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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.

Wales, early 19th century: During breaks from his law studies, William Robert Grove indulges in his passion for science to become an inventor. On his honeymoon in Europe, he learns about the new energy source everyone's talking about: electricity. After learning that electricity allows water to be broken down into its two components, hydrogen and oxygen, his intuition leads him to an idea that ends up making him a pioneer of sustainable energy production.

Watch the story of William Robert Grove in Eni's MINDS series, where we travel through time seeking scientists.

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here, and as we head into the weekend, a Quick Take on, well, the first bombing campaign of the new Biden administration. You kind of knew it was going to happen. Against some Iranian-backed militias in Syria, looks like a couple of dozen, perhaps more killed, and some militia-connected military facilities destroyed. I think there are a few ways to look at this, maybe three different lenses.

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Iran rules out nuclear talks… for now: Iran has reportedly rejected an offer to join direct talks with the US and EU over its nuclear program, saying it won't start the conversation until sanctions on Iran's economy are eased. To be clear, this does NOT mean that prospects for reviving the Iran nuclear deal are dead. Europeans and the Biden administration want a return to the 2015 nuclear agreement, and Iran certainly needs the economic boost that would come from a removal of sanctions. But Tehran is going to try to maximize its leverage before any talks begin, especially since this is a sensitive election year in in the country. Iran's leaders are going to play hard to get for a while longer before edging their way back to the bargaining table. Still, it's high stakes diplomacy here between parties that have almost no mutual trust — and one misstep could throw things off track quickly.

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18: A week after threatening protesters with a severe crackdown, Myanmar's ruling junta killed at least 18 people across the country in the bloodiest day of clashes since the generals staged a coup last month.
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The country's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, joins Ian Bremmer to talk vaccines, school re-openings, and when—and how—the pandemic could finally come end. He was last on GZERO World just weeks before the pandemic hit in the fall of 2019 and he described at the time what kept him up at night: a "pandemic-like respiratory illness." This time, he'll talk about how closely that nightmare scenario foreshadowed the COVID-19 pandemic. He'll also offer some guidance about what public health measures vaccinated Americans should continue to take in the coming months (hint: masks stay on).

The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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Biden strikes Syria. Now what?

Quick Take