As the UN Secretary General calls the coronavirus “the greatest test after the Second World War”, in South Korea similar terms have been common to describe the sobering primacy of the 1997-98 Asian Financial Crisis; so psychologically traumatic to be widely considered as the most tragic national event since the Korean War (1950-53). The daunting memory of the AFC crisis, then surged as yardstick against which every successive economic downturn has been assessed.
On 27 January a petition was filed to South Korea’s Blue House. It counted half a million signatories, and aimed at banishing visitors from China in an effort to escape the coronavirus epidemic. It was a different world back then. The coronavirus was not a pandemic yet, and Seoul had only four cases on record, all of them imported from China.
“Every election in Ukraine is a crucial one”, so goes the joke among Ukraine experts, east and west. Just like with any joke, there’s some truth behind it. In the post-Soviet landscape, the country has always stood out as relatively pluralistic: its politics, though never completely democratic, are highly competitive, and its civil society is habitually described as “vibrant”.
The March 31st Presidential elections in Ukraine matter for Ukraine, its region and the EU. While the majority of experts deem it impossible for a winner to be declared in the first round and, thus, expect a second one in April, the March contest will be a first important step in the crucial process to determine the direction the country will take. So, while we should not hold our breath on election day, we should definitely keep a close eye on the contest and its outcome.
As the day to elect Ukraine’s next president draws near, the candidates’ campaigns have become more aggressive and their positions more intransigent. The three leading candidates have entered the campaign phase in which, in addition to their official platforms, nonpolitical tools are being wielded to gain an edge on the competition.
Many Afghans are still wondering what exactly they will vote for on Saturday, and whether all of them will. While despite all shortcomings, parliamentary polls will go ahead on 20 October, the originally – and very optimistically – scheduled first-ever district council elections will apparently not be held.
The 7 October elections are the most uncertain presidential elections in Brazil in 20 years. It could not have been otherwise after four turbulent years, with the impeachment of the president, Dilma Rousseff, the corruption scandals, the arrest of Lula da Silva and the rise of a far-right outsider who has literally routed all his cards.
There is no doubt that the pro-Kremlin disinformation campaign is an orchestrated strategy, delivering the same disinformation stories in as many languages as possible, through as many channels as possible, and as often as possible.
The conventional wisdom is that Barack Obama is America’s first ‘Pacific president’. Obama grew up in Hawaii and Jakarta. The ‘pivot to Asia’ is Obama’s signature foreign policy achievement. And the Trans-Pacific Partnership is the cornerstone of Obama’s trade policy. By contrast, Europe is – or at least appears to be – less important to the U.S. President. Obama has few if any obvious European roots. His attention to European security has been sporadic rather than strategic. And his determination to conclude the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) before the end of his administration is more rhetorical than real.
This conventional wisdom is pervasive. It is also misleading. The transatlantic relationship is bigger than any sitting president. Moreover, Obama’s policies toward Europe show more continuity with his predecessors than change. Relations have changed across the Atlantic despite this continuity.
Turkey’s elections held on June 7th, which some observers argued to be the most important since the inception of democratic elections, resulted in political uncertainty. However, even that climate of uncertainty, with no actor able to form a government alone, was better than the escalating tensions that the country had experienced recently. The elections left the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) with 258 seats.