What We're Watching: Spain's far right surge

What We're Watching: Spain's far right surge

Spain's far right surge — The far right Vox party made the biggest gains in Spain's general election Sunday, more than doubling their seat count to 52 (out of 350), to become the third largest party in parliament. For decades, the stigma of Francisco Franco's dictatorship (1939-1975) seemed to insulate Spain from the far-right populism that's swept Europe in recent years. But now Vox's ultra-nationalists will find it easier to shift the national dialogue on key issues like immigration and quashing the Catalan independence movement. The current Socialist prime minister Pedro Sanchez had hoped that the election – the country's fourth in as many years – would break a political deadlock and strengthen his hand to form a new government. Though Sanchez's Socialists came out on top, they fell short of an absolute majority, losing three parliamentary seats since the last election in April.


A "landmark" ruling in India – India's Supreme Court has ruled that Hindus can build a temple on a hotly disputed holy site in the northern Indian city of Ayodhya. In 1992, Hindu extremists destroyed a 16th century mosque on this site, a place that many claim as the birthplace of the Hindu god Ram. That act of destruction touched off weeks of sectarian violence that killed hundreds of people. We're watching to see whether the court's ruling ends this long-running dispute, or whether it inflames sectarian tensions further in the world's most populous democracy. Many of India's Muslims fear that the ruling BJP wants to shift the country in a more overtly Hindu nationalist direction.

Worsening violence in Hong Kong — Weekend clashes in Hong Kong saw the most violent escalation in five months of pro-democracy protests, as police shot and critically wounded a 21-year-old protester, while a pro-Chinese activist was doused in gasoline and set on fire by an anti-government mob. Anti-government fervor ran high after a pro-democracy student died on Friday after falling from a rooftop, and violent unrest has now spread to university campuses that had formerly been mostly quiet. Carrie Lam, Hong Kong's Beijing-backed leader, is clearly losing patience, calling demonstrators "the enemy of the people," but Beijing seems unwilling to risk a broader crackdown just yet. As violence increases, both sides have dug in. We are watching to see how long the deadlock can persist – spoiler: perhaps for a long, long time.

The trouble with counting Kenyans – The Kenyan government's statistics bureau has released new census figures, the first in a decade, setting teeth on edge in a country where political parties are closely aligned with ethnic groups. The census matters because population estimates help determine levels of both political representation and government funding. In a country with a recent history of violently contested elections, some groups are already claiming that the government has manipulated the results to favor some ethnic groups over others. Kenyan officials go door-to-door across each region to collect data, but the information is taken electronically and then dispatched to a central database, fueling mistrust in the integrity of the process.

What We're Ignoring:

Assad's invitation – Good news for anybody pining to be president of Syria: With the country's brutal eight-year civil war grinding to an end, its triumphant strongman, Bashar al-Assad, says that anybody who wants to can run against him in 2021, and that he expects "numerous" challengers at the polls. We're ignoring the temptation to throw our hat in the ring: This is the guy who ran in a "contested" election in 2014 during a hot conflict between his government, ISIS, and rebels seeking to overthrow his family's four-decade iron grip on power – and still netted 89 percent of the vote.

Microsoft announced earlier this year the launch of a new United Nations representation office to deepen their support for the UN's mission and work. Many of the big challenges facing society can only be addressed effectively through multi-stakeholder action. Whether it's public health, environmental sustainability, cybersecurity, terrorist content online or the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, Microsoft has found that progress requires two elements - international cooperation among governments and inclusive initiatives that bring in civil society and private sector organizations to collaborate on solutions. Microsoft provided an update on their mission, activities for the 75th UN General Assembly, and the team. To read the announcement from Microsoft's Vice President of UN Affairs, John Frank, visit Microsoft On The Issues.

Over the past eight days, the US-China relationship got notably hotter. None of the new developments detailed below is big enough by itself to kill hopes for better relations next year, but collectively they point in a dangerous direction.

US jabs over Hong Kong: On September 14, the US State Department issued a travel warning for the city because of what it calls China's "arbitrary enforcement of local laws" by police. The US is closely monitoring the case of 10 people detained by China while attempting to flee to Taiwan by boat. China's response to US criticism of its new security law in Hong Kong remains muted. That could change if relations deteriorate further.

More Show less

Trump is willing to give up Wisconsin for Belarus' democracy? When multilateralism hits the Zoom calls, we can't really tell what's real and what's not. #PUPPETREGIME

Kevin Sneader, global managing partner for McKinsey & Company, provides perspective on how the pandemic has influenced climate action:

Has the pandemic helped or harmed efforts to tackle climate change?

More Show less

In a new interview with GZERO World host Ian Bremmer, conducted on the eve of the 2020 General Assembly, UN Secretary-General António Guterres confronts the challenges of leading a multilateral organization in an increasingly nationalistic world. "I am not naïve," he tells Bremmer. "I know this is going to be a very tough ideological battle."

Watch the episode: UN Secretary-General António Guterres: Why we still need the United Nations

How has the pandemic influenced climate action?

Business In 60 Seconds