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Will Boris bet on elections?

Will Boris bet on elections?

After months of machinations by elected leaders and parliamentary strategists, the decisive vote on the future of Brexit may finally fall to the people of the UK.

How did we finally get here? The British parliament has forced Prime Minister Boris Johnson to ask the European Union for a delay in the Brexit deadline from October 31 to January 31. If the EU agrees, a decision that could come later today, Johnson says he'll push for national elections on December 12.


To be clear, national elections are not a second Brexit referendum. But if they're held while the question of Brexit remains undecided, that single issue will surely shape the outcome.

Why would Johnson want a pre-Brexit election? He may calculate that his main rival, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, is a profoundly weak candidate, and that it's best to go to voters before the opposition can replace him with a formidable alternative.

He may also reckon that Labour would enter elections at a big disadvantage since it's more divided over Brexit than other parties. Corbyn would struggle to craft an electoral strategy that unites pro-Brexit Labour voters in the north with pro-Remain Labour voters in London.

Johnson may also believe, not without reason, that an election victory would clear the way for him to finish Brexit on his terms, without more delays from Parliament.

What would Boris have to do to schedule those elections? The simplest way would be for two-thirds of MPs to vote to hold elections. But if the Labour Party won't support that, the Conservatives have a Plan B. If another opposition party that does favor early elections – say, the Scottish National Party – calls for a vote of no confidence in the government, the Conservatives could abstain, allowing the government to fall, precipitating early elections if no other collection of parties can form a government within 14 days.

Who is likely to win the election? For now, the numbers favor Johnson's Conservative Party. An aggregation of four major polls conducted over the past two weeks has the Conservatives at about 37 percent, with Labour at 25 percent, the Liberal Democrats at 18 percent, the Brexit Party at 11 percent, and Greens at 5 percent. Vote percentages don't translate precisely to the number of seats won, but if the results came close to these percentages, Johnson might well claim a mandate to move forward, perhaps in partnership with others, toward a final deal with the EU early next year.

Wouldn't Johnson be taking a huge gamble? Yes, he would. Ask former prime minister Theresa May, who lost the Conservative Party's absolute majority in 2017 by calling elections she mistakenly believed would boost her party's Brexit leverage. No one can be sure how a campaign might play out. Some within his party argue that he should deliver Brexit before going to voters.

Might this election decide the Brexit question? If Johnson's Conservatives were to win a decisive victory, he'd probably have the public mandate he needs to push forward with his current Brexit plan, which would likely become law early next year.

But if voters move toward Labour and the Liberal Democrats in sufficient numbers to push Johnson out of Downing Street, that would likely lead to a considerable delay in negotiations with the EU and a second Brexit referendum in which voters would be presented with new Brexit options to choose from.

There is also the (quite large) risk that the result of the vote is ambiguous. If Conservatives win, but with a reduced majority, the Brexit outlook might well become even more confused, as Johnson's leverage would be weaker.

Yes, you read that right: Brexit could still become even more confusing.

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

Today at 12 noon EST, join GZERO Media for a virtual Town Hall, "Reasons for Hope: COVID and the Coming Year," presented in partnership with Eurasia Group and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Our panel will discuss the road ahead in the global response to the COVID crisis. Will there be more multilateral cooperation on issues like gender equality moving forward from the pandemic?

Watch the event here: https://www.gzeromedia.com/townhall

Our moderator, CNBC health care correspondent Bertha Coombs, along with Ian Bremmer, president of Eurasia Group and GZERO Media, and Mark Suzman, CEO of the Gates Foundation, will speak with distinguished experts on three key issues:

Heidi Larson, Director, The Vaccine Confidence Project

  • How will COVID vaccines be distributed safely?

Minouche Shafik, Director of London School of Economics & Political Science

  • How has the pandemic disproportionately impacted women?

Madeleine Albright, Chair, Albright Stonebridge Group and Albright Capital Management; former US Secretary of State

  • What is the opportunity for global cooperation emerging from this crisis, and what are the greatest political risks?
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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.

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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 available 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.

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

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