What We’re Watching: Protests meet Thai king, AMLO’s anti-corruption push under fire, Brexit mess continues

A pro-democracy demonstrator holds a placard past a portrait of Thai King Vajiralongkorn in Bangkok. Reuters

Thais "welcome" king back: Thousands of pro-democracy activists rallied across Bangkok on Wednesday as embattled King Maha Vajiralongkorn returned to Thailand after spending almost seven months amid a growing youth-led movement calling to reform the monarchy. Police pushed away protestors trying to confront the king's motorcade, while hundreds of royalist counter protesters cheered him on. Although violence was largely avoided, animosity is rising as some of the pro-democracy activists are now openly calling to go beyond reform and outright abolish the monarchy, normally a taboo topic in Thailand. They are fiercely opposed by the royalist camp, which controls the government and the security forces. We're keeping an eye on whether the king's physical presence in the country will encourage wider protests and put pressure on Thai Prime Minister — and 2014 coup leader — Prayuth Chan-ocha to crack down hard against the increasingly bold activists. (So far, he has banned public gatherings and arrested over 20 protesters).


Does Mexico's anti-corruption president have a corruption problem? Andrés Manuel López Obrador, an austere leftwing populist known as AMLO, was elected President of Mexico in 2018 — in part on his pledges to clean up the country's rampant corruption. He won plaudits for stripping public officials of immunity, rejecting the lavish lifestyle of previous presidents, and setting up an Institute for Returning to People What Was Stolen (INDEP), which auctions off the illegally obtained property of public officials and is supposed to put the proceeds back into the national budget. But recently, the head of INDEP resigned, alleging that the institute itself was misusing those funds. Taken together with a flurry of corruption scandals alleging misconduct by his own brother and his sister-in-law, AMLO may be facing a corruption problem of his own as he gears up for next year's crucial mid-term elections.

EU-UK post-Brexit deal (still) up in the air: The European Union and the United Kingdom remain deadlocked on talks to prevent the UK from exiting the EU without a trade agreement at the end of the year. Although British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he's willing to walk away if no consensus is reached by October 15, the two sides are simultaneously negotiating a one-year extension to avoid the economic fallout of a no-deal Brexit (which would raise prices for businesses and consumers in both the UK and the EU). The latest snag is French opposition to certain British fishing rights once it leaves the EU: the French want full EU access to British waters in return for reciprocal full UK access to sell fish to the EU, while Brits demand quotas on the former. Moreover, London and Brussels are still squabbling over a new UK law that would exclude Northern Ireland from some EU trade rules while both sides continue negotiating. Will Johnson keep his word and gamble on a no-deal Brexit? If so, will it be too late for the EU to stop him? The answer in the next episode of this neverending drama.

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

More Show less

In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

More Show less

When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

More Show less

YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

More Show less

Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

More Show less

28: The UK and the EU have again failed to agree on post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. In a 28-page document, the British government had suggested further changes to trade rules that were already negotiated as part of the Brexit settlement, but Brussels was not having any of it.

More Show less

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

GZERO World with Ian Bremmer. Watch episodes now

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal

GZERO World with Ian Bremmer. Watch episodes now

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal