GZERO Media logo

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.

Meet Ian Martin, an English Professor from Glasgow who is now head of Communications for Eni's International Resources. Approaching his work in the same way he used to hold his lectures, Ian is dedicated to listening and making people around him comfortable. Having working in both Milan and London, Ian utilizes his ability to communicate in different languages and cultures to prepare Eni's global messaging strategy. "Communication is a transfer of humanity," he says, and his job is as much centered around people as it as around language.

Watch Ian's human approach to communications on the most recent episode of Faces of Eni.

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.

More Show less

While recent news from Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca on the efficacy of their respective COVID vaccines is encouraging, it has also given rise to bidding wars between wealthy countries trying to secure the largest supply of the new drugs for their citizens. Meanwhile, many governments in emerging market economies, where healthcare infrastructure is generally weaker, are worried they'll be kicked to the back of the line in the global distribution process. Indeed, history bears out their concerns: while a lifesaving HIV treatment hit shelves in the West in the mid-1990s, for example, it took years to become widely in Africa, which saw some of the worst HIV outbreaks in the world. But here's the catch: even if wealthy countries manage to obtain large supplies of vaccines to immunize their populations, the interconnected nature of the global economy means that no one will really be out of the woods until we all are. Here's a snapshot of how many COVID vaccines select countries have already purchased.

Afghanistan's small breakthrough: For months, disagreements over a range of political issues have hamstrung the intra-Afghan peace talks brokered by the Trump administration that aim to bridge the years-long conflict between the Afghan government and the Taliban. But this week, a significant breakthrough was made on the principles and procedures governing the talks, that, experts say, will help push negotiations to the next phase. One key advance is agreement on the official name of the Afghan government, an issue that stalled talks earlier this year. Still, progress is fragile. Taliban violence and efforts to seize territory have only increased since the militants and the US reached a deal in February on a blueprint for an American troop withdrawal. And the Trump administration says it aims to pull out all but 2,500 US troops by mid-January, whether the Taliban have kept their end of the deal or not. What's more, while this week's development puts the parties one step closer to an eventual power-sharing agreement, it's unclear whether the incoming Biden administration will even honor the Trump administration's deal with the Taliban.

More Show less

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?

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

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's Newsletter: Signal