lots of people. In 2020, the coronavirus crisis hit every region of the world, triggering a public health, economic, and political emergency on a geographic scale our planet has never experienced. Differing responses to that problem defined the politics (and geopolitics) of 2020.

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Two weeks ago, Russia secured a deal to build a naval base in Sudan, its first new military facility in Africa since the end of the Cold War. The accord is a major milestone in Moscow's wider push to regain influence, and income, on a continent where the Kremlin was once a major player.

But with the ideological and military contests of the Cold War long over, what is Moscow doing in Africa today?

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60: Africa's top public health official said Wednesday that 60 percent (780,000,000 million people) of the continent's inhabitants need to receive a COVID vaccine in the next 2-3 years in order to achieve herd immunity across Africa's 54 countries, and avoid the disease becoming endemic throughout the region. Despite recent optimism about the efficacy of several COVID vaccines, global health officials are worried that African countries will be at the back of the queue in obtaining doses.

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Jon Lieber, who leads Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, offers insights on US politics:

Is Trump out of options now that William Barr said the DOJ found no election interference?

Trump's problem isn't William Barr not finding election interference, it's that he lost the election and he lost it by millions of votes, and he lost it in the most important key states by tens of thousands of votes. Now, this was a very close election. The three closest states, Wisconsin, Georgia, and Arizona, Trump only lost by 44,000 votes so far, and if he'd ended up winning those three, we'd have an Electoral College tie. But the election was not close enough that Trump's strategy of trying to kick this to the courts and then getting it to go all the way to the Congress, with an alternate slate of electors, it just wasn't possible. Had the election been a little closer, he might've had a shot. But as it is, his chances are over. Joe Biden's going to be inaugurated on January 20th.

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Reasons for Hope: COVID and the Coming Year. Watch on Friday. Dec 4 2020 12 noon - 1 pm ET


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