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What We're Watching: Support for Australian PM plunges

What We're Watching: Support for Australian PM plunges

Support for Australian PM plunges: Public support for Prime Minister Scott Morrison has plunged to a new low amid widespread dissatisfaction over his government's management of the months-long bushfire disaster. Morrison's approval rating dropped 8 percent in the last month, hovering at 37 percent, according to a Newspoll survey. The poll – taken after the Prime Minister announced a $2 billion bushfire recovery fund to manage the infernos that have razed more than 27 million acres of land – suggests that, for many Australians, the government's response is "too little too late." "MISSING" posters featuring a Hawaiian-shirt clad Morrison have been plastered around Australia– a reference to his decision to vacation in Hawaii last month as fires ravaged the country. Morrison has also been criticized for refusing to compensate volunteers who bear the brunt of firefighting, though he eventually acquiesced. Australia's next election is still two years away: Will Morrison be able to weather the political storms or will public resentment over his handling of the crisis remain in the public consciousness?


A worrisome outcome for China in Taiwan: Taiwan's president, Tsai Ing-wen, won 57 percent of the vote in elections on Saturday, securing a second term in office. It was a stunning victory for the pro-independence politician, who just 12 months ago trailed in the polls – and a stunning rebuke for China's President Xi Jinping. Tsai's Democratic Progressive Party also held on to its majority in Taiwan's legislative assembly, beating back a challenge from the more China-friendly Kuomintang amid record turnout. The landslide victory for Tsai, who ran on a pro-sovereignty platform, is a clear sign of public resistance to Beijing's "one country, two systems" rhetoric after months of crackdowns on anti-government protests in Hong Kong. We're watching to see how Xi responds.

The death of a Sultan: By all accounts, Qaboos bin Said, Sultan of Oman, was a man of dignity and moderation. These qualities distinguished him as a determined peacemaker. He supported the 1979 peace deal between Egypt and Israel when no other Arab government would, and he hosted the first secret US-Iran talks in more than three decades. Those talks led to negotiations that ended in the Iran nuclear agreement now in shambles. But that's not why people across the Middle East will remember him. His true legacy is that, during his nearly 50-year rule, he used the country's oil wealth to lift Oman from medieval poverty to the digital age, created a sense of national identity in a place it had never existed, and advanced reforms that empowered Oman's women and girls.

What We're Ignoring

Billionaires bound for the moon: A 44-year-old Japanese internet billionaire who snagged a ticket to the moon on a spaceship built by Tesla founder Elon Musk is looking for that "special someone" to accompany him on the voyage. Yusaku Maezawa last week announced a new reality TV contest to find the perfect person to join him on his private lunar mission. We're ignoring this contest…unless he decides to take Carlos Ghosn, the fugitive French millionaire businessman who recently escaped from Japanese justice. Sadly, Maezawa insists his contest is open only to "single women aged 20 or over," and Ghosn is no one's idea of "arm candy."

The Hindu Kush Himalayan region, stretching for more than 2,000 miles, is home to the world's highest mountains. The mountain range is also home to the world's third-largest concentration of snow and ice, earning it the moniker the third pole; only the North and South Poles contain more. The glaciers of the Hindu Kush Himalayas are the main source of fresh water for around two billion people living in the region. However, by the end of this century, two-thirds of that snow and ice could be lost because of climate change. A network of data scientists and environmentalists around the world, and on the ground in the Hindu Kush Himalayas, are working to understand the extent of glacial melting in the Hindu Kush Himalayan region, its effects and what can be done to minimize its impact. To read more visit Microsoft on the Issues.

When Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte resigned Tuesday — plunging the country into chaos as it faces once-in-a-generation public health and economic crises — he became the fourteenth Italian to vacate the prime ministership in three decades. (For contrast, Germany has only had three chancellors since 1982, and France has had five presidents.)

But Conte, who had no previous political experience until he was tapped for the top job in 2018, is not so much throwing in the towel as he is taking a massive gamble that President Sergio Mattarella will again appoint him to head Conte's third coalition government in less than three years.

The recent dysfunction is unique even within the context of instability-prone Italian politics. How did Italy get here, and what might come next?

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Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics on this week's World In (More Than) 60 Seconds:

What did you think of Xi Jinping's speech at the virtual World Economic Forum?

Well, his last speech at the real World Economic Forum in Davos, I remember being there four years ago, and given that Trump had just been elected, Xi Jinping gives this big, "We want to stand up and be leaders while the Americans are doing America first." And generally speaking, was probably the most important speech of the week. People liked it. This is a pretty different environment, not so much because Trump has gone, but rather because support and belief in Xi Jinping is pretty low. I will say one thing that was generally well responded to was the call not to enter into a new Cold War. Anybody in the business community generally supports that. There's so much integration and interdependence between the US and the Chinese economies that when Xi Jinping says, "We need to find ways to continue to work together," I mean, this is the pro-globalization audience he's speaking to. They generally agree. But otherwise, the message fell pretty flat. So, the idea that China is going to be globally useful on issues of leadership, especially when it comes to anything that might threaten Beijing's sovereignty, they check global norms at the door. And a few examples of that, when Xi called for support for the rules-based international order, that's in obvious contrast with China's violation of the one country, two systems framework in Hong Kong. And they said, "Well, that's a domestic issue." Well, actually that's not what your agreement was with the British handover. And just because you're more powerful doesn't mean that norm doesn't matter anymore.

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Over the weekend, some 40,000 people in Moscow and thousands more across Russia braved subzero temperatures to turn out in the streets in support of imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. More than 3,000 protesters were arrested, and Navalny called on his followers to prepare for more action in the coming weeks.

But just who is Alexei Navalny, and how significant is the threat that he may pose to Vladimir Putin's stranglehold on power in Russia?

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Angry farmers take Indian fort: In a major and violent escalation of ongoing protests over new agriculture laws, thousands of Indian farmers broke through police barricades and stormed the historic Red Fort in New Delhi on Tuesday. At least one protester died in the chaos, while the government shut down internet service in parts of the capital. Farmers and the government are still deadlocked over the new laws, which liberalize agriculture markets in ways that farmers fear will undercut their livelihoods. The government has offered to suspend implementation for 18 months, but the farmers unions are pushing for a complete repeal. Given that some 60 percent of India's population works in agriculture, the standoff has become a major political test for the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ruling BJP party.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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