What We’re Watching: Polish coalition on the ropes, Ethiopian PM’s call to arms, Russian mercs in Libya

What We’re Watching: Polish coalition on the ropes, Ethiopian PM’s call to arms, Russian mercs in Libya

Polish government in trouble: Poland's rightwing coalition government is on the ropes after PM Mateusz Morawiecki fired his deputy, Jaroslaw Gowin, for opposing two key pieces of legislation: a raft of tax reforms that Morawiecki says will help the middle class but Gowin fears will actually hurt them, as well as a proposed new law restricting foreign media ownership, which critics say is meant to silence unfriendly reporting by a US-owned TV network. Without the support of Gowin's small center-right Agreement party, the coalition government — formed by the ruling PiS and the far-right United Poland — could lose its slim majority in parliament, which in turn would force Morawiecki to call an early election. If he does so, he'll face a tough rival in a familiar face for Poles: former PM and European Commission top honcho Donald Tusk, who wants to run for his old job.


Ethiopia's descent: Ethiopia has been gripped by conflict between the government and militant leaders in the region of Tigray for nine months now, but the country of 112 million people may now be on the brink of a wider civil war. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sounded the alarm on Tuesday with a call for "all capable Ethiopians" to "show their patriotism" by taking up arms against rebels from the Tigray People's Liberation Front, who are now expanding their reach beyond their home region. Abiy, who just weeks ago offered a unilateral ceasefire, now wants able-bodied civilians not just to carry weapons, but also "track down and expose spies and agents of the terrorist TPLF." (The TPLF denies being a terrorist group and claims to be the legitimate government of the Tigray region.) This is bad news for a conflict that has already pushed more than two million people from their homes.

Russian mercs' war crimes in Libya: For years, Russian mercenaries employed by the shadowy Wagner Group have been plying their trade across Africa and elsewhere. Now we know what they were up to in Libya... thanks to files on a tablet left behind by an operative. A BBC analysis of the content on the device shows evidence of war crimes such as intentionally targeting civilians and placing landmines in unmarked areas. There also seems to be proof of Russia supplying them with state-of-the art military equipment, which Moscow has always denied. About 1,000 soldiers of fortune with the Wagner Group — a private military company believed to be owned by a Russian catering tycoon known as "Putin's chef" — fought on behalf of Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar against the UN-backed government in Tripoli from 2019 to 2020. It's unclear how many remain almost year after a ceasefire agreement (technically) ended Libya's civil war, but the incriminating tablet is a good reason to get out of Dodge.

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The German people have spoken. For the first time in over 70 years, the country's next government is all but assured to be a three-way coalition.

That coalition will probably be led by the center-left SPD, the most voted party, with the Greens and the pro-business FDP as junior partners. Less likely but still possible is a similar combination headed by the conservative CDU/CSU, which got its worst result ever. A grand coalition of the SPD and the CDU/CSU — the two parties that have dominated German federal politics since World War II — is only a fallback option if talks fail badly.

Both the Greens and especially the FDP have been in coalition governments before. But this time it's different because together they have the upper hand in negotiations with the big parties wooing them.

The problem is that the two smaller parties agree on little beyond legalizing weed, and even when they do, diverge on how to reach common goals. So, where does each stand on what separates them?

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Joe Biden has already cancelled more US student than any other president. But progressive Democrats want him to write off a lot more to reduce the racial wealth gap and help people recover better from COVID's economic ruin. Republicans are against all this because it would be unfair to current and future borrowers and to taxpayers footing the bill, not to mention subsidizing the rich.

Watch the episode: How the COVID-damaged economy surprised Adam Tooze

China and Canada's hostage diplomacy: In 2018, Canada arrested Huawei top executive Meng Wanzhou because US authorities wanted to prosecute her for violating Iran sanctions. China responded by arresting two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, in what looked like a tit-for-tat. Over the weekend, Meng and the "Two Michaels" were all freed to return to their home countries as part of a deal evidently brokered by Washington. The exchange removes a major sore spot in US-China and Canada-China relations, though we're wondering if establishing the precedent of "hostage diplomacy" with China, especially in such a prominent case, is a good one for anyone involved.

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40: Samyukta Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body representing 40 Indian farmer groups, took to the streets Monday to mark a year since the start of mass protests against new farming laws that they say help big agro-businesses at the expense of small farmers. The group has called for an industry-wide strike until the laws are withdrawn.

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Germany's conservative CDU/ CSU party and the center-left SPD have dominated German politics since the 1950s. For decades, they have vied for dominance and often served in a coalition together, and have been known as the "people's parties" – a reference to their perceived middle-of-the-road pragmatism and combined broad appeal to the majority of Germans. But that's all changing, as evidenced by the fact that both performed poorly in this week's election, shedding votes to the minority Greens and pro-business Free Democrats. We take a look at the CDU/CSU and SPD's respective electoral performance over the past 60 years.

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here. Happy week to all of you and thought I'd talk a little bit about Germany and Europe. Because of course, we just had elections in Germany, 16 years of Angela Merkel's rule coming to an end - by far the strongest leader that Germany has seen post-war, Europe has seen since the collapse of the Soviet Union. And indeed in many ways, the world has seen in the 21st century. Xi Jinping, of course, runs a much bigger country and has consolidated much more power, but in terms of the free world, it's been Angela Merkel.

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Germany's historic moment of choice is finally here, and voters will stream to the polls on Sunday for the country's first post-World War II vote without a national leader seeking re-election. They will elect new members of the Bundestag, Germany's lower house of parliament. The leader of the party that wins the most seats will then try to secure a majority of seats by drawing other parties into a governing partnership. He or she will then replace Angela Merkel as Germany's chancellor.

If the latest opinion polls are right, the center-left Social Democrats will finish first. In coming weeks, they look likely to form a (potentially unwieldy) governing coalition with the Green Party and the pro-business Free Democrats, which would be Germany's first-ever governing alliance of more than two parties.

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