What We're Watching: Tahrir Square 10 years on, Italy's PM resigns, AMLO contracts COVID, India-China border row

 Anti-government protesters celebrate inside Tahrir Square after the announcement of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's resignation in Cairo, Egypt, February 11, 2011.

Tahrir Square — a decade on: This week marks a decade since mass protests in Cairo's Tahrir Square sparked a revolution that toppled Egypt's longtime strongman Hosni Mubarak as part of the Arab Spring. But ten years on, Egypt's brief experiment with democracy has long since been undermined by current President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. El-Sisi, a former General who in 2013 capitalized on fresh street protests to oust the country's first democratically-elected president, has quashed dissent and crushed political opposition. Egypt is now one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a journalist, and has one of the lowest internet freedom rankings. As if to make the point that Tahrir Square — long the site of anti-government protests — is now his, el-Sisi recently oversaw a $6 million renovation that dressed up the place with the trappings of a European-style monumental plaza, covering over most of the open spaces where hundreds of thousands once camped out and defied the regime. Ten years after the Arab Spring bloomed in Cairo, Egypt may actually be less free than it was on January 24, 2011.


AMLO-19: Mexican president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador announced Sunday he had tested positive for COVID-19, capping a dark few days in which the country saw its highest weekly death toll yet from the virus. From the beginning of the pandemic, AMLO, as the leftwing populist is known, has resisted taking broad lockdown measures, citing his concern for the country's massive population of working poor who can't simply work from home. And despite the fourth highest global COVID death toll, AMLO has remained broadly popular. The 67-year old former smoker tweeted that his symptoms are mild and he's still on the job, but if things do take a grimmer turn, the situation could get rocky fast — AMLO is a towering figure in Mexico, with no clear and viable successor in sight. What's more, his ruling Morena party faces tough mid-term elections this year, and they will need him hale and hearty to make sure they retain their grip on Congress.

PM Conte resigns in Italy: After weeks of political dysfunction, in which Italy's fragile coalition government narrowly survived a confidence vote in the Senate just last week, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte now says he will resign, pushing the country into political chaos. The timing couldn't be worse: Italians are now left without a stable government amid a massive effort to rollout a COVID-19 vaccine and revive the pandemic-battered economy (Italy's GDP shrunk by a whopping 10 percent in 2020). There are a few potential scenarios going forward: One is that Conte could remain prime minister if the president appoints him to head a (weak and fractious) new coalition. Another option is that former prime minister Matteo Renzi's party — which triggered the latest upheavals by withdrawing from the government in a dispute over how to spend EU coronavirus relief funds — could return to government, with a different prime minister. Lastly, new elections could be called. One player who might particularly like to see that outcome is former interior minister Matteo Salvini, whose far-right Lega party is currently leading in polls.

India and China in another high border skirmish: The two Asian giants clashed again over their ill-defined frontier in the Himalayas, with Indian sources reporting that its troops repulsed a Chinese patrol that had crossed into Indian territory. The situation along the strategically important high altitude border has been unresolved for decades, but things have gotten more tense again over the past year. Last June a melee of sticks and fisticuffs left dozens dead, and last fall the two sides exchanged fire. With strongly nationalistic leaders in charge of both nations, the border has become a flashpoint in a broader increase of India-China tensions as the world's two most populous countries vie for supremacy in Asia.

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.

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Listen: Stanford historian Niall Ferguson joins Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast to talk about the geopolitics of disaster. Throughout human history we seem to be unable to adequately prepare for catastrophes (natural or human-caused) before they strike. Why is that? And as we emerge from the greatest calamity of our lifetimes in the COVID-19 pandemic and look to the plethora of crises that climate change has and will cause, what can we do to lessen the blow?

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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...

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